This morning, I enjoyed another meeting with two young men of Grace (my A-team) at Panera talking about being faithful to apply the gospel to our own heart. If I truly know myself, we will be quick to confess that the worst sinner in the room at any given time is me. Therefore, there is no one who needs the gospel more than me. This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others. When my heart is renewed in the gospel and utterly satisfied with all that God is for me in Jesus Christ, then the joyful overflow of the gospel’s work will enlarge my affections for the lost and loose my tongue to share of the amazing mercies found in Him.
The gospel should never be like that computer file stuck in your hard drive that has not been accessed in over a year so that it is impossible to find. Instead, when the gospel is retrieved time and again on a regular basis, it be readily accessed to share and for others to “download” for themselves. If we believe that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) we cannot limit that transforming work to a brief period at the beginning of a Christian life. For those who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation in an ongoing basis as we see more of God’s excellencies, expose our sinful depravity, and increasingly exult in the glories of Jesus Christ who is for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Let me give you a personal example from this morning . . .
Last night, I taught on the core value and importance of God’s Word for the life of the Christian individually and our church corporately. Although I had a good grasp of what I was teaching, I was distracted, scattered, and quickly became depressed. By the end of my teaching, I was so disappointed with myself that I wanted to simply hide away and hunker down. As the night grew on, I sat on the couch analyzing why I was feeling so much like a failure, which only intensified as I lay in bed wide-eyed and feeling the accusations and attacks of what could only be described as spiritual warfare.
What was going on here?
As reflected on this, I realized the source idol leading to my depression and hiding was approval. For the time being, I was building my Christian life on my performance as a pastor, communicator, teacher, etc., and when my performance was sub-par, I would either seek the approval of others (fear of man) or wallow in self-pity (pride). Both of these stem from unbelief in God and failure to believe the gospel. And the way I responded was like that of my Adam and Eve in hiding myself, not humbling myself. So what does repentance and renewal of the gospel look like?
This morning, I responded to the condemning thoughts and accusations of the enemy with gospel realities. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Over and over, I am beating this into my head and internalizing it for heart transformation. Because Jesus was cursed for my lawlessness and condemned for my sin, I am free from all condemnation. He took the wrath of God and since I am hidden in Him, I can rest and find refuge from all condemning thoughts regardless of where they are sourced (from within or from without). Whereas my performance speaks condemnation (my self-righteousness is as filthy rags), Christ’s performance speaks NO condemnation, for in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed by faith for faith (Rom. 1:17).
On the other hand, the gospel tells me that Jesus has defeated all of my enemies–sin, death, hell, demons, and Satan himself. This fight of faith is not dependent on me but on the victory appropriated to me through my union with my victorious and reigning Savior. I rejoice in the triumph of the cross and remind myself that the head of the serpent has been crushed through the Father’s bruising of His Son on my behalf. And if the Fathered delivered up His Son for me, will He not with Him also freely give me all things?
That is what I mean to believe the gospel and be renewed in it. But that is not enough. I must repent of my idolatry in seeking approval in other things and people rather than Jesus. I can never earn God’s approval on my own, and the only basis I have to be accepted and approved is through the finished work of Jesus Christ. I don’t live or work for approval. I live and work from approval–God’s approval of His Son whose righteousness is now mine. Repentance therefore means that I turn from the idolatry of approval and personal performance to Jesus Christ and rejoice in the glorious reality that I can never improve upon or take away what He has accomplished on my behalf.
So yeah, no one needs the gospel more than me. Like the Apostle Paul, I am reminded of the trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost (1 Tim. 1:15).