Answering Eight Basic Questions All Of Us Ask2
I was recently asked by the hosts of The Laymens Lounge to answer a few questions about the Christian faith. I thought you might enjoy my answers.
1. What is the “Gospel” and what practical implications does the Gospel make in my everyday life?
I believe the Gospel is the gloriously good news, indeed the very best news, that God has graciously done everything necessary, at great sacrifice to himself, through the sinless life, penal substitutionary and sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ to reconcile us to himself forever.
So, yes, the gospel is primarily about restoring the ruptured relationship between man and God. That is the essence of the gospel. But there are many things entailed by the gospel. I thus make a distinction between the content of the gospel and its consequences. The consequences, or those things entailed by the gospel, are racial reconciliation, ministry to the poor and homeless, the final redemption and cleansing of the material creation in the new heavens and new earth, and the universal application of justice in all human affairs. But I remain firmly persuaded that we have not preached the gospel until we have made known the way in which a fallen, rebellious sinner might be reconciled to God, forgiven of their sins, and granted entrance into the kingdom of Christ Jesus.
So, at the heart of the gospel is the good news that God has made it possible for us to escape the condemnation of hell and the wrath we otherwise so richly deserved to endure.
2. What is “sin” and what is so terrible about it when I do sin? And what is my motivation to not sin?
Sin is any act, word, or deed that fails to honor and glorify God as the supreme treasure in the universe. What makes sin so sinful is that it fails to recognize, embrace, and give thanks for the most glorious and beautiful being in all the universe. Sin is always an act of idolatry, for in it we seek to find in something else what can only be found in God alone. We sin when we devote our energy and give ourselves to something other than the only person who is immeasurably and infinitely worthy of our complete faith, trust, and love.
My motivation to not sin is that I get God! If it is in his presence that we find the fullness of joy and at his right hand that we experience pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), my motivation not to sin is so that I might glorify God by enjoying him forever. Sin, therefore, is anytime and in any way that I seek to satisfy my longing for joy and pleasure in anyone or anything other than God.
3. What is God’s end goal for this world, all humans of this world, and me personally? Where is He taking it and what does it look like for me to be a part of that goal, and how can I have a role and purpose in that goal, and find meaning, and value, and my joy in that goal?
God’s end goal for this world is the worship of himself. His end goal is that he might be glorified, honored, and exalted in and through this world for the joy and satisfaction of his elect people. God’s end goal for me is that I might experience the greatest joy that comes from being satisfied and fully filled with the knowledge and worship of the greatest and most worthy Being, God.
What that looks like for me is to devote all my energy, by the power of his grace, to know him, enjoy him, and relish his beauty for my eternal satisfaction and his everlasting praise. My aim is thus to so portray the majesty and beauty of all that God is for us in Jesus that countless throngs of people will worship him with white hot praise and in doing so find the highest measure of joy and delight that is possible for a created, finite soul.
4. How can I, as a Christian who believes the Gospel and affirms orthodoxy, be compelled to genuinely desire God and the kingdom of God enough to become a true disciple, one who is willing to consider all things loss in comparison with knowing and loving Jesus?
The only way I or anyone else can “be compelled” to desire God and to devote myself as a disciple of Jesus, willing to lose all things for the sake of gaining him, is by beholding the light of the glory of God as revealed in the face of Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6). Seeing God as he has revealed himself in creation, in Scripture, and preeminently in his Son, Jesus Christ, is the ultimate way to knowing and loving him above all else.
5. As a Christian, at the end of a long day (when I have done what I ought not to have done - and not done what I ought to have done) what are God’s thoughts of me when I lay down my head at night and fall asleep?
In Christ, that is, in terms of my position in him, having had his righteousness imputed or reckoned to me through faith alone, God is always and eternally pleased with me, delighted with me, and sings over me in joy (Zeph. 3:17). But when it comes to my daily experience, to whatever extent I disobey or trust and treasure something or someone above him, I displease him and grieve his heart. There is, then, a huge difference between my eternal union with God, on the one hand, in which I am his beloved child whom he loves without conditions, and my experiential communion with God, on the other hand, in which I can either experience joyful fellowship and intimacy or, because of unrepentant sin, languish under the conviction wrought by the Holy Spirit and the disciplinary hand of a loving Father who seeks to turn me back to himself and to righteousness.
6. What is God’s mission given to us and how do I fulfill it without it becoming a feeling of another thing I have to do for God? And based upon that, what is needed at the personal, and church level to shape culture and to be on strategic mission?
God’s mission for his people is to spread a passion for the all-consuming glory of Jesus Christ and the unrivaled joy that comes from this above all else. It is not just “another thing I have to do for God” but something I truly and deeply delight to do out of the overflow of God’s love for me in and through his Son. What the church needs most, and what individuals in it need most, is a fresh revelation of the majesty of Christ and a heart that is captivated and enthralled by all that he is in himself and all that has done and will do for us who trust in him.
In addition, we desperately need to avail ourselves of the supernatural power and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that alone will energize us and enable us to carry this message to a lost and dying world.
7. For you personally, what has been the most compelling or powerful aspect of the story of the Bible that you delight in, has come to you fresh, and resulted in you loving God more and being excited to be a part of God’s story?
Beyond all other stories, it is the story of Jesus: his sinless and obedient life, living the life I should have lived but can’t, and his loving, sacrificial death in my place, dying a death I should have died but now never will.
8. For those who read this interview and get pricked of mind and heart; what can I do today, right now at this very moment (and beyond), that can result in the story of the Bible taking root in my own heart and shaping me as it has you?
First, cry out to the Holy Spirit to “open your eyes that you might behold wonderful things in God’s Word” (Ps. 119:18). Second, cry out for a fresh revelation of the beauty and majesty of Christ, that is, praying that God would grant you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him and that the eyes of one’s heart would be enlightened to see and savor the hope we have in Jesus. Third, prayer for a renewal of our spiritual taste buds, that we might sense, savor, and enjoy the sweetness of who Jesus is and all he has done for us.