II. We can’t learn unless our heart is engaged. Our Lord and His apostles spoke to the heart -and engaged the hearts of their hearers. The “grace and knowledge of Christ” is appropriated in a relationship effected by the Holy Spirit. As in worship, our learning and growing in the relationship with Christ and one another must be reverent, relevant, and relational.
III. The application of the Gospel is the key to everything else we become and do as a body of believers. The Gospel is far more than what gets a person “saved,” or rescued from his sins. It is the power of God for the entire Christian life, from the beginning point where one is declared righteous, (freedom from the power of sin) to the whole experience of growing in grace and becoming more like the One who saved him, and on even to the point when one is changed into that person just like Christ, without any sin.
Certain implications derive from this Gospel centered living:
Our Christian life is described as a life of son-ship, and not slave-ship. (Galatians 4:13) As sons and daughters of God in Christ we learn how to grasp the thoroughness of the Gospel. We are more than “forgiven”, since we enjoy a new relationship, a new status or position as His family members who are declared righteous by the works and death and resurrection of His Son and our Savior. This means we are not driven by the approval of others, or by a fierce desire to build a reputation. No longer are we our own functional saviors. That kind of bondage can be broken, as we learn in the Gospel what our Lord Jesus has done for us in obeying His Father perfectly for us.
When we’ve found ourselves looking to something other than God for satisfaction or significance we end up with what Tim Keller (pastor of New York City’s Redeemer church) calls “pseudo- lords and pseudo-saviors,” and the oppression that comes from them. The Bible calls all that rivals the place God should have in our lives, idolatry, and the same words of “love, fear and trust” that are applied to the things or people must be reserved for the living God above.
IV. If Christ Coastal is Gospel-centered, then what about the Law? The Law is the tutor that drives me back to Christ (just like the slave hired by first century people of affluence to take their children to school). One cannot afford to lose the distinction Martin Luther made between active and passive righteousness. Active righteousness, Luther claimed, is the Romans 10:3 perspective of one who is seeking to establish his own righteousness by keeping the Law. Instead, we live by faith (Galatians 2:20), trusting ourselves to “another” righteousness, one achieved by the Lord Jesus in His perfect obedience in our place, as well as suffering hell in our place on the Cross for every one of our sins. Thus, we 1) confess our mess, 2)receive His love as well as His forgiveness, and 3) walk the walk of Grace.
V. What do we think we are? The apostle Paul in I and II Corinthians gives us some very helpful word pictures of what we must learn to be. If our concern is to be used by God to bless the people in our neighborhoods, then we must take seriously Whose we are—not who we are. To learn to preach Christ and not ourselves, means we become more and more aware of this great treasure we carry in our cracked pots (II Cor. 4:5-7). If we truly are the new creatures in Christ as we have repented from our sins, and have trusted ourselves to Him, then we look at people differently: not wealthy or poor, not big or small (all the ways we have demeaned folks or have been put down by others), but as people like ourselves, whether they are believers or not. If Christ and Him crucified is our primary concern for Brunswick County, then we will not boast in ourselves or glory in our accomplishments; rather, we will identify with the apostle who referred to himself as “chief of sinners,” and even as foolish, weak, overlooked, the scum of the world (I Cor. 4:10-13).
VI. The Holy Spirit is not an IT- He’s the third person in the Godhead; He’s active today in the lives of His people. While we heartily agree that the Word of God is complete, and no more “revelation” is needed, the Spirit is promised to continue His illuminating work of making the Scriptures come alive in the believer’s heart, and doing all that is necessary to bring one to repentance and faith in Christ. “Apart from Me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) This forever defines our dependency in the Christian life on the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, and “through Him (the Spirit) who strengthens me, I can do all things. “ Philippians 4:13
VII. Our commitment is to serve the community and with the Lord’s help, we are to make the community better. To become true servants of Christ and others is not some heady goal: it is a mandate for His followers. The apostle Paul uses the image of the “under-rowers,” in describing the role of a servant. In I Corinthians 4:1 he pictures the slaves on a Roman galley, working below decks, out of sight, and rowing hard.
VIII. We want to recover a dated concept, the neighborhood. Recognizing that the Lord has placed us all strategically in certain neighborhoods, we are challenged to rethink those who are immediately near us. Luke 10:1-12 provides us an important model for us to live out the gospel in the context of the neighborhood:
- The Lord was already there before we moved in , and our prayer is that He will show us where He has already been working.
- Instead of looking at our neighbors with our own pre-packaged ideas, and making some dangerous assumptions about them, we are to humble ourselves and learn from them, listening to them.
- Rather than, “Here we are you lucky people!” we relinquish the control of the conversation and earn the right to be heard, even making ourselves vulnerable.
IX. Everything we are, do, say, think, and pray requires a Kingdom focus. As we live out the Gospel we recognize the King of the Kingdom. In a very real sense we announce with our lives that not only is the Kingdom near, but the Kingdom has come. The unbelieving world becomes acutely aware of the influence of the King, when in the presence of one who incarnationally represents the Lord Jesus.