Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gospel Pipeline-Stage Two

Once we're converted, what tends to happen next has been firmly documented through the lives of God's people. Once gripped by the wonder and promise of grace for eternal life, new believers are often led to (and predisposed to!) see the BASICS of the Christian life in terms of behaviors and disciplines. There is good reason for this...Scripture clearly calls Christ-followers to live the walk the walk and not merely talk the talk! In Titus we see this call to obedience very clearly stated: In Titus 3:1 we read that Christ-followers are to BE submissive to rulers, to BE obedient, to BE ready for every good work, and in Titus 3:8 we are exhorted to BE careful to devote ourselves to good works...if we are not careful, these emphases become what my good friend and President of Covenant Theological Seminary, Bryan Chapell, calls "The Killer Be's." These "Be's" are not wrong in themselves, but wrong left BY themselves. If we're not careful, the Christian life loses its emphasis on continual faith in Christ for life and we begin to look for life through our own efforts. We begin to think there is transforming power in the sheer discipline of gutting out the Christian lifestyle. This can quickly create a moralistic, behavioralistic paradigm of the Christian life. The "rules" of the Christian life can change in an instant. What got us saved, the grace of God, is not exchanged for a new rule...human effort. This was the Galatian problem. The Galatians to whom Paul writes, began their Christian experience with an emphasis on grace, hope in the Gospel and faith in Christ alone. This is clearly revealed in Galatians 3--Paul asks them, DID you receive the Spirit (past tense), in other words, DID you become Christians, by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? The text demands the obvious answer...they, and WE, become Christians ONLY by hearing with faith (see my last Blog entry). But then Paul addresses their PRESENT Christian experience...Are you so foolish, having BEGUN by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh (by human effort)?...Does He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?!! Do you see what Paul is saying? He is saying you are not only saved from hell and sin and death by grace through faith...but you are also progressively transformed into the image of Christ supernaturally by grace through faith as well!! Forgetting this gospel truth leads to a real clog of the flow of grace in our lives. Because of our sinfulness, we tend to read the second half of Paul's letters which emphasise gospel ethics and focus entirely on those portions as the key to Christian living. We become the Church of the Latter-Half Saints!! Instead we need to continually re-visit the FIRST part of Paul's epistles and make sure we are living in grace, which will in fact supernaturally lead to living out the second half of Paul's letters. You see, we tend to forget that there are two sides to the flesh, or indwelling sin, in a believer. There is a tendency to think only of the irreligious flesh, that pull of sin toward immorality or obvious disobedience...the dirty dozen, the filthy five, the sinful six, the nasty nine, the awful eight...whatever list your church gives you of what bad Christians do and good Christians avoid. Now, make no mistake...there IS a righteousness that we are to pursue and there IS sin we are called to avoid...but that is only one element of the flesh that we are called to do battle with. The other side of the coin of a believer's sinfulness is the RELIGIOUS flesh. That's right...part of the element of sinfulness that resids within is religious...seeking to build our own righteousness and to seek confidence before God because of our own goodness, rather than having confidence before God because of the righteousness of Christ that is our's by faith. This tendency toward performance clogs up many a Christian life! This performance paradigm has only two possible ends, and both are devastating...First, if someone is very self-UNaware and is somewhat competent and disciplined, the Performance Paradigm leads to self-righteousness. Second, if the person IS self-aware, knows their sin and weakness, and is NOT very competent or disciplined, the Performance Paradigm leads to self-despair. Also for the Performance paradigm to "work", people must file down the law to make it attainable, minimize the holiness of God to make it less intense and also focus on the sin of others so that our own righteousness seems greater. The Performance Paradigm is what leads to judgmentalis and criticising in the Church. People in this paradigm focus on their own strengths but on other's weaknesses, so they can maintain the illusion of their own righteousness. It makes for a very unsafe church. No one in such a place wants to admit that they don't have it together because everyone else is also pretending that they have it together. There is no real fellowship, just a bunch of facades bumping into each other. The answer is to continue to preach and believe the Gospel of Grace...Titus 2:11--grace brings salvation...ALL of salvation, from first to last, from beginning to end. What is distinctively Christian about your walk? I hope you don't think its behaviors. All the major religions emphasise behavior...what is distinctively Christian about Christian character is that it is born through faith in Christ and is supernatural. The BASICS of Christian living are not behaviors or disciplines, but the truths of Gospel Grace applied daily to the Christian life.

1 comment:

John Edwards said...

I very much enjoyed your small group tonite and only wished that my family had bee in there and that it was on tape. Great stuff.
John Edwards