Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Toward a Cross-Centered Life: Part 6

I've explained how I tend to "assume the gospel" through legalism. But many Christians may fall off the other side. They assume the gospel through licentiousness--another ten-dollar word that's thrown around a lot.

However, licentiousness doesn't just mean "thinking that we're saved by grace so we can live however we want." Most of us know that's a lie. Consider this different perspective on license, which presents how Christians like those in the emerging church movement and others may tend to assume the gospel:

another type of licence...is probably more likely to afflict the church as a whole: practical licence. ...The gospel tells us that we draw near to God only by "the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body" (Hebrews 10.19-20). But we act licentiously towards a truth like that when we regard singing or "worship" as what actually draws us close to God, or anything else that we can think of: religious art, breathtaking scenery, a church building. ...This is profoundly mistaken because it is assuming that the gospel is true but we can draw near to God by other means as well. It is practical licence.

Underlying this is a tendency to assume the gospel by elevating experience. Where this is happening, the church will be marked by an increasingly personalised approach to the Christian life. Christians begin to act only on what they believe God is saying directly to them, with the end result that the biblical gospel begins to seem less immediate and relevant than the latest "word from the Lord". The subtle drift towards "personalised truth" leads to all kinds of distortions: God becomes known only in as much as we experience of him, we relate to God on the basis of what we personally find helpful, we believe the right things but become reluctant to state that the opposite of those things is wrong.

So what's the point? When we assume the gospel, the effects on our own spiritual lives can be devastating--as I have experienced firsthand. I believe it was my skewed concept of the gospel and my descent into legalism that choked my faith. And, not to sound like a doomsday prophet, but--it only gets worse for those who follow us. As the article puts it, "there is vast potential for the next generation to deny what they have simply never had the chance to understand." The last few lines of the article sum it up:

Individually, every day, we face the choice whether to sit under the Bible alone, to run to the cross alone and look to Christ alone or to begin to shift our gaze on to other things. Once we begin simply to assume these truths, then we are already beginning to stop "acting in line with the truth of the gospel" (Galatians 2.14). The potential consequences for ourselves are harmful; for the generation following us they are disastrous.

That's the bad news. But the good news is, it's not too late to come back to the gospel, in all its glory and profound simplicity.

(All quotes from "Assumed Evangelicalism" by David Gibson. First printed in RTSF Newsletter From Athens to Jerusalem, Vol. 3, Issue 4, Autumn 2002. All emphases mine.)

Next: Part 7 - puzzle pieces


Anonymous said...

Hey dear! thanks so much for the comment. I beleive you are right :) I have thought other things about hope before, but I like your comparissons :) such a smart gal you are

Hope life is going well!! I've wondered how you and steve are doing. Love you much! I'll be praying for you guys =)

Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail on the head with Jesus plus! I have a stong conviction that the gospel and the christian way of life is all about Jesus and nothing about us. We are just a clay/earthen vessel that is prepared to hold the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit at work within us that glorifies God! We are nothing without Him. Filthy rags or a pile of dung! Our works are wood, hay and stubble unless we are working out our salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we add ourselves in to the equation we are adding sin and cancelling out the faith alone in Christ alone. The Holy Spirit is actually the person that gives us the faith that is efficacious for our salvation. So genuine saving faith points away from ourselves to the power of God the Holy Spirit. We are NOTHING but indebted to our Lord and Saviour for having favour on His creation. For we neither earn it nor deserve it, but God in His grace gives it freely to whom He calls!