First Comes Renewal
In the previous posts, I argued for the importance of concretely describing what it looks like to grow as disciples. I described how our church has attempted to articulate 5 broad “marks” of growth—remembering, of course, that we will never “arrive” on this side of eternity (Phil. 1:6).
The first mark is that growing disciples are experiencing renewal—that is, they are being changed at a heart level, from the inside out, because of the gospel. A second mark is that growing disciples are applying the gospel to all of their lives.
Finding Ourselves in a Story
The Gospel is the “good news” of God’s gracious work to rescue and restore his fallen creation. Properly understood, the gospel is a story. It is a true story—one that begins with a “once upon a time”, is yet ongoing, and is moving forward to a mind-blowing “happy ever after”. Christians, then, are “story people”. When we begin to follow Jesus as his disciples and are united to him as our Savior (rescuer) and Lord (leader), we become integrated into an epic story of what God is doing in the world.
Imagine how much would change in your life if you were literally transplanted into one of your favorite epic stories, written by an author you admire, and woke up as a character in that story in real life. Your whole way of viewing and moving through life would be different, the more you realized that you were truly living in a new story:
• You would try to discern the author’s intentions for your life, and the part you play
• You would know what “chapter” you were in, and that would inform your expectations, hopes, dreams, fears, and priorities
• You would meet a whole new cast of characters, and see old ones in a new light (realizing that they, too, were playing a part in the story)
• You would realize that you were neither the hero, nor the main character of the story
• You would rest secure knowing how it all ends up (provided you’d read the ending, and it’s a joyful one!)
• Some of your daily activities would cease to matter, some would matter all the more, and some would matter, but for different reasons, in light of what kind of story it is
As we grow as disciples, we increasingly begin to see all of life through the lens of this good-news story that we’re a part of. At NSCBC, we want to grow in our ability to situate ourselves in the gospel story (“what chapter are we in?”) and apply its good news to our individual struggles, hopes, fears, and aspirations, as well as to pressing societal issues. We hope to see the gospel increasingly come to define and root our identities (“which character are we”?), such that we can grasp the call to live both distinctly different from the surrounding culture, yet also deeply engaged with it, for its benefit (“what are we here for?”)
Most of the New Testament letters, are structured to help us grow in doing this very thing. The first part of many of the New Testament letters re-tells or unpacks some aspect of gospel doctrine, whereas the second part of those letters helps us “connect the dots” with the practical implications for us of living in this gospel story. For example:
• Romans spends the first 12 chapters explaining the story of the gospel, and then spends the last 4 chapters explaining how we should if this gospel story is true.
• 1 Corinthians intertwines the gospel story through the whole book, beginning with the crucifixion (chapter 1) and ending with the resurrection (chapter 15), while in between examining issues such as unity, church discipline, sexual morality, marriage and singleness, idolatry, gathered worship, and spiritual gifts, all in light of what Christ’s death and resurrection means for us.
What Story Are You In?
In the end, we’re all living in one story or another. We’re all operating—whether we recognize it or not—out of some vision of what the world is like, who is (or isn’t) in charge of it, what part we play, and where it will all end up. Growing as disciples involves increasingly living out of the true and good story of the gospel…and letting that story motivate and inform all we do!