I was having a conversation with my wife yesterday about our son getting in trouble on the bus. She was taking it really hard and I, in my pastoral wisdom, told her that she needed to find her identity in Christ and not our children’s behavior. Then my wife said something that totally blew me away: “What does that mean?” The truth is, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve read all of the books with “gospel” in the title. You know, The Gospel Driven Tea Party, How to Get a Gospel Driven Tattoo, and Gospel Centered Appendectomies. I talk the talk, but do I really understand it?
If I say something about us becoming more Gospel-centered, I have a lot of people in my congregation who shake their heads in agreement. It’s even better if I say it around a bunch of Reformed fanboys. It’s comparable to walking in a fundamentalist church and talking about how the Bible is inerrant (it is). Many will shout “Amen!” or nod in agreement, but the same folks that hold to inerrancy don’t necessarily believe in the sufficiency in scripture. Sure they pay it lip-service, but their dependency on it or lack thereof reveals how they really feel.
Us church people love our buzz-words or phrases, but do we understand what we’re saying? Are we mimicking or are we thinking? When you’re a mother or father who loves being a parent, does your child’s behavior not reflect a little on you? Is it wrong to be upset when they act badly? How do you punish them; the gospel is all about grace and mercy right? Does that mean I should always let them off the hook? I’m a pastor; is it wrong of me to take that really seriously? I know I’m not supposed to let that define who I am, but I do get disappointed in my messages and get discouraged with ministry failures. That’s okay, right? What’s the difference between letting something define you and letting it affect you?
questions right now.
Transformation occurs as Christians appropriate the gospel and live by faith in what God declares true in Jesus. Those who have been transformed by the power of this message recognize that every wrong action, thought, or emotion is fundamentally a form of unbelief in the gospel, in what it declares to be true.
Though a person can believe the message of the gospel, functionally we often reveal a deeper, heart-level belief that our power, approval, comfort, and security are more worthy of pursuit than God. Since Jesus Christ is the only way that God has provided for us to be saved, we sin when we find our meaning and worth in anything other than our identity in Christ.
That tells me that if you are going to live by the gospel, you need to be astute at identifying idols and confronting them. How your kids behave is important, but it doesn’t define you. Your standing with God in Christ is what defines you. Your behavior and speech says something about your heart, but it doesn’t change your identity in Christ. Our teachers and pastors need to do a better job of teaching the Church what this looks like. I need to do a better job of living it.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. Colossians 2:6
Father, teach us to not parrot all of the right words, but to learn to think. Thank you for saving me by your grace; teach me what it means to live by that grace. May we find our identity and security in You, and You alone.