“If I’m not showing grace . . . have I forgotten the grace I’ve been shown?” – John MacArthur
Someone once wrote that one of the biggest lie many Christians believe is thinking that they don’t need the gospel. Despite its very definition, the “good news” is popularly seen only good for people who are non-Christians, while for those who have believed in the gospel, it is often sidelined, replaced with a list of dos and don’ts instead, like so:
“Don’t lie! Don’t drink alcohol! Pray before sleep! Pray before meals!”
While they are commendable exhortations, it is unfortunate that despite such long to-do list, we might be missing the point, that is, the gospel.
What’s the gospel?
The Bible says that in the beginning was one God, co-existing in three different persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Him is the perfect fellowship of love, each person indwelling harmoniously with each other. And in His glory is made manifest through creation, where He created the whole universe and everything in it.
He set the boundaries of the world — which part belongs to the waters and which is the land; the sky, and even designates the water cycle that produces the puffy white clouds and places and the innumerable stars; the green plants, the animals, and us, the human beings, both male and female. In His creative and divine power, we’re created according to His image, therefore making us distinct from the rest of His creations. God breathes life for He is the sole Creator, and we are the evidence of His outpouring love. Humans once walked in harmony with the Creator, being given the authority over His other creations. He saw everything and it was good.
Everything changed as the humans disobeyed God. We were seduced by the sneaky snake, Satan, to violate God’s command. We were then introduced to sin — shame, the horrible aftertaste of disobeying God, of living separate from God. It is an act of cosmic treason, violating the Creator of the world, and by doing so we’d surely die. As a result sin binds so tightly to us, corrupting our will.
Consequently the snake was cursed as were the all of us, the sinners.
However (and thankfully), instead of destruction, His mouth utters mercy.
He says there’d come a day when Someone will destroy the power of sin. But it shall come at a cost; they’ll destroy each other.
God then clothed the violators to cover their shameful nakedness, sent them to live as sojourners, exercising our God-given authority, to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28).
The story of human frailty then begins here as we’re constantly violating God’s will, blinded of His goodness and incessant forbearance.
However, in His mercy, He chose a nation, the Israelites, and He willed that Israel would be separated from the other violators that He might reveal Himself to all nations — that He is the One True God and that He’s holy, good, and just.
He spoke through His chosen servant, Moses, and gave the Israelites the Law, consisting of moral laws, showing that if people were to abide in them, they wouldn’t perish. Despite God’s mercy, the Israelites were bound to a cycle of failure — they’d repent just to resume their idolatrous two-faced lives.
God then appointed the prophets to confront the Israelites of their sinfulness, only to be scorned and ignored. God would then momentarily show His wrath towards Israel through calamities to remind them that He is holy and truly sees all, only to have the people going back to their sinfulness. Their hearts were not changed at all — the cycle of sin then continues.
However, other than warnings, all the prophets also talked about a new covenant, in which God will write His laws on our hearts so that we may truly know Him and worship Him in spirit and truth; that He’ll give us a new Spirit and bring us out of the deathly cycle of sin.
The prophets had also been talking about the appearance of a mysterious figure, illustrated as the greater Moses, the heir to King David’s throne, whose Kingdom shall be anointed and eternal, called as Immanuel (God with us), the High Priest, the Son of God.
The prophets also said that this Figure would be rejected by His own people; He’d bear all our iniquities; betrayed, falsely accused, His limbs pierced, forsaken by God.
He’d die, but death would not prevail.
He’d be resurrected and ascend to heaven. In His death and resurrection, He’d redeem His people and free them from the bondage of sin.
Then came Jesus Christ.
Of whom God the Father says,
“You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
(Mark 1:11, Matthew 3:17)
Of whom John the Baptist testifies,
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who ranks before me, because He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that He might be revealed to Israel”
This is Christ, the God-man, the second person of the the Triune God, coming into the world willingly, emptying Himself despite His deity, to reconcile all creations to Himself.
This is Christ who preaches salvation,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Christ who restored lives; healed even the lepers, brought people from the dead, telling them that their sin had been forgiven and that they were to sin no more.
Both the Jews and the Gentiles at that time were perplexed, unable to know what to make of Him. The religious leaders, the Saducees and Pharisees were rebuked by Him, pointing out their hypocrisy, their love of money, and spiritual blindness.
At a moment ordained by God, He was delivered to die on the cross. He gave His life by His own authority, brought to rebellious people who yelled, “Crucify Him!”, killed by the very hands He formed during the moment of creation, confirming our sinful nature,
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
Yet, all of this was done so that God’s will may be fulfilled, that in His death, He bore our iniquities; He took our place, crushed by the wrath of God that was supposed to be subjected to us; He was made to be sin who knew no sin, the blameless sacrificial lamb, slain for us, the sinners.
And death won’t prevail.
Christ rose on the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us as the High Priest, ruling everything under the earth. In His resurrection, He showed that there is nothing to fear in death, and He shall come again judging everyone, both believers and unbelievers. There shall come a day where those who believe in Him will be freed of their sin, living in the presence of the Holy God forever, where there is true eternal joy.
This is the gospel, the power of God to those who believe, a gift given out of sheer grace shown in an glorious act of love on the cross of Christ, that we may know Him fully and dwell with Him eternally.
That He’d grant His Spirit to those who believe, empowering us to look on the things that are of above instead of fixing our eyes on vanities. Through His Spirit, He’s making us a new creation, that He may reconcile all things to Him, for His glory.
The gospel is the story of God, redeeming all His creations to Himself.
The gospel is the heartbeat of Christians, for what we are and will be doing show the implication of this good news — how this gospel changes our hearts inside and out by exposing us to God’s love at its fullest, on the cross. The gospel says we’re enabled to love because He first loved us when we were still living in sin and that we’re redeemed by the grace of God, not by our merit.
This message of grace says that we don’t have to be enslaved by sin anymore for we’ve been given the power and freedom to do the things that please God — things that will bring us joy. The enticement of sin should attract us no more for now we can run to the cross, looking up to the crucified Christ instead of looking into ourselves; and witness the immeasurable love of God. We can now follow Christ, being conformed into His image, the image we should have lived up to.
In his last days, Martin Luther, a German theologian writes,
“We are beggars. This is true.”
A gospel-saturated life should bring us to such deep humility, showing that we do not contribute even a drop to our salvation. This grace is the fuel of our witness to the world, that we’ve been changed not because of our own doing, but because of Him who sacrificed Himself that we may know Him.
We should preach this message to ourselves every morning, not that we are perfect and we can do everything the world throws at us, but that Christ is perfect, and that is enough. Ask for the grace to get through the day as we realize how helpless we are without Him.
Friends, don’t forget the grace we’ve been shown. Don’t forget the gospel.
May we be enabled to love God with our all, and love others as we love ourselves.
Dear Lord, the idol self dethrone
And from our hearts remove
And let no zeal by us be shown
But that which springs from love
– John Newton