Last summer I traveled to Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast to speak at a Gospel Coalition event. I was there with Mike Bullmore and Kevin DeYoung for the “Magnificent Holiness” conference. Mike spoke three times on the gospel and sanctification and used Romans 6 as his text. Of all he said, there is one line, one sentence, that I immediately wrote down and have been pondering ever since. It is this: “Trusting God for what he has done positions our hearts to trust God for what he has promised to do.”
I have written often of those authors and pastors who encourage Christians to preach the gospel to themselves every day. I see some of the value of doing this, though my practice of it is too sporadic. What such teachers want us to see is that the gospel is not merely the gateway to the Christian life, but the fuel of the Christian life. What they want us to understand is that the gospel is not simply defensive, the thing we turn to when we have sinned and are eager for some assurance of pardon. Rather, the gospel puts us on the offensive against sin and toward holiness. We ought to continually bring the gospel into our hearts and minds as a means of spurring ourselves to greater love for God which in turn generates a greater desire for obedience to him.
I do not remember all of the context surrounding Mike’s statement and I am sure it can be accepted and applied in many different ways. But as I ponder it and think about its application to my own life, I take it as a yet another challenge to be continually meditating on the gospel, to make the gospel my joy and delight. As I turn to the Bible to read the predictions and prophecies of the coming Messiah, as I consider the narratives of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection, as I ponder the epistles where all of these things are explained and illuminated, as I consider the day of Christ’s return, my love for God and my trust in him must necessarily increase and thrive. As my love swells, so will my desire to do those things that honor him and bring him glory.
When I am fully trusting God for what he has done, trusting that Christ really did take my sin upon himself, that he really did pay the penalty for it, that I really have been forgiven, that I really am fully and finally reconciled to God—when I trust God in all of this, my heart is now positioned to trust God for what he has promised he will do today and in the future. And what has he promised to do? He has promised to make me holy. He has promised to sanctify me, to help me put sin to death and to replace it with joyful obedience. He has promised that the Holy Spirit is operating within my life to bring me into closer conformity with Jesus Christ. He has promised that the very same power that has saved me is now sanctifying me. Now I have hope and confidence that this really is happening and that this really can happen. I really can put sin to death, I really can grow in holiness, I really can grow in Christ-like character and look more and more like the One who saved me.
I simply cannot trust that all of this is happening and that all of this will continue to happen if I have no ability to trust in what has already been accomplished. However, when I trust God for what he has done, now my heart is properly positioned to trust God for all that he has promised to do. And, therefore, the gospel must be my joy and meditation every day.