Cultivating gospel clarity requires that we not only receive the gospel as true, but respond to the gospel as transformative. As we do so, we will find the gospel giving shape to every aspect of life in the now.

Perhaps no aspect of life is more fundamental to human nature than the aspect of worship. In fact, worship encompasses all other aspects of a person’s life. We were not created to worship as much as we were created worshiping. The impulse for worship is ingrained deeply within us. It is as natural to the human experience as breathing. Everyone ascribes worth and value to someone or something. The gospel seizes our worship by drawing our lives Godward.

Jesus revolutionized worship by universalizing its location and simplifying the equation. He said, “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:21, 23).  After ratifying the New Covenant with His death and resurrection, Jesus remixed worship so that it is no longer confined to a particular place nor must it consist of complicated ceremonial practices. Instead, worship will happen in spirit and truth. In response to the gospel, we now worship by leveraging our entire selves to ascribe worth and value to God: our mind’s attention, heart’s affections, and body’s activities.

Now, rather than bringing the nations to Israel, God sends disciples of Jesus to the nations. As we go, we carry with us the simple gospel message rather than Israel’s complex cultic practices. Of course, we still instruct others to understand the Old Testament’s worship criteria in order to enhance reverence for the person and work of Christ. Yet, we recognize that the gospel does not necessarily call people to bring sheep, goats, doves, or anything other than themselves. The gospel deserves far more from us than something outside of us.

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Hence, C. S. Lewis writes, “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you.’” And that’s what disciples give Him. Giving anything less than our entire selves is a response unworthy of the gospel. Paul makes this point: “I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rm. 12:1-2).

The giving of our entire selves to God in response to the gospel includes how we relate to our physical bodies. As a result of the gospel, the Holy Spirit has been deposited permanently into our lives. The gospel, then, turns our bodies into animated sanctuaries, places where heaven and earth collide. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Although our physical bodies are not permanent, they are important. Yes, they are subject to entropy. Yes, they will break down with the passing of time. Still, by God’s grace, we are expected to glorify Him even now in bodies not yet glorified. Whatever hits our body takes in the process, God is able to harness for our everlasting good. Varying degrees of suffering faithfully endured results in varying degrees of glory eternally enjoyed (2 Cor. 4:7-18).

Let me identify two gospel implications for how the gospel shapes our perspective on our physical bodies as we live life in the now.

1) The gospel declares that our bodies are sacred.

We do not worship our bodies, but we do worship through them. Therefore, we do not take our cues for how we treat our bodies from our culture. We glorify God by how we submit our bodies to His will. Simply stated, we should take care of our bodies by committing to health and holistic wellness. “So, whether [we] eat or drink, or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  Unfortunately, Christians have not always set a solid example for physical health and well-being. I believe this is the result of a worldview that has been shaped more by functional gnosticism than by a functional gospel. Functional gnosticism relates to the physical world as either altogether evil or irrelevant. All that truly matters is the spiritual realm. In part, I believe this explains why the relevance of the gospel is relegated to the next life rather than to life in the now. The physical world–including our bodies–do not matter. But a functional gospel says otherwise.

Functional gnosticism gives rise to gluttony and laziness as respectable sins in our churches. They are tolerated and rarely treated as sins requiring repentance. A functional gnosticism also creates a slippery slope for sexual immorality. Although pursuing sexual purity is the target concern of 1 Corinthians 6:10, we can sometimes buy into the illusion that physiology trumps theology. Lustful masturbation may be spoken out against in public but justified in private as no big deal. After all, it’s just natural. We do not actively seek to glorify God in our bodies by pursuing a necessary covenant relationship with another body where we can freely and fully gratify our sexual urges. Our bodies are sacred and they should be submitted to the purposes and priorities of God as such.

If we believe our physical bodies are unimportant to God, then we will inevitably try and make them important to other people. This opens the door for us to abuse our bodies in order to establish a sense of physical worth, value, and beauty. Sadly, we feel we must conform to the world’s broken sense of beauty–a world that has the audacity of deeming size 6 as plus size! Fortunately, by God’s grace in the gospel, we discover that our value, worth, and beauty is ascribed to us by God through the price He paid to redeem our bodies. The abuse Christ absorbed on the cross should forever convince us of our beauty and worth.

The gospel declares our bodies sacred. We respond by glorifying God in our bodies.

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2) The gospel insists that our bodies are not sovereign territories.

Contrary to prevailing cultural opinions, our bodies are not our own. We are not free to do with them as we please, but are now free to do with them as God’s pleases. We submit all that we do in and through our bodies to God. For example, as a Father, I have three wonderful kids. I am now expected to use my body to care and provide for them. I go to work to do so. I spend time with them. I am not free to cut and run from my responsibilities. Nor am I free to neglect my kids in pursuit of some other dream, ambition, or desire. My body–and, subsequently, my life–is not my own. It belongs to God. I steward my body for the welfare of my family.

We are not sovereign, self-governing territories. God has claimed us as His own. By His grace, we live accordingly.

The gospel declares that our bodies are sacred and insists that our bodies are not sovereign territories. So, in view of God’s mercy, worship becomes a way of life. Everything we do in and through our bodies, we do to the glory and honor of God.

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