Monday, December 29, 2008

In his own words: Keller on the Gospel and humility

Since I'm using his framework so much, I'll let him speak in his own words from a recent Christianity Today article (he does his own argument much more justice that I do):

"Humility is a byproduct of belief in the gospel of Christ. In the gospel, we have a confidence not based in our performance but in the love of God in Christ (Rom. 3:22-24). This frees us from having to always be looking at ourselves. Our sin was so great, nothing less than the death of Jesus could save us. He had to die for us. But his love for us was so great, Jesus was glad to die for us."

Read the full article.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Gospel and Service

My current church emphasizes service as a primary way of being Christian. I'd like to try to apply my understanding of the Gospel to service.

1) We're commanded to serve each other as Christ served us. (John 13:14).

2) The bad news: we can't obey this command. Most of us probably fail multiple times every day to lay down our lives for our brothers; the cruciform life of perfect submission to others as far beyond us as infinity is beyond finitude.

In part, we simply lack the capacity to serve like Christ. We don't even have the wisdom to know how to serve perfectly. But even within our capacity, we generally choose not to serve. Why? One reason is because we think that if we pour ourselves out for others, we won't have enough left over for ourselves. If we take someone into our house, won't they take too much of our time and resources? If we give of ourselves into the oceanic need of the world, what will we have left? We fear really serving others because we believe we have to take care of ourselves.

In other instances, we're simply selfish. We don't want to serve someone else because it's unpleasant. We want to serve ourselves.

Other times we don't think people deserve our help.

3) The good new: in Christ, we have been utterly taken care of. "TheLord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want…" In Christ, our fears of not having enough are groundless as we find that we have been, are being, and will be taken care of by Him who does not sleep, slumber, or fail. In Christ, even if we give away all our treasure on earth, we have faith that we have stored up treasure for ourselves where itreally matters, in heaven with Him. In Christ, we are rich beyond measure, and therefore no service can impoverish us.

And the way Christ accomplished all of this was by giving over his whole life, to the point of being killed on a cross, for us. And then he took up his own life again and was exalted into heaven.

No deserved this kind of service; nevertheless we received it. How can this not change our hearts toward serving others?

4) Because Christ has served (saved) us in this way, we can serve others. We don't need to fear not having enough time or resources: Christ has promised to take care of that. And even our selfishnessis changed. If we're truly interested in our own well-being, we'll serve others and store up treasure in heaven. Our hearts are warmed in love by Christ's service of us, and we want to serve others. And further, in Christ, we have His nature, and , as we mature in Him beyond our fleshly selfishness, we find that it is our nature to want to serve others as did our Lord.

The crux of serving others is to have faith in the one God sent, Emmanuel. (John 6:29).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Gospel and the Beauty Myth

Keller offers another example of how the Gospel can apply to an issue in a fresh way by taking on our society's obsession with physical beauty.

Our society is obsessed with physical beauty, but most everyone knows we shouldn't be. But, even though we know we shouldn't care so much about how we look or other people look, we can't not care: it's just too overwhelmingly important in our culture. But the Gospel is that Christ has made us perfectly beautiful in Himself; in Christ, we are more beautiful than we could have ever hoped. By putting our faith in this, the power of our culture's obsession with beauty is broken.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Gospel and Struggles

The Gospel is the answer to our struggles, and not just by way of ultimate forgiveness of our failures. Tim Keller offers an example: He knows God requires truthfulness, but he struggles with lying and cannot make himself be honest. The reason he lies is because he is afraid of what people think of him. In Christ, however, he's been accepted and approved of by God; believing this, he can let go of his need for man's approval. He is now more able to tell the truth.

This lesson has a four-part structure: 1) the requirement of God; 2) the person's inability to meet the requirement; 3) the Gospel that Christ has met the requirement for us; 4) because of the Gospel, the improved ability to meet the requirement.

I really love several things about this. It magnifies God and the Gospel. Obedience is really primarily about faith in the accomplished work of Christ. It minimizes our "effort" in achieving righteousness while not letting us off the hook for living godly. It offers a route to sanctification for those of us who have, sadly, proved to ourselves that we are truly completely unable to live the way we aspire to as Christians.

I'm going to try to do a series of posts, applying this framework to many different areas of struggle in life. Feel free to suggest topics.