This week I was reminded of the fact that we need the gospel (the good news of all Jesus has done for us) everyday. Let me explain. Every Tuesday I have the privilege of leading a group of young teenagers through Confirmation. This spring we are working our way through the book of Romans and this week we landed on the this explosive passage:
Romans 3:21-25 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- he righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
For my money, this passage is one of the clearest and most poignant expressions of the Gospel found in Scripture. This is especially true considering its context. For the first 3 1/2 chapters of Romans Paul spent his time revealing humanity’s plight coming to the dreadful conclusion that, “Romans 3:10-11 None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”
From this diagnosis of sorts, Paul then knocks down our last line of defense: the law. He writes:
Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
One of my favorite things to do with students is to ask them this question before I read the passage above, “If Paul is right… and the condition of the world and our lives pretty much prove that he is… what can be done to remedy our situation with God?” Now, I know the question kind of leads them that way, but it never ceases to amaze me how the youth don’t even consider Jesus as part of the answer (most of these kids have been raised in the church). The answers that come out are usually of this variety, “Think good thoughts… Do what’s right… The Ten Commandments… etc.” It’s here that I read 3:19-20 and a glossed over look of helplessness comes over their eyes. “But, I don’t get it!?! Why, what!?! This is not what I’ve been told all my life !?!” are the musings I hear. Following this I give them Romans 3:21-25 and explain God’s remedy for our condition.
So what’s this have to do with needing the Gospel everyday? Well, this year the Holy Spirit was really working on one youth in particular. He kept on repeating what I was saying, yet it was in the form of the question:
Student: “Shawn, I don’t get it. We don’t follow God’s law and yet God forgives us?”
Student: “But I was asking a question. What you’re saying is that even though we don’t do what God wants, he sent Jesus to die for us?”
Student: “Why would he do that? If we don’t follow his law, why would he make us right? It makes no sense?
Me: “You’re right it doesn’t. I can tell the Holy Spirit is really working on your heart right now.”
Student: “But why would he do that?”
Me: “He loves us that much.”
What really struck me in this conversation was that it highlighted the absurdity of the Gospel. The fact that God loves us so much that he gave of his very self to save us goes completely against any sense of justice we have. I wish you could have seen this student’s face, he was completely flabbergasted that this was a reality.
Ultimately though, this conversation reminded me that it’s precisely because of the Gospel’s oddity that we need to hear it everyday. The news that, “Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…” goes so much against our ingrained was of doing things, that we always tend to slip back into a tit-for-tat law arrangement with God (i.e. “If I’m having a good day, I must be doing something right for God/if I’m having a bad day I must be getting punished for something…” or in reverse, “I’ve done this therefore God must bless me/I’ve committed this wrong, therefore God will punish me). The Gospel demolishes this train of thought. In the words of Jerry Bridges:
Regardless of our performance, we are always dependent on God’s grace, His undeserved favor to those who deserve His wrath… there is never a day when we stand before Him on our own two feet of performance, when we are worthy enough to deserve His blessing… Every day of our Christian experience should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone.
Bridges then goes on to give one of my favorite one liners ever:
Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.
In other words, by simultaneously reminding us of the fact that we are sinners and God loves sinners, the gospel flattens any tit-for-tat arrangements we have made in our minds with God and in doing so gives us the fuel to actually love God from our hearts.
This said, I want to close with this bombshell from Michael Horton:
The temptation is to think that we grow out of this basic need for the gospel. We become impressed with the fruit more than the vine. Obviously, this soon leads us to wonder why there isn’t more fruit, better fruit. If this self-examination doesn’t lead us to crawl out of ourselves and flee to Christ, it will end in despair (if we are honest) or conceit (if we are not).
Jerry Bridges “The Discipline of Grace“
Michael Horton “The Gospel-Driven Life”