It’s common, though, to think the gospel message has relevance only for the beginning of the Christian life. As Keller puts it, the gospel is not the ABCs of the Christian life; it’s the A to Z. It’s also critical to understand the ongoing implications and sufficiency of the gospel in the Christian life. We don’t just believe these truths and move on to bigger, better things. The gospel is where we’re meant to dwell and grow the rest of our lives.
Consider this image we call the cross-chart. At the beginning of the Christian life, we understand that we are sinful and God is holy. We embrace the cross as our great hope that bridges that gap. Our understanding of God and self is small, however. Contrary to what many think, as we grow in grace, we don’t notice less and less sin and learn less and less about God. It’s the opposite. As we mature, we begin to notice sins we never knew existed. God takes us to deeper levels of understanding of ourselves. Our understanding of who God is and what He expects increases, as well. This provides the opportunity for the gospel to grow larger and more beautiful in our minds and hearts, resulting in deeper, more passionate thanksgiving to Him.
Our tendency, though, is to try to reduce that tension between God’s holiness and our sinfulness. “God doesn’t expect that much,” we rationalize, the path of religion. “I’m not that sinful,” we reason, the strategy of irreligion. This, of course, dishonors God and exalts us as humans, but it also diminishes the glory of the cross. It robs us of the joy of experiencing that tension (that “gap”) and having it dealt with (or “filled”) by the person and work of Jesus Christ. The cross doesn’t just have ongoing relevance in the Christian life. It should loom larger in our spiritual eyes as we move forward in our faith.
Christ’s life, death, and resurrection change everything. By His grace, God has made a way for us to enjoy Him again. But what God has done has also changed who we are, and, as a result, what we should do.