Having given us the bad news in chapter three, Jerry Bridges is ready to give us hope for our sorry condition. He begins the chapter by telling the story of John Newton. Once upon a time, Newton was a slave trader and a captain of a slave ship bringing Africans to the Americas. But the Lord rescued Newton and made him a minister. Newton renounced his old way of life but never forgot the depth or severity of his sin. The grim realities of slavery weighed on him for the rest of his life. Bridges shares a quote from near the end of Newton’s life: “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.” Herein lies the remedy for the malignancy of sin: Christ is a great Savior. This is the message that Bridges counsels us to apply every single day.
“The remedy for our sin, whether scandalous or acceptable, is the gospel in its widest scope. The gospel is actually a message; here I am using the word gospel as a shorthand expression for the entire work of Christ in His historic life, death, and resurrection for us, and His present work in us through His Holy Spirit. When I say the gospel in its widest scope, I am referring to the fact that Christ, in His work for us and in us, saves us not only from the penalty of sin but also from its dominion or reigning power in our lives.” This is good news: the work of Christ deals with both the guilt and power of sin.
Bridges reminds us that we must remember what Christ has done and preach it to ourselves habitually. “Using” the gospel by reminding ourselves of the work of Christ helps us in three ways:
- The first use is “to plow the ground of our hearts so that we can see our sin.” The gospel is only for sinners, and so preaching the gospel to ourselves is about getting rid of all the ways that we evade our sin.
- The second use is to free ourselves to face our sin openly. “To the extent that I grasp, in the depth of my being, this great truth of God’s forgiveness of my sin through Christ, I will be freed up to honestly and humbly face the particular manifestations of sin in my life.”
- The third use is to motivate us and energize us to deal with our sin. Our motivation to fight sin comes from our gratitude that Christ has already saved us and the encouragement that we receive from our loving Father.
Because Christ has already died for us and rose from the dead, the guilt of our sins – even those “respectable” sins with which we struggle – has already been dealt with. We are already adopted into God’s family in Christ. Next time, we will consider the Spirit’s work in us to free us from the power of sin.
Can you give an “elevator pitch” of the gospel message? What elements should be included? How have we as contemporary Christians sometimes missed the heart of the good news? In other words, what have we focused on which falls short of the Biblical presentation? What are the implications of the necessary elements for your life? Consider writing down your elevator pitch on a notecard and reading it every day.