I grew up in the church. I heard altar call after altar call growing up and had genuine belief in God at a young age.
Nevertheless, my understanding of the gospel was underdeveloped. I thought the gospel was something that unbelievers needed to hear, not something that I needed.
But as I’ve come to understand it deeper, I realize that I personally need the gospel every day! We all do. Unbelievers need the gospel to repent and believe in the truth about Jesus. But believers need to cherish the gospel as the means for both our salvation and our day by day perseverance.
By “gospel” I mean the sweeping story of a good, perfectly righteous and just God’s plan to buy back people separated from Himself by their continual rejection of Him through the historical life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The more that I understand the gospel, the more I love it and love the amazing God Who put this plan into motion!
I’d like to use a succinct gospel-explaining Bible passage to explain some aspects of the gospel that are still taking my breath away: the sinfulness of my sin, the cause and means of salvation, and the effects of belief.
The sinfulness of my sin
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. (Titus chapter 3 verse 3)
Until we understand our sinfulness, we won’t see the need we have for a Savior. This is true for the unbeliever and for the believer!
There are two false extremes when it comes to seeing our sin. One is thinking that we are so sinful that God could never save us. There is hope for this! Keep reading.
The other is thinking that we are not that sinful. Being raised in church and being a “good girl,” this was the lie that I believed. I’ll never forget the day that God opened my eyes and made me to see how bad my sin was in my heart – even if my actions were perceived as “good.”
Jesus’ examples of this strike me to my core even today. In Matthew chapter 5 verses 21-26, Jesus equates anger with murder. You don’t have to actually kill someone to be guilty of murder!
In the next verses, Jesus equates lust with adultery. You don’t have to sleep with someone to be guilty of sexual immorality.
Once we being to see this pattern, it becomes easier to see the sin lurking in my heart. And seeing our sin is really important. Once we do, we recognize that we cannot save ourselves and we need God to rescue us.
The Cause and Means of Salvation
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus chapter 3 verses 4-7, italics added)
I love what this passage tells me about God. He is good, loving and kind. He is merciful. He saves. He justifies us by grace.
Justification is a legal term for being declared righteous, free from the charges we deserve by our sin and being counted righteous before God. Justification should make us joyful! I need the restoration that justification brings. I need to know it and revel in it.
I love what this passage tells me about myself. My own works did not save me. God is merciful when I am sinful and anything good is due to Him!
I love what this passage tells me about salvation. It’s likened to washing, being made clean from the inside out. This is not a new theme of scripture; see Ezekiel chapter 36 verses 25-27 for another vivid picture of this renewal.
Effects of Belief
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus chapter 3 verse 8)
I am saved and renewed and justified by grace! Praise God! But this truth has a natural effect, namely, good works.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. We do not do good works to earn salvation; remember that it was not by our works done in righteousness. The knowledge of the gospel frees us from working in a way that we think will earn us anything with God. His grace is a gift.
But salvation involves a change from loving our sin to loving God. Suddenly we want new things! We want to know God by reading the Bible, we want to seek Him in prayer, we want to put forth effort to serve others through good works.
May we enjoy God in the gospel more and more!
Ashley Mullins is the wife of Chris, a seminary student and college math teacher. They currently live in Spokane, Washington after a time of being far away, first in the Los Angeles area in California and then in Malawi, Africa for a year.
Ashley Mullins is the wife of Chris and a new employee at a health insurance company. They currently live in Spokane, Washington after a time of being far away, first in the Los Angeles area in California and then in Malawi, Africa for a year.