Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Partial Gospel Now, No Gospel Later

I just finished reading a blog post from an individual I know. He's been in and out of the writing sphere in the past several years. He's got quite a track record in the "Christian" world. He's begun big missionary projects. He's preached in a lot of churches...

...His most recent venture? He's left the faith. Don't worry, he'd probably say the same himself if you asked him.

His current blog posts lament the evils he sees in churches. The manipulation that pastors practice in their "prophetic" ministry. The abuses of the flock etc. He claims to be something of a seeking agnostic. What saddens me the most is that many who had great love and respect for him in his "orthodox" days now follow his blog and show an odd appreciation for what I see as incredibly naive and non-reflective questions concerning the Christian faith.

As I read his stories concerning what tripped him up throughout his Christian experience, I see a great deal of talk concerning suffering. He speaks of the death of his sister-in-law. He talks about sin that he's walked through. He talks about his failure to live up to his own expectations in Christian living. His main question, "why didn't Christianity change me?"

Good question. One worth a lifetime of struggle and thought. How fast is our faith supposed to change us? How much change is enough to know I'm "good?" Probably the most substantive question in all of his writing. Isn't the gospel supposed to change us? However, I would submit to you that this is not really his question.

Here's another question. What is the gospel? Is it even about us? It relates to us of course, but is it ABOUT us?

In the middle of the aforementioned blog, the writer expressed his frustration that preachers would try to always make God look good in the midst of tragedy. He preferred that God be one who could exist at our level in the midst of suffering. Profound... I'm sure no Christian EVER longed for a God who comforts the afflicted and wondered how that could square with God's transcendence and glory.

Sarcasm aside, I wonder just what he's asking for. Does he want a God who has no power over our circumstances? Does he simply want another imperfect human to throw into the mix of life? Does he want another question asking agnostic who just happens to go by the name "god" and wouldn't claim to have written a revelatory book?

This leads to what I believe to be the foundational stumbling stone in the mind of this blogger and in the minds of those like him. Their ultimate end in writing is the discovery and exploration of self.

What is their gospel? I think one has to read their blogs to get an idea of the answer...

But what is the chief end of the gospel for the God of the Bible? What does his gospel aim for?

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace" (Ephesians 1:3-6, ESV)

There's no denying, there's a great deal about us in this text. But what can be said to be the chief end of such a gospel other than "the praise of his glorious grace?" Glory... Grace. God is the gospel. His glory is the substance.

Do you believe that? Do you love it? If you don't, I submit to you that the inevitable suffering and pain of this life will have one of two effects. It will drive you to love God's glory, or it will drive you to hate it.

What was the "gospel" that drew you to Christ? Did it promise blessing? Health? Fame? Approval? Perfection in this life? Money? Power? Self esteem? If it did, are these things still what you are hoping for? Or does your gospel promise you Christ, His word and spirit in this life, and his very person in the next?

The gospel that draws you to Christ will be the one that keeps you with him or drives you from him.

The tragedy of a false gospel is that it causes you to hate the true gospel. A gospel that promises the glory of man will enflame that desire for glory without satisfying it. This disappointment will then lead to an even greater hatred for the glory of God. "How dare he use my suffering and loss for his glory!" "How dare he tell me to get to know him through a book that I get humiliated for believing every single day!"

The further such an individual drifts, the more foolish the wisdom of God seems to him... and to those who choose to listen. As a result, a blog like mine, that claims the good old fashioned faith might still work, could never be seen as sincere.

So ask yourself, What is your ultimate aim? What do you truly worship? Is there any loss you could experience that could draw out a hatred for the glory of God? Settle it now... make God your gospel.

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:1-2, ESV).