Two weeks ago, I blogged about our Care Group challenge. The challenge then was to “preach the gospel” to ourselves on a daily basis. Today, we talked about what it would look like if we would really apply the gospel to everything in our lives.
It’s hard, of course, to live the gospel every day. In fact, we went so far as to agree it is pretty much impossibly hard. But that’s ok; we have a God who can do anything. Besides, we already accept the premise we will never be fully glorified until we reach Heaven. Speaking of which, as Dave reviewed, there are three contexts of the word “saved” in the New Testament.
- Saved (past tense) = justified. God has redeemed us.
- Being saved (present tense) = sanctified. God is working in us to draw us in deeper relationship with him and make us holy.
- Will be saved (future tense) = glorified. We will become one with God.
A problem we identified with the modern-day church in America is that we try to skip the second stage. We think saved in the first step means we’re done. In times past, the church understood the ongoing work of redemption. The “one and done” type of philosophy that seems to have permeated the modern church would have seemed completely alien to our church fathers. (For a more thorough discussion of this shift, I refer you to the excellent book Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.)
Of course, God is still in control, and we sense his Holy Spirit leading a revival on this very issue. I have recently heard a number of church leaders exhort their flocks to live out their sanctification on a day-by-day basis and am excited to see this movement gripping our people. I believe our lack of focus on this issue is rooted in our sin nature and in the the fact we get lost living in the here and now. The physical world surrounds us; it is difficult to remain focused on the fact this world is not our home.
Recently, I saw a book entitled The Christian Atheist. I haven’t read it yet but plan to soon. It looks fascinating. As the author says, we know God. We understand the power of God. But then we live as though we don’t believe God is real. I believe this is because we do not understand our absolute need for God to reconcile us to him. We believe we are basically okay. Although we might not admit it out loud, we think we can get to Heaven on our own. We think God has blessed us because we were special or deserved it.
Pastor Dwayne touched on this thinking today, too, as he illustrated that no matter how hard we practice or prepare, we will never be able to leap the Grand Canyon. Likewise, all our effort cannot vault us into Heaven. Only the unmerited grace of God can do that. His grace is unmerited because we are incapable of being good enough to warrant his grace. It is unmerited because we are, at our core, utterly depraved. We are not our best day. In the judgment of eternity, we are our worst hidden thought. Only Christ can redeem us from that self.
And understanding redemption is a life-long endeavor. The fact we get it doesn’t mean we actually get it.
So, Dave challenged us to delve into this truth and to hold each other accountable for trying to see our thoughts, our motives, and our actions through the light of Christ. I can tell you my thoughts, motives, and actions will not often be pretty. But I will seek to wrestle with myself every day with the words of James 1:22-25 emblazoned on my heart:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
Reading the verse in the context of our discussion today gives it a fresh meaning to me. In what way can you preach the gospel to yourself and apply the gospel to every aspect of your life? Will you hold your life up daily to the mirror of sanctification?
It’s a tough assignment. Impossible, really. But that isn’t the point. Won’t you join us?