At this past Sunday’s T2 Forum we labored to take gospel concepts that are often left in the abstract and apply them to actual situations. Working primarily out of Romans 1-3, we talked about propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation/adoption can make a true difference in the day-to-day life of the believer.
The Gospel Walk
To help us better grasp what these terms mean, we looked at something we call the Gospel Walk (the idea was spurred on by John Stott’s book “The Cross of Christ”).
We start at the temple/Lincoln Memorial (which is made to look like a temple). A temple is where religious rituals happen, often requiring sacrifices. This reminds us of Propitiation. On the cross, Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice appeasing the wrath of God.
Now we’re standing in a Marketplace/Eastern Market. Marketplace is where things are bought. This reminds us of Redemption. On the cross, Jesus ransoms us from slavery to sin (Mk. 10:45).
Now we’re standing in the courtroom/Supreme Court building. A Courtroom is where justice is administered and sentences are handed down. This reminds us of Justification. On the cross, Jesus pays the debt for our sin. He dies the death we should have died and pays for our sin. Then he raises again, so we know the payment is enough.
Now we’re standing in our home/White House. A home is where we have sweet communion and fellowship with those we most dearly love. This reminds us of Reconciliation/Adoption. The greatest good of the gospel is that we get the sweet fellowship of God back.
Applying Abstract words to real situation
The gospel is not just an abstract idea that tells us we are saved in some theoretical realm. The gospel matters everyday, in every situation to everyone. Understanding the different aspects of the gospel helps us apply the gospel to ourselves and others in actual situations.
- Propitiation – You don’t have to punish yourself for sins committed; don’t have to think God is punishing you (maybe discipline, corrective/conforming, but not punish, punitive/condemning); we can freely offer forgiveness to others and not make them pay because Christ paid (and if they’re not a Christian they will pay)
- Redemption – Because we’ve been bought out of sin, there’s no sin that has total control over us. We can always choose to obey God and not give into sin. We don’t have to feel dirty and shamed because Jesus bought us and washed us clean.
- Justification – No matter what you do, you can approach God because you are declared innocent in Christ; bible reading, prayer should not fluctuate with behavior as if you are not good enough to enter his presence. We get to go to God out of gain, not guilt. Our sin committed or committed against us do not determine our stance before God, we are declared righteous in his sight. And if we have God’s approval, why let another person’s dislike of us “own” us?
- Reconciliation – Enjoy God himself not just his gifts (e.g. fight porn not by saying “no” but by saying “yes” to God). Because we’ve been reconciled to God, we need to be reconciled to each other (Eph. 2). God has done everything necessary, at the cost of his eternal Son Jesus, to captivate us with what will make us eternally happy. And what is that it makes us eternally happy? God himself. God is the source of full and lasting pleasure (Ps. 16:11).
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin uses the example of Jacob to paint a beautiful picture of what it means to be justified by faith (emphasis mine):
We observe here [that is in 2 Cor. 5:21] that Paul situates our righteousness not in ourselves but in Christ, and that righteousness is ours for no other reason than that we share in Christ, for in possessing him [by faith] we possess, along with him, all his riches…For the Lord Jesus so imparts his righteousness to us that, in an act of unfathomable power, it is made over to us so far as God’s judgment is concerned…
By locating our righteousness in Christ’s obedience, do we not declare that we are righteous because of Christ’s obedience has been assigned to us and received as payment, as if it were our own?
Therefore, I think that Ambrose did well when he chose as an example of this righteousness the blessing of Jacob. Jacob did not deserve the right of the first-born but, hidden under his brother’s identity, he put on his robe with its pleasant smell and crept into his father’s presence to receive this blessing in the guise of another. In the same way we must hide under the robe of Christ, our first-born brother, to receive the testimony that we are righteous before the face of our heavenly Father. That indeed is the plain truth, for to appear before God for salvation we must give forth his pleasant odour, and our transgression must be buried by his perfection.
In his book Prayer, Tim Keller quotes C.S. Lewis and applies his thoughts on friendship to our relationship in prayer with God (emphasis mine):
Prayer is therefore not a strictly private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community.
C. S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived. (pp. 118-119)
That’s an encouraging thought for you the next your gather to labor in prayer with your fellow church members.
This past Sunday, we kicked off the T2 Forum. It’s our desire to utilize this time of teaching and discussion together that in everything we might adorn the doctrine of our God and Savior; it’s our desire to mature as disciples and be equipped to make disciples so that together we might delight in the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
Making the Gospel Bigger: A Review
The gospel is of first importance (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4). The gospel is not just the door we enter to become a Christian, but the pathway we walk our entire lives as Christians. If you read the letters of Paul, he’s intent on preaching the gospel to Christians (cf. Rm. 1:7, 15).
In our own lives we can tend to make the gospel smaller in at least three ways:
- Subjectivism: A Feeling Based Approach to God – If this is how we approach to God, our view of God changes with our feelings and emotions.
- Legalism: A Performance Based Approach to God – If this is how we approach to God, our view of God is driven by our good behavior.
- Self-Condemnation: A Failure/Shame Based Approach to God – If this is how we approach to God, our view of God is driven by our bad behavior.
We combat these small gospel approaches by recognizing the height of God’s holiness and the depth of our sinfulness. When this happens our eyes will be drawn to Christ. When we think about God’s holiness, we see what it requires – a righteousness we cannot obtain by ourselves; this should lead us to Jesus. When we think about our sinfulness, we see what the gospel provides – a righteousness we cannot obtain by ourselves; this should lead us to Jesus.
Jesus himself tells us, the degree of our forgiveness, will determine the size of our gospel (cf. Luke 7:41ff). And the degree of my forgiveness is determined by the height of God’s holiness and the depth of my sinfulness.
When these two things are properly understood together, the cross of Christ gets bigger and bigger. To say it another way, as our grasp of God’s holiness grows, our awareness of our own sinfulness deepens, and our experience of the grace of the gospel expands, and our joy increases.
Father, we come freshly aware of the grace of the gospel. We come reminded of your complete and total sovereignty over all things. And we plead with you to bring peace and flourishing to those places that need it most. We pray for the millions of refugees fleeing Iraq, Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan. Stop the wars and violence and terrorism. We pray for the European Union as they seek to deal with this crisis. We pray specifically for Hungary, Austria and Germany in the face of an increasingly difficult situation. Give the leaders of these countries wisdom and the grace to treat all people as your image bearers.
We pray for the government here in DC. Bring an end to the string of homicides. Grant grace and wisdom to police chief Lanier and her entire team. All around this city and this country use the men and women who serve as police officers to promote peace and restrict violence and to serve people. In the name of Jesus, we pray for an end to police brutality. In the name of Jesus, we pray for an end to killing police officers. In the name of Jesus, we pray for peace and flourishing to mark our streets, our homes, and our schools.
Father, this morning we pray for all those members of Restoration who are traveling. Encourage them as they go to other churches this morning. As they worship with other brothers and sisters in other churches, give them an increasing view of the greatness of the gospel.
Father, this morning we pray for those members here who are dealing with anxiety and loneliness and physical discomfort. As they hear the voice of their brothers and sisters sing, encourage their soul. As they sit under the preaching of your word, flood their hearts with joy in Christ. We also pray for those members among us who are encouraged and thriving. We praise you for this grace among us. Encourage these men and women all the more; use them as a source encouragement to remind us of your all-sufficient grace that brings us through trials and tribulations. We thank you that the body is many parts working together for the good of the whole.
Holy Spirit, fill us all that we might labor to build one another up into maturity in Christ Jesus. For the glory of your name, Lord, bind us together in the bond of the Spirit of peace. Use Restoration Church as a magnificent display of your glorious grace. Help us to love and serve our fellow church members. Help us not just to tolerate those other members who are not like us, but embrace and enjoy and learn from them. Cause our hearts not to look for that which is most comfortable, but that which is most Christ-honoring. We praise you Lord for the work you’re doing among us. We thank you for the gospel growth in J.F. and S.Y. and J.K.
We also pray for the children in our church. As many start back to school, help them to be a joy to their teachers and servants to their classmates. Grow them intellectually, relationally and spiritually. Bring all the Restoration Kids to faith in Jesus that they might never know life apart from the joy of trusting in Christ. We pray for the teachers among us. In these early weeks of school grant them patience and endurance and energy.
And this morning we pray for our brother Nic as he preaches. Fill him with your Spirit. Use your servant to herald Christ that our souls might soar under the banner of the gospel. In Christ we pray. Amen.
(From Restoration Member Andrew S.)
“Here am I. Send me!” God had placed missions on my heart for some time, and a series of circumstances helped me decide that this was the time to do so: to leave D.C. and move overseas as a “tentmaker” through my current firm. Doors began opening like never before, and things lined up so well. I experienced God’s call on my life! Empowered by the Spirit and commissioned by my church, I saw my heart grow deeply aligned with God’s heart for His people. My heart for the unreached grew. I was excited to be His witness.
The company transfer was in its final stages, I had moved out of my apartment, and I was training for cross cultural ministry. It was very exciting! But God had a different plan for me. While my “yes” was on the table, God said “no” or at least “not now.” Last minute, the company’s contract fell through, and my opportunity to go overseas fell through. He quickly opened doors before, and He quickly closed doors now. When I first found out, I experienced an overwhelming number of emotions; but one thing clear was that He was sovereign over my situation, and I had deep sense of peace about it in the midst of all this.
It’s been over a month since I found out; and after much reflecting, I praise God for His grace and mercy. He showed me so much and grew my love for Him, as I put my faith in action and did something risky for the gospel. I had no reason to leave my comfortable life here; but God increased my hunger for Christ to be exalted and worshipped globally, and I said, “Yes!” I praise God that He is transforming me into the image of Christ “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). I still submit to Him and His calling on my life. I desire for Christ-exalting churches. I pray that He will use me – He is worthy to be praised.
I still long to go, but I know that my place is here for now and I can serve faithfully here. God is moving in my city, and this is His city. There is much work to be done. I am seeing more and more that ultimately He is in control and He has the best plan for me. He receives all the glory. There is joy in that. May we be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth! Praise God!
“I live as though Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow”
“If you’re feeling stagnant in the Christian life do something risky for the Lord.”
In 2 Timothy 4.18 Paul looks to two things to keep him going in the Mission of God and both of them are future oriented. He trusts that God will repay every evil deed done to him and he trusts that God will bring him safely into his heavenly kingdom.
Focusing on that second piece, Paul’s hope in heaven gave him courage to persevere in proclaiming the Gospel to the nations.
Since Hoping in Heaven is not something that we often do, here are some practical steps to cultivating a heart that does so in order that you too might persevere in holding out the Gospel to the nations:
1. Read about it: If you take the time to see it, heaven is spoken of quite frequently in the Bible. Not just in the familiar passages like Revelation, but recall that every time Jesus teaches about the Kingdom He is speaking about Heaven. Familiarize yourself with heaven by seeing it’s common presence in the Scriptures.
2. Pray for it: How often do you pray for heaven to come? How often do you thank God for the future hope of heaven? We are so captivated by whats in front of us we often do not pray for the greatest part of our our salvation…eternal life in a restored world with Him.
3. Counsel it: When trying to help someone else through a difficult time or when you are working through a difficult time, remind the Redeemed (or yourself) that this is only a momentary affliction that is preparing for them/you an eternal weight of glory (Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 4.17). Tell others/yourself, this is a small period of time in comparison to eternity and heaven is coming soon. Once it does, they will never regret faithfulness today.
4. Talk about it: Understanding that Heaven will be the absence of sin and the presence of the exaltation of God, opens up a whole host of things to occur that most have never thought of. For instance, in heaven we may play baseball and only hit .250 and strike out a lot…only we will not be sad or dismayed. We will work (see Isaiah 65.21-22), etc. You may not think about it exactly in the way you should, but using the grid of the absence of sin and the presence of exaltation, you can begin to put some “skin” on what heaven will be like which will make it more accessible to your mind.
5. Look for it: When you are walking to work or looking out your window, imagine what you are seeing fully restored to the ‘very good’ (Gen. 1.31, Acts 3.21). Consider the sun’s light as the light of the glory of Christ (Rev. 21.23). Consider the trees, flowers, mountains, weather, etc. that you are experiencing and ‘see’ them in your minds eye as you walk by the way.
The more we do these things, the more our hearts will long for heaven. The more we long for heaven the less we will be tempted to live for this world. The less we are tempted to live for this world, the more we will be able to picture the restoration of all things and invite others into it.
Come Lord Jesus Come!