I Missed the Gospel in Church
I grew up in a home that went to church weekly. We sat in the front row. We served in the church.
And somehow I missed the gospel.
Somehow I thought I had to do certain things to *make it* into heaven.
There were blocks that needed to be checked. Things I needed to do to please God.
But, despite checking those blocks, Jesus meant nothing to me in my everyday life. He was a good guy that we were *supposed* to emulate, but nothing more. Sure, I made certain sacraments and did all the “right” things according to my church tradition, but the gospel had never truly penetrated my heart.
And so I lived my early life as a church-going, youth group-attending unbeliever.
-I dabbled in the occult and Buddhism.
-I was an insecure, narcissistic little con-artist in the making.
-I was sexually immoral.
-I experimented with drugs and alcohol.
-I was bitter and angry, and made lying and blame-shifting a hobby, refusing to take responsibility for my own actions.
And I was miserable.
What drove all of this? I was a slave to the opinions of others, and that led me down a path of destruction that only Jesus could save me from.
It wasn’t until I heard the Good News, that Jesus came to save sinners, when I was 19 years old at Campus Crusade for Christ in college, that I was free. Truly free.
Contrary to popular belief,
contrary to what so many well-meaning churches teach,
the message of the gospel is NOT “do this, don’t do that,” or “don’t be bad, be good” and somehow you will please God enough, and He will give you a ticket to heaven.
That is not the heart of Jesus.
The message of the gospel is that Jesus died, in my place, for my sin (John 3:16).
That I am saved by His grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
That if I turn away from my sin, and believe that He took the penalty for my sin through his death on the cross, and rose again, I will be saved. (Luke 5:32, Rom. 10:9).
Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
I can’t be “good enough.”
Because none of us is good enough to earn salvation (Rom. 3:23), but Jesus gives it freely as a generous gift (Eph. 2:8) to all who believe and receive this gift.
And because of this radical message, the gospel is both freeing and humbling.
-It is freeing to the sinner who feels less than. Who feels beyond the reach of God.
-It is humbling to the prideful heart that wants to earn a gold star and get an “attaboy” or an “attagirl”.
The Upside-Down Message of the Gospel
No, salvation is not a prize to be earned, but a gift to be received.
And that message of the gospel, which has NOTHING to do with what we DO to earn salvation, is absolutely contrary to any other religious (or nonreligious) system in the world.
Because Jesus flips the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps message of mere morality upside-down, and drops the grace bomb on all of humanity.
-Where Karma says, “you get what you deserve,” Jesus says, “I GET what you deserve, and YOU get grace.”
-Where Buddhism says “cease suffering by ceasing cravings,” Jesus says, “I suffered and died in your place, that ‘you may have life and have it more abundantly,’ even in the midst of your own suffering” (John 10:10).
-Where Islam says “by your works you are saved,” Jesus says, “by MY works you are saved.”
-Where Humanism says, “No deity can save us; we must save ourselves” (Humanist Manifesto II, p. 16), the gospel says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, emphasis mine).
No, it’s not about reaching up to God with my good works.
No, it’s the OPPOSITE.
It’s about God, in His love and mercy, reaching down to a helpless, needy, broken world.
It’s about a God who loved his enemies so much that He sent His only son to die for them (John 3:16).
It’s about Jesus, who was on his throne in heaven, and..
“emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”(Phil. 2:7-11).
And because of this gospel of grace, Jesus welcomes the broken.
Jesus welcomes the sinner.
Jesus welcomes the unrighteous and the unholy.
And this is tremendously good news.
Because it’s not about me. I don’t have to be the hero of my own story.
It’s ALL about Jesus.
The focus is Jesus.
The hero is Jesus.
Sweet friend, where have you placed your hope? Have you trusted in your own goodness to save you? Or have you trusted in Jesus and believed in Him?
Do you somehow think you are too far gone to be saved? Too sinful? Too shameful? That’s the beauty of the gospel! NONE of us is beyond the reach of God’s loving, gracious hands. None of us is too sinful. 🙂
Oh, I’d love to hear from you! I’d love for you to share your questions or your story here! I’m so praying that if you haven’t met Jesus in this way, that He would draw you to Himself and that you would respond in faith to His gracious invitation. I love you, friend. 🙂