The Gospel in Your Pocket

In some ways the best that is yet to come already is. /

There was once a man who set off on a journey to find a million-dollar bill. He sailed the seven seas and traveled through distant lands. He rode camels, trains, planes, and Harley Davidsons—anything that would take him somewhere he suspected he might find the million-dollar bill. After many years of frantic but fruitless efforts, he was ready to give up. One day, he was reaching into the many pockets of his many-pocketed cargo pants looking for some change, when he discovered, to his surprise, a pocket on the inside lining he’d not noticed before. He reached in, and to his amazement, he found a note from his father, wishing him well on his journey, and saying he hoped he’d appreciate the gift he left him. Puzzled, the man reached deeper into the new pocket and pulled out a million-dollar bill.

In that modern parable, we may be able to see the gospel afresh—that something remarkable was given to us long ago.

We rightly look forward to “that day” when we will experience the new heaven and the new earth and God’s blessings will overflow. But the good news we relish is not merely about the future. This good news was already accomplished for us in the past, and it pours over into the present. This “past tense” gospel tells us what is already done, which in turn tells us what we already enjoy. While we look forward to that day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD” (Hab. 2:14), this good news is also part of the story: “The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).

Let’s note just a couple of examples of the million-dollar bill that’s already in our pockets. For one, the grace we enjoy today was given to us before we were born. Before we were even in the womb, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). When Jesus ascended to the Father, in some sense, we did as well. And when Christ was seated in the heavenly realms, we were seated with him. We indeed look forward to life in the new heaven and new earth. But there is some sense, according to Paul, in which we already have been raised into heaven through our union with Christ.

Or take this word from Hebrews 10:14: “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Our perfection is already a reality through the “one offering” of Christ on the cross. This is not our own doing. It is something that comes from the grace of God. In the same way, the Lover tells the Bride in the Song of Solomon, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” (Song of Sol. 4:7).

Process of sanctification long and grueling? Aren’t we warned about the cost of following Christ? Isn’t it assumed we are to grow in grace (see esp. 2 Pet. 3:18). Yes, but I believe we should think about all this from a fresh angle.

For example, is sanctification merely a process? 1 Corinthians 1:30 says something startling in this respect: sanctification is a person that has been given to us: “But by his doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (nasb). Sanctification, wisdom, righteousness, and redemption are all embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Since we have “put on Christ” and are united with him, since we are now in Christ (see Eph. 1), everything that is his is ours.

That is why Paul could confidently tell the Corinthians, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Cor. 3:21b–23). Similarly, in the parable of the prodigal son, the Father tells the stubborn older son, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31). The gospel declares that God has given us every blessing through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Many more examples could be marshaled, but Paul says it best in Ephesians 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” When Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20), he was not saying only part of Christ was in him. He tells us in Colossians 2:9–10, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” God has already brought us into the fullness of Christ through his grace. It is not something we have to attain. It is something to believe and rest in. If there is something left for us to do—and there clearly is—it’s not a matter of creating a new reality but of living into the reality that God has already given us.

We truly have already been gifted everything we’ll ever need through the grace of God in Christ. When people asked Jesus what works to do, he simply replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). There are plenty of good works to do, but these works cannot accomplish what Christ already accomplished for us. Good works are only an overflow of the joy we have because of the fullness of God we have been freely given.

So yes, we do experience spiritual growth in this life, but we are not growing to become something we are not. We are growing into who we already are: Millionaires in grace. In many respects, sanctification in this life is the process of realizing that we have a million-dollar bill in our pockets.

Dylan Demarsico is a writer based in Los Angeles, working on his master of divinity degree through Liberty University.

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Also in this Issue

Issue 8 / October 30, 2014
  1. Editors’ Note
  2. Heavenly Minded and Earthly Good

    Spiritual transformation has a lot to do with the brain. /

  3. Hurrahing in Harvest

    How autumn can help us ‘glean our Savior.’ /

  4. Fall’s Barbarous Beauty

    From summer to school to the Savior via Gerard Manely Hopkins. /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff

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