In some ways, the gospel of Jesus Christ changed everything for me.
I had sinned, and even at age four, I knew. When I learned sin was lying, unkind words, living all about ME, and following what I wanted instead of what God wanted, I knew very much who I was. I was a sinner.
I accepted the truth about Jesus, what He did for me, how I needed Him. I asked Him to forgive me, called on His name for salvation, became part of the family of God, gladly because of His grace.
But then, I moved on…to being a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N.
I never purposely moved away from the gospel, I just kept moving forward, kept going to church, kept learning, kept trying to grow, kept focusing on my goals, kept doing. It’s not that I never go back to the gospel. When I take communion or celebrate Easter, I celebrate the gospel and its power, for a few minutes, or part of a day.
But the world of my Christianity has revolved more around this: What do I need to DO? What do I need to put off, and what do I need to put on? Without knowing it, I moved from the gospel toward trying to make myself look and feel and be “like” Jesus, studying the Bible to find what to do or not do, and asking God to pretty please, make it all happen in me.
Sometimes I do get swept up in Jesus’ love, but on regular days, my walk with God is more about what He wants ME to do than what He already did.
In his book, Gospel, J.D. Greear says the church has missed the gospel, that we understand it but do not experience it. He says we have the facts correct, but we see the gospel as the entry rite to Christianity, our ticket to heaven, when it should be the “source from which everything else flows,” a whole new way to relate to God, ourselves, and others. This stops me fast, because I know, I haven’t completely grasped the gospel.
I have known, for some time, that God would ultimately be the One to create all the good in me, that I really couldn’t do any of it on my own. But wired deeply to do, I worked, I tried, I begged; I read the Bible hard, hoping for change. When life change didn’t come fast enough, I took matters into my own hands. I tried to manufacture it.
I say following Jesus is a relationship ~ not a religion…but I often live under religion’s condemnation, like a default I just keep going back to.
The whole problem with religion is, it is based on my performance. In the foreward to Gospel, Pastor/Author Tim Keller explains that religion says “I obey; therefore I am accepted by God.” But the principle of the gospel is, “I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore, I obey.” This difference is profound, and not something I had considered for long.
The last few years, I have read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, a number of times. Each time through, I am even more captivated by Jesus. At the same time, these books have sent me running to the gospel: Prodigal God (Keller), Repenting of Religion (Boyd), Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Tchividjian), and now, Gospel (Greear). Each of these has been divine intervention, God calling me out of old patterns of thought into gospel truth.
I have much to learn, but I feel the gospel sink in deeper. I am loved by the King, and I can do nothing to mess that up. In Jesus, the light comes on, and I long for His gospel, for His love, how wide and long and high and deep it is…
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 1:17-20, NIV