A revised reprint of a timeless article from May 11, 2007.
The Church is a family, not a daycare. Yet many churches say “when you’re here, you’re family” à la the Olive Garden. While we focus on numbers like a business, some in our churches today have been raised in church their whole lives and still have little understanding of the gospel.
The surrounding culture says, “there are no absolute boundaries of right and wrong. We each get to create our own, and all of our contradicting boundaries are valid as long as we’re each doing what is right for us.”
How should we respond in the Church? By explaining the gospel like this? “Bad news, you were born on the wrong side of the boundary, and are incapable of getting on the side where God lives. Good news, Jesus died to remove the boundary.”
While this may sound good, what the post-modern soul makes out of such teaching is, “By saying a little prayer, you can live however you want and still go to Heaven.”
The only difference the unchurched postmodernist sees between that and what they’ve already got is the prayer of salvation and getting up early on Sundays to get hit up for money. And quite a few of them did say the prayer once, back when their parents dragged them to church as kids. This gospel is attractive to those looking for a commitment-free eternity-insurance policy, not a life-changing relationship with a Holy God. In this business transaction, the throne of their hearts rarely comes included.
We are born sinners on the wrong side of God’s boundary and incapable of changing that on our own. Jesus died to make a way for us to cross over the boundary, transform from sinners into saints. He nailed our sin to the cross, yes. And as Ephesians 2:8,9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The common cultural misunderstanding comes in with our understanding of grace.
Grace isn’t a static thing where Jesus accepts us as-is by enabling us to commit our pet sins consequences-free for all eternity. On the flip side, Jesus also isn’t a far-away-tyrant demanding we do what the Bible teaches we’re incapable of in our own strength.
When we’re born again, God freely places within us a new spirit–-a new heart–-one that lives on the right side of the boundary and wills to act in accordance to His will. This is a gift solely of God’s craftsmanship. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
At the same time, we still live in a body of dead flesh that’s just as wrong-side-of-the-boundary as ever.
At every minute of the day, Christians face a choice whether to walk in the ways of our dead flesh, or in the Spirit, with Christ’s grace actively giving us the will and the strength to live in accordance with God’s ways. Let’s ask for it, step back, and let God change us.