Gospel Amnesia

Are you forgetful? How often do you forget where you keys are? What that guy’s name is? Where you parked? The answer to that test question (that you just read in  your book)? What that smell reminds you of?


Us people have memory problems. Even if you have a pretty solid memory for the logistic things in life, when it comes to deep heart-memories, we have spiritual amnesia.

Going through the book of Galatians we see Paul reminding us over and over and over about the heart of the Gospel: Jesus Plus Nothing. And the leaders of the church, the ones that actually spent years and years with Jesus himself, fully agreeing, and then forgetting. Look at Galatians 2:11-14

But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Let’s be honest. Peter and Barnabas are far smarter and spiritually knowledgeable than we will ever be. Yet they forgot. They KNEW the Gospel, but were deeply influenced by what others thought and acted out of step with the Gospel that they knew.

When and How do you forget the Gospel of Jesus?

1) When you are tempted to pursue your own satisfaction in a relationship rather than realize you are fulfilled in Jesus?

2) When you refuse to forgive yourself for a sin for which Jesus has fully paid?

3) When you drop names and your spiritual resume so others will think more highly of you rather than leaning on Jesus’ resume.

4) When you envision God’s looking at you with a scowling or at least disappointed face instead of believing that he looks on you as His adopted, beloved, valuable child?


Paul is inviting us to live “in step” with the freeing Gospel of Jesus rather than “in step” with hopeless self-performance. But first we have to continually know and re-know the hope of Jesus, because it is really easy to forget.


Galatians 2:3
But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.

We are an insider/outsider people, having hearts filled with various “us” and “them” filters ranging from gender, school allegiance, education, race, political affiliation, social class and, of course, spirituality. Us church-folk can be brutal in this. We have learned all the loving and unifying Bible words to use, but in our hearts we crucify those who disagree, relegating different Christ-followers to either second-class spirituality, or, even worse, to hell itself. When we do this (and we are usually sly enough to only do it in our hearts, not in our words or overt actions), we are might be mistaking fruit for root. We list different behaviors (many of which God has clearly commanded while others are more cultural distinctives that we’ve elevated to universal truths) as mandatory for a person to be adopted into God’s family, rather than realizing that the only requirement for being adopted is to believe that our only hope is in Jesus alone, the very Son of God, has come to live, die, raise and ascend so that our treacherous sins can be forgiven and Jesus’ life can be our own. Full Stop. Plus nothing. But we get the ingredients inverted, making the fruit that God’s love produces in us the requirement of God’s love.

In this passage Paul has gone to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders so they can be of one mind regarding the Gospel because there were “spies” who had infiltrated the church, saying that salvation comes from Jesus, but you have to become a Jew first in order to then be a Christian and be acceptable to God. In their church meeting (everybody’s favorite thing) the leaders unanimously agreed that God’s love and gift are offered without string (5b “the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you”). This is because they realized the ultimate and true “us vs. them” is not horizontal between us, but between all of humanity and God. In our rebellion we’ve rejected the One True King, pitting us against him. But God didn’t treat us the way we treat others, Thank God!

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners (the ultimate outsiders), Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

God shattered the barrier that we created which justly divided us from Him in the person of Jesus so that membership in The Family is secured by Him, not by us, making the Family of God wildly and ridiculously diverse. Firmly keeping to the Essentials of Jesus as our Foundation and Cornerstone, we can now live and move through disagreements, diversity and freedom. We can sing differently, pray differently, baptize differently, eat differently, vote differently, play differently etc etc. This by no means waters down our firm belief and conviction in Jesus, neither does it water down our beliefs about the other aforementioned points of theology. Rather it draws us into more dependence and trust in Jesus, who is the author of our faith. Not only do Christians not have to be all alike, we SHOULDN’T be all alike. We need to listen to the Spirit of Christ personally, but also corporately (which is what Paul was doing when he went to Jerusalem). We need a miraculous spirit of humility and discernment to live out this motto:

In Essentials, Unity
In Non-Essentials, Liberty
In All Things, Charity


Yes, this is super messy, and scary. It forces us to deeply ask “What is essential?” Here’s a hint, not everything you believe is essential, even things you are extremely confident about.

Let’s finish with this story. In John 9 a blind man was healed by Jesus, which infuriated the Religious Elite because Jesus wasn’t following what they thought were essentials (they were wrong). When they asked the blind man for a testimony against Jesus, all he said was the Gospel:  “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

  • What “us vs. them” dominates your average day?
  • Who is inside and who is out?
  • What things do you treat as “essential” that might not be?
  • What “cultural distinctives” do you treat as “theological imperatives”?

Enter your value here ____.

If you were an app, what would your rating be?

We are all value-seekers in desperate need of being affirmed and approved. Every one of us. It is super obvious in some of us, while others camouflage it by acting very confident, even arrogant. But it still just as true. I know this because not only is it true for me too, but full-approval and inner-peace is in our original  human architecture. God made us to be with Him and each other will full confidence and transparency. But we wanted more, and wanted to somehow make it “better,” which introduced a vicious and fatal virus to our operating system, sending us spinning out of control as we perpetually try to get our personal rating higher and higher (or at least higher than others around us) because “my value is determined by what I think you think about me.” What a mess we are in.

Paul in Galatians 1:10 was being accused of living this out when it comes to his preaching of the Gospel, as the religious people were telling other that he was only preaching Gospel Freedom so that he’ll be liked by the crazy Gentile sinners:

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

But what Paul knows and is trying to convey is that, unlike every other religion that has ever existed, our performance does NOT lead to our value. God’s view of you is determined NOT by your actions, but by Jesus’! He has taken his people as his bride and has adorned us with his wedding dress of perfect righteousness. Get this: If you’ve accepted Jesus’ gift of value in exchange for your insecure self-centered-value-seeking, which was made perfect and permanent on the cross, God is not mad at you!

Even more, God is not even DISAPPOINTED in you!

He looks at all his adopted children and his dress-adorned bride with joy because he has given us the value of his own Son. Despite my behavior, he tells me “well done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

And now I am invited to live out of my new value; my new identity. I am invited to put down the scoring app, both the one I use to score others and the one that I am trying to increase my score. I am invited to believe that I am a beloved child of God and that he dances over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

To help with living this out, I invite you to think about where you fit on these continuums:

I’ve Got Good News

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel

“Gospel” — this word is unbelievably over-used…and under-used. This word “Gospel” is derived from the Greek word “euangelion”, which simply is the word “good” plus the word “message” (or “news”). It is the proclamation of a glorious truth. We’ve often turn this word into an invitation or a point of advice, or into a secret handshake that makes us feel elite because WE are the REAL gospel people. But the reality is that The Gospel is  not primarily a fact, theology, philosophy or even way of life. The Gospel is a person. Jesus is The Gospel made flesh. He IS the good news that has come to us in the hurricane of our deepest need to give himself in our place so that we can be brought to life from now and forevermore (verses 1-5 pretty much explains the entire core of what The Gospel is).

But even saying this, we can see the Gospel as the baby-food of Christianity. But in fact The Gospel is for the believer and the non-believer. The Gospel is the beginning and the end; the way in, the way through and the final conclusion. We never for one moment outgrow the gospel and into deeper points of theology and truth. We don’t believe the Gospel to become a Christian and then turn to all the minutia of theology to grow. The Gospel is the Truth of our need and Jesus sacrificial gift, and it is what permeates every atom of our specific personal lives. This gospel freedom, which tells me that my identity is secured because of Jesus’ actions rather than mine, speaks hope when I’m insecure; when I fail and when I succeed; when I make my year-end goals; when I am criticized or flattered; when I am betrayed and when I betray somebody else.