Do you remember the days when training wheels were necessary? The end we had in mind, at least those of us who were mechanically inept, was to be freed from those embarrassing appendages. We longed for the day when we could throw them into the closet and shake our fist at gravity with provocation. Then it happened. Bloody knees and band-aids were incorporated into our show-and-tells at elementary school. The days of training wheels became a distant memory. Hold that thought.
Progress is a quaint word for us Westerners. The progress our culture celebrates is largely the progress that Locke’s empiricism anticipated. “The answer is us; human reason has no bounds!” Thankfully, most of us have stopped drinking the Kool-Aid. In the 1960s many saw that progress wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be so we’ve been making fun of it ever since. We’re still trying to figure out what to do with the failed promises of the Enlightenment. We figure that being cynical and celebrating the meaninglessness of life will do for now. The new Kool-Aid has us singing, “All of life is absurd. Hooray!” Thankfully the kingdom of God differs. God is working all things to an end by means of Christ’s gospel. We find no dusty ideologies or failed promises in His kingdom: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Christ]” (2 Cor. 1:20). His promises meet us where we live.
Paul was concerned with the progress of the Corinthian Christians. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). The fruits of their lives (divisiveness, jealousy, strife, and so on) were revealed by their attitudes and actions. The glorious gospel of Christ seemed to have little effect on how they related to God and people. Paul wasn’t a legalist; he just believed the gospel actually changed folk. You see him reminding them frequently (especially 1 Cor. 15) of “the gospel” that he preached to them. Come on Paul, we’ve heard this over and over again. Give us a break.
If we’re honest we change slower than we’d like to admit. We’ve bought anointed handkerchiefs from televangelists that don’t seem to work. In all seriousness—this must not keep us from asking the question: what effect does the gospel have on my life? Are the fruits of the Spirit evident in my life? Does the gospel change the way I see my neighbor? Does it change the way I respond to people when they sin against me? Do I pretentiously act as though I’ve graduated from the school of the gospel? If you are discouraged don’t despair. Our hope is in our resurrected Lord not our performance. His atoning blood has saved us. But thankfully the gospel never leaves us where we’re at. It’s actually taking us somewhere. Praise Christ! Let us stand firm in this gospel and pray that by God’s Spirit it would have its full effect on us. The gospel has brought us into intimate communion with God. We can live in His presence. We are not under wrath as we once were. Let us call to memory His mercy causing us to exclaim with Paul: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Rom. 11:33-34) May we never handle this glorious gospel as we once treated those training wheels.
“If the gospel be so glorious and excellent, then let us all be exhorted to make it the object of constant and close attention and study.” Jonathan Edwards, Works v.2 p 409.
Soli Deo gloria