When the gospel is dishonored

The gospel inherently is honorable.  But the gospel can be dishonored by those who believe it, or purport to believe it.  David Powlison elaborates:

Free grace — past, present, and future — is effective grace. It intends to change us from our sins in the midst of our sufferings. The gracious Master, who learned obedience through what he suffered, remakes disciples who become like him. “In his image” is the formal phrase for becoming more honest, constructive, purposeful, and loving.

What is the alternative to obedience and holiness of life? It is no treat to be forgiven adultery, and yet remain adulterous. It is no glory to God to forgive anger, and yet leave a person irritable, explosive, and self-righteous. It is no honor to the gospel if anxiety can be forgiven, yet someone remains a nervous wreck. It is no advance for God’s kingdom to forgive self-centered people, if they do not learn how to consider the interests of others. It does no good to the world or the church if a forgiven war-maker does not learn how to become a practical peacemaker. Grace takes a lazy, selfish, thieving person, and pushes him in the direction of becoming hard-working and generous. God will remake a liar into an honest man and a shrewish complainer into a kind, constructive woman.

These are long journeys, but the direction of grace is towards obedience to God’s law of love. None of these changes mean perfection until Jesus returns. You will always need mercies to be renewed every morning. But there is substantial healing amid the ongoing struggle. It isn’t always dramatic. Small choices count. But the Spirit will produce his fruit in us… [Speaking the Truth in Love, p. 45.]

The goal of the gospel is transformation in the life of the believer.  This is truth that we must preach to ourselves every day (e.g., “God is designing and using this circumstance to conform me to Himself and His gospel…”) and it is the message we preach to those who are unbelievers (“Christ died to liberate you from the penalty and the power of sin, so that you can be liberated from sin and become increasingly like Christ”).

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