“Good morning! This is the gospel, it’s free,” the middle-aged man said brightly as he extended a tract titled “If Only” to the lady walking ahead of me.
When she shook her head, he turned to me and offered the same tract. “And you?” Giving him a slight smile, I shook my head too and quickened my pace. “That tract is meant for non-Christians. I’m already a Christian, I know what’s in that tract and I don’t need it,” I told myself.
Almost immediately, the self-reproach began. “What’s wrong with going through the gospel again? When’s the last time I heard the gospel? Do I really know the gospel? ” Ashamed, I made a mental note to take a tract if I was offered one again.
Some weeks have passed since that episode, but in the lead up to Good Friday, I found myself revisiting the question: Is the gospel only meant for non-Christians?
My simple answer is: No. In fact, I’d go so far to say that the more we Christians think that we’re doing okay, the more we need to hear the gospel. Here’s three reasons why.
1. We fluctuate – because we get confused by what the world tells us.
Like it or not, accepting Jesus into our lives and proclaiming Him as Lord doesn’t mean our problems will just disappear. Our struggles with sin, frustrations with nasty bosses or colleagues, and disappointments with dysfunctional families will still exist. Natural calamities and debilitating illnesses will still plague us.
Against this challenging backdrop, we also have to contend with voices that threaten to sway us in opposite directions. “You’re a failure,” detractors might say when we can’t stop sinning. “Don’t try to change yourself, you’re perfect,” the world will tell us one moment later. But when our addictions and the weight of our guilt hound us, we will hear it again, “You’re not good enough.” As the cycle repeats itself, we become deflated and defeated.
In a world of changing values and morals, we need to hear the unchanging message of the gospel over and again. We need to be reminded that God values us not because of our looks, abilities, credentials or family background, but simply because He made us (Psalm 139:13–16). We need to be reminded that God loves us no matter how rotten we’ve been, and He showed it by sending Jesus to die for us (Romans 5:8). We need to be reminded that all we’re facing is temporary, and we have a glorious hope to look forward to (Romans 8:18).
Knowing the gospel well gives us a consistent footing in life.
2. We forget – because we get distracted and discouraged (sometimes by the devil).
It’s human nature, unfortunately. Sure, there are times when, brought to our knees in repentance or gratitude for God’s mercy and grace, we rededicate our lives to Him, promising to stop wasting our lives and to start using our time, effort, and money for Him. Then, fired up and hungry to do something for God, we plunge headlong into acts of service to God.
But that’s when the devil will put in extra effort to pull us away from God at the slightest opportunity. This may come in the form of two roadblocks: discouragement and distraction. Things may not go according to plan, everyday problems may set in, or people we hold in high regard may fail us, and we lose heart. Or, the demands of work and family and the appeal of worldly acclaim and success creep in, and we find ourselves losing steam and losing focus.
The reality is that times like these will surely come. Jesus Himself said that His followers would be beset by trials of every kind. How can we cope and continue to live for Him? By cultivating a familiarity with the gospel. Reading it over and over again will help us remember and cling on to God’s truth in times of difficulty. When we understand the future glory that Jesus promises for us, we find strength to persevere in our present challenges.
Don’t worry, familiarity does not breed contempt, as far as the Bible is concerned. In fact, the more acquainted and familiar we are with the gospel, the more we will be strengthened and able to stand against the wiles of the devil and trials of the world (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Knowing the gospel well keeps us focused on living for God.
3. We fall short – because we are still sinful at heart.
Even though Adam and Eve enjoyed a relationship with God, they were still tempted by the things of this world (Genesis 3:6). Isn’t that a clear enough indicator that none of us is immune to temptation?
As humans, we are carnal in nature and if we don’t guard our five senses—taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight—we will end up being enticed into sin. I know how susceptible I am to covetousness and idolatry in my own life: I find myself easily dissatisfied and envious of others who have more going for them in looks, abilities, and success. Although I know fully well that none of these things last, I find myself taking time and effort to advance in those aspects instead of spending my time and effort on growing in my relationship with God. Ironically, it makes me feel even more empty and inadequate.
But we may swing to the other extreme too. We may read our Bibles daily, pray regularly, serve enthusiastically—and think that we’re okay because we don’t really have “big” sins in our lives. We might even be tempted to believe that it’s our good works that saved us in the first place. At times, we might also think we’re better than others, and judge them for not being as faithful as we are. Perhaps that’s why Jesus devoted a major portion of his ministry to addressing the Pharisees’ self-righteous attitudes.
No Christian is perfect. Only when we immerse ourselves in the gospel, will we remember that it’s not about what we can accomplish, but what Christ accomplished for us. Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us that being a Christian is not just about receiving Jesus into our lives. It’s also about growing in our relationship with Him.
Knowing the gospel well keeps our lives holy, because we want to please Jesus.
So how do we go about ensuring that we get a regular intake of the gospel? Preach the gospel to ourselves! Paul Tripp, an American pastor, author and conference speaker, once said, “No one is more influential in your life than you are. Because no one talks to you more than you do.”
This Good Friday, will you preach the Good News to yourself again?