As I sat down to write the first article for our Creating Culture series, I was reminded once again that we are called as believers to longingly cry out for Christ to return quickly. Waking up Monday morning, I learned of the horrific event that took place in Las Vegas, and spent most of the day trying to wrap my mind around such an act of wickedness and hate. Horrific events like these show our world to be desperately broken, and that we live in a culture that is in desperate need of Gospel transformation. This means that as the church, or God’s called out ones, we are to be a counterculture that projects light in the darkness, hope to the broken, and life in the midst of death.
As a church we are spending the month of October pressing into what it would look like if we began to live everyday life from the perspective that the Gospel not only brings us life, but brings us into an entirely new way of living. This is the definition of a Gospel culture. This is what we long to see take root in our lives, that we might see transformation in our neighborhoods and cities. So lets take some time to lay out the foundation of what a Gospel Culture is, followed by how it calls us into a Culture of Grace.
Gospel Culture is Countercultural
Ray Ortlund said that, “Gospel Doctrine creates Gospel Culture”. What Ortlund means here is that because of the Father’s love in sending the Son, we who are born again have been placed in a new culture - a new way of living. The Gospel is the counterculture that creates a new culture. It is what give us life, hope, and a new identity. Ortlund would later share that, “The doctrine of grace then creates a culture of grace as Jesus himself touches our lives through Gospel Doctrine”.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the apostle Paul reminds those in Corinth, “of the Gospel that I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
Here we see that the Gospel Doctrine (which creates Gospel Culture) is a story about God, that this is good news for those whom he calls to himself. It is something that the follower of Christ hears, receives, and stands in - for it proclaims who we are, shapes who we are, and daily forms who we are in three major forms.
- First, we live because of the Gospel. It is the only thing that gives true, life, real hope, and an unwavering identity. (I Timothy 1:8-10)
- Secondly, we live in the Gospel. Not only does the Gospel bring faith, it also reveals our daily need for faith because while we are made fully right with God by grace through faith, we are not the reality of what we will one day be. (Romans 1:16-17)
- Lastly, we live for the Gospel. Because of the transforming work of the Gospel, we are to be a people that proclaim this transformation to the world around us. (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8)
A Culture of Grace Changes Everything
I must to note, that the reason Gospel Culture is so countercultural is due to the fact that it gives to us life, hope, identity, and purpose by nothing we do or accomplish, but rather solely through what Jesus did. This reality means that we truly do have better news to proclaim.
All of this is accomplished by grace. In Romans chapter 3, Paul brings to light the truth that the law in and of itself will bring justification to no one. Jesus though, the very righteousness of God, came and brought redemption and justification for all who believe by the gift of his grace. So while the law shows us our failure and need for a Savior, Jesus brings us life through grace. This means that the Gospel is itself an act of grace.
So as a Gospel Culture we realize that we are also called into a culture of grace which means two things:
1. You must receive grace. To gain life, you must receive grace. We as believers must realize that we can do nothing in our own power to save us. The bible does not say that you can have grace if you do these things, but rather it says that you can have grace because of what has been done on your behalf. This means that we must realize daily that while God saved us, he is also still saving us. God is still transforming us more into the image of his perfect son Jesus Christ, and that is a grace to us. So receive it. To even faithfully accomplish the work that God has called us to, we must receive grace daily. Paul Tripp said it like this, “Weakness is not in the way of God’s plan, weakness is a part of God’s plan therefore what’s in your way is not your weakness, but your delusion of strength.” So Church, you need grace. You need to receive it and you need to rest in it.
2. You need to give grace. We are called to give grace because of the steep price it cost our Savior for us to receive grace. If it is by grace that we receive forgiveness and new life, then we are commanded to give grace to proclaim Christ’s redemption and reality of new life to our world. But in giving grace, begin by giving grace to yourself. You are your own worst enemy and your own worst critic. No one talks to yourself as much as you do, and so often you only preach a false gospel of shame and condemnation to yourself. So how can we ever expect to give grace to those around us if we can not receive and give to ourselves? Quit being so hard on yourself. Quit requiring perfection that you can not attain, but instead, confess your need for grace that comes to you only through the perfect Son.
So what would it look like if we began to live life on a Gospel foundation that fostered a Culture of Grace?
- How would that change the way you love your spouse?
- How would that change the way you love your children?
- How would that change the way you work? And rest?
- How would that change the way you handle your money?
- How would that change the way you see God?
- How would that change the way you see the Church?
- How would that change the way you see your Missional Community?
- How would that change the way you treat your enemies?
I believe that by the power of the Gospel it would change everything. Freely you have been given, freely you have received, therefore freely give. Church, let’s take the next five weeks and really dig deep into fostering a Gospel culture in our lives, neighborhoods, and cities. My hope is that if we did so earnestly, its influence would reach far beyond five weeks and land right in God’s plan for eternity.
I believe it could radically change everything.