The Wonderful Liberation of a Gospel Culture

26 June 2020

The following is an excerpt from Ray Ortlund’s The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. 

How wonderful it is to come every Sunday into a liberating church! All week long we swim in an ocean of judgment and negative scrutiny. We constantly have to comply with the demands of a touchy world, and we never measure up. Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier characterizes “normal” human interactions as a cycle of criticism, guilt, and self-justification:

In everyday life we are continually soaked in this unhealthy atmosphere of mutual criticism, so much so that we are not always aware of it and we find ourselves drawn unwittingly into an implacable vicious circle: every reproach evokes a feeling of guilt in the critic as much as in the one criticized, and each one gains relief from his guilt in any way he can, by criticizing other people and self-justification.

Then, on Sunday, we walk into a new kind of community where we discover an environment of grace in Christ alone. It is so refreshing. Sinners like us can breathe again! It’s as if God simply changes everyone’s topic of conversation from what’s wrong with us, which is plenty, to what’s right with Christ, which is endless. He replaces our negativity, finger-pointing, and self-hatred with the good news of his grace for the undeserving. Who couldn’t come alive in a community that’s constantly inhaling that heavenly atmosphere?

Here is where every one of us can happily take a stand right now: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Our self-focus was crucified with Christ. The need to conceal failure and display false superiority no longer lives. Christ is enough to complete every one of us, without adding anything of ourselves.

As we humbly keep in step with the truth of this gospel, people will find a new kind of community in our churches where sinners and sufferers can thrive. If confrontation is ever needed, it is only “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (Gal.2:5).

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