By God’s grace I grew up in a Christian home and my parents faithfully taught me the gospel. God used their influence in my life to help me understand and repent of my sin and trust in Jesus for salvation at a young age. I remember the exact circumstances of that moment and I remember later situations where I realized the depth of my sin and constant need of Christ.
I’m thankful to have grown up in a church that preached the gospel very clearly. The death and resurrection of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for sins was never in question and the need of personal conversion was always emphasized. However, I subtlety began to assume the gospel in my own life after a certain period of time. I knew that the gospel was necessary for evangelism and to “get someone saved,” but I did not think much about the ongoing work of the gospel in my own life. I believed the gospel was necessary for salvation, but holiness is about working really hard, learning a lot of other things about God, and being a good person. I believed I had “graduated from the gospel” which is a common way of assuming the gospel.
Another common way of assuming the gospel is by not spending much time thinking, meditating, or talking about. When was the last time you prayed, “God, thanks for sending Jesus to die for me.” Or “God, continue to reveal the depths of my sin and the glories of my Savior.” Do you find yourself considering the holiness and perfections of God, the sin that exists in your heart, and the wonder of Jesus’ death on the cross?
Assuming the gospel is a dangerous proposition. As Mack Stiles says in his great book Marks of the Messenger,
“To assume the gospel is the first step to losing the gospel.”
Stiles tells the story of a Liberty University student who was surprised to meet an agnostic at Liberty.
“When Roose meets Travis, a guy in his dorm, he’s surprised to meet an agnostic a Liberty. “I asked him about his lack of faith,” said Roose, “I didn’t know you weren’t a Christian.” Travis smiled. “Most people don’t figure it out for a while. If you’re a Liberty student, people just sort of assume you are.”
I went to a Christian college and can attest to this statement. In typical Christian settings like churches, youth groups, Christian colleges, etc. it’s easy to assume everyone is a Christian simply because of their presence. However, the old adage proves true, “Being in a church doesn’t make you a Christian like being in a garage doesn’t make you a car.”
Assuming the gospel leads to confusing the gospel and eventually losing the gospel. Stiles goes on to say:
“An assumed gospel leaves the message of the gospel unspoken and implicit. Assuming the gospel is a lazy forgetfulness that we are in a battle. Don’t let the fact that you attend a good church or are involved with a good Christian organization lull you into thinking you don’t have to worry about the gospel. The battle against assuming the gospel is ongoing and lifelong.”
I now serve in a church that is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. By God’s grace many have responded to the clear presentation of the gospel of Christ. The danger, though, in a large established church is to assume everyone here is a Christian. This gives all the more reason why the gospel (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) must be clear and explicit and never assumed. So brothers and sisters do not lose your hope and trust in the gospel. Preach it, proclaim, and talk about it in every setting possible. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16).