Perhaps the title to this post doesn’t move you? Doesn’t sound particularly hopeful? After all, what person hears the word ‘objectivity’ and experiences hope well up in her heart? Stay with me; there is breathtaking hope in the objectivity of the gospel.
I’m using ‘objectivity’ as a noun meaning facts or conditions independent of personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations — an external reality. When we consider this aspect of the gospel, hope should begin to rise up in our hearts.
This hopeful objectivity is exactly what Michael Horton describes in The Gospel-Driven Life, a book I’ve benefited from much in the last week.
Horton raises the alarm about our culture’s obsession with self-improvement and the narcissism of “spirituality” — a danger as great as materialism when it comes to keeping us preoccupied with self. Moralistic prescriptions for living the Christian life, Horton contends, should be seen among the many different ways of “dressing up the old Adam.” The Christian hope comes not in trying to “dress up the old self,” but in the old self being killed and replaced with a whole new creature. Horton explains,
We are not sick, but spiritually dead. We are not good people with room for improvement, but the ungodly. We are not children who need a little direction, but lost. The gospel comes not to help us get our act together, fixing us up for a night on the town, making us more respectable to ourselves and others. Rather, it comes to kill us and make us alive as completely new creatures. Not a new and improved self, but a self buried and raised with Christ, is the gospel’s message of genuine transformation . . . . The power of God does not lie in programs, strategies, self-help formulas, seven steps to a better life, or political reform. Like someone trapped in a burning building, we cannot rescue ourselves. There is no hope inside of us! . . . . Our only hope lies outside of us, from the God who rescues us in his Son! (italics original)
Since the fall of mankind into sin so many years ago, the human race has worked tirelessly to create “gospels” that have their ground in the subjective work of us. (The devil, of course, loves this for he knows we are bankrupt of any spiritual strength to merit favor with God. The devil is evil, but he’s not stupid.) Luther called this obsession with the subjective the “theology of glory” as opposed to the “theology of the cross.” O, how we need more voices heralding the hope-giving theology of the cross! Horton reminds us why this is so vital:
The gospel — the Good News of God’s justification of sinners in Christ — is not a means to a greater end. It is not one theme among many. It is not something we use in order to go on to something more important, more relevant, and more practical. It is the ocean that we swim in, that air that we breathe, the identity that defines us.
With Good Friday and Easter Sunday on the horizon, let us remember, and receive by faith, the breathtaking hope of the cross — that God in Christ has justified the ungodly.