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“Preach the gospel always, If necessary use words."

-St. Francis of Assisi

It embarrasses me how often I have used the quote from St Francis to mean that we should just live the gospel and not say anything to anybody, ever.  The gospel becomes more like good advice, the gospel is twisted into a self help message, transforming into, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day.  If my life’s transformation is the good news then I am afraid that that good news is incredibly lame!  If we consider and accept that our default condition in this world is one of being removed from God’s presence and from even desiring God (such as Total Depravity explores, our inability to reach out to God), then what happens to me is not the good news.  It may be a byproduct of the acceptance of this good news, indeed my life should rightly be transformed through sanctification, but the good news I ought to proclaim is that God became man, lived, died and rose again for my justification.  In this context, good advice would be to accept the good news! 

The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in one of his epistles.  Paul writes to the Galatians in chapter 1,

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”             (1:6-7, ESV)

Paul seems to make the point that there is no such thing as an alternative gospel.  The thing that is preached by other people is the Law, not the Gospel.  The Law is about doing something and the Gospel is about something that has been done. The Gospel message is that through faith in Christ, we can be reconciled to God and be justified.  If an angel or another human preaches an alternative message than they should be eternally condemned (see Gal 1:8-9).  The gospel is too great of a message to be about me and my life.

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I read a past issue of Modern Reformation and read an excellent article on “The Law and the Gospel.”  In it Sean Norris mentioned about his past in the typical realm of relational Christianity.  Everything was based on stirrings and emotion.  I had similar experiences where I craved the emotional status of quiet times, youth camps and moments of crying.  While these are good, it was rooted in temporary experiences.  I had to do “x” so I could feel “y”.  However, it was the If-Then moments that I craved.  Little did I know that my efforts weren’t good enough.

My stirrings were meant to show that I wasn’t good enough.  The Law (pointing out my sin) that I strove against was there to demonstrate that I was sick.  It was the salt that was poured into the wound signifying my problem.  Fortunately, that was only part of the drama.

Part two dealt with the ramifications of my depravity.  While the Law was the hammer that crushed me, grace was the thing that restored me.  My entire being was the problem and my external actions that sought to live up to the standards was not the tool to solve the problem.

Since Christ died and rose again on my behalf (indeed for the sins of the world), the problem has been solved.  I have now been restored to the proper standing before God.  The free gift that paid my debt is not conditional upon my actions, present or future.  The Law points to the cross and the cross demonstrates the gospel (the good news) that humanity can be justified to God.

Norris explained that “the if/then conditional nature of relationships ends and because/therefore wins out.”  No longer would I have to partake in the “if I focus enough on God, then I will be at peace.”  No, it is because Christ died, therefore I have peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1).  What a breakthrough!  The gospel is the answer to any accusation we receive from the Law.

Thanks be to God.

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Past Musings