We live in this gap and we need to ask ourselves what we are choosing to fill in the space? Another way to ask the same question is this: Jesus saved us (Past) and He will ultimately give eternal life(Future), but how are we choosing to live in the meantime?
I want to warn all of us: Let's not get lost in empty words around this house. What I am writing about in this post is no longer theory. This is Gospel 101. This is no longer spiritual jargon and words that you hear repeated weekly when you show up at Redeemer. This is life. This is the practical gospel. This is truth that we can grab and hold onto.
So, let me begin with a few questions:
What are you choosing to fill in this gap between salvation and eternity?
What are you doing to relate to God?
How are you choosing to live out your faith in the hear and now?
What is it that you feel you need to do to be right with God or to be accepted by Him?
Let's look at that same question in reverse: What do you believe you are doing that is causing you to NOT BE ACCEPTED by God?
Regarding your position before God:
Are you trying to fill your life with right behavior?
Are you working hard to avoid the really bad behaviors?
Are you trying to fill each day with pure thoughts and holy deeds?
Are you trying to be the best biblical scholar?
Are you trying to be the best Christian you can be?
Ultimately I ask: Are you secure in your faith or is acceptance with God something to be maintained or earned continually?
What about your response to others:
Are you trying to have the best responses to everyone watching? You know what I mean? Are you driven by wanting to show others how a Christian responds or how a Christian is supposed to behave? Is this a performance for the acceptance of others?
This past summer, our family was confronted again with destructive sin that has affected each of us. Like a rock thrown into a pond, the rippling effect of that sin have travelled outward to each of us. Let me share my personal response. Initially, I determined to give the "best Christian response.” I wanted to do something and show others how Christ would respond to sin. I was trying so hard to be Christ in this situation.
It feels good to do something, doesn't it? It feels good when I feel like I’m behaving well for God’s approval. Truthfully, it feels good when others recognize what you are doing and affirm that it's the right thing to do. Have you experienced that before? Don't' you find it affirming when others say things like, “You are being like Jesus...”
The truth? The prophet Isaiah covers this quite adequately when he wrote that our righteous deeds are like filthy rags. It’s not at all about what I do or how I respond. The question is not: What can I do today to please God? What can I do to be acceptable in His sight? Or how can I be Jesus in this situation. I don’t need to be Jesus in the situation. I need to POINT people to Jesus, because my efforts, my good deeds are nothing more than filthy rags.
In this story, I am not Jesus.
This fall we have been learning a lot about how Jesus responded to people He met during His ministry and often we try to identify with Jesus and His response. Remember, we are NOT Jesus in these stories.
When He interacts with the Pharisees, we need to remember that we relate better to the Pharisee than to Jesus. Likewise, we are the Samaritan prostitute in the story and we are the demoniac living naked at the tombs. I am the dead guy with burial clothes still stuck to his skin. I am the blind guy with spitty mud around freshly opened eyes. I am the leper healed from a life of abandonment. I am NOT Jesus in the story.
My only job, my only responsibility, the only thing I can do is to run into town and tell others about the one who restores sight, the one who heals and the one who saves. Yes. My job is to point others to Jesus, not BE Jesus.
Again I want to move beyond the philosophical Gospel. I want to stop talking about Gospel theory. The answer is simple. I can’t do anything myself. Jesus has done it all. He gets all the credit. He is the star. So, I can stop. I can relax. I can put down the books on theology and doctrine. I can put aside my agenda for holiness. I can simply acknowledge and thank Jesus for what he's done.
In a nutshell, I can remember that it is all about Jesus. As Tchividjian says, it is truly Jesus plus nothing. Here’s where it gets good: That brings great joy, because it is finished! This is not just a mantra. These words are the healing balm to my sin-stained soul and comfort to my damaged heart.
My response? I should be driven to my knees in thankfulness and in great thanks I should want to pick up the theology book to know my great God even better. I should desire Him and desire to please Him with right behavior. Not to get something, but because of something I’ve already been given. Jesus!
Some around me have said that they struggle with the practical application of the Gospel. In other words, what does Gospel living look like in the day to day? Hopefully the words I’ve put together have helped explain it. The truth is that I have stolen words and phrases from some of my favorite authors. These paragraphs are nothing more than a compilation of ideas from Tchividijian, Merrick, CCEF and the sermons at Redeemer Church.
Hopefully it is a practical explanation of how the gospel has worked itself out in my life. I would love to hear how it works out in your life too.