The Cross is Enough, So Stop Pretending
The gospel should be the foundation of everything we do. It should shape our lives. It should be the source of our identity and the power by which we bear fruit as followers of Jesus.
In week one of Discipleship Training, Pastor Elliot introduced what the gospel is and what it means to live in response to it. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel starts functioning correctly in our lives and we gain a growing awareness of God’s holiness. It isn’t that God is growing more and more holy (God is and always has been infinitely holy, perfect and unchanging), but we start growing in our awareness of his holiness. We also gain a growing understanding of our sinfulness in light of His holiness. Again, it isn’t that we are getting more and more sinful, but growing more aware of our sin as we grow in our awareness of God’s holiness.
A greater understanding of God’s holiness and our sinfulness should produce a deeper love for Jesus and thankfulness for what he has accomplished on our behalf, but we often stall out. Why?
In 2 Peter 1:9, Peter tells his readers they have stalled out and the gospel has stopped bearing fruit in their lives because they forgot what God had done on their behalf through the death and resurrection of Jesus. They forgot and became unfruitful and ineffective. Unfortunately, we often do the same thing. We shrink the cross. When we do, it minimizes its impact on our lives and reveals something is lacking in our understanding, application, or appreciation of the gospel. This leads to pretending and performing.
If we do not rest in Jesus’ righteousness, we buckle under the pressure of our sin and start pretending that we are better than we are. We minimize sin and try to find our validation, self-worth, and acceptance in something other than Jesus.
How do we minimize sin?
a. Defending – trying to explain things away
b. Faking – striving to maintain a respectable image rather than being honest about our sin
c. Hiding – hiding things that we are ashamed of in our lives
d. Exaggerating – thinking/talking more highly of ourselves than we should, in order to get attention
e. Blaming – blaming others for the sin in our lives
f. Downplaying – giving little weight to sin
Minimizing sin is a problem. We must take sin seriously. God took our sin so seriously that He sent his son to suffer and die on the cross to defeat it.
The second way we minimize the impact of the gospel in our lives is performing. As we see the holiness of God and his perfect character, we try to perform better so we can measure up to what we perceive to be his expectations. Rather than being in awe of His holy perfection, we fool ourselves into thinking that if we work hard enough we can earn God’s approval.
Christ Is Better…
Both pretending and performing are sneaky ways we establish our own righteousness before God. We forget our acceptance comes in Jesus’ perfect righteousness, not our own (2 Cor. 5:21). In Christ, we are adopted sons and daughters of the most-high God. When God looks at us, he sees his own Son’s perfect righteousness. God is pleased with us because he is pleased with Jesus. When we truly understand this, we are motivated to pursue righteousness, we are kept from unfruitfulness, and true change happens in our lives.
As we start to see the gospel functioning correctly in our lives by recognizing Christ is better than our tendencies to pretend or perform, we start to see how others around us also shrink the cross. Since we are now more equipped to apply the gospel correctly in our lives, we are able to apply it to the lives of those around us, our communities and to the city we love.
Christ is better!
Questions to help you apply the gospel to the ways you pretend and perform:
1. What do you count on to give you a sense of “personal credibility, validation, acceptance, good standing?”
2. As you think of God right now, what is the look on his face as he thinks of you?
3. What is the sin underneath this? What are specific ways this sin shows up in your life?
4. Why do you do this? What reasons or excuses do you give for this?
5. How do these reasons/excuses reflect a small view of your own sin?
6. How do these reasons/excuses reflect a small view of God’s holiness?
7. What lie are you buying into?
8. What do you know about Jesus to counteract this? How is Jesus better?
John Murphy is church planting resident at Vintage21 East Campus.