The mystery of the Gospel.
It’s strange because for the majority of my life, growing up in a Christian-saturated environment, the Gospel is a pretty “elementary” concept.
(1) Paraphrased from the “Three Circles” version, which can be accessed in video-form below.
-God made the world full of love, joy, and peace.
-But people sinned, and the sin drove them into brokenness.
-People try to get out of the brokenness with good and bad things in this world (ie. drugs, friends, religiousity, etc.), but all of these “things” only drive us back into the brokenness. We aren’t actually saved from the brokenness itself.
-But God knew this would happen, and so he sent Jesus down to the Earth to make a way, a doorway, out of the brokenness. Jesus died on the cross and rose again, cancelling the effects of sin, so that freedom from our brokenness could be possible.
-So then if we turn from our sin (repent) and choose to make Jesus “Lord of our life” (not ourselves), we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).
-Now, we, as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), leaving our past behind us, are able to experience the love of God, as God originally intended. We are now made whole.
(2) Another version from my own understanding of this profound mystery, –albeit maybe more “wordy” than some of those versions.
-People and God lived in harmony at the onset of creation. They had a beautiful relationship of peace, honesty, vulnerability, and love with each other, but most importantly: with their God.
-But people are bad. And in the event of temptation, they fell. People’s sin drove them away from harmony with God. A broken relationship with their God, and with each other.
-Many years later, people try to escape the brokenness they either consciously or unconsciously experience with “anything else under the sun” (Ecc. 1:14-15). But there is nothing in a sin-stained world that can save them from their sin. And so nothing saves us.
-That is, apart from Jesus. Jesus–who is fully God incarnate into the matter of man, walks a perfect life on earth, frought with temptation and trial, to eventually die on a cross, in the most gruesome, inhumane way possible.
-He did this out of love, because he wanted to repair that gap of sin that made us so irreconcilable to our Creator. Paul, in other words, called us “dead in our sin” (Eph. 2:1). Basically, things were completely hopeless for us, apart from a Saviour, we so desperately needed.
-So when Jesus died, he murdered sin. When he arose, he escaped the sin, once and for all–and with the potential for every human on earth to be saved from it, if they would choose to (1) believe this, (2) put their full trust-faith in Christ, and be (3) exclusively committed to following Jesus from here on out–giving forgiveness from Christ by turning from the wrong to right path, when we fail to follow as we should. It’s a learning experience. Aka: we are justified again–sinless like Christ–and to restore a bad relationship with our Creator and have our chronic illness of sin “voila!”–completely restored.
-So now, post-salvation, we enter into the journey of “sanctification.” A fancy word that is the Spirit’s full work within us (not our own) of transforming us more and more, day by day into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). YES, we’ll mess up, as the humans we are (albeit new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18)), but we are measured more so in whether we are committed to returning back to God when we do mess up (highly recommend “Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme,” by Stephen Westerholm. He provides a better explanation to justification than I do here, as, in a nutshell, to justification as: “walking by faith” (Rom. 1:17, Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 11:6). Ultimately: when we fall down–by the grace of God–are we willing to step back up to follow in Christ’s steps and guidance?
That second-last sentence is the “issue” I’ve been wrestling with. That concept itself is the heart of the mystery of the Gospel for myself. And I am still striving to wrap my curious brain-strands around it.
Issue: how can we, as new-creation-Christians, simultaneously have a (1) real identity of new creations (2 Cor. 5:17; John 1:12), completely forgiven, free, and redeemed from the effects of sin–as now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:15-18); AND (2) have a past of committing those heinous sins of our past, and likely of our future also (Eph. 2:1; Romans 7:14-25)?
How can these two identities or realities “co-exist” (for lack of a better term)?
Apart from the pat-answer understanding I already have of “that’s just what the Bible says, so believe it:” I am lost.
The wrestle I have is this: I can understand just fine the “idea” of two identities in my brain on surface-value–but as a Jesus-obsessed individual, I want to thoroughly understand how I now shall live this reality out.
If I have a new identity in Christ, but do not live according to that identity–even if for a moment–is it really fair for me to identity with Christ? I ask this, because it is by the fruit of someone’s life that they are known; your identity comes from what you do (Luke 6:43-45). But if I do the evil things (though I hate that reality alongside Paul), then it seems logical that I should have an identity based on the bad that I do.
I will wrestle with this further over this next season.
The Why and Motivation
The “motivation” why I desire to reconcile this wrestling, is because I struggle with shame.
I have shame based on my past. Of past relationships. Of evil I have committed. And lately I have felt bogged down from that. Trapped. And I struggle to see how God still loves me despite all the wrong I have done. I struggle to see how it is in fact I am a new creation. Because if I was God, I would not forgive me. But I know the LORD is more kind and compassionate than the fullest glimpse of what I am or ever will be.
And so on one hand, I understand that I will never understand the LORD’s ways nor the full mystery of the Gospel (at least in this life), I still desire to know how my reality should therefore shape how I live. I still desire to know how I should “identify” myself, as a (1) sinful yet (2) new creation.
Again, this wrestling cannot be confined to a meager blog post, but will be the focus of this and further blog posts.
Thanks y’all for reading; and remember to stay curious out there folks 😉
Please don’t hesistate to respond or reach out if you have any further curiousities you’d like to bring to my attention. I’d love to hear from you!