Paul Tripp often speaks of the gospel gap; a gap in many Christians' functional understanding of the gospel. Christianity is a "then-now-then" message. Christ has saved us from the penalty of sin (then - past), is saving us from the power of sin (then - future), and will save us from the presence of sin (then - future). Tripp contends that many Christians have focused on the "thens" of the Christian message, but have neglected the "now." A Christian can know that she has been forgiven, and that she is going to heaven, yet fail to grasp the essential "nowness" of the gospel message.
I've experienced the consequences of holding such a truncated view. I'm relieved that my debt has been paid. I'm (occasionally) excited about my future in eternity. But I've struggled to see how the gospel should form me, encourage me, motivate me or focus me in the here and now.
I'm convinced that Jesus won't seem that attractive to us until he's good news right here, and right now. Until we are staggered by the unfathomably good, right-here, right-now implications of the gospel, I believe we'll tend to view God as distant, Jesus as overly demanding, prayer as boring, generosity as imprudent, mission as prohibitively terrifying, service as burdensome, and Christian community as inconvenient. In other words, when we lose focus on the gospel, Christianity tends to feel like religion; joyless, safe, monotonous, burdensome, and incredibly boring.
The gospel is better news than a job promotion, than the weekend, than the meal you're looking forward to, than video games, than sex, than the National Football League, than shopping, than the internet, than America, than children, than marriage, than worldly success, than the approval of people...
If we struggle to believe that, repentance is step one..
My prayer this year is that we would really, deeply, truly get the nowness of the gospel. What does this mean? A lot (and we'll be talking about it plenty). For starters, it means that we truly believe...
- That we're justified. God says we're righteous. We don't have to prove ourselves to God, or to people. Our goodness can't impress God. Our badness will not stop him from loving us. We don't have to hide behind pride, or self-justification, or over-confidence. We can be freed from the compulsion to obsessively manage our image.
- That we're adopted. We're God's children. He won't let us go. We are secure in his care. Therefore, we don't have to freak out. We don't have to despair. We don't have to control people. We can risk loss, and pain, because nothing can separate us from our Father.
- That we're cleansed. We are new. Our past doesn't define us. Our sins have been washed away. We are accepted and embraced. We don't have to wear masks.
- That we're empowered. The same Spirit who formed the earth and raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. We don't have to be adequate, or sufficient. The Spirit empowers us to kill sin, serve the church, and proclaim what Christ has done. He wants to work through us these ways.
May these blood-bought blessings not just be good news today, but better news than all the competing messages which clamor for our attention.