Why "Gospel Ministry for Each Heart"
It took me 18 years of hearing the gospel before I understood its magnitude. I grew up learning that Jesus died for sins. I sang “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart” and agreed with it in my mind. (Although, for a period of time I thought it was “I’ve got the Reese’s Pieces, Reese’s Piecesdown in my heart.”) When I was thirteen I went to camp and realized that I was a sinner who needed Jesus to die for my sins. I met him personally and put my trust in him for salvation.
But something was still missing. I knew that the gospel had the power to save me from hell and to grant me eternal life. I did not, however, know that it had the power to transform me. I unconsciously reasoned, “I am saved by grace, and now it’s up to me to obey.” In practice, this meant that I vacillated between self-righteously doing the right things and miserably failing by falling into sin. Finally, I threw up my arms in despair and gave up trying.
The Way to Walk
It was then that Jesus taught me that the gospel was the way to walk the Christian life. He started by revealing the depths of my sin to me. It wasn’t the outward actions that weighed on my heart (as bad as many of them had been), it was the pride…and the selfishness…even though I was a Christian. I saw that even my attempts to obey had been all about me and not about Christ.
After repentance, I prayed, “Jesus, I want to follow you faithfully, but you have got to give me a different way.” He answered by showing me how the Christian life – sanctification – is as much a gift of grace as salvation had been. I received a new heart and the indwelling of the Spirit when I believed the gospel, which means that I can cooperate with the Lord. However, sin still dwells in me, and I continue to need rescue from outside myself.
Growth of the Gospel in Us
The way to transformation, then, is the same as it had been for salvation. The good news of the cross is that we have been forgiven, adopted, and united to Christ. Thus, we can come to him when we are tempted and cry out to him for help (and he will every time). We can run to him when we have sinned and ask for forgiveness and cleansing (and he will every time). We can ask him to fill us with the Spirit to enable us to obey out of love (and he will every time). In all of these things, our Father loves us, is for us, and delights to give us every resource. Since we are in Christ, he never has reservations about us again!
You see, as Tim Keller points out, the gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity – it is the A-Z of Christianity. Paul told the Colossians that the growth of the gospel was not just in quantity – the lost being brought in – but also in quality – the transformation of believers (Col. 1:3-8). There is grace for the start, for the race, and for the finish. This is why the gospel is such good news!
Still Learning the Gospel Implications
So what are the implications for you and me? It means that it’s essential that we understand what the gospel is and how to express it. As Christian women who minister to others, it means that we are going to need to understand how it continues to apply to our lives. And, since we believe that the gospel is God’s means of transforming others, it means that we need to know how to relate it to every area of ministry.
The truth is, we never outgrow our need to learn more about the gospel of grace. We lose sight of Jesus and what he has done so easily. That’s why we have designated an entire track of Verity Forum to these topics. Please join us on May 7th. I’m looking forward to growing in the gospel with you.
You can now download the media from Verity Forum 2016 on the events page.