The majesty and beauty of the gospel can be lost in the busyness and normality of life.
Where is the place for the gospel when work and/or school occupy most of our lives?
This can especially be true for Christians who grew up in the church, or for those who have been following Jesus for a long time.
We know that the gospel is important. It’s the good news about Jesus. It’s a story from the dawn of creation, when God created humans to reflect his image and have dominion and stewardship over the earth, while living in close relationship with himself.
Yet, when humans turned away from God and followed their own desires, sin, death, and brokenness entered the world. That closeness with God was broken. More than that, there’s brokenness in human relationships too, and even within ourselves. That sin and brokenness ultimately leads to all kinds of death: physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational.
Since that moment, God has been actively working to restore humanity to himself, to its created purpose and design. Even in that first moment of rejection against God, he promised to send a person to be this restoration and to defeat the power of evil and darkness.
That person was Jesus. He was born miraculously (pointing to a greater biblical theme of God creating life from death, barrenness, or nothing), lived a perfect, sinless life on earth, and ushered in the Kingdom of God. He was tortured and murdered for crimes he didn’t commit, but through it took on the punishment of death that we deserve for our sin.
Not only did he die an earthly death, he physically rose from the grave. Death and sin no longer have a hold on him, and for those who place their faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, they receive that same eternal life. They are part of the Kingdom of God, where death no longer has a hold on them in eternity, and sin no longer controls them on earth.
This gospel is our source of joy, hope, and purpose. I am not talking about feelings. Instead, it is more about being. Feelings are part of this, but not the whole part.
I am talking about being invested in the gospel, this truth about Jesus, with every aspect of our lives, our being. Jesus was joy, hope, and purpose in the flesh. When we become unified with Jesus through faith, and we have his Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, we have access to these longings for joy, hope, and purpose in life. Because of the truth of Jesus, we can be joyful, be hopeful, and have a purpose, even when faced with hardship and our feelings are none of these things.
The gospel is important. More than that, it is good news!
Yet, for many of us, although we recognize the importance of the gospel, our admiration for it can dwindle over time. We find our flare for this gospel story diminishing as we cave to the daily motions of the student or work life. Yet, if we are to live into the life and mission into which Jesus has called us, the extravagance of the gospel must be a central part of our reality.
We need to learn to recapture or, for some, capture for the first time, a fire for the gospel and a love for Jesus. Here are three ways to value and love the gospel that have been helpful to me and that I would love to share with you:
If we forget the truth or impact of the gospel, its importance will inevitably appear to weaken. This can be especially true when we have assignments, exams, and work to do.
For example, if Jimmy is focused on memorizing the formula for the speed of light to pass his exam, why should he take time to remember the gospel, especially since he has heard it over and over again in his life? We can only hold so much in our brains at once.
But, the gospel still merits occupying a place in our lives even when we have pressing and urgent tasks to accomplish. It is our source of life and identity. Remembering it will remind us of God’s immense love for us and the new life to which he has called us, one of loving and following Christ Jesus.
I am not saying that we should fail an exam or skip work to focus on the gospel. God tells us to work hard, and whatever we do, it needs to be ultimately for him, and not for others or ourselves (Colossians 3:23). Pass your exam, go to work, and remember the gospel. Remembering it will not only help us to focus on it, but will also hopefully encourage us to be passionate about it once again.
Here are some ideas that help me remember the gospel:
- Listening to worship music that specifically touches on the gospel. Music is a great way to help focus our minds on a subject and is a much easier way of remembering things rather than memorizing statements. I often listen to music when I study or even when I am commuting (note to self: it’s probably better to not sing along in public).
- Reading the Easter story. I find that reading and reminding myself of the Easter story (Jesus’ betrayal, trial, death, and resurrection), throughout the year, not just during Easter, makes me more passionate about it.
- Recalling the Acts of the overall narrative of Scripture. Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew released a book called True Story of the Whole World: Finding Your Place in the Biblical Drama where they break down the narrative of Scripture into six Acts. When I consider my small role in the larger big story of Scripture, I feel so humbled but also inspired.
- Reading my Bible regularly! This is essential to my relationship with God. I know I can struggle with this practice when busyness consumes my life. Amidst the pressures of life, reading Scripture can seem more like reading a textbook than reading the living and active word of God. Even when I do read it, I often don’t wrestle with it. It’s easy to read the words at surface value and not seek deeper understanding. Yet, what’s the point of that? When I take time to wrestle through hard passages and seek to truly understand, I find that God meets me through his Spirit and points me more clearly to Jesus.
These are a few suggestions of how I try to remember the gospel, and I encourage you to explore what it could look like for you. Even though it does require intentionality and time (similar to homework), God is faithful to meet us as we come to him.
Remembering the gospel is just one part. If it is truly the greatest news there is, then we will be led to seek and recognize its relevance. When we see it in our lives, we can become more invested in it.
My Ministry professor would always pose this question to us: how does the message of the gospel speak into this context? I love this question because it forces us to interact with our current situation and society to see how Jesus shows up in our everyday lives. This can change based on situations, settings, and circumstances, but the message of Jesus never changes.
For example, when I was in Guatemala, the gospel spoke powerfully into the issue of justice amidst the backdrop of corruption, gang violence, and overall societal neglect of the marginalized. The gospel in a Western university context speaks into the identity we have in Christ being greater than grades, jobs, or what our peers have to say. The core message of the gospel never changes. But various elements of the gospel can speak powerfully into the issues and struggles of our cultural context. To discover the gospel’s relevance is to recognize how it relates to our lives and to the world around us.
What are some areas of brokenness or darkness that you see? Or some ways you see God at work? What are some issues or questions that often come up in everyday life? How does the truth of the gospel speak into those topics?
Let these scenarios draw you, not further from God in doubt, but closer to him in faith, trust, and questions. He will respond by opening our eyes and giving us faith. We will become more passionate about the gospel once we recognize its relevance. Yet, just as God will respond to our cries to him, we too must respond to him.
Remembering the gospel reminds us of all God has done for us in Jesus and what he is still doing through his Holy Spirit. Recognizing the relevance of the gospel awakens us to its reality in the world and our lives, which tugs at our hearts as we engage the muck and mire of what we see.
But, now what? The gospel does not call us to be passive bystanders in a hurting and broken world. We are called to respond.
We are called to a mission of response. After all, Jesus tells his disciples,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
The disciples had just experienced the resurrection of Jesus, and their worldview shifts as Jesus calls them to respond to what they have heard and seen. We are called to participate in this gospel through the mission God has given us.
Jesus was sent by the Father, so we too are sent to continue Jesus’ mission with the Holy Spirit. The missional God calls us to be missional. This mission, based on Matthew 28:18-20 above, is to make disciples, baptize, and teach others about Jesus. Naturally, this does not call us only to the church, it calls us to be in the world.
How much are you in the world? How many people are you close to that are not Christian? This is hard stuff. It is so comfortable to be around other Christians. That is a great thing and we should participate in God’s mission with other believers. Jesus sent people in pairs. But, we still need to be in the world.
My pastor once said that mission is like sports. You are not called to be on a bench. What is the point of all the training and teaching if you are not in the game? I want to be in the game with Jesus, and he wants you on the field alongside him! The best part is that Jesus has overpowered death on the cross and has won the game already! We don’t need to worry about losing or falling short because we are already victorious. So, get in the game!
Being in the game looks like living out the gospel by, for example, serving the marginalized and fighting injustice. We also need to bear good fruit in our faith so that others may see what the gospel is, just like how the disciples learned what God’s truth was from seeing and knowing Jesus first-hand! We are God’s ambassadors in this world; our actions, words, and work do reflect who Jesus is. Jesus’ disciples also spoke the gospel (Acts 8:26-40). So, we need to be verbally sharing the gospel too. I am terrible at this and often feel scared, but as I take steps of faith to try, the Spirit leads me. Look for the opportunities God is creating around you. Only by the power of God will you be able to share about the good news of Jesus with others.
Do you feel unsure about all of this? Take those thoughts, concerns, uncertainties to God in prayer.
Ultimately, God is the only one who changes hearts–so pray that he starts with changing yours! God does respond to our prayers and steps of faith but only often in his timing. In the meantime, draw close to him in prayer, be grounded in community, and believe in faith that he will bring you to a place where you have a flare for the gospel.