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The Conflicted God of the Gospel?

03/15/2012

Lately in small group, we’ve been studying through Hebrews.  It’s been great.  Or at least I think so.  Hope so.

One of the things we’ve been trying to grow in together is an ability to “see the forest for the trees.”  Connect the trees–“Christian living” and application-level truths that everyone nowadays so eagerly wants to skip to– with the forest of biblical convictions about basic Christian truths.  Practically speaking, this means uprooting, examining, and strengthening our convictions about the simplest of things about our faith.

In Hebrews, that’s been incredibly natural to the text.  It’s been necessary.  I couldn’t stand to continue through the first few chapters with the guys without having to stop the thoughtless head-nodding and actually find evidence for our convictions about these things.

One of “these things”: the Gospel itself.  In reading and studying the first few chapters of Hebrews for a few months, it became painfully obvious that for the longest time my view of the Gospel’s scope has been (and continues to be) incredibly limited.  To put it simply, my view of the Gospel is often much more man-centered than it should be.

The version of the Gospel I often rehearse and share paints the picture of a perfect and holy God in whose presence man cannot enter.  Good so far.  Man is, by nature, sinful.  Still good.  But God, who is perfectly loving and perfectly just, comes to a crossroads of sorts because He must judge sin according to His holiness and at the same time He loves man despite his sin nature.  Mhm.  As a solution to that crossroads of sorts, God sent His Son Christ to earth, who was fully God and also fully man…

See?  We almost missed it.  Head-nodding our way through the Gospel.  A conflicted God.  A minimized, conflicted God.  He is at a crossroads…???

Is He really?  Is He really that lacking in power, wisdom, and sovereignty that He can’t figure out how to be perfectly loving and perfectly just from the beginning of time?  No!  He has spoken of His redemption plan throughout history in different ways, most clearly through His Son Jesus Christ (Ch. 1).  This Son was far greater than any angel (Ch. 1) and Moses, the keeper of the Law itself (Ch. 3).  If none of that was enough, God designed His plan of redemption in such a way that Christ had to be a human (Ch. 2).  Christ is God as well, making Him builder of the house and faithful as a son over God’s house (Ch.3).  The beauty of this part of God’s plan is that in His infinite and glorious wisdom, He put Christ in a simultaneously authoritative and associative position for us human beings in the aspects of temptation and suffering (Ch. 2).

That’s a lot to digest.  But if we combine all of that, there’s no way that we can come out with a tree-level, man-centered Gospel that presents a conflicted and limited God.  There’s no doubt in my mind that in presenting the Gospel to others or quickly rehearsing it for ourselves that these “conflicting issues” are a helpful way for the human mind to understand the Gospel’s workings.  That’s good and fine.  I’m not saying these kinds of concepts are completely wrong.  But for the believer whose life trajectory is truly Godward and heavenward, such an ultimately man-centered and finite understanding of the Gospel will be all too easily understood, graduated, and moved beyond.  No constant awe and no conviction of the basic truth of the Gospel.  How, then, can we even begin to think about “Christian living” principles if there’s no accurate Gospel basis?  How can we honestly wonder why there are more dry times than passionate and faithful times in life when we paint a picture of the Gospel where it is so easy to nail down what God did for us?

Instead, we must regularly and surely arrive at a forest-level Gospel that is God-centered and increasingly awe-inspiring.  A Gospel portraying a God whose incredible plan for His own glory culminated in His perfect Son coming to earth to become sin so that His righteousness could be ours.  This propitiation, then, in light of a God-centered Gospel, renders the fire insurance provided by the Gospel as simply one aspect in which the redeemed lives of those who believe can center their lives around God.  The fire insurance is not the main point.  The glory of the infinitely wise and powerful God is.  In light of this Gospel, living an obedient, faithful, and passionate life for God transforms from duty to worshipful overflow.

May we see God for who He is in His Word and not how we want to see Him as finite human beings!

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