Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Life > Improvement

"When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned...But there is a difference between Adam's sin and God's gracious gift (Christ). For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ." Romans 5:12-17

OK, there is a ton of weighty (no pun intended) stuff in this short passage and a lot you could talk about. One thing that sticks out to me as I read this is the contrast between life in Adam and life in Christ. The New Testament is constantly drawing a distinction between the two. Our life in Adam is defined by sin and an inability to obey. The result, as Paul points out in this passage is inevitable death. We are all by nature descendants of Adam, and under him, we will all die.

Here is where the good news of the gospel comes in. Jesus comes to save us from the reign of sin and death, and give us completely new life. We are either in the old life, under Adam, and under sins condemnation, or we are under Christ, and have received new life.

 I love this contrast, because this is not what most people hear from the pulpits on a given Sunday. It is our tendency to turn the gospel into mere life improvement rather than completely new life. Jesus did not come to improve the old Adam. He came to make man completely new. He came to be the new Adam, where all those who believe in him, now become under His reign. The result of His work is eternal life, and a righteous standing before a good and Holy God.

To prove my point about contemporary Christianity choosing to preach a mere "life improvement gospel," take a look at some of the titles of best selling Christian books from the last several years.

Your Best Life Now
Become a Better You
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions
Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind

Not to knock on any of these books (I haven't read any of them), but I think they get my point across. We love hearing a message that we are good and that all we need is a couple steps so we can be even better. It is unfortunate that so many pastors are swayed by people's itching ears rather than giving the truth we so desperately need. We need to hear that we are broken and insufficient in ourselves. That in our own strength, we will never be enough. What we need is Jesus. We need to hear  that Jesus didn't come to make us "better", but to make us completely new. Jesus didn't come so that we can be "fans" of him and use him to get something that we want out to life. He came to turn our lives upside down. And the good news is that through Christ's finished work, we can be redeemed from the old self. We can be made new. By God's grace, we can live this new life.

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