THE ONLY FREE LUNCH WE’LL EVER GET
We are freely justified for Christ’s sake. That means, because of Jesus, who substituted His bloody suffering and death for ours, that in relation to God we are declared once and for all forgiven of all sin, freed from death, and promised eternal salvation. This good news delivered by God to us through His preachers is the driving force of all history. How could anyone not celebrate this kind of sermon?
But in every generation the Gospel is rejected, condemned, and especially in our churches, twisted up to include all sorts of caveats. We just can’t stop ourselves from putting the brakes on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our standard operating assumption is that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, even if it’s the Gospel. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, after all.
This is why we push back against the Gospel, even by those who are daily crushed by the weight of temptations and sin. The Gospel is good news, but the backspin of the Gospel is that it refuses to include any other kind of theology that adds a “but” to God’s justifying of sinners for Christ’s sake. But we are so selfish, so egocentric, we will accuse anyone who clings to “Jesus alone” as offensive to both God and the churches if he threatens our carefully constructed religious hobby horses.
So churches in every generation end up in conflict within themselves and attacked from without because of the message that we are freely justified for Christ’s sake; no strings attached. We’ll throw denominational loyalty, or family lineage, or spiritual gifts at the Gospel without a second thought if it means we can add something of ourselves to it. And anyone who questions us or argues otherwise is labeled “ungodly,” or “un-Christian,” “not a true believer,” “impious” or whatever term allows us to scrub the unconditionality of the Gospel from our ears. The same ears that hunger and thirst for a good word that will set us free from worry and want for God’s grace.
But God’s Spirit is faithful, even when we are faithless, because He cannot deny the work of Christ Jesus for us. And so the Gospel is preached in every generation whether we like it or not. The Gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, whether it believes it or not. Why? Because it is the only Word by which sinners may be saved. The Good News of Jesus Christ is the only comfort and consolation for troubled hearts. The “only” of God’s justifying message to us that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Gospel is the only Word that has power, true power, to do what it says without measures or limits. When God sends a preacher to declare, “All your sin is forgiven for Christ’s sake,” all our sin is actually forgiven! Justification is the only lunch anyone will ever receive that is one hundred percent free!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news” because it declares us free from record keeping, sin auditing, will-God-or-won’t-God, what does God think of me kind of living, which isn’t much of a life at all, especially not for Christians for whom Jesus shed His “for the sin of the world” blood.
And so long as we’re flesh and blood, so long as we’re weighed down by the power of sin, we will always struggle against the unconditional giftedness of the Gospel. But the good news is, God will never stop talking to us about what Jesus does for us. He will send us preachers to say it plain and clear, from cradle to grave to the Resurrection: “For the sake of the bloody suffering and death of My beloved Son, Jesus Christ, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins.”