Over a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks, a friend shared with me a difficult conversation he had with someone he was helping work through a situation. When I asked him if he had applied the gospel to the situation, he paused for a moment, tilted his head and asked: “How does the Gospel apply to that?”
It is a common question, maybe even one we don’t verbalize, but inwardly struggle through. We face the question every time we parent, converse with a co-worker or sit down to study for a class we aren’t particularly interested in. In fact, our daily lives are filled with moment-by-moment opportunities to apply the gospel to life. But, this can be a challenge if we have not thought through it. It’s so much easier to turn to past experiences, something we read on Facebook, or something we learned from a friend or parent. In Paul’s challenge to us as believers to mature in Christ in Eph. 4, he calls our desire to rationalize or depend on other sources for hope or direction, depending on the “futility of our minds.”
The reality of Jesus and His life, death and resurrection gives us hope for the future and in the present. When we are faced with those daily challenges of life where we aren’t thinking correctly about some conversation or relationship, it is the reality of the hope of Jesus, both in the present and in the future, that helps us point our own hearts and those around us to the true source of contentment and healing, Jesus.
Ben Connelly addressed this same issue and illustrated this deeper struggle from John 4. Here’s what he wrote:
When Jesus meets a Samaritan woman in John 4, she challenged him with a question of race and gender roles: “how is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (v.9). Jesus does not ignore her first question; he doesn’t tell her to stop worrying about her situation; he doesn’t answer that he’ll die soon to reconcile the broken socio-economic status, so she should believe in him for eternal life. Instead, he starts by addressing her obvious need, thirst: “there is greater water than this well can give,” he says – “living water” which will forever quench your thirst (v.10, 13).
But here’s what is often missed in this passage: in this whole snapshot, Jesus speaks to something deeper than thirst. He speaks to the woman’s lack of satisfaction. We see this in her desire to be filled and never have to drink again (“sir, give me that is water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” [v.15]). We see this as they discuss her string of spouses (“you’ve had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” [v.18]). We see this in her unfilled desire to worship (“[Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” [v.20]). At every point, Jesus shows himself – and God’s truth – to be more satisfying than any of her lesser pursuits: water, good husband or fulfillment in a man, or worship location. Finally, she declares her need for a Messiah, and he reveals, “I, who you speak to, am he” (v.26).
Jesus spoke “truth in love.” He “met her on her turf.” He showed her how faith matters for her present life. Jesus spoke an objective gospel: “there is a Messiah, coming to free you to worship God in spirit and truth, and I am he!” But he spoke that objective gospel in a way that addressed her subjective situation: he started with her felt needs and pointed to her greater, heart-level need: “God will satisfy you more than THIS!” It’s a poignant picture of Jesus – Truth incarnate – speaking himself to her in a way that she can immediately resonate with.
At New City, we have adopted and adapted the four questions from Jeff Vanderstelt to help us very practically work through a set of questions in order to rightly orient our minds on our identity with Jesus. Admittedly, it takes some work to reframe our thinking in the middle of screaming kids, facing a work deadline, battling a health issue or staring down the monotony of laundry. When our thoughts start to wander and our doubts begin to find a foothold, these questions can help us think correctly and rest in the work that Jesus has already done for us.
- Who is God?
- What does my current emotion/feeling show that I am believing about God?
- What do I really believe about God?
- Who am I?
- What does my current emotion/feeling show that I am believing about myself?
- What do I really believe about myself?
- What has He done for me?
- Remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
- What should I do?
- Repent of my disbelief and believe the truth of who He is and what He has done for me.