Recently I was called to do a talk on an upcoming Via de Cristo weekend. The title of the talk is Piety. As I read and studied in preparation, I came across a concept promoted by John Newton — gospel simplicity.
Newton’s premise is that the faithful life, a life of true piety, is simple but challenging. He wrote:
“If I may speak my own experience, I find that to keep my eye simply upon Christ, as my peace, and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling.”
How do we know if this dedication to Christ has taken place? Well, there are two aspects: simplicity of intention and simplicity of dependence.
Simplicity of intention means that we have one overarching goal in life — to please and glorify Jesus through all of our actions. Our happiness and God’s glory are inseparable. It is self-denial–denial of self-righteousness, self-wisdom and self-will. It is imitating Christ in all things.
If simplicity of intention is about our aim in life, simplicity of dependence is about trust. All of our pain and trials are made worse by unbelief. When we direct our lives completely to God, we accept everything we experience as coming from God’s hand, and ultimately all of these things will be for our good and for His glory.
These two “simple” qualities will lead to a mature Christian life of genuine obedience. It won’t come automatically, because we are constantly distracted by sin which muddles our intentions and motives. Newton suggests that in every decision of life, we ask ourselves these two questions:
- Sustained by the all-sufficiency of Christ, am I motivated by God’s glory alone?
- Eternally secured by the blood of Christ, am I dependent upon God’s wisdom, timing and His power alone?
Are you living a life of gospel simplicity? It’s good food for thought.
For more about John Newton see these posts:
Out of the Depths — Book Review
Amazing Grace — The Musical
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds