Impossible salvation made possible.
What is the gospel? Impossible salvation made possible. As sinners from the womb, we have sinned continually in thought, word and deed, against the Holy God of the universe. A debt has been created. (Oh, you’re a good person? Never sinned? Comb through the Ten Commandments. Be really honest with yourself. Remember, thought, word or deed. We’ll see you back here in a minute.) As I said, a debt as been created. Falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), we have no hope of spending eternity in his presence. The alternative is hell. I said it; it’s real. But take heart, believers. We no longer fear hell; instead, we rejoice, because there’s hope, a solution. Enter the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice. God comes to earth as Jesus, lives a perfect life, making himself the only sufficient sacrifice. He is crucified. In his death, the debt, our debt, (all past and future sin) is paid in full. Sin was conquered. After three days, God resurrects Jesus, in bodily form, conquering death forever. In Christ, the Christian is debt free and has a place in heaven to worship God the Father and be in his service. Forever. That’s the short and sweet gospel. But how does this play out practically in our lives?
God, who provided THE solution to our sin problem and our hell-bent (literally) intentions, also blesses us with life, breath, family, food, material possessions, health, you name it. All earthly blessings come from God (James 1:17). All trials, tribulations, happy times, weddings, deaths, births, tragedies, all work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
But take heart, believers. We no longer fear hell; instead, we rejoice, because there’s hope, a solution. Enter the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice.
But we forget that, don’t we? While we occasionally offer gratitude, faith, and trust, we are fickle creatures. Our faithfulness can be inconsistent. The God who is sovereign over all is the same God we curse when things don’t go our way. This is the God we question when life gets tough. This is the God we forget to tell our loved ones about in hopes that Jesus would capture their heart. This is the God we push aside as we chase after happiness in all the wrong places. This is the God we give a half-hearted devotion to. This is the God that, despite all that, relentlessly pursues us, makes a way through Jesus, and calls us home as his beloved children. O praise him that Jesus forgives us when we ignore his goodness to us through the cross! Even as we curse the giver of all good things for giving us a 1,500 square foot house instead of a 2,500 square foot house, he forgives. Even as we sit on God’s lap and smack him in the face, he forgives. Hallelujah, He forgives.
But the gospel is not only all of that. The gospel is the means by which we live a life underpinned by grace, forgiveness and service to others. Because we have been given grace, granted forgiveness and served by Jesus Christ (Mark 10:45), we must be moved in joyful gratitude to do the same for others (the essence of James 2).
The gospel is not a one time transaction; it is a perpetuity, continuous from our conversion to the glorious time we see Jesus’ face.
Why is the gospel more than a one time, conversion event? Because living a life parallel with the grace, forgiveness and service of the gospel is not easy. Have you ever pushed aside your pride to reconcile with your spouse, even when you knew (thought…let’s be honest) you were right? What caused you to do that? If you’re a believer, your answer should be, because Jesus forgives me over and over again. For the believer that keeps the gospel front and center, the constant reminder that we receive an ever-flowing river of forgiveness and service prompts us to, against the grain as it may seem, give the same to others. Without the gospel, our motivation to forgive and serve is rooted in shifty soil; namely, our emotional state. Inconsistent creatures are we. I love you one day, can’t stand you the next. Because of our fickleness, we need an anchor. That anchor is Christ’s gospel. We need the gospel to remind us that love is sustained only in Jesus, because he is ever-faithful and never-changing. Jesus is the strength we need to offer consistent grace, forgiveness and service to others.
The gospel is the means by which we live a life underpinned by grace, forgiveness and service to others. Because we have been given grace, granted forgiveness and served by Jesus Christ, we must be moved in joyful gratitude to do the same for others.
Why is this important as we do life? A life lived in step with the gospel reverberates as a testimony to the life-altering power of Christ (Matthew 5:16). Treat all in a manner consistent with gospel-intentions, and they will begin to wonder why you are the way you are. As you consistently swallow your pride at home. As you selflessly serve your family. As you forgive (and apologize) in the name of reconciliation, your spouse will be reminded of the practicality of the gospel, and treat your children in kind, allowing them to see the gospel at work in your home. Your boss will wonder why you walk in such humility. Maybe she’ll ask you why you are the way you are. And you’ll tell her, “Jesus is constantly working in me. I fail a lot. But he never does. The only glimmer of light I have is because of him.” Talk about Mark 10:45 and Matthew 5:16 in action.
And what about the times we fail to live consistent with the gospel? The times we snap at our spouse, fail to treat our kids with gospel-love or do honest, hard work for our boss? Do we, as believers, not need to bathe in the river of the gospel daily, if not hourly? O how we need to revisit the gospel at every turn! For it is only to the embrace of Christ can we run when we fail to obey his word through our hideous treatment of those we love, work with and the people we should be witnessing to. As the gospel emboldens us to war for the Kingdom, it also replenishes us when we fail to do so. The Christian who constantly returns to the gospel is the Christian who daily meets Jesus at the cross, obtaining a fresh reminder of our sinfulness and need for a Savior. A reminder that it is not within us that grace and goodness is made real to the world, to our families, to our spouses, to our children and to our church, it is because of HIM in us (Ephesians 1:2; 2 Cor. 4:6-7). Big difference. Important difference. Liberating difference.
That’s the gospel.
We need the gospel to remind us that love is sustained only in Jesus, because he is ever-faithful and never-changing. Jesus is the strength we need to offer consistent grace, forgiveness and service to others.