If you are like me more than once you have found yourself thinking about one thing or another and wondering how you came to be thinking about that particular thing. So, you start trying to retrace your thoughts, as it were, in an attempt to find out how you got to the topic currently on your mind. If you are truly like me then you probably had to do this a couple more times to get to the original thought because you got sidetracked while backtracking. Confusing, I know. The sad fact is that this is how my twisted mind works. I guess you could say that my mind is sort of like a big bowl of wires that look like spaghetti and are constantly shorting out against one another. Each spark starts a new thought process and accumulates with it the previous ten or twelve thoughts creating an amalgamated sort of monstrous mega-thought.
That is kind of how I feel sometimes. Like I have this mountain of ideas from which I will never make heads or tails. In reality it is a group of ideas sparked by similar thoughts on dissimilar subjects which ultimately end up in a jumble. If up till now you have managed to stay with me take heart, it should get easier. The simplest way for me to sort these things out is by writing. The last few weeks have reflected this in the previous posts. I have been thinking about the gospel a lot and the thoughts seem to just pile up until I thought I would go insane trying to ever sort them out. I hope that as I put them in writing they made more sense. The reason I am putting this in writing is to let you know why I write. I believe that the direction of our thoughts reveals who we are. I also believe that to change who we are we must change what we think (Romans 12:2).
For me this change makes me dizzy. I cannot ever find a way to think about one thing. I am always thinking about at least five to ten things at a time. Most of them are unrelated but sometimes as has been the case for the last few weeks they have all been different facets of the same topic; the Gospel. As I have been writing one thought seemed to coalesce as the conclusion of my wrestling these thoughts into some semblance of order. That thought is that the church as we know it in the USA has ceased to function in light of the Gospel.
Before you go praying imprecatory prayers on me for my harsh words, please, allow me to explain. First let me state for the record what I did NOT say. I did not say the church no longer preaches the gospel. Nor did I say that the gospel has been cast aside for some other teaching. What I DID say was that the church has ceased to function in light of the gospel.
Many churches today are using the gospel as a means for social reform, or as a means of numerical growth, or simply because it is what a church is supposed to do. It is almost as if the church is merely trying to stay alive and the gospel is one of its tried and true remedies (even if some consider it outdated). I know that many churches are doing an admirable job, and that is great. So how do we make it an all out 100% thing? I think that the missing ingredient is emotion. We all know that the Christian walk is not about how you feel. What I fear is that we have completely eliminated the emotional aspect of our faith.
We went from a state of constant emotional appeal to one of rational (read stoic) response to a logical presentation of the Gospel. There is one key problem with this; the gospel is NOT rational. It is not logical, or reasonable. It is NOT a philosophy to be interpreted and acknowledged mentally, it is a spiritual matter! The Scriptures tell us that the gospel is foolishness and a stumbling block. To use modern vernacular, it is matter of the heart. We do not judge what we know to be true based on how we feel about it. The opposite is true also. We do not eliminate how we feel because of what we know. The two are inextricably linked.
I think we have forgotten how good it feels to know your sins are forgiven. When was the last time you stopped and thanked God that you are no longer bearing the burden of guilt and shame? (Both emotions by the way.) I am not trying to deny that the gospel has a mental component. But Romans 10:9 tells us that there is a mental and an emotional response to the gospel. The mouth speaks, and the heart believes. Belief is not just mental assent, it is emotional investment.
We do not like to acknowledge this because we seem to equate emotions with some sort of innate fickleness. I would like to borrow a definition of the emotion we call love from Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr., it goes as follows: “love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that leads to action on behalf of its object.” (Family Driven Faith, pp 57-59) This definition implies that love has three components, mental – will, emotional, practical – action. What does this have to do with the gospel and the Christian faith? Everything. The gospel is not an outreach program (though that is a start), or a desperate appeal. It is a conscious decision made by the eternal God of the universe, because He LOVED us! We have the gospel as part of God putting His emotions to action for us. Can we do any less?
I have argued that the Gospel needs to be understood while maintaining its wonder, acknowledged for its inherent power, and placed in a central place in our lives. To this I would add one more thing, if the gospel does not affect how you feel, you are missing out. Paul stated that the love of Christ compelled him to preach the gospel. This was not rationalization, it was raw emotion. Christ Himself was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes. We need more of this. It is not degrading, or humiliating. It is not sissylike, it is Christlike! I am not calling for a blubbering mass of tears and whatever. I am, however, calling for a renewed understanding that the gospel affects the whole of man, and if we eliminate the parts we do not feel comfortable with we take away from what the gospel is. I guess when it comes to the gospel I would say, “Think about it, feel it, live it, and share it.”