by Rick Pidcock
When was the last time somebody gave you a short, shallow, non-genuine complement, and then followed up with the word “BUT” and an entire tirade of negative statements about you? When was the last time you did this to somebody else?
Or perhaps you’ve experienced a more positive side of those “BUT” statements. Have you ever gone to a Christian brother or sister and said, “I know that we’ve had our differences, BUT…” or to somebody that has hurt you and said, “What you said or did really hurt me, BUT I want you to know that…”?
The fact is that we all do this alot. So I’d like to share how statements such as these, no matter how good or bad they may be, can ultimately point us to the greater “BUT” statements of the gospel.
But-centered worship magnifies and focuses all of its energy and passion on whatever comes after the “but.” I mean, think about it. Do any of us really care about what is said before the “but,” when it is quickly dismissed and followed by a waterfall of completely opposite statements?
So I began thinking about butology in the Bible. And I’d like to share a few brief thoughts on gospel-driven, but-centered worship. By no means are these exhaustive. But the beauty of gospel-driven “butology” is that both statements are infinitely important in order to have the fullest undestanding of God’s design in the gospel.
1. Our will and effort are futile, BUT GOD IS SOVEREIGNLY MERCIFUL.
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”–Romans 9:14-16
Man-centered butologists dismiss the sovereignty of God in salvation. If God sovereignly chooses who specifically will be saved, then that is not fair. So we witness as if it all depends on us. We present the gospel as if it all depends on the sinner. We react in anger at believers who talk about God’s sovereignty in salvation. However, the overwhelming focus of Scripture is not on the responsibility of man, but on the sovereignty of God who has mercy on whoever He wants to and who hardens whoever He wants to.
This drives us to fall helplessly at the feet of our sovereign Savior. Without Him choosing to set His mercy on us, we would be hopeless.
2. We were spiritually dead, BUT GOD MADE US ALIVE.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:1, 4, 8-9
I’ll never forget the time that our high school bus broke down in the middle of nowhere, and we had to stay at a really old church for a few hours. The church had an old cemetery up on the hill. And of course, we all decided to go running around the cemetery.
Cemeteries have one thing in common–dead people. They are filled with dead, rotting corpses. A dead corpse has no ability to choose life. It has no ability to make decisions. It is dead. And so were we.
But God commands life into our lifeless corpses just as He commanded life into Lazarus, and just as He breathed life into Adam. Faith is the gift that God gives us by His grace at the moment of regeneration so that our boast (worship) can only be in Him.
3. We have been crucified in Christ, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN US.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”–Galatians 2:20-21
My wife and I are really into the T.V. series “Lost.” And during this final season, there seems to be a weird pattern of people dying, but then other people living through them. This plot has been re-written many times in horror movies.
BUT imagine if the perfectly righteous and holy King of the world lived in us! Our standing with God is not based on how well we obey the Bible and keep ourselves pure because we are dead. Instead, it is based on the grace that is Christ living in us.
If you want to do an interesting Bible study, do a search for “but God” statements in Scripture. And every time you find yourself saying, “I know God is ______, BUT I __________,” remember that whatever you say after the “but” is what you are really magnifying. And if you have a consistent pattern of saying “God…BUT I…”, then you may need to reconsider the object of your but-centered worship.
BUT God is infinite. We will spend eternity exploring, experiencing, tasting, and magnifying His infinitely manifiold perfections. So let’s begin today. Let’s begin this journey of gospel-driven, but-centered worship.
Then any time somebody approaches you with a “Yah, BUT” e-mail or conversation, listen to what they have to say, consider what you need to change, and then be reminded of the ultimate “Yah, BUT’s” of the gospel, and be driven to your knees in worship.