Elephants may never forget, but God’s people are constantly forgetting the gospel. We are forgetful people who need regular gospel reminders. It’s easy and natural for us to fall into believing that we are accepted by God based on our faithful service to him. It doesn’t take much for us to start thinking that God’s love for us fluctuates with our obedience to him. Five days of being surrounded by workaholics clamouring to get to the top and by the weekend our people are starting to believe that their identity comes from what they accomplish and how much money they make. Even pastors (especially pastors?) fight jealousy when other churches and ministries flourish, forgetting that our position before God comes because of the blood of Christ and not our ministry success. It doesn’t take much for us to start believing in our hearts a kind of justification by Sunday attendance. God’s children quickly forget how we got into His family.
Jude felt compelled to write his epistle “appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (v.3). They needed to get back to the gospel, back to fighting for orthodoxy. “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v.4). Their forgetfulness of the gospel came slowly, creeping in unnoticed, perverting the grace of God. What was celebrated and clung to as truth became assumed, and then forgotten, and then even rejected.
Likewise, when Paul wrote I Corinthians, he says “I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…” (I Cor 15.1-2). The gospel needs to continually be re-proclaimed since the gospel is not just something we received in the past, but needs to be the truth in which we now stand and by which we are being saved. In this way, the gospel is past, present, and future. We received it. We stand in it. We are being saved by it. So too our proclamation of the gospel must continue. We don’t move beyond it.
If we assume the gospel and move it to the periphery, we may just help our people along in their forgetting of the gospel. Our pastoral staff was talking about this yesterday, reviewing our worship gathering and asking if the gospel was truly proclaimed throughout. We claim to be a gospel-centred church. But do our gatherings reflect that? Or is it just lingo?
Did our worship gathering—I’m talking the whole thing: singing, announcements, welcome, prayers, preaching—make plain and obvious the message of the gospel? Did those who joined us on Sunday for the first and perhaps only time, was it clear to them that we are not a club for the morally upright, but are a family of broken sinners being restored by the grace of God through Christ. Was it plain to them that our joy and our singing and celebrating is because of the victory of Jesus Christ on our behalf over satan, sin and death? Was it clear that when we pray, we aren’t negotiating with a judge, but are seeking the mercies of our gracious father? Was Jesus lifted up as our Hero? Did we walk away more astonished at God’s mercy and grace towards sinners like us?
My brothers, do not assume the gospel. Don’t just claim gospel centrality, but lather the gospel all over everything you do. When God’s people gather, don’t starve them of what they need, but serve up such a feast as to satisfy each one the glory of the mercies of God.