Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Rest of the Gospel

Are we selling the gospel short?

Ask a child what the gospel is, and she'll (hopefully) say something like, "It's God forgiving your sins so you can go to heaven." And all of that is true.

As adults we should know that it's about so much more than that. But I think we forget.

Here's a verse almost everyone knows: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Here's one less well known: "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

"Eternal life" is more than going to heaven. We get to know God!

Here's another one: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them" (2Cor 5:17-19).

Through Christ's atoning death, through the forgiveness of our sins, "God was reconciling" us to himself. He was healing the broken relationship between us.

"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27).

The mystery of the gospel is "Christ in you." We are united with Christ. God now lives in us.

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters" (Rom 8:29).

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves" (Eph 1:4-6).

And he has adopted us, rebellious sinners though we were and are, as his own children, "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17), and now "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6). This was the big plan. This isn't a fringe benefit. This is what God set out to do. We are forgiven, promised "eternal life", reconciled to God, and united with Christ so that we can be adopted.

So what is the gospel? It's God forgiving your sins through Christ so that he can make you his child.

I think this is the message our culture needs to hear today, partly because "heaven" seems to remote and far away, and partly because the child version of the gospel has become trite, I'm not sure people really listen to it anymore. But Christianity is not about an escape plan or a get-out-of-hell-free card. It's about becoming what God always intended us to be. 

Jesus died on the cross to make us like him. And that is very good news.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Trusting God for the Consequences of Obedience

I hate admitting when I'm wrong.

Unless you're Rip Van Winkle, you're aware of the debates we've been having over immigration in the US in the last few years. The arguments have become vicious. Mostly they're over illegal immigration, but the effects have spilled over onto legal immigration as well. In the midst of this we have a number of humanitarian crises in the Middle East and in Latin America. People's homes have become unsafe, and they say they need somewhere to go — now!

And politically conservative evangelicals (not a completely redundant phrase) find themselves torn between two impulses.

On the one hand, care for the helpless — the widow and orphan, the alien, the refugee, "the least of these" — is frequently and strongly commanded in the Bible. God says again and again that he will judge people (and peoples) based on how they treat the weakest among them.

On the other hand, not only will helping these people be expensive for a nation that feels stretched too thin, this seems like it's just playing into the other (political) side's hands: namely, that these people will help tip American politics to the left for years to come (because the left seems to want to make all illegal immigrants citizens). The result of helping these people now may be to give up any chance of stopping the mass slaughter of unborn children for generations.

What do you do when you feel like you have to choose between obedience and ... obedience?

The first thing to do is recognize the difference between absolute facts and potentialities.

Fact: Refugees.

Potentiality: Maybe conservatives will eventually be able to put the right people on the courts to overturn Roe. Maybe every illegal alien granted citizenship will vote Democrat. Maybe that would let them keep stocking the courts with pro-abortion ideologues.
That's a lot of maybes.

Second, those maybes need to be met with one very important question: Do you believe in the providence of God?

That's the question that has slapped me in the face. I've joked that I believe in the providence of God until I'm stuck in traffic. Well, it's really not a joke. It's pretty true. I say I believe in the providence, even sovereignty, of God, but when push comes to shove, does my life look like it? Or do I let the illusion that I can control anything beyond my own decisions direct my actions?

So I will try to take to heart the message of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: Just obey, and trust God is in charge of the consequences.