This week WHI guys were (are) on an essential topic: assuming the gospel. During my early years as an evangelical I recall being told that, “Ours is a practical congregation.” I learned a lot of important life skills and common sense and wisdom and, to be sure, our pastor preached Christ and him crucified, but there was a disconnection between “the gospel” and the Christian life. There was little talk of grace and no talk of gratitude flowing out of God’s grace for us in Christ.
Things were not always radically different when I became Reformed. There were no altar calls or sweaty revival services but I do recall getting the impression that, in effect, “we all know what the gospel is.” I did hear that when I went to seminary in 1984. I was reading a lot of nouthetic counseling books. I’m very thankful for the good and ground-breaking work of Jay Adams. Competent to Counsel provided me with a way to think critically about modernist psychology and psychiatry. Nevertheless, I did sometimes come away from counseling classes with the impression that, “We all know what we think about the gospel.” At that moment, when we say such things, we make the gospel a mere theory and we take a step away from the foundation of the Christian life. It’s true that, in counseling, sometime one needs to be exhorted to “get off the couch and stop popping chocolates!,” as I recall hearing from a notable Reformed preacher some decades ago, but that isn’t the gospel and there’s no power in “get off the couch” to actually transform lives.
It’s counter-intuitive but the route to sanctity isn’t a straight line. It always and necessarily runs through the cross.