A couple months ago I quoted this gem from Wesley Hill:
The gospel resists the fallen inclinations of Christian believers. When we engage with God in Christ and take seriously the commands for purity that flow from the gospel, we always find our sinful dreams and desires challenged and confronted.
In other words it is impossible to be comfortable in the Christian life. As long as there is still sin in my life, God is still holy, and as long as God he is committed to me, then it will be impossible for me to be comfortable.
God, through His gospel, is always confronting my fallenness. And my fallenness is constantly running from the gospel and attempting to hide in darkness or build a life of mock holiness. The sin in me cannot stand the Lord’s blazing holiness. And the Spirit within me cannot stand my wretched wickedness. Who do you think is going to win that one?
So, then the gospel is constantly confronting us.
And when that happens I can do one of three things. I can change the gospel, I can claim the gospel, or I can allow the gospel to change me and claim me. Ultimately, if I am a believer, the gospel will win. I know that I will still die with sin in my life; but Christ is greater. But in the here and now will I live a life of redemption or rebellion? Will I experience now what Christ has already purchased?
Change the Gospel
This option is very attractive. My plain ol’ ESV outreach Bible has some 900 pages worth of material that I can twist, distort, and shape to fit whatever heresy my wicked heart wants to promote. Every heretic has his verse and every rebel can find Scripture to justify wickedness. (That’s scary).
Not only can I find refuge in my distorted view of Scripture but I can also find a community that will make me feel good about myself. I’m certain there are plenty people that are living in the same delusion—and we can gather together as a merry band of Scripture-twisting gospel dodgers. If you need it you can find any false prophet telling you “peace, peace”; even when there is no peace.
So if I want, I can change the gospel and the nagging of the gospel will be quiet for a season.
Claim the Gospel
When the gospel confronts me one option is to claim a cheap grace. This is also very attractive because it’s a half truth. At this point I’m claiming the promises of the gospel but ignoring the conditions and the demands of the gospel.
Hiding behind cheap grace has its perks. You can feel forgiven and stay comfortable with a rebellious heart at the same time. I’m certain that the accuser would be more than happy to help us hide our sin behind a false gospel for a good 80 years before he exposes it, for the sake of accusation, when we stand before Jesus. (And that’s scary).
So if I want, I can claim the gospel in part and hide behind a cheap grace. As long as I feel forgiven it doesn’t matter if I really am, does it?
Be Changed, Be Claimed
The other option, and the only fitting option, is to actually believe the gospel. When the gospel confronts me I can agree with God that my sin is odious, live in the power of the resurrection, and rest in the merits of Christ.
To be claimed is what Paul is referencing in Galatians 2:20.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)
I belong to Jesus. My old idolatrous heart has no claim to my life. My desires now must be his desires. So when the gospel confronts my idolatrous heart I—through the power of the resurrection—turn from idols and cling to Christ. This also means that I am hidden in Jesus; I have a new identity. I am adopted, forgiven, justified, cleansed, made holy, etc. etc. And all of this because of the identity of Christ.
Being claimed by the gospel inevitably leads to being changed and transformed by the gospel.
And this is why the gospel is constantly confronting me. Even though I occasionally attempt to change the gospel to fit my idolatry the Spirit doggedly pursues me, chastises me, bruises me; whatever it takes. He is radically committed to me and WILL bring about my holiness. The gospel wins.
And occasionally I try to claim the gospel and hide in cheap grace. Jesus NEVER lets me get away with that. He breaks through the facade. He conquers my spiritual self-righteousness, lays me bare, and calls me to hide in His powerful and costly grace.
For a great article on gospel repentance check out this article by Tim Keller.