In this post, Jean Larroux, Lead Pastor of Southwood PCA in Huntville, AL, describes a full-orbed view of what we mean when we talk about “believing the gospel.” Thanks, Jean!
In every realm of life we understand that our beliefs drive our behavior. If I believe it is going to rain then I bring an umbrella to work. If I believe that gluten is making me sick then I adjust my diet. If I believe that my parents love me no matter what then I play soccer differently. I cheerlead differently. I play in the band differently. Beliefs always precede behavior in life and in faith.
When I say, “believe the Gospel” or say we need to “have faith” I am referencing the entire process of believing and applying the Gospel to your life as described in that message. It is easy to think that when I say “believe” or “have faith” that I am simply encouraging a mental rehearsal of propositional truth: “Jesus is the son of God. He died on the cross. He rose again…” Repeating those phrases is not an exercise of faith or belief. Remembering the Gospel means taking those propositional truths and pastorally applying their implications to your life—If Jesus is the Son of God; if Jesus did indeed die on the cross; if he actually rose again then the implications of those truths are profound. They transform life for the husband who is unwilling to apologize for being selfish or the teenager who missed curfew or the woman who finds it difficult to forgive a neighbor.
The Gospel speaks to all areas of our lives in deep ways. The propositional truths have powerful implications. God uses the means of grace—worship, prayer, Scripture reading, the sacraments, etc. to connect and reconnect us with the reality of what it means to be in Christ. That reality has propulsion and trajectory to thrust us into this world as people who have been transformed by His love committed to seeing this world transformed by that same love.
In other words, when I consciously believe that Jesus is my sin-bearer and righteousness provider, I am able to live by that faith as I face all kinds of life circumstances in which I would do things differently if I were not consciously abiding in Christ. So, we say that gospel faith changes us positionally (the grace of justification) as well as practically (the grace of sanctification).