The typical view of the Christian life is this: now that we are saved, we need to hear some really practical instruction to move higher and higher and improve in our Christian walk. The Gospel is really for the unsaved. Now that we know Jesus and are going to heaven, now it's all about learning how to do things right and do what pleases Him.
There is certainly some truth to this, but I believe it is woefully incomplete. I think we see this view of the Christian life depicted most in our Sunday morning services. You show up, you sing a bunch of happy and uplifting songs about Jesus, some of them quite good, and then you get a sermon that tells you what it takes to be a better father or husband or wife or mother or worker or kid or whatever.
The big problem is this. When we show up on Sunday morning, the old Adam shows up with us. The old Adam loves to be given life tips to climb the ladder to better and better. If you go back to Genesis, that is what rebellious man loves to do -find better ways to climb higher and higher and reach the next level. He doesn't like bad news. He wants to be happy-fied. He doesn't want to be told what he can't do. He wants to be given all positives. He is a bigger fan of motivational messages than the Gospel.
In fact, he hates the message of the cross. Why? Because it kills him. The truth is that we don't need a little help to get better in our lives. We need to die. We need to be crucified and recreated, risen from the dead in newness of life. Yes, that happened when we first believed. But it needs to happen all the time even as Christians. When we show up on Sunday morning, we need the old Adam to die again -maybe not like when we first believed, but he is relentless in trying to claw his way out of the grave. He needs to die. No amount of legal instruction will do him any good. It will only feed his delusional belief that he can employ some principles and master his own life a little bit more.
He needs to hear about the cross. He needs to be told that there is no ladder to heaven, no ladder to self-improvement. It is a closed circle around us that proclaims our death -even the death that Jesus died for us. That kills him. When he sees that the Son of God died because of what and how he is, he dies. When he sees that the ultimate end of his efforts it a curse and death, he dies. But then something happens. Something new is quickened -a new man, a new creation. We hear about Jesus rising from the grave, creating a totally new system, a new creation and existence -a totally new way . Suddenly, the new man in us speaks up. He speaks a different language, a language of hope and love and gratitude. He is eager to make our life a song of love to Him who died for us and brought about a new life for us.
How would this change the liturgy of the Sunday morning service? I'm not sure, honestly. I just know that when I show up, my old Adam needs to die.
I believe that we need to hear the Gospel all the time. I believe we need it because it alone is powerful enough to produce both death and new life in us. It will not do to just simply add a Gospel invitation at the end of the service, though that is good. If that is all we do, we miss that this is more than Jesus our help-mate. This is about life and death. Or more accurately, it is about death and life.