I’m convinced that many Christians live with a big gap in their understanding of what God has done for them. Most people understand that Jesus died so their sins can be forgiven, and most people understand that He died so they can have a future with Him in eternity, but I’ve found that few understand what Jesus has provided for them today.
This "Gospel Gap" subverts our identity as Christians and our understanding of the present work of God. It undermines every relationship in our lives, every decision we make, and every attempt to minister to others. So over the next four weeks, we’re going to tackle the "Gospel Gap." Today we’ll diagnose the Gap, using 2 Peter 1:8-9, and in the following weeks we’ll look at three types of spiritual blindness that result from it.
Understanding the Gap
2 Peter 1:8-9 describes the Gospel Gap better than any other passage in Scripture:
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
In these verses we get the symptoms of the Gap. Peter points out that there are people who really do know the Lord, but whose lives fail to produce the expected fruit of faith. Their lives aren’t characterized by peaceful relationships, a natural day-by-day worship of the Lord, a wholesome relationship to material things, and ongoing spiritual growth.
Instead, these believers leave a trail of broken relationships, a knowledgeable but impersonal walk with God, a struggle with material things, and a definite lack of personal growth. Something is wrong with this harvest; it contradicts the faith that’s supposed to be its source.
Why are many Christians “ineffective and unfruitful"? Peter provides the diagnosis in verse 9: they're nearsighted and blind, having forgotten that they’ve been cleansed from their past sins. They’re blind to the power and hope of the Gospel for today.
What does this mean? The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a “then-now-then” Gospel. First, there’s the “then” of the past. When I embrace Christ by faith, my sins are completely forgiven, and I stand before God as righteous.
There’s also the “then” of the future, the promise of eternity with the Lord, free of sin and struggle. The church has done fairly well explaining these two “thens” of the Gospel, but it has tended to understate or misunderstand the “now” benefits of the work of Christ.
It’s not enough to only believe in life after death. We need to believe in real hope of life before death. The Gospel makes a difference in the here and now. It helps me as a father, a husband, a worker, and a member of the body of Christ. It empowers me to respond to difficulty and make God-honoring decisions. It shapes my meaning, purpose, and identity. It motivates my ministry to others.
You see, I'm persuaded that in the here and now, many of us experience a Gospel blindness. Our sight is dimmed by the tyranny of the urgent, by the siren call of success, by the seductive beauty of physical things, by our inability to admit our own problems, and by the casual relationships within the body of Christ that we mistakenly call “fellowship.”
Sadly, this blindness is often encouraged by preaching that fails to take the Gospel to the specific challenges people face. People need to see that the Gospel belongs in their workplace, their kitchen, their school, their bedroom, their backyard, and their van. They need to see the way the Gospel makes a connection between what they’re doing and what God is doing. They need to understand that their life stories are being lived out within God’s larger story so that they can learn to live each day with a Gospel mentality.
So journey with me over the next three weeks and pray that God will open your eyes to some of the Gospel blindness that might be in your heart.
- Is there evidence that you might be ineffective and unproductive?
- In what ways are you "forgetting" that you've been cleansed from former sin?
- How can you help others to live in light of the Gospel, right here, right now?
Paul David Tripp