Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Preach the Gospel to Yourself
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Back in the 90s, when I return to school to earn my teaching certificate, I am fortunate to land a position at a local Christian school in the spring to teach sixth grade in the fall. I am thrilled to be saying good-bye to my paraprofessional job at a public school, and looking forward to making more money in a God-friendly environment.
I am savoring my summer home with my children and preparing for the exciting year ahead, when I get the call. It is the secretary of the Christian school. She informs me that the headmaster, who hired me, has resigned, and new one wishes to meet with me. No other details are forthcoming, and I agree to an appointment the next day.
Hands shaking, I return the receiver to its cradle, and try in vain to quell the nauseating panic rising within. What if he saw something in my resume that raised a red flag? Will he fire me before I've even had a chance? Oh, God, I've already resigned my former job; what will I do if I lose this one?
I am an unhappy camper, my tent erected in the dark night of the soul. Needless to say, many prayers are said, right up until the moment I walk through the door to the headmaster's office.
The exchange of pleasantries and his gracious smile go far to put me at ease. Then the bomb drops. "Martha, this being a Christian school, I must know definitively one thing about all my faculty and staff. Tell me, please, when and how you accepted Jesus as your Savior."
The words tumble out. I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say, my testimony, much to my surprise, is enough for him.
In the third chapter of his book, A Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges writes:
The doctrine of trusting in Jesus Christ alone for one's salvation is a basic truth of the gospel. Without acceptance of it there is no salvation. All believers by definition accept that fact. But it is important to realize that we were not only saved by faith in Christ at a particular time, but we are to live by faith in Christ every day of our lives . . . I must continue to renounce any confidence in my own goodness and place my confidence solely in Christ every day of my life, not only for my eternal salvation, but for my daily acceptance before a holy God.
Yes. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is step one. But I must agree with Bridges that continual growth in our relationship with Him is an absolute necessity. We must, each and every day, take up our crosses and follow Jesus. We must, as the title of chapter three states, preach the gospel to ourselves.
Says Bridges: The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.
Not once during my tenure at the Christian school did the headmaster, nor any other fellow teacher, ever check in with me about the state of my Christian journey. Perhaps they simply assumed that my moment of salvation guaranteed a closer walk with Jesus.
But friends, it didn't.
Though I believed in Christ Jesus with all my heart, I did not clearly understand the gospel, nor was I finding the joy that comes only from living it.
Fortunately for me, our God had unflagging patience. Over the years, He has opened the doors to that closer walk, even, and perhaps, especially, when I didn't know how to knock. He has shown me green pastures and led me by still waters, time and time again.
And I've come, at long last, to fully understand Paul's words: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
I can, with a heart overflowing with joy and gratefulness, preach the gospel to myself.
Prayer: Father, we thank You for Your unending grace and patience poured out upon us. Let us pray to know Your will, to do all things for Your glory, and to remember, each and every day, that Your gospel "is the only essential message in all of history." May we preach it. May we live it. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen
For the next ten weeks, I will be participating in a study of Jerry Bridges' A Discipline of Grace. The discussion is led by fellow Christian bloggers, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, who welcome you to read the book along with us, and chime in at any time you feel so moved. Even if you decide not to read the book, I hope you will hook up with me here every Wednesday for a new reflection. God bless!
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