Jared and I are at the Columbus, OH airport (or at least we were when I started typing this). He taught his second Gospel Wakefulness conference this weekend at New Life Church in Gahanna, OH and then delivered all 3 of their weekend messages (1 Saturday evening and 2 this morning) as a nice wrap-up to the weekend. SO--I've heard him speak/teach/preach A LOT over the last few days. Including the same sermon 3 different times, although it's always interesting to me that even when he delivers the same message, it tends to take on a life of its own as he works through it repeatedly. Even with the repetition, I loved every minute of it. I'm so grateful for the many ways God teaches me through him, and I'm beyond blessed to have experienced this "Gospel Wakefulness" that he talks so much about. And as I typically do, I found myself wondering as I listened to him speak how I might express the heartbeat of the lessons he was bringing this weekend. In my own words, how would I sum up the massively important and soul-piercing condition of gospel wakefulness? What does it look like? How do you know if you've experienced it?
Well, I would say that this could certainly be an experience that looks a little (or even a lot) different for each person, but what I have come up with are 3 essential truths and 3 ways I think each of these truths need to be received and perceived. In my estimation, gospel wakefulness happens when you know, believe, and are astonished by the following truths. (And I'll continue with a bit more about this, but 2 out of 3 of those verbs will not work. All 3 must be present.)
The Critical and Unchanging Truths:
Truth #1-- Jesus loves you and approves of you. It's just that simple and yet oh so complicated, right? Because we tend to only get 1 or 2 of the three verbs on this one, but rarely all 3. Here's how that might look:
Suppose one knows and believes that Jesus loves them and approves of them, but their overall reaction to that is--Of course he does! Why wouldn't he? I'm a pretty good Christian. I go to church all the time. I give of my time and resources. I help other people. I read my Bible, etc., etc., etc. This response of course lacks astonishment. And without the astonishment, there is no true awakening to the gospel.
Then there are those who might know that Jesus loves them by nature of the fact that they are Christians and they know what Jesus says about his love for his children. They might even feel some astonishment at how Christ can love people who are so unlovely apart from Him, but they don't truly BELIEVE. The facts are there. They've read the scriptures. They know the sacrifice that Christ made, which of course had to be compelled by love. BUT--they know *themselves* too well to fully believe that Christ really does approve of them. I mean, there's just no way after all they've done. . . etc.
In either of these instances (and several other scenarios similar to them) the response is lacking. We must know. We must believe. We must be astonished. And we must do all 3 of these things at the same time.
Truth #2-- You didn't do anything to deserve the love and approval of Christ, nor can you do anything to forfeit it.
Again, we must know, believe and be astonished by this truth to fully experience gospel wakefulness. How do we know if we've gotten there? I would argue that your response to reading that sentence is the very best way to determine that. What happens on your insidest insides when you read that you have zero control in this situation?
Do the chains fall off, or do you shake your head as though I don't know what I'm talking about? (always possible, btw--but I'm pretty sure I'm right about this one.) Do you fall to your knees and raise your hands in grateful freedom, or do you become upset and uncomfortable that it's out of your hands? My contention is that gospel wakefulness brings freedom. The sweet, beautiful freedom that comes when you know this truth, believe it with all your heart, and embrace it with astonishment over just how scandalous it is that Christ chooses to love us in such a remarkable and staggering way.
Truth #3-- The work that purchased your salvation has already been done. And done perfectly, I might add. It is finished. Like completely complete. It doesn't need your help. At all. In fact, your "help" serves to do little more than prove that you doubt the effectiveness of Christ's finished work.
I have found that many people are afraid to accept the gift that Christ is offering them due to their feelings of unworthiness. Which is understandable. I mean, we are unworthy. Every single one of us. But the thing is--by not accepting his gift, we aren't saving him any time or trouble or resources. This isn't like not accepting a gift from a friend or family member so that they can return it and get their money back or something along those lines. The gift that Christ offers has already been purchased BY HIS BLOOD. There aren't any refunds or credits. The deed has been done, and it cannot be undone. And furthermore, he doesn't WANT it to be undone. He has no regrets and would in fact do it again if he had to. But he doesn't have to because he did it perfectly the first time. This calls for nothing short of sheer amazement. The kind of amazement that leads to gospel wakefulness. Knowing that it's true, believing that it's true for us, and being utterly astonished at what our Savior has done on our behalf because of his beyond-human-comprehension, perfect love for us.
And that's about as simple as my limited mind and vocabulary can make it. ;-) It's not a simple thing. Honestly, it's pretty much completely illogical and nonsensical that the King of all the universe would do what he did for us. Hence the astonishment. And when the astonishment leads to a raw and fresh awakening to the gospel, oh how we taste and see what we will never again want to be without. Jesus loves and approves of you. There is nothing you can do to change that, and he has already paid in full for your salvation and needs NOTHING from you except an open heart and empty hands. Savor these truths. They are mind-boggling, life-changing and soul-piercing.