What is the Gospel and what happens to our lives when we are interacting with the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ every day?
It changes everything.
Our minds, hearts, attitudes, and actions shift from self, sin and religion, to God, freedom and mission. And this only begins on the day we surrender our lives to Christ.
I once thought the Gospel was just the starting place for a Christian, and churches that focused too much on it were not spurring us on to maturity in Christ. I couldn’t have been more wrong and immature. As I grew in my faith, and God was transforming me, it felt great to ditch the effects of sin and see my life transformed, but it wasn’t me doing it. Oh how easily we exchange the chains of our sin for the chains of religion.
And as I pursued growth in Christ, my good motivation was mixed with a dangerous, hard to detect disease that’s in all human DNA- religious pride. The same legalism that appealed to the Pharisees, the one Jesus lived to defy and died to defeat, was still living in me. Is still living in me. And there is only one remedy- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I come to grips with how frequently I need to drop to my knees at the foot of the cross, and then stand up in the power of The Holy Spirit– the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. The Holy Spirit is the only power that enables us to live a life that glorifies God and the only way our lives will amount to anything that pleases God or bears any real fruit.
Apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Those who walk according to the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8)
Our works will be tested someday, and if they are not born of God, we will not receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
If the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
Are you so foolish after beginning with the Spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:3)
We feel the tension that our human DNA being mixed with our new spiritual DNA causes, the flesh and the Spirit are always at war within us, but it’s tragic that so many Christians try to fight their sinful flesh with their religious flesh, instead of admitting “I can’t do it, I need you every moment, Lord!”
Even with the best intentions as Christians, we can get puffed up with knowledge, experience, power and pride, or pushed down with fear, shame, insecurity and doubt, and when those take root in our hearts, the Gospel is snuffed out like a candle in the ocean. It has no chance to shine.
In order to shine brightly for Jesus, we need to raise high our white flags once we’ve been swept out again into the deep waves by the strong undercurrent of self, and let Him again rescue us and air lift us to dry land, where our candles can again unite and burn brightly for His glory.On this City on a Hill, we light the way from the dark waters for the sick and sinners to come meet us up on the Hill, where they’ll meet Jesus and find hope. We carry on Jesus’ legacy when we continue in The Way that He modeled on earth- uniting over our common poverty apart from Christ, and mission to the lost.Everyone, whether rich, middle-class, homeless, liberal, conservative, male, or female, we all desperately, daily need Jesus Christ to rescue us from ourselves. It’s religion that tells us we can fix ourselves and our problems when we try harder, use better strategies, read catchier 7 step books and build shinier buildings, all in Jesus’ name of course.
Jesus’ way is revolutionary. Every time I read through one of the Gospels, and I just finished Matthew, I’m shocked by the number of times my mouth falls open, my heart is stung with conviction by His teaching, but how my soul swells even more with the hope of Christ.
The contrast of Jesus’s Way and the World’s way is playing out just as clearly today as it did then, but the Church isn’t exempt. We don’t automatically get it all right just because God saved us and we read from the ESV (the most literal Bible translation), we still need Him to maintain our spiritual lives everyday, or we run the risk of finding ourselves sitting in a religious club that is about Jesus, rather than operating with Jesus as the Body of Christ, and with Jesus as the Head. Jesus actually gave us pretty clear examples of how we should live and what we should be about as His church.
Jesus hung out with sinners and outcasts, and the religious elite judged him for it.
He washed his disciples feet, modeling servant leadership in the face of hierarchical power structures of the time.
He told us we have to have the faith and humility of a child to enter the Kingdom of God, not hard-earned religious status that was exclusive.
He said the last would be first and the first last- His kingdom operates in the complete opposite way of the world.
Jesus said in order to follow Him, we have to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow him, and whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it- really following Him can be summed up in ditching ourselves.
He said whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him.
Jesus embodied God’s heart, first told by Prophets, to love justice, do mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), which is restated in James 1:27- true religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted from the world.
This is the Way Jesus lived and it must be central in our hearts, our lives and our churches. We have to ask ourselves honestly, questions like: Do my passions mirror God’s passions, and His ultimate heart to draw the lost to Himself? Does my desire to grow spiritually produce fruit that extends beyond personal growth, into serving others, both inside and outside the church? Does the mission of my local church share Christ’s heart for the lost and the least of these beyond words, and with action? While worship, teaching and bible studies are present in most churches, the result of worshiping and walking with God must be stepping out in mission to our neighbors; next door, in the next biggest city, in our state, country and to the ends of the earth. The ‘Body’ is meant to move on mission for God, and that mission is to bring more people into the family of God.
In America, we need to especially guard ourselves against religious pride because of the lack of persecution we face and the general idea that this is a Christian nation. That creates a breeding ground for religion. We take so much for granted- Christian book stores, Christian radio, Christian schools, Churches galore, and getting upset when we aren’t wished a Merry Christmas from the cashier. And history repeats itself; just like in Genesis, we try to build the highest tower up to God, and we gravitate towards celebrity Pastors, just like the early church clung to different apostles.
But it’s not America’s fault, human DNA has religion wired in because when we do religion well, we don’t think we need God to get to heaven or find meaning in life. Being religious means we’ve earned a ‘claim’ on God, a sense of ‘control’ and ‘peace’ in life- but these won’t last because they’re rooted in our effort rather than the cross and resurrection of Christ.
This is what separates Christianity from all other religions, the absence of self and human effort- salvation is by grace and faith alone in Jesus Christ! What a freeing yet humbling thing; we are in fact, incredibly more sinful than we ever dare admit, yet at the same time, wildly more loved and accepted than we ever dare imagine. (Paraphrase of Timothy Keller) And when this truth is meditated on, wrestled with and applied to our lives every day, it changes everything about us.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of God’s glory being manifest to us on earth. The Gospel is the climax of humanity’s story, and it’s the thread that weaves together the fabric of the Bible; it remedied the fall, restores perfect relationship with God in Eden, and invites us to partner with God in ushering in this already here, not yet Kingdom of God. I invite you to drop to your knees, and stand up in the power of the Spirit more often, to evaluate Jesus’ life and what He taught along with me, a little more everyday, and discover how it might change how you view yourself, what you’re passionate about, who you spend time with, and how you will choose to use the time God has given you on this earth. The Gospel truly changes everything.
Today as everyone has taken to social media with a red X on their hand for the end it movement, I’m moved to take action locally, as God has been stirring in my heart over the human trafficking epidemic for years, especially with having two amazing ministries in my backyard to partner with. While my husband’s work schedule, the age of my kids, and other commitments have been good reason that I haven’t been able to jump in beyond the training, I want to change that. I want to be obedient to the conviction of God’s Spirit in my life. We can’t do it all, but we’re all created and gifted uniquely to give God glory with our lives. As the Gospel is fleshed out in our lives, and we get to take part in the specific things God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), I can’t help but get super fired up about walking those things out, prayerfully, grounded in the Word, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine what our neighborhoods, churches and the dark corners of this world would look like if more of us allowed the Gospel to penetrate our hearts more each day.