Doctrine and Culture

At theology breakfast we are reading Ray Ortlund’s newest book, The Gospel. The thrust of the book is not only right gospel doctrine but a gospel culture within the church that flows from our belief.

Let’s be honest, we fail at this most times. We have the right doctrine (at least we assume we do) but our church cultures are little reflection of it. They will know us by how we love one another… yet it is so hard to actually love!

There is hope however. As we look at Christ more, our culture will change. We don’t need to force change (which often brings the opposite of the desired result), we just need to revel in the truths we cling to and let the gospel change us. As Ortlund says, “the need of our times is nothing less than the re-Christianization of our churches, according to the gospel alone; in both doctrine and culture, by Christ himself.

Toward that end, we do need the right doctrine and too often we neglect our statements of faith. But right doctrine can bring such joy! At breakfast I shared a section of one church’s statement on the gospel as an example of rich and exciting belief, that hopefully leads to gospel culture. Here it is:

“We believe that into our hopeless situation God has acted freely and decisively to save us. This good news is only revealed to us in Scripture. Beginning with Abraham, God called to Himself a people with whom He established His covenant and to whom He offered salvation. The sacrificial, ceremonial system of His covenant with Israel anticipated and foreshadowed the sacrificial, subsitutionary death of Jesus on the cross for our sins. The old ceremonial system has therefore been set aside as having been fulfilled by Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. In the new covenant, Christ’s sinless life empowers Christians to obey God’s moral standards from the heart by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”

“By His death, Jesus has provided a just basis for God to appease His wrath, forgive our sins, justify us immediately by giving us credit for Christ’s righteousness, and welcome us into His presence forever. It is entirely a free and gracious gift of God. In fact, because we were all dead in our sins and morally incapable of pleasing God or seeking Him, no one could repent of their sins and delight in God without first being called by God and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Salvation is entirely of the Lord, the author and perfecter of our faith. It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.”

“Just as we cannot earn or deserve God’s salvation by works or ritual, neither do we maintain this right standing by good works. Rather, good works and right living are the fruit and proof of salvation, performed -imperfectly until death- in a context of a loving relationship formed and sustained only by God’s grace.”

This is such good news! Rejoice. Let it change the way we live and the culture we create.

The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV)

This is a model of prayer for the church. Petitioning to be strengthened so that Christ may dwell in our hearts; that we would comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ; and that we, and those reached with the gospel, would be filled with the fullness of God. It is a prayer for boldness that fully recognizes that Jesus is the one that acts and we need strength to have faith!

Today I was tremendously blessed by Ray Ortlund Jr.’s sermon on this text at his church, Immanuel Church, in Nashville. I commend the sermon to you. It doesn’t seem to be posted on the church website but is available on their itunes podcast. It is from July 14 and is titled “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way.”

Be encouraged. And pray big.