What Can Be Done, By Whom?
This famous quote is from the inaugural speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. I think it is a very good quote. As a citizen of a country, a person should be looking to see what he can contribute, rather than holding his hand out all the time to receive. Actually, I think many of our social ills are because citizens don’t do what President Kennedy suggested. Many have become people who are always looking to government as some sort of parent ... even as they see themselves as a needy child. This is not how one helps to make one’s country strong and robust.
This John F. Kennedy quote occurred to me on my morning walk today. I was thinking about the gospel. I was thinking about this question, “What is the gospel?” The answer to that question has always been somewhat simple for me to answer, but it doesn’t seem like it is all that simple for some. I have always viewed salvation as a sinner receiving the most wonderful gift from the heavenly father. I have always seen it as exactly the opposite of the John F. Kennedy statement. If I could switch his quote around a little it might look something like this: “Sinner, ask not what you can do for God, but what He has done for you.”
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
So what is the following kind of talk? “The gospel is committing your life to God and just laying it at His feet. You have to be willing to let Him have His way with your life and give up all your expectations of what you want out of life, submitting to Him. That is what brought about my being born again.” Is this the gospel? In my understanding, the gospel is about becoming fit for God’s presence. A sinner is not acceptable, he is covered with sin, tainted. Then, when the gospel is received into the heart, sins are cleansed, he is given the eternal right to life with God, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to help him along in the rest of his walk on earth. That is what God wants to do for sinners! Am I not right?
I am not talking about Christian service and how a child of God learns and grows and works. There is a place for that teaching and it is important. No one is encouraged to receive the gift of salvation and then rest on the laurels, becoming complacent, or worse, abusing the grace of God. As believers, we should be asking, "What can I do to glorify God with my life?" ... not ... "What can God do for me now that I am His child?"
But ... the message of salvation, the gospel is not about what man can do for God. It is just the opposite. An unregenerate sinner has nothing of any value to offer Him, no way to make himself righteous. Christ’s death, burial and resurrection has made it possible for sinners to become justified and declared righteous and alive in Christ.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:8-10)
I have probably quoted this before, but I think it deserves repeating: “Friend, God doesn’t want your old wretched heart, He wants to give you a new heart. He doesn’t want you to give Him your life. He wants to give you His life.” (J. Vernon McGee) Does God require a sinner to commit his life to Him in order to be saved? Is the gospel message like the quote by John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God”? I think not.