There is a magical thing that happens in homes all over the world. When you have a child, you want your child to crawl, and then you want your kid to walk. My first child, Audrey, pulled herself to the coffee table. When she got to the coffee table, she began to bounce on her knees, and then she began to coast along. From there she started letting go and just being wobbly. At that point we began to get excited about the fact that Audrey was about to walk. Eventually she took her hands off of the coffee table, and we watched physics in motion.
God has created children, specifically young children, with gargantuan heads and tiny little bodies. So when Audrey let go of the coffee table, her gigantic head fell forward and suddenly she had a decision to make. She could stick that foot out to catch herself or she could die. So she stuck her foot out, and then she had momentum. It was step, step, step, fall. Do you know what we did? We exploded in celebration. We picked her up, spun her around, and kissed her face. Then we sat her down and pleaded with her to walk toward us again. After that we began e-mailing, Facebooking, taking pictures, tweeting, and all sorts of other things to get the word out that Audrey was walking. We did that with our son, Reid, and we've done that with our daughter Norah.
What I have learned as I watched all of our friends have children is that there is always an epic celebration around the kid walking. This is news to be declared. "This kid is walking!"
For all the people I have watched go through that process, I've never seen anybody watch their kid go step, step, step, fall and then say out loud, "Man, this kid is an idiot. Are you serious? Just three steps? Man, I can get the dog to walk two or three steps. Honey, this must be from your side of the family, because my side of the family is full of walkers. This must be some sort of genetic, shallow gene pool on your side of things."
No father does that. Every father rejoices in the steps of his child. The father celebrates the steps of his child. I think what we have here is a picture of God celebrating us walking. So we step, step, step, and fall, and heaven applauds. At what? At the obedience of taking those three steps. The Father in heaven is crying, "He's walking!" "She's doing it!" And maybe the Accuser's saying, "No, he only took a couple of steps. That's nothing."
But the celebration is in the steps, even if there are still falls. Here's what I know about all of my children: they start to walk farther and farther and farther, and they begin to skip, they begin to run, they begin to jump, they begin to climb, and they begin to tear the house up. It's beautiful. I knew even when they were step, step, step, falling that that process was the beginning of what would result in climbing trees, dancing, and sprinting. Knowing in my mind what's to come, the three steps and the stumble were a celebration.
Moralists see the fall and believe that the Father is ashamed and thinks they're foolish. So, more often than not, they stop trying to walk because they can't see the Father rejoicing in and celebrating his child.
Church of Jesus; let us please be men and women who understand the difference between moralism and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's be careful to preach the dos and don'ts of Scripture in the shadow of the cross's "Done!" Resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ crucified. We are not looking to conform people to a pattern of religion but pleading with the Holy Spirit to transform people's lives. Let us move forward according to that upward call, holding firmly to the explicit gospel.
What we see in the Father's heart in the Bible is its immensity, its bottomless depths. God's heart is as complex and unfathomable as he is. Shouldn't we stand firm in the gospel we believe and proclaim so that we reflect the bigness of God's heart for a fallen world? The cross of Christ and his resurrection are cataclysms of the unsearchable judgments and affections of God. It is this immense gospel that spurs Paul to pray:
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:14-19).
The Scripture's complementary perspectives of the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air help us comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of God's love. Neither perspective dilutes the other but rather shapes our vision of God's saving purposes to the epic scope of biblical revelation. We are after a gospel that is resolutely centered on the atoning work of Christ and scaled to the glory of God. Let the explicit gospel drive us to worship with all "the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19) and in awe of both God's immense, universe-subsuming glory and his deep, personal love for sinners. May we never assume that people understand this gospel but, instead, let's faithfully live out and faithfully proclaim the explicit gospel with all the energy and compassion our great God and King has graciously given.