What Do I Mean By a Gospel-Driven Life? Part 1

Over the past ten years, the Lord in His grace and mercy has been slowly taking me off the “treadmill” of Neonomianism (i.e., new law, legalism)! Learning to live a Gospel-Driven life has been for me what Francis Schaeffer wrote in 1971,

“…when a man does learn the meaning of the work of Christ in the present life, a new door is open to him. And this new door then seems to be so wonderful that often it gives the Christian, as he begins to act upon the knowledge of faith, the sense of something that is as new as was his conversion.”

The Gospel is not just what we preach to unbelievers in order to get them “saved” from the penalty of sin. The Gospel is much more than that! The Good News is that Christ not only saves us from sin’s guilt but also delivers us from its slavery. The Gospel is the principal energizing and driving force for living the whole Christian life. The Gospel is not just for non-Christians. It is also for Christians (cf., Rom. 1:15).

Believers never grow beyond their need of the Gospel because they never grow beyond their need of Christ. It is not accurate to think of the Gospel as that which saves unbelievers and what matures believers is a life of slavish obedience and law keeping. It is simply wrong to think (and sadly many Christians believe this) that the Gospel is what gets us into the Christian life and then once we are in we grow by trying as hard as we can to live a life of discipleship according to Biblical principles alone.

The Gospel is the principal energizing and driving force for living the whole Christian life.

There are so many Christians who think that a person is justified by faith and sanctified by works/law keeping/obedience. This is a completely wrong view of the Christian life.

Paul, in Galatians, refuted this very notion (e.g., Gal. 3:3). We are justified by faith in Christ and we are sanctified by faith in Christ. Only the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (cf., Rom. 1:15-17; the whole package) not the law. So, it is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the Gospel and then we are transformed in every part of our heart, mind, and life by believing the Gospel more and more deeply as our life goes on (cf., Gal. 2:20). In Galatians 2:20 Paul states that he lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. This then is what I mean by a Gospel-Driven life.

We would not need Gospel-driven motivation, if the principles and commands of Scripture were sufficient to enable us to live a holy life. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with God’s law (cf., Rom. 7:7-12). Paul spoke in 1 Timothy 1:8 of the law being good IF it is used lawfully. The problem is not God’s law. The problem is the fallen nature of man! If we seek to live according to the Bible’s commands only, we are walking according to the flesh, our corrupt old man. We are acting like non-Christians who daily seek to be made perfect in the flesh. But, the only thing we can produce in our lives if we try to pursue holiness/obedience in our own strength and wisdom is corruption (cf., Rom. 7:5, 8). Thus, we must seek to obey (i.e., pursue a life of good works/holiness) in a Gospel-driven way.

Most believers today understand their obligations to God’s law very well. For many years, I knew the law/commandments well. In fact, that is all I focused on. Regrettably, I was never taught that the death of Christ was also a death for Christian failure (i.e., the power of sin/sanctification). I just knew Christ’s death as applying to the penalty of sin (i.e., what most Evangelicals commonly think of as “getting saved”). Though I didn’t voice it, I lived with the hidden assumption that the Bible was largely a rulebook to follow in regards to my sanctification.

I was never taught that the death of Christ was also a death for Christian failure.

Throughout much of my Christian life I was a professing Evangelical but in practice a functioning Roman Catholic (cf., Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV. xvii. 41). What do I mean by that? I would habitually turn inward to conduct personal “fruit inspection” and then wallow and mope around for long periods of time in despair, guilt and a troubled conscience. I would beat myself up with self-focused thoughts (“How could you do this and say you are a Christian? You are such an idiot!”). I would seek to expiate my sin with self-imposed acts of contrition thinking that if I felt bad enough for a long enough period of time, I would then “get right” with God (or at least do enough to sense that God and I were once again on acceptable grounds once again).

By God’s grace through the work of the Holy Spirit, I have come to understand that if the Bible is only a rule book for Christian living/on how to follow Jesus, we are all in big trouble! Why? Because none of us can follow Jesus’ example, He was without sin! Jesus’ example only condemns us! Furthermore, rules are law and law only points out one’s duty and condemns.

Law has zero power to change us or produce holiness and obedience!

If the Bible is nothing more than a code of moral principles for Christian living/principles on how to follow Jesus, it is no different than the Koran!

Thankfully, the Lord graciously opened my eyes to see the Good News, to understand that the Bible is more than law/moral principles for “following Jesus.” The Bible is primarily the message of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. Everything in Scripture before the cross points to God’s redemptive work and everything after the cross–including our sanctification–flows from that work. Faith is the foundation for all of one’s obedience to God. Faith is the work of works because all other works proceed from faith. Faith in Christ is the sole basis for living a holy life. Faith is the gracious gift of God that brings us into union with Christ.

The Gospel Driven Life is all about growing in holiness by living in union with Christ by faith.

The whole purpose of a Gospel Driven Life is to learn how God has taught us in Scripture to live by faith in Christ in order to live a holy life.

To be continued

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19 Responses to What Do I Mean By a Gospel-Driven Life? Part 1

  1. Scott Clark says:

    Hi John,

    This is a great theme and a welcome addition to the blogosphere.

    Best,

    Scott

  2. John says:

    Blessings!

  3. Jason says:

    The Gospel train is leaving the station… hold on tight!

    With Anticipation in Christ,

    jason

  4. roger stark says:

    This is what’s so amazing about His grace! May the Holy Spirit illuminate every heart that reads this gospel message. Lord, continue to raise up more Gospel Driven Theologians.

    Walking in His finished work,
    roger

  5. Kathryn says:

    What a wonderful message of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! I pray He will continue to teach people all over the world about His work of redemption.

  6. Joy Abney says:

    John,

    I’m looking forward to reading future posts. You are so right. Our only hope of growing in Christlikeness is abiding in Him — abiding in the Vine — letting our life flow out of His life in us. Christ in us the hope of Glory.

    I particularly like the part you wrote about guilt and how you used to beat yourself up for days. I was raised with lots of that in the church. Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence has something great on this. He says that when he found that he had failed in some matter, rather than beat himself up for days over it, he found it was more fruitful to say something like, “Lord, please forgive my failing. If you ever leave me I’ll never be otherwise. Help me amend my weakness.” And he would begin again and go on his way. I’m paraphrasing here, but I use this prayer or something like it. God is so faithful and so good. What an honor to be on this journey of love with our marvelous Lord.
    Blessings,
    Joy

  7. Kathy Bing says:

    I am excited by how uplifting and reassuring the Gospel is. It brings so much peace, joy, forgiveness and understanding. “My yoke is easy and my burden light” Matthew 11:28-30.
    Many blessings on opening a new door!
    Kathy

  8. Tracy says:

    What a word of encouragement! I look forward to more…

  9. Todd Mason says:

    Excellent Post! So many of us have listened to only part of the gospel message. I did this for years. We accept forgiveness but try to go it alone in sanctification. Jesus died to set us free from the penalty and the power of sin. Amen to your Gospel Driven post.

  10. Brian Howard says:

    John,

    We went to college together. I just came across your blog. I am excited to read this as I have been on the gospel centered journey over the last ten years as well. I am at Copperhill Church in Valencia, California. http://www.copperhillchurch.org. God bless you guys! Tell Stu, Kathryn, Kristi and the rest of the posse that Chandra and I said hello.

  11. Tina Schneider says:

    This goes along with the fabulous book that you gave me to read, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. It’s not a fast read, but it’s changing the way I look at my own sanctification….it’s so freeing and makes me all the more grateful to my Savior for His finished and “ongoing” work in me!

    I’m looking forward to reading more from you. What a blessing!

  12. Shaun Marksbury says:

    “Neonomianism”… “a professing Evangelical but in practice a functioning Roman Catholic…” What great descriptions of the struggles so many of us face! It’s great to read of the work God is doing in your life, and I can’t wait to read through the rest of your blogs.

    Blessings,

  13. LanknStank says:

    Dude…this makes a lot of sense.

  14. Larry Kirk says:

    I’m just leaving a comment to encourage you on this journey and in sharing it so clearly. I teach preaching courses at Reformed Theological Seminary and this a has been a key theme for my teaching as well as my life. I often used the analogy of the music and the dance and have a blog by that name: http://www.themusicandthedance.com. The point of the analogy is that the muisc of the gospel has to be the inspiration and empowerment for the life or love to which God calls us. “The faith that … is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love, instead of having to steal love and self-acceptance from other sources, is actually the root of holiness…” Richard Lovelace

  15. Nicole says:

    wow
    thank you so much for posting that. I thought I was the only person in the world struggling with legalism.

    I’ve been searching for someone to help with that.
    I’m an EXroman catholic.
    by God’s grace I DON’T pray to dead people or worship ceramic statues anymore and all that other foolishness.
    but I struggle with legalim. I’t horrible.
    I struggle with sin.
    (“How could you do this and say you are a Christian? You are such an idiot!”).
    that’s exacly how i’ve been feeling.

    It’s a very encouraging post.
    thank you for admiting your problem.

    french is my fist language i don’t write english very good. sorry

  16. Inspiring article, I pray by God’s grace to put it into practice.

  17. Yasmine Lin says:

    great entry. Thank you for taking the chance to approach this subject. I am looking for the facebook like button to add this link to my feed.. do you have one?

  18. What a coincidence! I was just researching for something like this a week ago. It’s odd how you consistently find what you need when you stop looking. Anyway, you didn’t have to post this but did it generously anyway so thanks! I will have my son read this and possibly comment when I get home. Have a nice evening!

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