Last fall our church did a little refreshing with the décor of the sanctuary. Along with patching the cracks in the ceiling and brightening the room with a fresh coat of paint, a new lectern was professionally hand crafted. I helped a bit with color selection, and when asked about the stain choice I learned that the words, “We preach Christ crucified” would be carved prominently on the face. Now Bob and I sought out a church that would do just that, preach Christ crucified. Instead of focusing on simply finding a “Bible believing” church when we moved here, we knew that we needed to be in a body that preaches the gospel. Every week.
Detractors from that frame of thought often argue, “what about the believer?” They mistakenly believe that the gospel has only implications for those among the not-already-convinced and that the believer needs REAL meat on Sunday. What I love about “Because He Loves Me” is that Elyse Fitzpatrick illustrates how the gospel, “Christ crucified,” not only has the power to save the lost, it also sanctifies the believer.
Far from a works mentality, a “man-centered, pull up your bootstrap sanctification,” Paul describes this process in Ephesians 1:10. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Fitzpatrick points out that, not only “has he done everything that needs to be done to secure our relationship to himself….He has also already prepared good works for us to do, to walk in.”
I can almost picture this life, a body if you will, one that God has already prepared for me. It actually looks a lot like him. My goal in life (Christlikeness) is to take steps INTO that body. To crawl inside. Imagine how difficult that would be! Not only is it a perfect body of which my imperfect one will find difficult to fit, it means that once I start getting inside you will no longer see me. It means setting aside my desire to be known, to be valued for how holy or good I can be. It means I become small and He becomes great.
“The gospel serves us by stripping away vain-glorious delusions we harbor about our innate goodness and ability to please God through our self-generated effort. When I forget that the only way that God could stand to have me in his family was by crushing the Son he loves—that without the perfect record of someone else I could not stand before his judicious holiness, that on my own I do not have within me either the desire of the power to please God—I am tempted to believe that I’m really pretty good. And although I might need a nip or tuck, if I try hard enough, I can accomplish all he has called me to. It’s when we forget the gospel, when we think we’re not really all that bad, not so much in need, not so far from Christlikeness, that pride, arrogance, and the inevitable guilt crush hope and faith.”