Yesterday I wrote about the first two of five gospel perspectives that enable us to truly live out the gospel: The Extent and Gravity of Our Sin and The Centrality of the Heart. This is all part of a larger discussion about gospel substitutes and the true gospel, inspired by Lane & Tripp’s book How People Change. (For crying out loud, if you read my blog and you still haven’t ordered this book yet…I don’t even know. You need to read it!) Without further ado, here are the final three gospel perspectives.

3. The Present Benefits of Christ

The Christian hope is more than a redemptive system with practical principles that can change your life. The hope of every Christian is a person, the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He is the wisdom behind every biblical principle and the power we need to live them out. Because Christ lives inside us today, because he rules all things for our sakes (see Eph. 2:22-23), and because he is presently putting all his enemies under his feet (see 1 Cor. 15:25-28), we can live with courage and hope.

Our hope is not in our theological knowledge or our experience within the body of Christ. We are thankful for these things, yet we hold on to one hope: Christ. In him we find everything we need to live a godly life in the here and now. Paul captures it so well: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

You have Jesus. He is with you through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Everything you need to live the gospel truly and fully–to live the life God has designed for you to live–is available to you because you have Jesus. You lack nothing because Jesus lacks nothing. Jesus didn’t just die for your sins, he rose again from the dead for your righteousness. He is alive and with you in the person of the Holy Spirit.

4. God’s Call to Growth and Change

It is so easy to coast! We have been accepted into God’s family, and someday will be with him in eternity. But what goes on in between? From the time we come to Christ until the time we go home to be with him, God calls us to change. We have been changed by his grace, are being changed by his grace, and will be changed by his grace.

What is the goal of this change? It is more than a better marriage, well-adjusted children, professional success, or freedom from a few nagging sins. God’s goal is that we would actually become like him. He doesn’t just want you to escape the fires of hell—though we praise God that through Christ you can! His goal is to free us from our slavery to sin, our bondage to self, and our functional idolatry, so that we actually take on his character!

Peter summarizes the change this way: ‘Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires’ (2 Peter 1:4).

God has an end in mind, and it is to conform you into the image of his Son. God is out to make you like Jesus. Everything he’s doing in you and through you and with you has a singular purpose: Christlikeness. This demands that we never stop growing and changing, because there will always be more of us that needs to be transformed. Never stop growing.

5. A Lifestyle of Repentance and Faith

God has blessed you with his grace, gifted you with his presence, strengthened you with his power, and made you the object of his eternal love. Because we belong to him, we live for his agenda. And if change is his agenda, then repentance and faith is the lifestyle to which we have been called.

There are always new sins for the Christian to address and new enemies to defeat. The Christian life makes God’s work of change our paradigm for living, while we celebrate the grace that makes it possible. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:11-13).

In order to participate with God in his project of the transformation of our hearts, we must be committed to live lives of humility, characterized by repentance and faith. If you think you have nothing to repent of, then you are not working with God–you’re working against him.

Remember that sin is extensive and weighty; it is more than just something we do, it is who we are. But praise God, through a lifestyle of repentance and faith, the gospel says, “That is who you were. Jesus is who you are becoming.”

Last week I asked my pastor to mentor me, and he told me to just look in the mirror and do whatever that guy tells me. I wasn’t sure if he was serious (about half-serious), but I was certainly convicted by his point. I already know what I need to do, it’s just a matter of doing it. And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? It never seems to matter how much I want to exercise (or do a lot of things that I want or should do), I simply don’t do it. My lack of discipline and get-up-and-go is truly embarrassing. Would I want other people to have my will power? Is this how I would want my friends to live their lives?
Doing the things that I want and should do is really what is best for me. They are the things that I want my friends to do because they are what is best for them. So if I want the best for others, why do I refuse (like a sluggard) to do the best for myself? It truly is humiliating. I ought to listen to the man in the mirror.

So in that vein, here the simple things that I want and ought to do to live the life I’ve always wanted:

  • read the Bible every day as an act of worship
  • engage in more thoughtful acts of worship and devotion
  • pray on my way to and from work
  • exercise every day
  • pray with my wife at night
  • eat healthy food
  • stop drinking pop
  • spend less than I make
  • tithe every month
  • save every month
  • stay engaged at work
  • work on my screenplay every day
  • take photos once a week
  • read a book a week
  • spend better time with my family
  • have intentionally spiritual conversations with friends
  • lavish others with praise

I suppose the list could go on. But really, what is so hard about any of these? Why is it so difficult to do these things consistently? I want to do all of them, but I constantly find myself doing other things that have no lasting value.

What a wretched man I am. Were it not for the grace of Jesus, I would be utterly lost. Thank you Jesus, may I be found in you. Please give me the strength of will to do the things I want and ought to do.

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