The gospel is the good news of salvation in Jesus. We’re saved from our sins by the death of Jesus in our place. It’s wonderful news! Central to the gospel is the idea of GRACE – that we’re saved by God’s free gift to us in Jesus, not on our own merit or the goodness of our works.
However, if we’re honest, there are times after someone becomes a Christian when it feels like there’s a bit of a disconnect between that gospel of grace and the New Testament’s strong call to live a different life. How does that fit with God’s ‘free gift’? Why do I find it so hard to change and what happens if I don’t change enough? Often we end up believing in two opposite things at once: God’s grace to us and the need to be good enough. We can settle back into a belief that God’s grace saved us but now we need to be good enough to stay saved. We can end up slogging away fearfully or feeling comfortably proud of ourselves.
The problem comes from seeing salvation as just being saved from being punished for sin. Actually Jesus died for more than that – he died to save us out of the life of sin itself. The Bible reveals sin as something ugly and destructive and dishonouring to God. It’s poison, its own punishment. Grace saves us from God’s judgement, but also form the poison of a sinful life. In Galatians 2:20 we read that when we trust in Jesus our old sinful natures are actually counted as having been put to death on the cross of Jesus. That’s how we’re forgiven. But we’re then given new life, the life of God’s Spirit who transforms us. Although we can focus on these seven sins specifically, we want to focus not just on our sin but on how the gospel of Jesus moves us beyond them to a new life with God.
A key image we can use is that of a growing, fruit bearing plant. More specifically, that our old sinful natures are like a dead, diseased plant which has been uprooted and replaced with the healthy plant of God’s Spirit who is the life in us.