29 Aug How the Gospel Influences Our Entire Life
In Christian circles, we often hear the term “gospel.” It’s a word we toss around, knowing it’s central to our faith. Yet, its profound depth can sometimes become masked by its frequent use. So, what does it truly mean? The gospel unveils the unparalleled love story of Jesus Christ entering our world, selflessly making payment for our sin, and bridging the chasm between us and a holy God. Through His profound sacrifice and boundless love, Jesus reconciled us—the flawed and the fallen—with the sheer perfection of our Creator. At its core, the gospel lays out God’s master plan of redemption, underlining His unwavering commitment to restoring the bond that was once broken.
Now, while the gospel’s grand narrative paints a broad picture of redemption, it’s also essential to dive into the specifics—particularly how our individual actions bear consequences in this vast tapestry of faith.
Understanding Sin’s Wages
When you work a job, you earn wages. It’s what’s due to you for the work you’ve done. Now, let’s think of it in terms of our actions and choices. In Romans 6:23a, Paul writes that the “wages of sin is death.” This means the fair payment for our wrongdoing is spiritual death or separation from God.
We might think, “But I’m a good person! I haven’t done anything that bad.” But when we measure ourselves against a perfectly holy God, it’s like comparing a speck of dirt to a flawless diamond. Even the tiniest of our wrongs stands out. Isaiah 53:6 puts it starkly: “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Just like sheep that wander away from the safety of their shepherd, we’ve strayed from God’s path and chosen our own way.
Rebellion might sound like a strong word, but that’s precisely what it is when we decide to go our own way instead of God’s. Every time we say something that isn’t true, we break God’s law; “thou shall not lie”. If you have ever taken something that isn’t yours, you’ve broken God’s law; “Thou shall not steal.” Jesus said, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-30. When we look into the mirror of God’s law, it’s clear to see that we’re lawbreakers – every one of us. The thing is, we do things even though deep down, we know it’s wrong. But we do it anyway, and it’s all a form of rebellion against a holy and perfect God.
Now, if God is truly just, there must be a penalty for sin. Imagine a world where crimes routinely went unpunished. Murders, rapists, thieves, and child abusers were given a pass. That wouldn’t be justice. In the same way, God’s justice demands a punishment for our rebellion. Hell is that ultimate separation from God, the culmination of our choice to walk away from Him.
But, and this is crucial, it’s not God’s desire for anyone to be separated from Him. That’s why He went to such great lengths to provide a way back, a rescue plan, which we’ll dive into next.
Our Overwhelming Debt and the Ultimate Payment
Imagine for a moment you’ve accumulated an insurmountable debt. No matter how hard you work, no matter how many lifetimes you lived, you couldn’t pay it off. The weight of this debt presses down on you, reminding you of your inability to settle what you owe. This is a glimpse of the vastness of our sin debt in the eyes of a holy God.
Every misstep, every wrongdoing, no matter how big or small in our eyes, adds to this debt. The sheer magnitude of it all is overwhelming, especially when we realize that the only way to repay it is with a perfect life—a currency none of us possess.
But here’s where hope breaks through.
Jesus, being both fully God and fully man, lived that perfect life. He was the only one in all of history without a sin debt, yet He chose to take on ours. Imagine someone stepping into the bank, where you owe that enormous sum, and saying, “Put it all on my account. I’ll pay it in full.” That’s what Jesus did on the cross. He didn’t owe anything, yet He gave everything.
When Jesus was crucified, He declared, “It is finished.” In the original language, this phrase can be translated as “Paid in Full.” The vast debt we owed? Jesus covered it completely.
But why would He do this? Out of incomprehensible love. Because of His sacrifice, for those who put their faith in Jesus as their only hope for salvation, and turn from their sin in repentance, their sin is “removed as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). We, who were once stained by our transgressions, are now “washed… white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Through faith in Him, we are given a new heart, a fresh start, where our record of wrongs no longer stands against us. It’s as if we’ve never sinned, thanks to the greatest act of love and generosity the world has ever known.
The Power and Pervasiveness of the Gospel
In a world filled with countless ideas, philosophies, and messages vying for our attention, there stands one message that has remained unshaken through the ages. This is the message of the gospel. It’s not just any ordinary message; it’s described as “the power of God” in Romans 1:16. But what does it mean for the gospel to have this kind of power?
The Apostle Paul boldly proclaims in Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This isn’t mere hyperbole. The power here isn’t about mere human strength or ability. It’s about a divine force that can transform lives. The gospel isn’t just good news; it’s transformative news. It doesn’t just inform; it reshapes, reforms, and renews. And this power is accessible to “everyone who believes.”
Take a moment to think about that. In a world where power often feels out of reach for many, the gospel extends its potency to everyone—regardless of their background, past mistakes, or social status.
This transformative power doesn’t end at the moment of salvation; it permeates every facet of our lives. From the way we view ourselves to how we interact with others, the gospel molds and shapes us. Our relationships, be it familial, platonic, or romantic, are all under its influence. It redefines how we love, how we forgive, and how we extend grace.
This pervasive nature of the gospel is beautifully illustrated in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant from Matthew 18:21-35. Here, Jesus tells the story of a servant who, after being forgiven a massive debt by his master, refuses to forgive a fellow servant a much smaller debt. The message? Just as we have been shown immeasurable mercy and forgiveness by God, we too are called to extend that same mercy and forgiveness to others.
It’s a poignant reminder of how the gospel isn’t just about our personal salvation. It’s about creating a ripple effect of grace in the world around us. The gospel calls us to a higher standard in our personal habits as well. It’s not just about avoiding wrongdoing but pursuing righteousness. Every decision, every action, every thought is an opportunity to reflect the transformative power of the gospel.
The Ongoing Path of the Gospel
There’s a prevailing thought in some circles that the gospel serves merely as a golden ticket—once you’ve got it, you’re in. Like a key to a grand castle, it unlocks the door, and that’s where its role ends. However, such a perspective limits the profound depth and breadth of the gospel’s impact on our lives. While it’s true that the gospel provides the entrance to a relationship with God, it’s equally vital in every subsequent step of the journey.
Imagine considering a grand symphony and only ever listening to its opening note. The first note might be beautiful, but the true wonder lies in experiencing the entire composition. In much the same way, the gospel is not just the starting point of our Christian life; it’s the melody that plays throughout.
Sanctification, a word often reserved for theological discussions, is essentially the process of being made more like Christ. And the gospel plays a pivotal role here. If the act of being justified—being declared righteous before God—is the opening note, sanctification is the ongoing symphony. It’s where we learn, grow, stumble, get back up, and are refined day by day.
Martin Luther once remarked, “God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.” This statement perfectly captures the essence of sanctification. While our salvation isn’t dependent on our deeds, our transformation into Christ-likeness leads us to live out the gospel in tangible ways. Our good works, driven by genuine love and not obligation, become a testament to the transformative power of the gospel. They serve as light in a world that desperately needs to see the hope and love of Christ.
This journey of sanctification isn’t always smooth. There are peaks of spiritual highs and valleys of doubts and struggles. Yet, in all stages, the gospel remains relevant. It’s the constant reminder of God’s unchanging love and grace, giving us the strength to press on and the humility to rely not on our strength but on God’s.
The Gap between God’s Holiness and Our Sinfulness
One of the most profound realizations we can come to as believers is truly grasping the vast difference between God’s absolute holiness and our inherent sinfulness. It’s not a comparison that’s easy to make because, by our human standards, we often see ourselves in varying shades of grey. Yet, when juxtaposed against the pure, unblemished holiness of God, our true nature becomes starkly clear.
On the chart above, we have our understanding of God’s holiness, and on the other, our sinfulness. As we traverse our spiritual journey, the two lines should move further apart: our understanding of God’s holiness rises, and our realization of our own sinfulness deepens. The gap between the two axes serves as a poignant reminder of the immense chasm between human limitations and God’s perfection.
As our awareness of God’s holiness and our own sinfulness expands, the cross becomes even more central. It bridges that widening gap. The greater our realization of this vast divide, the more profound our appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice becomes. It’s no longer just a historical event or a theological concept but a deeply personal testament of God’s love for us.
For seasoned believers, the cross doesn’t diminish in significance; quite the opposite. As we mature in our faith and grow in our understanding of God’s holiness and our inherent sinfulness, the cross becomes even more precious. It stands as a beacon of hope, a testament to God’s unyielding love, and the bridge that spans the otherwise insurmountable gap between us and our Creator.
The Danger of Minimizing the Gospel
Like any familiar story, there’s a danger that we take the powerful message of the gospel for granted. Over time, we might “shrink the cross” in our lives, relegating its significance to the background rather than allowing it to be the cornerstone.
How do we shrink the cross? By minimizing the gravity of our sin. In your Growth Group this week, you’ll be discussing several ways we tend to do this:
- Defending: Instead of accepting responsibility for our actions, we often find reasons or circumstances to justify them.
- Faking: We pretend everything is okay, wearing a mask of righteousness to hide our inner struggles.
- Hiding: Instead of confessing our sins, we conceal them, thinking that what’s out of sight is out of mind.
- Exaggerating: Sometimes, we amplify our virtues or good deeds to overshadow our sins, thinking they can balance each other out.
- Blaming: The age-old act of shifting responsibility. It’s not my fault—it’s theirs!
- Downplaying: “It’s just a small lie” or “It’s not a big deal” are common ways we trivialize our wrongdoings.
To guard against this, one must be continually immersed in Biblical truth. The Word of God acts as a mirror, reflecting our true selves and reminding us of our constant need for a Savior. By regularly engaging with the Scriptures, we’re reminded of the vastness of God’s love and the depth of our sin.
To fully appreciate the gospel, we must continually recognize our sin’s weight and the vastness of Christ’s love for us. Only then can we truly cherish the unpayable debt that was settled on our behalf.
The Transformative Effect of Recognizing God’s Holiness and Our Sin
Often in life, it’s our most profound realizations that act as catalysts for change. Recognizing the sheer holiness of God in contrast to our own flawed nature can be one of these pivotal moments in a believer’s life. Instead of being a moment of discouragement, this realization can be a gateway to deep and profound transformation.
At the heart of this transformation lies the gospel message. In 1 Corinthians 1:30, we read: “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” This verse emphasizes that in Christ, we find everything we lack on our own. When we recognize our deficiencies and our dire need for a Savior, we can truly appreciate the significance of Jesus becoming our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Here’s the beauty of this truth: Recognizing our shortcomings doesn’t need to lead us to despair. Instead, it should lead us to hope. When we see our sins and flaws in the light of God’s holiness, it might seem intimidating at first. But when viewed through the lens of the gospel, these realizations emphasize the breadth and depth of Christ’s love and sacrifice.
The transformative power of the gospel lies in the radical truth that we, in all our imperfections, are deeply loved and pursued by a perfect God. We’re not loved because we’re without blemish, but in spite of our many blemishes. And when this truth sinks deep into our hearts, it changes everything. Our actions, motivations, relationships, and worldview undergo a revolutionary shift.
So, to those reading this, don’t shy away from the mirror of God’s Word, fearing the reflection of your flaws. Instead, embrace the reality of your imperfections, because they highlight the immeasurable grace and love extended to you through the gospel. Remember, in our weakness, His strength is made perfect. In our sin, His grace abounds all the more. The transformative journey starts with recognition and ends in the arms of a loving Savior.
Judging Others: A Practical Application of the Gospel Grid
Judgment is a trait that sneaks into our hearts, often unnoticed. We’ve all been there—judging someone based on their actions, appearance, or background without truly knowing their story. But if we look closely, the act of judging others can be a telltale sign of how deeply we understand the gospel and its implications for our lives.
Think about it for a moment: The gospel tells us that we are all equally in need of grace. No one is righteous on their own, no matter how “good” they may seem on the surface. When we judge others, we place ourselves in a position of perceived superiority, subtly suggesting that we have somehow “earned” our salvation or that we’re less in need of grace than they are. This mindset is fundamentally at odds with the message of the gospel.
If we find ourselves feeling superior to others because of our wealth, beauty, or talents, we must look at the cross and remember the method of our salvation. This ought to challenge us to reassess our sense of worth and identity. If our salvation is entirely based on God’s grace and not on our own merit, then how can we ever feel superior to others? We’re all standing on the same dirt beneath the cross of Christ.
Remember, the more we grow in our understanding of the gospel, the more we recognize our own need for grace. This realization should, in turn, make us more compassionate, understanding, and less judgmental towards others. Instead of putting others under our microscope of judgment, the gospel compels us to put ourselves under the magnifying glass of God’s grace, seeing others through that same lens of mercy and understanding.
In essence, the true test of our grasp of the gospel isn’t just about how we view God or ourselves, but also how we view and treat others. As we deepen in our understanding of the gospel, our judgmental tendencies should wane, replaced by a genuine love and concern for others.
As we wrap up our exploration of the gospel’s profound influence on our lives, we must always remind ourselves of its centrality in every facet of our existence. From understanding our own brokenness to recognizing the boundless grace offered to us, the gospel’s message remains our anchor.
It’s not merely a historical event or a one-time acceptance. Instead, it’s an ongoing journey where God’s love and mercy, shown through Christ, continually shapes, refines, and renews us. Let this be a call to immerse ourselves ever deeper in this transformative truth, allowing it to guide our actions, our judgments, and our daily walk with the Lord.
Sermon and Sandwiches
Discussing a sermon after hearing it can be a beautiful way to digest the message and see how it applies to our lives. Sharing insights and takeaways with someone else, be it a spouse or a friend, can lead to richer understanding and strengthen our relationship with God. Here are some conversation starters to help get the discussion rolling:
- “What part of today’s message resonated with you the most, and why?”
- “How did the sermon challenge or reinforce your understanding of the gospel?”
- “Were there any specific moments where you felt God speaking directly to your heart?”
- “How can we encourage each other this week in light of what we’ve learned?”
- “Were there any parts of the sermon that made you view God’s love and grace in a new light?”
- “How do you think today’s message fits into our ongoing journey of sanctification?”
- “What are some practical ways we can respond to the truths we’ve heard today?”
- “Is there any part of the message you’re still mulling over or wrestling with?”
- “How can today’s sermon guide our prayers for each other this week?”
- “In light of today’s message, are there any promises from God’s word we can cling to or meditate on this week?”
Remember, the aim isn’t just to understand the message intellectually but to let it take root in our hearts, prompting genuine change and deepening our relationship with Christ.
The Daily Devotion
Monday: God’s Unparalleled Love
Read: Romans 5:8 – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Reflect: Consider the depth of God’s love, demonstrated through Jesus’ sacrifice. How does knowing that God loved you even in your most sinful state shape your understanding of the gospel?
Prayer focus: Gratitude for the immeasurable love God has shown us. Ask for a deeper revelation of this love in your daily life.
Tuesday: The Price of Our Redemption
Read: 1 Peter 1:18-19 – “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Reflect: Ponder the costliness of your redemption. How does understanding the immense value of Christ’s sacrifice impact your relationship with Him?
Prayer focus: Humility in recognizing our need for redemption and thanksgiving for Jesus’ priceless sacrifice.
Wednesday: Understanding Sin’s True Weight
Read: Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Reflect: Reflect on the severity of the wage of sin. How does understanding the gravity of sin deepen your appreciation for the gift of eternal life?
Prayer focus: Confession of personal sins and seeking God’s grace to comprehend the gravity of our actions, yet resting in the hope of His salvation.
Thursday: The Ongoing Journey of Sanctification
Read: Philippians 1:6 – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Reflect: Consider how God continues to work in your life post-salvation. How does the reality of sanctification encourage you in your daily walk with Christ?
Prayer focus: Seeking God’s guidance in the sanctification process and asking for strength to yield to His molding hands.
Friday: God’s Perspective vs. Ours
Read: Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Reflect: Contemplate the vast difference between God’s wisdom and our human understanding. How can you better align your perspective with God’s, especially concerning the gospel’s truths?
Prayer focus: Seeking discernment and wisdom to understand God’s ways and asking for the grace to align our thoughts with His.
May each devotion lead you to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the gospel, rooting your heart and mind further in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
“Kids, today we’re chatting about a beautiful story that has both a big, powerful God and people like you and me in it. This is the ‘gospel’. Let’s uncover its treasures together.”
2. God’s Perfect Creation:
“First things first! God, in His awesomeness, made everything. He designed a perfect world, where He and people were best friends.”
- “What’s one thing you love about creation?”
- “What do you imagine it was like being best friends with God?”
3. Sin Enters, But Who’s At Fault?:
“Even in God’s perfect design, people chose to go their own way. This is called ‘sin’. Though God knew it would happen, He gave people a real choice. And, well, we all chose wrongly.”
- “Have you ever chosen to do something you knew was wrong?”
- “Even though God knows everything, why do you think He lets us choose?”
4. Jesus – God’s Love in Action:
“Because God is perfectly just and loving, He made a rescue plan. Jesus, God’s Son, came to save us. He lived without sin, then took our punishment to fix our friendship with God.”
- “Why do you think Jesus chose to take our punishment?”
- “How does it make you feel knowing Jesus loves you that much?”
5. Responding to God’s Call:
“God invites everyone to come back to Him. Some people hear His call and can’t help but answer. That’s God’s powerful love pulling them. But, we still have to say ‘yes’ and trust Him.”
- “What do you think it feels like to hear God calling you?”
- “Why is it important for us to respond when God calls?”
6. Reflecting God’s Grace to Others:
“Since God is so loving and kind to us, even when we mess up, how should we treat our friends and family? We have a big part in showing God’s love and forgiveness.”
- “What’s one way you can show kindness to someone today?”
- “How does understanding God’s love help you treat others better?”
Sharing the Gospel through a Science Experiment – The Cleansing Power of Jesus!
This engaging activity helps children visualize and understand the power of Jesus to cleanse us from our sins. Here’s a step-by-step guide to conduct the experiment and teach this crucial gospel truth.
- A clear water jug or large transparent container.
- Clean water.
- Food coloring (preferably a dark color like blue or red).
- Liquid bleach.
- A stirring stick or spoon (optional).
- Clean Water: Start by filling half the jug with clean water. Explain to the kids, “This water represents us when we are created. Just like this water is clear, God made us good and perfect.”
- The Entrance of Sin: Slowly add a few drops of food coloring to the water. Watch as it spreads and colors the water. Explain, “See how the color spreads? This represents sin. Just as the dye changed the clean water, sin changes us. It’s something we all have because we sometimes make wrong choices and disobey God.”
- The Cleansing Power of Jesus: Before adding the bleach, ask the children, “Do you think this water can become clean again on its own?” Let them ponder and answer. Then, slowly pour some liquid bleach into the container. As the water starts to clear up, continue with, “Look at that! Just as this bleach cleans the water, when we believe in Jesus and ask Him to be our Savior, He cleanses us from our sins. He makes us new and clean again!”
- Discussion: Once the water is clear again, discuss with the children. “Isn’t it amazing how Jesus loves us so much that He wants to cleanse us and be with us? We can’t clean our hearts from sin on our own, but Jesus can. And when we believe in Him, He promises to be with us forever.”
Safety Note: Make sure children understand that the bleach is a chemical and should not be ingested. It’s crucial to supervise them closely during the experiment and ensure the bleach is kept away from them once the experiment concludes.
The hands-on nature of this activity makes the gospel message come alive in a tangible way. It’s a clear illustration that, no matter how stained our hearts might be with sin, Jesus has the power to make us clean again.