Gospel enjoyment is centering on and celebrating the finished work of Jesus Christ in His life, death and resurrection.
Gospel enjoyment recognizes that you only live for what you love, so for the Christian or anyone else for that matter, we must evaluate if we love what is most lovely. The good news of Jesus Christ is the most amazing truth and is most lovely, but we are not merely called to cognitive belief of the truths of Christ as our Savior, we are called to love this truth.
Effort Alone is Not Enough
Living a life that mirrors Christ is a huge challenge, but gospel enjoyment gives freedom that enables us to live this life God calls us to with great joy and victory. It’s essential that every Christian love the gospel or they will never embody Christ in their lifestyle or their actions toward others.
Those who claim Christianity know the personal struggle of trying to maintain personal holiness and morality without becoming judgmental know-it-alls who are unable to love others. The commands of scripture toward taking responsibility for the local church community can also seem daunting, let alone the call to embody Christ to our neighbors with our words and our actions.
One path that many Christians take is the one of resolve and willpower aiming to accomplish the commands of scripture or at least the ones their local church tends to care about. This resolve and willpower either creates pride and a judgmental attitude if a measure of the “Christian life” is achieved or condemnation and guilt when it isn’t achieved. We need more than resolve and willpower.
Effort alone never results in transformation, but effort is needed toward the right end. Effort is needed for gospel enjoyment.
We must ask, how do we get gospel enjoyment? How does it happen? How do we get to the point of delight that transforms our efforts?
The Great Commandments as Jesus articulated them were to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Faith cannot be separated from love because salvation is tied up with joy in knowing the good news of God’s redemption through Christ’s perfect life, substitutionary death and bodily resurrection.
Knowing God as the Source of Gospel Enjoyment
“We love because He first loved us” is how the scriptures (1 John 4:19) explain the love of God that we are to embody to one another. It highlights the source of all gospel enjoyment as beginning with God. This is at the end of passage that highlights the love of God:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfect in us.” 1 John 4:7-12
Jesus in His high priestly prayer in John 17 echoes this desire for Christians to know and have the love of God in them.
“O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it know, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.” John 17:25-26
God alone is the source of all joy, delight, and love. Jesus Himself points to loving Him as the path to obedience and Paul directs us in Colossians 3 to seek the things above, where Christ is, as the path to our lives becoming more like Christ. In the same high priestly prayer Jesus says “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.” (John 17:3)
I have seen from the scriptures, from my own life, and from many others that the call of the Christian life (eternal life) to align every area of life under Christ’s gracious reign is only accomplished when we love God and the gospel of Christ most.
This is gospel enjoyment. It’s our greatest delight becoming our greatest direction. It’s the path to our efforts no longer being futile because they are directed at knowing God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel enjoyment is the path to obedience, the path to living in Christian community the way God has designed it, and it’s the path to embodying Christ to the world around us on mission through declaration and demonstration.
And it all starts with knowing and delighting in God. You only live for what you love, so for the Christian, the question is why have we tried to live the Christian life apart from a great love for God? Our faith is the invitation to love what is most lovely in Jesus and to let that love guide us to be transformed toward being like Him.