In my recent post on the gospel, some of my readers may have thought, “There is more than this, Terry.” I hope all of you felt that way. The core is simple and foundational (1 Corinthians 15 again). However, the gospel is rich and wondrous enough to keep us digging forever!
In that post, I wanted to underline the fact that is so often missed today: The gospel comes to us from outside of us. It is rooted in historical acts, acts of God on earthly soil as God the Son took on human flesh.
The gospel is not about what we do, but rather what Christ has done. Some may ask, “But doesn’t this encourage moral laxity and permissiveness?” Good question. The Apostle Paul anticipated this objection: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2 ESV – if you are not familiar with the context of this passage, just quit reading this post and go read Romans 6. Or read all of Romans. That would be much more profitable than reading this blog).
There are implications for the gospel. Again, let us not miss that these are God wrought implications, for His glory. If we are saved by God, we will bear fruit. God saves, but we are called to respond.
The first response to the gospel is conversion, that is, repentance and faith. These actions are first gracious gifts of God, but they result in a concrete, observable change in our lives. This is how the Christian life begins, but the change is drawn out though our entire earthly pilgrimage. This is also known as sanctification (there is a positional sanctification for the believer as well – see, for instance, 1 Corinthians 6:11 – but I’ll save that for a future post). Sanctification means, “to be made holy.” We are counted righteous in Christ by faith in His person and work, but we are to grow in holiness practically as we live our Christian lives.
I very much appreciated Iain H. Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. The section that stood out to me particularly was Edwards dismissal from his Northampton Church after – what was it, 27 years? (I’m too lazy to dig out my book to confirm that time). The key issue in this conflict was Edwards growing conviction that there must be some evidence of regeneration in order to admit a candidate for membership. Understanding true biblical conversion will always cause us to be ‘fruit inspectors’ of our own lives and others under our care. This is the duty of discipleship, including church discipline (BTW, Murray said in a 9 Marks interview that he was experiencing a similar challenge in ministry in Australia at the time he was writing the Edwards biography).
Becoming a Christian is not simply a matter of praying a prayer or making a decision. It is a work of God, a transformational work that will show evidence – however faint and shaky at times – of a real change in nature.
This is what the New Lumps theme is all about. We are declared to be new in Christ by grace, but then God calls us to live as those who have died to the old sinful nature. We are saved so that we may walk by the Spirit, bearing fruit for God’s glory (Galatians 5:19-25).