What does it mean to live a life worthy of the gospel?
I’ve been chasing that question for about two months now. Some journeys take longer than others. There is simply too much to see.
I’ve been reading through Philippians but haven’t made it much past 1:27. That verse begins with the admonishment to “live in a manner worthy of the gospel.”
Here’s why the questions are so important: There are people in the world who appear to be genuinely good people. I’m thinking of two as I write this. One is a Frenchman, Charles, who was the overnight manager at the hotel in which we stayed our first two nights in the UK. The second was a Thai waiter at a restaurant in the city near where we live. He went beyond service to helpfulness. These types of people deserve an answer to why their “goodness” isn’t good enough.
The first thought I had was, “What makes me better than them?” Immediately God reminded me there are no “good” people in the world. A rush of Scripture verses flooded my mind reminding me and reprimanding me that I am not better than anyone: “There are NONE righteous, no not one…no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:10-11); “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:1-3).
The reality is that EVERY person who has every lived and will ever live stands squarely in the sites of God’s judgment. God is a good and benevolent God, yet a more accurate reading of the Bible forces one to deal with the reality that God is also a righteous and just God who is perfectly holy and requires perfect holiness.
God quickly reminded me that it was by His grace (Eph 2:4), through faith He granted that I have the opportunity to believe in what Jesus has done (Eph. 2:8), which was to satisfy God’s penalty for sin by being a perfect and righteous sacrifice (Rom 3:21-26). I contributed nothing but sin. He contributed perfect righteousness. Martin Luther called it “The Great Exchange.”
There is a path near my house that leads to the open area I often walk. The path is often mucky because of water runoff. Decomposing leaves contribute to the mess. Life is like that path. It is mucky. We experience disappointment, hardship, broken relationships, lost jobs, financial ruin, unmet expectations, etc., but these are actually byproducts of our greatest problem, which according to the Bible, is our separation from God. There is no hope that the mucky paths of life lead anywhere except to God’s judgment apart from Jesus. But it doesn’t have to.
So, what does it mean to be a Christian? I’ve settled on two things.
First, it means to glorify God. (Notice I didn’t say removal from the mucky path!) That’s what we were created for anyway. We were created to have fellowship with God, enjoying His presence and glorifying Him as infinitely worthy of our praise. As enemies of God we can’t do this, but once He grants salvation and restores for us what He intended from the beginning, then we are free to praise Him and make Him known to others walking life’s mucky path if they will turn from sin and believe in Jesus.
Second, as a Christian it means living in the reality that this world is NOT our home. I’ve met way too many Christians who talk about eternal life, being sojourners in this world, heavenly mansions, etc., yet live like this world is their destination. They cling to the materialism of this world and try to anchor their hearts to something tangible. We want to stop in the muck. I’ve been there. God has graciously taught me that my heart does want to anchor to something tangible, but that tangle thing MUST be unwavering confidence in the finished work of Christ that looks forward to the reality of delivered promises (Hebrews 11:1).
The mucky path near my house eventually opens into a field ringed with wild blackberries and gorgeous views of the countryside. Every living person is traveling the mucky path of life. However, a life worthy of the manner of the gospel ought to be a life lived in the recognition of our calling to glorify God (including sharing His glory with others) while looking forward to open the spaces that lie ahead.