I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,
to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed… (Romans 1:16-17)
Which is more important, Christmas or Easter? Wrong question.
As I write this, we prepare to enter into the Advent season – the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Christmas decorations are going up in the neighborhood and holiday music through Walmart, not to mention the bell ringers by the door. In the church our attention turns to the incarnation of Jesus, when the Son of God took on human flesh and came to earth as an infant.
We can’t really separate Christmas from Easter. Yes, I know they come at different times of the year, and even our ecclesiastical trappings differ for both holidays, but both are really about the gospel -that God sent his Son to be born as man (a baby) to go to the cross and then rise again. This was motivated by his desire to redeem us from the curse of sin.
Many of you know that I’ve been preaching through the book of Romans. You may be beginning to suspect that we will be at Romans for a long time. I guess we will; it’s not a book we can blow through in short order. But the whole book is about one thing -the gospel. For that matter, the whole Bible is about the gospel.
Many people, especially those who don’t know Christ, look at the Bible as a book full of rules and regulations, and methods for how to make ourselves better. While there are indeed many helpful principles for life contained in the Bible (especially Proverbs), it’s really about that fact that we are all sinners and desperately in need of God’s grace.
In last month’s newsletter I addressed the topic of vision for Grace Church. The text from Romans 1 above is recognized as the touchstone of the Reformation. It is this text that God used to spark the Reformation. These are the words that opened Martin Luther’s eyes to the gospel. Prior to Luther, the medieval church had lost its moorings and its connection to the gospel. It was through Luther and the other reformers that the gospel vision was restored. One of those reformers, John Calvin, wrote that the church must be “reformed and reforming”, that is, allowing the gospel to shape us and shape our vision for the church.
There are numerous distractions in every age that will divert our vision from the gospel. Sadly, this is proving true in our own time. Our preoccupation with techniques for helping ourselves, and sure-fire methods for organizational success for our churches can cloud our eyes to the gospel itself. Not that many of these things can’t be helpful, but if the message of the gospel is by-passed or diminished, then we’ve lost our primary vision, and we are in need of reformation.
As we anticipate a new year, let us pray that the gospel will be front and center in who we are as a church and everything we do at Grace Church.
Pastor Tom Bridgman