I am currently reading The Gospel for Real Life, by Jerry Bridges. I’m only about 28 pages in, and this book has been thoroughly refreshing in its profound simplicity.
One way that it has influenced my thinking, in particular, is a result of Bridges noting that many Christians today, having embraced the gospel, still live lives of quiet desperation. They wrestle with haunting questions like, “I know God loves me, but I wonder if He likes me?” That is, “I know God loves me and sent His Son to die for me, but because of my repeated sins and shortcomings, I feel His displeasure toward me.” Bridges cites Christian historian Richard Lovelace who has written that many Christians, “below the surface of their lives are guilt-ridden and insecure… [and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.”
Bridges notes two reasons for why many Christians feel this “quiet desperation”:
1.) Christians have a truncated view of the gospel, tending only to see it as a door we walk through to become a Christian. That is, the gospel is only for unbelievers.
2.) Christians have been presented with, and embraced a utilitarian view of the gospel. That is, what can the gospel do for me? This “gospel” is often found on the frequent local church mass marketing ImpactCard that ends up in your mailbox reading, “At Valley Church, you
- meet new friends and neighbors
- hear positive, practical messages that uplift you each week on:
- How to feel good about yourself
- How to overcome depression
- How to have a full and successful life
- Learning to handle your money without it handling you
- The secrets of successful family living
- How to overcome stress
Bridges goes on to say that while people wrestle with the challenges of discipleship on the one hand and the utilitarian view of the gospel on the other, “we fail to see the gospel as the solution to our greatest problem–our guilt, condemnation, and alienation from God. Beyond all that, we fail to see it as the basis of our day-to-day acceptance with Him. As a result, many believers live in spiritual poverty.” (emphasis mine)
Bridges goes on to cite Ephesians 3:8 which speaks of “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” riches about which many Christians today know little-to-nothing about. Knowing so little, Christians fail to live in the day-to-day light of those riches.
For me, today, I have been reveling in the riches of the gospel! Specifically in the fact that I was born into this world a sinner by nature, an object God’s wrath; have sinned against the Lord countless times; have wandered frequently from the path of walking in his ways; have been unfaithful to him; have disregarded his Word on occasion; have acted in unbelief and ignorance; have often ignored God’s voice; have desired other people and possessions more than he himself; have not loved him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; have been afraid to stand for him at times; have been prideful of my performance; have been judgmental of others; and the list could go on…
Yet, embracing the gospel afresh, I can find joy and assurance in the rich truth that, “I am accepted by God, not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.”
I am longing and learning to embrace this reality everyday! Meditating on the fact that I have been elected, called, regenerated, justified, ransomed, reconciled, redeemed, adopted, sealed by the Spirit of God, am being changed into his image, will be with him for all eternity in ever increasing joy and blessedness…and this all to the praise of his glorious grace, his good purpose and pleasure set forth in Christ Jesus!
The good news of the gospel is for me too, a believer in Christ, everyday!