07 February 2016

Gospel Conversation: Living the Gospel (Pt 2)

We ended in part one mentioning how the gospel message is a message of peace, love and reconciliation. Our manner of living should reflect that too. We must live in a manner that manifests the power of the gospel beyond just the words we say – it must be evident in our very actions.

We see this idea even in the very words of Christ, who told his audience:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:16 ESV)

Our manner of living, our words, and our works should portray the beauty, excellence, and glory that the gospel offers to mankind. Has God the Father brought the light of the gospel into your life? Does evidence of it shine forth in your heart? Has he revealed to you those glorious mysteries of salvation in Him? If so, then let the light of that break forth and shine in your lifestyle so that others can see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Gospel living goes above the normal lifestyle of the world around us and should reveal a lifestyle powered by the love of God and the Holy Spirit. It goes above and beyond the live-for-ourselves, fulfill-our-own-desires mentality, and seeks the higher calling of love and unity with the body. Similar to what we are told in 1 John:

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9 ESV)

A gospel lifestyle will reveal the evidence of this seed of God within us producing a lifestyle that is above the norm. God’s seed will produce the fruit that makes our gospel lifestyle more evident. Of course failure to do so reveals the opposite, as we are told in 1 John:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20 ESV)

This is the high calling of a gospel lifestyle – it is one that lives consistently with the profession of a gospel conversion. It is not one that is filled with hypocritical words and actions that go against the very gospel and Lord that we claim to follow. It is one that relies on the life giving vine to bring forth the fruit of this lifestyle.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4 ESV)

The Apostle Paul gives us a whole section of instruction for the kind of gospel lifestyle we should be living out.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:1-8 ESV)

I wish time would permit me to go through each of these traits to unwrap the wealth of doctrinal truths contained in them. Terms like sober minded, dignified, and self-controlled pack a punch when it comes to how we men should strive to live in the gospel. The same can be said for the lifestyle traits mentioned for the women and younger men.

In the end, the reason for this lifestyle is so that “an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Oh it would be nice if the church’s opponents today would have nothing evil to say about us, but sadly that is not the case because so few truly strive to live a gospel lifestyle.

James gives us great instruction along this line too:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13 ESV)

Our conduct should show forth the love and meekness of the gospel – it should be evident in the way we live. James continues:

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:14-16 ESV)

Note, where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there will be disorder – not unity as there should be. This is not showing the evidence of a gospel lifestyle, which James then states by saying:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:16-18 ESV)

This is a manner of living that is revealing the gospel. This lifestyle is evidenced by the presence of peace, gentleness, reason, mercy and good fruits. If we are to manifest the evidence that God has brought about a true saving knowledge and wisdom within us, then we should know that God requires us to show that through living the gospel lifestyle in love, meekness and wisdom.

Honoring God

Aside from leaving the opponents without evil things to say, this lifestyle is also one that is honoring to God. Of course striving for this type of God-honoring lifestyle has brought forth many attempts to produce satisfactory results in this area.

One example was just a few years back, there was the WWJD movement. “What would Jesus Do?” was plastered on everything – but especially things like rings and bracelets. It was a means to give people a visible sign to help them always remember to questions their motives when making decisions.

Another one, which I am not sure when it got started but recall hearing it often when I was growing up, which is a slightly different take on the WWJD idea, is where you ask yourself if you would still do such and such activity if Christ were sitting beside you.

These are all means to cause us to hopefully stop and think before we act foolishly. They are set up to hopefully help us attempt to train our minds to live in a manner pleasing to Yahweh and showing forth a gospel lifestyle to those around us.

Of course, these types of things can and have led to much abuse and legalism in practice – thus actually counteracting the truth it seeks to establish. People do just like they have been doing since…forever – they create rules and practices that become hedges to protect against possible sin and over time those rules become traditions that go far beyond anything biblical.

We must not allow ourselves or others to produce guidelines that bind us to a new law or legalism instead of grace, or we will become just as fruitless as the early people of God with all of their over-the-top ways of seeking to keep the law.

We must also watch that we do not let works becomes our attention grabber tool. I appreciate the way the Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs put it:

It is one thing to do a good work that may be seen, and another thing to do a good work that it may be seen. To do a good work that may be seen is lawful, though we should not do them principally aiming that they may be seen. (Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646), Gospel Conversation, pg. 10)

In other words, do not become someone who does good deeds simply to reap the attention and credit upon themselves. I am sure you are familiar with what we are told by Christ in Matthew about this:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 6:1 ESV)

He continues on saying not to blow a trumpet to draw attention to you when giving to the needy, and not stand on the street corner to pray in order to be seen doing so.

The point being that you should not do these things with the direct intent of gaining attention to yourself. If your deeds are seen, be sure they bring all of the glory to the Father and not to yourself.
Through your lifestyle and deeds, you do give honor to the Father, and become a living, breathing, walking gospel message. To habitually live contrary to that is to do the opposite – and provides a negative message.

A changed lifestyle – one that is lived above and beyond the normal standards of the world, is indeed a witness of the gospel’s power. People who claim to have been born again, and then live as if nothing has happened and no differently from anyone else - they do not present such gospel power.

The church is ignored so much these days because of the widespread hypocritical professions when compared to the lifestyles standards by many church goers. Instead of love and mercy the church is seen as a place offering judgment, condemnation, and an image of greediness.

The church is supposed to be the go-to place for answers, love, and mercy. Instead, it has become a house of self-serving liars that is avoided by the world because of its failure to live as the gospel requires.

Many people have left the organized church because of this hypocritical lifestyle they find contained within. This kind of lifestyle is more in line with the basic human nature that we are called to strive to live in opposition to. Even Paul is aware of it and speaks to the church at his time, saying:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:29, 31-32 ESV)

This is how the church body should live – by seeking to build one another up. This is the way a child of Yahweh is to behave. This love is not suggested, it is required if you claim to follow your master:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13: 34-35)

This is the evidence to the world around us that we truly are who we profess to be – followers of Yeshua. We are the witness to this truth, and our lifestyle either promotes a proper image of Yahweh, or it provides an image that is dishonoring and detrimental to the gospel.

I'll finish up this thought in the next part.