"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Simple Truth Revisited: The Response of Believers (Part 3 of 5)

Simple Truth Revisited:  The Response of Believers (continued)

3.  Assurance.  This is twofold.  First, our hearts are assured that we are in the faith, if indeed we behold the gospel in all its undimmed truth and do not shrink away or lash out.  If we seek to alter it, to blunt any of its sharp edges, whatever the reason, there is cause for concern.  Are humans not invariably sinners?  Did Christ not endure all of the Father’s punishment for sins?  Perhaps salvation is not pure grace?  Which portion of the Savior’s gospel truth, tell me, dare we adjust?

On the contrary, if we cherish the gospel in its fullness, if we believe that it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16b), then our lives will evidence this dearly-held belief.   Our pursuit of righteousness, our attitude toward unbelievers, and our service of God’s kingdom and glory all stem from the hardy root of the gospel.  If a love for the gospel is evident in our lives, then assurance will be forthcoming.

Secondly, when we as believers examine the gospel, God’s Word grants us a greater understanding of its precious truths and their far-reaching implications.  Put simply, we are blessed with greater assurance that we believe truth and know truth.  We cannot afford to rely upon an attitude of “I heard this in Sunday school,” or “My favorite pastor says this.”  These words cannot hope to bear the weight of our beliefs amidst the tempests of life, because they hinge more upon human supposition than upon timeless truth.  Only the strength of God’s enduring Word can truly shape our understanding of the gospel and grant us clarity and assurance. 

4.  Purpose.  The gospel not only serves to direct people to God’s life, but it also serves to direct the lives of God’s people.  We have already seen how righteousness is a mandate of the true gospel.  To this, we now add the Great Commission:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:20a) The gospel and discipleship go hand in hand.  It is gospel truth that frees people and makes them disciples, and it is the righteousness reflected in the gospel that becomes the pursuit of the disciple.  Thus the Great Commission is work that is not content merely to see the lost saved by the gospel; its fuller aim is to see those same people growing in righteousness as active, zealous disciples in whom the gospel continues to grow in their hearts and their priorities. 

Simple compassion for the lost also directs believers to the gospel.  If Christ is, as He Himself proclaimed, the only way of salvation, then we must bring people to Him.  We must display Him and His glory to the unbelieving world.  A common Christian adage is that Christianity is more than knowing facts concerning Jesus – it is about knowing the Savior Himself.  The truth here is healthy and undisputed, but let us take care, lest the axiom sway us too near to a different pole.  People must know the truth about Christ if they are to know Him, and they must know Him if they are to be saved by Him.  This is the substance of statements like Acts 4:12 or John 17:3, and it falls now to the church to disclose the person of Jesus Christ to the world, by imitation of His righteous character, and by proclamation of His saving work.  Is this not the gospel? 

The gospel, then, is not something that Christendom cannot afford to relegate solely to evangelists and new believers.  It is not the life vest that we grab when the plane is hurtling toward the ocean, only to discard once we are safe.  It is our spiritual life’s blood, and every bit as precious to our spiritual health as the blood that courses through our bodies is to our physical health.  Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a believer who could be said to possess too keen a focus upon the gospel, or too complete an obsession on living out its principles and implications.  The idea is impossible.  Sadly, though, it is far, far easier to picture a Christian in whom the gospel does not enjoy the preeminence that so richly becomes it.  An honest Christian sees in the mirror one who could stand to love the gospel yet more, who could wrap his or her life still tighter and more wholly around the gospel, for the glory of the One whom the gospel reveals.   For God’s glory, brothers and sisters, let us strive after this!

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…”
                                          - Paul, from Philippians 1:26-27


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