“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (ESV)
What does the word “gospel” mean? It means “good news.” It’s the good news that God so loved us that He gave His Son Jesus to die for our sins that we might believe on Him and receive forgiveness and eternal life. So it is the starting point of our new life in Christ.
Yet, the gospel isn’t merely the starting point of our faith; the gospel is the daily sustenance of our faith. As Christians, we need to remind ourselves of it everyday!
Author and former Navigators staffer, Jerry Bridges, called this “preaching the gospel to yourself every day.”
“This, then, is the gospel with which we need to become thoroughly familiar and that we need to preach to ourselves every day. Jesus, by His death and shed blood, completely satisfied the justice of God and the claims of His broken law. By His perfect obedience, He positively fulfilled the requirements of the law. Thus in both its precepts and penalty, the law of God in its most exacting requirements was fulfilled by Jesus. And He did this in our place as our representative and our substitute. To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.” – Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, p. 49
The apostle Paul certainly saw the importance of being regularly reminded of the gospel. He wrote to the believers in Corinth to remind them of the gospel and to encourage them to always “stand” in it and to “hold fast” to it.
We can stand in the gospel by seeing it both as the foundation on which we stand, as well as the empowering grace that keeps us standing. As humans we have a performance default. In other words, we try to earn approval through our performance. Even when we admit that we can’t save ourselves and receive the gospel as a gift from God, we then have to overcome the tendency to think that now we have to perform perfectly to keep ourselves saved or to please God. We recognize our need for God’s grace to save us, but not to continually keep us. And as a result, we struggle with guilt and shame whenever we fail or sin again. We haven’t learned to continually apply the grace of the gospel to ourselves.
Notice Paul’s words again. He said that the gospel is that “by which you stand, and by which you are being saved.” The verb Paul used for “saved” is in the Greek perfect. We don’t have an English equivalent, but it has the idea of punctiliar action with continuous result. Or to describe it in mathematical terms, it is like a ray with a point, a line and an arrow on the end. It describes something that took place at a certain point in the past, continues in the present and on into the future forever. The chart below illustrates this:
Reminding ourselves of the gospel helps us deal with condemnation and guilt. Placing our faith in Christ’s work of salvation, we have been justified, made right with God. As Paul told the Roman believers, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Yet, when we sin, our conscience still convicts us. We feel self-condemnation. However, applying the gospel afresh, we bring our conscience into alignment with God’s view of us. He says we are justified. By faith, we agree with God’s Word and our conscience is made clear.
Preaching the gospel to ourselves helps in our sanctification. Applying God’s gospel of grace, we are able to be totally honest with ourselves, not making excuses nor becoming defensive when we sin. We can admit it to God when we sin and remind ourselves that He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We can ask God to “cleanse us” from those sins that beset us. We don’t have to be afraid to expose our hearts fully to God and ask Him to reveal any area where He wants to help us get clean. The grace of the gospel helps us look in the mirror of God’s Word and not look away, but yielding to the work of the Spirit as He applies it to our situation.
Applying the gospel everyday helps us face the future without fear and anxiety. For the gospel promises us that we have eternal life in and through and with Christ Jesus. One day, we will receive a new glorified body like Jesus, designed for eternity. “Holding fast” to the gospel, we have a new focus. We are able to lift our eyes from the temporal things of this world, to the eternal things of God. As Paul instructed the believers at Colossae, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
Preaching the gospel to ourselves everyday, 365 days a year, we are able to look to the past without guilt or shame, live in the present empowered by God’s grace, and face the future without fear or anxiety. The gospel isn’t only the foundation of our faith, it is our sustaining grace and future hope. We need to the gospel every day.