If you’re a Christian, then at some point in the past, you chose belief in the gospel and trusted Jesus Christ with your life.
But the effects of the gospel don’t end the moment that you’re saved—in fact, now that you’re a Christian, the gospel is more relevant than ever.
Often, Christians think of the gospel as an evangelism tool, something for the unsaved. We’ve already believed in it, so we know it well enough. It’s not a big deal. This is especially true for those of us who grew up in the church. The gospel seems like second nature to us—we’ve heard it since the 2-year-old Sunday School classroom.
But the gospel isn’t just for the unsaved. It’s the most important truth in the world—both before and after salvation.
And our lives need to be firmly rooted in it at every stage of our Christian walk.
What is the Gospel?
Let’s start by defining our terms by asking a basic but extremely important question: what is the gospel?
The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” It’s from the Greek evangelion and is used a hundred and one times in the New Testament.
What is that good news, though? Well, it’s that your sins have been paid for by the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
You’re a sinner. That doesn’t take much work to figure out—anyone who really examines their life will realize that. But even though your sins condemn you to eternal punishment, God loved the world so much that He sent His own Son—Jesus—to be punished in your place (John 3:16).
This means that if you accept Jesus as your Savior, you no longer face an eternity of separation from God in Hell. Instead, you look forward to an eternity in Heaven dwelling in God’s presence forever, which is the best part.Why does the gospel still matter for you? You're still a sinner, and you have a long way to go before you're anywhere near perfection. But you don't have to be perfect. Jesus has paid for your sins. You are free. Click To Tweet
You’re still a sinner. You still commit crimes against God and against your neighbor, and you have a long way to go before you’re anywhere near perfection.
But you don’t have to be perfect. Jesus has paid for your sins—past, present, and future.
You are free.
What is the Gospel Not?
The gospel is the opposite of legalism.
Legalism is dependent on your ability to perfectly obey the law for your salvation. The most prominent legalists in the Bible were the Pharisees, teachers of the Mosaic Law and Prophets in the days of Jesus, whose lives were marked by pride and hypocrisy.
If the gospel is good news, then legalism is extremely bad news. You’re a sinner: check. But your punishment hasn’t been taken by anyone—in fact, your salvation is contingent on your holiness. You’ve got to be perfect to be redeemed.
Of course, we can’t be perfect. Anyone who’s honest realizes that. “None is righteous, no not one,” (Romans 3:10).Legalism traps you in a never-ending cycle of guilt and anxiety, brought on by the knowledge that you'll never be good enough. You're doomed to death by your own sin. And there's no way out. But the true gospel is a gospel of grace. Click To Tweet
Legalism traps you in a never-ending cycle of guilt and anxiety, brought on by the knowledge that you’ll never be good enough. You’re doomed to death by your own sin. And there’s no way out.
But the true gospel is a gospel of grace.
Yes, you’re a sinner—but your sins have been paid for! You don’t have to be perfect because Jesus was perfect already! And He did everything necessary for your salvation because He loves you.
We can slip into legalism so easily without meaning to. But remember, my friend: your God is faithful.
Why the Gospel is Essential for Sanctification
The gospel is essential for our salvation and for our assurance, but as we continue in the Christian walk, it’s also essential for our sanctification and growth in holiness.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. We just talked about how the gospel doesn’t make you perfect, and how you don’t have to be perfect to accept it—does that somehow not apply anymore?
That’s all still true. In this life, we’ll never be perfect, but sanctification and legalism aren’t the same thing at all.
If you truly understand the gospel, you will be changed by it.
That’s pretty much non-negotiable. God has given you an incomprehensibly enormous gift, and that’s something that changes your life.
Imagine you’re an underprivileged high school student. You’ve grown up in an extremely poor household, and don’t have any money to spare. You’ve always dreamed of going to college but know you could never hope to afford it in your wildest dreams.
And then imagine someone comes up to you and says he’ll give you a full ride. Tuition, books, room and board—all expenses paid.
How do you think you’ll feel when you step onto that campus? Do you think you’ll care? Will you work hard in your classes, or will you slack off?
I’m willing to bet that you’d be the hardest-working student in the college.
But this analogy is far too small. Imagine an inmate on death row who suddenly gets a full pardon and goes free. How valuable would life be to him?
Even still, no analogy can really do the gospel justice. Jesus’s death on the cross was the greatest exchange in history, far more than getting a full ride to college or even having your physical life saved.
This is eternal life that’s been handed to you. Are you going to act like it doesn’t matter? Or are you going to choose daily surrender to Christ’s sanctifying work in your life?
The Gospel Leads to Gratitude
A grateful soul is a joyful soul, and an obedient one.
In Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God, he discusses the difference between legalism and grace: “[Legalism] operates on the principle ‘I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.’ But the operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by God through what Christ has done—therefore I obey.'”If you understand the gospel, you'll be so grateful that your entire life will be changed. God is the one who gave you the gift. And you're going to want to live your life in a way that honors and glorifies Him. Click To Tweet
If you really understand the gospel, you’ll be so grateful that your entire life will be radically changed.
God is the one who gave you the gift. And you’re going to want to live your life in a way that honors and glorifies Him, because to please Him is your heart’s delight.
This is freedom. This is good news. This is the gospel.
And we need to constantly remind ourselves that it’s true, because remembering what God has done for us will help us to glorify and enjoy Him forever.