As I stated in the first post of this series, living out of wholeness rather than brokenness is something that must be learned. Just as those in recovery from substance abuse must learn a new way of living, so must those who are healing from past trauma and difficult experiences. In this post, we will see how learning- and healing- is possible through Christ and the gospel.
At the risk of sounding redundant, I will say it again: healing and wholeness are possible through the provision of the gospel. And this is the gospel: that Christ suffered once for sinners, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh and made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18). In order to reconcile us to God, Jesus, the Son of God, endured the punishment we deserved—for the wages of sin is death. And yet, he arose, thereby conquering death and assuring us that the payment for sin had been accepted. As Scripture makes clear, all those who trust in the person and work of Christ alone will be saved. (Romans 10:13, 1 John 5:12, John 1:12).
At first glance, it may not be exactly clear how Christ dying in our place and rising three days later leads to our wholeness and healing. But the truth is, this act of power and love is the only thing that leads to true transformation in our lives. The prophet Isaiah wrote about the coming Messiah 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Of him, he wrote: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).
Before his crucifixion, Jesus was horrifically beaten, spit upon, and mocked. Hanging on the cross, he then experienced the full weight of the sins of humanity. All of this was on our behalf so that we might become the forgiven sons and daughters of God. But this accomplished not only our salvation, but our healing as well. My study Bible notes, “The sufferings of Christ remove the penalty that His people otherwise owe, and as a result He will undo the effects of sin in them.” (ESV Reformation Study Bible). As I wrote in my book, Remade: Living Free, “Part of Jesus conquering death meant the effects of sin will be undone in the believer’s life. Sure, we will not always be spared the consequences of our sins, but we don’t have to live in our pain forever. His wounds have healed and freed us.” The effects of sin being undone include a sound mind, peace, joy, and the assurance of God’s love. In a word: wholeness.
A Sound Mind Through the Gospel and the Spirit
When Jesus told his disciples he would be returning to the Father, he assured them that this was for their good. Of course, they didn’t understand how this could possibly be! After all, what could be better than having the Incarnate Son of God in their midst? But Jesus assured them, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7). This Helper, the Holy Spirit, would guide them in all truth and declare to them the things to come. (John 16:13).
Yet, the Holy Spirit was not just given to the disciples, but to all who believe in Jesus. (1 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 4:30). Even more, without the Holy Spirit, our salvation would not be possible! Often when we think of the gospel, we think of God the Father and Christ the Son. However, we neglect to think about the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, and His role in our salvation. For truly, our salvation was a work of the triune Godhead: The Father planned it, the Son procured it, and the Spirit applied it to our hearts.
Just as we are loved by the Father and Son, so we are loved by the Holy Spirit. In his book, Communion with God, John Owen wrote, “He [the Holy Spirit] is as willing to take upon himself the work of comforter and helper as the Son was willing to take on himself the work of redeemer.” What an amazing gift to have God’s Spirit within us! As with the disciples, he comforts us, guides us in all truth, and brings forth God’s Word to our minds at just the right time. He also convicts us of sin and helps us to judge and discern rightly. Through the Spirit, we are no longer controlled by the flesh, but are graciously given a sound mind.
The Gospel of Peace
Only through the gospel can we have peace with God, self, and others. Where once we may have considered a reconciliation with God to be an impossibility, through the cross we are brought near to him. (Ephesians 2:13). Near. What a beautiful and glorious truth! Through Christ, we are made new and restored to a right relationship with our Creator. As 2 Corinthians 5:18 states, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” In Christ, we are children of God, secure and at peace with our Heavenly Father.
Because we have been reconciled to God, we now desire, and are able, to live in obedience to His commands. Through His Spirit, we will love another, bear with one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, exhort one another, and pray for one another. Of course, we will not do these things perfectly! But as the Holy Spirit continues to sanctify us, we will bear fruit and come to look more and more like our Savior. As a result of our personal sanctification, we will be able to live in peace with others.
Finally, because of our restored relationship with God through Christ, we have peace within. As St. Augustine so famously said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Yes, and Amen! To know the peace that passes understanding is to rest in the character and promises of God and to know Jesus as Lord. As the apostle John stated, “He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20). Indeed, Christ is our highest treasure and our deepest peace.
Joy Secured by Christ and the Gospel
One of the greatest sources of joy for the Christian is the security of salvation. Jesus made this security very clear when He spoke of his sheep:
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29).
How comforting to know that our union with Christ is a permanent condition! There is no un-uniting ourselves with Him; for the ones whom God has set His electing love upon will be kept forever in Christ. Just as God the Father can never cast out Christ the Son, so He can never cast out those who are his own. What joy we have in knowing we are safe in His grip, being forever united with Christ!
Not only does our permanent union with Christ produce joy, but so does our communion with him. As we spend time with Jesus in the Word and in prayer, we will come to know him more- and through his Spirit, we will be filled with joy. David communicated this truth in Psalm 16:11: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In Christ, we have all we need for fullness of joy. As a modern hymn so aptly states, Hallelujah, all I have is Christ; Hallelujah, Jesus is my life!*
The Apostle Paul well knew that in Christ we have all we need to be joyful. In his letter to the Philippians, he disclosed the secret to being content in every situation. He wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is the secret to joy—regardless of being in plenty or in want, in hunger or well fed, in sickness or in health. We may not always be happy in our circumstances, but our hearts can delight in our Savior from whom we are given grace upon grace. (John 1:16). Even in the midst of trials, we, like Paul, can remain joyful by setting our hearts and minds on Christ and his glorious gospel.
Assured of God’s Love Through Christ and the Gospel
Though we could list a million different ways God shows His love for us, nothing demonstrates His love like the giving of His Son. John 3:16, arguably the most famous verse in the Bible, loudly proclaims this truth: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The giving of His perfect Son for the sins of a rebellious lot of sinners- this is the love of God. Even while we were still in the filth of our sin, God’s love was given to us in the sacrifice of Christ. Consider the following verses:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
And yet, we know that our Savior was a willing Savior. After all, he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. (John 10:15). Jesus made this clear when he spoke of his life: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18). Out of obedience to the Father and love for his sheep, he willingly endured the cross. The Apostle Paul recounted this love when he wrote, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20b).
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest love story ever told. If we ever doubt our value; if we ever question whether or not we’re really loved- we need look no further than the cross. For in the cross, we see the immeasurable love of God and our Savior. As Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is precisely what Christ has done for us. Without a doubt, it assures us of God’s love.
Over these last few pages, we’ve seen but a glimpse of the wholeness accomplished by the gospel. Although far more could be written regarding the provision of the gospel for our healing, we see very clearly that our wholeness does not come from within us, but results from placing our full trust in Christ. In our union with him, we are continuously sanctified by his Spirit, and are firmly held in the Father’s hand. What a beautiful way to be made whole.
*Lyrics from All I Have is Christ by Jordan Kauflin, 2008