Saturday, September 16, 2017

Extremism and the Gospel

I do not like extremism. I am not one of those fans who insists on watching every game. Nor do I paint my face or wear funny clothes to show my loyalty. I have my preferred brands, but I acknowledge that other manufacturers have good products. I like pork better than chicken, but I have no objection if you prefer chicken to pork.

But, on the other hand, I cannot understand a half-hearted approach to serious matters.

Justice is not served when criminals are sentenced to less than they took. A theft of $100 is not justly punished with a fine of $99. The entire amount should be repaid, and a sum adequate to cover all costs should be added. That is not extreme; it is simple logic.

If we really believe that God the Son surrendered the glories of heaven for a life of poverty and a painful death, it will make a very notable difference in our lives. If there is not a notable difference in our lives, evidently we do not really believe.

To insist that everyone should have our same brand preferences or that everyone make our same food choices is extreme. To recognize that everyone ought to know, and love, and serve Christ is not extreme. Either the gospel is true, in which case everyone needs to hear it and respond to it, or it is false. On this issue, there is no middle ground. We need to agree with the Apostle Paul when he said to Agrippa, “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am” (Acts 26:29, ESV).

We used to hear it asked, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Surely anyone who really believes the gospel will be leaving enough evidence for a speedy verdict. The world will surely call such a person an extremist, a madman (Acts 26:24). So it was for the early disciples, and so it should be for us.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Obeying the Gospel

I remember when it was popular to say, “The gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:3-4). Good news is just believed; it cannot be obeyed. We should not speak of obeying the gospel.”

The rather obvious problem with such thinking is that the Bible itself speaks of obeying the gospel (1 Thess 1:8).

We obey the good news when we reenact the death, burial, and resurrection in baptism (Rom 6:3-4). But surely that is not all. We must not stop at a ceremonial reenactment. The last phrase of that passage indicates that we are to rise to “walk in newness of life”.

What will be characteristic of a gospel shaped life?

The gospel did not begin at Calvary, at Jerusalem, at Nazareth, or even at Bethlehem. The gospel began in eternity, in the decision of God to become man. Jesus, in giving up what was rightfully his, chose to bless others. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). To live a gospel shaped life, we also must find ways to serve others. Out of our confession of the gospel will flow gifts to others (2 Cor 9:13-14).

What is flowing from our lives? Are we obeying the gospel?

Obeying the gospel is not seen primarily in the “bad” things we avoid (although there are plenty of bad things we should avoid). Obeying the gospel is patterning our lives after the example of Jesus; it is a matter of actively seeking a life of service to others (especially of spiritual service that will make a difference for eternity).

Let us all ask ourselves, “Am I obeying the gospel?”