What is the significance of the gospel for Christian men, moment by moment?
Men are given much to look at and listen to every day, literally and spiritually. We are bombarded by messages from cable news, internet and radio ads, billboards along the morning commute, magazines in the grocery checkout, bosses and coworkers, and wives and children. We are tempted according to our lusts and appetites and shamed over the size of our bank accounts, our standard of living, our level of fitness, the style of our dress, and our achievements (or lack thereof) at work and at home. We never feel done; we rarely feel right. And then we have the Accuser, our old enemy the Devil, eager to capitalize on these moments of weakness with his message of condemnation. It’s a wonder more men don’t refuse even to get out of bed in the morning!
So how does the gospel of grace keep us afloat in the humdrum of our ordinary days? Well, it’s imperative that we listen early and often to the message of the gospel. When we incline our ears to the good news, directing our gaze to the glory of Christ in Bible study and prayer, we can be changed (2 Cor. 3:18). When we hear the gospel message loudly and clearly, above all rival messages, the truth of grace flashes like lightning into our drab ways of living and thinking, electrifying our souls and thundering with glorious finality: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
And how changed can we be? Consider these three big ways the gospel breathes life into the weary spirit:
1. Freedom from the Past
Every man I know has a wound he carries from his past. I know I do. There are words of judgment, moments of shame, rejections, and embarrassments. And those are just the things done to us. The number of things we’ve done to others, the stuff we struggle to feel forgiven for, the hurtful words and actions, the patterns of disobedience, the secret sins—they all add up, collected like bricks in a sack carried on our backs. Maybe there are people who haven’t forgiven us. Maybe there are people who continue to remind us of our mistakes.
In Christ, however, there is no more need to measure up. In Christ, you are no longer merely as good as what you have or haven’t done. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
The gospel means you aren’t who you used to be: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). In Christ, you are new! The need to measure up is over. Jesus has measured up on your behalf. In yourself, you are worse than you think, actually, but—wonder of wonders!—in Christ, you are more loved than you realize. Nothing can separate you from Christ’s love (Rom. 8:39), not your stupid mistakes nor your sordid regrets. The righteousness of Christ is yours.
What’s so better-than-great about the gospel is that it ends the scorekeeping by which most of us try to live our lives. We see all the expectations and obligations, both from God and from the world, and in our pride we think we’ve “got” this while in our soberness we realize we’re hopeless. But to believe in Jesus is to put an end to the scorekeeping. His perfection is counted as ours. It is a beautiful day when a Christian man remembers his past isn’t counted against him but instead his faith is credited as righteousness. It can make you stand a little taller, breathe a little deeper, relax in the right way, and work hard in the right way. On your worst day, you are no less loved. And the shadow of your past failures is vanquished by the light of Christ’s love.
2. Power for the Present
Sometimes I feel like the Michael Jordan of disappointing people. I don’t even have to try. I’m a genius at letting people down. It’s easy for me to feel defeated by this reality, to believe I’m only as good as how approved I feel in the moment. Maybe you feel like that too. Maybe you feel like you just can’t get life right. Maybe you have trouble feeling free from scrutiny, disapproval, even shame and condemnation. The beauty of centering on Christ’s gospel is in the fixation on the foreverness of justification. Think about that for a moment.
If the gospel is true, then Christians are justified. John 1:16 tells us that from the fullness of Jesus comes “grace upon grace.” That means there is grace ready and waiting for you every single moment. Right this very second, grace. And in the next second? More grace. Grace upon grace, cascading down from heaven, bubbling up from the indwelling Spirit of Christ in you, fresh and ready mercies waiting for you in the morning when you get up (Lam. 3:22–23).
How can this not transform the dullest, dumbest, darkest moments of our everyday lives? Eternal glory is granted to us by Christ’s righteousness and the Spirit’s power every millisecond of every hour of every day.
This means we have the power to experience joy amid suffering, hope in the depths of pain, obedience in the face of temptation, and forgiveness in the aftermath of sin.
In every grief, every disappointment, every hardship, and every worry, the Holy Spirit is there to help us, console us, direct us, and empower us. This is enormous security, the kind every man needs to take on whatever the day brings with both meekness and action, humility and boldness. The gospel calibrates us for each moment.
3. Hope for the Future
Every man I know is haunted by his past. But every man I know is also in some way anxious about the future. Is he providing enough? Is he securing enough? Is he man enough to get into tomorrow without the bottom falling out? We never know what tomorrow will hold, and we’re often preparing for the worst. But the good news of Jesus means that, no matter how bad tomorrow gets (and it’s often not as bad as we fear), it can never get completely desperate. The Lord of the universe who holds the future in his hands holds us too, and he has promised us a great deliverance.
The kind of hope and security God’s grace gives us puts an end to worry. No more worrying about success, no more stressing about the future, no more fragile belief that the future is what we make of it. God’s kingdom has come and is coming, and we’ve been ushered into it by the success of Christ’s atoning work. We can’t fall out of it, either by our sin or by our mediocrity. Our future is utterly secure.
Does knowing this change today? You bet it does! Now, we may intuitively think that if we know the future is certain, we will tend to coast. But that ignores the counterintuitive power at work in the gospel. Somehow, by God’s great grace, men who experience freedom in Christ feel more compelled to live for him, not less. Perhaps the best parallel we can think of is how a man plays in a game he’s winning. No matter how much energy he’s expending, if a winning outcome seems certain, the energy seems limitless. By contrast, you frequently see teams that are losing by an enormous margin lose their gusto. When all seems hopeless, the players act like it. But the gospel that gives us the certain outcome of Christ’s victory and our final deliverance from sin and death also gives us the power to live in ways that give God glory. The victory yet to be fully seen activates Christian men to live like they are “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37).
I have a friend who says he’s never met a man who felt too free. I think he’s right. The naysayers of the gospel fear all this talk of freedom will make for lazy men, but the Bible shows us the opposite is true.
Men who taste gospel freedom can’t get enough of it, and they will push through, run, chase, and endure to the end to get to that prize already promised them before time began.
There for the Taking
So, men, let’s pursue it! Let’s chase after this freedom in Christ. Because the truth of the gospel means the power of the gospel that’s laid hold of us is right there for us to lay hold of it. When Jesus sets you free, you are really, truly, eternally free (John 8:36).
This means that this very second, grace upon grace is yours for the joyful taking.
Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Crossway, 2015).