Never Getting Beyond

Tim Keller is a person to whom I pay attention.  He is a good thinker and speaker.  I pay attention to what he writes.  I recently came across the following post.  These are not "microwave" thoughts.  Rather, they need to simmer for a long time.  This is worth thinking about: 

We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something
more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of
truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The
gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of Christianity, but it is the A to Z of
Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine
necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the

We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience but the gospel is the way
we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col 1:6). It is the solution to
each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every
barrier (Rom. 1:16-17).

It is very common in the church to think
as follows: “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be
saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But
Colossians 1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard
work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not
sanctify you — it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure
to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed
them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32).

main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought
out the deep implication of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel
in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most
people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel — a
failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says (on
Gal. 2:14), “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all
Christian doctrine… Most necessary is it that we know this article
well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.”
The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only
does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All
of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not
“get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and
revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage
of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application
of the gospel — seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an
individual or a church.

(originated at Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds

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4 thoughts on “Never Getting Beyond

  1. Jim, I read this post and then I read your previous one, "Ministry as a Place… Pt 1". The one really later really illustrates the former. What I mean is that in all of those heart-wrenching situations you describe, the only real hope for healing is in the gospel. If you (or anyone) tries to help people any other way, it will ultimately not help or bring any comfort that lasts. Thanks for the reminder to stay close to the hub! Mike, Rowlett, TX

  2. Wow.  I was just telling my husband last night that God is re-orienting my worldview.  I was listening to the scripture in Luke where the disciples ask for more faith and Jesus says to them that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed they can tell a mulberry tree to move.  I heard this so differently; I thought, what if faith is not measured, not seen in light of big/small, less/more, but is viewed in context of relationship.  That’s why Jesus says that there faith can be "small", because it’s a matter of relating to the one who can make the mulberry tree move.  That doesn’t take great faith, but it takes being in relationship with Jesus.  I’m still working it out, but the concepts here are very much the same as what God is re-orienting in my life.  I guess it’s the same reason that I would never get tired of preachers talking about Jesus every week from the pulpit; it seems to me that this is the primary job of a preacher.  We are so human, we need the weekly reminders of who he is, who we are in relation to him, and the amazing gospel he provides.  Thanks for tuning me in to this writer!

  3. Thanks Mike–I continue to be both encouraged and amazed at what Christ living in his people and his servants will do to minister to seemingly impossible situations.

  4. Jen,I really like what you are saying. (Regarding faith as seen in the context of relationship.)  The focus is taken off our faith and on the one who makes such faith possible.  Or maybe the focus is taken off our faith as an isolated quality and more on our relationship with the one who can produce a great faith in a human being.  Thanks very much, Jen.