What the Gospel does for the believer

Man reading Psalms at the Western Wall.
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I preached on Psalm 14 this past Sunday, but something that I now think I should have said touches on how God intends that the Gospel itself would function in the life of someone who is already born again by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the text, I see this in the last verse of the Psalm, verse 7.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

This psalm is a corporate lament, intended for use by the gathering of believers to be led by the Word inspired by the Holy Spirit in appropriately grieving over circumstances and petitioning God’s intervention. In this psalm the saints are led through David’s example to lament the gross unbelief in Yahweh God that permeates our world—the nations surrounding Israel certainly, but also, I think, those unbelievers living within the borders of Israel at that time. So much in the world is so wrong for this reason: that so many people on our planet deny the existence of the true God of Israel by their words and by their deeds. Most people are practical atheists if you will. Perhaps they technically think there is a God, or they simply don’t know what to believe, but they live as if there is no God: practically atheists. God’s people ought to lament this state of affairs, not vilify the unbelievers. Their judgment is in God’s hands.

But whatever it is that you and I lament, be it public or private, remote or intimate, how would the Holy Spirit have us respond to less than ideal circumstances? By turning at all times to the Gospel for hope and sustenance. “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’… (verse 1) Oh that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! (verse 7)”. “There is none who does good, not even one (verse 3)… Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! (verse 7)”. “You would shame the plans of the poor, (verse 6)… Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! (verse 7)”.

Whatever the LORD has for you and I this day, whether we encounter suffering to test and refine our faith for the glory of God (1 Pe 1:7) or blessing so that we are reminded of the goodness and grace of God toward us (James 1:17-18), let us be drawn by the Holy Spirit, in our circumstances, to the Gospel. It is by the means of the Gospel that the Holy Spirit awakens faith in the heart of the formerly dead sinner (Rom 10:17). It is by this same Gospel that the Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer, producing growth toward Christ-likeness. This is the pattern laid down for us in Psalm 14: lament then Gospel. We see it in the New Testament as well: in Romans 7:24,25 (“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”), in Romans 8:5 (“…those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”), 8:15 (“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”), and as a last example this jewel also from Romans 8:

ESV Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:26-28

The Gospel functions, for the dead sinner, as the means of regeneration under the agency of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel functions, for the regenerate Christian, as the means of sanctification under the agency of the Holy Spirit. I’m convicted again, therefore, that my spiritual immaturity is nowhere so evident as when in the face of suffering or of blessing, I fail to turn again to the Gospel. But praise God He will not leave me so immature! Again and again, His Spirit graciously lifts by eyes again to behold the wonder of the grace and love of God manifest in the death of His Son for me.

 

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