Gospel Thought: Christianity is a Relationship!

When I was a younger Christian and Student Minister, I would often emphasize to my students over and over again that “Christianity is a relationship.”  Strangely, that was not always a popular thing to say.  In fact, I was often criticized by older pastors who warned me against saying such a thing because it was pietistic, mystical, and based on emotion rather than the firm foundation of scripture.  This always confused me.  Everything I read in scripture seemed to say the same thing.  In fact, the gospel of John seems to bleed that truth out in every single word.

  • “The Word became flesh and dwelt among you.”
  • “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”
  • “(I pray) that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.”
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only Son…”

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Gospel Thought – 1. Know your Friend, 2. Know your enemy, 3. Know your weaknesses

Recently I have been reading Jack Miller’s book “The Heart of a Servant Leader.”  On page 59 we read a letter that Jack wrote to a young pastor who encountered resistance to his teaching on how the grace of Christ is designed to change hearts.  Jack writes…

“One irony that strikes me is that so often people who emphasize the third use of the law (reminding believers of the mark at which we are to aim, namely Christ – Tim’s ad) are really not great law keepers themselves.  For example, I have noted that sometimes church members given heavy doses of the third use of the law have little idea of the inner nature of the law as a delighting in God.  I have also noted a tendency to exclude the tongue and a a critical spirit from consideration as well, so that you can get the irony of believers defending the law with a harshness that itself breaks the law!  What sinners we can be!But I do think that the Heidelberg Catechism (see question 32 – Tim’s ad) and the Belgic Confession have an excellent emphasis on faith and sanctification.  It is also interesting to see that (as best I can recall) the Larger Catechism speaks of the third use of the law and relates its role to breaking us and driving us to Christ.  Add that emphasis, and grace follows.  For what it is worth, here is how I see the theological emphasis of English Puritanism 1.  Know your enemy – the word, the flesh, the devil; 2 – Know your personal limitations – your own particular fleshly characteristics and habits; 3 – Know your Friend – the grace of God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

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Gospel Thought: Christ died for my worst sin and He died for my best obedience

My best obedience to Christ is filled with weakness and imperfection.  So then, the Cross is designed to rescue me from my sin and to perfect my obedience.

On my best day…on that day and in that moment when my heart is most tuned to the grace of Jesus, on that day when I bask in the love of Christ and my soul is most inclined to obey Him, on that day when I am filled with affection for the Lord and all my desire is to serve and even die for him; on my very best day, my obedience to Christ is mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that, without the work of Christ, God could not endure to even look at it.  Wow!  That’s a sobering thought.

I believe that most Christians understand that our worst sin is worthy of hell.  We have all done things or thought things that are evil and bad and despicable to God.   The Spirit of Christ has shown us that these things are worthy of God’s wrath and we have called out to Christ to save us and cleanse us from these sins.  Yet, do we also understand that our best obedience is worthy of God’s wrath?  Examine yourself.  Scripture makes it clear that underneath the surface, my best obedience is filled with idols of approval, anger, control, self-righteousness, power, comfort, self-protection, and self-glory.  On the surface – to my eyes and to the eyes of others – I may look great.  My performance is applauded.  Yet, God sees.  God sees every motive.  He knows every impulse.  He knows my inmost thoughts.  He knows all the hidden idols that lurk within my soul.  He knows me better than I know me.  And so, even my best obedience; even my best day as a Christian, is shot through with every kind of weakness, imperfection, and idolatry.  Left by itself, my best obedience is wholly displeasing to God.

Yet, we who are in Christ can rest secure.  Hallelujah!  Jesus died for our worst sins and he died for our best obedience.

Westminster Confession XVI: “Of Good Works”

V. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit, and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.