08 February 2016

Gospel Conversation: Living the Gospel (Pt 3)

We ended part two after a section on honoring God, so now we look at the idea of living:

In Respect to Worldly Men

On top of being a manner of living that honors Yahweh, it is also a way to convince unbelievers around you. While the audience relevance scenario is different, the exhortation from Peter is applicable as to how this works:

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Pet. 2:12 ESV)

Yes, they had there day of visitation that was approaching, but the underlying principle is still solid – that honorable conduct and good deeds glorify Yahweh to those around us. So it is actually a two-fold response – it glorifies God and convicts the unbelievers around us.

Another aspect of it - as relating to those around us - is found a few verses later, where Peter says this action will actually silence ignorance:

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:15 ESV)

Peter also gives us a hint of what we spoke of from Paul earlier in our opening text. Living as people who are free hearkens back to the living as citizen idea. Plus he reinforces Paul’s teaching to honor others and love the members of the body of Christ. Then later in 3:16 Peter speaks of our good behavior putting to shame those who slander and revile.

In Respect to the Saints

On top of glorifying Yahweh, and affecting those unbelievers around us – we now look at how it affects our fellow saints. When fellow believers see us living a gospel honoring lifestyle, it will warm their hearts. They see the glory it brings to the Father, and that brings them joy.

They will not only feel joy, but will bless God the more for it. And likewise, to see this spirit of love working through others, it should fill us with the same joy, seeing the good things being done in our Father’s name.

It is also a means of adding additional encouragement to others. They see another brother or sister practicing a righteous gospel centered life, and it gives them great joy and encouragement to continue doing the same.

On the other hand, seeing someone making the gospel profession yet walking contrary to that, is disheartening, and brings shame to them and the whole body in general.

Also, new converts will be emboldened in their walk by seeing the gospel living of those around them, and they will be given the encouragement to follow the example and seek to imitate that righteousness too.

So our gospel lifestyles – or lack thereof - can greatly affect those around us, making it of great importance that we watch over ourselves in these areas. Let us hold fast to truth and not be proven to be liars as we are warned in 1 John:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  (1 John 1:6 ESV)

Instead, we should always seek to stand firm in that manner of living that is worthy of the gospel:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  (1 John 1:7 ESV)

It is the hard words found later on in this same letter that help to separate the sheep from the goats as it were:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:6,8 ESV)

Now, we could go into all kinds of detail here about what it means to keep on sinning, etc. but instead of going down that path, let’s keep it more surface level and simply say that someone who has no desire to  - or ignores all efforts to  - live a disciplined, gospel honoring life may need to take a real hard look at their spiritual life and profession in general.

It someone would rather contradict their profession of salvation by a habitual, public, and unapologetic manner is showing forth no evidence of being born of God. Whereas this same section tells us:

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 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. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:7,9-10 ESV)

So, this kind of makes the gospel lifestyle less than optional. It seems fairly clear that if someone does not practice righteousness or does not love their brother, they are not of God. Those are pretty strong words, and they should hopefully wake us up to the seriousness of the situation. Of course, this is not saying that righteous living causes us to be of God, but it is saying that those truly of God will have a heart towards this gospel manner of living.

Those who don’t tend to take care of themselves anyway. Like a comet, they may blaze for a short period, but after a while of no righteous living or striving for growth, they tend to fade away and disappear.

When you think about it, what is the purpose of being born of God if you are just going to stick it in your pocket and make it of no use to your life or anyone else’s around you? Does Scripture give us any indication of a lifestyle that he calls us to where we just accept His gift and hide it away only for ourselves?

Going back to our original verse in Philippians:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…  (Phil. 1:27 ESV)

As we said earlier, he is saying “above all else” we are to strive to live in a manner of life worth of the gospel – it means our prayer should be that we live and act differently than before. We should be “set apart” and noticeably so by those around us.

Yes we’re human – yes we’re seeds of Adam – yes we stumble – yes we sin – yes we fall. But are we to use our human nature as an excuse to continue in sin with never much desire to be rid of it and work hard at striving for holiness?

We are to strive and work within ourselves to daily seek to overcome the secret sins that are keeping us from being the men and women God wishes us to be. We are to stay in his Word frequently to better learn and understand the nature and ways of Yahweh, in order that we may focus our lifestyle to be more pleasing to Him.

This is not works based righteousness, this is works based love. If Yahweh has loved us and brought us into his family and renewed us with truth, we should be more than willing to love and honor Him with a lifestyle according to his mandate.

Living in a manner worthy of the gospel means earnestly desiring the ability to pray in good conscience something like this updated prayer borrowed again from Jeremiah Burroughs:

Father, you know, according to what light you have given me in the gospel, that it has been my care to look to my manner of living.

Oh, that I might live to your honor and be a witness to your truth; that I might hold forth your image and further your designs, and make up the dishonor that you have from others in the world. That I might convince wicked men and stop the mouths of those who are contrary!

Oh, that I might be a means to convert those with whom I live, or otherwise to judge them. 

Oh, that I might rejoice the hearts of the saints, that they may lift up their heads with boldness because of me, and that they may be established and edified.

Many in today’s pews could not repeat this prayer in sincerity. But the question is, do we desire to be able to do so? Are we struggling daily to make our manner of living more like this?

Many do not have such a concern or desire, but are just fine going to church, going through the motions, and putting on a good front while there – only to go live like the devil the rest of the week.

Do we attend church services or listen to sermons with the intent of learning new things about Yahweh and to strengthen ourselves with new ways that we can live more unto Him? Or do we go to church because that is what is expected of us?

What is it we are seeking most to do in this life – be pleasing and appeasing to men, or seek to be honoring to our Father who has given us life and truth? I once sat under a pastor who said plainly from the pulpit, “In this life, we can never be sinless – so why try?” That is a sad and lazy excuse that allows us to just wallow in our sin.

The church is sadly filled with men and women just like this – whose daily lives are a great dishonor to the Lord they profess to love and follow. Nothing darkens the glory of the Father as much as a professor of the gospel who lives so loosely with little concern for correction.

May our hearts not be set in such a direction, and may God’s Words always chime in our ears:

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (1 John 1:6 ESV)

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)

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12 ESV)

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)