Time Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.
(by Jonathan Sgalambro)
I find it vital to my mission, 1st as a Christian, 2nd as a husband and 3rd as a pastor, to constantly remind myself about who I truly am in light of who God is and what he accomplished for me. The great reformer, John Calvin wrote that, “Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”
A firm understanding of who we are in relation to the nature and character of God will overflow into a spirit of humility. A character trait that is often looked down upon in our culture, but one that is highly exalted throughout the pages of sacred Scripture. However, this humble spirit cannot be manufactured. Rather, it is a fruit that is produced through sincere Gospel transformation.
The question I pose in the title, Do We Truly Understand, calls us to examine whether or not the Gospel of grace is the thing that our lives are centered upon. Just as the all of the planets revolve around the sun, so should our lives revolve around the precious truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. In Colossians chapter one, Paul commends the church for their understanding of the Gospel,
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the Gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit…as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:3-6 ESV).”
We see from the text that Paul is able to assess their understanding because there is clear evidence of fruit being produced. Paul understood fruit to be a byproduct of earnest Gospel understanding.
But what is it that needs to be “understood”? And what exactly does Paul mean when he says, “understood”? I will first answer the second question. The word Paul chooses to use here is not a reference to a simple surface level understanding of something. This term goes much deeper than that. Paul is referring to a deep and intimate understanding of the Gospel. The same type of intimate understanding one should have of their wife is the type of understanding Paul is referencing here, and it is this type of understanding that produces fruit.
Let us now answer the first question about what it is that needs to be “understood”. The Gospel is God’s plan for reconciling his people back unto himself, but there are certain elements that are necessary for us to meditate upon and digest. First is the nature and character of God. The Bible clearly presents the creator as being absolutely righteous in all of his dealings, good, glorious and holy (these are just a few of the many attributes of God). We, on the other hand, are evil, wretched and sinful, desperately needing a savior. All of us can quote what it says in Romans 6:23, that the “wages of sin is death”, which offers us very little hope for our current state. However, there is a word that follows “death” in this particular verse, a word that completely shifts the trajectory of this fatal bullet. That word is “but”. “For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23 ESV).” That “free gift”, though free for the recipient, was extremely costly for the giver. The cost was the very life of the Son of God, when he was nailed to a cross, suffering the very death that was intended for us.
These three things are necessary for us to become intimately acquainted with. The nature and character of God, the nature and character of us, and the cost for reconciling the two back together. We deserve death and punishment and God has every right to pour out his wrath upon us. But the cross deflected the fatal blow and our faith and trust in the savior allows us now to partake as children rather than as enemies. As we meditate upon these truths, we’ll begin to see that God doesn’t need us but rather we desperately need him. Our utter dependence upon his grace will transform us into the Christians, husbands/wives and pastors God is calling us to be. Do we truly understand the Gospel that we preach? Or are we just going through the motions week after week?
Jonathan Sgalambro is married to his beautiful wife Deanna. They are looking forward to their first child being born this coming February. Jonathan is the youth pastor at Mountainside Chapel in Mountainside, NJ.
Posted on October 4, 2010