THE GOSPEL IS NOT THE ABC’S OF CHRISTIANITY
IT’S THE A TO Z OF CHRISTIANITY
IT’S THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY
IT’S NOT JUST THE WAY TO GET IN
BUT THE WAY TO DAILY LIVE IN VICTORY
ANGELS PEER INTO IT, LONGING TO UNDERSTAND IT
IF YOU THINK YOU UNDERSTAND IT, YOU PROBABLY DON’T
IF YOU REALIZE IT’S DEEPER THAN YOU IMAGINED
YOU ARE STARTING TO SEE
IT’S A NARROW PATH, JESUS SAID
STAYING ON THE PATH IS LIKE WALKING A FENCE
HOW EASY IT IS TO FALL OFF TO EITHER SIDE
“THE GOSPEL IS CRUCIFIED BETWEEN TWO THIEVES:
ANTINOMINISM (AGAINST THE LAW) AND LEGALISM”
BOTH OF THESE ERRORS
THESE WAYS TO FALL OFF
ARE SELF-SALVATION STRATEGIES
Last Sunday night I went with my sister to a “hymn sing” at her little Zion Methodist church. It was well attended, robust and wonderful singing of the great hymns for ninety minutes. My heart was moved. My sister touched my hand when we sang Be Still My Soul, knowing how that ministered to me after Steve’s death. And then, when we sang It Is Well With My Soul, she had tears again, remembering Steve’s funeral. I keep praying the gospel will be formed in her heart. She hears and sees everything through a filter she has been taught. She thinks the crucifixion and resurrection are metaphors. That the atoning blood is a primitive concept. That the church is a place for fellowship and to do good and to enjoy the beauty of the metaphors.
I love my sister. I have honestly felt all my life that she is made of better material than me. She is warm, gifted, giving, and lovely. This is not about my being better than she is — it is about wanting her to see how each of us is in desperate need of the atoning work of Christ. I need it. She needs it. Every person needs it.
I know there are wonderful Methodist churches that have not rejected their heritage. But many have. At this church, though their heritage was still visible — a cross at the front (with faded letters beneath: in the cross of Christ I glory), though there were hymnals and Bibles in the rack, though we were actually singing the hymns — I also know that all of these are now interpreted through a filter. Everything is a metaphor. The leadership of that church and many of its members do not believe in the literal resurrection of Christ or in the blood atonement — even though they were singing about it. The song-leader, a gifted man, assured people not to worry about theology. Last year he said, “These hymns are just part of our heritage, we don’t have to believe the words.” He became very uncomfortable when a visitor wanted to share a story about a hymn and what it meant to him. I also knew that my sister and her husband were uncomfortable when a visitor requested and we sang “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” The gospel, the heart of Christianity, is rejected.
How does the gospel break through? What causes us to realize we cannot save ourselves? How are the lies all around us overcome?
I know it can only come by the Spirit of God. The wind blows where it will. But I also know we are told to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us — and we must do it wisely.
It seems to be much harder today. Keller quotes Martin Lloyd-Jones: “The demon is in so deep.” We’ll listen this week to the first half of a free teaching session from Keller on why the demon is in so deep, and next week, take careful notes on how to share the gospel wisely in times like these.
I also know that the Gospel is not just the way into Christianity, but it is the way to live every day. I can’t believe I missed that for so long, but I did. But now I am changing. I know I am still only glimpsing how it works in my life, but I see it better now than when I thought I saw it clearly! I understand better how it is the way to live, each day. I am understanding why Luther said, “All of life is repentance.”
I must never minimize my sin. My idols have been mushrooming these last weeks as I have run to them instead of God to deal with my anxieties about the video edit — allowing my anxieties to multiply, hanging up on my son’s fiance, standing in front of the pantry mindlessly munching tostida chips from the bag like a woman without a Savior… all of these are quite ineffective self-salvation strategies. And these”infractions” are not small — each is so bad that Christ had to pay with His own blood.
We’re going to finish Jonah in three, at most four weeks, continuing to use Jonah to peer into the gospel. This week we’ll get help from our own dear Anne. We have more than one Anne participating on the blog (such as my niece, Anne Meredith) but this Anne has been with this blog for years, and so we know her simply as Anne. (Anne with an e, which is appropriate for her for those of you who are familiar with Anne of Green Gables.) I’ve cherished her contemplative spirit. She’s a compassionate nurse, a woman who sees what we often miss in art or in poetry, and is such a gift to us on this blog.
(Please pray for me Sunday morning as I speak at a large conference at Wheaton College on Idol Lies. Quickening, please!)
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. How would you describe, with illustrations from your own life, ways to fall off the narrow road of the gospel?
Tuesday/Wednesday: Anne’s Story and Bible Study
Anne uses the story of the prodigal sons, and the beloved Rembrandt print, to help us peer into the gospel.
For many of you this is review, but you may still have to look back at the passages of Luke 15 and Jonah to answer these questions.
1. Falling off the fence on the rebel side:
A. How did the younger son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?
B. How did Jonah, in chapter 1, “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?
C. What do you know about the Ninevites (before their repentance) that shows they had fallen off the fence on the rebel side?
2. Falling off the fence on the religious side:
A. How did the older son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the religious side?
B. How did Jonah (after he had preached the gospel and the Ninevites had repented) fall off the fence on the religious side? (If you don’t get this, don’t worry –we’ll come back to it in a future week)
For all of my Christian life I have been either religious or irreligious. I started out religious but soon became discouraged and gave up because I realized that I could not be good enough. The worst 10 years of my life followed this decision and those were the irreligious years followed by more religious years. I was able to convince myself that I was pretty good if I didn’t look too closely but I never grew and I was not joyful. I was working hard but not experiencing the grace that is the key to becoming like Christ. The problem was that I was trying to save myself.
As I began to work with Dee here on the blog to gain freedom from idolatry, the Lord spoke to me about covering. He asked me to stop trying to cover myself before Him. I did not understand at the time but now I think I may. Idols covered me, keeping me from seeing my desperate need of grace. Turning from them was very much like surgery without anesthesia as Keller said, but very soon the Lord came near with His presence and gift of grace and oh how precious it has been to me.
Henri Nouwen made this point to me in his book about Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal. I may not remember it quite right but I think he said that we all struggle with being like the prodigal and like the legalistic older brother but that our destination, in Christ, is to be like the Father. Understanding just how desperately wicked I am and how costly the gift of grace that I have been given changes me. I lose fear because I trust He who has lavished so great a gift on me. I don’t tend to judge others because I know how great a sinner I am. Bigotry falls away too because I know I am loved therefore I don’t have to put others beneath to build up myself. This is the organic change that will make us like Christ. As I found out the hard way, I can’t do this myself, because salvation is of the LORD.
3. Comment on Anne’s testimony:
4. I what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer.
Thursday/Friday First Half of Keller Message
This is a long message, and it is teaching instead of a sermon — so I’m going to have you listen to 44 minutes this week, and then the final packed 30 minutes next week. You will listen to his first three points:
- Gospel Theologizing
- Gospel Realizing
- Gospel Urbanizing
Link: Click Here
5. What notes do you have?
6. What’s your take-a-way and why?