Today I said that the things we look to in order to accomplish spiritual formation (Learning, Resisting Temptation, Praying, Spiritual Disciplines, Community, etc) are not ends in themselves. They are the means – the tools – that the Holy Spirit uses to get us to believe the gospel.
- LEARNING helps me believe the gospel by revealing more deeply the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity
- RESISTING TEMPTATION helps me believe the gospel by reminding me how much I still need transformation
- PRAYING helps me believe the gospel by connecting my weakness to the power of God’s promises
- SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES help me to believe the gospel by preparing the soil of my heart to receive the seed of the gospel
- COMMUNITY helps me to believe the gospel by exposing my sin publicly and then reminding me of the promises of the gospel
But why do I say that all these things are tools to drive us toward the gospel? Does the Bible say as much? Yes:
John 6:29: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
Romans 1:17: In [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Galatians 5:6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
If the work of God is that we believe, and if the righteousness of the gospel is by faith, and if neither keeping God’s law nor freedom from law means anything, but only faith working through love… then the primary work God requires of us is to believe the gospel. This belief is not passive, like believing in gravity or Santa Claus. It is work, Jesus says! I take this to mean that trust and faith and hope in the gospel doesn’t come naturally or passively; it’s something God must “beat into our heads continually” (Martin Luther) through his appointed means.
So hey: believe the gospel. Pray and study and obey and fast and commune with each other SO THAT you might actually believe that you are a sinner and Jesus is your only hope, TODAY.