June 10, 2009

Understanding the difference...

I recall saying to an atheist co-worker, while discussing Christianity, "Christianity is not about Christians--it's about Christ." I continued, "You obviously have issues with Christians; but, what do you think about Christ?" Her answer was, "I have never really thought about that." I said, "Perhaps you should and anytime you would like to discuss Christ--please let me know."

Pastors, do your people know more about "being a Christian" than they know about what God has done, supremely in Christ, and especially focused on his cross and resurrection? Are they able and willing to articulate the gospel with love and confidence? Seriously consider this.

It has been my observation that there is a great deal of confusion among professing Christians in terms of what the gospel is. It is not about us. So many times we tell people what Christ has done for us (the effect of the Gospel) and never actually share the gospel message. D.A. Carson illustrates this beautifully in the excerpt below.

“...the first two greatest commands—to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves—do not constitute the gospel, or any part of it. We may well argue that when the gospel is faithfully declared and rightly received, it will result in human beings more closely aligned to these two commands. But they are not the gospel. Similarly, the gospel is not receiving Christ or believing in him, or being converted, or joining a church; it is not the practice of discipleship. Once again, the gospel faithfully declared and rightly received will result in people receiving Christ, believing in Christ, being converted, and joining a local church; but such steps are not the gospel.

The Bible can exhort those who trust the living God to be concerned with issues of social justice (Isa 2; Amos); it can tell new covenant believers to do good to all human beings, especially to those of the household of faith (Gal 6); it exhorts us to remember the poor and to ask, not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whom am I serving as neighbor?” We may even argue that some such list of moral commitments is a necessary consequence of the gospel. But it is not the gospel. We may preach through the list, reminding people that the Bible is concerned to tell us not only what to believe but how to live. But we may not preach through that list and claim it encapsulates the gospel.

The gospel is what God has done, supremely in Christ, and especially focused on his cross and resurrection.

Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.”

D.A. Carson, Themelios, 34.1


G. N. Barkman said...

Excellent post!

G. N. Barkman

TruthMatters said...

What a delight to find your comment.

One of my greatest joys is discovering something written that so clearly articulates the less articulate thoughts of my own heart and mind, thus feeding my soul and bringing deeper understanding and clarity to the truths of God’s Word... One of my greatest desires is to share these truths with others, so that the Body of Christ be built up to His glory.

To know that others may have also benefited from these precious gems is a blessing beyond measure. Thanks for letting me know that you stopped by (smiling).

Grace to You,