There is a lot of talk in the evangelical world today on the gospel. The language is not so much about what the gospel is, however, but rather on what it does. Simply put, the gospel is salvation made available by the gracious intervention of a holy God on the behalf of sinners so that any and all who repent of their sins and place their trust in Jesus Christ will be saved (see Acts 16:31). Upon one’s confession, the effects of the gospel are then realized throughout one’s life.
There is an attractive segment in evangelicalism today that promotes the gospel in such a way that the gospel serves almost as a blanket over sanctification. What I mean is that sin is assumed (because we are broken, sinful, needy and desperate people) and Jesus is right there to wash it all away (and He is). It is true as Tim Keller wisely stated that “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Some have taken this idea, though, and used the gospel to handicap spiritual growth. Jen Wilkin called this idea “celebratory failure-ism.” When we do this with the gospel we lead ourselves and others down a slippery slope.
One popular pastor who promotes this ideology tweeted the other day:
“The Gospel sets me free to let you see me at my most embarrassing worst.”
This same pastor has been recently caught in infidelity.
The gospel is not made more beautiful by one’s sin; the gospel is beautiful because of the One who saves.
It is shameful to Christ and to His cross when one of His children falls into sin. Sure, we all sin and fall short of His glory, but the gospel does not set us free to do that- to sin- the gospel sets us free to live righteous and holy lives, because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. Does this mean we will never sin? Of course not! Does this mean that we will never be tempted? Nope. But what it does mean to be set free to live righteously is that because of God’s regenerative work through Christ, and now that the Holy Spirit dwells in me, I am actually able to become more like Christ, which I was never able to do before salvation.
The truth is that we should be looking more like Jesus as we mature in our faith, not less. Our lives should not be a billboard declaring how rotten we are, but a banner as to how powerful and effective our God is!
We want to look edgy. Radical. Straight-laced millennials getting all tatted up to make a statement as if they lived a hard life. Maybe some have. “Look at how broken I am!” If we look remotely prudish we shudder because then we would be irrelevant to the worldly culture. So we do all we can to appear humble, earthy. But what we are really doing is masking our pride. And we know that that can never end well.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
We have put off the old self and put on the new, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10). We work out our salvation with “fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). There is no room for resignation or apathy in the Christian’s life, because salvation works. Just close this blog post, read James and call it a day.