I Must Never Waiver from the Gospel
Colossians 1 has some of the sweetest promises that have ever been given to mankind. Jesus is in the process of reconciling all things to himself. He is redeeming the world, and this redemption has been made possible through his death on the cross. Part of this redemption is the salvation of his people. Even though we were once his enemies, he has saved us from this awful predicament and offered us what we absolutely do not deserve – forgiveness.
This is tremendously good news, but it comes with a sobering caveat. There is a big “if” attached to this promise. “…if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard”. Notice that this verse doesn’t say, “not turning”. It doesn’t say “rejecting” or “denying”. It says, “not shifting”. The word shifting has tremendous implications. To shift from something is not to outright deny it, but to ever so slightly adjust away from it. It is not turning and going south or even east or west, but it’s drifting away from true north.
Since the readers of this blog are primarily Anabaptist, I will address what I see as the potential for shifting within the conservative Mennonite church. Mennonites descend from a long tradition of believing in the importance of a practical outworking of the Christian faith. Our founding fathers were men who wanted ever so badly to live out the gospel. This is a noble desire. I fear, however, that over time this desire for holiness, simplicity, and humble obedience, has morphed into a proud identity and a certain amount of trust in our works. I appreciate Mennonites’ desire to take seriously the teachings of Jesus and to follow him no matter the cost, but I am deeply troubled when I read or hear that these acts have salvific power. In other words, that we participate in gaining our salvation through our obedience. The book of Galatians and many other scriptures make it clear that when we shift ever so slightly from trusting in the work of Christ alone, we have lost the gospel.
Through his death, Jesus accomplished all that needed to be done to purchase our salvation. As this passage in Colossians points out, we are reconciled by the blood of his cross – nothing more, nothing less. To pretend that our works play a part in appeasing the wrath of God is a serious error that the Bible speaks strongly against.
An emphasis on the sufficiency of the cross of Christ to atone for our sins and save us is not a denial of the importance of good works. Good works are an absolute must in the Christian life, because they are a necessary result of the transformation that takes place when someone comes to Christ. Dead people who come back to life don’t stay lying lifelessly on their beds. They don’t remain comatose and unresponsive. When life enters a body, the body changes. It gets color. It sits up. Its eyes blink. The person begins talking and laughing and loving and living. You can’t come to Christ and not be changed, because true transformation means that your cold, dead, stony heart has come to life. The point is that, yes, good works are vital, but they are powerless to save or keep us. We must trust in Christ and in him alone.
The gospel calls us to the death of self. It calls us to humble, broken surrender. It calls us to cast ourselves on the mercies of Christ. It calls us to trust totally in him for our salvation. It calls us to turn from our sin and turn to Christ. This leaves no room for licentious, pleasure-driven narcissism. It also leaves no room for self-serving, conceited, legalistic moralism.
The gospel crushes us. It destroys our pride, our lust for pleasure, our love of self, and our determination to make something out of our lives. It takes all that a worldly mind holds dear, stabs it in the heart, and then twists the knife. This is why the world hates it, and why the world will hate us. But we must never waver from it – ever!
I Must Live to Exalt Jesus in Everything
This brings me to my last point and the one great conviction that transcends all others. The reason I must hold fast to the gospel is because the gospel is about Jesus. Please take the time to reread Colossians 1:16. This is one of the most thrilling verses in the New Testament. But I want to you focus on a very small prepositional phrase at the end of the verse “for Him”.
I know that this is not the only time period in history when people have displayed narcissistic tendencies. Since the fall, Satan has done his best to get our eyes off Christ and onto ourselves, but over the past thirty to fifty years there has been a dramatic shift in Western culture away from understanding that we were created to live with an outward focus. We must remember that it all comes back to our sin nature. The heart of our rebellion against God is that we want to be in control instead of yielding control to Him.
The exaltation of self is the antithesis of Christianity. We are always to be about the exaltation of Christ. Every breath we take should be for his glory! Everything was created for him; you and I are no exception. This, brothers and sisters, is true north! Not the pursuit of money. Not the pursuit of comfort. Not the pursuit of self-made righteousness. Not the pursuit of denominational superiority. Not the pursuit of acceptance by peers. Not the pursuit of happiness. Not the pursuit of safety. And definitely not the pursuit of self! We were brought into existence for one thing and one thing alone – to magnify Christ! May we grow ever more faithful in doing this.
One of the great ironies of the Bible is that when we lose our lives, we will find them. Death to self and the exaltation of Christ is not a recipe for oppression, but a path to freedom. We were not created to live inwardly. We were created to live for something infinitely greater than ourselves, and when we lay down ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Christ, only then will we understand what it means to truly live.
|Jeremy Weaver lives in Colorado with his lovely with Lanitta, six children, and two foster children. He is a graduate of Liberty University and the principal of Canon Christian Acadamy. He loves to read, mountain bike, hike, and camp with his family. He is very concerned about helping the next generation establish a solid foundation of truth from which to interact with a culture that is rapidly deteriorating.|