A Subtle Loss
I don’t know about you, but in the rush and press of life I can lose my mind. No, I’m not talking about going insane and needing to be institutionalized. I’m talking about a much more subtle form of insanity that often inflicts me and a vast number of my Christian brothers and sisters. There are moments in my life when I lose my gospel mind. There are moments when I live as if God does not exist, the Bible had never been written, and Jesus had never lived, died, and rose again. I’m not referencing an intentional walking away from the faith but rather a deformative gospel forgetfulness. Why do I call it deformative? Because in these moments my life is no longer formed by a vibrant rest in a surrender to my Lord but rather it is deformed by other things in and around me. There are times when I lose sight of what is truly important and valuable in life and, when I do, it alters what I desire, how I think, what I say, and the things I do. I am sure I am not alone.
Perhaps during an argument with your husband, wife, or friend, securing affirmation as being right (for once) becomes the most important thing to you. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe you find yourself doing whatever is necessary to get that job promotion. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe you’re willing to destroy your relationship with your neighbor over a boundary dispute. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe you rip vengefully into your teenager because you’re tired of being disrespected. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe you cling to an unending obsession with your weight and appearance. You have lost your gospel mind. Perhaps a lifestyle dream is leading you into crushing debt. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe you harbor a pattern of internet sexual sin. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe you feel an overwhelming anxiety about what people think about you and how they respond to you. You have lost your gospel mind. Or you might demand to be in charge and in control of your relationships. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe you are passive and complacent when it comes to your faith. You have lost your gospel mind. Maybe patterns of envy and bitterness have robbed you of your joy. You have lost your gospel mind.
Because the radical, life-shaping, and hope-giving values of the gospel are nowhere reinforced in the surrounding culture, we all live in constant need of fundamental gospel-values clarification. We all need to be reminded again and again of what is truly valuable and, therefore, what should be truly formative in life. I’m sure you are aware that it has never been more difficult to keep the worldly, materialistic, and degospelized values of the culture around us at bay. It is harder than ever to quiet the cacophony of voices and think with gospel clarity about what is truly important. It’s hard because we now carry in our pockets or purses all of those voices in a single piece of powerful technology. It is nearly impossible to overstate the influence of Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media on how we think about ourselves and life itself. In those moments when you’re not actively doing something, it’s hard not to reach down, pull out the device, and surf once again. It’s hard not to feel the need to post your life, and then compare your life to others who are posting their lives. Meanwhile, it’s hard to see the ways in which these powerful habits of influence have caused you to forget what is truly valuable in life.
God’s Grace Meets Us
But as is true with every other spiritual danger in our lives, God, in grace, meets us at our point of need with just what we need. What is one of the primary ways our loving Savior meets us as we struggle not to lose our gospel minds? He meets us with the gift of his church. He knows that we need help. He knows we are not spiritually hardwired to make it on our own. So he has ordained his church to regularly gather, that we would remember once again, grieve once again, celebrate once again, and go out and live in light of the beautiful values of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These regular gatherings of God’s people are not first an obligation; they are a gift. They are not first a duty; they are a welcome. They are the Father pulling you up on his lap, whispering in your ear that he loves you, reminding you of who you are and of the surpassing value of being in his family, and then putting you down and sending you on your way.
The regular gathering of the church is designed to lovingly confront us with the fact that the most valuable thing in life can’t be earned. The most valuable thing in life cannot be humanly achieved. The most valuable thing is life can’t be purchased or owned. The most valuable thing in life is not an experience you will have. The most valuable thing in life is not something you will get from people in your life. The most valuable thing in life is an eternal gift of divine grace. It is my eternal forgiveness, my eternal acceptance into the family of God, and the guaranteed destiny that is mine as a child of God, all secured for me by the righteous life, substitutionary death, and life-giving resurrection of Jesus.
The regular gathering of the church is designed to lovingly confront us with the fact that the most valuable thing in life can’t be earned.
The most valuable thing in all of life is my union with Christ. By grace, he is in me and I am in him. This union means I don’t have to be spiritually and emotionally imprisoned by past regrets, I don’t have to live fearfully and powerlessly in the present, and I don’t have to be crippled by anxiety in the future. Gospel values allow me to live at the intersection of humility and hope. They allow me to live with a radical honesty about my own weaknesses while living with courage as well. They lead me to live for a glory greater than my own, to be generous as God has been generous to me, to forgive as I have been forgiven, and to pursue growth in spiritual maturity more than I pursue any other kind of success in my life. No, I don’t mean that I quit doing all the things that every other human being must do (job, relationships, finances, physical health, entertainment and leisure). Rather, these domains of my life take on new meaning and purpose because they are no longer the places where I look for life, but are now the places where I joyfully live out the life that I have been given by redeeming grace alone.
May we look with anticipation to the weekly gathering as a gift, just as we would look with anticipation at opening a gift handed to us by a loved one. Corporate worship is God’s weekly gift to us, wrapped in the grace of Jesus and given by the one who created us, knows us, understands the temptations that greet us in the broken world we live in, and offers us the help we need. This gathering reminds us that God will never grow tired of us, never regret that we are in his family, and never walk away in disgust. No, he welcomes us to gather once again, and in gathering to remember, and in remembering to have our values clarified, and in having our values clarified to have the worship of our hearts reclaimed and our living reordered. May we receive his gift of the gathering of his church with joy, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25).
This article is adapted from Sunday Matters: 52 Devotionals to Prepare Your Heart for Church by Paul David Tripp.
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