Growing up I assumed that the gospel – God made him who knew no sin to become sin so that I might become the righteousness of God (2Cor 5:21) – was what needed to be believed to be initiated into the family of God by faith, but that once Jesus was confessed by faith, that there were other more important truths to focus for spiritual growth, vitality and health. One of the things that perpetuated this myth is that when “the gospel” was preached, it was always clearly an evangelistic sermon intended to call skeptics and unbelievers to faith in Christ. I almost always felt like those of us who were Christians were simply meant to endure the message of the gospel out of our love for others and desire to see them reconciled to God, but failed to see the significance of the message of the gospel for me as one who was already a disciple of Jesus.

What I failed to understand was that I need to hear the gospel again and again, even though I had already confessed Jesus as Lord and was seeking to follow him as His disciple. Martin Luther gives us some insight into why this is the case.

“It cannot be beaten into our ears enough or too much. Yes, though we learn it (the gospel) and understand it well, yet there is none that takes hold of it perfectly or believes it with all his heart. So frail a thing is our flesh, and disobedient to the Spirit.”

If we are honest, we know this to be true of Christian experience. It is our failure to rightly understand, embrace, and grab hold to the gospel that fosters seeds of rebellion and distrust of God in our hearts. It is also this same failure that causes us to cling tightly to feelings of condemnation and guilt when we sin, even after we have confessed and repented of this sin. We are saints who sometimes sin because we fail to fully believe in the power of the gospel to set us free from the bondage of sin, so while we are free in actuality, we fail to live in and embrace that freedom in practice. Our flesh is frail, and our spirit disobedient.

It is glorious indeed that we are free, but even more awe-inspiring is the fact that in our frailty and disobedience we still find renewed freedom, forgiveness and acceptance in Jesus because of the gospel. It is for these two reasons that we must never assume that those we engage for the sake of Christ – believer, skeptic, unbeliever – don’t need to hear the gospel. This is especially true in our preaching.

We must never assume the gospel. We must always assume that those we serve need to hear the gospel yet again. Any sermon we preach is incomplete and insufficient until we explicitly reference Christ and him crucified” (CJ Mahaney).