Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What does a Cross-Centered Church look like?

We speak a lot about the power of the Gospel to set us free. We speak often of being "free in Christ". We believe whole-heartedly that the message of the cross is a liberating message. But from what does the gospel set us free? The simple answer is, the cross sets us free from our selves. And that looks a lot like humility!

To a church that seems to be so enamored with its prestige and presence, the apostle Paul writes:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

The Corinthian believers were puffed up with pride, boasting of their own spirituality. Paul reminds them that at the foot of the cross, none of us have anything to boast about. The marvelous secret of the gospel is that we are set free from a relentless gaze upon ourselves to boast in Christ! C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

"The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch; but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else (God, our fellow humans, animals, the garden and the sky) instead."

And nothing helps us to "forget our precious selves" better than gazing at the cross. Tim Keller, echoing Lewis, says this:

"The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less."

Thinking of ourselves less? What a concept! How do we do that? Get close to the cross and be liberated from the bondage of self-consciousness to the liberation of self-forgetfulness!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

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