A while back I started reading a book called “How People Change” written by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp. To be honest, I think the beginning of the book has some of the greatest insight I have seen into the American church today – they call it the “Gospel Gap.” It’s actually something my friend blogged about a while back (“The Disconnect”) and something I blogged about a long time ago, when I first read the book. Even after reading the book, I still think it was really insightful.
The author takes a look at 2 Peter 1:3-9 as describing this “Gap”:
2 Peter 1:3-9 (NASB95)
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
In verse nine, the symptoms of the gap are seen, for there are people who know the Lord but their lives fail to produce the expected fruit. Why are some Christians “ineffective and unproductive?” Peter tells us in verse nine, it is because they are blind or short-sighted, having forgotten that they have been cleansed from their past sins (pp. 2-3).
This plays in with the “then-now-then” principle of the gospel. For “then” in the past, when we accept Christ by faith we are forgiven – completely forgiven. Also, there is the “then” of the future, for there is the promise of an eternity where we will no longer struggle with sin, we will be perfect – glorified. But then there is the “now” part, and it seems this is the part that is much neglected, at least in my own life, for I look back and see that I have been forgiven, and I look forward to the day when I will no longer sin, but right now, well, it’s just hard.
The book then takes a look at some things that people use to fill this “Gap”:
“Church meetings and ministry simply as one healthy aspect of a good life”
“A walking list of dos and don’ts”
“Constantly hunting for a spiritual high”
“Fighting against the ‘evil’ in your community”
“A biblical and theological expert without Christlikeness”
“Christ as a mere therapist not a Savior”
“The Church as a spiritual social club”
Yet, these things cannot fill the “Gap”
This book is a good read – there really is nothing new, but it is a very good reminder as we strive after Christ, our Lord and Savior.
“Our hope is not in our theological knowledge of our experience within the body of Christ. We are thankful for these things, yet we hold onto one hope: Christ” (p. 17). “God’s goal is that we would actually become like him. He doesn’t just want you to escape the fires of hell – though we praise God that through Christ you can! His goal is to free us from our slavery to sin, our bondage to self, and our functional idolatry, so that we actually take on his character!” (p. 18).
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,” (Titus 2:11-13)