It is essentially a call to weakness that lives in the power of Christ. Recognizing that so much of life is lived under power schemes that are actually unhealthy or evil.
Living the way of Jesus though is not a solitary endeavor. Here is what they say of the church, take it to heart.
Because we are prone to waywardness, prone to walk the path of pride, self-sufficiency, and power, we need the church to ground us in Christ and his way. We cannot live in Christ’s way on our own. This likely sounds right, but many of us functionally doubt our need for the church. Pursuing the way of Christ seems like a “me and Jesus” kind of endeavor. But our focus on ourselves unearths a deep foolishness that owes more to our culture and worldliness than it does to Scripture. We have no hope of pursuing the way from above apart from the church.
It has been a tough weekend in the suburbs of San Diego. As you may have heard from news reports, a teenager, somehow influenced by hate, murdered a women and hurt others at a synagogue in Poway, CA. A block from San Diego City limits and just a short drive from Escondido where we call home.
We deplore hateful violence. There is no quarter for it in the church and we must actively and repeatedly communicate that such animus for other image-bearers is anti-Christ.
But it was so close to home. The alleged terrorist grew up in a neighborhood called Rancho Penasquitos, graduated from a good high school and was a member of a church in Escondido. A church, reformed in doctrine, certainly proclaiming the gospel, and meeting on the campus of respected seminary. The synagogue is the same neighborhood where members of our church live… this happened on our streets, where we do our best to flourish.
There will be much time for processing and working in the community for healing and I am thankful for the group of local pastors striving toward that end.
As I reflect on this today, I am struck by how quickly culturally we will move on from this tragedy and how active we must be to prevent it from happening again. But also that the gospel empowers us to keep on, to speak for justice in every day life.
Before my sermon at Reservoir yesterday I shared my joy at returning to the normal life of the church:
Coming off of Easter I was reminded in my own heart of the draw toward experience. The big Sunday, the whizbang sermon, the emphasis we put on special events. But more so I reflected on the reality that faith is lived out in community, in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty, happiness and sorrows of life. And the gospel, the good news of Jesus speaks to and holds us up in all of it.
It is a relief. Because we need holding up. We need spiritual power for every moment of life, especially those with such darkness.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Hebrews 2:1–4 (ESV)
One conversation I always bristle at, and have had often, goes a little something like this: “I still love Jesus and I know I am saved, but since it is all about grace I don’t NEED to study Scripture or talk to other Christians about my faith, I don’t NEED to come to church on Sundays…”
As you can imagine this conversation is usually with someone that has stopped attending the gathering of the saints, or refuses to participate in small groups, or is confounded by their lack of growth and hope when they have no “Scriptural diet.” And I get it, I feel the same pull toward passivity all the time.
But this is not what we are meant for when we respond to the glorious good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us. We are meant to press into it not be passive about it.
Calling it mining the depths of the gospel or whatever you prefer, just dive into it and keep going. As the author of Hebrews offers, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”
That’s the danger, drifting. Assuming and eventually losing the hope you have in the justification granted by Jesus, and certainly no experience of the sanctification promised. We even lose a sense of truth as we wander distracted by the lights and voices of our world.
If you find yourself tempted in this way, take up and read, see Christ in Scripture and in the community of believers around you. Find people that will stay on the journey with you. Pay attention to the gospel because you are prone to forget it. Do everything you can to prevent drifting away. Pass on the passivity.
Okay pastor. You have survived Easter. You took out all the stops, you rang the bell and poured on the hospitality. You even preached your heart out. Perhaps attendance was the highest it has been in a long time and it seems some of the visitors might even stick around.
What now? Where do you go from Easter and how do you keep the momentum? May I suggest you preach the gospel and let that drive the church?
Wait you say, I preach the gospel, every year at our revival service! No I mean every week, from every text, for the glory of Jesus and the good of your church.
Wilson gives a practical guide to transitioning to gospel-centrality (which believe it or not is not a normal thing in the evangelical world).
Grab the book, hang with other gospel-driven pastors and get going into grace. It is what the church is meant for!
Here are some choice quotes to whet your appetite:
“Healthy, fruitful churches are made up of Christians who are searching out God’s ways and following the trails of doctrine in the Scriptures straight to the throne. “
“Real Christianity cannot be reduced to methods and ordinary human metrics. It must always for the supernatural.”
“May we never mistake our busyness and bigness for the breath of God.”
“The gospel refers to the good news that God sent his Son Jesus to live a sinless life, die a substitutionary death, and rise from the dead so that sinners who repent and trust in Jesus will be forgiven and have eternal life.”
“A gospel-centered church is one that explicitly and intentionally connects its teaching, programs, ministry philosophy, and mission to the content of the gospel.”
“The gospel will hold and sustain your church in a way all the relevant programming, applicational teaching, and worship experiences never will.”
“Gospel-driven preaching is preaching that proclaims and exults in the revealing of God’s glory in Christ.”
“The power of salvation and the sanctification that follows comes only from the gospel, not the law. In other words, the power for to-dos comes not from to-dos, but from the “was-done” of Jesus Christ.”
“The gospel is not fully preached until people have been called to respond. The call can sometimes look like practical application points, but more generally it looks like prophetic pleading that urges hearers to turn from their way and embrace the way of Jesus. “
“A church centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ will be turned inside out because the gospel rightly grasped compels a church to join God’s mission in the world. “
“Over time, the gospel preached, applied, and empowered by the Spirit will coalesce a church around Christ, and from this gospel focus, people can be galvanized to move outward in mission.”
“If you want a gospel-driven ministry, you must resign your will to the supremacy of the glory of Christ and trade your personal ambitions for the beauty of Christ’s bride.”