In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Love this verse. The purpose of our service is His glory. Jesus continues on in the next couple of chapters explaining how we are powerless to fulfill the law but how the law was to humble us. To help us see the need we have to be rescued. When we have been rescued by so great of a savior, the natural response of our hearts is gratitude. We can love Him and love others because He first loved us.
We shrink the gospel when we believe social justice is the goal of the Christian life rather than a byproduct of a gospel-centered Christian life.
Jesus and Me – I am not sure I have ever met someone who grew up in a church that didn’t learn the simple song “Jesus loves me this I know.” Understanding that Jesus loves you is massively important and foundational to your faith. Where this powerful truth can shrink our faith is at the moment we over-personalize our faith.
In the United States, we tend to value rugged individualism highly. We have personal entertainment devices; we have all the modern trappings that allow us to have all the things that make life more comfortable. For this comfort, we pay a high price. We lose the relationships that God has placed in our lives to help mold us into the image of His Son.
The individualism of the Western church has done much damage. We have a personal savior, personal prayer time, personal devotions, personal, personal, personal. The problem with Jesus being our personal Lord and savior is we tend to isolate ourselves from the community aspect in which our faith was meant to thrive in. I do not believe that you can fully understand forgiveness, repentance and redemption outside of the context of community. If you want to grow in your faith, you have to do that in community.
C.S. Lewis describes the value of knowing others and being known by others in his book The Four Loves. Lewis was part of a group of three men who had a very strong friendship. One of the members of the group, Charles, suddenly died, and Lewis found himself sad yet somewhat happy because He would have more of the time and attention of his other friend, Ronald Tolkien. In the paragraph below Lewis tell us of how misguided his thoughts were.
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald… In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”
It takes a whole community to know fully know an individual if this is true of us how much more true is it of Christ. There are many aspects of the reality of Christ and the depths of the gospel that will never be fully realized alone. We must be in a community of faith walking out the gospel together. When we shrink the gospel down to “me and Jesus” we minimize the impact of the gospel on our lives and the lives of countless others who need to hear the gospel preached and see the gospel lived.
All we can say, therefore, is: The community of Christians spring solely from the biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone; this alone is the basis for the longing of Christians for one another. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We must act, we must love, we must do all that we can for Jesus, but all of that must come from an understanding of what God has done for us in Christ and in a community of believers, or it will simply be our goodness minus the gospel. The good news for us is found in 1 Timothy 1:15-17:
15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[d] Amen
If we view our lives in light of our accomplishments rather than what Jesus has done for us, we will shrink the gospel and its power in our lives.
When we shrink the gospel in our curriculum, we end up with good ideas, moral truth and cute stories. Our kids need much more than that. We need to make sure that in our effort to distill truth we don’t minimize or shrink the gospel and rob it of its power.
This article originally appeared here.