Why Grace North Atlanta is About Grace?
We really have one foundational commitment at Grace North Atlanta - the gospel of grace.
Put differently, we believe all of our Core Values are inherent in and flow from the gospel and give a distinctive feel to the culture within Grace North Atlanta Church. Our Ministry Priorities, which take into account our specific demographic context in north Atlanta, also flow from the gospel but are our attempts to apply the gospel concretely in the midst of our contemporary setting - nurturing marriages and families, developing young leaders for their calling in the marketplace, and giving away more than we spend on ourselves as we seek to love the world in word and action.
But all of this only has value within the context of the gospel of grace. Without the gospel, any of them quickly becomes simply another way of playing religion.
The Gospel vs. Religion
The gospel is not religion. Unfortunately, many people in churches every Sunday never get beyond religion to the gospel. Religion is very much a human phenomenon. In fact, nothing could be more human than religion. Human beings have perfected the art of religion because religion is a manufactured way in which we can hide from God. Religion enables us to hide from God because at its core, religion celebrates and takes pride in what we do.
Unfortunately, religion never really allows persons to know themselves as truly human in the sight of God. Religion forces us to put up a façade and play the centuries old game of hiding from God, trying to cover up areas of our lives of which we are ashamed. Religion is our human attempt to cover up our brokenness, need and sin, denying that we have need of anyone outside of us to save us from ourselves. Religion involves an unending commitment to oneself even if that means destroying oneself. As C.S. Lewis once put it, we are rebels to the end.
Because religion is a 'shell game' in which we do our very best to hide from God, we never come to the end of ourselves and we never come to the end of our attempt to justify ourselves before others and even before God. In other words, religion majors in 'cover-up' not confession of sin; religion majors in self-righteousness not repentance. And for precisely this reason, because religion has a death-grip upon confession and repentance, God hates religion.
The Gospel Changes Everything
The gospel on the other hand, celebrates what God has done for us in Christ. The gospel is not a list of do's and don'ts which focus on what we do (religion) but instead the gospel focuses upon what God has already done for us. That is why we often say that the gospel is a four-letter word, DONE. Because the gospel is about what God has done for us in Christ, the gospel frees us from having to wear the mask shallow moralism and false piety. Freedom comes because of the gospel. This freedom gives us the courage to look at ourselves with unflinching discernment to see how sick and sinful we really are. Truth be known, the heart of the Pharisee is deep within each of us. Only the gospel can reveal this inner dysfunction of self-centeredness and self-justification that taints all we do. And it is only the gospel that enables us become who we already are in Christ.
Christians need the Gospel too!
We believe the gospel is not just for those outside the church; the gospel is for those inside the church as well. Because of what God has done for us in the gospel we do not need to try to maintain the facade of false piety. If we are growing in our self-awareness, we will know the heart of the Pharisee is not far from any of us. In the gospel we find freedom from false piety, idolatry and judgmentalism because the gospel tells us the cross is where God has loved us and demonstrated that there really is more grace in God than sin in us.
The gospel of grace is the A-Z of the Christian life and the seedbed out of which grows everything we do in corporate worship, community groups, leadership development, Men's Fraternity, nurturing marriages and children, and loving the world with the gospel.
Grace, of course, is a word we've all heard before but few really understand. Most of us have at least figured out that 'grace' is something more than just what we say before a meal - but have we come to realize the radical difference grace actually makes (and already has made!) in our relationship with God?
One way to sum up what Grace is about - everything we do at Grace North Atlanta involves an invitation to come and explore the depth and riches of God's radical grace to us in the gospel.
The Christian life begins not with ourselves and what we do but with what God has done for us in the gospel of grace. As a result of this, we are committed to being a community of grace that expresses God's heart for His people - giving broken, sinful, hurting people the freedom to unmask.
God's choice to love us at the cross was not the first time He decided to love us...the Scriptures tell us a beautiful story that there has never been a time in which God did not love us in Christ. Growth and maturity as a Christian is often proportionate to one's understanding of this theology of grace.
We intend to build Grace North Atlanta Church upon the gospel of grace. Every sermon, every worship service, every confession of sin, every celebration of the Lord's Supper, every community group, every theology discussion, every outreach, every mission trip, every service event, every fellowship time, everything we do is understood as an opportunity to grow deeper in our understanding of the gospel.
We believe and agree with the way the slave-ship-owner-turned-hymn-writer, John Newton, put it in the old hymn that when we've been in heaven ten thousand years we'll still have 'no less days' to sing God's praise than when we first begun.
But in light of the radical, amazing grace God has shown us in the gospel, we intend to give as many people as possible a chance to get a head start singing God's praise through Grace.
This is our vision and why Grace North Atlanta is about grace.