As we head into Good Friday tomorrow, I wanted to spend a little time today looking at what the gospel does to us when we really believe it.
So, let’s rehearse this again, I’ll start with a quote from Tim Keller’s The Reason for God:
“Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride…. There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. The first is by saying, ‘I am going to live my life the way I want.’ The second is described by Flannery O’Connor, who wrote about one of her characters, Hazel Motes, that ‘he knew that the best way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.’ If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as teacher, trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus.
That, ironically, is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus.”
–Timothy Keller, The Reason for God
Okay, so that’s where I was. I was living my life constantly trying to avoid sinning, setting up obligations for myself and others, mocking all those “Pop Evangelicals” that are living no differently than the “world.” I felt “superior and disdainful toward those who [were] not following in the true path” (emphasis mine). Of course that “true path” was what I believed it meant to be a “true” Christian. And by the way, the list was long and it boiled down to Jesus + A Long List Of Somethings. But during one of the bleakest moments, the truths of the gospel and the grace of God broke in upon me, almost violently, irresistibly. It was then that these words became true for me and of me:
“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less. I don’t need to notice myself–how I’m doing, how I’m being regarded.”
That means that I cannot despise those who do not believe as I do. Since I am not saved by my correct doctrine or practice…. It also means I do not have to be intimidated by anyone. I am not so insecure that I fear the power or success or talent of people who are different from me. The gospel makes it possible for a person to escape oversensitivity, defensiveness, and the need to criticize others. The Christian’s identity is not based on the need to be perceived as a good person, but on God’s valuing of you in Christ.” (emphasis mine)
–Timothy Keller, The Reason for God
So what now? Now is the time to remember:
“You were bought with a price.” –1 Corinthians 7:23
That price was the cross. The cross is the heart of the gospel. Yes, we celebrate the resurrection this coming Sunday, and every Sunday, I hasten to add. But without the cross, there would be no resurrection, without the cross there would be no forgiveness of sins, without the cross there would be no hope for me and no hope for you–no hope for eternal life and no hope for a relationship with the Lord Jesus during this life. The cross is our glory as Christians.
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”
This is how the gospel deconstructs us! We go from self-centeredness and pride to becoming fools for Christ (1 Cor. 4:10).
I’m glad Jesus wasn’t self-centered and prideful like me, because if he was, there would have been no cross and no resurrection and no hope and no life, in this life or the next.