What a concise way to describe the comfort and the call of the gospel! In Christ, we really do have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). What glorious truth, great comfort, and help we can find in the Word as we live out our lives!!!!! Amen!
In Romans 8:1-17, Paul presents the gospel as a comfort and a call. [Read Romans 8:1-17].
Paul begins by encouraging us with the comfort of the gospel (vv. 1-11). This comfort is rooted in two powerful realities. First, the work of Christ has removed the sentence of condemnation that was on our heads because of our sin. Jesus fully paid the penalty for our sin--past, present, and future. This comfort deals with the guilt of sin and should draw us out of the darkness of hiding and into the light of his grace. We do not need to give in to fear, denial, blame-shifting, self-righteousness, or rewriting our own history. These are all attempts at self-atonement, which is no longer needed because Christ has made full atonement for our sin. ...
... People often live with huge gaps in their understanding of the gospel. One gap is in understanding how the comfort of the gospel radically changes our approach to life in the here and now. Daily confession of sin is essential to a gospel-driven lifestyle. It makes no sense to rationalize, blame-shift, or rewrite history to make myself look better. This is a denial of the gospel. Self-examination and confession flow out of a deep confidence that Christ's work is effective for me today. I come to him confident that he forgives me.
The second comfort of the gospel is the Holy Spirit, who lives within every believer to combat the way sin renders us incapable of doing good. Before our salvation, we were controlled by our sinful nature. We were unable to think, choose, desire, act, or speak as God ordains. But now things are different because God lives inside us! We are no longer under the control of the sinful nature. God knew that our condition was so desperate that it was not enough to forgive us. He needed to live within us in all his power, grace, and glory, so that we no longer have to live as slaves to sin's passions and desires. Because the Spirit controls our hearts, we can say "no" to sin and turn in another direction.
Paul puts it this way: "The Spirit gives life to your mortal bodies." We are now dead to the controlling power of sin and alive for the purpose of obedience. We can follow God because the Spirit gives us the life, power, and desire to obey. It is our job, as Christ's ambassadors, to take these truths to people, lest they be controlled by the fear that God requires them to do what they cannot do. Sometimes God does call people to massive life change. As one man said, "You are saying that I can no longer be me!" In a real sense, he was right. God was calling him to turn almost every area of his life in a new direction. This can be terribly intimidating unless we help people look at God's call through a gospel lens.
But this is not all that Paul wants us to understand about the gospel. The gospel is not only a comfort, it is also a call, as summarized in verses 12 through 17. Paul reminds us that the work of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit leave us with an obligation to get serious about sin and see it as God does--as a life and death matter. We have no right to say that, because we have been given a blanket of forgiveness, it doesn't matter how we live. To Paul, grace leaves us obligated to deal rigorously with the sin that grace addresses. If God was so serious about sin that he sacrificed his own Son and filled us with his own Spirit, how can we be any less serious about our sins of heart and behavior?
The ongoing work of God in the believer's life is to eradicate sin ("put to death the misdeeds of the body"). As a believer, I am obligated to participate in the Holy Spirit's search-and-destroy mission. I have no right to live "according to the sinful nature" any longer. This denies the gospel and my identity as a child of God. I can never say, "I don't want to;" "I would if I could;" "It is too hard;" or "It is okay, because I am forgiven." The only proper response to the comfort of the gospel is to accept its call and follow Christ in obedience. I am called to accept my sonship, realizing that true sons of God are those who are "led by the Spirit" and not the sinful nature.
... In the push and pull of personal ministry, it is easy to emphasize one side of the gospel over the other. For example, if you were talking to a husband who had verbally abused his wife for years, it would be tempting to emphasize the call of the gospel over the comfort. However, it is the comfort of the gospel that gives this man the courage to step out from behind his denials and rationalizations to confess his sin.
On the other hand, if you were talking with his wife, you might be tempted to emphasize the comfort of the gospel to the exclusion of the call. Yet it is the call of the gospel that exposes the bitterness, self-righteousness, and vengeance that are powerful temptations for those who have been sinned against. Everyone needs both sides of the gospel--all the time!
On another note, have you all seen Facing the Giants? What an encouraging movie! I highly recommend it.