Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Three Dollars Worth of Gospel

I ran across this very convicting quote from D.A. Carson today . . .

“I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much – just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races – especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of gospel, please."

Carson's satire implies what we too easily forget: the Gospel cannot be quantified, packaged and marketed. It cannot be taken buffet style, a la carte or piecemeal. It can never be reduced, diluted, enhanced, or altered without immediately becoming something else. The potency of the Gospel is in its purity. Its power is in its simplicity.

What is this pure and simple Gospel? It is nothing less than the message that God gave Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ to die for our sins, to die in our place, to die physically and spiritually in the experience of that eternal misery which we rightfully deserve. It is nothing less than the message that He took our place in death, and brought us back from destruction by His resurrected, eternal and indestructible life. It is nothing less than the message that God accepts us poor and wretched sinners based solely on the atoning death of Christ, Who as a man bore the holy wrath of God in our stead. It is nothing less than the message that we receive the benefits of His sacrifice by grace alone, through faith alone. It is nothing less than the message that in Him we died to sin, and in Him we live to God.

Our flesh is afraid of the Gospel taken straight, and rightly so. The Gospel means death to the self-centered, God-hating pride, the selfish ambition, and the idolatrous desires that infest our souls. For the natural man, it is unthinkable to lose these things. But to a heart awakened by grace, they are the vilest plague, and the thought of losing them is a delight. They are replaced by something (and someone) far greater. He becomes our joy in the midst of trouble, our comfort in sorrow, our hope in conflict. Once we have come to Him empty-handed and been embraced by His Gospel, we can't spend three dollars on a distortion of it. And we wouldn't trade it for a trillion.

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