I was reminded today of the account of Lazarus and what a beautiful picture this is of the gospel, especially for those of us who think we are the ones who “choose God” instead of the other way around.
Lazarus was the guy who was dead for four days…and then Christ raised him from the dead (John 11)! Lazarus was only able to get up and walk AFTER Christ called out to him, “Come forth!” How does this relate to the gospel?
Well, the Bible tells me that before faith in Christ, I am dead in my sins. I’m not alive. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:1 that we were dead before God raised us to life! “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” And again, in Colossians 2:13, Paul states that “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.” How, then, can we say that we choose Christ (or surrender to Him) if we are, in fact, dead?
The answer is: we don’t choose Christ. HE CHOOSES US (John 15:16, Ephesians 1:4). He calls us, awakens us. It is Christ who makes us alive! Our choosing Him is simply the result of Him awakening us from the dead!
This realization is huge, because it takes the emphasis off of “what I need to do to be right with God” (which, by the way, there is nothing I can do to be made right with God! If salvation could be attained through something that I could do, then Christ died for nothing! –see Galatians 2:21. Actually, just read all of Galatians!) and puts the emphasis instead on the fact that salvation is completely and utterly the work of God. 100%. There is nothing I have done to save myself. Christ did it all at the cross!
This understanding of the gospel will help me in my witness to others. As I declare the gospel to unbelievers, I have no need to plead with them to understand and accept Christ! I cannot save them, and they cannot save themselves. Only God can save! He is the One who gives us understanding of our sinfulness before Him and allows us to see our desperate need for Christ, in Whom is our salvation. So, instead of just trying to convince someone to understand the gospel, I will devote more time to prayer, asking God to do His work! *Note: this does not mean that I will not share the gospel, but that I will share it prayerfully, knowing that it has to be God working if someone is to be saved. Also, I will share it boldly, with great confidence in the Spirit of God to be at work as I proclaim His Word!
As a follower of Christ, I need to remind myself constantly of the gospel. It is so easy for me to think either that I am saved by grace through faith in Christ, but that I need to do good works to maintain favor with God; or that I am saved because of my response to the message of the gospel! Neither of these ways of thinking are correct, or true to the gospel, because the gospel states that CHRIST accomplished my salvation. His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead made me right with God! Period. This means that I am forever accepted in God’s sight. I am always His child; therefore, I do not have to do anything to maintain His favor, love, or acceptance! (It also means that as a child of His, I want to please Him because He has saved me, not so that He will save me! He has already saved me- it is my joy to please Him!) I must continually preach the gospel to myself, so that I am depending solely on Christ as my way of salvation. Not my good works. Not my response. It is the work of God, and my response is a result of His Spirit at work within me!
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:56, 57
For those interested in learning more about the gospel, turn to the Bible! Timothy Keller’s book entitled Galatians For You is another great resource that gives clear teaching of the gospel.