Spiritual Renewal: Renewal Means Rediscovering the Gospel (II)

(This is a continuation of our study on spiritual renewal. You can find all of the posts here.)
“The Church has been trying to preach morality and ethics without the Gospel as a basis; it has been preaching morality without godliness; and it simply does not work. It never has done, and it never will. And the result is that the Church, having abandoned her real task, has left humanity more or less to its own devices.”
-Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Scripture Reading: Romans 3:21-31
Lesson: The gospel is always opposed by two forces: rebellion and religion. The apostle Paul makes this point clearly in Romans 1-3. Romans 1:18-32 is a demonstration of the godlessness of the pagan, Greek world, the world in open rebellion against God. Then Romans 2:1-3:20 is a demonstration of the godlessness of the religious, Jewish world which Paul came of age in. Neither group has understood the good news of Jesus.
This truth is especially important when we consider revival because it is often religion, not rebellion, which is the thing that kills the church and thus leads it to need to be revived. While we claim the name of Christ and engage in outwardly Christian observances, we have lost the power of the gospel. We have not appreciated and applied the good news of the cross and resurrection to our daily lives and self-understanding. As a result, we end up proud, cold, defensive, and self-serving.
By the time we realize our sorry spiritual condition, that loss of the gospel has worked itself out in a loss of morality. The good news of Jesus is the fuel and motivation for Christian moral obedience, and so there is no surprise that when it is lost, the guilt and shame we use in its place don’t have to power to truly change lives. Losing the grace of God causes us to ultimately lose the law as well.
However, because of this reality, we can misdiagnose the problem. We believe that the moral failing is the main thing, and so we try to focus on sanctification and discipleship. Both are important parts of the Christian life, but in Christianity our sanctification always rests on our justification and our discipleship on the gracious encounter we have with the living Christ. Trying to encourage people to be moral without a deep appropriation of gospel identity creates religion, which as we said, is an enemy of true revival. The very thing we think we are seeking is the thing we make impossible because of how we seek it.
We must learn to anchor our lives in what Paul proclaims here in Romans 3. The righteousness of God is received apart from the law by faith. The blood of Jesus is a propitiation (an atoning sacrifice) for our sins. As we trust in Him, we are given a new identity as righteous and beloved. The more we understand this truth, the more spiritual life will begin to come.
Prayer: Loving Father, You have saved us not because of what we have done but only because of Your love. You have justified us and redeemed us. Because of the work of Jesus, we are called holy and righteous, beloved sons and daughters called by Your name. Teach us to trust in this work and stand in this identity in our lives. Deliver us from the bondage of lawlessness and of legalism; teach us to walk rooted in grace and built up in the cross. All of this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.