This weekend we took the young adult ministry leaders to the Passionate Grace conference to hear Bryan Chappell and Jared Wilson. It was two days of sermons that reminded us of grace and the vitality we can experience when the gospel of Jesus is central to how we do church. I am grateful that I got to spend time with these leaders and they are a true example of faithfulness and trusting in Christ.
During the conference pastors were invited to have lunch with the speakers and ask questions. We spent a lot of time talking about the importance of preaching the gospel since we were not adding a lot of new Christians to our churches and it is a bummer when churches miss the gospel for salvation but I wanted to press into the use of the gospel in sanctification.
Actually, to me, this is the major concern for health of Evangelical churches in our day. Most that I interact with agree that we need the gospel for salvation. The problem is when we see the only purpose of the gospel for salvation. We get that people need to hear of and believe in Christ’s sacrifice for them in order to be saved and spend eternity with him but we don’t think that has anything to do with becoming more like him or being sanctified. In fact we shift gears quickly to works righteousness, not for salvation but sanctification. As pastors we lay a greater burden on those we lead with a new set of things to do and the only motivation we give them is that “it is what Christians do.” We embrace the law and become legalistic in sanctification figuring we are good since we get the justification (salvation) piece. Some even grant different levels of responsibility in heaven depending on how hard you work as if we need more of a reward for the work than Jesus himself.
So is the gospel useful for sanctification? Both speakers at the conference agreed the root of the issue was motivation for obedience to Christ. That the gospel is our motivation and empowerment to obey. Chappell categorized the issue among a need to increase our love for Christ over our love for sin. The gospel is in fact vital to sanctification. I think if we miss it we are wasting the sweat of obedience for our own glory and fulfillment rather than seeking Christ’s glory and fulfillment in him alone.
In our Hebrews series I tackled the issue of motivation and you can listen to the sermon here.
What do you think, how is the gospel useful for sanctification?