LIFE: Gospel-given?

Question: Where should the emphasis be…Gospel-given or Gospel-driven?

Concern: Gospel-driven may be a disguise for gospel+drive (self-effort).  The focus ends up on US, rather than upon the person and work of Christ, the beginning, middle and end of the ‘new life’.

Gospel-given speaks of our being given the Holy Spirit as a result of Christ’s finished work, fulfilling all things.  The Gospel itself (Christ’s person/work) gives us all things.  ‘New life’ is given only by genuine faith in his having given his life and taken it up again.  ‘Growth’ is given only to those who continue believing this is how it works.

We end up living by some kind of works-righteous-law when we miss the Gospel as the continuing source of LIFE, whereby the Holy Spirit works.

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Code or Christ?

Another helpful article by John Dunn:  Puritan Experientialism

John provides some insight into the legal focus of Subjectivism practiced by Puritanism and its heirs.

Our attention is drawn to the realities of the Gospel…and not the Law…as the sufficient and effective revelation of God’s righteousness.  Fact is, that Christ himself is the incarnate revelation of God’s righteousness.  Righteousness is a Person.  Righteousness is not a precept, though the former precept bore witness to the Person of Righteousness.  This Person not only fulfilled all righteousness, but is the Fullness of Righteousness.  He is the Standard, not merely as code-keeper and code-enforcer, but in and of Himself.  This King is personally the Rule(r).

Seeking a ‘standard’ (code) of righteousness to keep us in line with God or a misinformed conscience, is not the way of Christ for us.  Rather, Christ himself indwells us by the Holy Spirit, as our Ruler, not merely informing us in precept, but calling us to faith that He is Righteousness in us.

These things are the Apostle Paul’s refrain:

Rom 3:21-22
(21) But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–
(22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
Rom 1:16-17
(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
(17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Rom 10:3-4
(3) For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
(4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
 

This is the Rule of Faith in which we must persevere, hold fast to…Christ is righteousness ‘for us’ and ‘in us’!!!

LEGALISM: Of the Gospel

The Progression of LEGAL-ism

Legalizing the Gospel,

leads to a legalization of the Church,

which leads to a legalization of the Christian,

who in turn lives to legalize the World.

—-

PS

By the phrase “legalizing the Gospel” the following is meant:

1) Either the Law is viewed as the Good News that converts

the soul;

2) Or, the Law is added to the Gospel (making it no gospel).

In both cases…Christ’s mercies and merits are trumped by Moses.

COUNTERFEIT: Gospels

A little something to ponder.  Another list (found here) that describes the typical ways we gravitate toward focusing elsewhere than upon Jesus Christ’s person and work:

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

Oh, how subtle a shift it is from looking unto Jesus (worshipfully, etc) to embracing a counterfeit gospel.

CENTER: Of Gospel?

Recently came across the following list (go here); things that are NOT the center of the Gospel, yet are too often thought to be so.  I would add one more (perhaps its implied in the list): #56: The center is YOU!  Unfortunately, it isn’t all that uncommon to find folks who think the Gospel’s center is themselves (a.k.a. ‘My personal testimony’, etc.).

A shift from the True Center to a false center is hazardous to the well-being of both the Church and Christian.  Whatever supplants Christ’s person and work from the center becomes a so-called Gospel.  The implications of this idolatrous orbit around something other than Christ can be far-reaching, again, in the life of both the Church and Christian, and seemingly impossible to set right particularly if things have long centered on someone or something other than Jesus (incarnated, crucified, buried, risen, and ascended).  Fact is, the Gospel alone contains the truth and power to dislodge false-centers.

1. The center is what you do for society

2. The center is accepting all people through love

3. The center is the transformation of society so that we will we all live in peace

4. The center is separating ourselves from the sinful world

5. The center is about pointing out the sins of society

6. The center is about not pointing out the sins of society

7. The center is about maintaining the biblical view of the nuclear family

8. The center is about the sanctity of life and abortion

9. The center is about gender issues

10.  The center is political, voting Republican or Democratic, or not voting at all

11.  The center is social justice

12.  The center is being a good person

13.  The center is your devotion and piety

14.  The center is obeying the 10 commandments, and obeying the moral law of God

15.  The center is helping the church grow numerically

16.  The center is finding out new ways to help the church grow numerically

17.  The center is finding out works in the business world and bring into the church

18.  The center is finding out your generation’s needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

19.  The center is finding out what your culture needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

20.  The center is getting people involved in the church

21.  The center is about worshipping God

22.  The center is about contextualizing worship to each generation and culture, often through music

23.  The center is in political involvement to transform the values of society

24.  The center is studying the Bible

25.  The center is studying the commandments in the Bible so that we can figure out what we need to do in every situation in life

26.  The center is a literal hermeneutic

27.  The center is giving good exegetically sound sermons that help people understand God

28.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that cause people to action

29.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that are not over judgmental in tone

30.  The center is giving sermons that give insight and understanding in ways never realized by the audience

31.  The center is giving sermons that warn people about the judgment of hell to come

32.  The center is getting a top-notch preacher at your church

33.  The center is how to write exegetically sound and convincing papers on the problem passages in the Bible

34.  The center is the nature of God as Creator

35.  The center is a biblical worldview

36.  The center is having faith so that God will bless you materially and physically in this life

37.  The center is faith in the general attributes of God

38.  The center is faith in a specific attribute of God, such as omnipotence, holiness, graciousness, or justice.  This would lead to the spoken center being the sovereignty of God, the majesty of God, the adoration of God, the compassion of God, the grace of God, or the identification of the sins of the world

39.  The center is “trust and obey,” without a specific understanding of what we are trusting in.  The trust is usually the attributes of God, and that his commandments are true

40.  The center is spiritual-mystical, finding God through prayer and fasting

41.  The center is finding out what God is saying to you

42.  The center is that you are loved by God. The center is a good self-image and self-worth.

43.  The center is some theological system of understanding

44.  The center is the kingdom program of God

45.  The center is understanding a certain eschatological hope, or view on the Millenium.

46.  The center is the power of the Holy Spirit

47.  The center is spiritual warfare

48.  The center is having faith so that miracles can be done in your life

49.  The center is understanding the distinction, or non-distinction between Israel and the Church

50.  The center is accepting pre-determinism

51.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to compassion, but detached from his work on the cross

52.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to grace, but is detached from the work on the cross

53.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to discipleship and commitment, but detached from his work on the cross and the results of the triumph in his resurrection.

54.  The center is faith in Jesus, but this Jesus is vague and non-specific

55.  The center is all of the above

Principle to Hold: The Gospel Center is Jesus’ person, work on the cross for forgiveness of sins, and his resurrected triumph over death. From that center we understand the fuller work of the triumphant Christ, from his perfect life to his enthronement and return.  Again, some of the above statements are blatantly wrong, others have a high degree of truth in them.  Most are good, but good is not the center of the Gospel. It should be the goal of the theological student to understand how the Gospel Center relates to the above statements.

TIM KELLER on IDOLS:

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

MESSAGE: Good News or Paying Dues?

“What I need first of all is not an exhortation.  I need a gospel.  Not directions for saving myself, but knowledge of how God has saved me.  Have you any good news?  That is the question that I ask of you.  I know your exhortations will not help me, but if anything has been done to save me why don’t you just tell me the facts.”  John Gresham Machen (1881-1937)

TRANSLATION: Relativizing the Gospel

Another good program over at the White Horse Inn, featuring William Willimon: Faulty Translations

Willimon sees “Christianity is kind of like a foreign language that one is not born with,” which sadly “many preachers today are attempting to “translate” …into familiar and comfortable terms that people are used to, but the result, he argues, is that things get “lost in translation.””

Willimon points out the following:

1)       The Gospel is not to be translated as Therapy.

2)       The Gospel is not another Commodity.

3)       The Gospel is not another Life-Style Choice.

4)      The Gospel is not something you are born with.

5)       The Gospel is not User-Friendly.

6)      The Gospel does not make sense to/in this World.

7)       The Gospel creates a different world, with a different focus (i.e., Cross-eyed).

8)      The Gospel creates a counter-culture.

9)      The Gospel can make Life a bit more difficult.

10)    The Gospel is not a word about Glory (God’s making all things glorious now).

11)     The Gospel is a word of Grace (God’s condescension to sinners).

Willimon suggests asking this one question:

“When listening to a sermon, would Christ need to be CRUCIFIED in order to make this sermon work?”

Meaning, if the sermon works without Christ’s birth/godly-life/death/burial/raising/reigning, then, the sermon is not Christian.  It may be informational and/or ethical, but to be fails to be CHRISTIAN (rooted in the New Covenant!) by not preaching Him (1Cor.1.23; 2 Cor.1.19; 2Cor.4.5; Col.1.28; 1Tim.3.16).