Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The gospel is for Christians too, Part 4

Quoting again from Tim Keller:

Without a knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the cross seems trivial and does not electrify or transform. But without a knowledge of Christ's completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin would crush us or move us to deny and repress it. Take away either the knowledge of sin or the knowledge of grace and people's lives are not changed. They will be crushed by the moral law or run from it angrily. So the gospel is not that we go from being irreligious to being religious, but that we realize that our reasons for both our religiosity and our irreligiosity were essentially the same and essentially wrong. We were seeking to be our own Saviors and thereby keep control of our own life. When we trust in Christ as our Redeemer, we turn from trusting either self-determination or self-denial for our salvation--from either moralism or hedonism.

In sum:

All problems, personal or social come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way, to get "in line with the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:14). All pathologies in the church and all its ineffectiveness comes from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. We believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look very unique.

I believe that too. With all my heart. I fall short, but a gospel-oriented life and gospel-oriented church is what I aim for. So how might this work out in practice? Keller has several pages of implications for individuals and churches. Here are but two.

Approach to discouragement. When a person is depressed, the moralist says, "you are breaking the rules--repent." On the other hand, the relativist says, "you just need to love and accept yourself." But (assuming there is no physiological base of the depression) the gospel leads us to examine ourselves and say: "something in my life has become more important than God, a pseudo-savior, a form of works-righteousness." The gospel leads us to repentance, but not to merely setting our will against superficialities. It is without the gospel that superficialities will be addressed instead of the heart. The moralist will work on behavior and the relativist will work on the emotions themselves.

Approach to ministry in the world. Legalism tends to place all the emphasis on the individual human soul. Legalistic religion will insist on converting others to their faith and church, but will ignore social needs of the broader community. On the other hand, "liberalism" will tend to emphasize only amelioration of social conditions and minimize the need for repentance and conversion. The gospel leads to love which in turn moves us to give our neighbor whatever is needed--conversion or a cup of cold water, evangelism and social concern.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
John 3:16-18

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit"
1 Peter 3:18

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain."
1 Corinthians 15:1-2

"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered."
Psalm 32:1

Previous posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

No comments: