For many years Christianity was a burden and extremely exhausting
for me. I loved God and served him with all that I had, but if I were to be
honest, my service for God seemed like a duty and left me shouldering a heavy
burden that often times even caused me depression and anxiety. Now that is a
confession you won’t often hear from a pastor, but for many years it was true of me.
THE LIST GOES ON AND ON
I felt this way because it seemed to me that the list of what "good Christians" should be doing never ended. Evangelism. Missions. Discipleship. Adoption. Radical generosity. Bold prayers. Audacious faith. Every time I turned around someone else was telling me something I should be doing that I wasn’t. So I’d get busy with whatever new program would make me a “Good Christian,” and sadly, as a leader in the church I would teach people to do the same.
My service for God was enthusiastic, but my passions for Him were beginning to grow cold. My years of doing for God were draining me to the point of physical, mental, and spiritual hollowness. It was at that point of darkness, that Jesus began opening my eyes to a frank and honest assessment of my life. Removing the obstructions and distractions of my works-based "religiosity" I was able to see clearly that my problem was a subtle and slow lowering of my eyes from my Savior to myself.
THE GOSPEL DOES WHAT RELIGION CONNOT
While I would have never admitted it, I was starting to resent God. Instead of a merciful Father, He was the merciless taskmaster, always standing over me yelling, “Not enough! I want more!” Recently I discovered something, or should I say, “rediscovered something,” that has changed me forever. The gospel.
I don’t mean that I didn’t really know it before. I did. I grew up in church and had done ministry for years. I could have even explained it in great detail. But if my head knew the intellectual truth of the gospel, my heart hadn’t truly encountered the fullness of its reality.
Jonathan Edwards likened his re-awakening to the gospel to a man who had known, in his head, that honey was sweet, but for the first time had that sweetness burst alive in his mouth. Over the last few years, that is what has happened to me with the gospel.
DON’T JUST LISTEN TO THE GOSPEL. HEAR IT
“Rediscovering” the gospel has given me a joy in God I had never experienced in my years of religious Christianity. Now I sense, almost daily, a love for God replacing my love for myself. The judgment that once consumed my heart is being replaced by a desire to see others flourish. I feel selfishness giving way to tenderness and generosity. My cravings for the lusts of the flesh are being replaced by a craving for righteousness, and my self-centered dreams are being replaced by God-glorifying ambitions. A power is swelling deep within me that is changing me and pushing me out into the world to leverage my life for the Kingdom of God.
JESUS MAKES THE GOSPEL “GOOD NEWS”
Understanding who God is and what He has done through the person and work of Jesus Christ is crucial to understanding the depth of the gospel. Plain and simple the gospel is that Jesus is the only way anyone is able to love, serve and please God. When we receive Jesus Christ by grace we will be transformed every moment of every day for the rest of our lives. The protestant reformer, Martin Luther loved to say, “To progress is always to begin again.” What this means is that we need to get back to the basics and rediscover the gospel that transformed the world. The gospel is able to produce in our hearts what religion never could: a desire for God. Those who crave righteousness will act righteously; those who love God will keep his commandments. This is all possible because of Jesus! Jesus is the revolutionary power of the gospel: we do what we ought for God as Jesus Christ captivates us by what he has done for us. It's All About Jesus!
Pastor Rob Mayer is currently preaching a series titled, The Gospel - Rediscovering the Good News at Gospel Life Church