True Belonging: Gospel

Tim Keller says, “The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”  

Gospel. As Christians, we hear this word and often make the quick assumption that we know what it is and move on, which is a dangerous practice because what some have been discovering is that most Christians only know the first half of the gospel, as illustrated by John 3:16 —

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

We’ve been taught throughout our lives that putting our faith in Jesus is the whole enchilada. You’re saved. You’re good. Of course, coming to believe in Jesus is HUGE. But salvation is not the end of the story. It’s just the beginning.

The Full Gospel

There’s actually a second half of the Gospel, as defined, ironically, by 1 John 3:16 —

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

First half — Jesus died for us. Second half — so we can lay down our lives for others.
First half — Jesus loved us. Second half — so we can love the world.
First half — Jesus saved us. Second half — so we can grow in His likeness for the good of others.
First half — salvation. Second half — sanctification.

In the Seedbed Daily Text post I read last spring that sparked this series, JD Walt spoke of these two halves: “The gospel comes in two massive movements: believing and becoming. We believe in Jesus. We become like Jesus” (Daily Text, April 16, 2021).

What we’ve been exploring throughout this series is what JD calls the bridge — the way of moving from believing to becoming, which he calls the way of the cross. And, the way of the cross is the way of belonging to Jesus.

This path, like a bridge stretching across the wide expanse of a canyon, helps us move from first-half-of-the-gospel-living into the full gospel.

Photo by Susanna Marsiglia on Unsplash

The Bridge

On this blog, I write from the assumption that you are a believing, devoted follower of Jesus who seeks to become more like Him. Whether you’ve been able to put words to it before or not, you’re ready to live into this second half of the gospel. Which is why you’re here. Our cultivation of the Word and Spirit here each week is meant to aid us on this journey of sanctification. 

But today. Today, let’s zoom in on “The Way of Belonging to Jesus” by looking at what we’ve learned about belonging, and we’ll see that we’ve already been building the bridge:

  • We have always belonged to our Father, and He gave us to Jesus. So now we belong to Jesus. 
  • We are adopted into God’s family — our spiritual place of belonging.
  • We are heirs to all God has to offer, which means we’ve been gifted much love, grace, wisdom, patience, goodness, kindness, etc. Belonging means receiving and sharing.
  • We are one among many in the family of God.
  • We’ve been given God’s name, a name that holds unfathomable power and unites us to God.

Put all that together, and we get the truth of how our identity defines our belonging. When we truly belong to Jesus, our identities become shaped more and more by Him, less and less by the world. Belonging to Jesus means we don’t belong to the world anymore.

It also means we no longer belong to ourselves.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about belonging to a good, loving Father. We belong to the Son who gave us His very life while we were yet sinners so that we could have life with God. We’re not slaves to a cruel master. We’re not made to function as mindless robots. We’re called into a holy relationship with our Creator, the One who deemed it good and right to leave His heavenly home to walk among us. To die for us.

This is who we belong to. Not the world. Not ourselves. 

When Paul says it like this, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), he’s trying to help believers understand the truth we’re grappling with. It’s upside-down by worldly standards. We want to be in control. We strive for independence. We yearn for fame and glory. But with Jesus, all those vain, selfish desires dissipate in His love — the love we are meant to be rooted in.

Everything I’m writing here is what I’m discovering in my own spiritual journey. In this season where I’ve felt a bit immobile and ineffective, I’ve leaned further into my relationship with God. It started with wanting to know how to enter His presence and has turned into this search for joy and belonging. All of the learning and searching, studying and praying has converged into this awakening that I have not been living into the full gospel. Instead, I’ve been stuck somewhere on that bridge, aware there is more to faith than saying yes to Jesus yet not entirely understanding that to become more like Christ requires a sincere surrender of my ways and plans. It’s a genuine letting go of the world and self so I can grasp more of Jesus. 

So count it good news, friend — the further along the bridge we get from believing to becoming, the more our earthly longings will fade because our desires start to look ahead toward becoming more like Jesus. As a result, the things we crave transform into what He wants — in a most beautiful and perfect way.

Only Him

Because we were created to walk with God, it is only a relationship with Him that fills the void of wanting to belong. Yes, we are saved. And for that, heaven rejoices! But we’re also invited into a relationship that meets every desire for belonging we’ve ever had. So, as we cross over that bridge of belonging to Jesus, we enter into a more complete gospel. We step into the fuller, abundant life Jesus wants for us. Then we take all the love and truth and grace we’ve been given and share it with everyone God puts in our path. 

Photo by Spencer Goggin on Unsplash

Please hear this. While salvation may happen in an instant, sanctification is a lifelong practice. Becoming like Jesus takes time and intentionality, patience and perseverance. 

Also know that where we are on the path with Jesus determines our depth of assurance that we belong to Him. That’s why we say everyday, “I belong to Jesus!” We need to hear it so we can believe it. Over time, as we mature, we won’t have to say it as often because we’ll be living the truth of it.

In the here and now, continue the practices you’ve begun — prayer, study of God’s Word, stillness and solitude. Because the more you do so, the more your heart and mind will embrace the truth of your belongingness, the more you will leave behind the ways of the world, and the more you’ll become like Jesus, embracing the love of the Father and lighting up the world with it.

So, don’t stop, sister! You’re on a journey. This path has movement — from believing to belonging to becoming. You are discovering how to live out the full gospel, so take hold of what you’ve been given — that identity in Christ — and keep moving forward, seeking to leave behind the ways of the world and your own tendencies to take the reins. Instead, bask in the true belonging that comes with knowing Jesus and grow into His likeness more everyday. 

  • Take some time today to journal your thoughts about today’s content. Here are some questions to get you going: Do you believe that your relationship with Jesus can meet every desire for belonging you’ve ever had? What causes you to doubt this? What cravings for belonging are you feeling like can’t be met by Jesus? Where are you on that spectrum of believing, belonging, and becoming? What is one practice you do this week to help you move forward?
  • The Belonging playlist is one way to keep the truth that you belong to Jesus pouring out over you throughout your days. Push play and let the truth soak in. And, keep saying out loud, “I belong to Jesus!”

Featured photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

6 thoughts on “True Belonging: Gospel

  1. Thank you for your gift of studying and sharing God’s message. I am encouraged by todays words.

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