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Celebrate the victory every Sunday

Posted By Ray Ortlund On February 12, 2014

A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:18

Two things should be happening in every gospel-centered church every Sunday. One, the gospel should be preached. Two, the gospel should be experienced.

What I mean by the second, experiencing the gospel, is a social environment that feels like the grace of God. It is an obvious alternative to what we experience throughout the week. Every day we swim in an ocean of harsh criticisms, merciless comparisons and never measuring up, soaking us in sadness while also telling us to keep faking happiness. This is the “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” wisdom of the world (James 3:15). It doesn’t work.

Then Sunday comes, and we step into church, where the victory of Jesus redefines everything, even to the furthest reaches of the universe. In any church with a confidence that big, the vibe will be obviously different from the world. Every Sunday in that kind of church we will be rediscovering the mercy of God, our union with Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the amazing promises of the gospel. As that good news lands on us afresh and the joy of it all breaks upon our hearts — that’s what the new creation feels like right now. It is the Lord himself enveloping us in his new community, surrounding us “with shouts of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).

If all a church does is preach gospel doctrine, without also cultivating a gospel culture, the impact will be diminished. However “biblical” the message might be, it will not seem plausible or satisfying. The doctrine will seem theoretical, and the church will seem hypocritical. But when the gospel is clear in any church at both levels simultaneously, both the gracious theological message and the humane relational culture, there is power. It is the wisdom that comes down from above (James 3:15). It works.

About Ray Ortlund:
Pastor Ortlund received a B.A. from Wheaton College, Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, M.A. from The University of California, Berkeley, and Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Pastor Ortlund served as Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois from 1989-1998.
He was ordained by Lake Avenue Congregational Church, Pasadena, California, 1975. He currently serves as pastor at Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee (an Acts 29 church) and as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. He has been married to Jan Giles Ortlund for thirty-eight happy years, and they have four delightful children.
Says, Ray: “I have the most wonderful wife, I love my kids and grandkids, and I love Immanuel Church. My dream is that God would use us for true revival in our city.”

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