Gospel Stew

By February 22, 2010 Romans 12


“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”                                                                                                                Romans 12:9-13

Have you ever entered into a home and the aroma of the dinner delighted your senses, then the appearance of the dish made your mouth water? Paul gives us the recipe for gospel stew – so we can enjoy it together, and so those who do not yet know Christ will be drawn to Him through the aroma and presentation of the culture that the gospel cooks in the church.

All Romans 12 depends on “the mercies of God”, the good news, which is you are desperately and helplessly sinful, but God in Christ loves you so freely that you are drawn into His life forever. So, this gospel is the stock for gospel stew and it permeates, and cooks into every ingredient. The Christian stews every ingredient of life in the gospel. Everything gets flavored and changed by it!

In the stew of gospel life our love for God and for one another is changed. Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”  The gospel takes out the hypocrisy.

The love that comes to us from God is untainted. Romans 5 reminds us: “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” And Romans 8 tells us that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This Gospel love presses in to the core of our sinfulness and loves us there, forgiving, restoring and giving us peace with God. (Romans 5:1), but we have ingrained and habitual hypocrisy. The Greek word for “hypocrisy” refers to an actor’s mask. The face we show covers the face we are.

Evil is deep inside each of us. We pretend to hate it, but we don’t. We just cover it, hidden in the dark recesses of our souls. We pretend to cling to what is good, but we only use good to project a good image. We’re a mess. 

The gospel sinks in deep to show us how evil evil is.  And the gospel displays how good good is. It shows us the goodness of God in Christ. Without the gospel we cannot see how evil evil is nor how good God is. But when the life of the gospel gets cooking and penetrates behind our masks  we begin hating what is evil and clinging to what is good. Moms, remember some of those early days of pregnancy? How some smells you used to love begin to make you sick? Ahh, coffee in the morning! No more! So it is when love is stewed in the gospel. We grow averse to evil and attracted to good. We don’t have to pretend any longer, because we are safe, forgiven at the depths of our evil and we have a borrowed goodness from Christ Himself.

This kind of transparency creates a Philippians 2:1-4 culture, a gospel stew for the family and the church.

“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit,intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more importnt than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Brotherly love, honor, diligence, spirit, the Lord, hope, tribulation, needs of the saints and hospitality: all these ingredients of the Christian life get cooked together in the gospel and release their full flavor so we can enjoy it  and so those who do not yet know Christ will be drawn to Him through the aroma and presentation of the culture of the gospel in the church.

Jill and I recently befriended a Frenchman named Jean, who spent three months in Auburn immersing himself in the English language. With the help of David and Ruth Ann Graham, Jean worshipped with us and got to experience our gospel life together. On Jean’s last Sunday, he spoke to Jill with emotion: “I will miss your church. It is so different from my church in France. It is…how do you say it?…like ‘un fete’.” — a feast! He couldn’t have given us a higher compliment.

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