Our obscure church has received a reputation for having an obsession with the grace of the gospel. And while some understand this very well and are seeing it firsthand (its powerful effects) there are many who are confused and some very concerned and others that seem to be a bit angry. I find myself having the same conversations with visitors and others who hear about what we are about. The main concern that I often hear is in light of your preoccupation with gospel grace, where is holiness and discipleship and things of that nature? The assumption is that to be fixated on gospel grace is counterproductive to moral behavior consistent with the Bible’s stances on morality. So, the first concern is that we pick stuff in the Bible to focus on while neglecting others and the second is that our fixation on the gospel is counterproductive to the Christian life. Here is my pastoral answer to these questions as to how our gospel grace obsession relates to Christian growth and standards and how it is the actual focus of the Bible. And—please—not that our gospel obsession does not mean that we do not talk about things people should do, it simply means that the gospel is our focus and emphasis.
This is not an article that is two pages long that you can read in line at the store. It is an in-depth explanation and will take some time to absorb, but it is so because it is my attempt to answer clearly why we stand on the gospel the way we do. Take your time and read a few points at time if you will, but get to the end as every point is significant in this conversation.
Our Primary Place of Growth is in the Faith that Produces Works, not Works
What do you mean by this? Simply this, the New Testament’s emphasis for the Christian’s progress is not primarily in increasing moral behavior but in growing in faith in the finished work of Christ (Ro 1:5, Php 1:25, Php 3:7-11). This does not mean that growing in godly behavior is not a Christian goal, it simply means it is secondary to the primary call to grow in faith. Let me set this straight, if the primary place of growth for the Christian is deeper and deeper trust in the saving love of Christ for sinners (Eph 3:17-19) then what is it that grows Christians in faith? Faith does not come from being told to believe, but faith comes from hearing the word about what Christ accomplished for us (Ro 10:17). Faith does not come from being told to believe, but faith comes from hearing the word about what Christ accomplished for us. And so if Christian growth is chiefly and mostly about growing in faith in Christ and faith comes from hearing about the things (a Person’s things) that we can rely on (gospel) then our concern for Christian growth must seek to do what is needed to grow believers mostly in faith. You see the Bible doesn’t talk about faith as a starting point to then advance in other things, but it talks about faith as the on-going way you always are living your Christian life (Ga 2:20, Ro 1:16-17, Php 3:10-11). Paul says, the life I live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me, meaning that faith is what we live on and live by, not just a starting place for works. If your view of growth is not primarily about growing in gospel faith, then your concerns for promoting growth are simply totally off. If Christians grow chiefly in gospel faith and the gospel alone grows faith, then we need to see growing in faith as the most essential part of our discipleship/growth process. And that brings me to our next point.
Philippians 3:7-11 (HCSB) But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Anything that We Do that Does not Come from Faith is in Reality not Holy but Sinful
Sounds extreme does it not? Take a second and read two passages for me and then get back to this article (Ro 14:23, He 11:6). How is God glorified in your everyday Christian life? By doing moral things and avoiding bad things? No. The Pharisees did that and hated God and had Him executed. God is glorified when you do things from a heart that is trusting in the finished work of Christ (Ro 4:20). So, if everything we do that is not from faith in the gospel of Christ is sin then you see why we need to always be focusing on gospel grace to actually grow in holiness. At the heart of all sin is unbelief (He 3:12) and the heart of all holiness is faith (He 11:8) and so to anyone who takes discipleship or holiness seriously must seriously exalt the gospel. Exaltation of the gospel leads to faith which is the foundation of anything truly holy. In the Christian life true good is a trusting heart that does things from the basis of trust in Someone else not merely someone who does good things while trusting himself or anyone other than Christ. Doing good things while trusting in the good things you do—not the good things already done by Jesus—are not good.
Romans 14:23 (HCSB) But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction, and everything that is not from a conviction is sin.
Hebrews 11:6 (HCSB) Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
There is Nothing Possible without Faith in the Finished Work of Christ Ever
Let me tell you something else that happens when you read the Bible from cover to cover and don't just get your sanctification theology from a few cut and paste verses. Faith in the finished work of Christ is the only thing which produces practical godliness, nothing else does. Any other means to holiness (doing things because they are right, or for God’s honor, or for our neighbor, or for reward in heaven, or for the Lordship of Christ) that does not have faith in the gospel underneath it cannot ever do anything. In the same way that the body without oxygen cannot move and do living things, the person without faith cannot do anything truly spiritual. There are many places I could take you but let me just rack your brain with a few. In Jn 15:1-5, Christ says apart from abiding in Christ you can do nothing. Did you catch that? You cannot do anything if you are not clinging to Christ in faith, nothing! Not some things you can and others you cannot; apart from abiding in Christ you can do nothing at all! Tt 2:11-14 tells us that the grace of God teaches us to renounce ungodliness and to live soberly in this present age and it also tells us that that same grace makes us zealous for good works. What does that? Law? Guilt? Be like Jesus chants? Surrender pep-rallies? Nope. It says that grace has the monopoly on producing good works. In He 9:14, Paul says that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from dead works to serve the living God. What cleanses us to serve? You hear that gospel voice again? I do. It is the blood of Jesus that is in the present cleansing us to serve, not the blood of Jesus and the blood of human will and schemes of improvement. The text simply says that the blood of Jesus by itself is producing service in people. It is the blood of Jesus that is in the present cleansing us to serve, not the blood of Jesus and the blood of human will and schemes of improvement. What about 1 Jn 1:5-10 where we hear that the blood of Jesus is cleansing us in the present from all sins? What is bringing ongoing cleansing and ongoing holiness? Nothing less than the cross of Christ being held onto by faith. You see Christian the gospel is not some nice set of facts that tells you that you are going to heaven; the gospel that declares you to be right because of what Christ did is the only thing that is now in the present changing you practically. The blood of Jesus is now and regularly cleaning you from all sins not some sins but all! So why do we obsess about grace all the time? Because nothing else does anything for you and only grace does, that’s why. So it is, that those who focus on changing, more than focusing on the gospel which changes, in actuality prove to care very little about change as change never happens outside of gospel dependence, never, ever--never.
John 15:1-5 (HCSB) "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me."
Hebrews 9:14 (HCSB) how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?
Christian Growth is Described as Fruits Produced not Efforts to Work Fruit Production
One of the most key passages in scripture about the Christians practical growth is in Galatians (Ga 5:16-26). It is very interesting that all the Christian virtues of love, joy, peace, patience etc… are said to be fruits of the Spirit. That is to say that Christian virtues are natural spontaneous productions that come from the Holy Spirit. They are His fruits! You get that? Christian morality is not the product of talking excessively about being moral, they are fruits that come from the power of the Spirit's very own production. In the same way that water and sunlight produce life in plants, gospel and Holy Spirit produce fruits in Christians. In the same way that water and sunlight produce life in plants, gospel and Holy Spirit produce fruits in Christians. You may then say ok, but what does it exactly mean to have the Spirit produce fruits and not me simply trying to produce fruit through serious moral efforts? If you look earlier in Galatians, you will learn that the way the Holy Spirit works maturity and grace miracles is through the Christian hearing the gospel with faith (Ga 3:1-5). Context! That means that the Holy Spirit uses the power of the gospel in the believing Christian to produce these fruits of God's character in us. This idea is similarly conveyed in Ephesians (Ep 5:18) where we are commanded to be filled by the Spirit who then produces all the lists of Christian character from verse 19 all the way into chapter 6. Being filled by the Spirit is what naturally produces godly character. Spirit-filling produces character and the Spirit fills us with the gospel; that is growth language of true growth in scripture. So why do we, at RCM, regularly exalt the gospel of grace? Simply because we are about fruit-bearing not stapling moral self-effort onto our exterior and then calling it fruit. We pour the rain and sunshine of the gospel on redeemed souls and watch the Holy Spirit naturally produce His fruits. If the Holy Spirit produces godliness through the gospel then we as a church will seek to use the things that He uses to produce godliness, and that is the gospel. We will let God produce His fruits through His gospel and not waste our time with men producing works of the flesh with their moral self-effort which are nothing more than dead works with religious perfume.
Galatians 5:16-26 (HCSB) I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Christians have never Heard about Good Works Outside of Faith in Christ—Ever—so We Shouldn't Either
There is something really interesting about the way things in the Bible are written. The Bible is more like a big stream with many smaller streams rather than a bunch of isolated tweets for daily devotionals. It is a forest, not a bunch of individual trees around each other. Where am I going with this? Well consider this, that all of the letters in the New Testament where written to be read all at once not to pull apart nice little pieces of Bible info to make a whole Christian theology from preferred parts. John 5:39 (HCSB) You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. Read before and read after and read it as a whole! The letter to Ephesians, the gospel of Mark was read to the church all at once when it was read. This means that the church never heard about being called to certain actions and behaviors outside of the sections about Christ’s finished work which is before every section about what we are to do. In every stream of Christian truth, the gospel is always at the beginning middle and end. Meaning that the behavioral instructions in Romans 12-16 were never heard outside of the first eleven chapters of gospel teaching. The same for Ephesians, Matthew or any other book (even the Old Testament). So if Christian behavior whenever discussed in the New Testament was never discussed outside of the stream of the gospel (the finished work of Christ), why would we ever discuss anything outside of the gospel's foundation? Do we take one sentence from an email and deduce the whole thing? No! Do we watch a scene from a movie and decide what the whole movie is about? No! So again, why do we, at Reconcile Church Miami, preach gospel grace all the time and not just sometimes? It is because all discussions in the Bible about behavior always flow from the gospel—always. Pick and choose your verses about doing outside of their gospel context but you are just butchering the Bible and hurting the Saints in the process. The context of the whole Bible and every section about anything in the Bible about behavior or anything else is always connected to the gospel (Revelation 19:10, Hebrews 1:1-3, John 5:39).
Faith in the Gospel is the Engine for Love which is the Engine of All Else
The Bible pretty clearly and consistently tells us that anything we do without love is well, worthless and kind of like banging pots and pans in someone's face (1 Cor 13). You see the Bible says that love is the key ingredient which drives all true godliness and that if you have it then all else follows (Jn 14:15). John 14:15 (HCSB) If you love Me, you will keep My commands. We are people who are driven by what we treasure and what we love (Mk 7:14-21, Mt 6:21). Sounds simple enough right? All we need is love. But what is love? The Bible tells us that love is according to the truth and needs to be in knowledge and discernment (2 Jn 1, Php 1:9). Meaning that love is not just having religious passions but it is based on gospel truth about who God is and what He did. Another thing to ask is where does love come from? Does it come from being told to love? The Bible tells us that love comes from love and not just any love but love comes from the saving love of Jesus for us on the cross (1 Jn 4:10-19). You see, the more our hearts are enflamed by the thing that ignites our hearts (the love of Christ), the more we will love God and love people and then do the will of God with a heart of love and not some slavish, selfish desire to get something or prove something (2 Co 5:14). Christian love is like an empty bucket being filled over and over again by an endless fountain. We tend to make our love the fountain, but biblically we are the bucket and God and His gospel the fountain. Paul tells us in Ro 5:5-11 that it is nothing less than the love of Christ being poured out by the Holy Spirit through the gospel that gives us affection for God. Paul tells us in Ga 5:6 that externals (circumcision or uncircumcision) do nothing for holiness but rather all that matters is faith in Christ which expresses itself in love. Said another way, all that matters is the love that gospel faith produces. So again, why are we so obsessed with exalting the grace of the gospel? Because the Christian life is not about simply doing stuff but loving and loving only comes from faith in a love that comes down to us. Love is a self-sustained, self-replenishing, heavenly fountain flowing down from the gospel deposited in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So our people are being taught to be loved all the time by a great and perfect lover so that they can, in turn, love and live because it is this kind of love which is the fulfillment of the law (Ro 13:10). You see, if you are doing right in order to prove you are saved not because you are saved and overflowing in salvation-drenched love, you are simply using Christian obedience and growth for the selfish reason to feel good about yourself. It is only the full and free love of Christ that frees us from this loveless do-gooding that we are left with outside of the gospel's love. Doing is about loving God and people and loving God and people is about being loved in the place where we are loved most in the gospel of grace (Ep 3:17-19).
1 John 4:10-19 (HCSB) Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.
This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.
When the Gospel is High, Conviction of Sin Always Happens
We all know that the Christian life is a life of repentance, that is to say that we are regularly seeing sin in its ugliness and seeking to trust Christ in it as we flee from it. But what makes you see sin and not just see it but hate it and run to Christ with it? Does that happen by simply being told that its really bad over and over? Spurgeon said something that is most telling. He says that when he thought God was harsh and the judge, he found it quite easy to sin but when he came to see the greatness of God's saving love he found it very hard to sin. But what makes you see sin and not just see it but hate it and run to Christ with it? Spurgeon was simply stating what is said in Romans (Ro 2:4) which tells us about the kindness of God leading sinners to repentance. Also telling is what the prophet Zechariah tells us about looking to Christ on the cross bringing sinners to mourn over their sins (Zc 12:10). The Holy Spirit comes to exalt the gospel of Christ and it is His ministry to convict us of our sin in midst of His cross-exalting ministry (Jn 16:8-14). You know what happens when the love of Christ for rebels in their wretched evil acts is at the front and center of the church? The reality of our sin in its ugliness is brought out, which in turn brings about full conviction, which in turn brings us to turn from it as we look to Christ, our sin bearer (the dominos of what the gospel touches and knocks over are endless). You see, you will never see how wretched your sin is and what it is unless you see that it put the holy Son of God under the fierce wrath of God to die your eternal death. Telling people sin is bad and should be avoided pales in comparison with showing the sinless Lamb being slaughtered for sin. So why do we exalt grace the way we do? Because it is the only thing that brings us to hate sin because of the beauty of God's love in our sin. Go look at Jesus suffering the eternal wrath and justice of God naked on a tree and see if you can enjoy sin! People will never despise their sin if the gospel is something you stub your toe on from time-to-time on your way to the ongoing sin and holiness lecture; gospel grace held high equals the sinfulness of sin to be known hated and avoided by the person seeing sin in light of the convicting love of gospel grace.
Zechariah 12:10 (HCSB) "Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn."
John 16:8-14 (HCSB) When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in Me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.
Holiness is about Nearness and Nearness is about the Gospel
I think that most Christians would agree that intimacy with a personal God is something vital to our spirituality and growth. Whether you are Baptist or Pentecostal or Independent there seems to be some common consensus that the presence of God is key to Christian living. But how will we, sinners, who are regularly hiding from God's presence (whether we do it consciously or not) due to His holiness and our lack of holiness, seek His presence? You may say as you read this, “Hide from God? no way!” Hiding from God is not someone consciously saying, “I do not like God; I will hide.” It is like that sometimes but not usually. It's more like spending your life busily doing things (religious or irreligious) rather than enjoying the great Someone who made you. We hide from God in church activities and hide from Him in our families and vocations and hobbies. So how do people who fear the presence of a holy God, who is terrifying in His holiness, come and enjoy His transforming presence without reducing Him to be some cute manageable idol who is not terrifying in holiness? There are many, many citations in the Bible that we could go to but I think a few will be sufficient. Paul in Colossians (Col 1:21-22) says that what changed us from being alienated and hostile to God was what happened to Christ's body on the cross. Meaning that what bridges the distance between God and sinners is only in what happened to Jesus on the cross. Meaning that the way that we get to regularly spend time with a Holy God who is contagious to any who are around Him is through the blood of Jesus. In Hebrews (He 10:19-25) we are told how sinners can enjoy the transforming presence of a holy God as well. Paul says that we can draw near to God in fellowship by faith because of the blood of Jesus, the curtain of His flesh, the greatness of His person at God’s right hand. That’s right my brother and sister, it is the person and work of Christ alone which brings us into holy contact with God. So here is the key: sinners sin and in their sin they avoid God and so avoid His transforming presence. And here is what the average Christian or Pastor says, “God hates sin, put it away as you come to God because sin is hated in His presence.” But wait a second. Isn't it God's presence (seeking to personally and practically enjoy Him) that transforms us (2 Co 3:18)? Hanging out with God is what makes us like God! So, I am supposed to fix myself to go to God who fixes me not by fixing myself but by His fixing presence? Sounds confusing does it not? Hanging out with God makes me like God but I can't hang out with Him because I am not like Him. You catch my sarcasm? But if we exalt the gospel of grace that always tells sinners that God sits on a throne of grace (He 4:16) welcoming them into His Fatherly, love-transforming presence, then sinners will continuously seek the Holy transforming presence of God. They will not hide in activities and things and run from Him and so make the issue worse as they seek to fix themselves to go to God (rather than be fixed in relational intimacy with Him). The gospel of grace leaves an open door into the transforming presence of God so that sinners in their sin can be transformed by His presence which is the most vital thing to their transformation.The gospel of grace leaves an open door into the transforming presence of God so that sinners in their sin can be transformed by His presence which is the most vital thing to their transformation. So why do we preach forgiveness of sins by the blood and perfections of Jesus all the time? Because it is the only thing which makes people who are convinced that they should avoid God because of their sin, run to His presence no matter how they feel about themselves. And when sinners regularly encounter relational fellowship with a God who is radiant and contagious in holiness, they are always changed! Remove the gospel which is the only curtain that opens God's presence (Mt 27:51) and you have a bunch of people with a long distance relationship with God who are always talking about changing, but cut off from the One who changes people near Him through the nearness provided by the gospel.
Colossians 1:21-22 (HCSB) Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him—
Hebrews 10:19-25 (HCSB) Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
2 Corinthians 3:18(HCSB) We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Hebrews 4:16 (HCSB) Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.
Matthew 27:51 (HCSB) Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split.
The Gospel is the Only Thing that Frees Us to be Known to Others and Ministered to by Others
You know what happens when being good and moral and radical becomes the primary talk of the church? People's identities become more about how good they do then how good they are in Jesus which in Bible terms is very bad. ...the gospel is the only thing that frees us to be known and open before one another so we can minister grace to one another and grow.And so, this is what happens when people begin to see sin in their lives in these kinds of environments (low grace, high law and performance). They hide, pretend and create low standards when sin rears its ugly head. The shame and guilt that comes from not being as holy as everyone claims they are will bring people to just act like they are ok when they are not. It will bring them to avoid the confession of sin and simply try to just do really good in another area to balance things out. It will bring people to justify sin, not confess it, or exaggerate their good. Or it will bring people to just lower the bar and feel good about external morality or selective morality or inconsistent morality. But here is what happens when the church community is defined by the gospel, that is, when it is defined by the greatness of Jesus obeying for sinners and dying for sinners: since our identity is not founded on how much we obey nor destroyed and taken away by how much we sin, we begin to tell God and tell people about what is really going on. No need to pretend and hide; I am hidden in the Christ of the gospel so I can be transparent about things in my life which demand Jesus. So people begin to be known by others and their sin issues are not hiding and festering under a religious hypocritical shelter (which is ripe for them to grow), but they are out for the church to be aware of. When sinners know each other and their sins you know what happens? The church members can know what is the gospel need and apply the gospel to real need and stop the ridiculous religious lie of performing and pretending that we are not all in need (all the time) of a radical redeeming Rescuer. And then sins are confessed and met with grace cleansing and holiness occurs (1 Jn 1:5-10). So why do we preach Christ all the time always as our main focus? Simply because the gospel is the only thing that frees us to be known and open before one another so we can minister grace to one another and grow. If you do not have the gospel of grace that makes this honesty-vulnerability environment possible what you will have is a bunch of people pretending and being un-ministered to and pretending to grow when they are not growing but simply growing in their ability to be fake.
1 John 1:5-10 (HCSB) Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, "We have fellowship with Him," yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, "We have no sin," we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, "We don’t have any sin," we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
True Holiness is Humble and Gospel Faith Alone Works this Humble Holiness
There is this massive blind spot among many Christians concerning humility's essential place in their view of growth and maturity. Here is the issue: if your Christian everyday holiness has anything to do with your standing before God, something you do, even if it is a little, it then gives you something to stand before God with. If heavenly assurance has an ounce of human anything in it, man then gets heavenly bragging rights. However, when the gospel is held high and is in the front line of the Christian life, we know that we are always holy solely because Christ took our unholiness and credited us with His holiness (Ro 4:4-5). So when you pursue holiness you know that it has absolutely nothing to do with your standing before God at all and that it gives you no reason to have this holy ridiculous arrogance that comes from thinking you and Jesus share heavenly bragging rights (the whole my holiness and Jesus’s holiness opens heaven’s gate arrogance). Become as practically holy as you would trust God for, but it can never blow up your head because it never has anything to do with your sonship, your standing, your boast before God; the gospel has claimed all those things in full already. Get good grades and work hard for them but you already received the passing grade to get you through in the Christ of the gospel!
There is something else connected to this that is very important and that is if the gospel is what changes us then our changes have nothing to do with us (yes, we are involved and yes, we do but still it's not about us). Listen closely! If the gospel is about what Jesus did for you, outside of you, irrespective of anything in you and if that is what God uses to continuously change you, then how could you ever be walking around boasting about your changes? If the declared truth about a perfect Christ who died a horrendous death for me as a rebel is what regularly produces godliness, then there is no room for your growth and change to be accompanied with arrogance (Tt 3:3-7). A message about Someone else being good in your badness being the key power to change you, makes change the last thing that would ever inflate your ego (1 Cor 4:7)! So why does RCM champion and promote the gospel all the time, in all situations? Simply because it is the only thing which changes us without inflating us in our changes and so it is that only thing that really changes. If you try to change anyone by anything else, any other motivation, then what always results is bloated arrogance that brings people to gloat in spiritual mirrors rather than bow in awe before the King. Humble holiness is the only holiness and the gospel owns that by itself.
Romans 4:4-5 (HCSB) Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love
for mankind appeared,
He saved us—
not by works of righteousness that we had done,
but according to His mercy,
through the washing of regeneration
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that having been justified by His grace,
we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.
Gospel Centrality is the Only Thing that Works in Reality for Real People
There is something that our church has had the privilege to see again and again. And that is, that in reality all the holiness and law and obedience and commitment obsession in the church (lacking the supreme gospel obsession in it all) really does nothing to the person who really sees and knows themselves. At best this kind of Christian focus (we are great people getting greater or bad people making themselves good) makes people totally discouraged and ready to quit Christianity altogether. I see it ALL THE TIME. Many of the people who have found RCM to be their home gave up on religion and church in general before being reoriented in gospel centrality. No matter how much we talk about radical love we see selfishness day in and day out (Ro 7:13-25). No matter how much we talk about purity and holiness, we see so much impure desires and lust underneath the surface. No matter how much we talk about the glory of God, we still see so much glorifying of created things and so much more talking about glorifying God then actually doing it behind closed doors. No matter how much we talk about the glory of God, we still see so much glorifying of created things and so much more talking about glorifying God then actually doing it behind closed doors. You know it and I know it and even all the super holier-than-thou Christians know it which is why they always need to talk about holiness to make themselves feel better about their unholiness (otherwise why talk about it so much if you got it). However, when the gospel of grace is regularly proclaimed to sinners you know what happens? People do not quit, people do not become paralyzed in their embarrassing messes and failures; they don’t throw in the Christian towel and just coldly coast. You know what happens? Sinners are regularly reenergized in the hope of the gospel in the midst of regularly seeing their real unimpressive self. Why did the Colossians have a growing love for people? Paul says it is because of the hope they had reserved for them in heaven (Col 1:4). You see change (in this case, love) comes from having a sure hope reserved in heaven because of a Saving Christ! Hope reserved and secured in heaven (In the Christ of heaven) not hope on how we are on earth carries us in our regular moments of lovelessness to actual moments of love. You know what happens when reality hits sinners who are always coming up short when the gospel is the focus not the person's faults and or need to be less faulty? People that are done with Christianity are restored. People that have been stuck in limbo for years have spiritual mobility and people that have been bored, scared and angry with God, sense His transforming love and presence. Stuff gets dangerous in a good way when all of our sin mud pits are absorbed by relentless and triumphant grace.Stuff gets dangerous in a good way when all of our sin mud pits are absorbed by relentless and triumphant grace. The reality of sin is real but the historic reality of the gospel is more real and bigger. So why do we preach Christ relentlessly? Because it's the only thing that can move you and grow you when all the religious pretending evaporates and you are left with the real you which at best is always far from being even close to enough. We are gospel-focused because it's the only real lifeline for the real you (not the dressed-up Facebook portrait of you).
Romans 7:13-25 (HCSB) Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
What We Have in Sanctification (ongoing change) is Only by What We have by Faith in Justification (our Standing in the Gospel)
The word of God has a way of saying things that often times goes flat in the face with what we naturally think. All of us in the church like to talk about growing, maturing, and discipling but how does the Bible talk about these things? Or better yet, how is it that we who have nothing in ourselves actually have freedom and ability to have something? Paul, in Romans (Ro 6:12), tells believers to put off sin but he does so by telling them right before that, that they were crucified, buried, and raised with Christ. Meaning that what they are to do in sanctification (putting off sin) is possible because the gospel's finished work makes it possible. What they have only in the gospel assures them what they have and can now do in sanctification! It's like getting a new car and someone letting you know all the things you can do because of what the new car has. So, the gospel tells you about the new you and all the things that the new you now have and all the things this new you can now do. ...the gospel tells you about the new you and all the things that the new you now have and all the things this new you can now do. If you remove the gospel all the things that come with the new you from the gospel are lost. Practically, it looks like this: because you are dead to sin in the gospel, kill sin, not kill sin because you should and it's bad but because the gospel killed you and raised you in Christ (Ro 6:6)! In Colossians (Col 3:5), Paul calls us to put to death all worldliness but he does so by using a connecting “therefore” before saying what we are to do. What is the “therefore” referring back to? Setting our mind on Christ where we are hidden and found and where He accomplished all for us already (Col 3:1-4). The idea is, know what you have now in Christ in order to know what you now can do in life because of what you already have in Christ because the work of Christ is the key that opens opportunity and ability for anything and everything in life. So, again what we have (ability to change) and what we can do (put off sin) is immediately connected to what we have been given—in full—by gospel grace. Because you have the new car purchased by Christ, know what you have been given and act like it! You can arrange and order the house because it has been bought for you and it is yours! You are told to love and abound in love because you are beloved in Christ (Ep 5:1-5). All the moral things God wills and desires are possible and made available in the gospel truth that you died and were raised in Christ through faith (Eph 4:20-32). So let's get this clear and straight: if all of your privileges to grow and change (sanctification-growth) are only assured to be yours to have and hold and use in the gospel, then what is most vital to your owning of Christian growth is having clarity on what gives you that right. Or going back to the illustration what gives you the rights to the new car and all its features—the finished work of Christ on our behalf. So why do we preach the gospel of grace day in and day out? Because the gospel is the only thing which tells us that we are in Christ and have all the privileges of life and growth in Christ; nothing else tells us that, nothing else assures of that. If you are not telling people what gives them the privileges and freedoms of the new life but simply telling them the demands of the new life you are enslaving and crippling people and setting them up for mass discouragement. That's another reason why we preach Christ the way we do because we have nothing outside of Christ and since only the gospel of Christ gives us Christ we are regularly telling people what gives them Christ and all that entails so that they can confidently own what is theirs only in Christ (1 Cor 1:30,1 Cor 3:21-23, Col 3:11)! Christianity is a religion that is about what you do have in Jesus not about what you don&pos;t have in yourself and you must work to acquire with Jesus's help! Gospel privileges give us growth privileges and so be sure to make people know what assures them that they have privileges to be able to grow (and should grow) with the gospel that gives that assurance!
Romans 6:12 (HCSB) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.
Romans 6:6 (HCSB) For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin
Colossians 3:5 (HCSB) Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:1-4 (HCSB) So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Ephesians 5:1-5 (HCSB) Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.
Whenever There is any Issue in Scripture to be Fixed, Faith in Gospel is Always the Answer
You bold souls who have made it this far, I encourage you to look at all the issues going on in the church in the New Testament and see how these moral issues are addressed. The Corinthian church was the modern day equivalent of the church gone wild with people getting drunk and sleeping with their dad's wives. How does Paul open his letter? Yes, you guessed it with the gospel. What does Paul then do for the first three chapters? You guessed it, he goes into the wisdom and power of the cross. He weaves gospel again and again throughout the letter and then writes an entire chapter at the end (all of chapter 15) on the resurrection (Gospel). So follow me here, Paul's answer to moral-maturity issues is the gospel. When Paul deals with marriage in Ephesians 5, he brings in the gospel. When dealing with immorality at the end of Ephesians 4 and beginning of 5 he again brings the gospel. In the book of Philippians where there is humility issues and personal conflicts he again brings in the gospel as it pertains to Christ's humiliation leading to our salvation. In 1 Peter where Christians are suffering, Peter brings in the reality and implications of the gospel (1 Pe 2:21, 3:18, 4:1). In Colossians, the church was seeking to mature with legalism (laws), asceticism (laws), and mysticism (laws) and Paul's answer to these false ways is Christ and His gospel grace (Col 2:6-7). In Romans, where there were Jew and Gentile issues, Paul expounds the gospel for eleven chapters! Peter, in telling Christians to supplement their faith with Christian virtues, tells them that the reason they are not doing this is that they have forgotten the cleansing of the gospel (2 Pe 1:9)! Trust me, I can give many more examples, but I think you get the point. In every moral issue, the issue is a lack of gospel and so the answer is clarification and application of the gospel. Immorality is the symptom of a gospel vacuum (gospel missing) and so we do not treat the moral symptoms but the false gospel root of the issue. Immorality is the symptom of a gospel vacuum (gospel missing) and so we do not treat the moral symptoms but the false gospel root of the issue. So why do we at RCM obsess and centralize our ministry on the gospel? Because every practical discipleship issue in the New Testament is addressed by the gospel and since the gospel is the answer to all discipleship issues we are exalting the answer always! And because we do not want to make ourselves feel temporarily good about putting moral Band-Aids on sin wounds when there is a raging unbelief infection causing the wounds. We are gospel surgeons at RCM for going after the real root cause, not ignorant appliers of Band-Aids to mask symptoms.
1 Peter 2:21(HCSB) For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.
1 Peter 3:18 (HCSB) For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.
1 Peter 4:1 (HCSB) Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin—
Colossians 2:6-7 (HCSB) Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.
2 Peter 1:9 (HCSB) The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.
The Bible as a Whole is Summarized to be About Faith in Christ
You may tell me, “Yeah, I get what you saying, but you can't just focus on some things more than others, you have to focus on everything in the same way.” Sounds fair doesn't it? Well, what does the word say about the gospel's place in the Bible and the Christian life? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians (1 Co 15:1-4) that the gospel is of first importance. Not that it is an important thing but it is the thing of first importance to the Christian. In Galatians (Ga 6:14), Paul says that he would never boast about anything outside of the cross (NOTHING). The way Paul says it conveys the idea that focusing on anything centrally other than the cross is repulsive to him. In 2 Corinthians (2 Co 2:2), Paul says that He doesn’t care to talk or know about anything outside of Christ and His cross. Really? Years of ministry and your hobby horse was one thing? Yep. In Luke 24, in the whole chapter Jesus says that the whole Bible is about His saving work being accomplished, proclaimed and believed. The whole Bible! So let's think about this together. The Bible says that its center and focus and preoccupation and summary is Christ's saving work (Ep 1:9). It does not say that it is our growth, our holiness, or our discipleship or people getting saved (all important things). You see growth, conversion and holiness is the by-product of central things being central, not secondary things dependent on primary things being central. The second the central thing (gospel) becomes just a thing with other things, all things that depend on the central thing are destroyed! The solar system needs a central celestial body to revolve around if all will remain intact. The Christian solar system must revolve around the central and climactic theme of the gospel or everything falls to pieces. Heresy in the church is not just wrong teaching but emphasizing the wrong things in the wrong way.The Christian solar system must revolve around the central and climactic theme of the gospel or everything falls to pieces. Heresy in the church is not just wrong teaching but emphasizing the wrong things in the wrong way. Why do we obsess over and exalt the gospel all the time? Because God does (open up Revelations 5 and check out the heavenly gospel party) and says that this is the only way everything else holds together. The whole Bible is always assuming the central theme of the Bible which is the gospel. If all things hold together with the gospel being the center and not being side-lined anywhere else, then for the sake of all things, the gospel must remain at the center! When the foundation of the house is removed all else—no matter how good it is—has no ability to stand. And so, we at RCM as a whole seek to truly keep the main and central thing at the center, all the time for the sake of all other things (things like growth, conversion) which depend on the main thing being the main thing and not just a thing or even just an important thing.
that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures,
Galatians 6:14 (HCSB) But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.
2 Corinthians 2:2 (HCSB) For if I cause you pain, then who will cheer me other than the one being hurt by me?
Ephesians 1:9 (HCSB) He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him
The Apostles’ Mission which is also Ours is Summed Up to be about Faith in the Gospel
We all know that we don't make up the mission of the church as we go along and encounter new needs but that we have been given God's very own mission to manage (at least, I would hope that is our understanding). Here is something very vital to observe and implement in the church: whenever the Apostles talked about their mission to and in the church it is always summarized as being about preaching the gospel and building up the Saints in faith in the gospel. Paul, in writing to Titus about what is needed to be done in Crete, summarizes the Apostles' calling as being to build up the faith of God's elect with a knowledge of the truth (gospel) that leads to godliness. Paul's entire mission is to build up faith in God's people with the gospel! Paul, in writing to the Roman church which already had believed the gospel, says that he is eager to go minister to them in order to preach the gospel to them (Ro 1:15)! What? Paul, you want to go to Christians who know the gospel to continue to preach the gospel? Yes! Should I say more? Paul says in Ephesians 3 that his call to the church (the existing church not the future church yet to be) is to proclaim the riches of Christ (Ep 3:8). After having ministered to the Ephesian church for three years he tells them that he leaves them with the message of God's grace which is able to build and take saints all the way home (Ac 20:32). Having built the church with the gospel, what do you leave that church with as you depart? Paul says with the gospel! Peter talks about Christian growth being continuously dependent on taking in the word of the gospel (2 Pe 2:1-3). So if we are those who have inherited the Apostles' mission to preach the gospel what are we supposed to be doing? You got it, preaching the gospel as our primary call in and out of the church. So the reason we seek to obsess and drench people with gospel grace all the time is because we are an apostolic church that seeks to do what the Apostles did. And if the Apostles' mission was to preach the gospel to the church then we are not going to reinvent the wheel. Our primary summary calling is to proclaim a message about a Someone (Christ) not messages about what many someones can and should do. Our primary summary calling is to proclaim a message about a Someone (Christ) not messages about what many someones can and should do. If your church has anything else as the primary and central goal (change society, transform people, restore culture, work miracles, get converts, grow the ministry) then they have simply walked away from the Apostles' primary mission and invented their own (note that all those things that people focus on are products of our primary mission; they are not the primary mission).
Romans 1:15 (HCSB) So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome.
Ephesians 3:8 (HCSB) This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah
Acts 20:32 (HCSB) "And now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified."
2 Peter 2:1-3 (HCSB) But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.
The on-repeat Memorial for the Christian is the Gospel not Anything Else
This is something which I think often goes unnoticed by the church because of how fixed we are on trumpeting what our left and right hands are doing. Jesus commanded us to memorialize, regularly celebrate, and continuously commemorate one thing and one thing alone. And that is nothing less than the death of Jesus represented and communicated in the Lord's supper. Jesus did not command us to memorialize, celebrate, and commemorate His teachings or His miracle or His kind example but simply and only His atoning death for our sins as sinners. Jesus set forth for the church to regularly gather to remember and celebrate His death for people who sold Him out in their idolatry and rebellion. Certainly, Jesus could have called us to gather to memorialize, regularly celebrate, and continuously commemorate His ethics and His example but He didn't. Why? Do Jesus's example and ethical teachings not matter? Of course they matter! But still they are not what Jesus commands us to memorialize, regularly celebrate, and continuously commemorate, because the church-gathered is primarily about remembering to continuously trust in what Jesus did for the church thousands of years ago, not what the church is doing today. The celebration and memorial at the center of the church is about what happened in history in Jerusalem not what is happening today. Our gatherings are not primarily to do things for God nor are they to get marching orders to do things unto God.The celebration and memorial at the center of the church is about what happened in history in Jerusalem not what is happening today. You may say to me, “How can you say that?” My answer would be, if Christian gatherings were to be primarily about doing things for Him then He would not have commanded us to memorialize, celebrate, and commemorate His saving-death for us. Yes, we have marching orders to do and yes we offer things to God but that comes from always celebrating, memorializing and commemorating His bloody saving sacrifice, not moral mandates! The church primarily celebrates and eats and drinks gospel regularly until the Lord comes which means that this is not a fixation that passes to make way for something else. We may offer the Lord's table once a month and make it a ridiculous spectacle for people to make themselves worthy for grace, but it still remains to be the only thing we regularly are commanded to define ourselves by and to live by as Christians. And so, if we have been given a ritual in which we eat and drink bread and wine to represent our need to consume and trust Jesus's gospel grace provisions regularly and repeatedly, what should the focus of our teaching and discipleship be about? Something else? Why do we preach Christ all the time in everything at our church? Simply because Jesus commanded us to keep devouring what He did—the Lord's supper—until He comes back. It makes good sense for us to speak primarily and regularly about the one thing He told us to regularly remember and celebrate. While others may celebrate themselves and all their great deeds as the great memorial of the church, we will be content to allow Jesus's blood-shedding for us to be the celebration that takes us though our weeks all the way into the Lord's presence when He calls us home.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (HCSB) For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Luke 22:19 (HCSB) And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Acts 20:7 (HCSB) On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight.
The Christian life is about Death, Burial and Resurrection not Moral Improvement
I can state my headline another way: morality comes from His death and resurrection, not moral effort and seriousness. There is something that I often hear in the church which has become somewhat of a dogmatic cliché that everyone just parrots: Christianity is all about being on the journey to be more like Christ. Basically, Christianity is fundamentally a religion where Jesus helps us be better people. This is partially true but still a half truth that is deceptive; Christianity is not primarily or essentially about us acting more like Jesus, it's primarily about us continuing to re-identity with Jesus's historic-saving actions for us. Really? Yes, really. I invite you to look at the full context (this is key) of every passage in the New Testament about the Christian life. Romans 6, 7, and 8 or Colossians 1,2, and 3 or Ephesians 4, 5, and 6 or 1 Peter 1, 2, 3, and 4 or Galatians 2, 5, and 6 and Philippians 1, 2, and 3 and James 1 and Hebrews 1-12, and the whole book of 1 John. I want to challenge and encourage you to look at what the Christian life is described as (union with Christ in death, burial and resurrection) and what every discussion about Christian morality occurs in (in the context of the Christian being dead, buried and raised in Christ). You will never find Paul or Peter or John say central defining statements that say that Christianity is primarily about acting more like Jesus or imitating Jesus. Yes, you will find many things about the importance of reflecting and imitating Christ but this is not the primary focus. Imitation is the result of assimilation in death burial and resurrection. You do find the Apostles saying that their life is about their old life dying with Christ and their new life of resurrection with Christ over and over and over. You will never find Paul or Peter or John say central defining statements that say that Christianity is primarily about acting more like Jesus or imitating Jesus. Yes, you will find many things about the importance of reflecting and imitating Christ but this is not the primary focus. Imitation is the result of assimilation in death burial and resurrection. Things like I have been crucified with Christ and re-created in Christ and buried with Christ (Ro 6:1-6, Ga 2:19-21, Ep 2:8-10). The Christian life is about regularly re-embracing and re-experiencing the power of the old life and man being crucified and buried in Christ and the new man being alive in the resurrection of Christ (Ro 6:1-14). To reduce the Christian life to being chiefly about acting more like Jesus is a poor substitute to resurrection power with and in Jesus. This is why Paul prays that believers would come to know the greatness of Christ's resurrection in their everyday life which they participate in by faith (Ep 1:18-19). Believer, what is most essential is that you need to know more about being attached to Christ's resurrection power! This is why Peter tells the Christian that they have a living and powerful and preserving hope in the resurrection of Jesus (1 Pe 1:3-5). This is why Paul says that His Christian goal is to know the power of Christ's resurrection (Php 3:10). That's the goal! Brother and sister, Christianity is not firstly or primarily about acting more like Jesus but it is about reconnecting by faith in the power of death, burial and resurrection with Jesus afresh and anew through the proclamation of these things in the word and sacraments! This is your primary calling; this is your primary focus for becoming like Jesus. It is about discovering what the gospel of Jesus has done already in Christ as opposed to being primarily fixed on what you have yet to do (Ga 5:24). You don't need to do, you need to die and then do as a raised dead man in Christ! You do not need to improve and climb, you need resurrection power! And all that is yours through faith in Jesus and nothing else! So if the focus of Christianity is death, burial and resurrection with Jesus not acting like Jesus we must as a church seek to be primarily helping people to embrace death, burial and resurrection in the Christ of the gospel rather than seeking to be more focused on acting like the Christ of the gospel. Acting like Jesus comes from you dying with Jesus in your worthless morality and being raised with Jesus in resurrection life! Quote to me a million passages about acting like Christ; I have no problem with any of them and think they are totally valid and necessary for every Christian. However, remember that the Christian life is about trusting in death, burial and resurrection in and with Christ before it is anything else.
Romans 6:1-6 (HCSB) What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin
Galatians 2:19-21 (HCSB) For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (HCSB) For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 1:18-19 (HCSB) I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.
Romans 6:1-14 (HCSB) What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
I hope that this would help you, Reconcile Church Miami visitor, or grapevine skeptic to understand that our gospel preoccupation is biblical, for the glory of God, and for your most practical benefit as a Christian in your day-to-day walk. Our hope and desire is that Miami would be regularly flooded with more and more churches and people who desire to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.