Ok… I’m posting today, because it has been a long time… but I’m also quite ill today… so if this seems like a ramble, or doesn’t make sense… blame me. And my illness.
As I live under the incredible reality that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), and as I grow in the grace and knowledge of my Savior (2 Peter 3:18), I continue to be overwhelmed with the centrality for my life of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Not in a Sunday-School-the-answer-is-always-Jesus kind of way, but how I wish that my words were clearer, that my life was more reflective, of the reality of Christ. He isn’t a substantial part of my salvation – He is my salvation. He’s my righteousness, my redemption, my sanctification, my justification… and the big words don’t even begin to capture, really, the essence of the grace and truth that Jesus Christ brings.
So often it seems like “church” becomes a following of a subset of Christ’s teachings, plus a variety of other traditions and cultural norms that a community chooses for itself. While this may be comfortable, it is limiting and narrow and so often isn’t overwhelmed with the true heart of the church… Jesus.
John MacArthur, in a question-and-answer session at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference, gives this helpful answer to a pastor wanting to confront this type of “legalism” – not in the sense of works salvation, but in the sense of the narrow behavioral norms and needless (i.e. not biblically mandated) restrictions that so many churches hold to:
“I would suggest that the first way to do that is to move people off the rules they live by on to the person of Jesus Christ, and just preach the glories of Christ. Get in a Gospel and stay there until those people have been liberated from rules to love for Christ, until they have been literally swept away in awe and wonder over their affections for Jesus Christ. Rather than try to instruct them on the biblical disciplines, which again is just another set of rules, let them be lost in wonder, love, and praise over the person of Christ, and you watch those things begin to disappear.”
Can we get to a place of being liberated from restrictive rules? Not being against morality or obedience in any way – but centering that morality and obedience in a passion and love and awe and wonder and praise at our Savior?
I think that one main hindrance is pride. Pride pushes me towards never conceding that someone else might see truth better… that I have no self-righteousness to hold onto… that Christ really is my everything. Pride leads me to hedge the truth and steal from grace… and ultimately the wonder of our Savior is not served by my words.
I hope that you (whomever might read this) and I can get away from ourselves enough to actually dive into the real truth that Scripture brings – the gospel, the good news of our Savior.
I like how Kevin DeYoung puts it, in an article at First Things:
“We are all proud. Because I’m proud I get hurt when people disagree with me strongly. Because I’m proud I feel the need to give thirteen qualifications before I make an argument, not usually because I’m a swell guy but because I love for people to love me and loathe for them to dislike or misunderstand me. Because I’m proud I hedge my criticisms so that I won’t have to publicly repent and recant when I go too far and get something wrong. Because we’re proud, protectors of self more than lovers of truth, we often don’t discuss things with candor or with verve.”
This convicts me. My hedging can be more a result of fear of man and pride than a result of concern for the truth. And I look back at my very first sentence above… and get convicted. Why do we shy away from truth?
“And from him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
May we clearly proclaim (and really believe) what is already true: that Jesus Christ, our glorious Savior, is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption… and may all our boasting be only in Him.
(h/t to Andy Naselli’s excellent blogs on these issues)