I still remember my white-knuckled pew grabbing. When I really wanted to go forward at service and give my life to Christ. Maybe it was a rededication—maybe it was coming to Christ for the first time. I don’t know, but I know that at that time the gospel seemed so beautiful. But I was counting the cost and it seemed so huge.
During that time in my life I wrote this rather choppy line:
Standing on holy ground
With one shoe
Caught between a life of me
And one devoted to you
I deeply wanted to listen and follow the voice calling from the burning bush but I wanted to at least keep a shoe on. Then grace caught up with me and either took my shoes off completely or just threw me into the burning bush to be consumed, accepted, loved, and cleansed. I was forever changed and smitten with the gospel.
Over time my understanding of the gospel and the work of the Lord grew exponentially. I was swept up in all of the language of being gospel-centered and pursued being a gospel-centered pastor. I still am to this day.
But somewhere along the way I forgot something…
Being Gospel-Centered Is a Bloody Mess
I’m finding that the deeper the gospel goes in my heart the more entrenched is the sin that it is uprooting. Early on the Lord was dealing with surface stuff. Things like cursing and watching inappropriate things or listening to really vulgar music.
My white-knuckled pew grabbing back then had to do with whether I wanted to follow Christ or keep driving through town blaring Eminem. It feels stupid now. I’d give that up in a heartbeat.
Now the stuff that I’m hanging onto are the things that are in the depths. Identity things. Deeply entrenched patterns of thought and action and character. But it’s no less bloody than giving up Eminem. In fact it’s probably more.
Bonhoeffer once said that when Christ calls a man he bids him to come and die. I’m coming to understand that this calling and coming and dying isn’t just pertaining to initial salvation. The whole thing is a bloody mess.
Being gospel-centered doesn’t just mean that we dance in the fields of favor with the Lord. It means that…a thousand times yes…it means that. But being gospel-centered also means that we are at times necessarily afflicted by the gospel. It is not as if the deeper our understanding of the gospel goes then the easier the bloodshed will be. No, it’s likely that the deeper the gospel goes then the deeper will be the things that the gospel is transforming.
A Particularly Bloody Mess
But there is something that must be remembered. Our bloodshed doesn’t salvifically accomplish anything. We could surrender our bodies up to flames and still be as nothing.
The only blood that accomplishes anything has already been shed and is now already applied to the account of those that are trusting in Christ. Yes being gospel-centered is a bloody mess but it’s a bloody mess that is founded upon a particular blood shedding event.
It is important to not forget this, because as a believer when we are in the midst of white-knuckled pew grabbing and we are being ripped asunder it isn’t for our salvation. It’s not an event that determines whether we are in Christ or not. It’s about our joy and growth in the Lord. Our acceptance is grounded on the blood that has already been shed.
We let go of these idols because we become convinced that Christ is more beautiful than sin. Even those deep seated things that are part of who we think we are–are forsaken so that we can grab ahold of more of Christ. And so even in the midst of being torn asunder there is a quiet joy that shines through.
For Christ is sweeter! And he’s worth this whole bloody mess.