By Pastor Stephen Hess –
Some time ago we acquired a toy garbage truck set in our household. This particular set came with play-doh molds to create objects such as garbage cans and bottles. These objects can be dropped into a special compartment on the truck before you drive the truck across the floor. As it moves, it crushes the play-doh into new trash-shaped objects (such as fish bones) and spits them out the back of the truck. I’m not sure if the maker of this toy understands how a garbage truck actually works (thankfully real garbage trucks don’t spray trash behind them as they drive) but this little toy reminded me of an important truth: What your life looks like depends largely upon what is shaping it. Just as the little toy set can only produce garbage with its molds, our lives will conform to whatever molds are presently shaping us.
The Bible teaches that our lives are supposed to be shaped and molded by the gospel. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:34-35). Jesus’ words here are a call to give ourselves up entirely for the gospel. The life of a believer is to be characterized by a complete abandoning of all worldly gains such that the gospel becomes our ultimate concern. To put it another way, followers of Jesus are supposed to be so shaped by the gospel that we’re willing to give our lives up for it.
The Apostle Paul talked about gospel-shaped living in his letter to the Philippians. He said to the church, “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). These words are a reminder of how we are to measure our conduct as believers. We don’t evaluate our faithfulness by comparing ourselves to non-believers, nor do we evaluate our faithfulness by comparing ourselves to fellow Christians. Instead, we evaluate our faithfulness by comparing our lives to the gospel and asking: “Am I living a life worthy of the gospel?”
Our lives should have a distinct gospel shape to them. When they aren’t shaped by the gospel but are being molded by something else then we need to repent. We see an example of this with the Apostle Peter in the early church. It had been revealed to Peter that salvation was for all peoples and yet he continued to separate himself from Gentiles and eat only with Jews in some circles. Paul confronted Peter and the other believers who were guilty of this behavior because he saw that “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). In other words, they were allowing prejudice and fear of man to shape their lives more than the gospel.
We are all called to live gospel-shaped lives. The church of Christ should be a distinctive community of God’s people. Unfortunately, we often let other things shape our lives and as a result we look too much like the rest of the world. We need to be continually reminded of the truth of the gospel and reform our lives according to its mold. This September we are going to start a new sermon series called “Gospel-Shaped Living.” This 7-week series will explore what it means for the church to be a counter-cultural community that shines Christ’s light to the world. During this sermon series, we will also have several small groups going through an accompanying Bible study that looks more deeply at gospel-shaped living. These groups will provide an opportunity for people to dig deeper into the themes we explore on Sundays and apply these truths into daily life. Watch for more details in the weeks to come!
As we move into the fall I hope you will be able to join us on this journey. This will be a wonderful opportunity to step back and ask, “What’s shaping my life?” as we strive to walk worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.