It all starts with the Gospel. Far too much teaching on the life of a Christian man centers around the actions of his life instead of on the heart that beats within him. The no-nonsense biblical man must have a deep-seated heart for the Gospel. His life must have been radically affected by the Gospel message. We will of course look long and hard at the man of God and how he lives his life, but without the Gospel message embedded inside his soul, how will this man have any motivation to serve and love God?
I can remember years ago sitting in a Bible study listening to a pastor teach from the book of Ephesians. Week after week this particular pastor emphasized the “grace of God.” In the naivety of my heart I longed to move past this simple message. At that point in my life, the Gospel was something you learned in children’s church by way of the multicolored bracelet where each color represents a different part of God’s redemptive story. In my mind, maturity meant moving past the Gospel. The Gospel was simple and childish to me. What a fool I was.
One day the pastor referenced Ephesians 1:3—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” He explained to us our great and incredible position in Christ. He explained to us that in a past sense we had already been given every blessing that is found in the heavenly places. He detailed for us how this was acquired, not by our own doing, but by being placed in a position called “in Christ.” I began to understand, at that moment, that the Christian life isn’t so much about doing as it is about receiving.
From that moment on, I’ve seen my own life and works as a simple response to the Gospel. I see my life and all that I do in obedience to God as a simple thank you note for what he has allowed me to receive. This motivation has been crucial to my staying power. I am very certain that without this wonderful Gospel message being cemented into my heart I would not be walking with God today.
One place we see this principle laid out for us is in Titus 2:11–14. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” In other words, grace trains us for a certain type of life. Contrary to the beliefs of many, grace does not lead us into a life of licentiousness. According to Paul, a true understanding of the grace of God leads us to a godly life filled with heavenly passions—a life of self-control, integrity, and purity. This life can be described as zealous. A man who has discovered the truth of the grace of God is a man on fire.
I don’t know exactly what it will take, but you absolutely must get the Gospel deep inside your heart. This is non-negotiable. Jesus must become famous to you. His work on that bloody cross has to become so fascinating that it stirs your everyday life. If this doesn’t occur in your heart, you will either be a mere shadow of who you could be, a sort of Christian zombie going through the motions, or you will be stuck with a spiritual-looking but plastic, artificial, and hypocritical version of Christianity in your everyday life.
Perhaps you are already there. Perhaps your passion for the Gospel is flowing nicely. Perhaps you are currently overwhelmed with the forgiveness, cleansing, and eradication of shame that Jesus has offered you. But maybe the Gospel has never been fascinating to you. Maybe you’ve drifted through the years away from an adoration of Christ and His Gospel. It’s time to come home. Although I will write more about these specific areas later on in this book, I’d like to give you a few suggestions on how to fire up your love for the Gospel.
1. Find Gospel-Centered Friends
Birds of a feather flock together, as they say. But you’re not a bird, and you can choose whom to hang out with. You could form your primary male relationships with those who are opposed to Christ, those who are lukewarm to Christ, or those who are passionate for the Gospel. One great way to develop a Gospel-centered heart is to choose the latter, men who love the message of the cross. Men often resist this, but I encourage you to get into small groups and intentional relationships with other men who appreciate Jesus deeply. You may feel awkward talking about Him at first, but friendships with strong believers and conversations with them are vital. I will never forget the first time I sat down on a weekly basis with a small group of men to support and pray for one another. Game-changing.
2. Listen to Gospel-Centered Teaching
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” scripture tells us (Romans 10:17). Whether we like it or not, there is power in preaching. Consider Titus 1:2–3—“in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior” (Titus 1:2–3).
The proclamation of the word is very important to our Christian vitality. That said, there are many different styles of preaching today. If you have a cold heart toward the Gospel, or if it isn’t alive inside your heart, I would encourage you to make sure you are listening to Bible teaching that is absolutely Gospel-centered. If Jesus, His cross, and His atoning work are the central theme of the messages that you hear, then you are likely listening to Gospel-centered messages. If you are coming away with tips and suggestions on how to live a better life, if the theme of the message is you and not Christ, then you are likely not sitting under Gospel-centered teaching.
3. Read the Bible in a Gospel-Centered Way
Another way to develop a Gospel-centered heart is to resist the temptation to read the Bible as if it is a book all about you. It isn’t. The Bible is designed to communicate who God is to this world and His plan to redeem that world. Everything in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, points to Christ (Revelation 19:10). If we only see the Gospel in the Crucifixion accounts, then we aren’t reading the Bible intelligently. See “Jesus vs. Sin” in “David vs. Goliath.” See how the Spirit of Christ rebuilds a human life when reading the rebuilding project led by Nehemiah. See Jesus’s willingness to reconcile with men who betrayed Him in the life of Joseph, a man who was willing to reconcile with brothers who betrayed him and left him for dead. Search for the Gospel in every portion of scripture you read.
It’s all about Jesus. This is the bottom line of what I’m trying to communicate. The no-nonsense Biblical man must be a Jesus guy. There has to be a love for Him and devotion to Him wrapped up in this man’s life. Jesus is central to his thoughts, dreams, perspectives, and priorities. This will not turn this man into a Ned Flanders lightweight kind of a man, but into a devoted man. This will not make him out of touch or impractical, but will instead give him an excellent filter with which to view all of life.
Excerpted from The No-Nonsense Biblical Man (2013).