Afew years ago, I volunteered to be a counselor at a youth camp. During the bus ride to camp, I had a conversation with one of the other counselors. She told me the story of how she came to faith in Christ. "I grew up going to Catholic school and church," she said. "I knew who Jesus was. I had an awe and fear of God instilled in me. I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world."
Then she stopped, her lip quivering, "But I never really understood that Jesus died for me." She went on to tell me about how she attended a Christian concert where she heard the message of the gospel. All of her Christian knowledge about Jesus became personal. Her heart was captured by the glorious truth that Christ died for her ….
Interestingly enough, the summer in which I listened to this woman's testimony was the summer in which I was having an epiphany that went the opposite way. Having grown up in evangelical churches all my life, I had always taken for granted the truth that Christ died for me. That truth was emphasized again and again, and it had gripped my heart long ago. What was becoming more glorious to me was the truth that Christ died for us. I was beginning to see in Scripture how Christ's death purchased his church as a bride. Furthermore, this action for us was ultimately for God and his glory ….
I'm afraid we often take the glorious for me and separate it from the for us and the for God. We shrink the gospel down until it is a message about the individual standing before God that no longer contains the gospel community at the heart of God's plan. Instead, we need to see the for me wrapped up in the for us, which is wrapped up in the for God. It all goes back to God and his glory being made manifest through the church that he has bought with the blood of his Son.
Emphasize the for me to the exclusion of everything else, and you wind up with an individualistic message about personal salvation; the church becomes an optional side effect of the gospel message. Emphasize the for us and for God aspects of the message and you never bring the good news down to the personal level; you don't challenge someone to trust in Christ …. Once you grasp all three aspects, your personal salvation story is given eternal significance because it is caught up in the great, unfolding drama dreamed up in the heart of our good and loving Creator.
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Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope is available from ChristianBook.com and other retailers.
Christianity Today articles by Trevin Wax include:
A Private Matter | Forced resignation of Southern Baptist leader prompts calls for transparency. (July 13, 2009)
Not an Academic Question | Pastors tell how the justification debate has changed their ministry. (June 26, 2009)
The Justification Debate: A Primer | Two of the world's most prominent pastor-theologians on justification—and what difference it makes. (June 26, 2009)
Our Ears Still Itch | That church down the street isn't the only one pandering to the congregation. (March 14, 2008)
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