A couple times a month, I have the joy of visiting our county jail. Being a pastor, I have direct access to the cell blocks to preach, counsel and talk with the guys. It’s a very rewarding experience.
Last week, I spoke with a man who said that he used to attend a church in my area; however, he stopped going because he didn’t feel accepted. He claimed that the church was full of hypocrites and that he didn’t receive Christ’s love. Granted, there are always two sides to every story, but, unfortunately, the charge of hypocrisy against the church is not uncommon.
What the man was really saying is that he didn’t see the people practicing what they preached. Or, to put it in other words, he did not see them living out the gospel. This is so important. As Christians, we’re called to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1); which means, we’re called to live out what and who we believe.
The question is: how do we live out the gospel?
In thinking about how to address this subject the first passage that came to my mind was Colossians 3:1-17. I love how Paul structures most of his letters. The first half is devoted to gospel teaching followed by gospel living. In Paul’s mind, you cannot have gospel living without gospel teaching, and true gospel teaching that doesn’t produce gospel living has not been rightly understood.
First of all, gospel living begins in the mind. “If you then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above… Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). You may have heard the expression, “Christians are too heavenly minded to do any earthly good.” That’s foolishness. The truth is, too many Christians are so earthly minded they never do anything productive for the Kingdom.
If we are to live out the gospel, we must first have gospel thinking. Our minds must be renewed with God’s truth (Romans 12:1-2). This is essential because of how God designed the heart. By heart, I am not referring to the flesh and blood organ that beats in your chest. The heart, according to Scripture, is the control center of man. It’s our thinking, feelings and actions, and these three inform each other.
Therefore, if our minds are filled with the truths of God’s Word, we will begin to live out the gospel. When our thinking is transformed this will, in turn, affect our actions and feelings. Having transformed minds, we will put sin to death (3:5-11) and begin living holy lives that make a difference in the lives of others (3:12-17).
To put it simply, right actions follow right thinking. Perhaps many Christians struggle living out the gospel because they are inadequately instructed in its teaching. Maybe men, like the one I spoke in jail, don’t see Christ in the church because Christ is not preached in so many churches. There’s a reason Paul taught gospel doctrine before he commanded gospel living. The churches had to know the one whom they were to imitate.
More than that, the power to live out a transformed life is in Christ Himself. The more we abide in Him and His teachings the more fruitful we will be in our day to day life (John 15:1-11).
- If you’re a struggling to live out the gospel, is it possible that you need further instruction in the gospel itself?
- Meditate on the practical implications of having a transformed mind and how this informs your actions and feelings.