Christianity 201

September 29, 2018

The Reciprocation Requirement

This is another one of those “today we’re returning to visit the blog…” type of things, but with a twist. On three previous occasions we’ve taken you to the blog Rhetorical Jesus by Jack Wellman. Our policy is not to ‘borrow’ the graphics which go with the original pieces because often we can’t trace their origin and people get somewhat testy when you use their graphics.

However, the whole point of Rhetorical Jesus — and one which we only directly addressed in one of three previous instances of featuring their material here — is that there are some great looking memes which you can use to promote these devotionals on your social media page, and then link your friends and contacts to the devotional teaching. (Never just take in valuable Christian teaching to absorb for yourself; always be looking for creative ways to share and spread the message.)

So today we’re using the picture to help you get the idea of how this works. Click the title below to read at source. And remember to love people without a reciprocation requirement!

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.

Matthew 5:44

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

When We Were God’s Enemies

Jesus tells us to not only love our enemies but actually pray for our persecutors. Easy to say but so very hard to do it, isn’t it? I know that we were once enemies of God (Rom. 5:10) and wicked sinners (Rom. 5:8), but God saved us through faith in Christ. Our enemies are not really our enemies but enemies of Christ. They may not actually hate us as much as they hate Him Who is in us (Matt. 10:22; John 15:18). If we love only those who love us, what makes us any different from those in the world since even sinners love their own family? To make us more like the sons and daughters of God, we are commanded to love our enemies so that we might be more like the children of God (Matt. 5:45).

Loving the Unlovable

Since God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, which is truly something we didn’t deserve, should we not also love and pray for those who are persecuting us and those who are our enemies? We are giving them what they don’t deserve, just as God gave us what we didn’t deserve–we call that grace. What we truly did deserve we didn’t actually get–that’s what I call mercy. How many of us were living in sexual immorality and were greedy, slanderers, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, and swindlers (1 Cor. 6:9-10)? I would imagine that most of us were some, if not most, of these things at one time, but by God’s good grace, that is all now behind us because we’ve been washed in the blood, sanctified by God’s Spirit, and justified by the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). We now have the righteousness of Christ through Jesus’ work on the cross, and the Father sees us as having Jesus’ own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). We should have the same compassion on those who are not yet saved as God had for us.

Being Different

Since we have now been justified by God in Christ and have been saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9), we should be witnessing to the lost, loving those who are our enemies, and praying for them because God doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3;9), and neither should we. If we respond in like manner to the way we are treated, we’re no better than the unsaved tax collector in Jesus’ time (Matt. 5:46). If we only receive our own brothers and sisters, aren’t we the same as those in the world (Matt. 5:47)? The answer to that rhetorical question is no, we are no different than the unsaved. Christ calls us to better things than that and to strive for perfection (Matt. 5:48) and not live like the world.

A Closing Prayer

God, I truly need help in praying for my enemies because it is not natural for me to do so. Please empower me by Your Spirit to have the ability to love my enemies and pray for those who are my persecutors because I cannot do it in my own strength, and I pray for these things in Jesus’ name.  Amen

 

April 24, 2016

God’s Love is NOT Unconditional

•••by Russell Young

The Christian mythology of God’s “unconditional love” has entrenched itself solidly in church teaching and is often promoted without being given adequate thought.  Many people are resting their adoration of Christ and their eternal hope in the thought that God’s love is unconditional and that their sin practices will be over-looked.  It almost sounds heretical to refute such an idea.

God’s love is expansive and beyond understanding but it is not “unconditional.”  If His love is accepted as being expressed as one’s presence in His Eternal Kingdom, and if His love is without condition, salvation must be universal.  Further, if His love is without condition, there will be no place for judgment since judgment implies the assessment of one’s faithfulness in meeting conditions.

The nature of fullness of God’s love is seldom taught.  That is, the Lord not only gave His life on the cross so that past sins might be forgiven (Hebrews 9:15) and a new covenant provided, He dwells “in” the believer so that the righteousness demanded by the law might be achieved by those who are willing to obey Him. (Romans 8:4)

Since salvation is NOT universal, condition(s) for it must apply.  According to the Psalmist the first condition is contrition of spirit.  “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, KJV; 51:17; 57:15) A second condition is that they must “obey” the Spirit.  “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9, NIV; Romans 8:4) A third condition is that they must stand firm to the end. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22, NIV).  A fourth condition is that they must share in His suffering (to overcome temptations),” Now if we are children [of God], then we are heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17, NIV; Romans 6:5)

All will be judged at Christ’s return for the things done in the flesh. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV).  There will be a separation of those “who do not obey the gospel” from those who do.  “He will punish those who do not know [appreciate] God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10)

God’s love is expansive, but not unconditional, and those who teach otherwise are deceivers leading many into a false hope for their disobedient behaviors.  Paul told his readers to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) Christ told His followers to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. (Luke 13:24, NIV)

The mythical concept of God’s “unconditional love” is so pervasive that it has overwhelmed contemporary Christian music and has lulled believers to sleep concerning the need for their own righteousness.  God’s love is expansive, but He is also HOLY and “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) The Kingdom of God was not created for man; it is God’s kingdom created for Him and those in it must be suitable for His Presence.  “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41)  “Only a few” will find life. (Matthew 7:14)

November 15, 2015

Q&A Was Still Open, But Nobody Had Any Questions

Today we pay a return visit to Brandan Robertson at the blog Revangelical, now part of Patheos and renamed Nomad. This article was posted two weeks ago and is based on the Lectionary reading for November 1st. Click the title below to read at source.

The Flow of Love

Each Sunday, I take time to reflect on a sacred text, usually from the Revised Common Lectionary, in order to re-calibrate, challenge, and fuel us to continue on this rough and rocky journey of faith. Today’s reading comes from Mark 12:28-34:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

“From then on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” What could Jesus have done that caused such silence to emerge from this antagonistic crowd of religious leaders?  This is truly seems like a mic-drop moment. In an attempt to trip Jesus up, this young seminarian comes and asks Jesus what seemed to be an impossible question. Out of all of the Laws of the Hebrew Bible, which command was most important? I imagine any other religious leader would have stopped to think through what was written in the law. Could it be honoring the Sabbath? Worshiping God alone? Staying away from unclean foods and people? Which commandments carried the biggest consequences? Surely, that would help us determine what is most important to God.

Yet in one sentence, quickly uttered, Jesus silences all of the religious leaders of his day. “There is no commandment greater than this: love.” That was it. Love God. Love your neighbor. If you do this, you will fulfill all of the Law. In one sentence, Jesus shifts the focus from personal piety, seeking to obey every jot and tittle written in the Hebrew Bible, to a single broad principle that reshapes the rhythm of our lives than it tries to get us to obey an obnoxious laundry list of religious rules.

I was recently talking to a group of friends and we somehow stumbled onto the topic of “sin”. I voiced my critique of progressive churches, who often, in my opinion, focus so much on societal sins and systemic injustice that they neglect personal morality.  I offered the exact opposite critique of conservative churches, who seem to care little for systemic injustice and instead pour all of their time into keeping God happy through acts of personal piety. Both views of sin, in my opinion, are flawed and lead us away from walking in step with the rhythm of the Kingdom. Keeping the commandments is not rigid obedience to a laundry list of rules nor engaging in activism for the sake of activism. It is living life with an ethic of love.

Each day, in every action that we do, we should shift our awareness and ask ourselves whether or not our every move is motivated by and rooted in unconditional, self sacrificial love. Love that builds up, love that heals, love that encourages, love that unifies. When we live with a broad ethic of love, we will live holy lives that are pleasing to God and beneficial to ourselves and to the world around us. When we live lives of love, we live with awareness of our interconnectedness to all things, understanding that every choice and action we make has an impact on others.

Is what I am doing today liberating, healing, blessing, and encouraging others? Is it liberating, healing, blessing, and encouraging me? If so, I can be assured that I am walking in step with the Spirit. If not, may I be empowered to repent, or turn from the path I am walking down and chose the way of love. It will not always be comfortable or favorable, and it will always cost us. But “it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”(The Prayer of St. Francis) In the subversive, upside down Kingdom of Jesus, when we are able to live lives to the rhythm of love, we align ourselves with the Divine Flow, and we will experience righteousness, favor, and an abundance of peace. And not only us personally, but our entire world will feel the effects of the Love that flows from our lives.

This command, the command of love, silences the most legalistic of people and liberates those who are weighed down by the burden of religion. This command opens us to lives of abundance and challenges us to ask different questions about the way we live, move, and have our being in the world. The way of love is the way of life. May we realign ourselves to be people of love today.


Ten Ways to Love

March 26, 2014

The People Christ Died For

Recently a young man in our community asked if I could help him prepare a talk for high school students on the theme, “The love of God.”

In a situation like this, my tendency is to offer too much help, thus denying the person the opportunity to make their own discovery in scripture. So my first email back to him was rather short:

Try these on for size; mull them over, and get back to me after 24 hours.

Just play them over in your mind and see where it takes you.
Seriously!!

Romans 5:7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.…

Titus 3:4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.

But then, just to make it interesting, I wrote:

Focus on the set-up verses in these pairs that don’t mention God’s love; in the first one verse 7, in the second one verse 5.

Because we’ve dealt with the Titus verse in various places here, like this one, I’ll focus to day on Romans.

I think verse 7 of Romans 5 is key to understanding verse 8. Jesus did not die for good people, he died for sinners, and this goes against every human instinct. Yesterday he asked for some clarification and I wrote this (edited for readers here):

Okay, I really believe Paul is having some fun with this verse in that he’s toying with his readers wanting them to see the idea for themselves rather than him just telling them.

He’s saying you might die for a good person, or more generally, a human might be willing to lay down their life for another person, if that other person were intrinsically good or moral or virtuous or capable of offering some gift that might help the planet in some significant way.

A good question to open with might be: “Do any of you have a friend or family member that you honestly would be willing to die for?” I wrestled with this my third year working at Christian summer camp, as I had never known true agape from outside my family; but I got to be good friends with two brothers, one of whom I still email occasionally to this day. I don’t know how or where the topic came up, but I was asking the older brother why the younger brother was willing to do something for me back in the city all summer, and the older brother suddenly said, “Because he loves you, man; and I love you, too.”

That was just too much for me, and I had to really work through the meaning of friendship, especially within the context of Christian community. Later, in further discussions the topic came up about being willing to die for a friend.

So the obvious answer is that if you thought the person worth dying for, if you thought their life was worth something, you might do it. BUT you wouldn’t do it if you thought the person was trash. Scripture tells us that to God, our righteousness is “as filthy rags.” Apparently the various shades of meaning in the original here are really gross; you might not want to go there with a youth group, or they won’t hear anything you say after that point! But in that state, Christ loved us, hence verse 8.

That’s where Titus 3:5 fits in too; the idea that there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s favor.

Here’s another possible opening question. “Let’s pretend that you just died, and that St. Peter is waiting for you at the entrance to heaven — even though the Bible actually doesn’t say anything about Peter at the Pearly Gates — and he turns to you and says, ‘Why should I let you in?‘”

People will usually give performance-based answers.

This question,  is at the heart of a program called Evangelism Explosion, and adults usually get it wrong, too. They’ll give all kinds of reasons why they were kind, volunteered, gave money, helped old ladies across the street, etc.

If you can help high-school kids to get past performance-based faith, you’ll be doing them a world of good.

This of course leads in to the broader topic of grace. Grace is something we learn about in church, but we never really know it until we’ve really wrapped our heads around the idea of our wretchedness versus God’s total ‘other-ness’ which we discussed a few days ago.

People don’t grasp this fully in one sitting. (I don’t fully grasp it right now.) So you want to leave them with an appetite (thirst) for more.

…I haven’t decided whether to send this as well — it’s important not to give someone too much help — but I thought of it as I was preparing this. This story exists in different forms, Andy Almendarez shares this one at Sermon Central:

I want to tell you the story of a young man. It is the story of a West Point graduate who is sent to Iraq. He takes his men into combat. He did a very good job in keeping his men alive. Until one night they were surprised by insurgents. All of the young Lt’s men were able to get to cover except one. The one soldier lay wounded. The Lt. and his men could hear his agonized cries. They all wanted to go out and get him and bring him to safety. However, there was one problem, leaving cover meant enemy fire was sure to follow.

Finally the young Lt. could stand it no longer and he himself went out into the deadly area. He got to the wounded soldier and managed to drag him back to safety. Just as the Lt. was pushing the young man behind cover he was fired upon and hit. He was killed instantly.

Time passed and the wounded soldier recuperated and went back to the states. The parents of the Lt. learned of this and wanted to meet the young man their son gave his life for. They invited him over for dinner one evening.

Finally the big night arrived. Their guest arrived, drunk. He was loud and obnoxious. He told bad jokes, was rude and showed no concern for his hosts. The parents of the brave Lt. did their best to salvage the evening and make it worthwhile. Finally the night ended and their obscene guest left.

As her husband closed the door the mother collapsed into a heap of tears and cried, “To think our son had to die for somebody like that.”

Before we jump on the bandwagon and begin to criticize that young man for his behavior, shouldn’t we consider just how much we have in common with him…

[…continue reading at this link…]

My hope today is that you and I will not only continue to know the breadth and width and depth of the love of God, but that we will be able to share it in such a way that people hunger and thirst for more.

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance: To this world Messiah came, sinful people to reclaim. I am the worst of them.
  (I Tim. 1:15 ISV)

 

February 2, 2014

True Compassion Comes Judgement-Free

Sometimes in our zeal to be right about issues, we can offer what is genuine heartfelt compassion but it has moralism attached to it. When Jesus encountered situations where he could have preached, he first loved unconditionally.  Consider this article by Deb Wolf at the blog, Counting My Blessings, titled “I’m So Sorry. I Care. I’m Praying.

The other day I did something I rarely do . . . and it wasn’t long before I realized I should have considered the place before sharing my thoughts.

I was on FB and saw this headline – Marlise Munoz removed from life support; baby ‘executed by judicial tyranny,’ pro-lifers say – LifeSiteNews. You can read the article and following comments here.

I have been very upset about this story since it surfaced weeks ago. While reading the article my emotions took over and before thinking as carefully as I might have . . . I left the following comment:

This case has made me so sad, and I don’t feel any of us has a right to judge. I believe life is God-given, all life. But we must stop attacking this poor family. We have not walked in their shoes. This is a time to extend grace and love.

Those of you who know me, know I am pro-life. I believe that every baby is a blessing, and I am against abortion (but that is not my point here).

What is my point?

To a grieving family this is the time to say, “I’m so sorry. I care. I’m praying.”

That’s it!

I didn’t always feel this way. I must confess that I’ve voiced more than my share of judgmental comments in the past. Something I deeply regret and that I’ve repented. I am especially sad that it took being on the receiving end of judgment for me to change.

I wish I’d always honored Jesus’ words:

“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:36-37

“If another follower sins, warn him, and if he is sorry and stops sinning, forgive him.” Luke 17:31

Be compassionate, don’t judge, don’t condemn, and warn him (personally).

I’ve come to believe it’s important to live by the saying…

“Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” 

And “the sinner” includes every one of us. You and me.

Speak the truth. Tell people about the value of life, all life. Talk about God’s command to live with sexual purity. Explain God’s truths about coveting, gossiping, and stealing. Carefully respect the use of His name, and show people what it means to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. 1 Peter 3:15 (MSG)

“Always with the utmost courtesy,” other translations say with, “gentleness and respect, humility, reverence, meekness, and fear.”

Is it possible that too much of society has become comfortable with . . . Hating the sinner, and excusing the sin. At least the sins they commit. We don’t like the word sin anymore, but sin is everything that separates us from God.

God hates sin, but He loves sinners. So much so, that He provided a Savior for us. And it is that Savior who told us not to judge others. It is that Savior who told us to show compassion, who told us to forgive, and who told us to “go and sin no more.”

Will you join me today in telling the Munoz family, “I’m so sorry. I care. I’m praying for you.”

December 13, 2012

The Yoke’s On You

Back in June we introduced the blog ministry of Scott Daniels at The Rest That Works. Today’s post appeared there a few weeks ago under the title, Yoking around with Jesus

 You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
~ Bob Dylan

   
       Not to say that we’re a bunch of cattle, but the yoke thing is growing on me (a typical Jesus paradox).

        I knew the yoke was often used in the Bible to talk about servitude and oppression, but before researching for the rest that works, I wasn’t very familiar with it as a positive image other than when Jesus used it in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me . . . Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Turns out, the image is common in rabbinic teaching, both from Jesus’ day and ever since. One popular teaching is: “Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah (The Judaic Law), they remove from him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns, and whoever breaks off the yoke of the Torah, they place on him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns” (Avot 3:5). According to this teaching, it’s one or the other—the ways of God or of the world, the yoke of fear or the yoke of Divine Love. As Bob Dylan says, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna serve somebody.

Jesus Teaching Yoke Is EasySo it’s very interesting that Jesus used the image to talk about rest — it’s such a contrast, even with much of Judaism. He was standing within Jewish tradition but saying that his work leads to relief from both the ways of the world and a burdensome experience of religious Law—and that’s exactly what I have experienced by aligning with him through the rest that works. Aligning with his “yoke” frees me to flow with Divine Love. It has the opposite effect of what one expects from the image (servitude and labor).

Jesus was saying many things in using the yoke image: First, he was saying, “Do what it takes to come into alignment with me and Divine Love. It will take some effort, but doing so will free you internally. You’ll learn to keep the conditional ways of the world where they belong—in the world. This will free you to work in a whole new way.” Second, he was saying that as we learn to settle into God’s love with him and work from there, we’ll finally experience a sense of relief inside that the ways of the world or dogmatic religion cannot give—peace that passes human understanding. There is a precious gift involved. There is a pearl of great price.

By definition, condition-based ways of doing things simply do not work to give what we really want—the inner peace and meaning found in being loved and loving unconditionally with God. When we align with and settle into unconditional love, we are freed to move freely and lightly in the world without being burdened inside with whether or not we “make the cut” or “are good enough.” We also become better able to free others from those conditions—- that’s love.

Almost everything in the world is conditional. That’s how things work in the world. It’s how society is organized. It’s how things are governed. Meet the conditions, and you’re in. Fail, and you’re out. Challenge them, and you’re threatened until you get back in line—back into the yoke of fear that governs most things in our world. It’s the cycle of how things work. We’re always moving in and out of the fears of that cycle, and until we come home to God’s unconditional love, those fears govern us inside. They govern our minds. They rule us. That’s just no fun. It’s a continual burden that wears our souls down.

It takes work to move into alignment with Divine Love, but it’s always worth it deep down inside. It feels so much better to feel an unconditionally loving spirit moving in us instead of fear, evaluations, accusations or threats. When those movements of spirit are dominant, we end up not liking or even respecting ourselves. We may be successful in the eyes of the world, but not our souls. We cannot be at peace inside when that is the case. We’re like the push-me-pull-you of Dr. Doolittle fame.

But there’s more at stake than just inner peace. We have so much more to offer others when we live in alignment with God’s love. The most loving thing we can do for others at any given time is to check our internal alignment and be moving with Divine Love. It’s for us, but not just for us. It’s for our world, starting with our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors—whoever we are with. For this is how the kingdom comes, heart to heart, one heart at a time.

Jesus’ invitation to enter the rest that works is a sweeping one. It’s a big deal. Coming into alignment with him and working with him in his “yoke” delivers us from fears and veiled threats, inside and out. But it does more than that. The discipline involved takes us beyond pie-in-the-sky hippie thinking. It’s not just about rest, but also what works. In this sense, it is hard work—checking our internal alignment as we go takes a lot of spiritual discipline. But the rewards of moving with Divine Love so exceed the rewards of any other way of living, there’s no question it’s worth it. Divine Love means so much to us that there’s no comparison with anything else. When we’re in the zone—feeling Divine, Creative Energy flowing in and out—we laugh at ourselves for ever valuing anything more.

Jesus’ way and truth really does set us free from the burdens that wear us down in the most spiritually serious ways. We need to work in the world, and want to, because there’s work well worth doing with our Creator who is creating out of Divine Love. We want to create good things, we want to keep our families safe, we want to do what’s right, but not because of threats, not because someone will get us if we don’t. We want to do what Love beckons us to do with God because it’s our innermost desire, for ourselves and for others. When we’re working in that zone, we know that we’re fulfilling out purpose on the planet. It feels right deep down inside, even if there is hard work involved. It’s work worth doing. In fact, it’s worth everything and our souls know it.

And that’s no yoke.

More power to you in escaping the yoke of fear and settling into the unforced rhythms of Divine Love with Jesus. He will work with you if you’ll let him. He’s saved me in ways I can’t even begin to explain—especially from myself. Just ask him for help and guidance and pay attention. Look to align with Divine Love and look for leads, inside and out. He’ll work with you from there.

January 10, 2011

Remember the Duck: Tullian Tchividjian


Tullian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale posted this illustration exactly a week ago.

 

This story told by my friend and former professor, Steve Brown, illustrates well the radical discrepancy between the ways in which we hold other people hostage in their sin and the unconditional forgiveness that God offers to us in Christ.

Do you remember the story about the little boy who killed his grandmother’s pet duck? He accidentally hit the duck with a rock from his slingshot. The boy didn’t think anybody saw the foul deed, so he buried the duck in the backyard and didn’t tell a soul.

Later, the boy found out that his sister had seen it all. Not only that, she now had the leverage of his secret and used it. Whenever it was the sister’s turn to wash the dishes, take out the garbage or wash the car, she would whisper in his ear, “Remember the duck.” And then the little boy would do what his sister should have done.

There is always a limit to that sort of thing. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore–he’d had it! The boy went to his grandmother and, with great fear, confessed what he had done. To his surprise, she hugged him and thanked him. She said, “I was standing at the kitchen sink and saw the whole thing. I forgave you then. I was just wondering when you were going to get tired of your sister’s blackmail and come to me.”

If he already saw and forgave you, don’t let anybody say to you, “Remember the duck.”

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” The good news of the gospel is that, for all of us who trust in the finished work of Jesus, God does not count our sins against us–He counts our sins against Christ!

Our own failure to grasp the gospel shows itself when we demand penance from those who have wronged us. Whatever offense I’ve received is infinitely smaller than the offense God has received from me. And since God has freely, fully, and unconditionally forgiven us in Christ (counting our sins against him) we should be quick and desirous to freely, fully, and unconditionally forgive.

There’s simply no better way to get people to contemplate God’s unfathomable love and grace than by granting them what He’s already granted.

October 6, 2010

The Essence of the Gospel

In certain circles it has become, if nothing else, fashionable to discuss the question, “What is the Gospel?” to the point where I am beginning to think that non-believers will simply know it when they hear it.   I just worry that sometimes we over-analyze something we should simply be living.

That dismissiveness aside,Tullian Tchividjian has been busy on Twitter compiling short statements expressing various aspects of the gospel.  Apparently, the gospel can’t be contained in a single statement.   Blogger Barry Simmons assembled a couple of lists at his blog The Journeyman’s Files both here and here.   I linked to it today at Thinking Out Loud, but thought we’d spell out a few of the statements here for C201 readers…

  • The gospel reminds us that we become more mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and more on all God has already done for us.
  • The gospel tells me my identity and security is in Christ–this frees me to give everything I have because in Christ I have everything I need
  • The gospel tells us we don’t need to spend our lives earning the approval of others because Jesus has already earned God’s approval for us
  • When you understand that your significance and identity is anchored in Christ, you don’t have to win—you’re free to lose
  • Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. It happens by working hard to live in light of what you do have
  • The world says that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. But the gospel tells us that the smaller we become, the freer we will be.
  • The gospel explains success in terms of giving, not taking; self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence; going to the back, not getting to the front
  • The gospel empowers us to live for what’s timeless, not trendy–to follow Jesus even when it means going against what’s fashionable
  • Because of Christ’s finished work, sinners can have the approval, acceptance, security, freedom, love, righteousness, & rescue they long for
  • The only antidote there has ever been to sin is the gospel—and since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.
  • Because of Christ’s propitiatory work on my behalf I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, praise or popularity.
  • The vertical indicative (what God’s done for me) always precedes horizontal imperative (how I’m to live in light of what God’s done for me)
  • When you are united to Christ, no amount of good work can earn God’s favor and no amount of bad work can forfeit God’s favor
  • Jesus came not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery to lesser things so we might become truly free
  • The irony of the gospel is that we truly perform better when we focus less on our performance for Jesus and more on Jesus’ performance for us
  • The gospel tells us that what God has done for us in Christ is infinitely more important than anything we do for him.
  • Isn’t it ironic that while God’s treatment of us depends on Christ’s performance, our treatment of others depends on their performance?
  • We need God’s gospel rescue every day and in every way because we are, in the words of John Calvin, “partly unbelievers until we die.”
  • Daily sin requires a daily distribution of God’s grace
  • The hard work of sanctification is the hard work of constantly reorienting ourselves back to our justification.
  • Grace can be defined as unconditional acceptance granted to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.
  • The law tells us what God demands from us; the gospel tells us what God in Christ has done for us because we could not meet his demands.
  • Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; He always uses the gospel.
  • When you understand God’s grace, pain leads to freedom because deep suffering leads to deep surrender!
  • When we depend on things smaller than Jesus to provide us with the security and meaning we long for, God will love us enough to take them away.
  • The gospel is the good news that God rescues sinners. And since both non-Christians & Christians are sinners, we both need the gospel.
  • The gospel grants Christians one strength over non-Christians: the strength to admit they’re weak.
  • The gospel isn’t just the power of God to save us, it’s the power of God to grow us once we’re saved.
  • When we transfer trust from ourselves to Christ, we experience the abundant freedoms that come from not having to measure up.
  • The gospel makes wise those who know they’re foolish and makes fools out of those who think they’re wise.
  • It never ceases to amaze me that God’s love to those who are in Christ isn’t conditioned on how we behave but on how Christ behaved for us.
  • In the gospel, God comes after us because we need him not because he needs us. Only the gospel can free us to revel in our insignificance.
  • Mt. Sinai says, “You must do.” Mt. Calvary says, “Because you couldn’t, Jesus did.” Don’t run to the wrong mountain for your hiding place.

Remember these is only about half the list; click on both of the above links to get the full list; and thank-you Barry for compiling this.