I used to discount the power of the gospel. Growing up as a Christian, I just always took it for granted, never realizing the power that it contains, never appreciating what the Gospel means for those who are far from God. I love the way Paul writes about it in Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the POWER OF GOD that brings SALVATION TO EVERYONE who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
It isn’t that I ever thought for a moment that it was unimportant, I’ve always known that connecting people back to God was an incredibly important ministry. But I guess the way I put it before was that it was “one of” the important ministries, but in reality, it is the foundation for everything else.
A few weeks ago in our middle school life groups, we were talking about how the gospel frees us from the law, from rules and regulations. How important it is to recognize that Grace is the free Gift of God. It was a great life group because the questions that were getting thrown around were amazing, and it made me realize that I’m familiar with the idea of Grace being a free gift in theory but how hard it is to really believe in practice.
Because every time we talked about it, I kept wanting to ask, “Well, if we believe that, what do we do in response?” “What do we do with that?” I wanted to see and to give a concrete next step.
Anytime you’re talking ministry, you want to know what it changes. What changes now that you’ve met Jesus and say you believe. So my natural, and wrong, reaction was to keep asking what do we do?
We don’t do anything. We don’t do anything to get or deserve the gift, we just receive it. God did it all.
And that should tell you just how critically important this issue really is. While we were still sinning and of no use to God whatsoever, He came to earth, He died, and He rose again.
The Almighty God that created and sustains the universe and time itself, decided while we could offer Him nothing, to come and make a relationship possible with us, by dying. This is the hill God, in all of His wisdom, decided to die upon … literally.
That brings up a thousand questions I can’t answer but I always wonder about. Why was it necessary? Could there be another way? Why couldn’t God just forgive it all without sending His Son to die? I ruminated on some of those ideas over Christmas a couple years ago which you can read here but I don’t have any of the answers. And it doesn’t really matter, because God found it important. He found it necessary.
With this perspective, I now understand why Jesus and Paul spent so much of their time railing against legalism. Why Jesus treated the Pharisees—the religious elite of His day–as if they were God’s sworn enemies.
Legalism always produces either hopelessness and despair, or arrogance and pride. Hopelessness if we come to our senses and realize we can never approach God with our goodness so we might as well give up and do something else. Or it will produce arrogance because we think our good deeds will be good enough for God and we deceive ourselves into thinking we merit God’s love.
Your good looks, your good grades and your good deeds will never be enough to get into God’s good graces. Thinking they even can will drive you or others away from a Holy God that loves you and wants a relationship with you.
Religious legalism is a spiritual cancer that must die. Nothing you could do could ever let you approach God on your own terms. We need to make the Gospel a bigger priority. Legalism is bondage that leads to death. I’ve had the amazing honor and privilege of leading a few people to Christ, and that moment when they realize they are finally free, free from expectations they could never meet, free from worry, free from bondage, and free to have a relationship with God unencumbered with a list they could never keep … that moment is amazing. There is nothing else like it. That is the POWER OF GOD in full display for ALL to see.
God wants to save us from religion. It needs to be our top priority because it clearly is God’s. It’s something He thought was worth dying for. It’s something worth dying for.