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Practical Christianity

April 6, 2010 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Jerry Bridges, in his book The Gospel for Real Life, tells a story about a Southern plantation owner who left a $50,000 inheritance (equivalent to about $500,000 today) to a former slave who had served him faithfully all his life. The lawyer for the estate duly notified the former slave of his inheritance and told him that the money had been deposited for him at the local bank. However, weeks went by, and the former slave never called for his inheritance, and so that banker called again to tell him that he had $50,000 to draw on at any time. The former slave replied, “Do you think I can have fifty cents to buy a sack of cornmeal?”

You see, the former slave had rarely handled money in his life, and so he had no comprehension of what $50,000 was. He had no idea how much money was available to him, and so as a result he was asking for fifty cents when in reality he had enough money to comfortably live on for the rest of his life.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul writes this incredible prayer: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19). Notice that one of the things Paul prays for is that we would wake up to the glorious inheritance we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not talking about money here, nor do I believe is Paul, who was not rich in the things of this world. I am talking about all of the power and love and peace and joy that is available to us if we would only truly believe the gospel, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

This past Sunday, I began a new sermon series I am calling “Practical Christianity.” My goal for you in this series is that you would, as Paul said in Philippians 2:12-13, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” We have been saved from sin and death and meaninglessness in life completely by the grace of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We did nothing to earn that favor – it was a completely undeserved gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). And now, as God is at work within us, we partner with him in working out that salvation into every aspect of our lives, applying the gospel of salvation by grace to our love life, our work life, our friendships, our church, our world, and every other corner of our life. Over the next couple of months, I plan to focus on how to work out the gospel into all of those areas of our life. 

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you. I believe this has the power to be a life-changing series for you as you learn to look at your world through the lens of the gospel. Many of us have been like that former slave, drawing on our limited resources to deal with the stresses, fears, and other challenges that we face in life, when all along we have the $50,000 gospel (so to speak) available to us that speaks directly to our deepest desires, fears, and anxieties surrounding our love life, work life, money issues, etc. The gospel is not “five principles to a happy marriage” or “seven steps to reducing your debt,” and therefore neither will these sermons be that type of sermon. No – the gospel is the answer to the deepest emptiness in our heart, the most heartfelt dreams we have, and the fears and anxieties that keep us from living life to the fullest.

We have so little understanding of all that is available to us through the gospel, but I pray along with Paul that the eyes of our hearts might be opened, so that we might see it clearly and find life.

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