Counsel from the Cross
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Beloved is what your heavenly Father thinks of you. Does that make you want to be near him, to learn of him, and to be like him? Of course it does. If you are in Christ, he calls you his beloved.
Not only are we beloved, but we are also beloved children. All Christians have been irrevocably adopted and given full rights as God’s sons. (In the grace of Christ, both women and men enjoy the privileged status of sons.) All the riches of grace and blessings of relationship with him are ours now; all that he has is ours by inheritance. We can rest securely knowing that he won’t ever abandon us. He is a good and faithful Father. He is devoted to our soul’s safety and complete sanctification. Because he has adopted us and made us his children, he is determined that we will be like him. We are his children; we will ultimately resemble him. He is shaping us into his image (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:24).
In light of these blessed declarations, we can boldly pursue godliness. His Spirit is in us, and he has guaranteed our eventual transformation. Because of the Son’s ongoing incarnation and the indwelling of his Spirit, we are “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.” The Son has been made like us; we are being made like him. He is the firstborn among many brothers. We are family!
How Could Those Truths Become White Noise?
If Christianity is about Christ, how does it happen that he becomes marginalized in our daily lives? How do the truths of the gospel become nothing more than insignificant white noise? Why does John 3:16 bore us? It bores us for at least two reasons, one more insidious than the other.
We naïvely press the gospel out to the margins of our faith because we have never really been taught how it’s meant to connect with our daily lives. One day I had a conversation with a dear friend who told me about struggles she was having in a relationship.
I asked her, “How do you think the resurrection impacts this circumstance?”
She replied, “I know that it should but I just don’t know how.”
I think that we all have a sneaking suspicion that the truths of the gospel ought to mean something more to us than they do, but we don’t know how to make those connections. Yes, the incarnation, perfections, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ ought to have a practical impact on our daily walk, but just how those dots connect isn’t really clear.
More insidiously, I think that we relegate the gospel to the back of our religious bus because, although we may admit our spiritual impotence with our lips, deep in our hearts we remain convinced of our own ability to live a moral life.
We also fear loss of control. It is unsettling and humiliating to realize how utterly dependent we are on having Someone Else do for us what we cannot do for ourselves: change our heart’s affections and desires. As long as I have a “list to work on,” I can keep my hands on the reins of my life and on my struggle against sin. So even though the gospel shouts to us that we are depraved, that we deserve a shameful death and an eternity in hell, that we must be given someone else’s righteousness in order to stand before a holy God, we continue to think that if we could just find the key to holy living, we’d be able to work it out. Just give me a list! Teach me the right prayer! Introduce me to the right counselor!
It’s no wonder that self-help books top the charts in Christian publishing and that counseling offices are overwhelmed. Our pride and our neglect of the gospel force us to run from seminar to seminar, book to book, counselor to counselor, always seeking but never finding some secret to holy living.
Most of us have never really understood that Christianity is not a self-help religion meant to enable moral people to become more moral. We don’t need a self-help book; we need a Savior. We don’t need to get our collective act together; we need death and resurrection and the life-transforming truths of the gospel. And we don’t need them just once, at the beginning of our Christian life; we need them every moment of every day. Let’s take a moment to think about how these truths might help a Christian sister facing a difficult crisis.
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