Following Jesus Together - August 23, 2022
How does Gospel Renewal Happen? Part 2
Last week we looked at the way God ordinarily renews His people: at church, in life together with other Christians, who are singing the gospel, praying the gospel, sitting under the preaching of the gospel and tasting the gospel in the sacraments. We used the metaphor of going where you know water is. Go where you know Jesus is, whether you feel like it or not.
Let’s add another building block to the portrait. When you come to church, who are you confronted with?
We see God’s magnificent glory shining through his multifaceted beautiful attributes AND we are confronted by the depths of our depravity in the presence of His goodness. The God and gospel-designed result ought to be humility.
As Richard Lovelace points out, this is what is supposed to happen in a relationship with the living God.
“The mighty acts of God combined with exposure to his law are designed to produce a humble awareness of human sin and divine goodness.” (Renewal as a Way of Life)
Seeing God, His power worked for us and hearing His law forms a healthy, renewing fear of the LORD.
Let’s pause and ask the questions – When was the last time you had an experience with the fear of the LORD? Do you know what that means? (See Proverbs 9:10) It helps to know that what the Old Testament calls the ‘fear of the LORD’, the New Testament calls faith in the LORD Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t sound right to our modern ears to say I need a renewing fear of the Lord.
So let’s clarify. It is not calling us to run away from God as if He is a terrifying tyrant who commands respect because of His raging punishments. Psalm 130:4 says with the LORD there is forgiveness so that He may be feared. Forgiveness is an act that moves us towards God, not away. Jeremiah 33:9 says that the nations will be afraid of how good God will be to His people. They will fear and tremble at God's goodness. The only times God says, “Be afraid” in the Scriptures is when He comes in judgment. But there is no judgment for all who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1)
The big idea is that fear of the LORD is a soul-trembling experience with the God of mercy, who set His affection on us before the foundation of the world. Fear is a strong word. It’s designed to communicate that God evokes a strong reaction. There is no moderation.
Here’s some well said wisdom from Michael Reeves in his book, Rejoice and Tremble:
"True fear of God is true love for God defined: it is the right response to God’s full-orbed revelation of himself in all his grace and glory."
"The living God is infinitely perfect and quintessentially, overwhelmingly beautiful in every way: his righteousness, his graciousness, his majesty, his mercy, his all. And so we do not love him aright if our love is not a trembling, overwhelmed, and fearful love.”
How do we get there?
Well it starts with become more aware of God’s character and our sin.
God is both abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is gracious and compassionate.
AND He is just, not forgiving the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations.
Gospel renewal is made possible when we start to have clearer vision of who God really is. Our vision of who God is then confronts us with the depths of our own need. You can start to see how sin has made our hearts ugly, our thoughts shameful and our actions painful. The Fall has marred your own heart and polluted the entire world. You begin to see the world through God’s eyes and grieve the violence and suffering.
The Holy Spirit then takes that divine dissatisfaction with ourselves and the world and shows us the cross of Christ – where justice and mercy meet. That’s the place where spiritual renewal happens. God is so just and holy that only the sacrifice of His beloved Son was enough to remove our guilt. Yet, at the same time, we see the bottomless depths of His love in that He was willing to give up His beloved Son to include us!
“Amazing love, How can it be? That You, my God, wouldst die for me?”
I’ll let Richard Lovelace describe the effects. Does it describe you and your interactions with Jesus?
"As we focus on this revelation of God’s character we are spiritually renewed. God increasingly comes to dominate the center of our consciousness. Our minds will turn toward Him as automatically as the compass needle seek the north. We will want our thoughts to be informed by His wisdom until our thoughts come closer to the mind of Christ. We will want our emotions to respond to events as Jesus responds, and our actions to embody His will. This is normal and renewed spirituality!"
Take some time to meditate on Gods’ love and justice now fighting for you in Christ Jesus.