When We Might Feel Discouraged
Christian, do not grow discouraged. It may seem as if the Church is beset on all sides by earthly foes and hellish fiends. Schisms and heresies abound. The seeds of mushy thinking and sloppy feelings have brought us a harvest of evangelical apathy, theological anemia, and liturgical cravenness. Many have lost their confidence in the efficacy of the Gospel, largely because we have been deceived into thinking that the Gospel’s only purpose is behavior modification or a topic for theological hair splitting.
The seeds of mushy thinking and sloppy feelings have brought us a harvest of evangelical apathy, theological anemia, and liturgical cravenness.My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus brings better news than simply “correcting our bad behavior.” This Gospel we preach is white hot with the blazing glory of resurrecting power. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). It is not merely a slap on the wrist to get us to stop chewing our nails. The Gospel is accompanied by the regenerating power of the Spirit, which makes dead souls live.
Two Errors in Understanding the Gospel’s Effect
Slapping the wrist of a corpse will only cause the corpse to more quickly crumble into the decaying dust of its existence. But this Gospel brings new birth. It makes that dead man live, truly live. This does indeed change his behavior because he was once dead, but now is alive. So, we must not make the mistake of thinking the Gospel is only about following Jesus’ example, this is the mistake of liberal theologians. But we must not make the mistake in the opposite direction that the Gospel’s effect is found only in some technical relationship to God.
The Gospel of Christ’s electing grace in saving sinners is not akin to a Google algorithm which makes sure I get on God’s good list, and so glad that’s all sorted! Rather, His redeeming work in saving His chosen ones means that we are united to His life and righteousness. This means a wellspring of the most variegated glories of Christ’s perfections and virtues are born anew in the sinner-made-a-saint.
To the Furthest Shore
But one other sinful assumption many evangelicals of our generation are making–and these are the young, reformed, and restless types–is an assumption that is based on the individualistic sensibilities of the Enlightenment era. Yes, God saves individual sinners. But this Gospel which we preach is more powerful than the saving of individuals. It is a leaven which is working its way through individuals into families into cities into nations. The Gospel, though at times it seems shrouded by the surrounding darkness, is a torch which will bring confusion to God’s enemies at the shout of our true Gideon–Jesus Christ.
When it breaks forth in all its resplendent glory of Spirit-born revival its effects will not be the mere redemption of individuals. As the fire of God’s grace lights upon the kindling of dead hearts, families, and cultures, it cannot but bring new life. It is a fire that destroys that it might make new. Kings and their kingdoms will stream to the city of our God (Ps. 68:29), all the nations will worship Him (Is. 2:2 & Ps. 86:9), and those walking in darkness will see a great light and as Isaiah foresaw: “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising (Is. 60:2).” This flood of fire with which God has poured out upon the earth, will wash through the whole earth and the Gentile nations shall come into Jerusalem to be nourished by the river of peace (Is. 66:12).
Make no mistake, the Gospel burns brightest when it seems the Church is at her darkest. It is her hope and her sword. The Church is not a victim of her circumstance, she is fair and terrible as an army sent out to conquest. She laughs at danger. She fears no darkness. This is so because the Gospel is not only effective in saving us for eternity, but the Gospel will conquer in history as well. The nations will rejoice in God, in history. We are not inviting the peoples of the nations to join our secret club of 42 people. We are proclaiming a Gospel that Christ has bought this world with His most precious blood and call upon all people, everywhere to repent of their rebellion, and be welcomed into the City of the True Jerusalem.
Repentance is not just for individuals, it is for city councils, family gatherings, federal governments, and continents.Repentance is not just for individuals, it is for city councils, family gatherings, federal governments, and continents. Africa, Asia, North & South America, Oceania, Europe, and Antarctica are Christ’s. Chicago, Weld County Colorado, Tokyo, Jamaica, Lesotho, Mosul, Saskatchewan, Amsterdam’s Red Light District, are all lay within the wide-extent of the domains of Christ’s Kingdom. We are to call them to baptize them into His covenant and to “obey all He has commanded” (Mt. 28:18-20). “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:9).”
Broadening Our Scope
Lift the smallness of our vision.Perhaps the reason for the ineptitude and impotence of our modern evangelism is that our scope of the Gospel’s extent and influence is so darn small. We want it to be a moral slap on the wrist or an entry in God’s rosters. When in fact, the Gospel is the good news that Christ is King of this planet, and we are to expect the nations to be redeemed as we faithfully preach His living Word as the Spirit pours out effusions of saving grace upon individuals, families and nations. His Kingdom shall know no end. So perhaps our confidence in the Gospel’s power should not be so constrained. It is far more potent than we could ever imagine. As one hymnodist once said, “Lift the smallness of our vision.”