Sunday, March 13, 2016
The Gospel of Christ is not a gospel of second chances. Yes, God gives second chances. However, we do not have a gospel of second chances. Let me explain. Many of us think to ourselves, “I have sinned and failed.” We come to Christ and he forgives our sin and failure. This gives us a clean slate. We have another chance. We go out and purpose to try to do better. When we eventually stumble then we have Christ to again forgive us, pick us up, and maybe give some coaching or teaching so we can live better lives. We go out clean, then stumble again, and then repeat the process. And then repeat the process. Again. And again.
We hope we have been improving, getting better, and becoming a better person. Maybe we are getting to be a better imitation of Christ? Maybe we can get closer to God? What else can a person do?
The above is not the Gospel. The above is a spiritual application of the movie Groundhog Day.
We don’t have a Gospel of Second Chances. Why not? Because we never had a first chance. Without the first chance, then how can there be a second, a third, or even a seven-times-seventieth chance?
Why no first chance? We were all born into a broken world, a world broken and dysfunctional since the Fall in the Garden. We were not only born into a fallen, broken world, we ourselves were born broken, born with a sinful disposition. This was not God’s desire, not at all what he intended, but we and all before us have been broken and have contributed to the vicious, downward cycle of dysfunction and brokenness in this world.
We never had a first chance because we never had a chance to live holy, righteous lives in the first place. Yes, God gave Moses the Law but the purpose was not to give us a manual showing us how to live lives pleasing to God. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of the Law was to show us we do not, and will not, live sinless lives. The purpose was to show the world that we cannot fulfil the Law, to show that we can never, no matter how hard we try, never be holy, never be righteous, never be sanctified, and thus never be acceptable to God (Romans 3:19-20). We are guilty and already condemned. Showing us this is a good thing since the Law shows us the absolute necessity of God’s mercy. The penalty is death and without the Blood of the Lamb to pay that price for our freedom we have no chance.
The Gospel of Christ is that God through Christ Jesus came not to give a second chance to you or me, but to bring death to the old man and to bring to life a new creation in us. This new man, this new creation, this new person has the Holiness, Righteousness, and Sanctification of Christ. It is through the efforts of God, not the efforts of man; it is Christ in you or me, not you or me, that makes us a new creation.
Yes, we can act holy, but without Christ we cannot be holy. We can do righteous works, but without Christ we cannot be righteous. We can act sanctified, do the works of one who is sanctified, but only Christ can make us sanctified. Yes, in our own efforts we can act sanctified, righteous and holy, but we can’t keep it up. We can’t keep it up through our own efforts because it is only an act. I do not mean we are phonies or hypocrites; I mean these are merely acts, not who we are.
The Groundhog Day Gospel is a gospel of bondage, of endless repetition, of continual frustration. A gospel that does not bring us closer to God but lets us cling to the delusion that we can do better next time; the delusional that it is all about becoming better people. The message of the Groundhog Day Gospel is, “Not good enough” with the subtext, “Try harder, fail better.” Like the movie, each day we repeat the cycle. Unlike the movie, we never escape the cycle. Being better is not good enough. The word gospel literally means “good news.” This Groundhog Day Gospel is bad news. It is a false gospel. While this false gospel will not keep us from having our names written in the Book of Life, it can rob us of a lot of joy that God wants us to have in Christ.
What to do? How can we be freed from the slavery of this false gospel? How can we escape the living hell of not good enough and try harder, fail better? Christ suffered death on the Cross to free us; he never intended to settle for us just being better people. What God wants is more than we can give him though our own efforts. He died and rose again to make us sons and daughters of the living God. “Because of what God has done, you belong to Christ Jesus. He has become God’s wisdom for us. He makes us right with God. He makes us holy and sets us free” (I Cor 1:30 NIRV).
What to do? Jesus was asked by the people, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6: 28-29). Believe we are each a child of God if we have come to faith in Christ Jesus. Believe Christ did it all and that our standing as such is settled and will not change. God wants a close relationship with his children. How close? God wants to abide in us, to live in and with us, through the person of the Holy Spirit. Accept that the efforts of Christ brings this about, not our own efforts. So rest, take a Sabbath, take a permanent vacation from your own efforts. Rather than look to the efforts of our flesh, our human nature, look to God. (Romans 8:5-8). Follow God and let the Holy Spirit work in you and through you.
Rest from your efforts; abide in Christ; let the Holy Spirit do the work that he was given to do. You may be surprised when you realize your acts, your behavior, your inclinations will be changing, moving toward godliness. That God is working in you. You will find that being changed by God, by abiding in him, brings permanent change that could never be obtained by your own efforts.