Why the Gospel Is Good News for Believers... Now (Part 1 of 3)
If you think the Christian experience is supposed to be characterized by constant discouragement and infrequent victory over sin, your gospel is too small. It’s got a giant hole in it. Right in the middle. It’s a gospel that probably talks a long time about getting into heaven and out of hell or about something you share—or should share—with unbelievers. So, when someone comes along talking about being gospel-centered, you think they’ve got eternity or outreach on their minds, certainly not discipleship. If asked, you’d say the gospel is good news now for believers because of what it did for you back then (justification) and what it will do for you in the future, when you die or Jesus returns (glorification). You wouldn’t have much—anything—to say about sanctification. Again, I’d want to say, you’ve missed something absolutely central to the gospel—something profoundly hopeful. You’ve missed why the gospel is good news for you today, not simply yesterday or tomorrow.
What Is the Gospel?
The gospel is the good news that God sent Jesus to undo what Adam undid (see, e.g., Heb 2:5–9; 1 Cor 15:20–28; Rom 5:12–19): Jesus died and rose again for sinners, just as God promised (1 Cor 15:1–8). It is the good news that we can once more be truly human. No longer are we, like Adam, evicted from God’s presence and under his wrath. The garden—the kingdom—has been regained with a plus. It is the good news that we sons of the second Adam have been remade—not just considered to be remade (Rom 3:21–26)—but actually remade—not fully . . . yet (2 Cor 3:18)—but actually, truly. We’ve been re-born, made new, which is to say re-generated. We sons of the second Adam were remade, raised with him to new life. His resurrection guarantees our own (1 Pet 1:3; Eph 2:5–6; et al.). We are new creatures (2 Cor 5:17). Yes, this means something terribly important for the future (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14). And, yes, it means we’ve got something we must share now with our unbelieving neighbors before it’s too late. However, for far too long we’ve missed what the gospel means for us now. We’ve missed why the gospel is good news for Christians today.
What Does the Gospel Mean for Christians Now?
First, if we have been given new life, if we’ve been raised with Christ, then we are no longer sin’s slaves (Rom 7:1–6; cf. 6:14; 8:2, 12). That old, awful, oppressive tyrant has been undone, unseated. And his boss, the Devil, has been defeated (Heb 2:14–16). In other words, the gospel is good news for us because it gives us the freedom not to sin. In fact, it’s even better news than this. That same power that crushed death and the Devil—that power that raised Christ from the dead—is now at work in us through God’s energizing Spirit (Eph 1:19–21).
Second, if we have been given new life, if we’ve been raised with Christ, we can do what we were made to do. We are able to do those things that honor our creator or—to say the very same thing—that bring us absolute joy. It’s even better news than this, though. If we’ve been given new life, we will do what we were made to do. We’ll never be perfect—in this life—but we will do those good works God planned for us in advance (Eph 2:10). We won’t go on sinning in the same patterns and with the same frequency (1 John 3:9). We will love God, others and overcome the world (1 John 5:2–5).
All this is possible because God lives in us guaranteeing and continually empowering our new life.