Monday, February 17, 2014
The Gospel for Dating Part One: Identity
Note: This is part two of a five-part series titled "Dating Law vs. Dating Gospel". Today we will look at identity in Christ and grace, and tomorrow we'll flush out some of the implications of this on dating. You can catch up by reading Part One: "Are You Under a Dating Law" here.
Before we dig in, let me say this: This idea has actually been very hard for me to express, and I nearly gave up and scraped this whole series, but some key friends really pushed me to finish this because they believe what I am wrestling with is exactly what God is going to use to help others. In addition to struggling with having a massively crushing Dating Law myself, I have never quite experienced what this blog will describe. I have experienced failure, loss and plenty of rejection, but grace is not something I have seen in my dating life. The Gospel is the only thing that can help me deal with the complexities of modern romantic relationships. The fact that I have trouble believing this doesn't mean it isn't true, it just means that (ironically) grace seems harder to live by than the Law. So would you join this broken and fragile man in seeing how the great story of God's radical grace in Jesus can transform how we view and deal with our emotions, relationships, and immensely broken hearts?
In my last post we looked at the problem of Dating Law, in which we set up a list of rules and standards for ourselves and those we pursue in relationship in order to get what we think we deserve in a potential mate. But this law becomes a crushing weight that turns us into frustrated and despondent people lacking any grace. The development of this dating law looks something like this:
1) All of us want to have some sort of control over our dating relationships in regards to a biblical standard of holiness
2) But we also live in a culture which subtly feeds us a standard based on a self-centered worldview
3) So we have merged our own personal code for holiness with modern dating, in effect creating a dating law.
We saw last week that the biblical Law gave a diagnosis of the spiritual and relational problems of God's people, but was never intended to be the cure. And along the same lines, having a dating law can tell you what you want for yourself and those you wish to pursue, but it can never bring any real and lasting change in the way you relate to them; for that you need the Gospel.
In Exodus 20, when the original Law, the Ten Commandments, were given, God prefaces it with a very important piece of truth that we often overlook, and it has caused a detriment in our thinking, living, and interacting with others, including the precarious realm of dating.
This is how the 10 Commandments begin:
"And God spoke all these words, saying,
'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.'"
Before God ever told them what to do, how to behave, or what to expect of each other, He gave them a decisive foundation on which to build their life: I am your God and I alone have rescued you out of slavery.
This should absolutely floor us. God has made a people for Himself by rescuing them from themselves, their enemies, and all who would oppress them. No doubt He gave them a mode of conduct to set them apart from all the other people, but before He spoke even one word of command, He told them who He is and what He has done. If the Law is the diagnosis for the spiritual and relational problems of God's people, then Exodus 20:1 is the cure: God has rescued you out of slavery.
This is the Gospel.
J. Alec Motyer, great OT scholar, using the story of the Exodus as well said it this way.
"If you asked an Israelite coming out out of Egypt on the way to Canaan 'Who are you?' they would say 'I was in a foreign land, under the sentence of death, in bondage, but i took shelter under the blood of the lamb. Our mediator lead us out of there and we crossed over and now we're on our way to the promised land, but we're not there yet, but He's given us His Law to make us a community, and He gave us the tabernacle because you have to live by grace and forgiveness. His presence is in our midst and He is going to stay with us until we get home."
Funny, that is exactly what a Christian says.
God has rescued you from your slavery to sin, not by killing all the firstborn sons of your oppressors, but by providing the sacrifice of His one and only Son. He has called you His own, brought you out of the land of slavery and sent you on a journey to the Promised Land. Therefore, your identity is no longer based on obedience or disobedience, success or failure, perfect law-keeping or reckless law-breaking, but in the perfection of Christ's life, the spotlessness of his death, and the glory of his resurrection. All of it. Everything that Christ did is reckoned to you. Every temptation he overcame is now your victory. Every bead of sweat and drop of blood shed as now completely, completely covered all of your sin. When you believe in Jesus, God immediately takes His eyes off of your iniquitous life and turns to look at Christ. And He can't take His eyes off of him. He is no longer interested in keeping track all of your wrongs (and your precious little rights); He is only interested in the matchless record of Jesus, given to you. This is where you stand, and this is what now defines you. You are in Christ.
The cure for our ailments comes before the diagnosis. God gives the answer to all of our woes before He tells us what's wrong. That's because it's not about us, but about Him and His grace.
This is where we can begin to see the Gospel in relation to dating:
Gospel-centered dating is about the good of the other, not the needs of ourselves.
Stay tuned tomorrow where we will continue to look at how Gospel identity reorients our dating relationships.