Settling for half the gospel
Last night, I walked over to our nearby CVS and bought a gallon of ice cream. I like this ice cream because it has great taste, and it’s half the fat of regular ice cream. I guess I’ll live doubly as long as I would if I ate regular (wishful thinking). I feel better believing that I am doing less damage to my body.
Our society likes to think that too. We buy diet sodas, baked potato chips, and even Gatorade with less calories. Never mind the fact that there are other chemicals and processing that go into making this stuff. Well, I guess full-fat ice cream could be worse.
Hebrews 12:1b-2 states:
let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This passage comes after “the hall of faith” section of Hebrews. In that chapter, men and women of good and bad character have their names mentioned in the same breathe because they all acted by faith despite their circumstances. And, as Hebrews 11:1 states, faith is passive, it is the gift of God to have assurance in the midst of assault, trial, death and rejection.
So, when we reach this point in Hebrews, we are told that we (Who have been given four gospels in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) should focus on Jesus to run this race with endurance. Why? Because Jesus is the author of faith and the perfecter.
It is terribly sad that we have given up our birthright as Christians. We accept the premise that Christ has died for all of our sins, and chose us to be His own, but then we wander back to our own efforts to maintain faith and Holiness through our own efforts.
In fact, it is a slap in God’s face to take away from Him the right to sanctify us. It is a return to the vomit of our own efforts of personal morality, sin avoidance, and law-keeping (none of which bring life).
Paul puts it this way:
1You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
2This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
4Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain?
5So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3: 1-5)
But God tells us this how we are to believe and live: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
And, after Jesus had done “good works” (feeding 5,000 and walking on water), the disciples ask, 28 … “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28).
Jesus does not answer according to their efforts, but destroys such thinking by stating: 29 … “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Now, we can rest from our works, and enjoy the Sabbath of God’s salvation.
This salvation is not a mere starting point. Jesus has not set you and I free so that we could live a life of perfectionism. Perfectionism leads to either pride in our own efforts or despair that we are on a never-ending treadmill. You are better off becoming a Buddhist or joining a monastery.
God has not set us free so that we can sew together some leaves and cover our nakedness. They don’t do the trick anyways. He will not share His glory with you and me in our sanctification. God sacrificed His own Son to set us free! “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”! (John 8:36).
How does Jesus set us free? He kills us. He shuts the door on our self-focused, works-based efforts. He crushes our last bit of “… but I …” with the words from His cross, “IT IS FINISHED”. This is no “half-fat” gospel. It is THE Gospel. You see, He hasn’t come to reform you and I . Jesus has come to save us by crucifying us in His death and raising us by His resurrection. And … He already has.
To His eternal Glory, by His eternal Grace and in His eternal name. Amen.