Saturday, January 01, 2005

"Crossing" Off Another Year

My Major Lesson from 2004

For me, 2004 was a year defined by relearning the gospel. Its bearing, not its meaning. Its importance in my daily life, not only at the Judgment Day. Its crucial role in my day-to-day Christian life, not just its role as the entry point to my Christian life. The defining lesson of 2004 was this: I need the cross, the gospel of Jesus Christ every single moment of every single day.

What do I mean by “the gospel”? Simply this: God sent His Son into the world to live a perfect life and die an atoning death for sinners like you and me. Jesus Christ, holy (and wholly) God, absorbed the unrestrained fury of God’s wrath against us so that you and I, rebellious sinners, could enjoy the unreserved benefits of God’s pleasure in Him.

Through the eye-opening work of the Holy Spirit in His word, the help of several authors, and the fellowship of several close friends, I am learning to live the gospel every day. I’m learning what Jerry Bridges meant when he wrote: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And you best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” (The Discipline of Grace)

Here are some areas I’m learning to live the gospel:

  • Relating to God. The gospel frees us from emotion-driven concern about whether we feel close to God by explaining that Jesus truly has brought us close to Him. When we really understand the gospel, we are released from the fruitless struggle to earn God’s favor with our goodness and the contstant tendency to despair because of our failures.
  • Relating to others. The gospel allows us to be who we really are—no secrets, no fa├žade, no desire to impress—with the people we know; after all, Jesus already knows about all our crud and He’s taken care of it. The gospel also causes us to take our sin against others seriously—no rationalizing, no blame shifting, no minimizing; after all, the perfect Son of God had to die to atone for it. And the gospel opens the way for us to forgive their sins against us, since our sin against God will never match what someone else could do to us.
  • Reading the Bible. The entire Bible is the story of God’s pursuit of His people—the gospel. Everywhere we read, we should look for pointers to or illustrations of or implications from the gospel.
Casting Crowns’ song “Who Am I?” was the soundtrack of my life in 2004. It seems to have been playing, either audibly or in my mind, at each major experience over the last 12 months. I love the carefully crafted poetry, the God-exalting images, the way the music affects my entire person (heart, mind, body), everything. But what makes the whole song for me is Mark Hall’s answer to the question he poses in the title: “You've told me who I am/I am Yours.” I love that! The question isn’t really “who am I?”; it’s “whose am I?” The gospel tells me that what defines me, the essential answer to the question “who am I?”, is quite simply that I am God’s. No matter what else might be true about me, that’s the main thing. Who am I? Because of the cross, I’m God’s. And that’s the gospel.

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