Myths about Gospel Living: #5

Gospel-centered sanctification will lead to lawlessness.

Wasn’t this the objection of the Catholic Church when Luther proclaimed justification through faith alone?  They objected that if people were taught that they would be saved simply through faith, they would leave off the mass, almsgiving, prayers, confession, and all other good works and sacraments.  To this we all object that the Gospel in justification does not keep us from doing what God commands, but all the more motivates us to do what God’s Word teaches.  And why not so in sanctification as well as justification?  If the recognition that I can offer God nothing that will gain me merit in my justification does not lead to lawlessness, then why should the same recognition in regard to my sanctification do the same?  No one is looking to make grace abound because of sin, rather, we look to the Gospel as the powerhouse of sanctification.  Being good and glorifying God does not result from my intense self-discipline.  It is a result of the Gospel.  The more I come to see His righteousness in my place, the more I will be motivated, no, find the power, to live out who I really am in Christ.

Myths about Gospel Living: #4

Unity cannot be achieved around the Gospel; unity must be achieved through doctrinal affirmation.

To some extent, our problem, once again, is a flawed understanding of the doctrine as it has been presented.  When referring to the Gospel, we are not simply referring to the concept of justification through faith alone (the simplistic view), but rather the fact that the whole of Christian doctrine finds its source in the Gospel and the whole of Scripture focuses on the Gospel.  For example, how do we learn that God is love outside the Gospel (I John 4:10)?  How do we worship without an understanding of the Gospel (“Word of Christ” – Col. 3:16)?  What was the purpose of the prophecies and the moving of the Holy Spirit in the work of inspiration but to proclaim the Gospel (I Pet. 1:9-12)?  Through the lens of the Gospel, there is no doctrine, whether eschatology, anthropology, ecclesiology, hamartiology, or even angeology, that remains untouched.  So when a pastor calls his people to Gospel unity, he does not call them to unify around justification through faith alone (and thus to unite with Pentacostals, Presbyterians, Methodists, Luthrans, Baptists, and cool church up the block), he rather calls them to unity around the full implications of the Gospel in every area of doctrine that it touches (which is essentially analogous to the fundamentals of the faith).

Myths about Gospel Living: #3

It’s all about Calvinism.

This objection is often presented because the chief proponents of the movement are Calvinists.  On a surface level, this statement seems to have much merit, but in reality it is quite lacking.  Should we reject the teachings of Luther because of his “Calvinism”?  Should we burn our copies of Pilgrim’s Progress?  Should we ignore the contributions of men like Jonathan Edwards?  No!  Should we reject the use of Nouthetic counseling?  Just because someone may believe in what may or may not be a flawed system, it does not negate the entirety of their dogma.  In other words, this objection is flawed because it attempts to negate the doctrine by questioning another aspect its sources rather than wrestling with the argument.

Myths about Gospel Living: #2

The gospel is just about justification, getting saved, or evangelism.

The majority of the writers on the subject (Piper, Keller, Chapell, etc.) have been quite clear in their objections to this point.  The whole purpose of their writings on the topic is to assert that the Gospel is to be central not only in justification but also in sanctification.  As defined by these and other writers, the Gospel is that doctrine that teaches that we are unable to merit God’s favor due to sin, that we must come to God simply through faith in His Son, and that God, through Christ, gives us everything we need for life and godliness.  This objection is flawed because it fails to understand the source material on the topic.

For a further explanation see my pastor’s brief introduction to the topic here.

 

Myths about Gospel Living: #1

It’s just a fad.

This statement is code for: All the preachers outside my camp are all about it, so I must be against it.  Has the Gospel regained centrality in our discussions about sanctification?  Yes.  Does it run through the majority of conservative devotional literature today?  Certainly.  Does this negate its value or significance?  Most emphatically not.  Just as the rediscovery of the Gospel’s relation to justification by the Reformers was significant in their day (yet not a passing fad), neither is the rediscovery of Gospel-based sanctification in our day.  Should Fundamentalists then reject Dispensationalism because of its relative youth?  To conclude, this objection is flawed because it focuses on the supposed “newness” of the teaching rather than on the significant contributions of the doctrine itself.

Only in the Gospel

In the most ancient of civilizations we find a very basic principle.  We read in the African continent of the divinity of the Pharaohs and in the Americas, the worship of the Mayan rulers.  Not far removed we find the imperial cult of the Romans in Europe and the emperor worship of the Japanese in Asia.  From the elevation of Buddha, to the feats of Hercules, to the superiority of Nietzsche’s Übermensch, man has sought one goal – to become a god.

In some sense this could be seen as a unifying theme of the religious tradition of the entire world.  The ultimate desire of the world religions could be simply seen as a process of attempting to make men into gods.  Indeed, in the Bible, we find that the first sin was committed in order that man could be like God and that the first perversion of religion was found in the attempt to reach a tower to heaven.  “If only we can reach heaven,” they imagined, “we can take our rightful place again.”  Every civilization has taught different methods of becoming a god, but they all hold to the same basic thesis.

No doubt, the same essential thought prevails today.  Nietzsche well captured the view of his burgeoning modernistic society by teaching that man could become god only by overcoming the inhibitions of society and religion.  Post-modern philosophy takes this principle a step further.  The post-modern worldview holds that all men are equal gods.  We all deserve to be “supermen.”  What each man speaks is absolute truth to him.  The cardinal sin is to offend the esteem and worship due to the deity who lives across the picket fence.  Man controls his own fate.  Man makes or destroys his own universe.  All men have become gods.

In the face of these paradigms, the Christian religion stands with pure exception.  Only in Christianity do we find the opposite!  Man cannot become a god.  In fact, man cannot even become good.  Man is hopeless because of his sin.  In spite of all God’s actions, man only demonstrates his inability to even begin to make things right with God.  Oh what a helpless state man is in!  But here comes the greatest paradox in the religious traditions of the world.  There is no man that becomes god to lead others to godhood, rather God all God, robed in glorious splendor, transcendent, majestic, and clothed in light, becomes man!

And why would such a God reveal Himself in such a manner?  Was it to bring judgment on the rebellious men whom He had created?  Was it to mock and to scorn those who could not attain divinity?  No, God became man so that He Himself might bear man’s judgment, mockery, and scorn so that He might reconcile man to God.

Only in the Gospel do we find such a radical philosophy, namely that man cannot become a god, but that God became a man to bring all men to God!

A Meditation on the Gospel

from Galatians 3

My life was filled with sin and guilt,
I wanted to be free.
Look now I see Him crucified—
Cursed on the tree for me!

By His grace, Christ took my sin,
And by His grace I now have peace.
By His grace each day I win,
And by His grace I’ll be complete.

The Gospel preached to Abraham,
Is free for everyone:
The just will live by faith in Christ,
Bought by God’s grace alone!

By His grace, Christ took my sin,
And by His grace I now have peace.
By His grace each day I win,
And by His grace I’ll be complete.

But now to follow Christ my Lord,
Through flesh the laws I’ve done.
But how did I receive the gift?
By faith in grace alone!

By His grace, Christ took my sin,
And by His grace I now have peace.
By His grace each day I win,
And by His grace I’ll be complete.