In the introduction to Timothy Keller’s “The Prodigal God” he states one of his reasons for writing.
“Many lifelong Christian believers feel they understand the basics of the Christian faith quite well and don’t think they need a primer.”
The whole of Keller’s book, and of course the Parable of the Prodigal, proves that lifelong Christians do, in fact, need to be constantly reminded about the gospel. While this is never explicitly stated the way I have just phrased it, this is the foundation that Keller’s book is built upon.
I would argue that we also see this foundation established in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. If you’re attending our Prodigal God class, what follows will “spoil” the first 20 minutes of what I have planned for our first class. But, if you don’t mind hearing it twice, read on!
In order to press into our minds the importance of reminding ourselves of the Gospel constantly, even those of us who have been in church all our lives, I’m going to coin the term, “Gospel Memory” and submit to you that Gospel Memory is absolutely critical for your life.
The idea of Gospel Memory is to constantly remember the gospel; to have the Gospel in front of your eyes so closely that it colors every area of your life.
Gospel Memory is Critical for your Christian Life in the following ways:
I. Gospel Memory is Critical for Your Identity
Remembering the Gospel constantly is critical to your identity. Remembering the gospel is what we do.
I Timothy 3:14, “14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
The church, you and I, are pillars of the truth. There’s a truth that we’re supposed to be propping and lifting up for all to see. What is that truth?
I Timothy 2:5-7, “5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
It’s the gospel. And so it seems silly to Paul, that you and I, as Christians would ever think that we’ve graduated from Gospel 101.
II. Gospel Memory is Critical for Godliness
When we think of Godliness, Paul knows that we are probably going to think, in order to be “godly” I’ve got to behave this way, I’ve got to live this way, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that, or God is not going to accept me, he’s not going to love me, he’s going to hate me and he’s going to punish me. But here’s the amazing thing about Godliness in I Timothy 3:16,
“16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
Again, the mystery of Godliness is the transforming power of the Gospel, that is rooted in the power of Christ’s perfect obedience, his perfect death, and his perfect resurrection and glorious relationship with the Spirit of God.
So Paul’s point about the gospel here, is that your work, your effort toward Godliness does not start with you, nor end with you, nor is it empowered by you but it is created in you by the gospel of the Son of God.
He says the same thing in v. 10 of chapter 4,
“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
Notice he doesn’t say that we toil and strive because we have our hope set on our toiling and striving. He says we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Paul, leaves no room for us to assume (1) that God will accept anything but Godliness and (2) that finding godliness has anything to do with our own external effort but rather has everything to do with the power of the gospel of the living God at work within us and because our hope is set on that power, on that living God, we toil and strive to honor him out of appreciation for what he’s done – not in fear that he won’t love us, or accept us but in joy that he already has accepted us and loves us through Jesus Christ.
If we don’t remind ourselves of the gospel we are missing out on something critical not only to our identity but also to Godliness in our lives. Let’s not soon thing we’ve graduated from Gospel 101. Let’s take that class again and again!