Over the past two days, we have been exploring the two key passages that speak about our being conformed or transformed into the image of Christ. God has a plan for you to look more and more like Jesus. This requires spending time beholding or looking at His at glory through reading the Bible and praying.
In my sermon, I mentioned my desire to see a gospel-centered culture at Emmanuel. This could be created by a new “program”, through “guilt-based manipulation” or by denying that there is even a problem.
Instead, we are inviting everyone connected to Emmanuel on this 50-day journey to seek the face of the Lord and spend time beholding His glory.
Many times when we think of the gospel, we only think of it as the information a lost person needs in order to be saved. We see it as the entry requirements for the Christian life. Instead, the gospel is not just the diving board that gets into Christ, but it is the entire pool itself. As believers, we need to hear the gospel preached every week to us. We need to remind ourselves of it every day.
Read Colossians 1:5-6
Paul is writing to those who are already Christians and reminds them that the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in their lives.
There is a great book of prayers by the Puritans called “Valley of Vision”—they are powerful, deep, and very moving. I encourage you to find this book and meditate on the prayers. Listen to one of the prayers: “Holy Trinity, continue to teach me that Christ’s righteousness satisfies justice and evidences your love; help me to make use of it by faith as the ground of my peace and of your favor and acceptance of me, so that I may live always near the cross.”
That’s what we want to do. To always live near the cross by faith so that the gospel permeates our thinking and it affects every aspect of our lives.
Milton Vincent in his book “A Gospel Primer for Christians” writes these very encouraging words: “There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemning of my heart, and the lies of the world and the devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.”
That’s what we need. A daily rehearsing of the gospel in our hearts and minds. We need to be saturated in the gospel so that we can overwhelm the temptations of this world with the glory and majesty of Christ. A gospel-centered culture understands that who we are in Christ (identity) must come before what we do for Christ (obedience). The Bible addresses both issues. The Bible tells us who we are in Christ and what God has done for us (the indicatives) and it also tells us how to obey and how we are to live holy lives (imperatives).
What happens if you tell Christians to obey, but do not give them the basis or foundation for why and how they can obey based upon their identity in Christ? It can lead to inflated pride on one hand and deflated guilt on the other. Christians can begin to think that all that God is after is behavior modification and that living the life of faith is about keeping lists and obeying rules without any connection to our dynamic relationship with Christ. Jesus wants us to obey Him because we WANT to not because we HAVE to.
And the gospel tell us that God accepts us on the basis of Christ’s righteousness and that on our best days when we are living wonderfully holy lives and on our worst days when we are struggling with sin, He does not love us any more or any less based upon our performance. He loves us constantly and permanently based upon Christ’s performance.
When we trusted Christ for salvation, all of our sins were credited or transferred to Him and all of His perfect righteousness or perfect record of obedience was credited or transferred to us. Based upon what Christ alone has done, God the Father can now declare us not guilty and we are permanently adopted into His family as a dearly loved child.
Read Romans 8:1 and 1 John 4:9-10
Spend time thinking about the gospel. Spend time thanking God that He has accepted you in Christ. Pray that you would daily “rehearse” the gospel. Pray that Emmanuel would experience a gospel-centered culture.
Thank you that your love for me is consistent and solid. It is not based upon my performance for I could never do enough to please you. You are pleased with me because of the work of Your Son on my behalf. Thank you Jesus that your perfect record was credited to me so that I stand not guilty in God’s presence. Thank you that I can serve and obey you with joy out of gratitude for what you have done. I don’t serve you so that you will love me more, but I serve you because you have fully loved me already in Jesus.Please work in my heart a gospel-centered desire to live in the glory of who I am in You.
For Your Name’s Sake,