As I began praying about where God would draw my focus for 2020, I looked back at what he had started teaching me already in 2019. It began with a book that truly transformed the way I see personal evangelism—Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. It continued as I studied the book of Acts with my D-Group and during my husband’s and my mission trip in the fall to Washington, D.C. It was confirmed this past Sunday as our pastor announced the focus for our church in the coming year. Through these things and more, God began revealing a gaping weakness in my Christian life, a lack of passion for speaking the Gospel in my everyday life.
The Gospel truth is that God created the entire universe, including man, who was created in his image to be in perfect relationship with God. But the first man and woman chose to put their own desires above God and sinned, severing man’s relationship with God and bringing death into the world. For thousands of years, God sought his people—through prophets and judges and the law—but they rejected him. Finally, God the Son came into the world himself as a human baby. He lived the perfect life, died the death that we deserved, rose again conquering death, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, making it possible for us to again have perfect relationship with him. We do not have to work for this salvation, but it is freely given to us by grace through faith in Christ. We are sealed with God the Spirit, and look forward to the day where God destroys death and sin forever, and we live in peace with him forever.
While I could have selected any number of passages to point me towards the Gospel in 2020, I chose 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
This is the Gospel I have believed since I was five years old, so why did I choose Gospel as my word for 2020?
It motivates my efforts.
First and foremost, I want the Gospel to sink deeper into my own heart. The passage in 1 Timothy begins by Paul recounting his own testimony. Paul was literally murdering Christ followers when Jesus transformed his heart and called Paul to follow him. How many of us remind ourselves regularly, even daily, of the sin out of which we were saved? Or are we too far removed from our past that we are not repeatedly shocked that God would save us, the worst of sinners.
The Gospel changes our motivations. If I were a moderately good person that Christ just made better, that will motivate my Christian life differently than the truth that I was a dead sinner made alive and holy by the grace and mercy of God. If I am speaking the truth of the Gospel to myself every day, it strips me of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. It calls me to fall on his grace day by day to fulfill what he has called me to do. The Gospel was not a one-time occurrence in my life; it is my daily source of faith.
It refocuses my endeavors.
The Gospel not only motivates my efforts, but it shows me where those efforts should be driven. When I am daily reminded of Gospel truth, the endeavors of this world lose their luster. This doesn’t mean that I give up mundane things like doing the dishes, balancing my checkbook, or disciplining my child. Instead, it replaces the desire for a perfectly clean house, material possessions, and a well-mannered child with a desire to sacrificially serve my family, steward well what God has given me, and disciple my child in righteousness. I not only do different things, but I do things differently when I am focused on the Gospel.
The Gospel also reminds me to say “no” to those things that do not bring the Gospel to light in my life and in those around me. There are a lot of good ways that I can use the gifts God has given me, but the Gospel reminds me that the best way to use them is to give “honor and glory” to “the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17). All the resolution lists in the world will pass away, but the work of our God will last forever.
It challenges my evangelism.
I have for far too long let fear of being inadequate, awkward, or rejected keep me from sharing the hope of the Gospel that I have with the lost around me. More than that, with the wrong motivation and focus, I have lacked relationships with unbelievers in the first place. I could not share the Gospel with those who don’t know Christ because I wasn’t intentionally seeking relationships with them. This year, that needs to change.
In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul states that the reason he received Christ’s mercy was to be an example for others who would come to believe in Christ. Our salvation was never meant to stop with us. While I never want to see people as “projects,” I do want to build purposeful relationships—to listen to, to eat with, to serve alongside—with those who don’t know Christ, with the ultimate hope that I will be able to share the Gospel, the mercy that I myself have received from Christ. This is absolutely outside my comfort zone, but I have come to realize that is something every believer is called to do, not just those who are “good” at it.
This year, I am praying the prayer of the early church in Acts 4:29, that God would allow me “to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” And just as God answered them in the very next verse, I look forward to seeing how the Holy Spirit gives me boldness this year in the Gospel.