Devotion: The Simple Gospel
Scripture Reading: Acts 11
This past week I have been listening to a new worship song that continues to repeat through my head. The worship song is called "Simple Gospel" by United Pursuit. I played it for my family last Sunday and after we sang it around the campfire I pondered with them about what the lyrics "Simple Gospel" meant. The bridge goes like this.
"I will rejoice in the simple gospel I will rejoice in You, Lord"
First of all, the word Gospel is often translated as literally meaning "good news". Second, I think we can agree that the word "simple" is the opposite of the word complicated. Sometimes I forget how uncomplicated the Gospel of Jesus is because I hear so many different philosophies and theologies. These different ideas get so jumbled up in my head that I don't know which direction God wants me to go. But God always gives me a reminder that his "good news" isn't complicated at all but only requires faith and obedience.
1 John 4:19 (NLT)
19 We love each other because he loved us first.
As we pondered around the campfire I concluded that the Simple Gospel means accepting the love and forgiveness that Christ has given me. Then, because of his forgiveness, I can love the people around me without requiring anything in return for my kindness. 1 John 4:19 echos this sentiment and points out that as Christians we are not called to love because of what we can receive in return but we are asked to love because of the overwhelming love we have already received from Christ!
Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
It is important that our lives reflect Jesus. When Jesus was asked about how to live out the Gospel he gave a simple answer in Matthew 22:36-40. There are many different guidelines in the Bible, but Jesus says the most important two directions are loving God and others. John 14:23-24 elaborates on how to love God through our obedience.
John 14:23-24 (NLT)
23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.
Finally, the lyrics in the songs talk about rejoicing in the simple Gospel. Why should we rejoice in the simple Gospel?
The simplicity of God's love and grace is exciting because he decided to love us before we did anything to honor or obey him. He loved us before we chose to love him and nothing we do can change that. There are not a set of hoops we have to jump through before he loves us but instead we obey him because we feel completely loved and forgiven by him. Once we understand that God loves us when we don't deserve it then it becomes so much easier to love other people in an unconditional way. This kind of good news is something worth rejoicing!
Finally, this brings us to the main Bible passage for this month in Acts 11. I think that God is beginning to transform Peter's mindset in Acts 11 to be geared towards sharing a more simple Gospel with people around him. Peter had lived under Jewish law that said it was necessary to eat certain food and spend time with specific people in order to earn favor with God. Even though he had been living and learning from Jesus for a long time before this he still didn't realize how simple the Gospel was. But through a vision, God told him that it was time to share the Gospel with the gentiles. These were people he had been taught not to relate with but God showed him that his love reaches everyone. There is a verse in the song Simple Gospel that says:
"I'm laying down all my religion I'm laying down I want to know You, Lord"
This verse points out that sometimes religious ideas or traditions can get in the way of our ability to love people the way Jesus did. Jesus did not decide to love people based on what they wore, how they talked, or how nice they were to him. Jesus loved every person even people who were disliked by others or seen as outcasts. This month let us think about how we can rejoice because God forgave us and gives us so much grace. Then because of our thankfulness let us serve and love others in a simple way that doesn't need to be earned.
1. How would you define the simple Gospel in your own words?
2. Are there any people in your life who are hard to love? What is one intentional action you can take to love them this month?
3. Think about a time that you have failed....miserably. Jesus loves you anyway. How do you want to respond to his love?
4. What kind of people does your "religion" exclude from being loved by you? (ex: rude, unthankful, self-centered, different morals/political party, etc...). Pray for a passion to love those people. God will use your love to create positive change in their life as well as yours!