The hope of the Gospel


A little bit of how I came to faith in Jesus Christ.
I have been thinking about Colossians 1:23 this week, which begins:

If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard…
(Colossians 1:23 ESV)

This week I have felt anything but ‘stable and steadfast’ – stumbling and stuck is a better description. Fortunately Paul throws a tow rope to haul me out of the bog – the hope of the gospel that you heard.

Depending on where I’m at, there are varying degrees of how fresh the hope of the gospel is in my mind – sometimes it has been resonating within me as I consider Christ, the cross, and my desperate need of grace. Other times much older memories need to be dragged up to remind me of the gospel hope. Today falls into that second category.

Knowledge of the gospel is still very real to me. Acute experience of my need of the gospel is painfully immediate. It is hope which has faded in intensity, so it is good to be prompted to recall the hope which once blazed so intensely that it tore me away from worldly hopes.

I vividly remember sitting in my room in a flat, feet propped up on the desk, leaning back in my chair reading the Gospel of John from a yellow Good News Bible. The ancient words of a carpenter from Galilee arrested me. “Follow me”, he said (John 1:43). Not an invitation, a command. Yet a command I wanted to obey.

After even a few chapters of John’s Gospel I knew that Jesus was no ordinary man, but after the nails, the blood and the water, it was clear that he is the Saviour I’d never known I needed. That was over 20 years ago now but the memory is burned into me – by this stage I’d already been on a 4-year quest to figure out what it might mean to live a worthwhile life1. I was looking for what I could do to make my life have meaning and a philosophical framework that made everything make sense.

I was certainly not looking for a religion and not looking for a god. Reading John’s Gospel I encountered God – and somehow knew I was in big trouble, if God is real (and after 6 chapters I was convinced He was) then I had spent 18 years denying His existence and had no right to be in His universe. So in Jesus I found this paradox, the terror of encountering God, yet the hope of his words, “Follow me”.

So I followed…

I still am.

“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
(John 21:20-22 ESV)

1) Calling my blundering a ‘quest’ makes it sound much more purposeful than it was. In effect I just explored every philosophy or worldview I could get my head around in the hope of learning what this thing called life is all about – otherwise it was looking to me to be utterly meaningless.