This book, intended for Christians, walks the believer in Jesus, through what he is supposed to believe. Set against the cultural context of the west, the gospel as Jerry presents it seems ever increasingly counter-cultural.
God’s Hatred — A massive part of the good news story is the complete holiness of God. The hatred God has for sin is overwhelming. There is no “relax, take it easy, no big deal” attitude when it comes to God and sin. His holiness will not tolerate any sin ever. The guilt of offence is proportional to the greatness of the one whom we have offended and since God is the greatest of great, we have a problem.
Sin is very, very bad — Our culture is at war with the very concept of sin. Nobody in our world want’s to speak of it. Poor choices, extenuating circumstances, lousy environment, mental illness, unwise decisions etc. are the preferred explanations we give for the bad stuff we do. However, the gospel defines all the bad stuff as sin, and sin according to the Bible is a complete disregard for God, a rebellion against his authority, and a defiance against his way, and, as the story goes, all of us are full of sin. Nobody seems to want to think in those terms anymore. But those are the terms set before us if the good news is to truly be good news.
Jesus meets us in our mess — Some people deal with the reality of guilt through self condemnation, they are forever beating themselves up. Others go in the opposite direction and embrace self righteousness as their coping mechanism. They have no time to consider their own guilt because they are too busy judging others and proving to anyone interested (and anyone who is not) just how good they are. Jesus comes and through him we acknowledge our guilt. We no longer condemn ourselves or justify ourselves we simply in faith give our sin over to God through Jesus. The good news destroy’s the performance based life — we don’t have to prove ourselves anymore, we are loved. The good news also destroy’s the guilt based life, we don’t have to punish ourselves any more, we are forgiven.
Am I really cursed? — Do we really believe that we deserve the curse of God? Unfathomable, in our modern cultural context, but yet that is the belief of every single Christian.
Gratitude as motivation for obedience — If we are convinced that we are deserving of judgment but yet we receive eternal reward because of Jesus’ sacrifice, then the overwhelming response to this grace can only be gratitude. We do not obey God’s wishes because we live in fear of judgment or in expectation of reward we obey them out of a thankful heart coming from the great love that has been showered upon us.
Don’t think about rewards think about grace — Jerry attempts to divert the reader from considering eternal rewards as a motivator for obedience, I get that, however, if eternal rewards are a non-factor, why do the Scriptures talk about them so much? Jerry does not attempt to answer that question. Perhaps, we are supposed to think of eternal rewards, not so much as a reason for obedience, but rather a cause for joy. The anticipation of what will be is great fuel to help us persevere now, most especially when times are tough. This forward look of the gospel’s consummation, is a big point, I think, that was missed.
Dependant Responsibility — This was a major point in this book. The Holy Spirit does the work of transformation. Salvation and growth in a persons life are all the work of God. However, the human is responsible. How does that work? Jerry sorts this paradox by going into a classroomish explanation of the synergistic vs. monergistic works of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when you break the story down into it’s highly technical parts you loose a little something, at least for me anyway.
Repentance — I was struck at the necessity of regular repentance for the Christian. Getting into the habit of giving all the junk over to Jesus is tremendously beneficial for helping the follower of Jesus remember the gospel story he is believing.