Friday, March 4, 2011

What is the Gospel? Fridays

     In Jerry Bridges' book The Gospel for Real Life:  Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross . . . Every Day, he describes a common way that our cultural, consumer mentality has caused many to miss the riches of the the gospel.  In many churches, the false gospel that is taught comes down to little more than seeing the gospel as something that can help us live a 'successful' life.  Does this type of church marketing resonate with anyone?  "Come to __________ Church and experience God's best for your life.  At ___________ Church, we make life happen for you":
  • meet new friends and neighbors
  • hear positive, uplifting, relevant, and practical messages
  • learn how to feel good about yourself without guilt
  • find Jesus' abundant life and personal happiness
  • cast stress aside with Dr. ____________'s system 
  • tips on how to handle your money without it handling you
  • glean the the secrets to a happy and successful family
  • how to win friends and influence people
  • stay positive in a negative world
     Has anyone seen similar things as you drive by your neighborhood churches?  I literally saw a church board this week in our neighborhood that said, "Sunday message:  Cultivate a habit of winning" (yes, seriously).  Does anyone receive church marketing material like this through the mail?  Ever observed this type of message on 'Christian' television?  As a result of the largely sad state of evangelicalism  Bridges says on p. 17,
The reality of present-day Christendom is that most professing Christians actually know very little of the gospel. 
     It sounds unthinkable, but many Christians are simply not exposed to the gospel of Christ inside their churches!  This and other competing interests make many Christians live a life of quiet desperation instead of reveling in the riches of Christ Jesus.  Clarification on what the gospel is can only be found in Christ . . . who He is, what He has done, and why He has done what He has done in living, dying, and raising Himself from the dead.  In short, all of us are trusting in 1 of these 2 outlooks: human performance or divine accomplishment.  Bridges explains on p. 102-103,
There is nothing you will ever do that makes you acceptable to God.  You must be accepted for Christ's sake, not only when you believe, but for all your life.  Regardless of how much you grow in Christ, you will never arrive at a point when your Christian character or conduct will make you acceptable to God.  You will always be dependent on the perfect righteous of Christ.  God will accept nothing else.   
Bridges continues with 3 questions,
Do I have a right relationship with God based on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ?  Am I trusting in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation, or am I to some degree relying on my own morality and religious duties?  If I know that I am justified through faith in Christ, do I enjoy the reality of it in my daily experience, or do I look to my own performance for my acceptance with God?
      The Galatian church was tempted by the false teaching Judaizers who taught adding aspects of the Mosaic law to faith in Christ was necessary for salvation (legalism).  Paul's first chronological epistle is a good read to remind us that the gospel of Christ's finished work must not be added to.  The gospel is faith alone in Christ alone . . . trust in His divine accomplishments that secure our salvation.  Christ performed every duty of the law for us in His sinless life, exhausted every penalty of the law for us in His sufferings, and was raised to the right hand of God for our justification.  Oh what a wonderful Savior!

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