About a year ago, I took my inaugural visit to Traverse City for Margaret‘s bridal shower. We took an evening wander downtown and I bought this bumper sticker to put on my car. (Spoiler: it’s still not on my car.)
Michigan touches four of the five Great Lakes, all of which are freshwater. They are the largest freshwater lakes in the world, comprising our backyard, and we forget just how blessed we are to have them, especially when it feels like God has gathered one of them up in His arms and dumped it over the state, like it has for a few weeks running now.
I take the Living Water as much for granted. It’s unsettling and frustrating to find yourself at the point of realizing that you, in an umpteenth recitation of the cycle, have felt caught in the quicksand, striving by your own power to cut through the muck, when Jesus is standing there, eyes pleading, Child, only take My hand and you’ll come free.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Nevertheless, that’s where I found myself a few weeks ago when summer life group offerings were announced and I discovered that one of my favorite couples in all the land were hosting a life group to study Matt Chandler’s Explicit Gospel. And despite having the gospel pounded in my head from birth, practically, I still need to hear it approximately every other second. So I signed up and here we are.
(Really, here I am and wish you were too, because if you are human, you need to hear this.)
“The gospel changes everything,” I listened to Meredith Andrews sing last night, but the question is will we let it? Because truth is truth, regardless of how we take it. God is good, mighty, strong to save, seated on His throne, extending His right hand in mercy, loving us despite everything for Christ’s sake. We can take it or leave it. He died for us to have that choice.
So we can hear the gospel but miss the point, or we can listen carefully to the good news and let it transform us completely. Because that is the miracle. For people who don’t believe God does drastic miracles anymore, He does, because He is doing them in us if we will only offer our lives for His glory.
The problem is, we don’t understand that. We don’t understand what being saved is because we don’t understand what we would be saved from. And to simply say “sin” is too little, I think. We assume sin are certain stigmatizing behaviors and leave it at that instead of diving into the minute intricacies and manifestations of sin in our lives.
Sin is not only the things we’re so used to hearing condemned from the pulpit, but anything we do that is contrary to God’s character. So it’s snapping at your coworkers out of anger where Jesus would extend grace (guilty), which Jesus tells us in Scripture is tantamount to murder. It’s disobeying and therefore dishonoring your mother when she asks you to do the dishes (guilty), the only commandment with a promise attached. It’s choosing not to speak to the new person at church because you are preoccupied with your friends or too scared or just don’t want to (guilty), deliberately withholding the love of Christ when He says His followers will be known by how they love. It’s saying you deserve something, anything (guilty), when you don’t deserve anything at all except death because of how filthy and wretched we are. It’s withholding mercy and forgiveness (guilty) when the entirety of your earthly and eternal lives depend on the mercy and forgiveness God either has or is willing to grant you upon repentance. It’s the smallest lies, the most subtle manipulations, the slyest insinuations. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
But for His grace, I am done for.
And that is the gospel. That is the good news.
The good news is that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The good news is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The good news is we do not have to be conformed to the world, but can be transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus (Romans 12:2).
The good news is amazing grace, that saved a wretch like me, an angry, bitter, selfish, manipulative woman, whom God is transforming more like Himself by the work of His Spirit in me, made possible by Jesus’s sacrificial work on the cross at Golgotha. Because of HIS great love, we are not forsaken. Because of HIS great power, we are saved to Him and made new. Because of HIS great mercy, we no longer walk in the darkness and are set free to walk in His light.
So often I forget that. And that, itself, is sin: living in ignorance of God, not remembering Him, not reading His word, not speaking to Him. But, praise Him! we don’t have to stay there. His heart beats desperately for us and He has every power to move us forward. I want to remember. I want that knowledge to invade every fiber of my being, to change my hard and stony heart, to unclench tiny fists shaken in spiritual tantrum, to open my eyes to the goodness and greatness of our sovereign God. I want His love to pour over my parched soul and bring it back to life. I want to be made new; I want to love Jesus more fully.
I want to keep it fresh.