"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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Friday, October 12, 2012

Simple Truth Revisited: The Response of Believers (Part 2 of 5)

Simple Truth Revisited:  The Response of Believers

Clearly, gospel truth seeks a response from the unbeliever, but what of the believer?  There are those, who, after (evident) conversion, revisit the gospel but rarely; these may, I think, be sorted into two groups.  The first group, after making a profession of faith and repentance, make no move to grow or to obey.  If their cars leave the driveway on Sunday, it is to avert a culinary crisis, not a spiritual one.  And the next year, when the spring cleaning unearths their Bibles, they find a place for them on that shelf of books which they fully intend to read someday when life has considerably slowed (perhaps by Shakespeare, next to which the Bible seems to them no more important, and no easier to fathom).  To these, we say – read on, friend.  There are words in here for you. 

The second group is more careful to study and to enjoy fellowship, in accordance with scripture, but they consider that the gospel, having saved them, can impart but little further consequence into their spiritual life.   This is, in their thinking, the difference between the milk and the meat, as the author of Hebrews says, and they conclude it, then, a mark of immaturity to be shackled to the gospel.  Again, read on, friend. 

Four reasons come readily to mind as to why the believer benefits from returning to the true gospel time and again. 

1.  Adoration and Humility.  “Consider your calling, brethren,” Paul urges in 1 Cor. 1:26.  “…and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor. 1:28-31; emphasis added)  In other words, we are called to consider our own consummate weakness, and the complete life that God Himself has bestowed upon us, in direct opposition to that weakness.  Does this not stir our hearts to remember the indomitable force of God’s grace in our lives?  What place, then, has pride in our hearts? 

When we transfer to our God the esteem that we would otherwise squander on ourselves, we see God magnified, as He should be, and ourselves humbled, as we must be.   If we dare to suppose that this sort of attitude is fit only for infant believers just starting out, we simply guarantee that we will always be infant believers ourselves.  The Holy Spirit does not grow those who are insensible to the grace by which He always works.  Our humility before God communicates our acknowledgement of the insurmountable spiritual and moral failings which we possess, and our adoration of God recognizes the presence of His manifold spiritual and moral perfections.  The gospel rests at the very center of this understanding, and, as such, resides at the very center of life in Christ. 

2.  Righteousness.  The gospel, like salvation, extends beyond simple redemption.  Our Lord Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14b)  Redemption was not the end of Christ’s aims; He sought to create a people who would pursue righteousness and grow in it.  Remember Ephesians 2:8-10:  His grace has made us, making boasting impossible, and His grace has indeed made us for specific good works.  The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3a). 

God’s call to righteousness is therefore traced back to His desire for righteousness, which is expressed, and indeed made apparent, in the gospel.  When we return to the gospel, the clarion call to righteousness sounds with divine urgency.  Are the wages of sin not death?  Was it not unrighteousness that earned this fate for humanity?  Survey the vast cost of salvation, won by a perfect obedience before the Father, the last Adam sustaining the utter righteousness that the first Adam could not!

It is obvious, then, that the gospel is not morally ambiguous, and it makes no provision for those who seek to maintain moral ambiguity.  In other words, it is an offense to the gospel to seek salvation from damnable sin without any desire to be removed from the mire of that very sin.  Be assured that any appeals for salvation made in this spirit will be spurned by the Father.

The gospel exists because of unrighteousness.  It counts an unmerited, perfect righteousness to the credit of those who repent, in order to surmount this human unrighteousness, and it sets people upon a lifelong pursuit of righteousness.  Thankfully for sinful humanity, within this calling resides powerful hope:  the grace of God that accompanies us in our righteous endeavors (Titus 2:11-12) has already been proven in our very redemption.  If His grace was able to draw us powerfully out of hopeless darkness, then surely we may trust in its ability to guide us in light!


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