The Common Good

The Objective Gospel For Suffering Christians

“The prevailing view in much of contemporary Christianity is more subjective. It tends to be far more focused on the happiness and moral performance of the Christian than the object of faith, Christ Himself.” –Tullian Tchvidjian

I am the way background, Genotar / Shutterstock.com
I am the way background, Genotar / Shutterstock.com

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Personally I tend to always focus more on my problems when I am going through trials. I am sure that some of you reading can relate to this. It seems normal to focus on ourselves during seasons of suffering. When I look back at the most difficult time of my life, I realize how self-absorbed I was with everything that I was going through. I felt that no one could understand or relate. I felt alone and isolated. My focus was on trying to figure out a way that I could fix myself.  

The days and weeks passed by and eventually my suffering faded away with time. But when I look back and remember those days it amazes me how internally focused I was! The reality that strikes me still today is the fact that there was nothing within myself that could make my suffering go away. I read my Bible and read some self-help books, but nothing could alleviate my pain. Was I doing something wrong? Did I not have enough faith? Was God punishing me for my sins? It angered me that I did not have the power within myself to just “make life all better”. I was helpless and hopeless during that season of life. There was nothing that I could do. I was a sinner in need of a Savior (1 Timothy 1:15). 

My life was solely focused on my problems, on my performance, and on my ability to overcome. When I could not get better I felt that I was a failure before God. I did not pray as much as I should have because I felt that God was displeased with my lack of faith. Since there was nothing within myself that could fix me, where could I look? Where could I turn? Where can any of us look? 

'Cue the Gospel'

Today, I can sit here and tell you that I was not living a life that was grounded in the glorious Gospel during that suffering experience. Until I experienced, as Jared Wilson calls it, “Gospel Wakefulness” I was more concerned with my ability to make things right then I was with he power of God to make all things new. However, the most beautiful truth that I found within the Gospel is the declaration that this good news has absolutely nothing to do with us (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

For narcissistic and egotistical humans, this truth is hard for us to grasp. The main reason is because we hate having control taken, in a sense, “out of our hands.” I know that I did. As Christians we are not immune to the disease of self-centered performancism that infects our lives on a daily basis. The idea that we can earn our way to Heaven or fix our own problems seems natural to us. It is only when we realize that we can’t do it is when the good news becomes real to us. At the end our rope is where Christ Jesus can be found. 

The Gospel in Christianity is a declaration that God has accomplished through Jesus Christ everything necessary for sinful men and women to gain eternal life and righteousness in God's sight (Ephesians 1:3-14). This is the truth that must capture our hearts again and again and again. That is why having an objective Savior is so life giving. The objective Gospel directs our attention to something that is outside of us (John 15:26). It focuses our hearts solely on who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. That is why at the Gospel-center there must always be a pronouncement of Jesus Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death on behalf of sinful man. He must be the focal point of the Gospel because there is no worthy Christian without a righteous Christ. Recognizing the objective truths of the Gospel is what frees us from the burden of feeling like we have to measure up or that we have to solve our own problems. Because even when we fail, Jesus Christ performed perfectly on our behalf! Kevin Deyoung says it like this: “The blessing of the Gospel — election, justification, sanctification, glorification, and the rest — have been deposited in no other treasury but Christ.” 

That is the resounding truth that the Gospel screams. We are able to take all of the chips that we have in this life and go all in on the Gospel of Jesus because it is the hand that cannot be beat! The objective Gospel is not about you, but about an unchanging Savior who paid the price, bore the guilt and accomplished it all. That is the beautiful good news that liberates us from ourselves. It frees us from having to fix our lives ourselves.

But how does an objective Gospel affect a subjective sufferer like you and me? Sufferers who constantly battle self-absorption and the all to common, “I-can-fix-myself-syndrome” on a daily basis need something that will give them peace and promise when struggles and failures occur. That is why desperate human beings must be grounded in the Gospel truth of assurance (Romans 5:1). An unstable sufferer needs an unchanging Savior (Hebrews 13:8). Assurance of our right standing before God is never going to be found within ourselves, but only in Christ Jesus. The internal evaluations of our progress can now be exchanged for the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is how an objective Gospel (that has everything to do with Christ) can change the way the way we subjectively look at measuring up to the standards that we set and curing ourselves of the problems that we face.

Faith in our Savior allows sinners and sufferers to look to the cross of Christ and lavish in the love of God despite our feelings and emotions. An objective Gospel always comes back to Jesus and the promises that we are redeemed through Christ and Christ alone. All of the blemishes and stains that have infiltrated our lives are replaced with the unblemished robes of a Savior. So we begin to look outside of ourselves and place our hope an unchanging Jesus Christ! The objective Gospel truth frees us from our subjective failures and doubt. 

As Tim Keller once said, “You are far worse, and far more hopeless than you could ever imagine, yet, in Christ, you are more loved and accepted than you could ever hope.” This is the definition of blessed assurance and the reality of the objective gospel for sufferers who try to fix themselves. Let us strive to always rest even in our darkest night in Christ alone. 

 

Matt Manry is the Director of Students at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia and a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net Twitter @matt_manry

I am the way background, Genotar / Shutterstock.com

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