Last week, we considered Paul’s command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We saw how an implication of that command is that our fight for holiness is to be fueled by Gospel grace. But how does the Gospel directly shape and direct your pursuit of holiness? How do we practically bring the Gospel to bear on the various facets of our lives, so that we might conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel?
Today, I want to try to answer those questions by considering 12 different biblical virtues, and showing how the Gospel draws a straight line to each of them.
And here am I referring to the love for God Himself in the person Christ that manifests in a compelling desire for communion with Him through prayer and Bible reading. 1 Peter 3:18 tells us that the purpose of Christ’s work in the Gospel was “so that He might bring us to God”—so that He might restore us to fellowship and communion with our Father. In the same way, 2 Corinthians 4:4–6 teaches that the Gospel opens our blind eyes to finally see “the glory of God in the face of Christ.” If, then, my eyes have been opened to see such beauty, how incongruous would it be for me to cut myself off from seeing Him revealed in His Word, and from proving Him to be sweet and mighty in my prayers? If the design of the Gospel was to bring me to God, how can I fail to seek His face in regular personal worship?
If God has demonstrated His love for His people by delivering His beloved Son over to death to secure their salvation, how can we withhold our love from them? Indeed, how can we who profess to love Christ not love His bride?
Imagine if a man said to his friend, “Hey James, I just love spending time together, brother. You’re just such a benefit to me, and I love you in Christ. But let me tell you man, I can’t stand your wife. I mean, she is just ridiculous!” How would that go over?
Or, change the metaphor. 1 John 5:1 says, “Whoever loves the father loves the child born of Him.” What would you think if, after spending some time with you, another couple just poured out their heart about how much they love you and your wife, but told you that your children are a bunch of snot-nosed brats? I don’t know of any way to alienate any parent better or faster than to insult their children.
And yet your brothers and sisters are the children of your Father. They, along with you, are the bride of Christ. And because we have been served so faithfully by Christ’s work in the Gospel, we are ready and eager to serve one another. We were rescued from the dominion of darkness by One who gladly laid down His life in order to redeem us. Because of this, we should be gladly willing to lay down our lives in sacrificial, give-your-life-away service to our brothers and sisters.
Also closely related to those is unity. If the Gospel unites us to Christ by faith such that we are one with Him, this means that we are also united to all others who are united to Him. Therefore, we can eagerly and humbly seek to resolve division by remembering that we are already united by the objective work of Christ on our behalf.
After calling the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1:27), one of the first things he says is that he hopes to find them “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” The Gospel makes us one, objectively, and so we should walk, practically, in that unity.
The way this unity will be achieved is through humility. Unity is cultivated when we humbly “regard one another as more important than [our]selves” (Phil 2:3). And I don’t know if there’s a response more consistent with a Gospel of sovereign grace than humility. We have been chosen by God for salvation based upon nothing at all in ourselves (Eph 1:5; Rom 9:11, 16). If we are saved by a Gospel that we can do nothing to earn, it means that in every experience we are getting better than we deserve. The Gospel should make us a humble people.
The Gospel is good news! Paul calls the Gospel “glad tidings of good things” (Rom 10:15)! The Gospel by which we are rescued from our sin, forgiven, freed from punishment, and birthed into newness of life lived for the glory of God brings the greatest joy imaginable! How imbalanced and improper would it be for us to be gloomy, morose, habitually angry, or complaining. The Gospel is the greatest motivation in the world for us to “Rejoice always” (Phil 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess 5:16).
When Paul seeks to stir up the Corinthians to sacrificial giving for the saints in Jerusalem, he reminds them of God’s own “indescribable gift” to them in the Person of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 9:15). In 2 Corinthians 8:9 he says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” For us for whom to live is Christ and die is gain (Phil 1:21)—for whom Christ is more satisfying than all that money can buy—it should be the most natural thing in the world for us to be radically generous. Greed, covetousness, and discontentment make absolutely no sense for the Christian, who possesses all things in Christ (Heb 13:5; cf. 1 Cor 3:21–23).
The Gospel brings us the good news that even while we are sinners we are declared righteous in the sight of the thrice holy God. How can we who have been cleansed by the priceless blood of Christ—united to Him who is perfectly pure—give ourselves to sexual immorality and impurity? “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!” (1 Cor 6:15). And then, “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). Our bodies are not our own; they belong to Christ. He bought them at the invaluable price of His own blood. Let us not regard the blood of Christ so lightly by engaging in immorality.
Somewhat related to that is purity of speech. Those of us who are benefited by the work of Christ who is called the Truth (John 14:6) are called to “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Eph 4:29). Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 5:4 that there must be no filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting, because it’s not fitting for the one who has been declared righteous. Suggestive double entendre, innuendo, and crude jokes have absolutely no place on those lips which have been cleansed by the coals of the Gospel (cf. Isa 6:6–7).
In that glorious final section of Ephesians chapter 5, Paul tells us that marriage is designed to point us to the Gospel—to the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church.
Husbands: is your life marked by the loving headship and servant-leadership of your wife? Are you taking the responsibility to proactively shepherd your wife as Christ nourishes and cherishes the Church?
Wives: is your character marked by joyful and eager submission to your husband’s authority, as a picture of the Church’s joyful and eager submission to Christ Himself?
Parents, how can we who have been adopted by such a loving Father be cold, harsh, unforgiving, and unbending and graceless with our children (Eph 6:4)? On the other hand, how can we care so little for the well-being of our children by failing to discipline and reprove them faithfully (Prov 19:18), and even sharply, when necessary, as our Heavenly Father is faithful to do to His children (Heb 12:5–8)?
Again, if we serve Him who is called the Truth, how can we deal dishonestly with people in the workplace? For better or worse your unbelieving friends and co-workers look at you and form opinions of Christ and His Church. What are you communicating about Christ and about Christianity by your life, speech, and attitude? Are you un-saying with your life what you say with your lips? Does your life tell the truth about the message you proclaim? It should be plain to those who work with you, by your speech and by your actions, that you’re an honest man or woman—that you put in eight hours work for eight hours pay, and that you’re working for the approval of One who is infinitely more important than your supervisor (Col 3:22–24).
And finally, how can we profess to love the glory of God revealed in the face of Christ, and yet not be eager to proclaim the Good News of that glory to others? So that they can love and enjoy what we know to be infinitely satisfying, and so that God can receive the glory and the worship He’s worthy of from as many people as possible. It simply cannot bethat we who are the beneficiaries of such a glorious Gospel can remain silent in such a day of Good News (cf. 2 Kgs 7:9).
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The Gospel is not merely the message that “gets you in the door” of Christianity; it is the message that strengthens and sustains all your efforts in holiness throughout all your Christian life. The tentacles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ touch every facet of your life. I pray that these reflections spur you on to further meditation on how the truths embodied in the Gospel have a direct bearing on the various situations, experiences, and decisions that you face day by day.