April 2, 2017
In the worlds of computer programming and mathematics and logic, if-then statements are really important. If A, then B. If a shape is a triangle, then its angles add up to 180 degrees. If you eat an entire bag of Doritos each and every day for a month without changing anything else in your life, then, barring some kind of miracle, you will probably gain some weight.
Actually, if you stop and think about it, you may realize that we twirl if-then statements in our minds all the time. They are an important part of life. If they say yes to me, then I will take the job. If the Cubs stay healthy, then they will be in the World Series. If she likes me, then I will ask her out. If it’s going to rain later today, then I’m going to wear this and bring that. If I hit the treadmill enough, then I can eat all the Doritos I want.
If-then statements are happening all the time.
The Bible contains many if-then statements as well. If you have been saved by grace, then sin no more. If Christ has risen, then so too will you rise from the dead. If Romans 1-11, then Romans 12-16. If God has loved you, then you ought to love others. If God is for us, then who can be against us?
Brothers and sisters, this is how our salvation in Jesus Christ works. There is a simple logic and a profound order to our Christian faith and life. God acts and speaks first. We act and speak second. Jesus died for us. We live for him. The Spirit works in our hearts. We grow and change. This is the logic and order of our salvation in Jesus Christ.
This is a huge concept when it comes to God’s commands. Just as you don’t put a cart before a horse, so also do you not put God’s command before God’s gift. That logic and order belonged to the covenant of old, when Adam had to earn heaven and righteousness and fellowship with his Maker by not eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For Adam, he had to obey in order to go to heaven. But for us, we obey because we are going to heaven.
God’s love for us is therefore unconditional. He has no if-then statements drawn up for us. There is no such thing as, “If he gets his act together, then I will save him.” There is no such thing as, “If she works on her holiness, then I will love her.” No. This is not the gospel. The gospel is this. God out of his grace and mercy chooses us to be saved. Jesus Christ as a second and final Adam comes to obey and earn and fulfill the covenant on our behalf. He is the perfect person who has done the perfect work. And he credited his righteousness to us so that we can have eternal life.
But, while God’s love for us is absolutely unconditional, you could say that our love for God is very much conditional. But his conditions, his gracious conditions are irresistable. We have encouragement in Christ. We have comfort from love. We have a participation in the Spirit. We have affection and sympathy. We have Jesus. Brothers and sisters, with these conditions in play, there is only one thing left for us to do: trust and obey and love and worship and serve and live for and die for our Lord and Savior and Friend and King. This is the logic that runs the program of our lives. This is the life that is driven by the programming language of God’s word and his promises. And it simply says this: If God has done all of this for us, then let us now do all of this for God. If Jesus paid it all, then all to him I owe. If God is the LORD our God who brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, then I shall not murder. If the Lord is my Shepherd, then I shall not want. If there is faith, then there must be works. If the Lord loves me, then “Behold, Lord, the half of my good I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” If Jesus did what he did for me, then to live is Christ and to die is gain, and whatever gain I had, I count as loss for the sake of Christ, because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Brothers and sisters, Christian life is one gigantic if-then statement. So be careful and take notice. If you find yourself dry in your obedience to the Lord, perhaps it is because you have put the car before the horse. Or even worse, perhaps you have no horse at all. Many churches in America today struggle with this. I listen to sermons and preachers online, and there is an imbalance and a misordering of gospel and law. The law is certaintly not a bad thing in and of itself. But if all your Christian life and spiritual growth is fueled by the law instead of the gospel, then perhaps you need to update your jailbroken operating system. If your primary concern is about what you have to do for God instead of what God has already done for you, then perhaps you are working with one gigantic non sequitir.
Brothers and sisters, you have encouragement in Christ. You have comfort from his love. You have a participation in his Spirit. You have his affection and sympathy. You have the forgiveness of sins. You are no longer condemned. You have the hope of a resurrection life after death. You can look forward to a new heavens and a new earth. You have the happiest ending that any human being could possibly want.
If all of this is yours, then have the same mind and be united and love one another. Let us share in the same big picture. Let us encourage one other with the same hope. Let us fight side by side in the same faith. Let us declare the same gospel. Let us worship the same King. If all of this is yours, then have the same mind and be united and love one another.
If all of this is yours, then let us be humble and count others more significant than ourselves. Let us do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.
If all of this is yours, then let us look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others. Let us care for others and consider the needs of others. Let us not compete against one another or fight each other or become rivals of one another.
Paul asked the Philippian church to do these things in light of the wonderful gospel of Christ. And he threw in there a special request. He said: complete my joy. This is profound. Paul was in prison and in chains. He was suffering for the Lord and for his gospel. Yet what he wanted above all things was for the Philippian church to live lives worthy of the gospel. If they did that, then that would complete Paul’s joy. That would make him happy.
Brothers and sisters, let us be a church that is most happy when we see that the manner of people’s lives are worthy of the gospel. Let us be thrilled when we see love abound more and more, along with knowledge and discernment and purity and blamelessness and righteousness for the day of Christ. Let our joy be completed as we see the gospel advancing in our hearts and minds here at Highland. But if we become a church that loses focus on the big picture, if we allow selfish ambition or conceit rule the day, if we care only about ourselves and not the interests or needs of others, then the happiness and thrill and joy of Highland will become hard to find.
But when we are found wanting of that joy, all we need to do is fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, who, as we’ll look at in next Sunday’s sermon and also now in today’s Lord’s Supper, had a joy set before him, a joy and a mind that led him to empty himself and humble himself, taking the form of a servant, and becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.