As you seek to live out the gospel, you think of it as a series of concentric circles with yourself at the center. I am not encouraging a self-centered gospel, but rather a gospel that first transforms the self.
As many have said, a gospel message that doesn’t work at home should not be exported elsewhere.
This is why Jesus told us to take the plank out of our own eye before we help someone else take the speck out of theirs (Matt 7:1-5). Paul said much the same thing when he instructed elders to take care of themselves and their families at home before they thought of leading others (1 Tim 3:2-5).
Living the gospel always begins in your own heart.
What does the gospel do in your heart?
It teaches you to love yourself. It teaches you that you are lovely, that God made you to be uniquely you.
This is what Jesus meant when He said to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). He was saying that before you can love your neighbors as the gospel calls you to do, you must first recognize the gospel truths that you yourself are loved, forgiven, and accepted. Before you seek to live out the gospel among others, make sure the gospel has brought reconciliation and redemption into your own heart and mind.
Once the gospel has touched your own self, it is then that it can begin to emanate out from you in concentric circles toward your family, your friendships, your work, and to the rest of the world.
The first person the gospel touches is yourself.
Every person walks wounded through life. We have scars from childhood, shame from our past, fears about the future, and uncertainty about our worth. We believe lies about how little we are loved. The truth of the gospel is that all is forgiven, there is nothing to fear, we are of inestimable value, and God loves us more than we can ever possibly imagine.
I get emails every week from people all over the world who feel that there is no way God can love them, forgive them, or accept them into His family. In a fit of anger they cursed God. At a rough time in their marriage they committed adultery or got divorced. Even if there is no serious sin in someone’s life, bad things happen to all people, and when these things happen, the tendency of the average human being is to think that God is punishing them for something.
But God does not punish.
The first truth of the gospel is that God loves every person in the world so much, that He would do absolutely anything for each one of us (John 3:16).
The lie of Satan is that God does not love and cannot forgive; the truth of the gospel is that God always loves and only forgives.
Until we begin to understand this, we will never see the beautiful truths of the gospel for what they are, and we will never be able to live within those truths as God desires.
Once we begin to recognize how much we are loved, it is then that God begins to do His greatest work in us. He then begins to show us that each one of us is completely unique, and that these things that make us who we are were given to us by God, not so that we could cover them up and become like everyone else, but so that we could magnify the glory of God by living as only we can live. The glory of God is best reflected in the glory of a life that embraces and celebrates what makes it unique.
Knowing you are loved brings you the freedom to be you
As you begin to understand the gospel, and how much you are loved and forgiven, you will then begin to find the freedom to live in this world as only you can live. You will find the freedom to stop the endless cycle of trying to be someone else, and will discover that God wants you to be you. You will discover that you do not need to be like anyone else, but simply need to be the best you that you can be. God made you to be uniquely you, and He wants you to live fully in the reality of who you are.
As you discover your strengths, abilities, talents, and desires, and as you live fully within those areas, you will be reflecting the glory of God and the gospel to the rest of the world. You most fully reflect the glory of God when you reflect the glory of yourself as God made you to be.
I recently watched the movie, Kung Fu Panda 3 with my daughters. In the movie, the main character, Po, is able to defeat the villain, Kai, by harnessing the secret powers of a village of pandas. What sort of powers did they have? Well, a few were really good at napping. Others loved to roll down hills. Some of the children liked to play hacky sack. One female panda was quite good at ribbon dancing. While these may not seem like powerful or useful skills which can be used to defeat an enemy, Po was able to teach, train, and encourage this village of pandas to be the best they could be at whatever they were good at, and when they all worked together, their skills complimented each other to defeat Kai.
This is how it works in our own lives as well. God made me to be me and you to be you. There are things you are really good at which I can never do, and vice versa. If I try to be you, or you try to be me, neither of us will ever live up to our God-given potential, and we will never be able to help each other in our battle against sin and Satan.
The only way the gospel can advance in this world is if each of us recognizes that we are perfect as God made us to be, and we rejoice and celebrate in the things that make us unique, and then we all work together to advance the cause of the gospel. When we do this, the gates of hell will not prevail against us.
So who has God made you to be?
The gospel calls you to live fully in that reality. If you do not know who God made you to be, the best way to discover this is to return to the knowledge that you are fully loved. And if God loves you, you can love you too.
It is within the safety and security of this knowledge that God begins to blossom and flourish the dreams He has for you and your life.
So begin with the knowledge that you are loved, and then see where God takes you from there.
Want to learn more about the gospel? Take my new course, "The Gospel According to Scripture." You can take the first several lessons for free! If you want to take the entire course for free, join the "Faith," "Hope," or "Love" Discipleship groups here on RedeemingGod.com. I can't wait to see you inside the course!