Sunday, January 13, 2008

The message of the Bible

is not "The Lord helps those who help themselves," but "the Lord helps those who are helpless." Christianity has to do not with man reaching up to God, but with God reaching down to man and offering him salvation as a free, undeserved gift; not with man attempting to justify himself, but with God invading history and making forgiveness possible by taking the sins of the world upon Himself. According to the Bible, we live in a fallen, sinful world, a world populated by men and women who are in rebellion against God and who are thus separated from His loving presence. We all are guilty of sin; we all possess what the church calls "original sin," but which the Bible more accurately calls a "sinful nature." . . . Christians do not gain salvation by their own merit (trying to do so would be like mopping a floor with dirty water), but because the God-man, Jesus Christ, who was the only human to live and not sin, took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. . ." From "Culture, religion, philosophy, and myth: what Christianity is not," by Louis Markos, Christian Research Journal, Vol. 29, no. 2, 2006, pp. 32-39

Salvation isn't earned; it is a gift. Good deeds follow salvation; works are not a means but an outpouring of love. But every Sunday, in thousands of churches in our land, preachers will stand before their congregations and turn this message upside down, offering an endless "to-do list" instead of the gospel.

The "purpose" in Rick Warren's best seller, The purpose driven life, is all about you and me, not Jesus. In fact, I'm not sure he gets to salvation until the end of the book, where he says he can provide a list of books on how to share the Good News (the gospel). He bounces around the NT at such speed, that if I hadn't already known the gospel when I read this book, I'd get to the end with another "to-do list" about the local church and global mission.

The final entry in volume one of the Brethren Encyclopedia (3 vol) says: "Saving faith can be known only by a life of piety and obedience to Christ. Justification (declared righteous) is assured only in those whose faith manifested itself in obedience." What a message of works! For the last 30 years I believed I didn't hear the gospel because my ears were closed and I was rebellious, thinking I didn't need to be saved. Now I think I didn't hear it because it wasn't preached where I attended church (Church of the Brethren and United Church of Christ, one of the parent denominations of First Community Church in Marble Cliff, OH). [This doesn't excuse me--there was enough sin in my life it should have been obvious.] And although I'm in a believing church now with godly pastors, they too often slip into the theme of the day without first announcing why we have gathered to worship the Creator and Redeemer of the universe. [You have a better chance of NOT missing the point if you attend a liturgical service, but most don't because they like happy clappy music.] The gospel settles us down and reminds us of who we are--people precious in God's sight for whom Christ died. Then we can get down to the business of worshiping and serving a mighty God.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I agree and this is why Jesus talks about discipleship. Remember the story about the rich ruler? Jesus looked after the rich young ruler as he walked away, but Jesus did not follow him or attempt to coerce him. Jesus is saying that He cannot do our repenting for us. He died for our sins, now it is up to us to pick up the cross. As Jesus says in John 15:16: "You did not choose me; but I chose you...." Conversion is solely the work of the Holy Spirit: "No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3). Becoming a disciple, following Jesus Christ requires personal cost, giving up your selfish "me" and become like Christ.

By the way, my wife and I might visit Upper Arlington's location of Upper Arlington Lutheran Church.