For her whole life, Sarah had been running—she ran from God, knowing she wasn’t living as he would want. She ran from guilty feelings caused by the sexual relationships she kept plunging into in hopes of finding love and security. She ran from a deep shame that told her she was dirty, scarred, damaged goods because of the sexual abuse she had endured…so Sarah ran. But she kept running to people and places that just multiplied the pressures and pain. How is the Gospel actually good news for someone like Sarah? How can it make a difference for today?
Christians often miss-convey the “so what” of the gospel. Jesus was crucified to pay for our debts, so that we could be set right with God by faith. We don’t have to clean up our lives first, we don’t have to prove we’ll straighten up and fly right, “it is by grace [God’s unmerited good will and favor] that you have been saved [set right-related to God] through faith [a simple child-like relational trust]…” (Ephesians 2:8-9). But why?
Ephesians 2:10 goes on to say, “so that we can become his Masterpiece, restored in Christ Jesus to live out all he planned for us long ago!” That’s the point of grace! Full restoration of his Masterpiece. The “so what” for today is that we can stop running and hiding from the only One who can lead us into Life and give us what we’re longing for!
So often, we make the gospel about fire insurance: “So you’ll escape hell and judgment” (very true—praise God), “So your sins will be forgiven” (very true—praise God), “So you can be justified, sanctified, and glorified and one day be with God in heaven” (wonderful—praise God). But we often fail to convey that the gospel helps us Live a changed life NOW!
Recall in Romans chapter seven, Paul talks about the struggle we’ve all felt as we try really hard to change on our own without God’s help. Here’s his color commentary: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15, 19 NIV). Have you ever vowed, sworn, or committed yourself to “stop doing something” only to find yourself doing it again without flinching? We all have.
Then you get on this cycle of guilt and shame—beating yourself up over it, vowing to try harder next time. And when you fail again, you sink even lower, feeling a greater weight of condemnation. And around and around and around we go—until finally—some just give up. We give up on God because we mistakenly think he is heaping guilt, shame and condemnation on us while we try harder and harder only to fall harder the next time around. (This is where most people live by the way!)
But look at what else Paul says: “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:20, italics mine) This is profound. What he’s saying is that we all have this sin nature that is not a part of who God intended us to be—we inherited it—we all developed the habit of living mostly on our own, disconnected from God in a fallen world.
We grow up, and we respond to this inherited tendency of humanity to go our way instead of God’s way. That’s what sin is—going our way instead of God’s way—and it’s natural, it’s habitual for us. But it keeps us from doing life with God, the Source of life.
See, Jesus helps us off this sin-cycle of failure…shame…trying harder…failing again. Because as Paul explains, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, italics mine) So what God did through Christ’s substitutionary payment for our wrongs is deliver us from condemnation. If you’ve told God, “I want what Jesus did to count for me,” it will count, and you can know you are not condemned.
But as awesome as that is, avoiding condemnation is not the end game. God wants to bring restoration to our lives. He wants to help us become all that he created us to be. But apart from God having access to our hearts and minds–that will never happen. We can’t become who God intended without God in our lives. God does what he does in Christ, “so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
If we’re willing to receive what Jesus did for us, we can know that even as we fail, he doesn’t leave us or condemn us. That allows us to open our minds to God’s Spirit, even as we are failing or falling—as we are getting squeezed in life—because that’s where we need help the most. God causes the growth! But if we are afraid God condemns us, we will hide from the only One who can change us from the inside out. See it?
That’s why Paul goes on to say, “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6, italics mine) The good news about Jesus is that his death and resurrection paid the price, once and for all, to reconnect us to the Source of Life, so that we can stay connected in our minds to his Spirit who helps us become all God intended. And the fruit of His Spirit as we stay connected: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). That’s what every single person is wanting. You have Good News for every person—God wants to give you what you’re deep down longing for!
Has this been the Good News you convey to people?