The Beautiful Truth That I Had Missed

Aaron Lentz News

If you are a Christian, consider for a moment what you really believe about who God is, what Christ has done, and God’s current perception of you.  I find that it’s easier to grasp the concept that I deserved God’s wrath for my sins. Jesus took the wrath I deserved; therefore, I’m forgiven. Moments after the “Amen” of the classic sinner’s prayer, however, I failed Him. How could He really love me in light of the things I’ve done AFTER I became a Christian?  I know I’m forgiven, but he probably only tolerates me or, at best, “likes” me.  Our culture affirms this perspective–“practice” (i.e., sports, school) determines our “position.”  If I’m good, God loves me; if I sin or fail to fulfill my “Christian checklist,” then God is disappointed and He loves me less. It’s difficult to pursue Christ wholeheartedly from this flawed perception of our true identity.  This distortion is rooted in a faulty understanding and subsequent misapplication of the Gospel, driving a perpetual pursuit to attain that which Christ already purchased for us. The Bible states that in Christ we are “beloved children of God who are clothed with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27) and “adopted to sonship through Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will” (Eph 1:5). It pleases God to call us His beloved children!  He made it happen not according to OUR good behavior but because of Christ’s perfect behavior! God knew that in this life we would still repeatedly fall short! Without a proper identity in Christ, our failures will drive us away from God and leave us thinking we must “clean ourselves up enough” to perform better next time. However, when our identity, is rooted in God’s unchanging love for us, sin drives us back to Him to receive His grace and to delight in His justification.  This process re-anchors our heart in the place where shame and guilt no longer have power over us. Because of Christ, we can bask in the favor, acceptance, and delight of God—this is the complete message of the Gospel!! For so many years, I totally missed the point of the Gospel in respect to how we are to live for Christ. I bought into the predominant American-Christian worldview that the Gospel is only offered as salvation to unbelievers at the end of a church service (to the tune of “Just as I am” playing softly in the background).  Those who prayed the sinner’s prayer are reassured of their salvation and directed to move beyond the “basic” Gospel and focus on the things that lead to holiness and sanctification. This usually includes a list of “dos” and “don’ts” that “good” Christians should strive to follow.  Rarely are the Gospel truths revisited other than at Easter or occasional “altar calls” throughout the year. Thus, the Gospel is relegated to the periphery of Christendom, as morality and behavior modification become the means to spiritual maturity. Christians (new and old alike) are subsequently trained, implicitly or explicitly, to perceive that the Gospel is “God’s part” of the equation, PRIMARILY to provide salvation, but “my part” is the behavior change, morality, and maturity into holiness (a better version of me).  As we fix our eyes on our own abilities (or failures) to attain holiness through self-righteous efforts, we adopt a distorted identity in Christ. I am thankful to say that after many hours of study, prayer, and Gospel-saturated teaching, God has opened my eyes to see the beautiful truth that I had missed—the Gospel isn’t just a ticket to heaven, it’s central to EVERYTHING in the Christian life. I’m learning to “preach the Gospel to myself” continually so I can fix my eyes on Jesus–who He is and what He did and who I am in Him. Upon this solid foundation I live my life in grateful response to the Gospel. I pray continually that God would invade every aspect of my life with the Truth of the Gospel. No longer is it “practice” that determines my “position.”  The Gospel states that my POSITION (identity in Christ), dictates my PRACTICE (grace driven effort)!  It is only when we truly understand our position (Identity), that we can implement any practice (action).  Romans 6 says“…our old self was crucified with him so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin(6) …consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (11) [Position/Identity].  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body (12) …but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (13) [Practice/works].” He is our perfection, our righteousness, our holiness—all the things we are incapable of attaining on our own. We continually fall short of God’s perfection until we see Him face to face. Therefore, we fix our eyes on Jesus and His work on our behalf. This drives us to depend on the Holy Spirit and God’s abundant grace to lead us toward ongoing repentance, confession and transformation. Our sins are perpetually covered by the blood of Christ as we joyfully experience the promise “Neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  The moral demands of Scripture are rooted in the redemptive truth of the Gospel that says, “This is what God has done, now live this way.” The full message of the Gospel shows us who we are in Christ—unconditionally loved, treasured, forgiven, accepted, righteous, and holy children of God.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us]” (Philippians 3:12). Pray that God will teach you to continually center every aspect of your life on the Truth of the Gospel. Gospel begotten Position = Gospel empowered Practice!  You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession [therefore] proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light!  (1 Peter 2:9)

About the Author

Aaron Lentz

Aaron Lentz is the Lead Pastor of Athens Church in Columbus, IN. He is the Husband to Cora and Father to Everett. He counts it as a joy to be able to pastor this church in his home town.