Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Challenge of the Gospel

The Gospel is a challenge to our human understanding of the world. It is not just a philosophy, a speculation about the nature of the world, to be put with the other philosophies. It is not just a moral system to be put with the other moral systems. It is about God invading history. It is not just another theory or speculation but a statement of fact; you must accept it or reject it. It is not merely a good feeling that will somehow make us happy but has no real ground. It is not one more drug to try in the hope it will make the pain go away. It involves a genuine alteration of the way the world is, and any feelings it generates must flow from that. It is God crashing through the nice, safe barriers we put around our lives that He might rescue us from the impossible situation we are in. It is what we need, but not necessarily what we want.   

The problem is that human wisdom is inadequate (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 3:18; 8:1-3). We need something, or rather Someone, beyond ourselves to intervene. We need the wisdom that is from God (1 Corinthians 1:22-25; 2:6-10; Proverbs 1:7). But we do not necessarily want it. Especially when it comes, not in the form of a measured correction to what we already have, but rather a clear overturning of our preconceived notions. The Cross says that human wisdom, human moral effort, and human mystical experience are not enough. We need Someone from the outside to come in and rescue us from destruction. We are like the man who thinks he can fix it himself (or could with just a little more advice) and is confronted by the fact he needs to call a repairman. We are like the man who thinks if he just grits his teeth and ignores the pain it will go away, and is confronted by the fact he needs to see a doctor. Surely it is not that desperate yet; surely if we all pull together we can still make it through. But the Cross is an emphatic “No” to this idea. It says we are sinners who are unable to help ourselves (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; John 15:5). It says it that Jesus paid the entire price for those sins (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21) that He might offer salvation freely to all who put their faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Titus 3:5,6). Now there is a place for growing in the wisdom and knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:17,18; Colossians 2:2,3; 3:16). There is also a place for growing in obedience to Him (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). There is a place for a correct response to what God has done for us (Philippians 4:4; Romans 14:17; John 16:33). But these all flow from God breaking into our nice, safe lives to deliver us from the prison we have made for ourselves.

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