Editors Note: The following is an adapted excerpt from an upcoming book by Brandon, The Abrasive Gospel.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being trampled violently underfoot in too many pulpits all across America. It is being spat on in Christian or “biblical” counseling sessions and mocked by contemporary worship music – song after song. More still, legions of men who have been entrusted with the task of shepherding souls have so denigrated the grace of God in Jesus Christ and so watered down (or nuanced to the point of irrelevance) the gospel message that there are, as Leonard Ravenhill put it, countless individuals being “launched into a Christ-less eternity and are in orbit forever in the regions of the damned.”
In other words, too many professing evangelicals are going to hell when they die, not because they have willingly rejected the unerringly heralded message of the cross after finding it wanting, but because they think themselves Christian while either blatantly ignoring the call to follow Jesus and pursue holiness by the power of His spirit or are blissfully unaware of the call and costs of the biblical gospel. They have duped themselves, and their hearers, into a perpetuity of trauma and torture fiercely clinching onto what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would call “cheap grace”. These issues are not limited to any one denomination or theological persuasion; rather, they constitute an ideological, even theological, epidemic plaguing the Western Church as a whole.
If any of this be true, and it certainly is, then It is not enough to sit idly by and hope for a better tomorrow. No, we must bloody our knees in prayer, soak our face with tears, wet our pens with ink, and preach our throats raw in the hope that God would show our generation a supernatural grace that has scarcely been seen this side of eternity. We must clarify not only the person and work of Jesus Christ but the cost associated with following him.
In short, today’s church is in peril but she doesn’t need a viciously emotive anti-intellectualism, modern pop psychology, or a cold, dead orthodoxy to save or satiate her – she needs a beautifully robust, God-glorifying, Holy Spirit honoring, Jesus treasuring and exulting, lordship embracing, cost and cross cherishing, abrasive, yet life-giving understanding of the Gospel.
So, why do we need an abrasive gospel? The word abrasive isn’t generally used in an optimistic or inviting fashion. In fact, it often times functions as a descriptor for less than ideal, even harsh situations.
The reason I chose this peculiar word is not because I want to be viewed as particularly novel, nor is it because I want the gospel to be seen in an overtly pessimistic way (because it is a very optimistic reality). Rather, I believe abrasive is a term that will allow us to view rightly the gospel message for all that it is – and all that it isn’t. The gospel, in all of its splendor, majesty, beauty, and compassion is often times violently abrasive. Indeed, it has to be!
The gospel, by its very design, stands starkly opposed to our innate sinfulness and carnality, our delusions of self-sufficiency, and ultimately our desire to be and act as God. Therefore, if we are to understand the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, we must also understand what it’s confronting and how its conforming us to the image of the son (God’s abrasive grace). This way of thinking, and communicating, I fear has fallen by the wayside.
The promise of the Gospel is not that you will eventually be ejected to heaven, but that your sins would no longer be held against you and that you will be gifted conformity to the image of the son (Rom. 8:29) in order to dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Ps. 23:6) as a reconciled child of God through Christ (Gal. 4:7) – but how you get there is down an abrasive road laden with troubles and trials because we are ridiculously stubborn, hell-bound, and sin clinching children of wrath.
But there are also triumphs. For in the gospel, we get God and the goodness and blessedness He extends graciously to His children through the blood of Jesus. He creates in us a new heart, a new mind that loves and desires to be like His Son, and new hands to work for His good pleasure. So, do not be afraid of an abrasive gospel brothers and sisters. For in its abrasiveness, it is beautiful. It is doing something! Something glorious and sweet. Therefore, view it not as a club to bludgeon sinners over the head with but rather, a mammoth truth that enables life to be found in Jesus.
Friends, dare to be ambassadors of this blunt yet mercifully abrasive reality of God’s glorious news! By learning to embrace and proclaim abrasivity, we learn to rest and run in God’s sweet and sufficient grace.
Brandon Scalf is the Pastor of New Hope Church in Carmel, Indiana. He is also the Founder of the Cruciform Conference. He has an MTS from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his M.Div at Grace Bible Theological Seminary.
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