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Already and Not Yet

We have been discussing the meaning of the gospel with friends at church. Too often, we think of the gospel as only applying to the moment of salvation. But we never outgrow the gospel.

We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience; rather the gospel is the way we grow and are renewed.
It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door,
the power to take us through every barrier.

Tim Keller

As Christians, we straddle two worlds. The diagram illustrates our life and points to the tension of the “already and not yet.”

We live in a world affected by the Fall. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:20-21)

We are also citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:20-21)

 Unbelievers are represented in the diagram by the “red” circle, the law of sin and death. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. On the other hand, through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2,7-8; John 3:18)

Christians do still sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. If we claim we have not sinned, we call God a liar and show that his word has no place in our hearts. This is one aspect of living in the tension of “already, not yet.” (1 John 1:8,10)

Christ’s love compels us. We are convinced of the fact that one man has died for all people. He died for all people so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but Him. Our hearts want to honor and please the Lord, producing every kind of good fruit and growing in our knowledge of God. But we still need our feet washed which symbolizes the sin we commit as Christians. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Colossians 1:10)

At the last supper, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Peter objects and Jesus corrects him. Jesus says if I don’t wash you, you have no part in me. So Peter asks to be washed head to toe. Jesus’ response is interesting. He says, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean, and you are clean.” (John 13:5-10)

Jesus washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit – the cleansing at salvation does not need to be repeated. Our atonement is complete. At the same time, we still fall short of the glory of God. But we have the incredibly great power of God in us, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to help us walk in a manner worthy of our calling. (Titus 3:5b; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 1:19; Colossians 1:10)

Our sanctification is a process. We are admonished to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is our true and proper worship.  We avoid conforming to the pattern of this world, but instead, we allow the power of God to transform us by the renewing of our minds. Then we can test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. We all are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. We are children of God, and what we will be is not yet known. There it is again – that tension, “already and not yet.” But we know that when Christ appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And because of this hope, we purify ourselves just as He is pure. (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2-3)

In the meanwhile, we have a mission. In the past, we used to sing, “This world is not my home; I’m just passing through.” And while the song was fun to sing and has a measure of truth, we are not just passing through. Jesus said to go, to make, baptizing and teaching! Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. In other words, we have the ministry of reconciliation. Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. God has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:11, 19b, 20)

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:14b-15

Learning and understanding the gospel is a life-long journey. The key to ongoing and profound spiritual growth is the recurring discovery and application of the gospel. The kingdom is here, already, and not yet!

O the precious gospel story,
How it tells of love to all,
How the Saviour in compassion,
Died to save us from the fall;
How He came to seek the lost ones,
And to bring them to His fold;–
Let us hasten to proclaim it,
For the story must be told.

O the wondrous gospel story,
There is life in every word;
There is hope and consolation,
Where the message sweet is heard;
Let us tell it to the weary,
And its beauties all unfold;
‘Tis the only guide to heaven,
And the story must be told. 

Fanny Crosby
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