It goes without saying that the Church was commissioned to preach the Gospel to the World. Jesus commanded his Church to tell his good news to all nations, baptizing and teaching all he commanded (Matthew 28:19–20). But often we take the body of believers for granted. How about us? How badly does the rank-and-file Christian need the Gospel?
I have been a Christian for about 27 years now. During that time I have gained two degrees in Bible and theology. I have published a Hebrew reference work, and I teach Hebrew. I have served in various lay capacities within the Church including teaching a lot of Bible studies and a whole lot of discipleship. I have also planted and pastored a Church.
All that said, I still struggle with a constant tendency to grow cool in my love for Christ? Why? Because of my human weakness and sin nature.
The Word is not the duty of the Christian; it is the diet of the Christian. Why am I telling you this? Because if a person with years of service in the Church and lots of bible “knowledge” still waxes and wanes in faith and passion, so will you. Knowledge “puffs up” as Paul said. It is not the antidote to what ails us. Rather a constant steady stream of the preached word and formation within community is not only what converts the non-Christian, it is also what sustains the Christian. Our spiritual need is just as great as anyone else, Christian or not.
If you want to be spiritually healthy, you must feast on the Word of God.
We need to think of preaching the as food. The Word is not the duty of the Christian; It is the diet of the Christian. Here are five reasons why we we need a steady diet of the Gospel word!
- We forget the Gospel– The Gospel is the “good news” of God’s saving love for fallen people. But we generally have a hard time trusting and really being convinced that other people love us. This is even harder for the struggling sinner who cannot see, touch, or feel God. But we do have his Spirit that serves as a gentle goad for spurring our mind and heart – obeying God is impossible apart from our affections, and our affection for God are impossible apart from assurance of his love. John says we love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). How do we throw ourselves into the arms of someone we do not trust? Would you? When life assails us, and it does, it is easy to view these lashes as from God. But the good news transcends our suffering.
Nothing leads us away intimacy with Christ faster than a tepid sense of self-sufficiency.
- We forget our sinfulness– As we sit in Church Sunday after Sunday, cleaned up and surrounded by others who look pretty darn cleaned-up too, it is real easy to forget how bad we are. Our hearts are blackened by sin. Jesus says it is not what goes into man, but what proceeds out of man (murders, adulteries, etc.) that defile man (Matt. 15:11–18). But we do not easily see these. Our default is to think of ourselves as “good folks.” When dark jealous or hateful thoughts pass through our mind, they are easy to pass off because of what someone else did to us. Forgetting our sinfulness is the quickest way to slip away from the savior. Nothing leads us away intimacy with Christ faster than a tepid sense of self-sufficiency.
- We forget the magnitude of our sinfulness– This an expansion upon the previous, but still salient point to make. We are often tempted with leveling the playing field. There is a certain arrogance that since most people are as bad as me, then what I do is not all that bad. Not so. The problem is in the rule or standard we judge ourselves by. Other men are not it! The only standard God judges us by is his law in the Bible. There is always someone who looks worse. Other people’s ugly faults is always an opportunity to lie to ourselves. God’s character is the only standard by which we will be judged. When we do that, the darkness and the shame can momentarily overwhelm. That is a good thing, as long as the solution is preached too. We need to be surrounded by the reality of our true darkness causing us to reach for the helping hand of Christ. Without it, nothing will lift us out of that darkness. The beauty of the Gospel and the magnitude of our sin go hand in hand. If we look at the reality of our sin without the Gospel, we will despair. If we look at the Gospel without our sin, we will scoff at it. The Gospel always looks contemptible for the person who does not know his or her sin.
- We forget we REALLY are no better than our neighbor– We have scandalous eyes. We have less problem judging others before we actually become a Christian. Once we are given a code of conduct, we are easily scandalized—unfortunately not by our own sin, but by the foibles of others. The Gospel calls us to be scandalized by our own sins, not those of our neighbor. We have the tenacious tendency to downplay our own faults while magnifying our neighbor’s. The Gospel demands we divert our eyes from the shame of our neighbor, to cover him or her with grace as Noah’s sons did to his own shame. We must do this for our sanctification. With the judgment we judge, it will be given back to us.
The Gospel always looks contemptible for the person who does not know his or her sin.
- We forget to continuously stimulate our affections for Christ– Our affections for Christ leak—a fire un-stoked goes out. We often think because we know something (like the Gospel) we are “all set.” Nope. Knowing conceptually how to ride a bike and riding one are two entirely different things. There is the moral and emotional sides of our person where we show profound weakness. We may conceptually understand what a good marriage should be, but that does not keep us from cutting corners. So in our relationship with God! Not unlike the religious folks of Jesus’ day, we can regurgitate the right answers and be spiritually bankrupt at the same time.
Our affections for Christ leak—a fire un-stoked goes out.
The Gospel is not the duty of the Christian but the diet of the Christian.
If you want a healthy life, you feast on wholesome food; if you want a healthy spiritual life, you must feast on the Word of God.