Friday, November 27, 2009

Overdosing on the Temporary Benefits of the Gospel

This week, Kevin DeYoung blogged about the "New Gospel." This new gospel is really a false gospel, an attempt to soften the message of Jesus. It has appeal because it takes away the offensiveness of the gospel and is likable for non-believers.

There are delicate tensions in the Christian life. Go to one extreme (or the other) and you've got problems (sometimes, big ones). There is a tension between being sons of God and slaves of God. There is a tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. There is a tension between Jesus being fully God and fully Man.

There is also a tension between being in the world (evangelize the lost, not living in a remote monastery, etc) while not being like the world (not living like the Christ-less culture around us).

This balance can be difficult and we can fall on either side. On the one hand, it is wrong to withdraw from culture, never share your faith, or even look at an unbeliever in the name of "holiness." On the other hand, it is wrong to be so liked by the world, to be just like the world in everything you do, and so relevant to the world in the name of "evangelism."

How can this wrongly play out in my life? In an effort to be solidly committed to the Gospel and reach out to the culture around me, I can too often focus on the temporary/earthly benefits of the gospel to such an extent that the real benefits of the Gospel are minimized.

What do I mean? Sometimes I (wrongly) think of Jesus as a Fix-It Superhero--in my life to fix all my little, shallow, temporary problems. Rather than being the Lord of eternity who must be worshipped and obeyed, I can view Him as a friendly older mentor who can help me with my present existence. Rather than being consumed with eternal issues (heaven, hell, storing up treasures, setting mind on things above, etc) I can be consumed with how Jesus will help me feel better now.

What is so wrong with this kind of thinking?

1 Worldliness--It may not be obvious initially, but as I begin to think about Jesus less and less as Lord and more and more like a friend, my fear of God diminishes and my flesh thrives. If Jesus is God, who calls us to live distinctly from the world--that's a real mandate from GOD. But, if Jesus is more like a friend with good advice--that's something I can more or less blow off depending on how I feel.

2. Eternity is Real--This life is a prelude for the next. This life isn't all there is. When I think about Jesus as my fix-it Man, guess will dominate my thoughts/worries/cares? Present, immediate, temporary issues. Like: romance, dating, love, sex, marriage, parenting, divorce, remarriage, finances, diet, physical beauty, health, emotional health, self-development, self-esteem, success, failure, burnout, leadership, friendship, conflict-resolution, etc. Now, these are all good things, important things even. But what don't you find in the list? Discipleship, obedience, love, faith, hope, zeal to rescue the lost, holiness. Too often I would rather have my discomforts in this life fixed, rather than discipline myself so as to not be disqualified.

Yes, only through Jesus can I find true joy, peace, and rest in this life. But, He hasn't called me to experience heaven while I'm on earth. I'm here to suffer and, when I die, experience glory. My relationships in this life are going to be painful and hard, as I struggle for holiness. But the Gospel doesn't say that my 80 (or 50 or 25 or 105) years on this life will be awesome. The gospel does promise that eternity will be amazing.

So, here's to...
-ignoring therapeutic suggestions for a better life now, but for hearing an authoritative Word from God
- not being so concerned with friendships, self-help, and happiness, but evangelism, discipleship, and holiness
- the temporariness of our sufferings and pain and to the everlasting-ness of glory in heaven

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