What is the Gospel?
Before practically answering that question, let’s quickly remind ourselves of what the gospel actually is.
The God who created all things is the standard of all that is right and wrong, and his standard is perfection – his standard is the reflection of his own character (Genesis 1:1; 1 John 1:5; Matthew 5:48; Isaiah 6:1-7).
Mankind has violated that standard and continues to rebel against their creator and reject his standard, setting up for ourselves a new standard that tends to reflect the transitory whims of our own marred character. Man’s nature is one that rebels against God, does not seek God, does not desire God, thinks more highly of himself than of his creator, and is under the control of a humanness that follows the call of a God-hating system ruled by a demonically inspired leader, the devil himself. Thus, a perfect God who lovingly created all things for man to enjoy has been offended by the very crown of his creation in that they would rather serve themselves in a way that exalts sin and Satan more than God and his glory (Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 2:1-3).
But the love of God and his wisdom have not only matched, but have overcome the depths of man’s depraved nature and choices. God has demonstrated the depths of his love in that he designed a way that would satisfy His perfect standard (the expression of His own character), accomplish justice for the injustice man has done against his holy standard, and apply the only sort of righteousness he will accept. All of that is accomplished through Jesus. Jesus is God who took on human nature and lived a life on earth that fully accomplished everything that God’s righteous nature displays and demands. His life was fully satisfying to God. Jesus fully identified himself with all of mankind, yet distinguished himself from them by obeying God perfectly. Jesus willingly died, accepting on himself, though innocent, a punishment on behalf of all mankind for their rebellion against God and their exaltation of their sinful selves above him. Jesus was a substitute for mankind – whose life was the only life that would satisfy God’s standard, and who’s death was the only death that could satisfy the just punishment God demanded and humanity deserved.
God then raised Jesus up from the dead, so that the full penalty for humanity’s just punishment in death would be overcome and so new life could be applied by God’s own design and for His own purposes. Because he has chosen to love us, he applies the new resurrected life, the only acceptable life to those who will abandon their lust for satisfaction in themselves or other things, and find all of their satisfaction in Jesus, who He is, and what He has done on the cross and in His resurrection (Romans 5:6-9, 12-21; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1 Peter 3:18).
Faith is being absolutely, wholeheartedly, comprehensively satisfied with Jesus in all things. Jesus becomes our life when we have genuine trust in Him. Responding in faith is both an initial trust and a way of life – the way of life that consistently takes this message we have just rehearsed and lets it flavor every attitude and action (Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-7; Romans 10:9-10).
That is the gospel.
What is the gospel’s relationship to my daily life?
It is all too common to assume that faith is a past action that secures the future. While true, the gospel, grace, and faith are elements that must govern our decisions, motivate our actions, and drive our affections. If faith is not what is motivating our daily lives, something other than faith is driving us. And nothing other than faith in Jesus – satisfaction in Jesus – will please God. Gospel living is just as essential to our eternal life as initial gospel acceptance was to guarantee our eternal life.
How do I apply it daily?
The following are suggestions. The Bible does not prescribe a check-list that guarantees gospel application. Intentionality is the key and these are simply ways to act intentionally in regularly applying the gospel.
1. At the beginning of your day
- Pray through the elements of the gospel again. As a first prayer, remind yourself of who God is. Praise Him for who he is. Rehearse his attributes and characteristics. Find pleasure in the greatness of God. Then take a moment to remind yourself of what you are without the goodness of God in you. Think about the accomplishments of your life and the many blessings (think of them specifically) you seem to have around you. Remind yourself that none of them guarantee you favor with God. Remind yourself that any good you see is an undeserved gift. Remind yourself of ways you have pursued goodness apart from a good God. Remind yourself of how you ran hard after your own personal interests to the exclusion of God. Remind yourself that were it not for God choosing to love you, you would experience his just anger and condemnation. Humble your heart by remembering what God has through Jesus accomplished in you. See every relationship, every blessing, even the opportunity to acceptably pray to God as a gift given to you by God’s grace specifically applied to you. He has done all of this so you would have him – the greatest of all gifts.
- Review your calendar through the lens of the gospel. See every challenge, relationship, and item on your schedule as an opportunity to somehow express the life that God has given you in Christ. The gospel makes you dependent on God.
- Review your relationships as concentric circles of opportunity to express a gospel-driven life. In a conversation with your wife over finances, is the gospel driving your motivation for what you spend your cash? Are you humble in your speech, recognizing who you are because of Christ? In discussing behavior issues with your children, where does the gospel come in? Do they see your motivations for their behavior to be merely a “do-good-for-good’s-sake” mentality? Are you simply frustrated with them? How are you helping them to see their life and behavior in light of what the gospel says about sin, Christ’s work on the cross, and forgiveness through him alone? What about co-workers, classmates, roommates in college, neighbors, and extended family members. Is your joy an obvious overflow from your heart being affected by Christ’s activity in saving you? Are you merely responding to people and the accompanying situations based on personal interest (or dis-interest) without regard to Christ?
- Memorize passages of Scripture that thrust your mind to contemplate the implications of the gospel. I cannot overstate how helpful this is for my own heart. Last summer, with the accountability of a faithful brother, I worked on memorizing the Sermon on the Mount. Every day, in rehearsing the verses, I also had opportunity to meditate on their implications. So many instances in life were immediately applicable to what I was memorizing. I desperately need to rehearse and rehash significant sections of Scripture to keep my heart tender to the work of God in and around me. And watch out for the challenges to such meditation. My one week of vacation last year was a challenge in meditating on the word – and it showed up in unfortunate ways. I am reminded of how much I need the Scriptures pulsating daily in my mindset.
2. Throughout your day
- Find opportunities to listen to gospel teaching. Podcasting great Bible teachers, or sermons from your local church makes this simple. Do you have any routine activity that would lend itself to maximizing time to listen to solid biblical instruction? Do you exercise? Have a commute to work? Have a quiet lunch hour? Have a routine task that allows you to listen attentively to a message?
- Take opportunities to sing gospel-driven music. My car is my opera house. I entertain many fellow drivers at stoplights while my music is playing, my heart is rejoicing, and my mouth is busting out the lyrics. I keep a playlist on my iPod of songs we sing at our church. Rather than listen to the radio, I find it more edifying to listen to and sing the music we sing as a church family. We are fortunate to have very gospel-driven music selected every week in our congregation. The car may not be your place? My wife keeps her computer on in the kitchen area and gospel-centered music is regularly playing throughout our home while she and the kids are going about the day.
- Consider your normal conversations with people – how were they shaped by the gospel? This is not to suggest that every sentence is somehow rehearsing the points of God’s saving work. But God’s saving work should naturally shape the sorts of conversations you are having with people. Think back through the kind of speech you engaged in with the various people you encountered this week? In what ways did they reflect or did not reflect the reality of redemption in your life?
- Have you conducted your affairs, your business endeavors, your personal choices out of a deep sense of satisfaction in Jesus – or has he somehow been absent. We too often live compartmentalized lives of “spiritual” and “other.” Work is “other.” Church is “spiritual.” What I bought today at the store is “other,” prayer before eating is “spiritual.” On and on go the splitting of life into two unrelated categories. That’s not the biblical approach to living out the gospel. Every avenue of life is one to reflect the priorities of being a new creation in Christ.
- Make decisions that you know would honor Jesus and express faith in Him. So what decision is in front of you that would force you to trust God for the outcome? In making that decision, was your first thought to consult what the Bible reveals regarding the atmosphere of that choice? Was the honor of Christ in the thick of your thinking or on the outskirts?
- Discuss the Scriptures, theological truth with people closest to you – your spouse, your children, your co-workers, etc. Unfortunately, we often say things to those closest to us in ways we would be ashamed of speaking to mere acquaintances. But the gospel should hit us in the heart and our hearts are most open to those who know us most deeply. Do those people hear God’s word, sense a theological framework of thinking, see a biblically driven approach to how you regularly and naturally interact with them? Where is the gospel in the normality of your conversations with those nearest to you? Do you intentionally have times of biblical conversation with close friends and family?
3. As you end your day
- Reflect back on the events of the day. Confess sin where you pursued interests that were not driven by satisfaction in Christ. Before you close your eyes to rest, open your mind in concentrated reflection and prayer about how you loved Christ today.
- Express thanksgiving for every event – and consider what God would have you learn about Him and yourself as a result of what has gone on. Rehearse your schedule and ask yourself how faith (satisfaction in the person of Jesus) fleshed itself out in your activities. Thank God that He provided you with such a satisfaction in your savior today.
- Remind yourself of how needy and dependent you are on God. As you lay down to sleep, you are reminded that God never sleeps. You have to have it. He never needs it. And all I need, he possesses and is willing to give to us because of what Jesus did and how God has chosen to apply it to us.
Read C.J. Mahaney’s book, The Cross-Centered Life. My suggestions here are merely expansions on the themes he so helpfully writes about.