He said it to me in the parking lot just as he was driving away. “Steve, I have been saved for 15 years. I am past the gospel. I need something… More.”
Not only have I heard that a dozen times, but I used to think the same way myself. As someone who surrendered to Christ 30 years ago, I am discovering that I need the gospel every. single. day.
Think about it. What is the gospel? It is the story of a great substitution. It is God restoring His Kingdom into this broken world one life at a time, by calling individuals to die to themselves, so that Christ can live through them.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The problem is that we tend to think that we get past that. I guess we feel like we pray the sinner’s prayer, receive our forgiveness, and then God shifts to some other method of working in our lives. As if we each “get saved,” then we just need to keep learning more. Keep doing better. Keep performing at a higher level.
Does God have one way of dealing with the lost, and a different way of dealing with the believer? I don’t think so. I really like this famous quote from Watchman Nee:
God makes it quite clear in His Word that He has only one answer to every human need: His Son, Jesus Christ. In all His dealings with us, He works by taking us out of the way and substituting Christ in our place.
-Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life
That is it. Whatever God wants to do in your life has to do with repentance. Death to self. Life in Christ. That’s the gospel at work in me every single day. That is how we “work out our salvation.” we let it speak into every single area of our lives. We allow Christ to identify anything that isn’t HIM in our lives, and we give it up so He can live through us. This is applying the gospel to our lives… Making it relevant to whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.
So be careful. Many believers think they’re “past it.” In fact, many pastors teach as if we were “past it.” Listen to next Sunday’s sermon at your church. See if your pastor doesn’t preach that you need to learn a specific new truth, or apply certain principles to your life, or practice doing something more. Sure, I am all about personal discipline, but that isn’t what makes me righteous, and it certainly isn’t the way God deals with me. God deals with me through the gospel. Substitution of Christ. Period. If your pastor teaches anything other than the grace of the gospel, then all he has to teach is law.
No one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
-1 Corinthians 15:3-4
So no matter what topic I am teaching on… Whether it is marriage, prayer, temptation, evangelism, fear, or whatever… I always and only teach that topic through the lens of the gospel. That is the only way God looks at it, so why should I look at it any differently? Sure, it is a lot more hip and trendy to preach about being better, or achieving more… But that is how we tend to deal with things. Not how God deals.
So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.
-1 Corinthians 1:23-25