Influence is like breathing. We constantly inhale and exhale life-shaping influence. The quality of lives we lead depends upon the quality of air we breathe. What happens when disciples begin inhaling and exhaling the gospel as the purely predominant influence in their lives? What happens when the gospel begins to exert soul-energizing influence upon us and life-enhancing influence upon those surrounding us?

Many disciples live with a deficient view of the gospel’s daily practicality. Far too often in evangelical circles the gospel’s relevance is relegated to life after death. But the gospel has as much to say about life in the now as it does about life in the next. In fact, what the gospel has to say about life after death is intended to revolutionize a disciple’s approach to life on a daily basis. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul leverages the gospel’s promise of resurrected spiritual bodies in order to encourage disciples to live in the now with nothing to lose. He writes, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). 

My desire to cultivate gospel clarity draws upon the conviction that many disciples do not know how to connect the gospel with daily living. Yet, this is precisely what the Apostle Paul expected disciples to do. After providing the most thorough exposition of the gospel in Scripture, Paul writes, “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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rm. 12:1-2).

The term translated “world” is perhaps better translated “age” or “era.” It refers to the cultural atmosphere collectively created by each generation outside of Christ, which consists of “all the floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations . . . which [make up] a real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale . . . inevitably to exhale.” As disciples of Jesus, we are not to be pressed into the mold of this current era. Instead, we create a distinct cultural atmosphere by inhaling and exhaling the gospel as the predominant influence shaping life in the now. But doing so requires that we not simply receive the gospel as true but respond to the gospel as transformative.

Throughout the month of June, we will explore various ways cultivating gospel clarity transforms life in the now.

As we begin inhaling and exhaling the influence of the gospel, mercy rises as a major motivation for daily Christian living. God’s mercies flow fluidly from the cross of Christ. Since God “demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rm. 5:8), we do not now live in order to garner merciful treatment from Him. Instead, we live in view of mercy already bestowed. That changes how we approach life before God in the world.

One of the more popular characters from J. K. Rowling’s enormously successful Harry Potter series is a house elf named Dobby. When first introduced to Dobby, he is a servant to the despicable Malfoy family. As a house elf, he was obligated by the laws of magic to serve a master. Sadly, he was stuck serving an unmerciful one. The Malfoys treated Dobby terribly. They oppressed and abused him verbally, physically, and emotionally.

When Harry Potter liberated Dobby from the Malfoys, he became the elf’s new master. Instead of forcing Dobby’s service, Potter showed him mercy and kindness.  What did Dobby do in response? He willfully and sacrificially served Potter. The elf showed unflinching love and devotion to his new master. In fact, he risked his life on a number of occasions to do so—until finally losing it in the process. What makes Dobby such a remarkable character is that if he had to do it all over again and suffer the same fate, he would do so for his master’s mercy made him a friend rather than a slave.

In the gospel, God liberates us from the unmerciful masters of sin, Satan, and death. He sets us free and calls us friends (Jn. 15:13-15). In response, we willfully and sacrificially serve Him. Each day we wake up, we live in view of God’s befriending mercy by “offering up our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship” (Rm. 12:1).  

Notice that Paul refers to God’s “mercies.” God’s life-liberating mercy is demonstrably shown through the cross of Christ. All subsequent mercies are poured out by God as a result of the gospel.  Lamentations 3:21 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Disciples of Jesus know this reality far better than anyone for we know its source. God’s daily mercies flow from the fountainhead of mercy that is the cross of Christ. Each day we wake up in this world is a testimony to the mercy of God.

God granted me a glimpse of this in February of 2010. My wife noticed a spot on my back that she did not like. She scheduled an appointment for me to visit a dermatologist. The moment the doctor looked at the spot, she grimaced and decided to do a biopsy. She cut the spot off and ran a test, which came back positive for melanoma. Within a week, I had a procedure to cut it out entirely. At first, I shrugged it off. But while I was on the table, the doctor told me that had I waited six months it would have been fatal.

Her words sent shock waves through me. Instantly, I sobered up to my mortality. I became sensitive to the manifold mercies of God. Prior to that moment, I took my time on this planet for granted. I lived as if tomorrow was guaranteed. Allowing moments to pass by like the unconscious blinking of an eye. Then God’s still, small voice whispered in my heart, “Do not assume tomorrow; make the most of today.”

Do not assume tomorrow; make the most of today. -Andrew Arthur

By not assuming the future, we are able to redeem the present. We can then make the most of every moment as a gift from God to be embraced for God. Such awareness changes how we wake up to a screaming toddler, how we go to work, how we relate too strangers, etc. There is purpose for all our daily moments for they have been extended to us according to the manifold mercies of God; so we embrace them as His servants and friends.

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