Imagine yourself as a peasant in a small village. The king of the land delivers to you an invitation to his royal feast through one of his couriers. You can’t quiet understand how or why you received this invitation. You think at first that this must be a mistake. A peasant at a royal event? This doesn’t make sense? You’re not royalty?
On top of that you owe the king a huge debt for land he loaned your family years ago. A debt you can never repay, but one for which you have to work in vain to honor. In stunned disbelief you ask the courier if there has somehow been a mistake. The courier reassures you that the king has not made a mistake. This king doesn’t make mistakes. The King is aware of the debt. That is why, the courier informs you, he has already seen to it that the debt has been repaid in full. The King has decreed that the debt is resolved and has even gone so far as to make a legal proclamation of its resolution. One of the reasons you have been invited to this royal feast was so that he could make this action public. Not only has the king cleared you and your family of the debt owed him, but he wants to make you a part of his royal family.
This announcement stuns you even more. A king has just pardoned a peasant and furthermore he wants to give a peasant royal blood? This is almost too much to bear. You continue to stare at the courier in stunned disbelief waiting to hear further explanation. No further explanation comes. The courier only asks that you let the king know of your intentions to attend the royal gathering. There you have it. You have been invited to a royal feast, legal action has been taken to remove any debt between you and the king, and on top of that the king desires to make you a part of his royal family.
Now imagine that this peasant, after sitting with this good news, begins to accept what has happened. Begins to live as if it were true. Begins to tell others of this great news and the generosity of the king. Imagine that this peasant devotes his whole life going around to the village and other places telling others of the marvelous deeds done for him. Imagine that this peasant gets so excited by this news, that he forgets the most important part of the invitation. He gets so wrapped up in what was done for him by the king that he forgets to actually go to the royal feast. He loves and honors the king for what he has done. He just doesn’t have time to attend the royal ceremony. He is too busy delighting in what has taken place. He is too busy sharing the good news of his new status that he doesn’t make time to actually go to the party.
Okay, so I am not John Bunyan and the incompleteness of my analogy is a mile wide. Let me illustrate my point, yes I am actually trying to make one, another way. This illustration is a little closer to home.
I am a foster dad. My family is made up of biological children, an adopted son, and 3 foster children. We are trying to knit together our family as best we can, with God’s grace. My organization has taken legal steps to bring our foster children into our family. We have signed papers and received rights so that we can raise these children as our sons and daughters. We have removed the legal barriers so that we can care for these children in our homes. When my foster children arrived in our home we made known to them the fact of these legal arrangements. No lawyers were present, no legalese was used. No, it was much simpler than that. I said, you can call me dad. I will refer to you as my son or daughter. I not only gave them the title as son or daughter, but began to act like a dad and treat them like my son and daughter, which included love, discipline, teaching, and structure. So I overcame the legal requirement to make that possible and I also gave them a title as part of our family.
Overnight magic didn’t happen, but day by day they are accepting me as dad, not in title alone. That came early and easier. But relationally they are beginning to treat me as “dad” and less like “male adult authority”. They are starting, themselves, to feel less like strangers and more like children in a family, albeit a sometimes crazy family. Legally and by way of title, they are my sons and daughters, but relationally it is taking time.
What’s my point in all of this? Sometimes I think we act like the peasant in the first analogy and my foster children in the second, when it comes to our “gospel-centeredness”. We delight in the invitation that the Gospel brings. We worship God for what he has done on the Cross for us. We see and share the work of Christ on a bloody cross and empty tomb, but stop short of the full purpose of the cross. Was the cross for our salvation? Yes. Did the cross remove a legal requirement we could not pay? Yes. Did the cross bestow upon us a familial title of sons and daughters? Yes! There are an infinite number of things the cross did for us. Yet if the good news of the gospel stops us there, I believe, we have stopped short of the full glory of the cross. Yes the cross removed a legal debt we needed to pay but couldn’t. Yes, the cross gave us the title of sons and daughter to the Most High. Yes and Yes. But the cross of Christ and the Gospel did those things SO THAT…
So that we could have a relationship with God. So that we could love His Son more fully. So that we could delight in the King. So that we could boldly approach the throne room of grace as sons and daughter. Don’t miss the “So that” of your Gospel-Centeredness. The Gospel is the good news of Christ. The Gospel removes the barriers to loving Jesus. So that we can love him, not only for what He has done for us, but love Him for who He is beyond the cross.
I have legally bound myself to my foster children to make them my sons and daughters. I have even given them the title of son and daughter. But I did those things, so that the way would be open to a deeper relationship. I did that in the hopes that they wouldn’t just call me dad, but love me as dad. I did that so that we could have a relationship, not strained by some awkward duty, but as a son to his loving father.
So you’ve been invited. It’s worth getting excited about. Its worth telling other people about. Its worth sharing. But don’t forget to go to the royal gathering. Don’t forget that the glory ends not with what has been done for you, but the glory entails what has been done for you SO THAT the way is open for a deep relationship with the one who makes it possible. Yes, love Jesus for what He has accomplished for you, but also love Jesus because He is Jesus. Let your Gospel move you past what has been done for you so you can see clearly the one who did it.