At The Table

Thinking about Jesus, culture, and everyday life.

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 9)

Gospel Identity (Pt. 2)

In my previous post I wrote about the fact that the true christian life is built on a powerful sense of the gospel identity. The true christian message is not about getting your best life now, or about following this or that specific step or rule. This concept sets the christian message apart from the messages of this world. In addition to that, when I live with this mentality it is truly remarkable to see how powerfully it equips and strengthens my christian walk. 

As I observe how this plays out in my life I start to gain more insight into the true problem of my heart, and how the true solution is achieved. We are, by nature, identity seekers. You can see this in life anywhere you go – people seek to identify with something, to belong, to be defined and directed by their surroundings. 

When the New Testament speaks of salvation, it does not just speak of a ‘get outta hell free’ ticket. Rather, it speaks of a whole definition of life. It speaks of the fact that our final and ultimate solution and identity is found only in the mind and heart of the one who made us – and he does not hide it from us. 
I find that the source of a lot of the struggles that I get myself into is the fact that I let seek (or allow) my identity to be built by other sources. I let my circumstance define me. I let my weaknesses define me. I let my desires or joys define me. I let the people around me define me. And from there on things start to slide downhill. 

This is the fundamental need that the christian gospel meets head on – the message of Christ seeks to challenge our concept of self identity, to show its fallacy, and to recreate it in all that Christ has done. This is why the gospel targets the heart at its foundational need. 

It is truly amazing to observe how powerfully my mind and heart are redirected back on track I return my mind to the gospel, and let that be the lens through which I see all other things. Yes indeed, I do need to be redirected at times with specific steps and instructions. But the overwhelming majority of my incorrect actions step from a false understanding of my identity. Too easily do I forget who I am made to be in Christ. Yet as I am returned and realigned in the gospel, I am constantly gaining a deeper and clearer understanding of it, and my identity in it.  

The psalmist echo’s this idea in his evaluation of the surrounding world in comparison to what he’s got in God:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:23-26)

A Wrathful God?

I understand that many people have a problem with a God who has wrath on sin. But thinking a little deeper about the issue, I think that the Bible’s presentation of the wrath of God is evidence to something powerfully positive about him, rather than something negative.
Think about it. Wrath is the righteous response to the attack on something you love. The more you love the great will be the wrath against that which is attacking something that you love. A world without wrath will be a world without love. A God who does not have wrath over the horrible things of this world would be a naive and indifferent God.

In addition to that, the deeper the love, the greater the wrath. What is the greatest cost? What is the greatest expression of wrath? – the taking of life. Thus, the fact that God says that the wages of sin is death is evidence to the fact that his love for his glory and his creation is a love of the highest possible kind. This is also what God did in Christ, and thus simultaneously expressed his great wrath over sin and his infinite love for us. 

Gospel Identity

My understanding of the essence and direction of biblical christianity is a constantly evolving, challenging and shaping experience. This has been especially true in the past year and a half as I have sought to understand the mind and intention of Paul as he wrote his letter to the Ephesians in about 62 A.D. 


One of the biggest reasons that I am personally drawn to the christian message is because of its uniqueness, and its challenging nature. As I push harder to understand what biblical christianity is all about, I see more and more how the message that it presents has some key characteristics and aims that cause it to stand out profoundly from other religions  and ‘truths’ that fill this world.

One such characteristic is something that I like to call ‘gospel identity’.

Very often christians (and those interested in christianity) come to the Bible as a book of answers to all the various problems of life. We approach it as a book that will offer us specific solutions to the specific challenges of life that we face, thereby making life easier and better.

Many christians go even further than this and whittle the Biblical message down to a moralistic code that one must live up to in order to have a ‘good life’. In other words, many christians (or those interested in Christianity) seek to see how the message of the Bible does or does not fit their life.  

But if we take a step back and take a big picture look at the whole Bible we could see that the Bible itself does not present as a book of questions and answers, nor does it seek to accomplish that one specific goal alone. If that was the goal, the author(s) could have aimed more at writing a book comprising of topics and subtopics which systematically address the issues of our lives. But this is not at all what we see in this aged and powerful book.

Instead, the Bible is a book that presents to us the dramatic story of the work of God with humankind. It presents to us stories, conflicts, people, poetry, prophesy, letters and so on. It incorporates many details that we might and might not like, or have a hard time agreeing with, but if one takes a simple step back and looks at the big picture, it becomes clearly that there is more to this book that a jumbled work of different people at different time periods.

The Bible clearly presents a powerful metanarrative; it shows us one, clear, overarching story of creation, fall and redemption, or what the Bible itself calls the gospel. Thus, the goal the Bible is to present a colorful and rich picture of the story of God’s work with humanity, and in that, to demonstrate his identity and nature.  Where then do we come in?

Our goal as we approach this book, should not be to just get a few quick fix instructions for life. Rather, it is to be to understand the story of the Gospel of Christ and his supremacy, and to see what this gospel has to say about how we fit into God’s story. Before we can ever ask about the specific solutions that we need to incorporate, we need to let this book speak about its central purpose.

It is a sad fact that many..MANY christians (or those interested in christianity) miss this concept. By approaching the Bible as a book that will help improve their life, they cripple their own ability to see the foundational, central message, and thus cripple their ability to understand the christian life and think correctly about it. We’ve all heard that age old observation that the answers that you get are greatly shaped by the questions you ask.

It is only after the identity of the gospel is instilled in the mind of a christian can they truly understand what the Bible seeks to say to them, and they are to live life and react to the challenges they face. Any other approach will miss the central message of the Book, and therefore skew any christians ability to live the christian life, or even understand what it is.

I Love to Write

As I am in the process of preparing for the 2011 youth camp, I have to tear myself away from it to write down something that has really come back to life within me in these last 48 hours. Writing the outline for my message in camp, I am reminded once again how much I love to write. It is one of the most powerful, free, challenging, influential and therapeutic parts of my life. 


In writing, you are free to use your mind to construct ideas and arguments that can be used as tools to challenge those around you with the specific convictions that have burned themselves into your heart and mind. The pen (or keyboard) is indeed mightier than the sword in its ability to blast ideas into the minds of the readers and cause them to see things that they have never seen before. 


What is particularly energizing to me in my process of writing is the potency of the ideas that drive my own life and mind. As I am challenged with the truths of the Bible, as I wrestle with the principles that it presents and compare them to the mass push of ideas that I face in the world around, I see that they stand up strong – I am all the more energized to rethink them and pen them in my own words to challenge those around me in a fresh and unique way. 


Not that I am anything wise or amazing in and of my, but as I am challenged and instructed by the truths of this amazing book I cannot but write about them. I love the imagery of the prophet Jeremiah who said that if he tries to shut up and not talk about the things that God was working in his life and mind, it was like their was fire in his bones – he could not shut up (Lam. 1:13). 


I love to write for the glory of God and have no doubt that I will spend a good chunk of my life doing so. What drives your mind? 

My Great Job

Today i got to observe how one man worked hard for 3 1/2 hours to successfully return to another man the use of his knee. And as the man with the mended knee woke up from the anesthesia, i got to tell him that he will indeed be able to run and climb and jump once again. Words fail to describe the relief and joy that filled his expression. This is why i love my job.

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