I am not very old. But with each passing week (more accurately, with each passing failure) I am reminded more and more of how I need the gospel. The gospel is my only hope. Without the gospel, I would be damned.
This morning I read Psalm 91, and I focused on verses 1-2. The Psalmist writes, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
When I read words like “dwells” and “abide” my mind ponders what it means to be in the presence of God. Jesus said, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:6). Jesus is my life-source. If I trust in him, I will grow. If not, I will die. Jesus says, “To dwell or abide with God–to be in his presence–is to be connected to me in a saving way, a way that declares me as your refuge and fortress.”
But there is a problem. The problem does not exist outside of me–in my circumstances or trials or enemies or annoyances. That is what I want to believe. But really, the problem exists inside of me–in my pride, rebellion, self-righteousness, and a thousand other things the Bible calls sin. My sin keeps me from dwelling with God. My sin keeps me from experiencing God’s presence in a harmonious, perfect, continuous way even as a Christian. And there is only one solution.
The gospel tells me that though I am wretched and vile and unworthy of a holy God’s actual and real presence in my life, it is provided for me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is also called Emmanuel, which means God with us. He is the presence of God in the flesh: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14a). Jesus bore the wrath of God, taking our punishment and undergoing separation from God’s presence on the cross in order that we might have relationship with God. This only comes through faith in Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin, so that we would no longer be enemies with God, for enemies are not welcome in God’s presence (Rom. 3:23; 5:8, 10).
This is not just for unbelievers. This is for Christians. If you want to experience God’s presence (albeit not perfectly on this side of eternity) you must continually preach the gospel to yourself. You must realize that your sin is your greatest hindrance to being near God. You must take that sin to the cross, lay it on Jesus, and despair of any merit to dwelling with God. This happens by grace, and when it happens, it is a sweet thing.