PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.
Jesus, We belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Romans 4:4–8 (NIV)
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
I am trying to wrap my mind around the gospel—the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
It is like I am getting credit for something I did not do or earn.
It is like I failed an exam. Someone re-took the exam for me, made 100 percent, and I was awarded that grade and passed the class. I was declared graduated.
It is like I committed a crime and was in jail awaiting trial. Someone bailed me out of jail; only they went to jail in my place. Then they stood trial for my crime and pleaded guilty even though they weren’t guilty. Then served the prison sentence. And all of that counted for me. I was fully pardoned.
It is like I was in debt beyond my ability to ever pay back. Someone paid all of my debts, telling me not only did I not have to pay them back but I didn’t have to pay the person back either. I was declared debt free.
We tend to view each of these kinds of scenarios as situations we either found our way into because of our own failures or avoided because of our own successes. The message of the gospel says no such thing. The gospel reveals these scenarios as the very realities into which we were born. We are born under and into the power of Sin. Salvation is about being reborn under and into the power of grace.
These are the terms of the gospel. Have you or are you reckoning with the terms of the gospel? Are they like the terms of a software agreement on your computer or phone that you quickly scroll through without attention and click “accept” at the end? Or are you grappling with these terms as the mind-bending realities of the goodness of God?
Everything in me feels an enormous relief and extraordinary gratitude for being completely delivered from such impossible and dooming scenarios and given complete freedom—fresh life and a new start. I feel embraced.
At the same time, there is something in me that looks down on myself for being such a poor wretched soul in the first place. I want to think better of myself. I want to believe I had or have what it takes to do this on my own and by my own means and wherewithal. And further, I want to believe I can take it all from here and manage just fine on my own without further aid. Why? Because I also feel embarrassed.
So many of us have “believed” the terms of the gospel as mere “beliefs” in our past and “accepted” Jesus as our Savior as though salvation merely required mental assent. I am not here questioning or calling into question the veracity of what happened in your past. I am merely asking you to grapple with it at a much deeper level. I am asking you to invite Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to first ransack and then renovate your very mind by the terms of his gospel. We have to press past the “what” of our beliefs and deep into the “Who” of whom we believe.
I love how the old gospel hymn puts it, “But I know whom I have be-liev-ed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”
I am concerned that much of the church and so many of us who bear the name Christian have bought into a truncated and superficial version of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is not really the gospel at all. I believe this is the very kind of thing Paul was saying to the Jews of his time concerning their faith and religion. It’s why he goes all the way back to Abraham. He’s stripping things back, even bare. He’s going back to first things. That’s what I’m asking us to do.
Jesus, I belong to you. And yet I ask you, “Do I really?” I invite you to turn on the searchlight of your Spirit in the halls and chambers of my heart. I give you permission to ransack the thin religion I may have created there; even unwittingly. I am weary of carrying around a self-assuredness that is not the assurance of the Spirit. I am tired of professing a salvation that is hardly skin deep. I want the real gospel, the deep truth, the renovating righteousness that comes by faith, as a complete gift—the credit I did not earn—that embarrasses and embraces me at the same time. Yes, Holy Spirit, more of this. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.
Do you have a sense that we (even you) may have adopted a truncated and superficial version of the gospel of Jesus Christ? How so? Are you willing to have this revealed to you? And to reach deeper? And deepening doesn’t mean discounting what has gone before. God wastes nothing.
Today we will sing a classic many of you know but many others may not—”I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace.” It is hymn 571 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Let’s observe how this presses us past “beliefs” and into “believing” even “be-liev-ed!”
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt