An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship. It lowers our eyes from God to self and cheapens what God has accomplished for us in Christ. The biblical gospel, by contrast, is like fuel in the furnace of worship. The more you understand about it, believe it, and rely on it, the more you adore God both for who he is and for what he has done for us in Christ.¹
I had the opportunity to read the above quoted book recently and it was a joy. I love the gospel. I am astounded by the scandalous grace of God that I have received in Jesus. And yet, I know I can go long stretches of time thinking I have good things because I’ve earned them. I have gone long periods of time as well in the other direction– sure that God is unhappy and disappointed in me. Whether prideful or living in shame, the problem was the same. I’d stopped living in the reality of God’s grace. I’d forgotten some part of the gospel.
Gilbert Greg does a fabulous job summarizing the Biblical gospel in the first few chapters of this book. The gospel is anchored on an understanding of:
God- God is the righteous Creator. We owe him obedience and worship.
Man- Man is sinful. We don’t and can’t give God what we should.
Our culture doesn’t like this idea of sin, however. To quote Gregg, “To human hearts that stubbornly think of themselves as basically good and self-sufficient, this idea that human beings are fundamentally sinful and rebellious is not merely scandalous. It is revolting.” ²
Christ- Jesus, God in human flesh, has accomplished for us what was impossible for us to do. We aren’t able to meet God’s standards and we have no way to reconcile our condition. “Jesus came not only to inaugurate the kingdom of God, but also to bring sinners into it by dying in their place and for their sin, taking their punishment on himself and securing forgiveness for them, making them righteous in God’s sight, and qualifying them to share in the inheritance of the kingdom.” ³
Response- We receive the benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice through faith. All who believe in Jesus to save them from their sin are given forgiveness, a right relationship with God, new life in Jesus, and a promise of eternal life with God. We don’t earn it. We receive it.
I am reminded that the gospel isn’t Christianity for beginners. It isn’t the ABCs of the Christian faith, but rather the A to Z of our faith. We never outgrow the truth and the implications of the gospel. And if we forget about it for too long we will fall into pride or despair as we think our standing before God is something we must earn or keep.
God’s love is not demonstrated by His accepting acceptable people, His love is demostrated by saving sinners. This is good news!
¹Gilbert, Greg (2010-03-23). What Is the Gospel? (9Marks) (pp. 20-21). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
²Gilbert, Greg (2010-03-23). What Is the Gospel? (9Marks) (p. 51). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
³Gilbert, Greg (2010-03-23). What Is the Gospel? (9Marks) (p. 64). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.