Jesus died on the cross because He accepted me, wholly and completely, just as I am…
So I could die to myself in order to accept Him, wholly and completely, just as He is.
This the true Gospel: Accepting me as I am cost Jesus His life, and accepting Him as He is costs me my life in return.
The mystery of the cross is that we die with Him to find new life in Him – but only on His terms.
Yet if you look at social media sites like Facebook, it seems that many Christians only know a Doobie Brothers’ Gospel.
The Doobie Brothers were a 1970’s rock band (back in my day!) with a string of hits – including one called “Jesus is Just Alright.”
The main refrain in the song is “Jesus is just alright with me”, and presents Jesus as part of some mutual affirmation society.
Many today preach a Doobie Brothers’ Gospel: They seek affirmation in His grace, but not the discipline of His rule.
But does His grace really affirm us by saying we’re OK?
Not really. Confusing grace with affirmation has become a popular, but troubling, perversion of the Gospel.
God’s love and grace are unmerited, meaning He accepts us despite our sin-rooted issues – not that He affirms those issues.
This is a subtle, but important, distinction.
By grace, He accepts us at the foot of the cross – where He calls us to die to our issues as we find new life in Him and submit to His rule and discipline.
By grace He is patient and loving in dealing with our issues, in His timing – but that does not mean He affirms our issues by saying they don’t matter.
Confusing grace with mushy affirmation causes many to neglect the true Gospel, and instead embrace the Doobie Brothers’ Gospel of “I’m OK, you’re OK, and Jesus is OK too.”
In fact, back in the ’70s, “doobie” was slang for a marijuana joint, and the band took its name from that meaning and included a big picture of a joint in the inside of one of their album covers.
In their song, Jesus is not much different than smoking weed. Inhale that joint, and all is OK – your issues seemingly melt away as you enjoy a false a feeling of peace and affirmation that demands no change.
For many, “Jesus is just OK with me” to the extent their presumed relationship with Him makes no demands. Just like those today who’s lives revolve around weed, they have an earnest commitment to their source of good feelings – but that commitment is proportional (no more and no less) to how much they need those good feelings.
Those likewise trapped in a Doobie Brothers’ Gospel are easy to spot: They tout a Jesus who invariably conforms to their own sensibilities and affirms their own comfort zones, and demands nothing of them outside of either.
Why have so many reduced the Gospel to so little?
My prayer is that we once again discover that He accepts us through grace at the foot of the cross, where we die to self as we find new life in Him by embracing both His love and His rule.
Jim asks, ‘Why have so many reduced the Gospel to so little?’
Almost certainly because taking it whole and undiluted is difficult and not, on the face of it, attractive. Many people couldn’t stomach some of the things Jesus said and did. They rejected him in his own day, or tried to take the easy stuff without the hard. Why would we expect different today?
As you rightly point out, the gospel involves dying to self. We want to make it easier…
You are right Jim. By default people are (willingly) blind to see those things a loving and graceful God want to change in His children, for their good. Changing these things are painful but in the end glorious..
Salvation occurs in a moment of time when a person trusts that Christ died for their sins and rose again. At that moment God performs apprx 50 different actions in the new believer and in the courtroom of heaven sealing this new child of God forever. (propitiation, expiation, justification, reconciliation, adoption, etc)
But we are born as newborn babies “brephos” (1Pt 2:2) who need the milk of the word to grow into their salvation. Without the milk of the word and then later on the meat (Heb 5:14), there is no growth and your admonishment to die to self is not really possible. Spiritual babies can’t die to self anymore than human babies. They have too much need, yet to be fulfilled to look beyond self and the hunger in their own hearts. They are saved but don’t grow into a mature man in Christ. They live by how they feel one day and even one moment at a time, believing that how they feel is the true measure of their relationship with God. How we feel changes with our circumstances while the truth of the word that explains our relationship with God never changes and is the only stability the Christian has in this life.
Jim, unless a Christian grows up spiritually in Christ, through the word of God, looking to principles of truth as their reality, allowing the Spirit to use the word to illuminate their hearts, the desire you have to see these believers die to self is at best unlikely to happen. Yet, God remains patient with us and the option to open our hearts to God’s word is there until we die.
Thanks for continuing to stimulate thought and discussion.
Al, Jim, I like the balance and wisdom in what you say. Yes, we are to follow Jesus and lay our lives down for our brethren just as He did. And yes, many of us remain babes for way to long, because there are only so few (human) loving, guiding hands to help them grow to their “fullness”. We need to see both: Loving admonishing and loving arms.
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