Sunday, November 28, 2010

Start your Christian walk with the Gospel, then move to "bigger and better things" like Law-keeping?

Can a Christian progress through sanctification by striving to keep every jot and tittle of the Law? Does he only need Christ and the Gospel to start his walk of faith?

I never would have said I believed quite this way. However, as I look back to what I believed and practiced before a year and a half ago when I started an extensive study of soteriology and Christ as the foundation (I Cor. 3:11), I cannot say that I had the centrality of the Gospel nailed down in my theology and orthopraxy.

I would point to verses like I John 5:2, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments." See, there it is! We must strive after law-keeping. However, I ignored the whole context of Scripture, which places Christ at the foundation. From the heart, we must pursue Him, love Him, follow Him, take His yoke upon us, emulate His example of humble and sacrificial service in laying down His life for those who were unlovely and unloving toward Him. When we follow Christ, we will keep the law as a result. But we don't place law-keeping at the center of our focus. True, we do search the Scriptures diligently to discern God's leading; this is how He speaks to us -- through His inspired, sufficient and authoritative Word. But when we look at Scripture, we see Christ at the beginning, middle, and end -- He is the center and foundation, the end-all and be-all of the Word and of our lives.

Philippians 1:27 says, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." Later, Paul writes:
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. ... But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:3, 7-11).

Although I would not have admitted it, I was similar to a Pharisee who trusted in myself, that I was righteous (Lk. 18:9). I went about to establish my own righteousness (Rom. 10:3), rather than repudiating everything wrought in me or performed by me, trusting in Christ's righteousness alone. I had even memorized this passage in Philippians, and I was familiar with the various Scriptures that call us to renounce everything in ourselves and take hold of the righteousness of Christ alone by faith alone. But I still did not count Christ as the precious pearl of great price for whom I should give up everything else to follow Him (Mt. 13:46, Lk. 14:26-33).

I wasted so much time when I did not think much, speak much, and love much of Christ. I did not realize how monstrous, grievous, and enraging my sin against God is and how much I had been forgiven because God had placed my sins upon Christ, He became the curse for me, and He drank down the ferocious wrath and judgment of God that should have been poured upon me for my sin. I loved little because, I fancied in my mind, I had been forgiven little (Lk. 7:47).

Now I desire to make much of Christ and to see Him worshipped in my life, my family, my community, and throughout the world, as He ought to be worshipped. This means living day-by-day in sacrificial service with gratitude to Him (Rom. 12:1). God alone is glorious and worthy. I think frequently about how I can prioritize this mission of proclaiming His glory and calling upon all men to comprehensively repent and trust in Christ alone. What am I doing? Not enough. What can I do? Obviously, of myself, I can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). But may God embolden me to be more faithful and diligent as an ambassador for Christ throughout life, by His strength and wisdom alone.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Christ is the Center and Foundation, and Everything is Vain Apart from Him

Matthew 4:4 -- "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (cf. Deu. 8:3).

Matthew 7:24-27 -- "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

Matthew 12:30 -- "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."

Matthew 28:18-20 -- "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

John 14:15 -- "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

I Corinthians 3:11 -- "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Philippians 1:21 -- "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Jesus is the foundation and center of everything. John 1:3 says, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." I Corinthians 8:6 says, "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." Colossians 1:17 says that "he is before all things, and by him all things consist"; 2:3 says that "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" are hid in Christ. Hebrews 1:3 says that Christ upholds "all things by the word of his power."

Apart from Christ, every thought, word, and action is utterly vain and futile. To deny His Kingship over every atom of reality is to imagine a vain thing (Ps. 2:1). To build a home without Christ at the center is a vain labor (Ps. 127:1). To approach Christ in terms of our own doctrines and commandments is to worship Him in vain (Matt. 15:9, Mark 7:7; cf. Col. 2:8). To neglect gratitude toward Christ and the glory of God in our intellectual endeavors is to become vain in our imaginations (Rom. 1:21). To teach and trust anything devoid of Christ’s resurrection is to preach and believe in vain (I Cor. 15:14, 17). When we labor for Christ, our work is not in vain (I Cor. 15:58). When we acknowledge Christ’s absolute Lordship, obey our Lord, and work out our salvation with fear and trembling through God’s work in our hearts; we may rejoice in the day of Christ that we have not run or labored in vain (Phil. 2:9-16).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Walk Worthy of the Lord!

Ephesians 4:1 -- “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

Colossians 1:10 -- “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

I Thessalonians 2:12 -- “That ye might walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”

II Thessalonians 1:5 -- “that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom.”

II Thessalonians 1:11 -- “that our God would count you worthy of his calling.”