Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Gospel Follow-Up

"Do not look to your faith to save you. Look to the object of your faith to save you."

"If you believe strongly in the absolute truth of the will only serve to drain you of superiority and self-righteousness." - Tim Keller

One of the most powerful temptations that Christians endure is the lie that although justification is about Christ's work on the cross, sanctification is ultimately about improvements in our behavior. While it is true that being born again of the Spirit should bring about new desires and our lives should bear fruit,

we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that our response to what Christ has done for us ultimately takes precedence. I have had concerns in my life over habitual sin and whether or not that means I am truly born again, i.e. saved. After all, if I am a new creation, shouldn't I be acting more like it? God has changed my perspective on that - from using my behavior as a barometer of my salvation to resting securely in God's grace and forgiveness and letting that promise transform my heart, desires and actions. In other words, God reminds me that the saving work of the Gospel is His and not mine.

The following is from Mark Galli and I think it is spot on...

The good news is that our salvation is not dependent on our success at making right choices, even the right choice of faith. In fact, the Bible regularly reminds us that we cannot consistently make good choices with our corrupt wills. As Paul puts it, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19, NIV) Instead of relying on an autonomous free will to remind us to make right choices, we are called to simply trust what Christ has done for us on the cross and through his resurrection.

But isn’t that a choice, to trust in Christ? Yes and no. It is not even a possibility without God’s intervention. We can’t even recognize who Christ is, what he has done for us, and sense his invitation to respond in faith without the work of the Holy Spirit. The very fact that we can apprehend all this is a gift right from the start.

Furthermore, to trust in Christ means that it is not my trust that reconciles God to me or me to God. It is the death and resurrection of Christ that reconciles God to me and the faith empowered by the Holy Spirit that reconciles me to God.

This is why the Gospel is such good news. There are times when even the most dedicated Christian will recognize that his or her life is still in shambles, still driven by selfishness, still filled with doubt and confusion about God. At such times, panic can set in. Am I really a Christian? Is God working in my life to bring me into deeper fellowship with him? Has God given me the gift of grace? Will I enjoy the fellowship of heaven? Do I believe enough to be saved? The very fact that these sorts of questions bother us at such times shows that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, working in our lives. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to convict the world of sin and guilt (see John 16:8). So the paradox is that when we’re troubled like this, it’s the very sign of God working in our lives to bring us into deeper fellowship with him.

And of course, we do not believe enough to be saved. Of course, selfishness rules our hearts in too many ways. Of course, we have doubts and confusion about God. It’s called sin. But the gospel calls us to stop looking at ourselves — at our doubts, our sins, and our choices. The Gospel says look to Christ. Don’t trust in your ability to choose right or even to trust perfectly. Look to Christ, who died for sinners. Faith is recognizing the reality of our situation and the deeper reality of our Savior. Faith is the drowning man grasping the outstretched arm of his rescuer. Faith includes a response, but our response is not the main thing. Christ is.