Who Needs the Gospel?
Too many Christians are trying to live the Christian life without grace, without the power of the gospel. They’re striving harder but enjoying Jesus less. There are two correlated religious confusions about the gospel that enslave Christians. (These two lies are wonderfully contrasted in Britt Merrick’s series on Galatians):
The first is the notion that the good news of the gospel is primarily for non-Christians. Many believers agree that we are saved from hell according to the gospel. But then they feel we must add to the gospel and “get to work” to live according to a variety of rules and expectations of a man-made, self-proclaimed religious culture to be make it in the Christian life. This mistake fails to apply the glorious gospel truth–that we are totally made new in Christ–to our everyday life and the issues we face.
This leads to the captivating lie of insisting that we should live up to various definitions of what it means to be a “real Christian” or a “good Christian.” This notion is likewise man-made and self-proclaimed, but for a more insidious reason: So that we can compare and compete with other Christians and feel better about our own shortcomings. This inaccuracy boomerangs and we feel compelled redefine our own weaknesses and failures as “okay,” hiding what we know to be true about ourselves as we point out the faults and shortcomings of others.
The Scriptures nowhere divide Christians into these performance and self-help categories. Those who have trusted in Christ through His gospel are just Christian, plain and simple. But failing to grasp the implications of the same gospel we believed when we became a Christian leaves us striving to prove ourselves to be more acceptable to the God who has already fully accepted us in Christ. And it is this striving that ultimately leaves us as the only sub-class of Christians we never want to be: the carnal Christian.
The Gospel Is for Christians!
Paul warns us against these teachings in Colossians 2 and tells us the striving, legalistic culture’s dirty little secret: Striving doesn’t work (Colossians 2:23). It’s only by trusting that the same gospel that saved us from the penalty of sin also delivered us from the power of sin that we will be transformed by the Spirit (Galatians 2:20).
If you’re a Christian worn out by the enslaving religious lie that you need to learn how to be a ‘good Christian’, Paul says, stop it! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” writes the apostle of grace. “Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
There’s a new life you can start living. You can break out of the prison of shame and failure. But you must believe that the gospel is not only for the day you trusted in Jesus, but the next day, and the next, and the next … for the rest of your life. The gospel has the power to deliver us from sin. Not just it’s penalty, but also it’s power.
It’s a revolutionary concept. If you embrace it, I guarantee it will change your life. As you trust the Gospel more and more, you’ll manifest more and more of the righteousness Jesus had in mind when He saved you from your sin. And it will all be by grace through faith.
If this sounds like news that is too good to be true, it may be that you’ve missed the dramatic contrast between the gospel and religion.
Question: Why do you think so many Christians are afraid of trusting what the gospel says about them and instead embrace some system of works righteousness to be accepted before God?