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.

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