For some reason – namely, our depravity – we have a tendency to think that the cross saves us from past sin, but after we are saved, we have to take over and clean ourselves up. This sort of thinking is devastating to the soul. We call this the “assumed gospel,” and it flourishes when well-meaning teachers, leaders, and preachers set out to see lives first and foremost conformed to a pattern of behavior (religion) and not transformed by the Holy Spirit’s power (gospel)…
The idolatry that exists in man’s heart always wants to lead him away from his Savior and back to self-reliance no matter how pitiful that self-reliance is or how many times it has betrayed him. Religion is usually the tool the self-righteous man uses to exalt himself.
Christians often talk about the gospel as something that, for each of them personally, was of past significance. We heard the gospel, either as a child, a teen, or an adult, and we “were saved.” We became believers in Jesus Christ, and now the gospel’s job in our lives is done. We now just call on the gospel whenever we feel like we have to tell it to someone else so that it can save them too.
What we miss is that the gospel, the message of Christ’s sacrifice to atone for our sin and the transformation of our life into something that brings greater glory to God, is supposed to be an ongoing central part of our lives. Through the gospel we are reminded of our need for a savior, the ongoing process going on inside of us to transform us more and more into the likeness of Christ, and the future hope we have of an eternity of peace and comfort in the hands of our loving God. This is something that should not just be in the back of our minds, but our entire lives should revolve around this gospel – we should be driven to continue to seek the depths of what God wants to teach us and to share His message with those around us.
In his book, Chandler reflects on a couple of different ways we can look at the gospel: on the ground, the specific part that humanity plays in the gospel story; and in the air, the story of God’s plan to restore all of creation back to a state of perfection. Each of these perspectives have great value and give us a clearer picture of who God is and how He is working in us and the world, but they also have dangers if one is emphasized too much over the other.
The god of evangelicalism may be tame and tired at times, but the God of the Bible is mighty.
Christianity today is often divided; some people and groups continue to lock themselves away in their castle-churches, hiding from the world while claiming to focus on a “personal discipleship” – something like modern day desert monks. Other groups are so interested in engaging culture and the world around them that their personal theology devolves into a universal, “lets all get along and hug more ‘cause we’re all going to heaven together” perspective that wholly ignores what God has declared in His Word. The reality is that God has called each of us to a close, conscious, personal relationship with Him that impacts not only how we think but how we treat others, how we view the world around us, and how we are to live our lives. It is not easy, it is not soft and cuddly, it is offensive, and it is dramatic. We are not to hide from it; we are to proclaim it, to others and to ourselves. And we will be better off for it.
Anyone ambivalent about what Christ has actually done just isn’t clear on the facts. To present the gospel, then, is to place a hearer in an untenable position. The heart of the hearer of the gospel must move, either toward Christ or away from him…Some are drawn; others repulsed. But nobody hears Jesus and just says, “Eh.”
The explicit gospel, by virtue of its own gravity, invites belief by demanding it.