The Heart of the Gospel

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces;
      now he will heal us.
He has injured us;
      now he will bandage our wounds.
In just a short time he will restore us,
      so that we may live in his presence.
Oh, that we might know the Lord!
      Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
      or the coming of rains in early spring.”

“O Israel and Judah,
      what should I do with you?” asks the Lord.
“For your love vanishes like the morning mist
      and disappears like dew in the sunlight.
I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—
      to slaughter you with my words,
      with judgments as inescapable as light.
I want you to show love,
      not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
      more than I want burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:1–6 NLT)

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14)

Unseal my lips, O Lord,
      that my mouth may praise you.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
      You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
      You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Look with favor on Zion and help her;
      rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
      with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
      Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar. (Psalm 51:15–19)

“Come, let us return to the Lord.”

It is not how well we pray but how honestly we pray. It is not about how well we speak but if our words bring life to others and praise to God. It is not about how much we serve, tithe, and do good deeds but about the love with which we do these things.

God’s Kingdom is about love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, justice, humility, reconciliation, surrender, obedience, faithfulness. Does my life – my actions and words – point people away from me and towards the Father? Do I bring glory to his name? When people encounter me, do they experience the love and mercy of Christ?

The way of Jesus is a way of the heart. Carrying out the will of the Father is a wholehearted approach. It’s always been about our hearts. From the moment God spoke us into existence, it is our heart that he has always desired. Our heart – that place where our will resides and where our decisions and choices are made. That is our offering to the Lord. As we journey through life, will we acknowledge God as the king of our heart and give him first place in our life?

At the heart of the Gospel is the person of Jesus, the one who laid down his life so we can live. Are we willing to do the same for his sake and for the sake of others?

As you journey through this Lenten season, may you discover more fully what it means to abide in Jesus, allowing him to shape and inform and participate in every aspect of your life. May you be restored by the loving mercy of Jesus, and may your life be re-storied in light of Christ’s sacrifice. May all our ordinary lives be shaped and healed by the extraordinary power of the resurrection.

—Deb Judas is a member of the Forge Canada Team and a former NAB pastor.