WHEN YOU READ THE FOUR GOSPEL ACCOUNTS…
…Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and you read of everything concerning the Lord Jesus Christ BEFORE His arrest, beatings, and work on the cross, what are you reading? Are you reading the final remnants of the Old Testament economy, and the things pertaining to it, or are you actually reading about core aspects of the Gospel message as well?
Does the “GOSPEL” part of “the GOSPEL according to Matthew,” or “the GOSPEL according to Mark,” or “the GOSPEL according to Luke,” or “the GOSPEL according to John,” start only when the Lord’s sweat was, as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground? Did the “GOSPEL” portion only begin when the Lord was in agony? Or do the various GOSPEL accounts have within them, well before the cross-work of Christ began (and all that pertains to it), key Gospel truths — truths rejected by far too many, as they are relegated to the role of “being part of the Old Testament era/economy” only?
It’s becoming very clear to me that ‘The Gospel According to Jesus, Himself,” as found in everything He had to say in the four Gospel accounts, is hated by many in our day, even amongst those who profess a belief in free and sovereign grace. Why? Because it goes to the very heart of all that we hate by nature — self denial, self-sacrifice, service to others, and service to God, at a depth and level that goes far beyond what most professing Christians (even within “Grace circles”) would be comfortable with, myself included unfortunately. God help me with this.
Although we are not called to manifest our discipleship precisely as the Apostles and other disciples did in the Gospel accounts… we are nonetheless called to have a heart willing to go to that extent, and beyond, if the Lord so willed. When you read the Gospel accounts, you see a strong message, a strong call to turn not just from self, to Christ, for righteousness/justification/salvation… but to turn from a life of sin, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification, as one concurrently turns from self-righteousness, and turns to the Lord (for, amongst other things, that perfect righteousness found only in/through/by Him). This is all part of newness of life; it does not precede it, but stems from it, and is crucial to it experimentally.
The Lord called people from their occupations to follow Him. He had them walking all over the land, rough land at times, to witness to, preach to, feed, and heal others. The preaching was hard to hear…. and yet it was Gospel, it was Good News. It was the Good News that the Messiah has come, the Christ, the King, the one who reigns in Heaven and on Earth. His Kingdom has come manifestly; the one who rules over the hearts and minds of men stands before all in His presence. All witnessing Him are beholding the One who is Perfect God and Perfect Man, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, God the Word made flesh, tri-equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
This Messiah, this Saviour, went about preaching, teaching, healing, and saving. He taught the true nature of the state of blessedness, and how it involved living a life that the world would view as miserable, undesirable. The Lord spoke of the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, those desperately desiring a righteousness NOT of their own, and yet nonetheless desiring to live righteously, though they fall so miserably short in their experience. God highlights the importance of being merciful, pure hearted, peacemakers, especially as it pertains to the spiritual/salvific sense of these things. He calls the persecuted, maligned, and reviled ones (for His name’s sake) blessed… when the world at large wouldn’t deem them such, not by any stretch.
He included in His Gospel message a life freed from the bondage of sin, though not utterly free of sin (i.e., the presence of it). He exhorts His people to be light (as He is Light, having His Light shine through them), to be salt (as they preach law/judgment AND the grace that delivers from the curse of it), to do good works, to obey/fulfil the law, to keep the commandments — all of this not FOR salvation, but in light of it… in light of a life that’s already filled with salvation, with the Spirit of God, with the indwelling of the Father and the Lord. It is a service driven life that is in view; service in the name of Christ, for Christ, by Christ, in union with Christ. Service unto one’s fellow man, as fishers of men, co-labourers with the Lord, by the Lord, unto the building of the Kingdom of God, and the edification of His people.
Yes, God saves sovereignly, but He has chosen to use means, human means, even for the spreading of Gospel truth, to free the captives, and to unbind the quickened ones (a la Lazarus). He uses men and women, but only the ones He humbles, He weakens (as it relates to their own strength), and He makes willing (in the day of His power) to serve, trust, and obey.
The entirety of the Gospel message, the Kingdom message, the Good News that the Lord put forth, was centered around Christ, the Godhead, the work of Christ, all that it accomplished, and a life solely dedicated to Christ, and God through Him, with manifested realities of cross-bearing, mortification of the flesh, bearing fruit, serving others, living peacefully, living obediently, living with an aim towards manifest holiness and sanctification, and many other things that are, quite sadly, disdained by many a notionalist.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not teach a life of simply talking about election, predestination, “imputed righteousness,” and other core aspects of Gospel truth. He didn’t instruct His disciples to test the edges of “Christian Liberty,” by indulging as much as possible/allowed in the things of this world. He didn’t educate them into a life of Christ on Sundays, and some days of the week for a few hours… if that. The Lord taught that the true Christian life is a fully immersed one, one steeped deeply in a love for Christ, and a desire to worship, serve, and obey Him. It’s a life of putting Him before all else (by His grace and effectual working — but with effort on our part nonetheless, as we work out our salvation), forsaking all else to whatever degree is necessary, and making all aspects of our life subject to His will, to His word, to the degree that He enables..
I write all of this with the keenest awareness that the above does not represent the bulk of my “Christian life.” It is not representative of the course of my life. This is a painful reality but one undoubtedly needful to acknowledge. You see, I for too long was a notionalist…. Even after realising the error of their ways, I continued to act like a notionalist, to live like one, even to think like one. Sure, I was religious, and loved the Gospel truth, and abstained from outward immorality to a large degree, but I was ever pulled, ever distracted, ever letting the things of time and sense build strongholds in my mind. It’s made me tired, nigh defeated, beaten down, but thankful … because day after day after day, I have seen the folly of it all, and my desire to forsake such foolishness is stronger than ever.
Christ saves, Christ delivers, His finished work alone has done it all for His people. However, salvation has real world effects and manifestation… and that doesn’t include a desire to be so free from the law, so dead to the law, so apart from the law, that one ends up truly without the law, even lawless. Lawlessness doesn’t necessarily mean you are a wanton degenerate when it comes to immorality… lawlessness just means you have no desire to be a servant to the extant law of God, which is a reflection of the very mind of God, and the very holiness of God. Romans 7:6 states “But now we are delivered FROM the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should SERVE [i.e., the law] in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter.”
Some may question why I inserted “… the law” in brackets therein. The answer is simple, verse 25 makes this clear. The Apostle Paul plainly states “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself SERVE THE LAW of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” With his mind, by the Holy Spirit, through the renewing of His mind, via the means of God’s word (the Bible), being freed from the demands of the law (by the Finished work of Christ), and made able to serve the (extant, spiritual) law after the inward man (by God’s grace and effectual working), Paul declares a reality that all of God’s people should readily say amen to… i.e., God saves us for His glory, so that we may love, worship, obey, and serve Him, His Kingdom, His people (not perfectly, not to the degree that we would like, but ever hoping and praying to serve and obey all the more). I don’t want a salvation that wants no part of that. I don’t want a salvation that would ever make me not want to strive to be obedient to God and the will that He has revealed via His word. I do not want the anomian/antinomian mindset of superficiality, notionalism, surface-dwelling. My prayer for me, my family, and all God’s people is a greater depth of knowledge, love, obedience, and service, to Him and all that is His.
God help us.
To Him be the glory,