This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go to a small conference for Cru staff members from the states of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The conference was wonderful, relaxing and very eye-opening. I have realized recently that as I walk through life, my vision of who God is, the Gospel, and what Jesus has done for me slowly starts to become blurry at different points. Right when I begin losing focus, God refocuses my eyes back on Him.
The speaker this weekend talked about God’s pursuit of us and how relentless He is to show us His love. Not only did he talk about God’s pursuit of us, but he also talked about our pursuit of others who don’t believe in Him. When his talk began, I thought it would simply be another one on evangelism and sharing our faith. Of course, being in ministry I have heard many talks on this topic. Just as I was beginning to tune the speaker out, he said something so different from anything I have heard before. He said, “To the extent that the Gospel is powerful in our own lives is the extent that we will want to share it with others. If we disbelieve the Gospel ourselves, we won’t want to share it with others because we can’t get past ourself enough to care about others. We first must believe the Gospel, and understand our personal need for it.”
This profound statement made me ask myself some hard questions: “Do I really believe the Gospel in my own life? Do I actually think that I am saved by grace, or do I still try to work my way to God? Do I think that I have it all together, or do I believe that I am broken and in need of a Savior too?” To be honest, there are some days when I do believe the Gospel, and many that I do not. I wanted to take some time to preach the Gospel again to myself.
1. God created the world perfectly without spot and blemish. He created humans in the same way. But as we turned away from God, brokenness and separation from God entered the world.
2. Sin is a condition that inhabits all humans. We must understand our condition in order to understand our NEED for a Savior. I, Melissa Crutchfield, rejected God and His love for me.
- My heart is wicked and chases after the things of the world. Things of this world look so appealing and enticing to me. Because I run after those things (lust, money, vanity, food, relationships, you name it), there is a large gulf between me and God. When I go after my own desires, I feel empty, unsatisfied and long for MORE. They lead to destruction and brokenness, yet there is something in me that still desires them (my sinful nature). This is the great battle described in Romans 7 (for those who are in Christ, we have two natures waging war against one another: our flesh and the Holy Spirit):
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
- Sin isn’t just our bad actions, it is the condition of our hearts after the fall. It is the cancer that has taken over our bodies entirely on the inside.
Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
- If the statement in Romans 3:23 is true, why do I believe that I can be good enough to get to God? I have missed the mark entirely. I have turned away from the God of the universe, and there is NOTHING I can do by my actions to make that right. And yet, my sinful nature still tries to work my way to God. Why do I compare myself to others, thinking I am better or worse then them when we ALL fall short of His glory and perfection? I try to be perfect often. I am afraid of being vulnerable and allowing others to see the real me. I am sinful. I can cry out with Paul and say, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
3. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:1-5
- BUT GOD: As an english major, I see how much the conjunction (joiner word) “but” can make all the difference in the world. It serves different purposes:
– It can suggest a contrast that is unexpected in light of the first clause.
– It can suggest in an affirmative sense what the first part of the sentence implied in a negative way (sometimes replaced by on the contrary).
- The two words, “but God” placed beautifully in the middle of a passage in Ephesians gives us hope, life and truth. We were dead in trespasses, but God made us alive. We followed the prince of this world (Satan), but God made us alive. We were children of wrath, but God made us alive. We followed the desires of the flesh, but God made us alive. And on and on it can go.
- But why did He do it? “Because of the great love in which He loved us.” From this passage, I don’t see anything suggesting that it was because of my good behavior that He saved me. I only see love: true, unadulterated, unconditional love. Another “but God” phrase helps us understand this even more:
” 6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 BUT GOD shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
- Jesus Christ, God in human form came to the earth to pay the consequences of our sin. Sin is costly. Because of God’s love for us, He wanted to make a way for us to have a restored relationship with Him. He knew that we could not work our way to Him, because we would ultimately fail. And God knew that there had to be some consequences in place for turning our backs on Him (He is a God of both justice and love). He knew that the payment for sin has to be death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. So instead of killing us, God killed Jesus, His son in our place.
- Again we ask, “why?”. Because of His love. This is one of the hardest things for us as humans to understand. It makes us extremely uncomfortable to receive something that we do not deserve. But that is grace. Grace will undo you. Grace is unsettling. Grace is almost impossible for conditional beings to wrap our minds around. But it was given to us. We must recognize our need for it.
” 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
4. What will we do with this free gift? When you accept Christ’s love for you and the gift of grace, forgiveness and mercy, you become a child of God. God sends His Holy Spirit to live inside of you to be your guide, your comforter, your counselor. When He enters your heart, He will never leave you. You are sealed for all of eternity, and granted the gift of eternal life with God. Your relationship with Him is restored. You are His child. You are guaranteed an inheritance in heaven, instead of eternal separation from God.
- We must understand that we need a Savior. We must admit that there is nothing that we can do to be good enough. We must accept this thing called grace that was shown to us on a wooden cross. Then, BECAUSE of the love that God has lavished upon us, we must deny our sinfulness each and every day to follow Him. Obedience to God leads to life. Following this world and our own desires leads to death.
As we wake each morning, we need to preach to ourselves the truth found in the Gospel. Do we actually believe it? I think that it is again, a constant refocusing and realigning of our hearts to the truth. If we truly understand this, our hearts will begin deeply desiring to share it with others. Not believing this often keeps us from sharing it. We live in fear because we think too highly of our own abilities and far to little about God’s abilities to save others. We may look down on others thinking, ‘those people over there really need the Gospel’, when the truth is, we are desperate for it.
The speaker at the conference ended by saying, “If we cling to the Gospel and it’s power to save us, we are free to give ourselves to the world.” He challenged us to do something every week that actually shows we believe the Gospel in our own lives. We are free to take risks when we believe it ourselves!