The gospel edge is a term I coined. It means you are allowing the gospel to cut away the things that hinder you from pursuing the Christlike life, which is the most dangerous and rewarding life that you will ever live.
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As it cuts away the hideous things from your life, it leaves the beauty of Christ. It’s things like transparency, honesty, openness, integrity, community, humility, accountability, righteousness, redemption, and intentionality. Do you have the gospel edge? Did you know it can only happen in a community?
Isolation is one of the primary strategies of the enemy and one of the biggest challenges to living for Jesus. If a person can isolate from a caring community, the chances of them continuing in dysfunction will grow exponentially.
This effect should not be a surprise. You can step into nearly any evil context in the Bible and more than likely you will find isolation as part of the problem.
- Adam’s response to sin was to run, hide, and lie. He distanced himself from God (Genesis 3:7-8).
- David’s fall from grace happened outside of a community, on top of his house, all alone (2 Samuel 11:2).
- Elijah ran into isolation and pouted under a tree (1 Kings 19:5).
- Jonah ran from God, hoping to isolate himself from care and accountability (Jonah 1:3).
- Peter ran away from his responsibility, choosing to spend his days fishing (John 21:3).
Sins and secrets are like two peas in a pod. (Read my article, When I Kept Silent about My Sins.) Think about your interactions when things are going badly for you. You are probably easily tempted to shrink from the light of God’s community while enticed by the allurements of darkness (John 3:20).
You can test yourself by comparing the life you live with the Christlike characteristics that I mentioned above: transparency, honesty, openness, integrity, community, humility, accountability, righteousness, redemption, and intentionality. This list is only a partial of how Christ lived. How did you do?
If you’re like me, you have not perfected any of these things in your life, which is fine as long as the presence of these things is in your life. Perfection is a stretch goal that we will always struggle achieving, but the presence of Christlike characteristics should not be that hard to manifest for the Christian.
The real “test question” is which way are you leaning? Are you leaning toward sins, secrets, and solitary or are you leaning toward a consistent pursuit of Christlikeness?
Sin, secrets, or solitary confinement do not characterize maturing Christians. They prefer light over darkness, community over isolation, and transparency over secrets. Maturing Christians have the gospel edge.
Natives Act Like Natives
Because of our Adamic tendencies, it is not native for us to pursue the Christlike character traits that help us mature in our sanctification. Natives do “native things,” and what is native to us is Adam (Romans 5:12). He is our ancestor. If we’re going to act like any person, it will be Adam. This concept is accurate for any individual or any church.
When I start talking about transparency, honesty, openness, integrity, community, humility, accountability, righteousness, redemption, and intentionality in the church, the most common response is, “My church does not do that.” That is what I would expect.
Are you surprised a local church can be more comfortable with Adam’s lifestyle than Christ’s? You shouldn’t be. It’s easier to act like Adam than Jesus. To act like Jesus means you have to die every day, if not every minute of every day (Luke 14:26). This perspective is where we must be careful.
It would be easy to blame local church people for not practically modeling the Christlike characteristics I mentioned above. If your church struggles in those areas, the first place to begin is not with them but with you (Matthew 7:3-5). Becoming part of the solution is always a better response than blaming others (Genesis 3:12).
This need is something that I’ve had to come to terms with on a local church level. Expecting the local church to care for you the way you hope to receive care will set you up for disappointment.
Nobody will ever care for you the way you want them to. If you wait for someone to provide intentional care for you, you may be waiting a long time.
Are you surprised by this? Your local church is made up of people just like you. They are just as easily tempted to keep secrets and isolate themselves rather than live transparent and accountable lives as you are.
If the individuals who make up the church struggle with transparency, which they generally do, gathering one-thousand of them together on a Sunday morning is not going to give you a better group of people.
The first step in solving this problem in your local church is to accept the fact that your church does not have the kind of gospel-edge it needs to proactively make a difference in the individual lives of the people.
One of the hardest things for church people to do is to come to terms with this reality. It is even harder for them to model what they are complaining about regarding their church. Ironic, right?
What Does It Mean to Be Gospel-Centered?
Do You Have the Edge?
Christ came to earth and took on flesh so He could redeem lost people. This truth is a core tenet of the gospel, which is practicalized by going to others and giving your life to them. In this way, the gospel is missional: always seeking to reach into people’s lives to help them be like Jesus.
The gospel is always seeking, knocking, asking, and entering. A mature gospel has that kind of feel to it. A mature Christian is a walking, breathing illustration of this kind of gospel.
A person bound to himself does not have this gospel edge. He is not thinking about others. Rather than pouring his love into others, he pours his passion into himself. That is what sin does to a person. It turns a person inward while motivating him to isolate. This problem can happen in the local church.
- The self-serving man will go to his local church asking what the church can do for him.
- The gospel-centered man will go to his local church asking what he can do for others.
There is a distinct difference between these two personalities. The gospelized person cannot keep from pouring himself into others. That is who he is. He is always planning and strategizing how to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ. As you reflect on these things how would you describe yourself?
- Do you mostly think about yourself or others?
- Are you more intentional about what you want or about what others want?
Let’s Be Intentional
Being intentional does not come easy. As I said, it is not native to act like Christ. If you leave yourself to yourself, you will easily drift back toward Adamic tendencies. If you do not proactively fight against these inclinations, you will be overcome by them. Sin does not take prisoners. It destroys and kills them.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
If you want to change, here are two non-negotiable ideas you must come to terms with:
- You cannot blame your problems on other people, including your local church. There is no question that part of your problems is what others have done to you but spending your days dwelling on who did what to you will not change you; it will incarcerate you in bitterness.
- You must become intentional by finding at least one friend who is farther down the path of Christlikeness than you are. Every Timothy needs a Paul, and you must discover your Paul. You need a competent and compassionate friend who is willing to love you the way need to be loved. That may mean your “Paul” will say some hard things to you.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:6
If you do not have this kind of friend and you do not know where to find one, here is my 10 Point Quick-Start Guide to become intentional with others. These ideas will point you in the right direction.
If you commit to practicing these things daily, you will find your “Paul,” and you can receive the care you need to live the Christlike life. You will have the gospel edge.
- Pray – The first thing to do is make your requests known to God. Tell Him about what you just read. Express to Him your need for care. Let Him know what He already knows: you need help from others.
- Expect – Pray this way every day and throughout your day. As you think about it, ask God to bring people into your life–people who are willing to help you mature in Christ. Expect this to happen.
- Look – If you regularly pray this way and expect God to come through, then start looking. You will find that person(s). God will put you in front of people who have a similar burden and passion as you.
- Agree – Let the person know what you are looking for and how you need help to change. See if he has a similar passion. There are other Christians in your church who are looking for this, but they are afraid to take the same initiative that I’m calling you to.
- Discern – You will know soon enough if you have an authentic person on the line. Listen to how they talk about themselves. Listen to how they talk about God. Are they willing to talk less about the weather or their favorite sport’s team and more about God?
- Mutual – Do they have a genuine interest in you? Do they talk about themselves or do they ask you questions about you? You are not looking for a counselee, whose primary interest is sharing his problems. You want a friend, a partner, a person who is willing to come alongside you.
- Create – Set up a context for care. Start a small group if you have found enough people. If it is only one, “do coffee.” Begin building a relationship. Small talk will lead to in-depth conversations.
- Share – Lead by letting others into the secret places of your life. You lead them by your example. If you want them to be open, honest, and transparent, direct them to it by your self-disclosure. Model what you want them to be to you. Show them the way by your practical example.
- Care – As they begin to open up to you, give them your care. Let your friends experience your attention, wisdom, and friendship. Do to others what you want them to do to you. Be compassionate. Don’t be as eager to instruct them in the beginning. Be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19).
- Persevere – These relationships should be long-term, deep, and intentional. Be prepared to sin against your new friend and expect them to sin against you. You will sin against each other, and you will forgive each other. And when you do, the relationship will be forged. Iron will sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17).
Call to Action
Ask yourself this question: Do you want the gospel edge to cut away the things that hinder you from running a better race for Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)? That is the first best question you can ask yourself.
If the answer is yes, are you willing to count the cost for such an endeavor (Luke 14:28-30)? It’s the most expensive decision you will ever make, post-salvation. It will cost you your life (Matthew 16:24-26).
If you are ready to go, from this point forward, you must not blame anyone, including your church, for not being cared for the way you desire others to care for you.
From this point forward, you must be part of the solution rather than the problem. The way you do that is you become what you expect others to be (1 Corinthians 11:1). You must become a disciple-maker (Matthew 28:18-20).
You can do that this coming Sunday (Hebrews 10:24-25). Ask the Lord to put someone in your path that you can serve this Sunday morning.
If you need further help in cutting away the things that hinder you so you can be up-fitted to be intentional in people’s lives, become a member of our site. We are a training site. We can direct you. It would be a joy to serve you that way.
Also published on Medium.