Archives For Gospel Centerdness
We recently had the pleasure of hosting a short women’s conference–called “Transform–with Elyse Fitzpatrick. Elyse epitomizes gospel-centeredness and an author I turn to time and time again. My wife and I love her stuff.
Below are some notes that one of our members took from that conference.
As Christians, why should we reconsider God’s love for us in Christ? Because our love for Him is responsive in nature. John says that “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our responsive love will only grow as we contemplate God’s love for us, primarily in the gospel. Our faith in God grows in direct proportion to our apprehension of His love, and our obedience must be fueled by this love.
Obedience that is not motivated by love is worthless. As Paul says, in Christ “neither circumcision or uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). And if responsive love does not motivate our obedience, then it is nothing less than self-righteous penance. How would you know the difference? You might look at how you respond when you fail: Do you spend hours in self-recrimination? Do you beat yourself up over your failures? Or you might look at how you respond to trials: Do you think that God is punishing you for your failure to obey? Do you get angry at him for not holding up his part of the bargain?
In your pursuit of godliness, is it possible that you have left Jesus behind?
Many of you are suffering from a form of spiritual amnesia. Even though we believe the gospel, the places where the gospel actually intersects with and powerfully affects our daily life is infrequent. For instance, how does John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” impact your heart’s responses when you don’t receive the coveted invitation, when your children disrespect you in front of friends or when your roast fails to cook?
One reason we don’t grow in ordinary, grateful obedience as we should is because we’ve forgotten that we were cleansed from our sins. When we really see this, it changes us:
- Our faith will grow because we can see beyond the record of our failure.
- Our virtue or moral excellence will grow in direct proportion to our apprehension of the fact that we’ve been cleansed, forgiven and loved.
- We’ll grow in our knowledge and acquaintance of him because we won’t be afraid of him. In fact, studying and fellowshipping with him will become our delight because he is so delightful.
- Self-control will come more easily because the idols that used to draw us away from him will have lost their power to entice. It doesn’t take much self-control to compel loving service to one who is so wonderful you love to make him smile.
- And we’ll love because we’ll be sensible to the fact that we’ve been loved.
Our glorious new identity in Christ, all the wonderful indicatives in Scripture, must always remain the catalyst, motive and ground for our transformation into Christ’s image. To believe this is to walk “by faith and not by sight.” I must believe that God continues to love me despite my continual sin; that everything I’ve ever needed to be pleasing to him has been given me in the gospel; that I can be bold and courageous in my war against sin because I know that he’s forgiven me and continues to love and support me.
Failing to concentrate on God’s love for us in Christ isn’t a trivial thing. It will always eventuate in apathetic living. Only the gospel can so invigorate us that we burn with ardor for him in all that we do.
I ran across a New York Times article this week by David Brooks entitled “How People Change.” This is a fascinating little op-ed piece that reflects what gospel-centered people already know—you cannot change a person by telling them to ‘be better.’
Brooks talks about a now infamous email that British father Nick Crews sent to his adult children, berating them for their poor life choices. The email, which was recently released to the public by one of Crews’ daughters, has been colloquially termed the “Crews Missile.” The term fits, as the tone of the email is downright scathing. “If it wasn’t for [my grandchildren],” Crews writes, “I would not be too concerned as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashed from one cock-up to the next. . . . I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.”
As Brooks comments, the email has been received by many with delight. “Many parents are apparently delighted that someone finally had the gumption to give at least one set of overprivileged slackers a well-deserved kick in the pants.” The problem, though, is that people don’t change by being told that they don’t measure up. Tirades like this might be emotionally satisfying, but they aren’t effective.
As Brooks writes, “People don’t behave badly because they lack information about their shortcomings. They behave badly because they’ve fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they’re unable to escape.” Or to use theological language, we don’t keep on sinning because we don’t know what’s right. We keep on sinning because we love sin.
Not surprisingly, Brooks doesn’t end his article with a gospel proclamation. At least not completely. But he does close by reminding his readers that the most effective way to engender change is not by “bludgeoning bad behavior” but by “changing the underlying context.” In many ways, this is what the gospel does. The gospel is not a message to “go and do,” but a message that salvation has already been done. The underlying context has been changed. We are changed not by being told what we need to do for God, but by hearing the news about what He has done for us.