I didn’t realize it until the other night as I was preparing to write these essays over the next week or so. It was just as I drifting off to sleep, listening to Josh Harris speak about “humble orthodoxy.” Josh exhorted his congregation to make sure that their hearts had been truly “gripped by the gospel.” You can talk all you want about the gospel, he said, but it means nothing when it has not gripped your heart. It has gripped my heart like never before.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)
My mind flashed back to my conversion experience, when I realized my utter sinfulness before a holy and righteous God. My sin weighed heavy on my then, and it weighed heavy on my heart last night.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Oh, the gospel gripped my heart! I was dead in my transgressions. Yet God has made a way through his Son. Jesus took my place on a cross. Mercy and grace were extended to me through God’s innocent son.
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6, ESV)
Those words over the years have grown sweeter and sweeter to me. Even as I type or write, I cannot help to begin to read those words aloud. They grip my heart. They bring tears to my eyes and joy to my soul. I deserved all of that. My sins are so great. So overwhelming. Once again, God was showing me my utter sinfulness – and delivering to me grace so amazing, grace so divine.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, ESV)
I have struggled over the years with focusing far too long on myself, and on my sin. I quickly fall into despair, focusing on how unholy I am. This is healthy only to a point. It is true that I am utterly unholy. I am full of sin — but Jesus is “more full of grace than I of sin.” The gospel does not stop at my sin. It focuses on Jesus – on the grace that is there for all who repent and believe.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26, ESV)
I thank God so much for his grace, and for showing me my need for receiving grace. I am free from condemnation. I have been justified by grace as a gift because God put Christ forward as a propitiation for my sin. His justice and wrath meant for me were laid on Christ.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:32-33, ESV)
I was saved many years ago, but this week my heart was truly gripped by the gospel.