Deeper Into the Gospel

December 29, 2011

Reflecting on Colossians 1.6, Tullian Tchividjian, in his book Jesus + Nothing = Everything, offers this poignant perspective about the present practicality of the gospel:

The gospel represents both the nature of Christian growth and the basis for it.  Whatever progress we make in our Christian lives – whatever going onward, whatever pressing forward – the direction will always be deeper into the gospel, not apart from it, not aside from it. Growth in the Christian life is the process of receiving Christ’s “It is finished” into new and deeper parts of our being every day, and it happens as the Holy Spirit daily carries God’s good word of justification into our regions of unbelief – what one writer calls our “un-evangelized territories”.

How I wish – and pray – more people would realize this.  Too many pulpits – conservative and heterodox alike – proclaim alternatives to the gospel – counterfeit gospels, really.  They do this because it sells.  The masses are in need of a remedy only an increasing application of the gospel is able to supply, but they clamor for placebos – spiritual sugar pills.

May I always be mindful of Paul’s words:

  • I resolve to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2.2)
  • But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1.8)

3 Responses to “Deeper Into the Gospel”

  1. David Says:

    Dennis, This is a great post and it seems we can not ever get away from the Gospel of Truth or go too deep into it. It’s our very life.

    It seems to me over the many posts you have this theme of our sin and how it shows it’s self in so many ways, but then you bring the solution as well, which is our hope and life in the Gospel.

    I just wonder if there is more to our understanding of our place, position and responce to the Gosple as Paul notes when he talks in Cor, and Heb about the belivers needing more than just “milk”. That Paul had more for them but was unable to express it as they were not ready. In fact he even told them they should be even teachers yet they were not ready…..

    Guess my question to your posts is when do we, or do we, go beyond the Gospel (if thats even possible) into the deeper regions in our Love for God and People and how we express that in our lives, in terms of what we do, how we do it, and who we are as Followers of Jesus ?

    Im my view we need the Gosple every day, not more knowledge about it, but how to live it and make it a reality in our lives and come to a place where we understand what that looks like even as we understand all of the Gospel, even the suffering of the cross as it applies to our lives….

  2. Dennis Griffith Says:

    David,

    Thanks for your comment and question. The short answer is that we never, never, never, move beyond the gospel. What else is there? We never outgrow our need for Jesus. We never “mature” beyond the need for God’s grace and providence. (Watch this John Piper video)

    What is necessary is to grow more aware of our need of the gospel, and more aware of the promises and implications of the gospel. This deepens us and sets us free at the same time. This is what Tullian means when he says: “The gospel represents both the nature of Christian growth and the basis for it.”

    The Galatians were a people who began to feel that they needed something more than the Gospel. Paul repeatedly challenges them and asks them several piercing questions:

    Galatians 1.6-9 is a challenge to believers who think they are beyond the gospel; that the gospel is the beginning and then we mature and move on.

    Galatians 4.8-9 Paul challenges the Galatians about going back to “weak and miserable principles”. While most assume that this is a warning about Jewish legalism, we should remember that the Galatians were not Jews but pagans. The “principles” are any form of legalism or works righteousness.

    Galatians 3.1-3 is perhaps the most clear. Paul writes: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

    And it is not just to the Galatians Paul addressed this. To the Colossians he wrote: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.” (2.6) How did we receive him? By Faith and Repentance. Thus, in line with this instruction both must be ongoing practices in the life of faithful maturing Christians.

    And lest anyone think this was just Paul’s idea, this is all consistent with what Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15.1-8)

    As for living the Gospel… It is semantic, but an important semantic, We live in light of the gospel. We cannot live the gospel. The gospel is the good news of Jesus and what he did. We can live in light of what he has done, and in light of the promises; we can live out the implications and demands; and we can (and should) live in such a way that the gospel is reflected or illustrated by our lives (actions and attitudes) but cannot replicate what he has done. Thus we cannot “live” the gospel, and we must be clear that the gospel is uniquely what God did/does for us in Jesus, otherwise people can become confused.

    OK. I know that was long, but I wanted to be clear for anyone else who views this post and dialogue. That was in response to your question: “…when do we, or do we, go beyond the Gospel…?”

    As to your second point…

    You wrote: “In my view we need the Gosple every day, not more knowledge about it, but how to live it and make it a reality in our lives and come to a place where we understand what that looks like even as we understand all of the Gospel, even the suffering of the cross as it applies to our lives…”.

    I would say that I share your desire to have the gospel effect the way we live. Scripture is clear that this is a must, that otherwise faith is dead. Yet it seems that your statement too easily minimzes our need for knowledge of the gospel, or the need for growth in our knowledge, for the sake of “doing” the gospel. I do not know if this was your meaning, or not. If so, I would have to say that this would appear to be based on a false premise – that theology and mission are antithetical.

    No doubt there are many who embrace sound intellectual doctrine without engaging in mission. And James addresses such an attitude quite directly. But far more seem to be guilty of having more love for the mission of Christ than they do for the person of Christ. They are excited to go out and do things, and gather people into their congregations, networks, and clubs, but they have little or no appreciation for Jesus or what he has done. At least little desire to know more about him and what he has done. It seems to be the hunt they enjoy, not so much the actual relationship with Jesus. Perhaps it is because the hunt can “validate” them. Paul addresses this mindset in Galatians. Both the theologue and the activist are guilty of equal, even if opposite, error.

    But as to the idea that increased knowledge gets in the way of the real work (my phrase, not yours), I think we need to remember what Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3.18: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is a command to increase in grace and knowledge. How can we grow in grace? We grow in grace by being aware of our need for it – that we are far more in need that we want to admit; AND for God’s supply of it in and through Jesus. We need both focuses.

    This response has grown way too long… so I will finish with this. The better we understand the gospel the deeper our affection will be for Jesus, the more humble and thankful we will be; and this is what will free and embolden us to serve him by serving others our of genuine selflessness – or just as he served us (Philippians 2.5-11)

  3. David Says:

    I agree Dennis with all of what you said, very good stuff and that will preach !

    However I will also note there is a deep, deep disparity between knowing & doing in our culture of the mixed up American dream and the I go to Church on Sunday because thats what we are to do as part of being an American and a Christian.

    One easy proof is the offering plate….

    People don’t need more knowledge of what, when, where and how to give. Thats been covered, (least I hope) but the doing.

    I agree we need to grow more & more in the knowledge of the Gospel, but not for knowledge sake, but for it’s application which leads to transformed lives…..

    I think Paul was addressing all together different issues of pagan practices, but none the less the, principles you site are certanily applicable, I agree.


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