My wonderful church gave me a 4 week sabbatical from my pastoral duties and I am very thankful for that. This was my first sabbatical. I have learned a lot, worshipped the Lord, spent time in prayer, attended a conference for pastors, visited churches to gather ideas, read my Bible and books, rested, and spent quality time with my family.
All of that is wonderful and great but if I could narrow my sabbatical down to one main thing it would be the Main Thing. I sought to keep the Main Thing the main thing. The Main Thing is Jesus, it’s the Gospel, and it’s the unconditional love of God.
During my sabbatical God has blessed me and strengthened me spiritually. My sabbatical has been a focused time on the Gospel! What does that mean? Okay, I must confess, I got saved during my sabbatical. Sorry, that was a joke. Some things never change.
Some people think that the Gospel is just for unbelievers, it’s not. It’s for Christians too. The Gospel isn’t the first step of the ladder, it’s the whole ladder. The Gospel isn’t Christianity 101, it’s all of Christianity! The Gospel isn’t the shallow end of the pool, it’s the whole pool.
It’s not about moving beyond the Gospel, it’s about going deeper into it! Getting saved and being born again isn’t a part of our past and now we’ve moved on to more important things. No! The Gospel is the main thing and always will be. It’s the center of our life, not just another part.
I want to ask these questions and I believe this article will briefly answer each one. What is the Gospel, why is it important, how does the love of God transform us, and what does a Gospel-centered life and church look like?
First, what is the Gospel? The Gospel shows us, and glorifies the amazing – unconditional love of God! The Gospel is that while I was still a sinner Christ died for me! The Gospel is that I broke God’s law too many times to count, and Christ paid my fine by dying in my place. He took my punishment. I was guilty and deserved hell, but Jesus rescued me, He delivered me, He set me free from sin, Satan, and death.
Jesus lived the life I should have lived, He died the death I should have died, and He rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and all glory belongs only to Him! The Gospel is good news because it means that Jesus did for me what I could never do for myself.
By His grace He caused me to be born again, forgiven, transformed, regenerated, delivered, saved, justified, adopted, sanctified, and declared righteous. The Gospel Song says it best, “Holy God, in love, became Perfect Man to bear my blame, on the cross He took my sin, by His death I live again!”
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We were dead in sin, but through Christ we have been set free! We are no longer masters of sin for we now have a new master, King Jesus! He sacrificed His life so we could have life! He died so we could live.
Second, why is the Gospel important? Justice and mercy met at the cross. While we were waiting on death row, Jesus stepped in and paid our fine with His perfect, sinless, sacrificed life, and then granted us a full pardon. You are now free to go. And it’s all yours to receive through faith in Christ.
“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.
When you think about the Gospel it is amazingly good news, it’s the best news ever! Nothing is greater than the Gospel. Bible verse after verse talks about the Gospel. The entire Old Testament points to the Gospel!
The deeper you go into the Gospel the greater you will know the unconditional love of God. The more you ponder the Gospel the more you will stand amazed. The more you understand and obey the Gospel the more you become like Jesus.
This is the main thing. The Gospel changes everything. It changes hearts, homes, relationships, marriages, schools, workplaces, churches, ministries, businesses, and nations. It transforms us! We move from death to life, from darkness to light, from shame to forgiven, from lost to found, from corruption to righteousness.
You know John 3:16, but let me quote Titus 3:4-7, “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.” Wow. What a great portion of Scripture!
The Gospel is the main thing because we have been changed. We’re a new person in Christ. “In Christ” is the key phrase. We are holy in Christ. We are forgiven in Christ. We are loved by our Creator in Christ. Christ’s love is perfect. God loves you, unconditionally! We could never earn salvation, and we would never deserve it. We’ve been showered with grace!
Now every day you can grow in grace, you can rest in His grace, and you can thank Him for His grace. You’re now free to love and be loved. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:1. This changes how we think, how we react, how we spend our time and money.
The Gospel changes our relationships to be more Christ-like. It also changes our worship and praise. It changes our faith to be more trusting and hopeful in knowing that God keeps His promises!
Third, how does the love of God transform us? We have a power now that we can rely on no matter what. We have a God who never changes. We have a God who is faithful. And we have a love in our heart that is Christ-like.
Christ has solved our biggest problem, our sin problem. He cancelled our debt. He demonstrated the ultimate act of love. He rescued us from sure death. He made us new creations, He made us holy, and He calls us His children.
I am a wretched sinner, yet because of His kindness He has made me a saint and He even says, “Come sit at my table, forever!” Life isn’t about us, it’s about Him. Life on earth lasts only a short time, but we have eternity getting to know the greatness of our God!
We have eternity to praise Him for His amazing love and grace and mercy. We are His. Our life is not our own. We were brought with a price. Yet we are free. We are loved. And there is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you!
The depth of God’s love is inexhaustible! The power of His love is limitless! And the reality of His love is seen at the cross! I want nothing less than to know, in a deeper way each day, the love of God in Christ.
His love for me is now the main thing; it’s the most important thing about me. It is true I am not a good person, (never have been), and it’s only by His grace that I can do any good. I’m bad, but He’s good. I’m weak, but He is strong. I can’t, but He can! It’s not my works that save me; it’s His work on the cross that saves me! Sin is strong, but He is stronger!
Do you see it? We can only boast in Him! So, when I get to heaven, I didn’t get there because I’m a very good person, it’s because I’m a very bad person forgiven by a very good God!
This world is filled with pain, but He has overcome the world! I’m a failure, but He’s perfect! That is not depressing, that’s freedom! Life doesn’t revolve around me, it revolves around Him! That’s freedom! He made everything! And all glory is His!
He’s the Potter, I’m the clay. He can do what He wants, and He is good all the time, even in tragedy. His love doesn’t go on sabbatical just because you had a bad day! His love doesn’t fail you just because you fail. Not even Satan can destroy His love! The more you turn to the cross of love, the more you will be liberated! You can’t liberate yourself and this world can’t either, but through faith in Christ we are free indeed!
You’re free, so stop acting like you haven’t been set free. Paul taught us in Galatians 3 not to put that yoke of the law back on us, we’ve put on Christ, and so we’ve been set free!
Fourth, what does a Gospel-centered life and church look like? Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
The Gospel changes you, from the inside out, and it’s all a divine work of perfect love. Our best works are like filthy rags. Jesus put on flesh, He never sinned, and He humbled Himself to the point of death. That’s love because He obeyed His Father perfectly out of love. John said, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8. Paul said, “If I have not love, I am nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:2.
My heart was as dark as it could be, dead in sin, yet He loved me with His life, He saved me by His death, He buried my sins, He remembers them no more, He threw them as far as the east is from the west, He justified me with His resurrection, He sanctified me by His Spirit and His Word, and He granted me everlasting life!
We can actually grow in God’s grace. We can actually grow in His divine love! We can actually grow deeper into the Gospel! That’s why the Gospel isn’t just for unbelievers, it’s for anyone who places their trust in Christ and seeks to grow in holiness!
Paul makes this point in Ephesians 3:17-19, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Wow, that’s another great text!
Thank God for the Gospel of divine love! Thank God for His immeasurable love and grace! It never gets old. It only gets old if you forget about it. Dive deeper into the Gospel through studying your Bible. Swim in it every day! Grace, and peace, and love, and worship will fill your heart once again.
The deeper you go into the Gospel of love and grace, the more you want to take others with you. How can we keep the Gospel a secret? How can we not share the unconditional love of God when we’ve been loved so much?
We have a great God (that’s worship, that’s our “up-reach” as a church), we have a great Gospel (that’s discipleship, that’s our “in-reach” as a church), and we have a Great Commission (that’s evangelism, that’s our “out-reach” as a church). That’s the 3 fold purpose of the church. That’s a Gospel-centered life and church! It’s exciting to be a child of God! It’s exciting to serve Him!
Will you seek to love and worship our great God?
Will you pray to grow in holiness and dive deeper into the Gospel?
Will you help others know the great love of God found in Christ?
Will you live by faith and trust God to complete the work He started in you?
Love, Pastor Douglas Graham