The Gospel is on a mission.
Gospel in a nutshell: There are many verses in the Bible that divulge the essence of the Gospel. One of them is Paul’s message to the Corinthian church.
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (NASB)
One of the things I have come to understand about the Gospel is that it is causal. It is intended, and superintended, by God to have an effect on those who believe it. It’s effect is righteousness, in both declaration and in practice. The declaration of righteousness over us is instant, the practice of righteousness in us takes time. With this in mind, we will ponder three questions of God’s Word, seeking help from God.
1. What is the goal or aim of the Gospel?
What is God doing by the Gospel, with the Gospel?
The Great Commandment helps us understand this question.
Matthew 22:37 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (NASB)
From this passage we see that there are two primary characteristics, or marks, of Gospel people, those who have become, and are becoming the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. First is a real and lasting love for God. The second mark is the effect of the first, a real and lasting love for others, especially believers. One of the great effects of the Gospel causality is a people who passionately love God, and therefore will risk all to follow His Son.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul points out the vanity of a life lived apart from this passion for God, and its corresponding love for others.
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body tto be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (NASB)
As J.D. Greear reminds us, no amount of spiritual giftedness, doctrinal mastery, crazy faith, or radical obedience is of any account unless its motivation is love, for God and others. The most important thing to God is that you love Him. If that is not your motivation, then all your good works are are no value. This is why Jesus spoke so matter-of-factly to the church in Ephesus:
Revelation 2:2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place-unless you repent. (NASB)
All of our “righteous deeds” fail to please God if they are not the result of love for Him. Love that permeates the mind, the heart, the will.
2. How do we come to obey the command of the Gospel to love God?
Now, we all know what we are supposed to do. We know we are to live lives for God’s glory, and for the good of others. We know we shouldn’t lie, cheat, steal, or kill anyone. We should be careful with our words, and we should go to church and tithe and witness and keep our lawns mowed. But knowing what to do doesn’t give us the ability to do it. Despite popular psychology, “Knowledge Is NOT Power.” The power to love God is outside of us. You can’t will yourself to have deeper affections for God. As Greear says, “Love for God grows out of an experience of love from God.” Here are two verses that help us to see that our love for God must have a cause. It is a response to something outside of us.
1 John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us. (NASB)
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NASB)
Our lives are so busy, so crowded. Those things crowd out God. Our affections are spent on things of lesser glory, of lesser worth. In other words, we worship the created and not the Creator, who is blessed forever. We need God’s help to love Him as He commands, as He desires, and as He is worthy. We do this by encountering the absolute loveliness of God. God is worthy of our affections, of our supreme allegiance, of our total worship.
3. How can I experience God’s love?
If we are commanded to love God, and if we can only love God as a response to His love, where do we go from here? How do we encounter His love so as to have that transforming response we so desperately need? The answer is the Gospel. Simple as that. We experience God’s love by experiencing the Gospel, again and again and again. The Apostle Paul is again helpful in this regard.
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (NASB)
- 3:18 Tells us we are being transformed into the image of Christ by beholding the glory of Christ. The effect is transformation, the cause is Christ and His glory.
- 4:1 We persevere in this simply by God’s mercy, by trusting in it, by abiding in it.
- 4:2 Paul speaks of the effect of perseverance, walking in integrity, in transparency before the world, showing our dependency upon the Gospel.
- 4:3 The Gospel is not understood, it is not perceived in its beauty, by the lost.
- 4:4 The lost are prevented from beholding Christ’s glory in the Gospel. The Gospel is where we behold Christ’s glory most clearly.
To sum Paul up here, we become like Christ as we abide in the Gospel. Abiding in the Gospel, meditating on its truths enables us to see His glory, beauty and utter loveliness. As we behold Him, we become like Him. We come to love His Father as we come to love Him. As we come to love God more, we naturally will love others better. In order for others to encounter God’s love in us and through us, we first have to encounter it. We can’t make ourselves love God more, but we can place ourselves in the path of response to His love by focusing on Christ in the Gospel.
- We learn to love others by realizing how much He loves us, by seeing how He showed it, and continues to show it.
- We learn to show mercy to others by meditating on the mercies He shows us, in the cross, in daily bread, forgiving us time again.
- We learn to forgive others by meditating on the vastness of His forgiveness towards us.
- We learn to give, generously, obnoxiously by meditating on the greatness of His Gift, and His gifts toward us, in Christ Jesus.
- We learn compassion for the needy as we meditate on God’s compassion for us. He saw us as sheep without a shepherd, and He sends us the Good Shepherd.
As Paul states in Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (NASB) Our ability to be kind, tender and forgiving toward others is grounded and founded in God’s mercy to us as shown in the Gospel.
“Always “begin again” with the gospel. Abide in it; swim in it; make your home in it. See more and more of your life through it. Be absolutely convinced at every moment of every day of the goodness of God in your life. That’s the only way you’ll ever really grow.”
- Meditate on Ephesians 3:14-21
- Be aware of signs in your life that you are not growing in your love for God, and for others. Perhaps its a difficult relationship you have, some unforgiveness in your heart, or a duty that has lost its joy. “Begin again.”
- Think often on the cross, and how you deserved to be there, and how Christ didn’t.