As of late I've been reading Michael Horton's Christless Christianity, honestly one of the more significant and challenging books I've read in some time. Horton's overarching purpose is to expose the "Christless" Christianity that is so ubiquitous today, and offer instead a profoundly Christ-centered understanding of the faith. This means we never simply "assume" the gospel and move on to bigger and better things, but we always place the gospel, the biblical message of God's redemptive work through Christ, at the forefront of who we are and what we proclaim.
I'm not done reading yet, so I'll reserve most of my comments until later, but today I was particularly struck by his description of what church life would look like if the church faithfully answered her calling to proclaim Christ and the glorious redeeming work of God seriously. Under this model, believers go to church primarily, not to give, do, or act, but to receive - to be fed by the news (good news!) of God's action on our behalf. Horton asks us to imagine a scenario in church life in which...
God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God's work for us - the Father's gracious plan, the Son's saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit's work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ. The preaching focuses on God's work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God's people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God's Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching, the people once again are simply receivers - recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord's Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven. As this gospel creates, deepens, and inflames faith, a profound sense of praise and thanksgiving fills hearts, leading to good works among the saints and in the world throughout the week. Having been served by God in the public assembly, the people are then servants of each other and their neighbors in the world. Pursuing their callings in the world with vigor and dedication, they win the respect of outsiders. Because they have been served well themselves - especially by pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons - they are able to share the Good News of Christ in well-informed and natural ways. And because they have been relieved of numerous burdens to spend all of their energy on church-related ministries throughout the week, they have more time to serve their families, neighbors, and coworkers in the world (pp. 189-190).
As I read Horton's words I am already growing anxious for Sunday, for that gathering of God's elect in which we hear of Christ's redeeming work and how we've been swept into that story through the actions of God himself. Already I grow anxious to feed once again on Christ at the Lord's Table where God reminds us of the true union we have with him.