John A. Braun
I need to hear the gospel—Christ crucified for me—regularly. It’s why I go to church on Sunday. It’s not that I’ve never heard the gospel before. I simply need the reminder. Three reasons to hear the gospel often loom in my life and, I think, in the life of every Christian.
The first is the unwelcome guest that lives within my heart. It’s my old self, the sinful nature that persists even after I know the love of Jesus. When the gospel works within us it is the power of God. The gospel nourishes my faith and strengthens my desire to do as the Lord wills in joy and in gratitude for his love.
But I don’t lose my sinful nature in the joy of Christ’s love. No. His love creates a struggle. The good that I want to do, often I do not do (Romans 7). Then comes guilt when I fail. I try to change, but failure comes so often. I need to hear that Jesus loves me and forgives me. I need the gospel often.
The second reason is more subtle. Sometime my sinful nature is so sneaky that it will turn the gospel into something about me. That’s a common fault of human nature. All too often it becomes all about me. I begin losing sight of Jesus, and I say how proud I am to be a Christian. I stop thinking like the poor publican. Instead, I focus on all I’ve done; I only wish others would notice more often. I become the Pharisee!
Making Christianity all about me instead of about Christ is a temptation that infects so many Christian churches. The message of Christ and his forgiveness shrinks in importance. In its place, the message of Christ changes. It is no longer about Christ crucified for me, but Jesus becomes an example for moral behavior. Hope, joy, satisfaction, and comfort rest not on Christ but on how well one lives as a Christian. That old sinful nature shifts the focus on me and away from Christ who was crucified for me, an unworthy sinner.
In addition, the shift away from Christ to “me” comes with the temptation to take a small step toward thinking I’m a better Christian than others and that others are missing something. That’s a virus that infected the Galatians. They were taken in by those who thought they needed Christ and works. Paul chided them, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (3:1). In our age, it becomes a dominant focus on the obedience of a Christian to the law of love. Sounds good, but where is Christ crucified? All too often he must take a back seat to “me,” my obedience, and my effort. It becomes Christ and works not Christ alone.
That’s the third reason I need to hear the gospel of Christ crucified. The second reason is that the gospel is the antidote to the temptations I feel inside. The third reason? The gospel is also the antidote to the temptation to satisfy my itching ears with a message my sinful nature wants to hear—a message that is different than Christ crucified for me.
A friend recently said, “If you think you are someone special, put your hand in a bucket of water and pull it out. How much of an impression have you left?” My sinful nature recoils at that reality, but my spirit rejoices that God loved such a good-for-nothing. Christ was crucified for me and for all other sinners. May God nourish our spirits with the message of Christ crucified.
John Braun is executive editor of Forward in Christ magazine.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017
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