I find myself needing to return often to the essence of the Gospel, to stir my soul to gratitude, to shake indifference and soften callouses derived from long acquaintance.
I’ve just finished a book toward that end entitled: The Explicit Gospel written by pastor Matt Chandler. He knows the hope of the Gospel well, having come near death with an inoperable brain tumor, having suffered through its implications with great grace and having lived to continue preaching the Gospel whose hope extends beyond the grave. So this book grabbed my attention when it came out earlier this year.
I find myself clearly pegged in its descriptions of those who have focused too long on the Gospel’s personal implications and neglected to be about the business of reaching a world God longs to reconcile to Himself…But I kept reading. Apart from taking the full import of the Gospel to heart, recognizing this Father heart that has compassion on His children as they learn to walk and run and climb tall trees… who has no reprimand when they fall down in the process but continues to extend grace for this walk by faith, without condemnation…apart from this gospel what have I to say?
I have nothing to offer but myself, a living sacrifice for what it’s worth. My worth is all wrapped up in how He loves me, not anything I’ll ever do for Him…He sees this offering as holy and acceptable, washed clean in Jesus’ blood, covered by His righteousness. What can I say? Who am I to contend that I have failed, that I fall short, that I only wish I could be other than I am…
I stand in the grace of God, in this great Gospel that saves me and then gives me a Savior to live in me, through me, by faith. The ‘me’ I regret and find self-serving and unworthy no longer is my identity. I am crucified with Christ. (Gal.2:20) It is no longer I that lives. This life I live in the flesh is not my own but Christ’s. I live it by faith in the Son who so loved me as to grant me His own life, not just at some historic moment but today…
And so I read and am reminded of the ‘grace-driven’ way of life that marks one who understands the Gospel. I am pricked, challenged, encouraged, and made hopeful. The Gospel is enough for the likes of me, still, just as I am. And that great old hymn comes wandering through my mind. I look it up and read the words all through as a morning first-thing prayer:
Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fighting and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind: sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea all I need, in Thee I find, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
[by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871]
And I extend its hopefulness to you and offer this reminder of the Gospel that is enough for the likes of you and I, no matter where we’re at.
To abbreviate Paul: Christ died for our sins. He was buried and was raised. We have hope in this lifetime and beyond! (I Cor.15:3ff)
The Gospel is enough for all I am and all I’m not.
If you have the time, have a look at my book review of The Explicit Gospel here. I trust the excerpts will bless you as they have me.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard…” (Col.1:21-23)
“But by the grace of God I am what I am.” (I Cor.15:10)