What comes to mind when you hear the word “gospel?” Do you think of the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Maybe you know a little more and know that the word gospel means “good news.” Or maybe you are much like me in my early years as a Christian and think that the gospel is simply the means to salvation. But the gospel is deeper than the start of our salvation and it is richer than a “get out of Hell free card.” The gospel is the power source for daily life as a believer. Or as C.J. Mahaney said, “The gospel isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian – the gospel is the whole building that all the classes take place in! (The Cross Centered Life, p.75-76).
When I first became a Christian, I was so joyful and so grateful that God loved me enough to forgive me of my sins. I wanted everyone to experience what I had. But as the days and months passed after accepting Christ and the trials of life increased, I found myself struggling with the same sins I had been involved with prior to accepting Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for my sins. I slipped back into depression and craving the sinful life God had ransomed me from. What happened? How did I get here? I had Jesus, why did I seemingly have no hope? These questions swarmed my mind. Somewhere deep inside I thought there had to be more to life than how I was living.
The problem was, I wasn’t seeing how the gospel had real answers for my daily struggles, my desires, my fears, my life. I had been treating the gospel like a class I took once. I paid attention long enough just to pass the test and then threw the notes in the trash at the end of the semester to quickly forget the content I had learned. Paul, one of the main writers of the New Testament, understood this temptation and that is why he said, “continue in faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23).
Through the teaching and accountability of many godly people in my life, over the next few years I began to understand that the gospel was just as necessary for believers as it is for unbelievers. The gospel truths need to be rehearsed daily. Maybe this idea is just as shocking for you as it was for me, so let me explain.
The gospel is the heartbeat of a Christians’ life because it is the heartbeat of the Bible. From cover to cover, all things point to Christ and the loving and gracious sacrifice He made for each and every one of us. Paul spent a large portion of all his writings focused on the gospel. Ephesians 1-3, Colossians 1-2, and Romans 1-11 all talk about the gospel and how necessary it is for life. In Ephesians for example, half of the entire letter is focused on the gospel! The last half then tells believers how to take the truths’ of the gospel and apply them to their lives.
Understanding this helped me to radically change the way I approached my faith and my savior. A big struggle in my life is wanting to do good things to try and please God though I know that this is a wrong perspective. When I am not keeping myself drenched in the gospel however, this works based mentality becomes my focus and I become discouraged as I gaze at the level of sinfulness in my life and believe God must be so disappointed with me. However, when I take the time to look at the gospel, I gain a sober perspective of my standing before God.
I must first understand that I do not have to work to please God because I was hidden in Christ when I accepted His payment for my sins (Colossians 3:3). God accepted Jesus’ payment for the debt created by my sins and rebellion against God and now when God looks at me He sees the sinless life of Jesus rather than my sinfulness (Romans 5:1-2). I can rest assured that God loves me, not because I was loveable or deserving of His love, but that He chooses to love me despite myself. If he loved me while I was rebellious against Him, why would He stop loving me now that I am his adopted child (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:5)?
The applications of the gospel in this situation go on an on. In every struggle in my life, the gospel has an answer for my circumstance. It is not natural for us to think about the gospel when we are focused on the world and our desires. But as we draw near to God, His gospel gives us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The gospel is where we need to set up camp, where we need to dwell. When we wander from the gospel and what it means from our lives, we wander from the power that equips up and sustains us.
For more resources on learning how to apply the gospel to your daily life check out: The Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent, Because He loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and Comforts From the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and The Indwelling Life of Christ by W. Ian Thomas.