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Why this matters

Someone asked me why this seemingly new way of understanding the Gospel, (that the Gospel is not about how one gets assured of heaven or gets justified, but about the announcement of the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven), matters or how it changes things. I will give one very legitimate answer in a personal story as an example: When I first became a parent, I anticipated that I would have to discipline the rebellion out of my young child. I anticipated that my child would be a natural "sinner", a rebel whose most natural impulse is to resist the things of God, such as moral upright living. This is how I understood God's approach to His own children in the form of mankind. This made me a harsh parent, intolerant of anything that smells like resistance to my authority. I heard another Christian Father refer to his children as "little rebels". It didn't take long for me to realize (thank you Jesus!) that this approach was going to make my kids fear me and obey me when they are young but deeply resent me and truly rebel when they got older and realized that I would never allow myself to be challenged by them. This was a combative relationship. But it is one that I at least partially learned through osmosis being surrounded by a Calvinistic form of reformation theology. In that theology, our starting point in our relationship with God (if we are not Adam) is wrath. God is wrathful towards us before we are even old enough to understand why. This was the approach I was taking with my children. Like certain versions of "gospel" preaching, I felt an inarticulate need to convince my child that he was a sinner who would need to repent and be saved and after God changed his "wretched heart", then he would be willing to obey me in the present and God as he grew older. The trouble was (among other things), my child didn't want to displease me but actually most naturally did want to please me. Did that mean he always wanted to go to bed when I said it was bedtime? No, it didn't and doesn't. But it does mean that my child is not a rebel, but a child in need of loving, patient, discipline not for the sake of glorifying my parental skills (as a parallel, John Piper suggests that God's greatest ambition is for His own glory) but for the sake of my child's well-being and becoming the type of human being that God desires for all of His children. And that "type" of human being is the one that we find in the opening pages of the Bible when Genesis says that God made man in His own image. God wants human beings to reflect His image. The image that I was portraying for my child before was one of a combative defense of my authority. My child would certainly become a man made in his father's image, but sadly, that would not have been the image that Jesus presented in the gospels or even in the Bible as a whole. God's greatest ambition is not for His glory but for the world He so loves. (But this too results in His glory in that He succeeds in rescuing His beloved and He finishing what He began. And as a result, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.) As a result of comprehending that the Gospel is the good news of the rescuing and redeeming King of heaven and earth, and not first and foremost about how I can please God or escape His wrath, I now try to display the image of God that I see in Jesus; a humble servant who loved His children and claims His kingdom through obedient suffering on their behalf. I have little doubt that if I should succeed in this by God's grace and through His Spirit, my children will grow up to do the same and the image of God will be reflected and multiplied in the world, to the glory of God. That is why getting this right matters.

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