Friday, March 10, 2017

City Notes '17: Gospel Fluency Helps Us Get to the Root of Our Unbelief so We Can Turn to Jesus and Experience the Fruit of His Spirit (3 of 3)

Gospel Fluency: When We Get to the Root of Who God is and What He Has Done for Us in Jesus, This Good News Will Transform Our Lives

Previous Gospel Fluency posts:

City Notes '17: Gospel Fluency Helps Us Connect with Jesus Daily and Believe His Good News for Every Area of Life (1 of 3)
City Notes '17: Gospel Fluency Reminds Us of Who We Are and the Good News of Why We Want Jesus to be the Hero of Our Story Is (2 of 3) 

This is the next post based on Jeff Vanderstelt's new book, Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff Life. As wonderful as the Gospel is as the history-altering, world-restoring, and personally transforming Good News of Jesus, I can too often run past my God and Savior when I need to turn to Him in the day-in and day-out concerns and hopes of my week. 

Part of living in the joy and freedom that God gives in Jesus is remembering who He is and what He's done so that we can confidently step into the abundant life only He can give. Below is the final teaser excerpt from Gospel Fluency that reveals more of what this means and how God meets us in our deepest needs.

Gospel Fluency: Jesus Is Clear That Our Actions Proceed from Inside Our Hearts

Jesus was very clear that what is healing or destructive about our lives proceeds from inside out hearts – our beliefs and our motives. The fruit of our lives comes from the roots of our faith. Just as a thermometer detects a fever, what we see or experience tells us about the gospel health of our hearts. So we need to learn to trace the fruit back to the root.

Over the years, I have learned to ask four key questions in progressive order when forming people in the gospel: 

(1) Who is God? 
(2) What has God done (which reveals who God is)? 
(3) Who am I in light of God's work? and
(4) How should I live in light of who I am?

For instance, 

(1) Who is God? One answer is that God is love. 
(2) What has God done (in other words, how do I know He is love)? He sent His Son to die for me while I was still a sinner. 
(3) Who am I in light of God's work (in this case, His sending of His Son to die for me)? I am dearly loved by God – I am God's son. 
(4) How should I live in light of who I am? I should love others as God loved me.

When I am seeking to discern unbelief in the gospel, I reverse the order of those questions:

(1) What am I doing or experiencing right now?
(2) In light of what I am doing or experiencing, what do I believe about myself?
(3) What do I believe God is doing or has done? and 
(4) What do I believe God is like? 

In other words, I trace the fruit back to the root. If the fruit is not like Jesus, that is an indicator that our faith is not in Him.

Gospel Fluency: From the Fruit of Our Fear and Trouble to the Root of Our Unbelief in a Good God

When we believe the truth about God, we'll know the truth about ourselves. When we believe lies about God, we'll also believe lies about ourselves. When we believe God is unloving, we can, in turn, believe we are unlovable – disposable, unwanted garbage. We believe God is not our Savior, so we have to be the savior to our friends, our spouses, or our children. Without Jesus, we fluctuate between the extremes of believing we are demigods sent to save the world and demons who are the scum of the earth, and everything in between. And the reason we believe what we do about ourselves is because of what we believe or don't believe about God.

In order to grow in applying the gospel to ourselves, we must learn to pay close attention to what we are believing in the moment. In the gospel, we come to know and believe that God is our forgiver, redeemer, and restorer. He has power over sin and the ability to heal us from sin's effects. When we address only the behaviors and push people to change what they do without a change in what they believe, the weight falls on us rather than God to handle the problems of the world and deal with the brokenness caused by sin.

God's Spirit is our guide, teacher, and counselor. When those of us who belong to God confess out loud what we believe, the Spirit is right there with us to convict us of our unbelief and lead us to the truth that is in Jesus. This is how God grants us repentance. He convicts us of our unbelief and leads us to believe the truth.

Gospel Fluency: From the Root of God's Faithfulness to the Fruit of Belief in His Transforming Goodness and Grace

For example, here is an approach to when we realize we are not in control.

Confession of Unbelief in Jesus When Life Seems Out of Control (From Fruit to Root)

Fruit: What am I doing?  I have a desire for control. I'm anxious, afraid, and worried.
Who am I?  I'm not in control. But I believe I have to be.
What has God done?  I believe He has stopped loving me. I believe He has lost control of what's going. He's abandoned me.
Root: Who is God?  He's unloving. He's impotent. He is absent.

Turning to Belief in Jesus to Trust He is in Control (From Root to Fruit)

Root: Who is God?  He is love. He is powerful and in control. He is present.
What has God done?  Jesus died for me. He rose again from the dead. I have the Spirit of God in me through His sending Him to me.
Who am I?  I'm loved. I'm not alone. I am more than a conqueror through Him.
Fruit: What am I doing?  I can receive His love, joy, peace, and hope right now.

So often, when we are led to confess our sins, we only confess our sinful behaviors. In other words, we confess the fruit. We say: "I'm sorry I lied. Please forgive me." Or: "I looked at pornography. I know that's wrong. Please forgive me." The problem, however, is that we need to confess our sinful beliefs – the roots, the stuff below the surface that is motivating and producing their behaviors, the sin beneath all sins. All sin stems from wrong beliefs – lies we believe – and ultimately from our unbelief in Jesus. And because we generally don't go beyond the fruit to the root, we end up aiming at behavior modification instead of gospel transformation. "I'm sorry, I promise I won't do it again" or "I'm going to try harder in the future" are among our typical responses.

But we don't need more self-help and we don't need denial. We need deliverance. When we try to encourage another person to believe or behave differently, we fail to proclaim the gospel – the good news about what God has done in Jesus Christ to reveal Himself to us and to change us.

We need to meet our sinful beliefs with reminders of God's promises – all of which are "Yes!" and "Amen!" in Jesus. So when we confess our sins to each other and speak out loud gospel truths in return to each other, we begin to experience change in the moment. We will be transformed by the renewal of our minds, just as Paul says in Romans 12:2. This isn't just behavior modification. This is much deeper. This is gospel transformation, which always leads to behavioral change.

We are not saved just once in our past. We continue being saved in the present. God's salvation didn't just happen to us. It is also continuing to happen. He is actively saving us. The gospel is good news for our sanctification – the ongoing work of God saving us and conforming us daily into the image of Christ. Our activity in this process is ongoing repentance from unbelief to belief in the gospel. Paul said that as we repent and believe the gospel – as we turn to, look at, and believe in Jesus – we are transformed, increasingly becoming more and more like Jesus: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

Next post: City Notes '17: Gospel Fluency Includes Growing in Trusting our Good Creator, our Gracious Father, our Great Redeemer, and our Glorious King (Bonus)

City Notes are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read this year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read.

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

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