What Does it Look Like to Live in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel of Christ?

When you think about what it means to be a good citizen of our country someone like Louie Zamperini may come to mind. A while back I read a book by Laura Hillenbrand entitled Unbroken in which she chronicles Louie’s life.

Louie was drafted into the armed services in his twenties to fight in WWII, and he ended up in the Air Force. Before Louie accepted his draft orders, he was an amazing runner, an olympic hopeful, someone who was on pace to run a mile in under 4:00 minutes. If you are wondering, that’s fast, really fast! You have to sustain a speed of 15 mph in order to run a 4 minute mile.

Even though Louie was fast, he believed serving his country was more important than his own hopes, dreams, and aspiration, so he took up the fight alongside his fellow servicemen. I don’t want spoil his story for you. Let’s just say his time in the Air Force was no cake walk. A downed airplane, lost at sea, POW camp, and ultimately forgiveness. These are the threads that run through the book and Louie’s life.

When we look at a man like Louie, we can all agree that he is a good citizen of this country. He put others first. He considered the welfare of the nation over his own. He is someone who lives in a manner worthy of being an American. 

But what about a Christian?

What does it look like to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?

Paul tells us what it looks like to live in a manner worthy of the gospel in his letter to the Philippians. Beginning in verse 27 of chapter 1 we read, 

“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 [I want you to take note of what comes next because this is where he starts to tell us what it means to live in a manner worthy of the gospel] you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” 

(Php 1:27–30)

From the text above, we gather that living in a manner worthy of the gospel looks like us:

(1) Standing firm with one another in the faith.

In order for that to happen, we must not only understand the core doctrines of Christianity and the gospel, but we must also be willing to contend, to strive side by side for the truth of the faith. We must work together to spread the gospel and promote our faith, even in the face of persecution. Persecution is going to come. When it does, we must be ready and willing to take it head on. In order to do that, we need others standing next to us. No soldier goes into battle by themselves. We must not enter into the battle alone either. To be sure, living out the Christian faith is to live in the middle of a war, a spiritual war. We must not be naive or ignorant of that. We must come together, then, with one another striving side by side for the faith.

(2) Living in unity with one another.

Following up what he just said beginning in verse 1 of chapter 2 Paul writes,

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” 

(Php 2:1–2)

Now, one of the things I believe Paul is trying to get across here is that the gospel should bring us together, and it should do that because we are all saved in the same way. We all need all of Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. That’s because we are all bankrupt sinners who can do nothing to get ourselves out of debt.

Along with holding our need for Christ’s righteousness up as a means to bring us together. Paul also brings the Spirit into the equation. He says that we all have the same Spirit working in us. The Spirit provides us with encouragement and comfort. He helps us to grow in our Christian walk. As well as equips us for the work of ministry among other things.

Having experienced the same salvation, encouragement, comfort, and work of the Spirit, we should all live in unity with one another. No one is better than anyone else. We are all in God’s family. We must all live as family. We must live as those who are unified with one another.

(3) We must consider others to be more significant than ourselves.

Paul is not only hinting at that idea in verses 1 and 2, when he calls us to unity, but he is specifically telling us that here. We can’t think ourselves better than someone else and then seek unity with them. It doesn’t work like that. Paul is not only hinting at this idea in verses 1 and 2, but starting in verse 3 he explicitly tells us that we must consider others more significant than ourselves.

After telling us what we must think of others, he follows that up with the example of Christ. Let’s look at that. Paul writes,

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 (Php 2:3–11)

Now there is a lot in there, but for the sake of today’s post, what I want you to see is that we must have the mind of Christ.

One thing that having the mind of Christ means is that we don’t think of ourselves as more significant than others. Instead, we humble ourselves. We think others more significant than us. That type of thinking should lead us to care and sacrifice for others. 

I believe, if we all took this command to heart, then conflict and disunity in the church would cease. But conflict continues, which tells us that we haven’t taken this command to heart. Instead, we continue to think about and do what is best for self.We care more about our own comfort, desires, and wants than others. But if we want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, then we must humble ourselves, counting others more significant than ourselves.

Closely related to the last and contained in that grouping of verses is the idea of self-sacrifice, which tells us that living in a manner worthy of the gospel mean that:

(4) We must serve and love others self-sacrificially

Jesus is the prime example of self-sacrifice. Paul is explicitly calling that out in these verses by telling us that Jesus left His heavenly home, came to earth, and died for us. Jesus is, then, the chief example of self-sacrifice.

When it is hard for us to serve or love others, we should think about Jesus. How He loved and served us when we were unlovable. How He gave Himself for a people who were His enemies, so that we might experience the blessing of salvation. That’s self-sacrifice. That’s counting others more significant than yourself right there. Jesus died so that His enemies could experience the blessing of eternal life.

If we want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we must do the same. We must serve and love others self-sacrificially.

Lastly, we learn that those who want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ must shine as lights.

(5) We must live in such a way as to shine as lights in this dark world.

Look at the text starting in verse 14,

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” 

(Php 2:14–18)

In these verses, Paul shares a number of things with the Philippians. One of which is that he wants them to live in such a way that they are able to shine as lights in this dark world. When the world looks at us, they should see a people who are different.

What differences should they see? Paul points out some of the differences that should be apparent in the lives of those who are Christians. He says that:

  • They don’t grumble, nor do they dispute with one another.
  • They live in such a way that they are considered blameless and innocent.
  • No one can bring a charge against them.
  • We also see that they hold fast to the Word.
  • In other words, they aren’t wishy-washy about their faith, about their beliefs. They don’t allow the culture to sway them one way or the other.
  • As well as they are a people who are consistently growing in Christ.

These, then, are some of the ways that we might shine as lights in the world and live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you living in a manner worthy of the gospel?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: What Does it Look Like to Live in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel of Christ?

Why Shouldn’t We Change the Gospel? – Part 4

The gospel was being distorted in Galatia by a group called the Judaizers. Essentially they were teaching that the Gentiles had to accept circumcision alongside the message that Jesus was their Lord and Savior. While it was a small change, it was still a change. A change that made all the difference. Remember the gospel tells us that we can do nothing to earn our own salvation, and here the Galatians were being taught that they had to do something.

There are a number of things we can add to or replace the gospel with, but doing so changes and distorts the gospel so that it’s no longer good news. It is just another form of works based salvation labeled as the gospel. When we change the gospel today, we are essentially committing the same error as the Judaizers in Paul’s day.

But we shouldn’t change the gospel. Why is that?

Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? (vs. 3-8)

As I have already alluded to:

(1) Changing the gospel makes salvation impossible.

If we are forced to rely on our own works, we’ll never experience salvation.

When I was in college, I let my credit card get a little bit out of control. Nothing too crazy, but it wasn’t something I could pay off while I was in college. I just worked part-time at a climbing wall. It was a fun job, but it didn’t pay a lot, so I ended up graduating college with some debt. Now, I didn’t keep that debt for long. After I got my first job out of college, I paid it off quickly.

We often think of salvation like that. Like it’s a debt we have to work off by doing good works. If we do enough good works, God will forgive us and we will experience eternal life. But that’s not how it works. God doesn’t accept our works as payment towards our debt. He only accepts the work of Jesus on our behalf.

Paul makes this clear in Galatians 1 when he says,

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Ga 1:3–4)

You see, it was Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf that gave us peace. It was His sacrifice that delivered us. Not our works. That’s the case because that’s how God designed it. Notice that Paul says that this is “according to the will of our God and Father,” Since God doesn’t change, the payment He requires doesn’t change. So, if we change the gospel to a works based system of salvation, we make salvation impossible because God doesn’t accept our work as payment towards our debt.

(2) Changing the gospel leaves us with a disturbed conscience

Starting in the middle of verse 7 Paul says,

“but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (Ga 1:7b)

The idea here is that changing the gospel doesn’t help us instead it hurts us. Paul tells us that these folks are troubling the Galatians. It troubles them, it troubles us because a works based system produces emotional distress. It makes us uneasy because we don’t know where we stand with God. We know that’s true because when you talk to folks who are caught up in a works based system you hear them more often than not say something to the effect of: “I sure hope I have done enough.” The point being, they don’t know if they have done enough. They just hope they have done enough, which means they are left in limbo, always wondering if they are good enough. That affects us. It affects us emotionally producing a disturbed conscience.

But as Christians we don’t have to worry about where we stand. If we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are God’s children. We will experience salvation instead of eternal damnation. We can be sure of that because Jesus’ work is enough. It has satisfied God’s wrath, so we don’t have to worry. Nor do we have to live with a disturbed conscience, but those who change the gospel do.

(3) Changing the gospel means we aren’t delivered from bondage.

In verse 4, Paul tells us that Jesus

“gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” (Ga. 1:4)

If we add works to the gospel, that means we don’t understand or believe the gospel. We aren’t trusting in Jesus as our Savior, which means He hasn’t delivered us from bondage. Since we can’t deliver ourselves, we remain in bondage. Satan remains our master and we his slaves.

(4) Changing the gospel means that we are taking worship away from God.

In verse 5, Paul tells us that our salvation should result in God’s glory forever and ever. But if we make salvation a work that we do, we steal God’s worship away from Him. Instead of it being about God’s grace and sacrifice on our behalf, it’s about our work. What we do. Our ability to muster the effort, to crack the code of salvation. When we think like that, we’ll find that we start praising ourselves for what we’ve done, instead of what God has done in our lives. So changing the gospel steals worship away from God.

(5) Changing the gospel means that we will face a curse.

In verse 8 Paul says,

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Ga 1:8)

The idea here is that those who change the gospel will face a curse, and that curse is eternal damnation.

Conclusion

We must see that changing the gospel isn’t a good idea. It might be tempting because we often think we have to do something in return for what we are given. But that’s not so with the gospel. It’s a gift of God that’s freely given. Nothing is required of us. We should rest in that understanding. If we don’t salvation is impossible, we will most likely experience a disturbed conscience, we will continue to live in bondage, we won’t give God the worship He deserves, and ultimately, we will experience eternal death instead of eternal life.

While change can be good, when it comes to the gospel, it’s not. What we need to do, then, is rest in the biblical gospel, trusting in God’s wisdom for salvation.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see why changing the gospel is not a good thing?
  2. What are some other reasons we shouldn’t change the gospel?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? You can listen to it here.

Why Shouldn’t We Change the Gospel? – Part 3

The gospel was being distorted in Galatia by a group called the Judaizers. Essentially they were teaching that the Gentiles had to accept circumcision alongside the message that Jesus was their Lord and Savior. While it was a small change, it was still a change. A change that made all the difference. Remember the gospel tells us that we can do nothing to earn our own salvation, and here the Galatians were being taught that they had to do something.

While it’s a common assumption that we must do something in order to earn our salvation, that’s not, as Paul points out, the gospel. Instead the gospel tells us that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. It is a gift of God that’s freely given to those who don’t deserve it.

There are a number of things we can add to or replace the gospel with, but doing so changes and distorts the gospel so that it’s no longer good news. It is just another form of works based salvation labeled as the gospel. When we change the gospel today, we are essentially committing the same error as the Judaizers in Paul’s day.

But how do we know the gospel hasn’t changed?

How do we know the gospel hasn’t changed? (vs. Ps 33:11; Is 26:4; Jas 1:17; Mal 3:6)

That question is one that is directed at God’s character, His trustworthiness, which is why we must explore who God is in order to find answer.

Let me make a bold statement to start us off. One I will prove in a moment.

We know the gospel hasn’t changed because God Himself hasn’t changed, which means the way He relates to us hasn’t changed.

Scripture testifies to that idea. In Psalms 33:11 we read,

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Ps 33:11)

Then Isaiah says,

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Is 26:4)

And in the New Testament James says,

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (Jas 1:17)

These Scriptures tells us that God doesn’t change.

Objection

Before you say, “Of course the Bible would say that God doesn’t change. It is God’s book!” Before you levy that claim against this argument, consider how the Bible was written. To be sure, it wasn’t written in one go by one author. Instead, it was written by a multitude of authors over thousands of years. The fact that they all testify to the unchanging trustworthiness of God tells us that we can trust the idea that God doesn’t change.

Since God doesn’t change, the way we experience salvation doesn’t change. 

God, Himself, in Malachi 3:6 testifies to this when He says,

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal 3:6)

God’s statement was good news to the Israelites, and it’s good news to us, because we aren’t always faithful to God. There are times when we sin against God, when we rebel, but God remains faithful. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t forget His promises.

From these ideas we can infer that God doesn’t change the way we experience salvation either. Salvation has never been achieved through our works. It’s always been through Jesus’ work on our behalf. We can be sure that will not change because God doesn’t change.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe God is unchanging?
  2. Have you seen evidence of God’s faithfulness in your life?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? You can listen to it here.