I grew up in a church tradition that diligently preached the Gospel every Sunday evening. I heard faithful folks pray in prayer meetings that folks might “come under the sound of the Gospel” and I watched the weekly routine of preaching the Gospel message. But something was typically missing.
Essentially the problem was that the Gospel message was preached in past tense. That is, not only was it the preaching of a past event (which it is), but it was also past tense for most of the listeners. They had heard it before, responded before and were saved already.
So more than once I asked what the point of this service was since guests were not a common feature? I was told that it was right to preach the Gospel, and that those of us present who had already trusted Christ for salvation could use it as an opportunity to be thankful, and to pray for the unsaved who may or may not be present. Essentially this meant that I was hearing a Gospel that was not for me.
Here’s the problem: it was for me. Instead of simply being thankful and praying for others, I needed to learn that I needed the Gospel to live the Christian life too. It is not just the way in – responding in trust to the Christ who gave himself for me is the way on too. For years I sat and heard messages that seemed to be targeted at someone else (and often that someone else was not there). What a wasted opportunity.
The Gospel is not just past tense, it is what I need present tense. Why? Because I need Christ and the grace of God that is offered in Christ – I didn’t just need that once. I need that now.