Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know.”
A couple of years ago, I realized how I was going to die.
Well, that may be an overstatement, but after sitting through my first EKG test, I came face-to-face with how I’m probably gonna die. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say in the middle of listing all the men in my family with heart problems, my doctor stopped me and simply summarized, “Dustin, this isn’t good.”
Of course, heart disease is hardly a unique way to go. 600,000 Americans die each year from it. So unless I contract cancer or die in a freak gasoline-fight accident, I’ll end up with heart failure or something.
Obviously, I asked my doctor what I needed to do. He chuckled to himself and gave me a peak behind the curtain of the medical profession. He said there were only two things I should do: diet and exercise. Of course, he went on to add, it was unlikely that I’d do that, since hardly anybody takes that advice. Instead, he explained, most people simply want to take a pill. Goodness, they’ll even take multiple pills a day. But diet and exercise? That’s a bit to much to ask.
What struck me about his answer is how infuriatingly simple and yet difficult his answer was. It was a mere three words. Neither were impossible, and yet, to fully live into what he was describing, a total life change would have to happen.
But that’s what healthy living looks like.
It’s not a point in time. It’s not an achievement. It’s not having run track in High School. It’s a lifestyle. Living healthy effects everything from when I choose to wake up, to what I eat throughout the day, to how I arrange my day, and what I do before I go to asleep.
In the same way, living a spiritually healthy life—a life where the Gospel is in the very center—works the same way. It’s not a point in time. It’s not an achievement. It’s not having confessed Jesus back in High School. It’s a lifestyle. Living in the grace of the gospel effects everything from how I choose to spend my time, to how I think about people who disagree with my politics, to how I forgive my family and people who hurt me.
And just like healthy living includes two things (diet and exercise), living a gospel-centered life includes two things.
Living a Gospel-centered life means daily committing to two things: owning my own sin before a righteous God, and being amazed at the grace of the righteous God who forgives me.
Leo Tolstoy once wrote that we attribute other peoples’ sins to their poor character, but when it comes to our own sin, we claim it’s a simple lapse of judgment. Living a gospel-centered life means giving up on that charade. It means daily confessing my sin and selfishness and not hiding from it or excusing it as a ‘lapse in judgment.’
The second step means daily being amazed at the grace of Jesus who was crucified to bear the punishment of all my sin. You see, as long as my sin isn’t that bad, that all my decisions were justified, that I was just “doing what I had to do,” then God’s forgiveness is insignificant, because there’s little to be forgiven. And Jesus himself said, “he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Rembrandt Got It, Almost
I think Rembrandt understood this, or at least the first step. When he painted The Raising of the Cross, he put himself at the foot of the cross. As you can see in the picture above, when it came time to depict those wretched sinners who crucified Jesus, Rembrandt couldn’t think of anyone worse than himself. Rembrandt reminds me of Paul, who once told the guy he was mentoring, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
Rembrandt was right about the first part—that at the foot of the cross we are inexcusably guilty. But I wonder if he ever turned his attention away from his sin to the God who forgives sin? Without both, life is a mess.
Thank God making my life centered on the Gospel isn’t a one-time deal. No matter my past, there’s nothing stopping me from doing it.
In fact, I think I’m going to end here.
I’ve got some sin to confess and I’m hungry to praise my Father.