Living in the Gospel
Practically speaking, we keep God first by living in the gospel, which is the “good news” about Jesus Christ. Part of what this means is that we remind ourselves often of Jesus’ sacrifice; we preach the “good news” to ourselves everyday. I have found this to be profoundly important but rarely practiced among believers today. Why do you think this is the case? In part, it is because we have relegated belief in the gospel to be a one-time event. We want to see people “converted” and then hopefully have what it takes to follow Jesus for a lifetime. But this focus subtly teaches that God’s grace is sufficient for you at the moment of salvation, but after that you simply need to muster up enough obedience to honor him for a lifetime. The biblical teaching seen throughout the New Testament is that the gospel of Jesus both saves and sanctifies us. It makes and matures disciples because no one ever graduates from its significance. We never outgrow the need to consider our own brokenness and how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection applies to our deepest needs. The gospel accepts all of this as reality and says:
We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. … [This] gospel message should both humble and lift the believer up at the same time.
Gospel-centered surrender then, is the moment-by-moment heart disposition that rejoices in the whole picture of who Jesus is for us! By daily appropriating the gospel to our lives, we can experience outstanding clarity and joy. We don’t get bent out of shape when someone wrongs us because we are soberly aware of our sin and also God’s amazing grace. We know how much we are loved and are therefore free to hold all things with an open palm.
It’s also helpful to remember that the gospel doesn’t just impact big things like our eternal destiny, the need to forgive, or the way we love others. It also impacts the common stuff of daily life — how we treat the grocery store clerk, the ways we choose to relax, or even how we drive. When we lose sight of the gospel, we can quickly compromise. At the time of this writing, my dad had just flown into town. I planned on picking him up at the airport, but was running late on account of a meeting that went long. I was already tired from a long day and poor sleep the night before. Traffic was clear, so I took the liberty of going a bit faster than I normally drive. I dialed my dad to give him an update on my progress. While talking with him I mentioned how unusually light traffic was and how it felt like the autobahn! These words barely left my mouth when I spotted a California Highway Patrol officer out of the corner of my eye. It was too late. I was caught. Despite my best efforts to be humble and pleasant, he upheld the law and gave me a ticket for going 81 in a 65 MPH zone. Now, why exactly was I speeding? The fundamental problem was not that I was running late, had a long day, or was too tired (though I’m tempted to blame all of those things). The real issue is that I temporarily lost sight of the gospel. I know this may seem like over-spiritualizing, but when you boil it down, this is exactly what happened. I willfully disobeyed the law by justifying my driving as “no big deal”. I was even attempting to protect myself by watching out for cops who might catch me doing wrong. Obviously, I failed at this.
When we set the gospel of Jesus ever before us, and relish in the great mercy he constantly shows, we are more likely to live in an attitude of surrender. When surrendered, the gospel is then free to do its perpetual work of grace in our lives. Consider this definition of what it means to be Jesus’ disciple:
“A disciple of Jesus is someone who learns the gospel, relates in the gospel, and communicates the gospel. This definition of disciple shows us that the gospel both makes and matures disciples. …Jesus taught the same gospel of the kingdom to sinners and saints. Why? Because his agenda of grace is the only solution to our common predicament of sin, Christian or non-Christian. Both desperately need the forgiving, reconciling, and restoring power of the gospel to know and enjoy God, not just once but for a lifetime.“