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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Praying the Gospel

J.D. Greear wrote a few days ago concerning Tim Keller’s comments (see below) regarding the effect of the gospel on making us more winsome evangelists. I’ve thought much in the past year about how to reflect on the gospel in such a way that it consistently moves me toward the sort of humility and confidence to which Keller alludes. This morning I found myself praying following a suggestion I heard many years ago. The suggestion is to take a familiar passage and make it personal in the following manner. In my journal this morning I wrote and prayed, “Father, I give you praise because I was spiritually dead and yet you caused me to come alive.” (from Eph. 2:1) “I was unrighteous and would never have sought you on my own (from Rom. 3:10-11) but you demonstrated your love for me in this, that while I was still a sinner, Jesus died for me. (from Rom. 5:8) I also prayed the verse I can remember my early pastors talking about using this practice with the most. “God you so loved me that you gave your one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (from John 3:16) Though this practice may seem simple, perhaps even simplistic, I think that such honest prayers are a way of meditating on the gospel and cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in such a way that it results in the transformation that results in greater humility and greater confidence, two critical character qualities in effectively sharing the gospel. I’m copying in Keller’s words below from Greear’s blog: Plus I’ve ordered Greear’s new book on this topic.
 “When the gospel ‘comes home’-humbling and affirming you, it turns every believer into a natural evangelist…Evangelism happens because of a) the humility of the gospel. The gospel (unlike religious moralism) produces people who are not disdainful and contemptuous towards those who disagree with them. Also, it happens through b) the affirmation of the gospel. Because of the reality and joy of Christ’s love, we are not as concerned what others think. The gospel brings a gentle boldness.” 
“The gospel makes us neither self-confident nor self-disdaining, but both bold and humble at once. To the degree I am still functionally earning my worth through performance (i.e. to the degree I am still functioning in works-righteousness), to that degree I will be either operating out of superiority or inferiority. Why! Because if I am saved by my works, then I can either be confident but not humble (if I am living up) or humble but not confident (if I am not living up). In other words, apart from the gospel, I will be forced to be superior or inferior or to swing back and forth or to be one way with some people and another way with others. I am continually caught between these two ways, because of the nature of my self image.
 So the gospel humbles me before anyone, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. But it also emboldens me before anyone, telling me I am loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count. So the gospel gives a boldness and a humility that do not “eat each other up” but can increase together.” 

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