Over a decade ago I was walking with Paul Barnett, the retired bishop of Sydney, Australia. We were about to part ways, I to the subway and he to his hotel, when he paused and out of nowhere said to me, “Always remember this. Apart from the gospel you are an under qualified social worker.” It was one of those moments that sticks with me to this day.
The gospel is all we have. It is all we need.
What is the Gospel?
What is the gospel? While the gospel is a multi-faceted truth that can be seen from different angles like a fine diamond, there is a central truth that can be stated in a sentence. It is found in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul writes,
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
In a nutshell the good news is found in the character of God. First, that He is the God who loves us and gave his life for us on the cross. Second, that He is the God who defeated death and rose from the grave as the first born of a new creation. Third, that He is the God who does not abandon us to our own devices but rather appears.
The good news of God displayed in Jesus is all we have and all we need. Yet somehow, sometimes we stray from this truth and live as though the gospel is not true or not enough. Are there areas in our life where the gospel doesn’t seem to satisfy? Look to the places where we have added superstition. Those are the areas wherein we are not satisfied in the gospel. Look to the places where we are believing false truths about God and living out of fear, worry and anxiety – as though the most important things in life depend on us. We need to be reminded of the gospel and find confidence in the God who reveals himself to us in Christ through the unfolding story of scripture.
I hope and pray that we would all come to know, believe, remember and apply the gospel to our lives in 2017. I pray that we would find not only satisfaction in the gospel but joy.
Different passages of scripture speak to me at various times in my life. Before I read my bible I pray and ask the Lord to speak to me. Sometimes I ask him to show me something of who he is and how I can live differently in light of that truth. Other times I ask that He would show me a promise that is strong enough to get me through a present struggle. Lately, I have been drawn to passages on joy. Joy is one of the results of the gospel at work in the life of a Christian. In your own reading this year you may notice how often the topic and promise of joy occurs in scripture. The one that has spoken to me recently is found in John 15. Jesus says,
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Jesus’ words to his disciples (you and me) results in two things.
- His joy in us and
- Our joy being full.
What Does it Mean?
First, what does it mean for Jesus’ joy to be in us? The grammar is interesting and could mean either that the joy Jesus has is ours as well, or it could mean that he finds joy in us. Both possibilities encourage my heart.
Second, what does it mean for my joy to be full? The promises of Jesus fill my life with joy. This joy makes me joyful but also overflows making me a force for good in God’s world.
Remembering the Gospel
I pray that this joy in the gospel of Jesus would overtake us as a church family in 2017. It is the kind of joy you cannot get by pursuing joy. Rather, it is joy that results from hearing and remembering the gospel. Most of us could list a dozen reasons why we should not feel joyful. We have failed God, let others down, and let ourselves down. This is how David felt after taking another man’s wife and having him killed. David was not feeling joyful. But he prayed in Psalm 51,
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”
David knew that joy was found in returning to the Lord and remembering the good news of God’s grace to sinners.
May we truly know the joy of the gospel this year. May our joy be filled to overflowing in a way that leads us to telling other sinners, too.