Monday, September 14, 2009

Life at Sovereign Grace--chapter 2

Christ-centered Delight

We believe our new life is a result of our union with Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2, 12-21), the only Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5). We believe that all things were created through Jesus, for Jesus, and therefore are about Jesus (Col. 1:15-20).

Have you ever seen an organization or group that forgot their mission? When an organization gets off mission it often does dumb and unproductive things. I recently thought of some examples of a person or organization getting off mission:

  • McDonald’s went off mission when they made the McRib.
  • Carl’s Jr. went of mission when they tried to sell beer.
  • Ford went off mission when they made the Pinto.
  • The Dixie Chicks went off mission when they started talking about politics.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger went off mission when he ran for Governor of California.

My point is that when someone or some organization loses its sense of mission it becomes ineffective. When a church gets off mission it ceases to function as a church and becomes something else:

  • It becomes a nice place for your family to learn good values.
  • It becomes a great place to make friends you enjoy hanging out with or just to network.
  • It becomes a place to help save your marriage, or to heal after a divorce.
  • It becomes a place that offers alternative activities that are safer and more moral.
  • It becomes a place for social action on behalf of the poor.
  • It becomes a place to hear good lessons on how God can improve your life and business.
  • It becomes a place for political action on behalf of a particular party or cause.
  • It becomes a place where we can assuage any guilt we might feel by participating in our weekly religious ritual.

When the church gets off mission it becomes many things (some of which are good, but are not the central purpose of the church). When the church is off mission it does not become a place where Jesus Christ is glorified and delighted in as Lord and Savior above all else. The church ceases to be a place where men and women are brought to joyful faith and repentance by the proclamation of the glory of Christ and his gospel. The church ceases to be a place where those men and women are challenged to develop in their love for Christ and his gospel and then go and declare His gospel to the ends of the earth! In other words, the church is no longer a body of people devoted to their Head. The church is not Christ-centered and Gospel-centered.

Sovereign Grace believes we should be a Christ-centered church. We should delight in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only hope we have. We do so because we believe we cannot participate in God-exalting delight apart from Christ-centered delight. All true biblical delight is mediated through Jesus. This is why Paul says in Romans 5:11, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Delight must occur through the mediation of the Son. We are sinners who cannot approach our Holy God in worship apart from the sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul repeats himself in the second half of verse 11 stating, “through whom we have now been reconciled.” If not for Jesus, we could not rejoice or delight in God.

Many people today claim we can worship or delight in God apart from Christ. They claim God can be worshipped in the context of other religions; all one needs is sincere faith regardless of what that faith is in. When people say this they are making the case that what is important to God is the virtue of our faith, rather than the virtue of the object of our faith. However, the Bible is clear that God’s acceptance of us is based on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Bible makes it clear that if you don’t have Christ, you don’t have the Father.

John 5:23

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him

John 8:19

They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the object of our faith at Sovereign Grace. We trust and delight in his person and his work. We know that he is the only mediator between God and man, and that we are completely in need of him. In fact, we know that the testimony of Scripture is clear that God-exalting delight is delight that is Christ-centered. Just think of all God has done for us through Jesus in Scripture:

    • He Created us through the Son (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16).
    • He Sustains us through the Son (Col. 1:16).
    • He Rules over the nations through the Son (Matt. 28:18).
    • He Spoke to us through the Son (John 1:1; Heb. 1:1-2).
    • He Elects the church through the Son (Ephesians 1:3)
    • He Gave and Kept the law for us through the Son (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 10:4).
    • He Atoned for our sins through the Son (Rom. 3:25-26).
    • He Gives us spiritual life through the Son (2 Cor. 5:17).
    • He Justified us through the Son (Rom. 3:21-24).
    • He Sanctifies us through the Son (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:22)
    • He Hears and Answers our prayers through the Son (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:16).
    • He Rules the church through the Son (Col. 1:18).
    • He Sent the Spirit through the Son (John 16:7; Rom. 8:9-10).
    • He will resurrect and glorify us through the Son (1 Cor. 15:20-23).

The centrality of Jesus for our delight in God is clear in the first eleven verses of Romans 5---it makes reference to Jesus 10 times in eleven verses. In doing so, Romans 5 gives us a short overview of what Christ has accomplished for us.

  • He is our justification v. 1
  • He is our peace with God v. 1
  • He is our access in the grace in which we stand v. 2
  • He is our hope of glory v. 2
  • He died for us while we were ungodly and sinners v. 6, 8
  • He is our redeemer, and propitiatory sacrifice, and final salvation from wrath v. 9
  • He is our reconciliation v. 10

Christ-Centered = Gospel-Centered

When we say Sovereign Grace is Christ-centered we are saying we are Gospel-centered. What is the gospel? The word “gospel” means “good news.” As pastor and author Tim Keller has said, “The gospel is good news, not good advice.” The gospel is the news of what has been accomplished, and not the message of what we must now do. When you watch or read the news you learn about something that happened; you do not receive instructions on what you are to do. The gospel is the good news that Jesus kept both the precept and the penalty of the Law for us.

What is the precept of the law?

God requires perfect holiness from his people. God has given commands to his people called, “precepts,” to show us what his holy requirement consists of. However, we are both guilty and corrupted through the fall of Adam. Therefore, we are born sinners and we continually sin. Jesus, as the second Adam, kept God’s Law, or “precepts,” perfectly for us (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 10:4; Heb. 4:16). If we are united to him through faith, we have his perfectly righteous life credited to our account (2 Cor. 5:21).

What is the penalty of the law?

God’s justice requires that the violation of his law be vindicated. This vindication is the “penalty of the law.” The vindication of God’s righteousness can only be accomplished through suffering eternal wrath. Jesus suffered God’s eternal wrath on the Cross. He fulfilled the just “penalty of the Law” and thus God’s wrath was satisfied on Him. Therefore, if we are united to Christ through faith, our punishment has been credited to his account and we are forgiven for our sins. As a result of the work of Christ, God’s holiness is vindicated and we are forgiven and counted righteous (Rom. 3:21-26).

The Gospel is for the church and for the world

Often, this gospel is proclaimed to people for the purpose of seeing them saved. However, we believe this same gospel is necessary to our sanctification (growth in holiness in addition to salvation). It is when we reflect on the truth of what God has accomplished for us and in us in the past and what he will accomplish for us and in us in the future, we are strengthened in our faith to trust what he is accomplishing in us and through us in the present. Since we believe the gospel is central to all of Christian life, we hold it as central in all we do as a church. We believe in shaping a community of saints that are driven by the gospel in all of their disciplines, singing, service, declaring and defending of the faith.

Gospel-centeredness is also why we structure our corporate worship service in the manner that we do. We want to communicate the Christ-centered gospel even in the order of our service. Therefore, we start with prayer acknowledging the holiness and majesty of God, move to confession and repentance for sin, and read about the promise of the gospel. After this, we hear the Word preached and receive communion (which is a visible picture of the gospel). Finally, we take an offering last so that our emphasis is on what Christ has done for us and not our offering to him. Our offering is merely a response of thanksgiving to his glorious gospel.

Finally, this is why we preach, structure our small group studies, choose children’s curriculum, and plan men’s events and women’s events in the manner we do. We always want to stress God’s holy law, our sin, and God’s provision of Christ to keep the law’s precept and penalty for us. We do not stress these doctrines because we have a morbid fascination with sin and condemnation. We stress them because we delight in Christ as our only hope. We stress them because we want to be brought to the end of ourselves and look no more to our good works, but look only to Christ and him crucified.

But, you might respond, “how can a sinner believe in Jesus or delight in the Father, when our delight, our rejoicing, our love is directed toward this world because we are dead in our sins and trespasses?” This is why we are a Spirit-dependent church, which is the subject of our next chapter.

Recommended Books:

The Cross-Centered Life, by CJ Mahaney

The Truth of the Cross, by R.C. Sproul

No comments: