Feb 6 2015

Increasing Gospel Fluency

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

Saved by grace, apart from works, recreated in Christ Jesus to do good works — that’s what we unpacked in this past week’s sermon. These good works that grow out of grace driven effort yield wonderful fruit, namely: 1) displaying evidence of gospel transformation which confirms our faith, 2) being a winsome, living testimony to the world of the grace and holiness of God, 3) glorifying God as we “walk” in His purpose for our lives.

In the sermon I suggested that the answer to “How do we live graciously, growing in good works?” is primarily found in increasing our Gospel Exposure and increasing our Gospel Fluency. By increasing our Gospel Exposure, I mainly mean “inputting” more gospel into our lives than we do worldly fluff. Input the Gospel through:

  • Reading, memorizing, and obeying the Word of God
  • Make worshipping with God’s people a priority and invest while you’re there
  • Read Christian literature, fiction and non-fiction, apologetics
  • Find Christian music that fits (and stretches) your tastes

 

I believe that if we increase our Gospel Exposure, our “output” of the gospel and of good works is bound to be affected.

Here in this article, I wanted to draw attention to a particular application of increasing our Gospel Fluency. Gospel Fluency is how we “output” the gospel to ourselves and to others. This is how we believe the gospel and how we practice the gospel. This is how we share the gospel in word and in deed. Just like learning any new language, developing a gospel fluency takes some time and practice. Thus, don’t get discouraged and think that you aren’t good enough. And at the same time, don’t underestimate the power of the Spirit to make much out of our seemingly meager offerings.

Gospel fluency begins with being able to preach the gospel to yourself in order to apply the truth of the gospel and power of the Spirit to areas that God wants to make holy. The message that you preach to yourself is often easily done through memorizing Scripture (like the verses above.) It can also be as simple as praying something like, “Jesus, thank you for coming down from heaven to die and pay for my sin. I don’t want to make your forgiveness cheap by choosing things that dishonour You. I receive Your forgiveness and step out in faith to act according to YOUR will.” Making a conscious step to internalize the truth of the gospel like this has an amazing transformative effect. What’s more, the very act of preaching to ourselves progresses in us, making us more like Jesus. Here’s how I see that happening.

temptation comes > sin occurs > preach to ourselves > repent > receive grace

(This also basically represents how we come to Jesus in the first place to be saved from sin. As we grow, we learn to preach/apply the gospel BEFORE we sin as a means to combat temptation.)

 temptation > preach > win sometimes/sin sometimes (moralism) > repent > grace

(This is where we learn to preach the gospel to ourselves in order to combat sin, but a limited understanding of grace finds us ultimately striving for righteousness under our own power. We try to be moral to please God or avoid punishment and find ourselves on a bit of a rollercoaster.)

 temptation > preach > grace > win > grace

(This represents how I believe the Apostle Paul to be describing the battle with flesh in Romans 7&8. When we are conflicted and preach, “There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and we believe that grace over ourselves, we DO find victory over sin. This enriches our experience of grace and leads to good works out of grace driven effort. And as we continue to grow in the Lord and His grace, we see . . .)

temptation > Spirit-affirmed grace > win > grace

(This is where the grace of God and our sensitivity to His Spirit inside of us is so rich, that it shortens the response time of embracing grace to respond to circumstances, particularly sin. The preaching of the gospel to ourselves has reached such a place of fluency, that it is a part of our natural rhythms.)

Practically this looks like when I am confronted with a temptation/sin internally OR with a need/decision/opportunity externally, my sensitivity to the grace shown me has such a short response time that I begin to naturally respond like Jesus would. Gracious, good works flow out of an honest, pure heart. This is not to say that responding with grace is always easy. This is not to say that we don’t mess up, or wrestle with applying the gospel in certain circumstances. But I do believe that this is how God shapes us into being thriving, effective CHRISTians.

As I see this progression at work in various areas of my life, I see that becoming more like Jesus is what makes me a more satisfied human being. It’s what makes me a better parent, shaping my kids into the image of God. And since it is God’s grace that enables and fuels this way to live, that’s why it brings HIM glory and not us! We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, (by grace) to do good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them . . . that is what changes us and is what changes the world!


Feb 24 2012

settling in — and renewal

Jason and Parliament

glad to be back in Ottawa

For the past week, my family has been re-integrating ourselves into routines here in Ottawa.  We’ve been reminding ourselves of what day the trash gets picked up, which recycling bin goes out, and we’ve been refilling our pantry.  The kids are back to getting semi-consistent nap times.  I’m slowly filtering through the piles of loose-ends and finding a groove with work.

To be honest, as Carrie and I have compared notes while we’re “getting back to normal” (whatever that means), we’ve each felt overwhelmed at times with the enormity of the tasks at hand.  On one side, the sheer volume of to-do items can be daunting.  On the other side, the intimidating level of consequence of many tasks, be it financial, family-wellbeing, or direction for the church, can border on paralyzing.

A lesson from the Word that has been a rallying point for Carrie and I this last little while comes from Romans 12:2 & Ephesians 4:23.  Each verse calls us to be “renewed in our minds.”  The difference in the words for “renew” is telling and encouraging.

In Romans the word is anakainosis and means “made new: different, not recent.”  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God entered me and both made me a new creation and is making my mind new as it transforms parts to be more like Jesus.

In Ephesians the word is ananeoo and means “made new, young: recent, not different.”  Here, this is my participation in the Spirit’s work.  The same Spirit is in me daily completing me and giving me strength, and so I’ve got a responsibility to make fresh application of what I know to be true.

Therein lies the connection to managing life, schedules, pressures, and what not.  Stressful situation may not change at all, so the change needs to happen in me/us.  The Holy Spirit enables me to apply myself, take a step back, and renew my mind by applying Divine Truth to my situations.  It’s not magic; it’s believing the Bible and applying it’s truth.

I’ve seen the Spirit help me keep my joy this past week through late nights with little sleep (kids), through a fender bender in our new car, through the pressures of getting back to work, through balancing our family routine and the tasks of growing into being a family of five, and more.

Join me in memorizing these two verses and in taking time to step back and “renew your mind”.  Stand on God’s truth and let His promises equip you for your tasks.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Ephesians 4:23

 


Nov 1 2011

Growing in Grace

2Cor. 12:9 > “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (italics added)

Eph. 1:7-8 > “In him we have redemption through is blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us…” (italics added)

In a few short parenting moments last night, I turned a new corner in my understanding of grace.  What’s more, I’ve come to greater treasure the Lord for His lavish grace, and I’ve been convicted of how far I am from emulating Him as I ought.

The scene was fairly routine as the night began to wind down.  Bed time.  Long day.  Everybody is tired.  As we round the final corner and head towards lights out, Caleb asks, “Dad, do we have time to read a book?”  Now, I don’t have anything against reading books, but sometimes I just want the bed-time-routine to be over.  So selfishly, I just want to say, “No.”  But the fact that there is time to read a book together with the fact that he asked so nicely, it’s really hard to decline.  So here’s what I said:

Well buddy, I’ll tell you what.  If you can go finish your milk and have a good attitude through your bathroom chores, we’ll check the time and maybe read a book.

Seems like a pretty good response, huh?  Well, allow me to let you in on what what going on in my heart.

As Caleb headed to get started on that list of contingencies, I grabbed the Bible story book knowing full well that “there would be time.”  While grabbing the book and considering its contents the Holy Spirit split me wide open:

Don’t kid yourself, Jason.  You are not showing your son grace.  You’re making him work for your “favour.”  You’re making the expression of your love and generosity dependent on him conforming his behaviour.  Do you want him to have a good attitude because it makes your life easier or because you want him to know and do the right thing?  Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way with His grace and you?

Wow.  I sure am glad that God’s grace — the lavish grace that is sufficient for all that I lack and the grace that is greater than all my sin — isn’t couched in a list of qualifications.  God offers His favour to me unmerited, undeserving as I am, though I’ve done nothing to earn it.  Jesus is the one who earned His grace . . . I get it just by my faith-filled association in Christ.  What a privilege.

Now back to parenting, I don’t think the answer is to spoil my kids.  God has given me a responsibility to teach them right and wrong and the consequences of their actions.  But what I don’t want to do is to teach them that they need to work for my affection.  I don’t want them to learn love as a works-based privilege.  I want to be stern in discipline, teaching them what is right and wrong.  And at the same time, I want to be able to show them that I love them like God loves: freely, without manipulation, without qualification.  They are mine, I love them . . . just like I am His and He loves me.

Caleb and Hannah

Caleb and Hannah