Growing Through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

The Princess Bride is a classic movie beloved by many. If you haven’t seen it, it is about a Spanish swordsman avenging the death of his father who was murdered by a government official who happened to have six fingers.
Now, if you HAVE seen the movie, you might be taking issue with my synopsis. “Yes,” you admit, “there is a story line of revenge against the six-fingered man, but that’s not everything the movie is about! You left out the love story of Wesley and Buttercup, and Prince Humperdink’s treachery, and the R.O.U.S.es, and Vizzini’s death to iocane powder, and The Machine, and what about the Impressive Clergyman?!?!?”

And you’d be right. There is so much more about The Princess Bride.

Many people do something similar with the Gospel. They tell people the gospel is what “saves” a person spiritually. And while that is very true, salvation isn’t the totality of the Gospel. The Gospel is so much more. It isn’t just what saves you, it is also what sanctifies you. As Tim Keller says in his article entitled “The Centrality of the Gospel,”

“We never ‘get beyond the gospel’ in our Christian life to something more ‘advanced.’ The gospel is not the first ‘step’ in a ‘stairway’ of truths, rather, it is more like the ‘hub’ in a ‘wheel’ of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make progress in the kingdom.”

This is why the Apostle Paul said  to the Jesus-followers living in Colossae…

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” (Colossians 2:6)

In other words: How does a person receive Christ Jesus the Lord? Through the Gospel. So how should a person “walk in him” (i.e. growing spiritually)? Through the Gospel.

This is SUCH an important facet of the Gospel. Throughout this series, we’ve seen how we are redeemed,  justified,  adopted,  ransomed, and so much more through Jesus’ life, death, & resurrection. But too many Christians accept these truths, but still try to live out their faith through their own power and strength, rather than let the Gospel be at the center of their spiritual growth.

But if you are going to become the person God calls you to be, it is going to come through your continual surrender to the Gospel. That surrender can be seen by surrendering:

  • your time to read the Scripture, to pray, and to serve others
  • your possessions to bless others
  • your activities to avoid the things that draw you away from Christ and invest in activies that draw you to Him.

But those activities alone don’t help you grow spiritually. They have to be paired with the gospel where they are motivated by the Spirit.

So may you, this week, seek to grow spiritually by surrendering your time, your possession, your activities, and your affections through the Gospel, so you might find the joy God offers to you through Christ.

Wrath Relinquished through the Gospel

Hello there!

How are you doi…

What’s that? Oh… the title of this post.

Yea… I’m not surprised you’re opening this page with a question mark floating above your head. “Are we really going to talk about wrath?”

Yes, yes we are.

Talking about God’s wrath makes us uncomfortable. We like to think of God as a God of love (which He is!), and so to talk about His wrath makes Him sound cranky, vengeful, or even evil.

But let me point out an important truth about you that you might not realize at the moment. You don’t want a God who doesn’t show wrath.

Think about it: If God didn’t possess rage, then He wouldn’t be just. You wouldn’t like a God who was passive, allowing evil to permeate our world without consequence. If He did let evil go unpunished, He would either be impotent or uncaring. So you want Him to be a just God who shows wrath against the evil in our world.

Also, without wrath, God wouldn’t be able to fully reveal His love. If you are a parent and caught someone trying to kidnap your baby, you’d be extremely angry. Your love for your child would fill you with wrath. It’s the same (and even more so!) with God.

So whether or not you like the idea at first blush, God is a God of wrath.

The Recipient of God’s Wrath

But there is an important truth about God’s wrath you need to know. God’s wrath is first and foremost against sin, not people. The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans,

” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

lightning stormNow, that verse could be translated “For the wrath of God is revealed in heaven against ungodly and unrighteous men…” making it seem that God’s wrath is against certain humans. But let me ask you: what is it that makes a man (or woman) ungodly and unrighteous? Their sin!

God’s wrath is therefore first against sin, not against humanity.

A parent might be disappointed when they witness their child wallop an innocent kid on the playground. But a healthy parent’s anger will be first against the action, then directed toward the child.

This is why 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus sin. I know, that sounds strange, but read it for yourself:

“For our sake, he made him  (aka Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

As you think that truth through, you realize that by Jesus becoming sin, God’s wrath could come against sin instead of directly at mankind.

This means that if you have placed your faith in Jesus, any wrath God may have had toward your sin has been relinquished through the cross. The righteous wrath of God was satisfied to see sin punished and defeated by Jesus’ sacrificial act on the cross.

So if you are living day to day fearing  God is angry with you because of past sins or repeated sinful behavior, know that His wrath toward your sin has been relinquished through the cross. God is like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, running down the road longing to embrace you, despite what you have done. He loves you and His wrath toward your sin has been relinquished through His selfless act.

Adopted Through the Gospel

Adopted through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

Last week, I shared the “facet” of how we are spiritually born through the gospel. Well, the Scriptures take this concept even further by talking about how we are also “adopted” through the gospel.

I know, I know, that’s confusing. How is someone “born” through the gospel, and yet also “adopted?”After all, if a child is born to parents, those parents don’t have to also adopt the child.

That is quite true. But on the spiritual level, God does both. The 4th chapter of Galatians tells us this: When you believe the Gospel, you are both born of Him  (Galatians 4:26) and adopted by Him (Galatians 4:5). I think God intentionally uses both concepts to get across a very valuable truth.

Full Rights as a Child
I have had several friends adopt little girls from China. One of them  told me that on their first evening back in Iowa, the mom put her new little 2-year-old in the high chair while making dinner, and to keep her daughter happy while waiting, Mom put a bunch of Cheerios on the tray of the high chair, just like she had with her other kids.

However, instead of picking up a Cheerio to put in her mouth, or throw them on the floor like some kids, this newly adopted little one immediately grabbed as many Cheerios into her fist as she could, stuffing them into her mouth as quickly as she possibly could. In that moment, my friend told me she was reminded that her newly adopted daughter had been poorly fed in the orphanage and had to fight for every scrap of food she could.

But then my friend told me she was also heart broken, because her daughter at 2 years of age didn’t realize the truth of her new reality. She was acting like she still lived in the orphanage. What she didn’t realize was that she was now part of a family where she did not have to fight for Cheerios. Everything that belonged to her new family was hers as well. When her new mom and dad signed the adoption papers, everything that was theirs instantly became hers as well.

I think this is what God wants us to understand by telling us that we are not just born of the gospel, but also adopted through the gospel.  The imagery of adoption reminds us that while we were separated from our Heavenly Father by sin, we now have complete access to Him and that all that is His is ours as well.

If this truth still seems hard to grasp, spend some time reading slowly, thoughtfully, repeatedly, and prayerfully through Ephesians 1:3-14seeing the truth that anyone who knows the Son is adopted as a son or daughter. And as an adopted child of God, everything that is God’s is yours. You have been given every spiritual blessing under heaven!

So enjoy your position as an adopted child of God! Let this beautiful “facet” of spiritual adoption bring you joy.

Do Unto Others What God Did For You

by Erin Bird

I’m pretty sure you have heard the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” But if you think about it, that could be potentially selfish. “Hey, I’d really like someone to give me a present, so I’ll give some else a present so that they get the idea!”

In the Gospel Prayer found in J.D. Greear’s 2011 book Gospel, the sentiment isn’t “do unto others what you want them to do for you.” Rather it is “do unto others what God has done for you.” Here is how J.D. puts it (with slight “massaging” by me):

The Gospel Prayer

“Heavenly Father, in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less. Help me realize Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others. And Heavenly Father, as I pray, help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

We’ve already looked at the first two sentences in this short series on The Gospel Prayer (here is sentence #1 and here is sentence #2). So let’s take a few moments together to consider that third thought: “As you have been to me, so I will be to others.”

Gospel-Motivated Relationships

Because we are looking at the Gospel Prayer, we need to take a quick second to remind ourselves of what is the gospel. At Riverwood, our definition of the gospel is…

“The ongoing story of God redeeming broken and imperfect people and restoring them into the perfect and complete image of Jesus.”

The tools God uses to accomplish this spiritual redemption and restoration of people are the cross and empty tomb of Christ. As we look at the cross, we see God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, justice, kindness, and so much more. Yet as we look at the empty tomb, we see God’s power, presence, sovereignty, faithfulness, and more.

But here’s the kicker: These attributes of God seen through the Gospel aren’t to just stop at changing our lives. Over and over in the Scripture, God instructs us to take the attributes He has shown us through the cross and empty grave, and display them towards others, changing their lives in the process.

For instance,

  • just as God has given us forgiveness, we are to forgive others. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • just as God has shown us love, we are to love one another. (1 John 4:7-12)
  • just as God put your needs first, put the needs of others before your own. (Philippians 2:4-7)
  • just as God showed us great mercy, we need to be merciful toward others. (Luke 6:36)
  • just as God generously gave Jesus for us, we need to be generous toward others as well. (2 Corinthians 9:13-15)

But why pray this?

So it’s clear the Bible instructs us to do toward others what God has done toward us through Christ, but why do we need to pray it? Aren’t these just actions we need to do?

Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others

Perhaps you are holier than I am, but I am a selfish person. If left to my own ways, I will often try to carve time to give to myself. But the gospel does not teach that God changed me so I could be absorbed in “me” more. The gospel says God is transforming me to be more like Jesus.

So I need to pray not to tell God something He doesn’t already know, but to invite God to remind me of what the Gospel leads me to do. Praying “Just as You have been to me, help me be to others,” invites God to continue to transform you into the likeness of His Son, to love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

So I invite you to join me in asking God to help us do unto others what He has done for us through Christ.

Like Riverwood on Facebook