The Gospel Repackaged

Victor Chininin Buele

I’m sitting in class.  I am being shown something called The Reponsibility Process™ by Christopher Avery.  I love it when I’m sitting in a secular context and something that makes sense is simply the gospel repackaged. I hate it when I’m sitting in a secular context and something that makes sense has been adjusted to hide the true gospel implications that it implicitly has.  All good movies have a moment where substitutionary atonement wins the day–the exchange of love where one lays down his life for the other–the exchange of the sinless one for the sinful one–true sacrifice.  You may see it as Anna stepping in front of Elsa right before the death blow, but the gospel is all around us. It is self-testifying. We know it. And when it’s convenient to us, we repackage it so that it’s marketable.  After all, we like some of the implications of the gospel.  We absolutely resist others.

This responsibility process shows the wrong stages of denial, lay blame, justify, shame, obligation, and quit.  It calls us to accept responsibility. “The Responsibility Process, derived from field studies, shows how all people mentally process thoughts about avoiding or taking responsibility.” The exhortation is to go about our work “unlocking and mastering responsibility, through daily practice[s]:

  1. INTENTION – Intending to respond from Responsibility when things go wrong.
  2. AWARENESS – Catching yourself in the mental states of Denial, Lay Blame, Justify, Shame, Obligation, and Quit.
  3. CONFRONT – Facing yourself to see what is true that you can learn, correct, or improve.”

This is just a repackaging of the good old gospel without pointing us to The Responsible One. It quacks like a duck, but because substitutionary atonement has been removed, it leaves us wanting.  How do I get to responsibility? I can only will myself into responsibility for a short while, but the motivation will die as our fallen nature breaks through. That’s why this remains in the realm of self-help–it’s behavior modification, not heart transformation.

The descriptive nature of the process is really accurate.  Our fallen, sinful nature is constantly plagued with the temptations to denial–to ignore that we have sinned, to lay blame–to shift the spotlight towards the other party and not to our own sin, to justify–to explain away our sin and to minimize it, to dwell in shame–to not step forward in confidence of living without condemnation, to act out of obligation–to live as if salvation could be achieved by my own efforts, and to quit–to just shut down everything and pretend as if Christ doesn’t exist.

That’s all true of our experience.  We deal with it in diverse ways.  It bears down on us.

BUT GOD being rich in mercy and knowing that we cannot just will ourselves into being responsible actually forgave us so that we can forgive others.  Jesus took the ultimate responsibility for all of our sins–past, present, and future, once and for all.  There is no more penalty IF we accept His lordship over us and are united in faith with those who have listened to the gospel of truth.  We can overcome denial when we can point to that brutal, bloody cross where The Responsible One died for my sins.  We can overcome blame when we truly see the nature of the blameworthiness of our sin and we see the perfect Son of Man take all of our blame with its very real consequences. We can overcome self-justification when we behold the One who was justified and innocently took on the brutality of the abuse he received unto death and we see the death of our excuses.  We can overcome shame when we no longer lived as condemned people who are easy pray of accusers who tell us that we will never overcome our sin.  We can overcome both a sense of obligation and the desire to quit when we realize that we are utterly incapable of effecting eternal change and most of all, we are incapable of saving ourselves.

So, it is right: we need to take responsibility, but we can only take true responsibility for our sin and for our work when we look to The Responsible One and behold Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as the servant of servants who stooped down way lower than I am wiling to stoop down for others, and as the willing sacrifice who took on the full responsibility for all my sin.

So, we do have daily practices that we are exhorted to follow: We respond from Responsibility when things go wrong by pointing others to the gospel. No gospel = no true responsibility.  It’s that simple.  We cannot understand real responsibility unless we see Jesus Christ.  We must catch ourselves when we are experiencing denial, laying blame, justifying, shaming and being ashamed, feeling obligated or like quitting.  It’s called dying to ourselves, taking up our crosses, mortifying our flesh, and we do that only with true hope–no gospel = no true hope.  Without The Responsible One we cannot really be have a definitive solution for our sin. Awareness of our sin is not enough.  We must own up to it, be reconciled to God and to our neighbor, and move forward with the conviction to not fall again.  Only humble hearts can get up when the inevitable fall happens after that, look to the Savior, and run to Him.  What’s true confrontation? “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5–6 ESV). That’s how we see what is true so that we can learn, correct, or improve: Behold the face of Jesus Christ.  Will you do that today?

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