I subscribe to a daily email subscription from a website called Of First Importance. The premise of the site is simply to post quotes from both current and past theologians, pastors, and authors with the intent of keeping its readers focused every day on the core and most important message of Christianity, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If you liked Higher Ground’s Facebook page, you have likely read one of these quotes.
Paul the apostle, in his first letter to the Corinthians, reminded them, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, ESV). Christ’s death is at the very center of the Gospel message, and for Paul, there was no more important message that piloted his life and ministry. Since April of this year (2013), I have been preaching this same message weekly in church. My one greatest desire as a pastor is to encourage every man, woman, boy and girl to live their lives in the power of the Gospel. The Gospel message is not, as Tim Keller has said, the “ABC’s of the Christian life,” but rather, “the A to Z of the Christian life.” Christ’s perfect life, atonement, and resurrection is the power of God unto salvation, not only when we are raised to new life in Christ initially, but every single day after that until we see Jesus face to face. When you and I can begin to grasp, even just in a small way, that every facet of our lives can be wonderfully impacted by the doctrines of the Christ’s work, we will begin to experience a joy, peace, and contentment that most have never known.
All this to say, I really wanted to share the Of First Importance entry for December 26, “The Amazing Graciousness of Grace.” It is an excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s article, “Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection.” Have you been a Christian for some time, but have lost your affection for Christ? You may need to return to your first love. Ferguson helps to place us back on the old path of renewed affection for Jesus in this brief excerpt. I encourage you to shut out all distractions and read it slowly and thoughtfully. Afterward, simply call on your God who desires to pull you back into His love.
“How can we recover the new affection for Christ and his kingdom that so powerfully impacted our life-long worldliness, and in which we crucified the flesh with its lusts?
What was it that created that first love in any case? Do you remember? It was our discovery of Christ’s grace in the realization of our own sin. We are not naturally capable of loving God for himself, indeed we hate him. But in discovering this about ourselves, and in learning of the Lord’s supernatural love for us, love for the Father was born. Forgiven much, we loved much. We rejoiced in the hope of glory, in suffering, even in God himself. This new affection seemed first to overtake our worldliness, then to master it. Spiritual realities—Christ, grace, Scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, living for the glory of God—filled our vision and seemed so large, so desirable that other things by comparison seemed to shrink in size and become bland to the taste.
The way in which we maintain ‘the expulsive power of a new affection’ is the same as the way we first discovered it. Only when grace is still ‘amazing’ to us does it retain its power in us. Only as we retain a sense of our own profound sinfulness can we retain a sense of the graciousness of grace.”
If you wish to begin your journey of a deeper and richer personal impact from the Gospel, may I suggest reading Living the Cross Centered Life, by C.J. Mahaney? I picked it up in April and read it in under three hours (I am a slow reader, too). It’s simple but powerful message made me hungry – really hungry, for more of Jesus. If you attend Higher Ground Church, I have several copies available in the Pastor’s Library for those who wish to borrow it. You will be blessed, and dare I say, changed as you read.
If you have lost (or have never found) what matters most, come back to the Gospel. Immerse yourself in Scripture (like Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians, et al), read Gospel-centered books (like what I have put in the Pastor’s Library), and rediscover the one simple fact that Christ’s grace was and is poured out on you, even in the midst of your own sin.
Grace and Peace,