Almost any genuine Bible-believing Christian will be able to articulate we are saved by grace not through our works. Salvation by grace is a uniqueness to Christianity not seen in any other world religion or philosophy. But in many instances the Christian church is missing something: we love our doctrine of grace, but we can be horrible at fostering a culture of grace.
By “culture of grace” I mean the church becomes a place “where good things happen to bad people” (The Gospel, Ray Ortlund Jr., p. 39).
Look at that closely: a culture of grace is a place where good things happen to bad people.
As professing Christ-followers, we can be so quick to tear each apart. In fact, I’m convinced the greatest threat to the church isn’t the LGBT movement. It’s our own internal gossip, back-biting, and critical spirits.
Francis Schaeffer shared this concern. In explaining what he thinks is needed for a church to be gospel-centric, he writes, “…if we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim” (2 Contents, 2 Realities). Gospel doctrine boldly, clearly, and repeatedly proclaimed ought to lead to gospel culture experienced.
Gospel + Safety + Time isn’t just theology we ought to believe and verbalize. It’s a culture we should experience every time we get together.
The Bible is very nuanced in its discussion of money. Within its pages, money falls into two different categories. It’s either a “danger” or a “blessing.” If money is a life-pressure, it’s not my financial position that needs to change. It’s my attitude towards it and my relationship with it that needs to change. How would I know if money is a life-pressure for me? Here are some signs based on Luke 12:13-34:
1) Gloating (v. 19)
In this parable, the rich man gloats about his bigger barns and his increasing excess. Gloating about the amount of money or “toys” I have is an obvious sign money has become a life-pressure.
2) Beauty (v. 27)
When I look to money and what it can buy to be my beauty, it has become a life-pressure. We can often use our money and stuff to make us look good in front of others; to give us a sense of prestige and importance.
3) Worry (v. 22)
If I worry about money, it’s a life-pressure. Worry and gloating convey to us money can be a life-pressure when we’re prospering and when we’re not.
4) Safety (v. 24)
Money has a voice. It whispers in our ears, “Here’s how you can have control in an uncontrollable world: have money!” When we look to money to be our protection and security, it’s become a life-pressure.
5) Pursuit (vv. 29-30)
We pursue money in one of two ways by either over-working to get more of it, or by thinking about it all the time.
Below are some diagnostic questions to determine if money is a life-pressure:
Let me finish by offering three keys to alleviating money as a life-pressure:
1) Think often about what makes life dangerous
Money is powerfully deceptive. It can convince us if we have it, what makes life dangerous will no longer be a threat to us. But that’s a lie. What makes life dangerous are things like: cancer, illness, injury, broken relationships, and death. In the end, money can’t do a thing to stop any of those.
“Teach us to number our days aright so that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
2) Get rid of it
Money-pressure is created when I look to it to be my significance or security. When I look to money and possessions to give me a sense of prestige or importance; to make me look impressive to the people around me or when I look to money to give me a sense of security, control, or protection, I am turning money into a life-pressure. Money becomes a life-pressure when I’m asking it to do something for me it’s incapable of fulfilling.
Getting rid of money helps prevent me from seeing it as a source of significance and security. Generosity actually helps alleviate money-pressure because it takes money off the table when I’m searching for significance or security. When I get rid of money it ceases to become an option for my significance or security.
3) Ponder God’s radical grace
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:32-33).
Notice the order.
It’s not: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor and you’ll be given the kingdom."
It’s: “You’ve been given the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor."
Only when you realize what you’ve already been given, will you be free from money-pressure. Only when you realize what you’ve already been given, will you be freed up to give generously.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
I’m in a blog series trying to make the case what a church ought to provide its people is: lots of gospel, lots of safety, and lots of time. Today I want to hone in on the necessity of the gospel being central in the life of a church.
A lot of people think the gospel is the truth lost people need to believe in order to be saved. This is true. But there's much more. The gospel is the truth Christians need to believe in order to be transformed.
In Galatians 2, Paul talks about his confrontation of Peter. He writes, “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas…” (Gal. 2:14).
Peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.
Let’s assume Peter, at this moment, was a genuine Christian. Peter doesn’t need the gospel in order to be saved. He’s already saved. But Peter does need the gospel to help him live in appropriate ways. He needs the gospel to help him think certain thoughts and not other thoughts; to believe certain beliefs and not others; etc. As a Christian, Peter needs the gospel in order to think, believe, and behave like a Christian. Or to put it differently, we need to learn to live out the "lines" of the gospel. We need to live out the implications of the gospel.
The gospel is NOT the doctrine we need to believe in order to be saved and then we move on other “deeper” doctrines. We never move beyond the gospel! We ought never to get passed the gospel! In the life of the church, the gospel needs to be the A to Z of Christianity because it is the A to Z of Christianity.