Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
The human heart struggles to believe the full breadth of the Gospel, the Good News of what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. We tend to relate to the Gospel the way that we do with so many other things in life, picking and choosing what we think is best and ignoring the rest.
The Gospel is like a multi-faceted diamond which God has given to us as a totally free gift because He loves us unconditionally. He knows that we need every facet of the Gospel to reflect the light of His cleansing, life-giving love into every dark corner of our sin-sick soul. When we have only a partial grasp on the Gospel, there are parts of our inner being that remain starved for God’s grace, and we languish, our life a mere shadow of what God wants for us.
Two of this week’s readings in our Bible reading plan, Romans 8 and Psalm 23, combine to illustrate the wondrous breadth of the Gospel and what it means for us.
First, there is the relief that the Gospel gives to us. Romans 8 starts off by telling us, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Though we, Satan, and others may condemn us, God never will because Jesus willingly went to the cross to pay the full cost of our forgiveness for all our sins for all time.
Second, the Gospel assures us of God’s presence with us. In Psalm 23:4, we read that regardless of the depth or darkness of whatever valley we may be in, we do not need to be afraid for our Lord and loving Shepherd is always with us. Romans 8:38-39 reassure us that “…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).
Third, the Gospel promises God’s righteousness in our lives. Not only does the presence of the Lord in our lives calm us, He also redirects us onto paths of godly living, a.k.a. “paths of righteousness” (Psa. 23:3). As we read in Romans 8, letting the Spirit, who lives within us, control our minds leads to life and peace (Rom. 8:6, 11). So our life becomes something much more than it would ever otherwise be because of the presence of God with us.
Fourth, the Gospel bestows a new identity upon us as children of God. Jesus has taken away our former status as wretched sinners and given us His status as a completely forgiven, unconditionally accepted and much loved child of God. Now we call our heavenly Father “Abba, Daddy!” and we relate to Him as a little child relates to their loving father (see Rom. 8:15-16).
Fifth (and this might be the toughest aspect of the Gospel for us to grasp) the Gospel transforms our suffering. When life in this world without God is all that someone has, there can be no good then can come from suffering and the best thing to do is to avoid suffering at all costs. This is why assisted suicide has become a valued option in our society. But when our life rests on the span of all eternity and is rooted in the God who is renewing and restoring us and all things, then our suffering can be used by God to draw us closer to Him and help us to grow in becoming more like Jesus. When Paul writes, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Rom. 8:28), the “everything” that he refers to includes suffering. Earlier in the same letter, Paul writes, “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). God does not want us to suffer, nor does He cause it, but He can bring something good out of our suffering.
Sixth, the Gospel looks ahead to the future glory of that “…day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Rom. 8:23). “…what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later (Rom. 8:18). That’s when our Lord and Shepherd will “…prepare a feast for… [us] in the presence of… [our] enemies” (Ps. 23:5), a picture of celebration, glory and vindication.
Seventh, all the previous aspects of the Gospel amplifies the significance of our life here and now. We always were infinitely precious to God because He created us in His image. But now, with eternity hanging in the balance for all creation, the brief moments of our life in this world can be leveraged by God to move others closer to the Gospel diamond.
Though not exhaustive, this list of seven facets of the Gospel diamond can be used to remind us “…how wide, how long, how high, and how deep …[God’s] love is” (Eph. 3:18). With a fuller understanding of the Gospel and what it means for our lives, our faith can grow and we can thrive in Christ.
Dear God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for all the many facets of the Gospel. Please help me to grow in knowing and trusting all the Gospel for all aspects of my life. Amen.