Doing my study this morning, I came across a good quote that describes a very important truth about how we treat the Gospel:
All too often, we preach only half a Gospel. We implore people to escape the judgment of God through the provision of the Cross, but we fail to put equal emphasis on pleading with people, as Peter did, to escape the corruption of the world through the provision of the Cross.
Maybe this doesn’t hit you quite as hard as it hit me. But as I have been studying the Power of the Gospel, from the OBC, I have come to learn some powerful truths of God’s Word that are completely new to me. For instance, I always thought that the Gospel was simply the good news of salvation. Jesus came and provided a way of salvation from the judgment of our sin and the wrath of God toward our sin. This is good news enough for me, but it turns out that the Gospel is much more than only that. As the quote above implies, there is a whole other side to the Gospel. This other side deals with more than just our sin – it deals with our person.
When a person comes to Christ, most of the time he has come after a revelation of the sin in his life and the offensiveness of that sin to God. He comes looking for forgiveness. This is great, but after the conversion takes place, he often goes on trying to live a holy life as he knows he should, but completely under his own power. And it’s impossible. He can’t seem to go more than a few hours without sinning again in ways he never though he would. He has been forgiven for his sin – past, present, and future – but he continues to battle sin. My study put it this way:
Without realizing it, a vast majority of Christians have embraced the salvation offered in the first quarter of the Gospel, then begun to try to walk the Christian life without understanding the second quarter of the Gospel. Yes, their sins are forgiven. Yes, they have a righteousness that has come from God, giving them bold access into the presence of God. But because a vital part of the Gospel has been neglected or ignored, the rest of the Christian life doesn’t work as it is supposed to.
This definitely describes me. For years I have fought the guilt and sadness that comes along with the inability to overcome sin in my life by my own power. I believe that in many ways I have come be like the kind of person Peter talks about in 2 Peter 2:
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” (v. 20-22)
That about sums it up. A dog returning to its vomit. And it leaves about the same bad taste in my mouth, too.
The truth of the second part of the Gospel is that “…the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). One I realize this, once I see that I have already escaped the corruption of the world, I then act on it by no longer comforming to the patter of the world, but by being transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). The revelation is that Christ has already won the battle. The act of repentance is then turning away from the world and turning towards God. As my study put it, “…in this act of repentance – a turning from and a turning to – lies the secret of the Gospel’s power.” Only trying to stop something isn’t enough – you have to replace what you are trying to stop with something better. In this case, the power of the Gospel over the sin in our lives and the corruption of the world is not simply a list of rules that we must follow (that was the Old Testament law…), but instead a realization that by turning toward God, we can overpower the sin that we so easily fall victim to.
This may be the best news I’ve heard all day. It definitely leaves a better taste in my mouth than vomit…