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Remember that through the power of His cross and resurrection we are given everything to grow in godliness

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Chris CookstonWhen I was a kid, my parents were members of the Conservative Baptist Church in Yankton, Oregon. It was there that I first heard the gospel at five years old, and it made absolutely no sense to me. Why did Jesus die on that cross? Why do I need His death and resurrection?

But thanks be to God, He began opening my eyes to the truth. After reading the Sermon on the Mount, I became convinced that I was a hell-bound sinner, and I was. Later on, and scared to death, I went to my mom. She explained the gospel to me, and warm faith filled my heart. God had saved me from my sin and hell. Praise the Lord!

At that time, I was the biggest sinner I knew, and I still am. As life went on, I struggled to be sanctified, because when Christians aim to grow in Christ, the gospel is not mentioned much. We don't think we need it for day-to-day sanctification.

As a teenage Christian, growth in godliness seemed impossible, although Christ had saved me when I was a child. There remained a miserable hole inside me. It needed to be fixed with the "now" gospel.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a "then-now-then" gospel. First, there is the "then" of the past. When I embraced Christ by faith, my sins are completely forgiven, and I stand before God as righteous. There is also the "then" of the future, the promise of eternity with the Lord, free of sin and struggle.

The church has done fairly well explaining these two "thens" of the gospel, but it has tended to understate or misunderstand the "now" benefits of the work of Christ. What difference does the gospel make in the here and now? How does it help me as a father, a husband, a worker, and a member of the body of Christ? How does it help me to respond to the hard things in life and make decisions? How does it give me meaning, purpose, and identity?

Why are we so ineffective as Christians? Why is it that our lives tend to reflect more of the world than more of the gospel? Could it be that we fail to believe the gospel in the day-to-day stuff? We forget that He can empower us to be salt and light as parents, at work and among our neighbors. And when we forget we become blind. Then the sins, stresses and sufferings of life take over, and we only remember ourselves and wallow in pity. However, we must return to what we know in the Bible.

2 Peter 1:3-10 says: "Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble."

For too many of us, our focus is on our performance rather than upon God's work of grace in us that Peter teaches in the quotation above. Thus, we find it much easier to believe the gospel's promise of life after death than we do its promise of life before death! Without a constant awareness of Christ's presence, you trust only in yourself. And, the self-reliant person becomes overwhelmed quickly. We are wimps! To be sure, the greatest problems are not the obstacles we face in this short life; the problem is the hole within us. That miserable hole exists in each one of us, and it often leads us astray.

There is a long list of items that we try to use to fix that hole. But alcohol, drugs, food, possessions, moralism, mysticism and self-righteousness only make the problem worse. The solution is found by stepping out of our self-delusion and letting your awareness of personal brokenness cause you to turn to Jesus Christ.

Remember that through the power of His cross and resurrection we are given everything to grow in godliness. The cross and resurrection are the source of divine power for living, right now! By living in light of this, God begins to fill up and fix our hole. But don't be fooled, sanctification takes work and it isn't like you think. It isn't based on your performance, but on Jesus Christ's.

Growing in Christ is to be broken and needy before Him, and to draw near to Him in continuous worship. We are broken by our sin, but Jesus Christ is making His children new — and He does so by His grace and for His glory.

Chris Cookston is the pastor at Prineville Community Church. He can be reached at 541-447-6315.

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