Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Centering on the Gospel

I know that the likelihood of someone reading this is not as high today as it was two months ago. That's okay and here's why:

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have created a virtual world where people can bury themselves in something that isn't real, yet at the same time know what is happening anywhere in the world at any time.  It's all-consuming and I found out that in the end, it doesn't improve my quality of life.  The thought that I could be the first to know about tsunamis, baseball injuries, football scores, or drama between two people who are arguing over the unwritten rules of the Internet used to give me the perception that I was actually achieving something.  The perception is that being inundated with information is a good thing.  I finally decided that it wasn't.  I am what you would consider obsessed with baseball. Although the baseball season technically has ended, it never really ends for me. The baseball offseason is very exciting (especially for my team because they're daily improving their roster) and I can always know what is breaking in the baseball world in real time.  I decided that being baseball-centric and over-inundated with information is keeping me from where I need to be in my personal relationship with God.  What I need to be is God-centric.  So now I'm Facebook and Twitter free.  Baseball is great, but it needs to play second fiddle to God as well.

The following text was taken from chapter 8 of the book I'm currently reading, "To Live is Christ to Die is Gain" by Matt Chandler.

But our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil. 3:20)

Everywhere I go, everybody I meet wants new revelation. I can't think of a better way to put it than that. All of us, most of the time, want to know what's next, what's here, what's now. 
Have you seen the television commercial where the guy is having his big-screen television delivered to his front door, and at that very moment a truck goes by with an advertisement for a newer new television? His jaw drops. We don't want yesterday's technology. And we don't tend to want yesterday's news. The Internet is great at this-or terrible, depending on your perspective. It's hard to stay ahead of the curve on what's happening, so we log in and never log out. That's why we walk around with our heads down, noses to our phones. We don't want to miss anything. God forbid we not find out about something hours after it happened. Heaven help us if we have the oldest model of a particular vehicle.
This dynamic takes place in the church, too. By and large we don't want the old stuff. We want new stuff. We want new revelation, which is why, despite the fact that none of us has mastered the Scriptures, we say things like: God hasn't been talking to me lately." What we mean is: "God isn't giving me the direct hotline of insider info specifically tailored to me."
Our lamenting of God's "silence" while our Bible goes undisturbed is actually quite revealing.  We want new revelation while at the same time we refuse to be obedient to what we already know. We demand to be taught something new.
But it makes no sense to graduate on to an advanced class when we've never cleared the basics. In biblical terms, what we call the basics of Christianity-the gospel of Jesus Christ-is in reality both the beginners level and the advanced class! In the church, I think we often get the milk and the meat confused. We think end-times theories and other theological speculations are the meat, when it's the simple gospel that keeps offering up further depths of wisdom and insight throughout the Christian life. It keeps offering deeper wisdom if we will keep pressing into it.
This is why Paul comes full circle to the gospel at the end of Philippians 3. It's a "check" for us, a pause. It's meant to keep us from getting ahead of ourselves.

Consider this:
Let those of us who are mature think this way, 
and if in anything you think otherwise God will 
reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to 
what we have attained. (Phil. 3:15-16)

Paul stops. He puts this check in place in the text. Hes basically saying "Whoa. Before we talk anymore, let's remember what we've already attained. Let's remember that the main thing is the main thing. Let's hold on to what we've been given."
Here we find yet another reminder of the importance of what we might call "gospel-centrality." Why is it important to center on the gospel of Jesus Christ?
First of all, we should keep the gospel ever before our eyes because we receive Christ in the gospel, and we are told to fix our eyes on Him (Heb. 12:2). It's in beholding Jesus that we are transformed (2 Cor. 3:18), so it makes sense to keep our eyes fixated on Christ.
There's another reason we want to center on the gospel: because the gospel is where we find the power for the Christian life. Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:17, Ephesians 3:7, and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 all confirm this. Colossians 1 reminds us that the gospel is going forth into the world and bearing fruit. First Corinthians 15 reminds us that the gospel is not just what we received but the power in which we currently stand and by which we continue to be saved. And since we see throughout the New Testament that even our faith is a gift of Gods grace and that every imperative of obedience is attached to an indicative of the gospel, we want to stay focused on the gospel so we can follow God. The power to walk by faith in obedience is sourced in the grace of the gospel. So now then: in all our toiling and striving and straining and pressing, "only let us hold true to what we have attained." Or "hold fast," as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:2.
Clearly, centering on the gospel of Jesus is imperative for growth in the Christian life and the passionate pursuit of Jesus. Martin Luther says, "Most necessary it is ... that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually." Or, as Tim Keller says, the gospel is not just the ABCs of the Christian life but the A to Z.
As we conclude the third chapter of Philippians, we see Paul giving us essentially three ways to center on the gospel. These aren't the only means to gospel centrality, of course, but they are three primary and fairly practical ways, things we can implement or bring to mind with good regular reminders. The three means of gospel centeredness Paul highlights are these: engaging in discipleship, remembering our citizenship, and anticipating heaven.

Find the book here
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2