Saturday, September 13, 2008

The gospel is for Christians too, Part 1

Understanding and embracing the truth that the gospel is for Christians too radically changed my life. It's my driving passion. This didn't happen overnight. Much of the credit goes to a PCA church planter who was himself "gripped by the gospel" and introduced me to Tim Keller. In a nutshell "the gospel is not just the A-B-C's, but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom." (Keller) When I talk this way I'm often met with blank stares from long-time Christians. I'm convinced many (most?) of the folks in the pews don't get it, but if they did it would unleash joy and freedom like they've never known. In the next few posts I'm going to share some excerpts from Tim Keller fleshing out this truth, and perhaps add a few personal observations.

In Galatians 2:14, Paul lays down a powerful principle. He deals with Peter's racial pride and cowardice by declaring that he was not living "in line with the truth of the gospel". From this we see that the Christian life is a process of renewing every dimension of our life--spiritual, psychological, corporate, social--by thinking, hoping, and living out the "lines" or ramifications of the gospel. The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving. The implications and applications of Galatians 2:14 are vast.

Implication #1 - The power of the gospel.
First, Paul is showing us that bringing the gospel truth to bear on every area of life is the way to be changed by the power of God. The gospel is described in the Bible in the most astounding terms. Angels long to look into it all the time (1 Peter 1:12). It does not simply bring us power, but it is the power of God itself, for Paul says I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation." (Rom. 1:16) It is also the blessing of God with benefits, which accrue to everyone who comes near. (1 Cor. 9:23) It is even called the very light of the glory of God itself--"they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ...for God...has made his light shine into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:4, 6)

It has the life of God. Paul said to the Corinthians, "I gave you birth through the gospel"! And then, after it has regenerated us, it is the instrument of all continual growth and spiritual progress after we are converted. "All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth." (Col. 1:6) Here we learn: 1) That the gospel is a living thing (cf. Romans 1:16) which is like a seed or a tree that brings more and more new life--bearing fruit and growing. 2) That the gospel is only "planted" in us so as to bear fruit as we understand its greatness and implications deeply--understood God's grace in all its truth. 3) That the gospel continues to grow in us and renew us throughout our lives--as it has been doing since the day you heard it. This text helps us avoid either an exclusively rationalistic or mystical approach to renewal. On the one hand, the gospel has a content--it is profound doctrine. It is truth, and specifically, it is the truth about God's grace. But on the other hand, this truth is a living power that continually expands its influence in our lives, just as a crop or a tree would grow and spread and dominate more and more of an area with roots and fruit.

Tim Keller, The Centrality of the Gospel

To be continued...

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