Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
a while back i heard a speaker (darrin patrick) at a conference i went to that said that the gospel is just as much for believers as it is non-believers. i was like, "well of course." but then he said that many times, we as believers don't live like the gospel is for us. i was intrigued. he said the gospel comes down to two things, repent and believe. repent and realize the gravity of your sin. we are totally depraved and wretched and as hard as we try, we will never measure up. so we need to repent. we need to repent of chasing after other things, for looking to something else to fill us, for desiring to be on control and in charge because we are prideful, etc. repent. i think i get that pretty well. i see my need for repentance. i see my junk and depravity. i have even begun to see the root of my surface sin and in fact i feel horrible about it. i have lived in shame. but this repentance did not fix my sin problem, in fact it only increased my shame and so i retreated within myself.
then comes the second part, believe. believe that i am fully accepted by God because of Jesus. believe that his grace is sufficient. believe that when he died on the cross he freed me sin and shame. believe that he is all that i need. believe that no matter how many times i play the part of the whore he still loves me and never leaves me. the gospel is the combination of both of these. a repentant heart and trust in the Lord. i err on the side of not believing. others err on the side of not repenting and therefore they abuse grace. they lack a true understanding of the gospel, just as i do.
now i have known these things in my head since i was a kid, but i thought of salvation as like a general admission pass. it got me in the door, but then i needed to do the rest. i needed to live by the law and ya, his grace was nice if i slipped up, but good christians didn't really slip up. and i for sure didn't believe his grace would cover me. i tried to pull myself up by my boot straps and fix all my own problems. i can see my issues, so being the fixer and the doer that i am, i set out to make them better. this is the gospel i have lived by for a long time. i would never say it with my mouth or teach it this way, but this is exactly how i lived. i didn't believe that the gospel still applied to my life now that i was "in with god". i didn't believe. i still wanted and had control over my morality and standing before God and others. i had forgotten that jesus died for me, he lived for me, and he now lives in me. if i am able to do the right stuff on my own, then i nullify christ's death. (galatians 2:21). i think i thought i was doing God a service by living a certain way, and because of that he kinda owed me. or even that i was making up for my sin, as if i could ever make up for it. again i would never have said this, but if you examined my heart, you would see that this is how i lived. but i am learning that i am completely sinful and fully accepted. that is the gospel. and for the first time ever, i am really starting to believe this. i can no longer muster up my own righteousness but i am finally resting in the fact that i am justified and christ's righteousness is my own because of his death on the cross.
so repent and believe. since i have not believed and i have rejected parts of the gospel, i have served other idols in search of fulfillment, even though all i needed is found in the gospel. (an idol is anything other than the lord that grabs my heart and i serve it effortlessly. we often don't recognize these until they are threatened) i have traded the creator for created things. i have looked for ways to control my world and my circumstances. i have looked to other things to satisfy my desires, which i feel are needs, but have really turned to lusts. then i am angry that god is not fulfilling those. so i keep trying to do better so that he will. but he does not want to satisfy my lusts, he wants me to know and believe that i am loved by him and that his love overwhelms any needs or desires i have. this news is changing my life. as the lord reveals and exposes my idols and harlotry, he keeps pointing me to his gospel and his love. and i think for the first time in a long time, if ever, i surrender. i have quit trying to do it and i am learning to believe it.
the lord has used the following things to bring this to light in my life and if this resonates with you or interests you or if i have just confused you, i would encourage you to check these out:
Galatians: Living in line with the truth of the gospel by Tim Keller
When People are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch
Leading your Community to Gospel Repentance - Darrin Patrick's talk from the Leadership Conference