Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Gospel Story

I was recently browsing through a Christian quotes site when, as I was looking through the many categories... "gospel" wasn't on the list. I found this to be very odd. There was humility, religion, contentment, faith and many others, but "gospel" wasn't worthy of its own category. It reminded me that it's so easy to make this religion about anything but the saving gospel of Christ.

Almost every day I find myself wondering, "What is Christianity all about?" I mean, if we were to boil this Jesus thing down to what it is at it's core, what would that be? If someone had never heard of a God, a man named Jesus, or a book called the Bible what could I tell them in a few sentences that life was all about?

I think it's the gospel.

But what is this gospel and what does it have to do with me? I heard this gospel many times and told a thousand different ways growing up. I knew that sin separated me from God, and that the cross somehow fixes that problem. I knew I had to believe on that and give my life to God and be baptized, and somehow I would be forgiven. But it wasn't until I found myself buried in the gospel story in a very personal way that it all started making sense.

I think that if Christianity could be boiled down to one sentence this would be it: I sinned and made myself trash before God... but through Jesus God makes me royalty.

But I had to be brought low for that to make sense.

I remember a time that I read through the Bible searching for new concepts as well as more verses to reinforce my existent beliefs. I was very passionate about them, and I remember being very excited about showing others they were wrong and "correcting" them. My lens through which I viewed Scripture was a theological one. I wanted to know Scripture, but I didn't necessarily want to know Jesus. However, my spiritual life didn't last long on that kind of diet. After about six months I stopped reading, praying, or thinking about God altogether.

And then life went downhill for me. I felt like a jerk in many ways. I remember being humiliated a couple of times, and I remember generally feeling stupid. I sinned... a lot. I don't think I fell away on accident. I think God was teaching me that I couldn't do this thing on my own and that I needed Him... badly.

Here's what I'm getting at: I think every person has to come to the point in their lives when they kneel before the cross in tears... deeply understanding that they have absolutely nothing to offer God. When I came to God and prayed that day, I felt so ashamed of who I had become. I didn't want to barter with God. I didn't want to be more passionate or be more religious. I wanted to be saved. And that's the key.

We all need saving, but I think it takes some of us longer than others to deeply understand that in a very personal way. I don't regret living a life of sin and selfishness because it helped me not to just theologically believe the gospel, but to feel deep down that I needed God and there was no other alternative.

But here's the thing: This lesson didn't stop for me when I became a Christian. I think spiritual maturity is more and more deeply understanding that I am nothing without God, and my identity and approval must come from Christ alone. My life so far has been a process of thinking I can do this life on my own only to fall down... hard. And it's at those moments that Jesus makes sense to me. It's then I have to choose to believe that He loves me anyway, and that He can really make me good enough.

God makes me good enough, even though I'm not good enough.

That's it in a nutshell. This is the essence, the key, the core, the meaning of life. Nothing else matters after this. It's through this lens that I must view God, life, the Bible, and everyone else. It's so hard to do, and when I sin it's because I fail at this. And I do that a lot. But I cannot move away from the cross... ever. Christ saved me at baptism, but that lesson is learned over and over through every meaningful life experience.