“The gospel is about nothing less than the redemption of fallen human beings and the perfect, complete restoration of our broken world”. (p.28)
While we understand readily that everything will be (in the future) restored by God, as the fulfillment of the gospel, we often forget that the good news really has practical application for our individual transformation in the “right here and now”. If so, what then “is God’s ultimate goal in saving and changing us?” (p.29)
Hedges takes us to the reason why mankind was created in the first place: “…so that they would glorify him by rightly representing him…” (p.29) The idea of being an image bearer of God (displaying God’s nature, character, and glory) means that we would rightly reflect God’s glory, relate to God and one another, and reign over the earth as directed by God. God’s purpose for our creation was that we would be “mirrors of his character”, living in God-honoring community, exercising “wise, responsible stewardship” over the world.
After the Fall, all human beings are hopelessly unable to rightly represent God.
The entrance of sin changed everything. Now instead of rightly representing God, we rebel against him. We no longer prefer him over all else, rather, we readily embrace other things in his place. “Even when we sin against other human beings, we simultaneously assault God’s glory by hurting those who bear his image.” (p.32) The entrance of sin also brings to bear the consequences of that sin. It alienates us from God, causes conflict in all of our relationships and puts us in conflict with the created order.
“Not willing to abandon his creation to evil, God has purposed to redeem and restore the world by setting a new people apart for himself.” (p.35)
Jesus Christ comes into our world as the Second Adam. He does what the first Adam could not. He becomes the perfect picture of what it means to be human – to bear the image of God as Adam should have. “Jesus Christ perfectly reflects the glory of the Father, not only because he is himself divine, but because he perfectly images God’s character in his flawless humanity. In him we see what God intended all human beings to be in their relationships to God, to one another, and to creation.” (p.37) As we then become conformed to the image of Christ, we begin to properly fulfill God’s purpose for us: bringing him glory by rightly representing him.
This is the practical rub for all Christians. How do we outwork the reality of who we are in Christ? We are a new creation in Christ but we are not yet perfectly conformed to his image. “We are truly new, but not completely new.” (p.40) At this point our understanding of progressive sanctification kicks in. We become more like Jesus Christ in stages. “And though spiritual change is a divine work of God’s Spirit in our hearts and lives, it demands our participation.” (p.40) And so, Hedges encourages the reader: “Ongoing transformation is possible for you. You can become more and more like Jesus Christ. But there is only one way: through your increasing understanding and application of the gospel.” (p.41)
Brian wraps up the first chapter with a series of questions that all who claim the name of Christ would do well to answer. He calls them the “acid test of all spiritual formation”. I have reproduced them for you to think through and answer:
- Are you becoming more like Christ?
- Are the contours of your character being shaped by his image, formed in his likeness?
- Do you increasingly hate sin and love righteousness, as he already does perfectly?
- Are you growing in humility and self-giving, which he has practiced flawlessly?
- Are you making progress in loving and serving others, as he has always done in perfection?
The hope of the Gospel, and the instruction provided in this book, is that these things can become a reality in your life. The key to this transformation comes in Hedges’ second chapter.
Chance to Interact:
- Have you personally realized that you are separated from, in rebellious sin against, and condemned to bear the wrath of a just and holy God?
- Do you realize that Jesus Christ, accomplishing what we could not, perfectly lived his life on this earth and then became your sin, bearing God’s wrath in your place, on a cross shed his blood, so that you could become the righteousness of God?
- Have you confessed your sin, sought forgiveness from God and submitted yourself to live for a new Master, Jesus Christ?