The Gospel at 40,000 feet
I believe that from a bird’s eye-view; salvation from 40,000 feet, all of us are sinners. We are born with original sin and then sin early and quickly and often as we progress through life. As such, in our total depravity, God would be well within his right to send everyone to hell, and that would be good and just. But because He is loving and gracious and so merciful, He unconditionally elects some people to salvation. These people are predestined before the world even began. Why does He choose who He chooses? I don’t know. God only knows this is so, and why in this particular redemption He forms some to be vessels of destruction. But as for why He elects some, well, He does this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy.
As it were, we are all sinners on earth; dead in our sins and hopeless and heartless. We can’t and won’t come to God on our own. We will never exercise our will or choose him on our own volition. We will never freely choose Christ because we are children of wrath and are at war with Him and are his enemies. And yet God calls some people. He breaks into their world and gives them faith and reveals himself to them. These people are irresistibly drawn to God through an irresistible grace, and because they now have faith, they can make that choice and repent of their sins and they put their faith and trust in Christ. Do you ever wonder why there can be room full of 100 people, all of them needing Christ, and then after a pastor presents a gospel message, only one man responds? A single man out of a multitude who was a wretched sinner who had heard it all a hundred times before, all of a sudden he just gets it, his soul cries out for it, he feels like he can’t live without it, and he believes it. What happened there? It was God calling him and giving him faith. This person is justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Once saved he begin a life of sanctification with God drawing him to himself, as the saints persevere unto eternal life. These people will not fall away but will remain in Christ until they breathe their last, and then will be glorified in heaven on that day.
The Gospel at ground level
That’s the theology of it at 40,000 feet, but to bring this down to a smaller perspective, what it looks like on the ground level, is we live our lives separated from God and doing our own thing. One day we hear of the gospel message and all of a sudden it just clicks for us. We then say “I believe that” and we put our trust and faith in that. A pastor may give the gospel, and whereas our whole life we didn’t care- for some reason this time we get it and we respond to it in repentance. After that, then begins the life of sanctification. It can be slow, and agonizing, and have deep, deep, ups and downs. But what happens is that our life changes. The sins we once loved we start to hate. What was once acceptable and enjoyable now becomes loathsome and shameful.
Because we have the Holy Spirit in us, life is viewed through a different lens. We get baptized and we are buried and raise with Him. And so not only does our life start looking different, but we can also look outward to our baptism as a witness to our faith. And so our life is lived, year after year, growing more intimate with the Father, Son, and Holy spirit. Year after year we see the trajectory of our faith and works and fruits, while Christ ruthlessly goes after our heart and calls to attention hidden sins and desires and asks us to mortify them. By the power of the Holy Spirit we slowly put to death our sinful nature over the course of a lifetime, where near the end the sins that we brushed aside in our youth now ache and pain us. The Bible describes the characteristics of saving faith, and we look to those as witnesses. It’s not moralism, but rather a changed life through faith in Christ. We read his word and pray and go to church and love the brethren and find our fulfillment and our peace with God, knowing our sins are forgiven and always turning to God when we do sin. We take communion, understanding that we are eating the very body and drinking the blood of Christ, and our affections for Christ are stirred and magnified as we rejoice in our intimacy with God and the grace we receive.
We share our faith with others and witness to them and we direct them to Christ whenever we can, because people are saved through the preached word and God uses our witness and our sharing the gospel as a means of saving people. All the while we run the good race, fighting the good fight, and keeping the good faith. We are strengthened by the knowledge that we have eternal life, and we rejoice in the security of Christ’s promise that no one can snatch us out of His hand and that security gives us joy and an even deeper desire to know God and even more reason to love Him. This is life for as many years as God gives us, until we grow old, and quiet, and we pass away. From there, we find ourselves in the presence of God, not having to pay for our sins in any way but rather knowing that Christ paid it all on the cross and deemed us righteous and holy, because through the shed blood of the lamb He is our righteousness, and we don’t stand before God as tainted and sinful, but white as snow; as white as the wool on the Lamb who was slain. God tells us “well done, good and faithful servant” and we