Christianity has the solution to humanity’s greatest need. The reality of Christ, his birth, sinless life, death, atoning work, and resurrection is the single most significant and satisfying truth there is. It is the pearl of great price; however, instead of selling all we have to possess it, we tend to trade it for something shiny. Five such trades come to mind.
Significance for Relevance
Is it more important that something matters or that it relates? One’s answer to that question determines whether you aim for significance or relevance. When the aim is significance, then the outcome is purpose and meaning. When the goal is relevance, then the result is a continually changing goalpost, where fulfillment is always just out of reach. Esau traded his birthright for red stew. We exchange the glory of God for a momentary cultural platform. At least Esau got a good meal.
Message for Marketing
Paul decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Many believers today have decided to know nothing except a nebulous faith and that marketed. The progression of John 6 demonstrates how the message of Christ’s body broken, and his blood shed is not particularly marketable. Jesus began by feeding the five thousand, but when he talked about eating his flesh and drinking his blood the multitude dwindled, many disciples turned back, and shortly after he turned to the disciples and said, “Do you want to go away as well?” Jesus’ message led to all of Christendom. The supernatural power of that message will always paradoxically do what our graphics, analytics, and metrics never could.
Atonement for Approval
Sinners need much more than a nod or a pat on the back despite their shortcomings. We are liars, thieves, adulterers, idolaters, and murderers who need to be forgiven as well as imputed with an alien righteousness. Christ came for that very purpose, and when God looks at us through Christ, he does look with approval. However, approval does not supplant atonement. Christ’s atoning work exclusively and sufficiently warrants the face of a Holy God looking favorably on depraved humanity with the light of his countenance.
Gospel for Guidance
The good news is not a road map to better days. The good news is the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:4). What is more applicable or practical than hope personally extended, our sins forgiven, and righteousness applied where there had been transgression? What use are better finances, relationship advice, or personal motivation if we are apart from Christ? Imagine the well-meaning owner of a ship preparing it for launch. Attention is given to the scrupulous details of preparation as the deck is swabbed, the hull is waxed, and the propeller is fine-tuned. The finest campaign is purchased to christen the vessel on its maiden voyage. There is only one problem. The motor is a total wreck. More than practical tips on how to live our daily lives, we desperately need the resurrection power of a loving Savior that transforms our souls for eternity. Trading the Gospel for guidance is like exchanging your car for an outdated map.
Hope for Hermeneutics
Master theologians can make a foolish trade as well. Ironically, they can trade Christ for being proficient in his name. They navigate the text with exegetical prowess but miss the point of it all. If the people of God can parse Greek verbs or articulate the historical background of a passage but fail to have the hope of Christ proclaimed to them, then they have not been served well. Hermeneutics is critical, but Christ alone is our hope. Approaching or teaching the Bible without a clear emphasis on Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf is like using the book Animal Farm to teach Zoology.
In the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack traded the cow for magic beans. We shouldn’t be too hard on Jack. When we take the focus off of Christ and his Gospel, we are essentially trading gold, silver, and precious stones for wood, straw, and hay (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). It is Christ for our redemption. It is Christ for our justification. It is Christ as our righteousness. Let it be Christ in our songs. Let it be Christ as the center of our services. Let it be Christ as the focus of our messages. Anything less is at best a mere glimmer of the glory of our hope.
Calvinist Picard is a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies graduate and currently about halfway through a Ph.D. in Leadership program. He has worked in education and ministry in various roles for just a little over a decade. Follow him on Twitter at @CalvinistPicard and on Facebook at CalvinistPicard.