Friday, September 21, 2012

Lest I Forget, Part 2

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...
1st Corinthians 15:3-4

I'll always remember my first CCO Jubilee Conference.  It certainly marked a paradigm shift for my understanding of the gospel.  The Friday night speaker challenged us to look deeply at the verses above to discover the "big story gospel" and to grow out of a fixation on the "truncated gospel story".  As my man Avery would say, "Unpack that, E".  Indeed, let's.

Christ died for sins... Our new 8 Year Discipleship Plan starts with an 8 week series of lessons on the Trinity.  The next quarter following the Trinity was on "Man and Sin".  This was carefully thought out because without understanding the nature(s) of Christ and a good grasp of sin, we cannot fully appreciate the depth, power, and beauty of the gospel (our focus for quarter 3).  

Or simply put, the italicized phrase in this paragraph means so much more when we realize that Christ is both God and man.  And because His life is of infinite value, it is more than sufficient to atone and pay for the sin debt that each believer incurs over the course their life. There is an amazing transaction here that is known as "double imputation" that is the heart of the gospel and provides true peace of mind for true Christians.  That's the core.  But there is also a background...

How do we know what sin is?  Wouldn't we have to go back to the first sin?  And how can we understand the suffering and distortion that sin has produced in our world without looking at the state of man and God before sin?  We call the first sin "the Fall".  But did humanity fall from the second step of the front porch... or did we fall from the 71st story window?  We need a good understanding of the fellowship of man with God in Eden and the harmony between all earthly creatures to grasp the terrible consequences of sin.

Knowing the "big story gospel" means that we consider the following:

1.  The goodness of God's creation
2.  The fracture that sin brings between man and God, man and his fellow creatures, man and the earth itself
3.  The redeeming, curse-reversing power of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection 
4.  The removal of sin and restoration of all things under God in Christ.

In short, the big story gospel is told in the phrase, 'Creation-Fall-Redemption/Restoration'.  

The bulk of 1st Corinthians is given to an exposition on the doctrine of the resurrection.  Paul explains many things about the resurrection of Christ:  

1.  It is meant to be understood as a historical fact.  Christ's resurrection was as real as His death and burial.
2.  It is not a stand-alone doctrine; it is central to forgiveness of sins and validity of the faith itself.
3.  It assures the resurrection for Christians.
4.  It demonstrates Jesus' domination of and dominion over death.
5.  It points to the superior nature of the new Spirit-dominated or "glorified" body over our mortal bodies.
6.  It establishes the certainty that our corrupted bodies will be transformed.
7.  It provides sufficient motivation to continue serving God because our future reward assures us that our labor is not in vain.

It's fascinating that passages of scripture that are heavy on doctrine are also heavy on encouragement.  Jesus' teaching on the Holy Spirit from John chapters 14:15-16:33 is 76 verses in total.  But it ends with, "I have told you these things so that you may have peace... take heart! I have overcome the world."  And so in this chapter of 58 verses, Paul encourages believers to "give themselves fully" to God's work since we know the payoff is so rewarding.  

Many of us live our Christian lives without the peace and zeal that is a natural by-product of good, sound doctrine.  Sometimes, it's because we are truly ignorant of those great doctrines.  But I am convinced that the more common reason is that we forget to infuse biblical doctrine into all of life.  Therefore, let the infusion begin, lest we forget.

Chorus from "Lead Me to Calvary"

Lest I forget Gethsemane
Lest I forget Thine agony
Lest I forget Thy love for me
Lead me to Calvary

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lest I Forget, Part 1

Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel, you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believe in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:1-2

The Apostle went on to describe the gospel of God as the announcement of the death of Christ for our sins according to the Scripture, His burial, and resurrection according to the Scripture.  As such, the gospel message declares what is easily the most incredible sequence of events in the history of mankind.  How could anyone forget it?

Well, the Corinthians did.  A casual walk through the letter gives us all sorts of evidences that they were muddling along with no recollection whatsoever of the gospel.  Factions in their church, sexual deviance left to thrive without a hint of correction, believers taking each other to court, the careless exercise of "Christian freedom", a low view of the Lord's Supper/Communion, and the disbelief in the resurrection of the dead-- all point to the simple prognosis: if you had remembered the gospel, these things would not be going on.

But still, HOW could they forget, you ask?  That's easy.  Let's look at ourselves.  How is it that we forget?

When we experience yet another nearly prayer-less day, it's proof positive that we have forgotten the gospel.

When we refuse to forgive people who hurt us we show forth how little we have remembered the gospel.  

When sin becomes our reason to hide from worship and daily walk with God, it's only because the work of Jesus on the cross and the love of the Father has not crossed our minds-- not even a little bit.  

At each occasion that we withhold the good that we could do-- especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ-- it is specifically because we have forgotten the ultimate good that was done on our behalf through the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord.  

Gospel-consciousness means that I understand the intense desire of God to draw a people unto Himself in Christ and even make each one of them the abode of the Holy Spirit.  How could I ignore praying to a God like that?  A gospel-centered life means that I have embraced the forgiveness of God for my sins.  How can I refuse to forgive others?  The gospel-saturated heart will not hide from God for the sake of sin.  In fact, we ought to draw all the closer to God because we know of His grace and closeness to the contrite.  A life motivated by the gospel is marked by good works; not to earn God's favor, but because God's favor has so overtaken the heart of the believer that his/her mind, hands, and feet can't help but respond by doing good to all and especially those in the family of God.  

In short, we forget the gospel because it proclaims and represents a righteousness that is foreign to us.  In the broadest sense, law is something we all have.  Law is built-in and we can't escape it. It is also our nature to earn our way.  We desire the status of having "deserved" a good thing.  That's why we all need the gospel preached to us.  Day to day, we are so much more familiar with "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not" than we are of a passage like, "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all-- how will He not also along with Him, graciously give us all things?"  The life based on the one perspective is lived so differently from life driven by the other reality.  

Without a doubt, the Law is good and shows us what is good.  But more importantly, it shows us our need for the Gospel of God.  Christ has given His life to win for us what we could not earn.  And if this is true, then we ought to be of a mind to give freely to them, who in our poor estimation, have not deserved whatever we call "precious".