I’ve had some requests for more info from my message on Sunday, May 9 (since we didn’t have the usual study guide available), so here are some excerpts from my notes (in multiple posts) with the humble prayer that this will be of help to some as we increasingly learn to live a Gospel-centered life.
When we see that list (refer to post from Wed., May 5, Just Exactly What Does the Gospel Do?), most of us immediately think, “That’s a lot to do. I’d better get to work.” But what if I told you it was the Gospel that did all of these things? And, as a result, you simply experienced the effects of the Gospel?! Sure, in the Gospel’s effects we find ourselves putting forth effort, but it’s what I call responsive effort or consequential effort, not resourceful effort or causal effort. As Paul pointed out in 1 Thess. 2:13, “… the Word of God [Gospel] … is at work in you believers.”
Let me provide an example for you. How many of you are working to stay alive right now? The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ isn’t it? Yes, you are breathing — inhaling and exhaling so you can “stay alive.” But quite frankly, no, your breathing isn’t keeping you alive. You are merely responding to the things your heart and lungs are doing without your intentional help. They, and other vital organs, are providing the causal effort. Even if you held your breath to try and not stay alive, at some point you would pass out. It would be your body’s way of trying to keep itself alive in spite of what you are attempting to do (i.e., deprive it of oxygen). So in a most technical sense, no, you are not causing yourself to be alive. You are responding to the fact — and quite happily — that you are alive. You exhibit responsive effort to the causal effects of life with in you.
So it is spiritually with the Gospel. When it brings new life to us and through it we are regenerated by power of God and given the Holy Spirit of God, that becomes our source of life. And everything that happens in us and for us is because of the life the Gospel births in us. It is the cause, and we experience its effects. Consequently, we respond to it with effort (2 Peter 1) — things like the strength to serve others, peace in difficult times, power to resist sin, willingness to confess sin, endurance during trials, and the desire to share the Gospel with others — these are all things in which we provide responsive effort. In the most biblical sense, you are not doing them; rather, God’s Spirit, through the Gospel, is doing them in you, and others are simply seeing the result of his work.