‍Text: Luke 18:9-14; 18-23

How does a gospel shaped life look like?
A gospel shaped life is completely and radically different. A computer needs an upgrade of its software. But a gospel shaped life is not an upgrade of a software but it’s a brand new software. Gospel shaped life is not about following some rules, it is encountering the news about what God has done. And this good news about what God has done is life changing, turns your world upside down, challenges you and shapes you.

One way to understand the gospel is to see it as a grid by which we view all of life. It is like having a new pair of glasses or getting cataract removed, the vision is clear.

The world operates in a grid called the moralistic grid. We approach God, life and people through this grid. Today we are going to contrast between a moralistic grid and a gospel grid.

Moralistic Grid

Some of the underlying assumptions of the moralistic grid are

a. God justifies those with a good record and condemns those with a bad record
b. If you do good, you will do well in life
c. If you are doing well, then you must be doing good (Corollary: if you are not doing well, then you must have done something bad)

Look at v.11
11  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

Pharisee is praying about himself: “I am not like others, robbers, evil doers, unjust, those who commit adultery or like the tax collectors. I don’t do this but I do this: give tithes, fast, pray, worship. He feels justified before God because he does certain things and avoids certain behavior.  He feels he deserves God’s blessing and that God should be impressed with him.

He also compares himself with the tax collector and feels better and morally superior.
The reason why thinks he will be justified before God is because he has a moralistic worldview: God justifies those with a good record & condemns those with a bad record

But Jesus shatters this moralistic grid.
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.  

Look at the rich young ruler in v.18
18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”

Jesus lists from the 10 commandments and the young man says he has kept all of them. In the world’s perspective, surely this young man deserves God’s blessings.  He is not only morally good but also humble. He comes to Jesus with a desire to know what he lacks. He must be the perfect candidate for God’s kingdom, earn God’s approval and acceptance.

But Jesus shatters the young man’s moralistic grid
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Why sell everything? Does Jesus want all of us to sell everything we have? Will that qualify him to enter God’s kingdom? No. Jesus shows that he has broken the most fundamental and the very first command that says, you shall have no other gods before me. If God is no.1 in life, then everything else is secondary and trivial. They young man claimed to have God as no. 1, but functionally he was worshiping his wealth and money. He went away grieved and sad.

Moralistic grid looks at world as good vs. bad
These people are good and those people are bad. These things are good and those things bad. We even teach kids this. If you do this you are bad and if you obey you are good. There is nothing wrong in obedience and staying away from sinful and harmful behavior. But a person with a moralistic grid looks at the world as good vs. bad.

Moralistic grid focuses on external behavior and not the heart
I am good as long as I do these good things, keep the rules and I don’t do these bad things. Both Pharisee and young ruler had this understanding that I have done all these things and I don’t do these bad things, and hence I should be good and acceptable. But they did not address their heart. Jesus and the gospel addresses the heart.

This is how people and the world view the Pharisee and the young man. They are good, moral and that’s the reason they are successful, rich and educated. Or, they are rich and successful, therefore they must be good and that’s the reason God is blessing them. We all look at the world and God in this moralistic grid.

How does gospel shaped life look like? It is completely opposite to the moralistic grid

Gospel Grid

A. Growing awareness of God and self

Isaiah 6:3 "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."    
Is 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
1 Sam 2:2 “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you;
Is 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God is nothing like us. He is holy, set apart, glorious, blameless, transcendent, pure and faultless. Being shaped by the gospel means there is a growing understanding of who God really is. We understand God from his word, not just some imagination.

As my awareness of God’s holiness increases, awareness of my own sin increases.  
Sin is not just about behavior, about what I do and don’t do. But we understand sin to be something much deeper.

Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Ps 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Ecc 7:20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

When I understand who I really am before God, I take a posture of honesty and humilty.

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

A life shaped by gospel has a growing awareness of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.  
Not that God is becoming more and more holy – he is unchangeable. Not that I am becoming more sinful. The gospel gives us power and victory over sin. But your awareness of both, God’s holiness and our sinfulness is increasing.

A gospel shaped life does not bring down God’s holy standards by defending ourselves, blaming others. It does not think its better than others or that God can be satisfied with money or good works. It does not presume that God will turn away from my wicked heart and actions because I do some good works or visit some holy places. A gospel shaped life is honest and humble. It is aware of the truth about God and the truth about self.

B. Growing appreciation for Jesus and the cross

When I begin to understand this gap between God’s holiness and our real sinful self, we realize this gap is infinitely large. It cannot be bridged by anything we do. Then what’s our hope? How can you bridge this gap? Can you do anything about it? No. Unless God does something.

This gap is not just bad news but dreadful news. This is because judgment awaits all of us.
This gap leads to an eternal separation from God. We will face God’s wrath over sin.  
Nothing remains hidden, goes unpunished or overlooked. God’s wrath is out of his holy character and he will not withhold his judgment to be true to his character.

Eph 2:3 says by nature we are children of wrath. Eph 5:6 says the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Who will save us from the coming judgment? My best effort is useless. There is no excuse I can give when I face the judge.  

This is where the gospel is beautiful. This is where our appreciation for Jesus grows. God sent Jesus, the Son of God, the perfect one in to this world, into our mess. He came as a human, weak and poor in order to rescue, redeem and save us. He lived a perfect life as our substitute and died as a substitute in our place on the cross. He paid for our sin, took our punishment on himself and faced God’s wrath on our behalf. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so we can become the righteousness of God.

God was pleased with Jesus’ perfect record that he rose again from dead. His perfect record was credited to us when we accept his sacrifice on our behalf. We no longer have to prove, earn, fear or be distant from God. We become God’s family and his children. God gives us his Holy Spirit and affirms that we are his children, gives us power and a new heart.

A growing awareness of God’s holiness and our sinfulness leads to a growing appreciation for Jesus.  His life, his death, his work on cross becomes increasingly sweet and powerful. I rejoice in Jesus as my Savior who paid for my sin and rescued me and redeemed me.

C. Growing reversal of values

Reversal in how we approach God: The world is accepted into clubs, societies, schools and jobs with credentials, grades and accomplishments. We approach God the same way. The rich and powerful have greater access to gurus and holy places, while others stay far away. But the  gospel reverses how we approach God. The way to approach God is by admitting you are powerless, sinful and weak and that you need a Savior.

Reversal in how we approach life: The world seeks power, success, recognition, money and status. But in the gospel, we see Jesus, the Son of God came as an unexpected messiah. Jesus was poor, homeless, weak, tortured, killed and died a shameful death. The one who had all the power, gave up his power for our sake, so we can be saved.

The gospel changes how we view power, success, comfort, money and recognition. We don’t need these things to prove ourselves and we don’t run after these things. Our  identity and confidence is in Jesus.
The gospel changes how we view disappointments and failures. It does not derail us. We don’t become bitter. Rather, the gospel makes us confident in the Father’s love knowing that he’s working out his good purposes in our lives.
The gospel changes how we view suffering. We don’t resent it, or get mad or run away from suffering. We face suffering with grace and poise knowing that God is with you and he has a purpose through the suffering.
The gospel changes how we view money. It is not our identity anymore but we are becoming more and more generous with our money.
The gospel changes how we view work. We are not looking at work to promote our selves or get ahead but as a way to fulfill our calling and serve others.

Reverses how we approach people: The world divides every one on the basis of rich and poor, basis of caste or status. The gospel changes our attitude to others and breaks all barriers and divisions. There is no male or female, rich or poor, no more barriers of caste or status, we are on in Christ. We are one family. The gospel changes how we look at others. We don’t look at others with superiority but with humility and grace.  

Is your life shaped by the gospel?
Do you see a growing awareness of God’s holiness and your sinfulness? Do you see a growing appreciation for Jesus and the cross? Do you see a growing reversal in your values?

How is this possible? Because you deeply understand that you are saved by the grace of God, it is not something you earn or deserve. The gospel shaped life is radically different from  a moralistic life. It leads to freedom, joy and an deep relationship with God.

Ranjit David

Ranjit has been in Pastoral Ministry for the last 10 years in various settings. Coming from an Engineering background, he is passionate about working with young professionals in Delhi, using their gifts, teaching from God’s word, and having an open home. His training from Dallas Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City has equipped him to serve strategically in an urban context.

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