|With graduation quickly approaching I have the privilege of writing to you this final editor’s note for the 2012-2013 academic year. You could say that this is my farewell piece because very soon I will be graduating and moving on from MBI-Spokane. So, this is my final opportunity to address you as both your fellow student and as your editor-in-chief.
First, let’s deal with some business. I am pleased to announce that we are handing SOMA over to very capable hands. I want to introduce to you your new editors: Rebecca Kauffman and Sarah Spaur. They have played a vital role in the continued success of SOMA and are capable administrators and writers. I could not feel more confident in their ability to take what already exists and make it better. I hope that you support them with encouragement, prayer, and the finest articles you have ever written. When you see them please congratulate them.
I want to make my final exhortation quick and to the point, so here it is: believe the gospel. While this may sound simplistic it’s not. I am talking about truly, passionately, devotedly, putting your whole trust in the good news of Jesus Christ. For when many of my readers hear the term “gospel” they immediately think, “Jesus lived a perfect life, died the death I deserve, and rose on the third day, and if I put my faith in Him I’ll be saved,” which is great and true, but I am talking about something more expansive. The things listed above are the absolutely necessary historical components of which the gospel message is meaningless without, but it is not the entirety of the good news. What I am addressing here is primarily belief in the Christ and His accomplished work and receiving the outcome of that accomplishment through faith.
When someone comes to faith in the Protestant tradition they will inevitably hear “you are saved by grace through faith,” and rightly so, the New Testament teaches us that it is by grace and through faith in Christ that we are justified before God. Once saved, the language, whether we want to admit it or not, changes and begins to sound like “yes, you were saved by grace, but now you better buckle-down, grit your teeth, and work to get sanctified.” But, the truth is that in as much as we are saved by grace though faith, we are now sanctified by grace through faith. I think this confusion lies at the heart of much of our spiritual frustration. Many of us have a clear image of the type of progress we want to make and the type of people we ultimately want to be, but more often than not we make little progress because of sin. How many times have we said to ourselves, “That was the last time I’ll ever do that,” only to fail the next day? How many times have we planned to get up, do our spiritual disciplines, not talk that way, be generous with our things, read our Bibles, or pray more? We think that in doing so we will grow in godliness but we only end up failing over and over and over. Now, granted a gap will always exist between who we are and who we want to be because we will always fall short of the goal of perfect conformity to Christ, but that is no reason to disbelieve that real sanctified progress can be made. But, the progress that we seek for is not found primarily in work, which is often motivated out of fear (if I don’t do this God will be mad) or self-interestedness (if I do this God will bless me), but rather by believing in Jesus and His accomplished work.
Along with many others, I am convinced that what lies at the heart of most of our sin problems is unbelief in some component of the gospel. For those who struggle with lust, the solution is not simply to get rid of your computer and stop fantisizing, but rather to understand that whatever that lust is providing your broken heart, it cannot possibly satisfy you. Only Jesus who is the perfect lover and who loves you perfectly can. For those who aren’t generous, the solution is not to simply give all your items away, but rather to believe and be struck by the truth that He who was rich but became poor so that you might become rich in Him. For those who struggle with fear and anxiety, the problem isn’t solved by simply insulating your life to such an extent that you eradicate all sources of fear, but rather to believe that God in Christ actually loves you and will take care of you. For those of you who struggle with pride, the problem is not solved by adopting a false sense of humility, but rather by understanding reality—you were poor, blind, naked, broken, and desperate and God in His great mercy through Jesus saved you despite your condition. Therefore everything you have is a gift. For those of you who struggle with extending forgiveness, the solution is not simply avoidance or saying “it’s ok” while allowing bitterness to grow, but rather by considering the great forgiveness that was extended to you in Christ Jesus. You, who had infinitely insulted an infinitely worthy God in your rebelliousness, have been forgiven and therefore you have no basis for not extending forgiveness. Therefore, the solution is not about more effort, more new beginnings, more schedules, more accountability, or just trying harder, but rather it is faith. When you believe these things, and your heart is moved out of love for God, the actions will follow. Does this guarantee perfection? Absolutely not, but it does provide the God given answer—Jesus.
Therefore my friends, when I say “believe in the gospel” I am really speaking about believing in the accomplished work of Christ and capturing and experiencing its effectual power in our lives. Yes, the actions matter, I am not denying we play a role in some ways—“Cast out your eye, cut off your hand,” don’t do things that flame the fire, accountability is good, etc.—but these are not solutions, they are simply ways to cut off temptation. If you want to make progress in your faith, first figure out what is ultimately at the root of your sin—Do you want to feel loved? Valuable? Is it fear? Anger? Hurt? Etc.—and then consider how Jesus is the solution to that problem. Once you solve this, you must meditate on it everyday, with all your heart, and every time you feel the temptation to sin you must remind yourself of it. Jesus is the answer. He is the only one that can quench your thirst. He is the only one who can satisfy your hunger. He is the only one who can heal your heart. He is the only one who can love you perfectly. He is the only one who will provide for your every need. He is the only one who can protect you. He is the only one who perfectly accepts you. He is the only one who can save you. He is the only one who can humble you. Jesus is the answer. Put your faith in Jesus and his accomplished work and you will grow in godliness.
Thank you for sticking with us over the last two years. I have enjoyed the whole experience and hope that you have enjoyed it as well. We are all looking forward to what is produced in the future as Moody continues to grow.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you the Spring 2013 volume of SOMA “Pursuing Unity of Intellect and Affections.
“To High Places by Narrow Roads,”
Collin Daniel Duff