“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3 ESV).
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me'” (Luke 9:23 ESV).
The gospel is the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose from the grave, and that anyone that would believe this news would be saved. This news, like all news, is either believed or not. But unlike other news, believing it has a surprising effect…
… It turns our world upside-down.
Many of us misunderstand the gospel. We come to it evaluating whether it will be helpful, make us happier, or more successful. Like reading the latest best-selling, self-help book, we hope to follow the model of Jesus’ life that we see in the gospel as a kind of guide for living. Or we see the gospel as a kind of worthy addition to our investment portfolio, helping us to become more prosperous. But the gospel works according to a different economy.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he “must do” to “inherit eternal life,” Jesus gave him some upside-down instructions. He essentially told him that since he was rich, he should become poor, since he was young and strong, he should become weak, and that since he was a ruler, he should become a follower. The young man went away disheartened. The gospel demanded too much. He had hoped to add the gospel to his worldly endeavors, but instead the gospel demanded his letting go of everything in order to follow Jesus.
The religious Pharisee, Nicodemus, had a similar experience. When he encountered Jesus, he was told that his religious heritage and birthright as a Jew was insufficient. He was told he had to be “born again.” The gospel challenged his religious approach that only worked on him from the outside-in, barely scratching the surface of his life and failing at any heart change. Jesus spoke to him of being born of the Spirit, of a gospel that would go to work on him on the inside. The gospel that Jesus described…
… turns our lives inside-out.
The gospel introduces us to a kingdom economy where addition takes place by subtraction, living begins with dying, and greatness comes from following and serving. As Jesus described the effect of responding to the gospel on our lives, he said that it would look like self denial, cross-carrying and following him.
This is the effect of the gospel, that it turns us upside-down and inside-out. And in so doing, the gospel puts everything in our upside-down world…
…right-side up again.