The gospel-wakened church is a resolute church. She stands in Christ’s words, declares Christ’s life, and bears Christ’s authority. I believe Romans 15:1–7 tells us what that looks like, and from this picture we see what a gospel-wakened church may resolve to do: “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom. 15:1–2).
1. We Resolve to Love Our Neighbor
Gospel wakefulness is not truly experienced if it does not open our hearts to others. A completely inward wakefulness is false wakefulness. While what Christ has done is the grounds of the gospel’s content, what Christ commands is the reference for the gospel’s implications, and from his own mouth we know that the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself ” (Luke 10:27).
The gospel-wakened church resolves to live for those outside its walls, to give herself away in love and on mission
The gospel-wakened church resolves to live for those outside its walls, to give herself away in love and on mission. She makes Christ’s business to seek and save the lost her business. When awe of Jesus captures a church, her people become missionaries to their own communities and contexts, making this vow: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” And there is no greater good than Christ, no firmer foundation than him.
Jesus was so passionate about this mission that he followed its trajectory to the pouring out of his very life. Gospel wakefulness facilitates Christlike mission, because it creates both the humility and the confidence intrinsic to willing sacrifice. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Rom. 15:3)
2. We Resolve to Look Foolish
What do we see in Romans 15:3? Jesus was so aligned with God that he took our animosity toward God upon himself. He takes the reproach from God for sin. Paul is quoting Psalm 69:9, a rather powerful gem of Scripture, if you think about it:
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. (niv)
Are we so consumed with zeal for God’s presence and his kingdom—for God’s house—that we are willing to take the hits meant for God himself? Are we willing to so identify with the Christ who identified with us that we will take up his cross, the object of scorn and shame and derision?
A gospel-wakened church is a resolute church that embraces the loss of her reputation for the gain of God’s glory. She is willing to look stupid, irrational, impractical, silly . . . for the right reasons. She will be dragged into the street, absorbing the insults of those who insult God, in efforts to turn the world upside down. She will spend as much or more time and money on others as she does herself; she will send her people into the farthest reaches of the world to die; she will eat and drink with sinners; she will welcome the broken and weary; she will favor the meek and lowly; she will cherish the powerless; she will serve and suffer and savor the sweetness of the good news.
A gospel-driven church resolves to look foolish to those to whom the cross is foolishness. Because she knows it is the power to save. Those who are astonished by the gospel aren’t more interested in anything else, so they are willing to take criticism, ridicule, and even persecution for the cause of Christ. He has become all-satisfying, which makes him of surpassing worth to any other loss. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4)
3. We Resolve to Trust God’s Word
Gospel wakefulness endures, and it produces endurance. The gospel-wakened church doesn’t burn out, but instead commits to that which is eternal—namely, the word of God. We find our encouragement there, and our hope. The gospel-wakened church returns to being a people of the Book. She relies on the external word from God, not the internal word of creative ideas.
The gospel-wakened church doesn’t burn out, but instead commits to that which is eternal—namely, the word of God.
The gospel-wakened church has come to the end of itself and finally beheld the sustaining power of the Savior. She knows where truth is, she knows where hope is, she knows where wisdom is. She trusts no other words but the Scriptures. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. (Rom. 15:5)
4. We Resolve to Live in Christ-Centered Harmony
The gospel-wakened church knows that self-help doesn’t work. The concept of self-help is like putting your broken hand in a garbage disposal, flipping the switch, and expecting it to be healed. We know that help comes from outside of ourselves, from our loving God via the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ dispensed by the Spirit who is not our own.
Gospel wakefulness brings us to the end of ourselves, but also to the beginning of our true selves, the image of God in us that is being restored and begging for reconciliation not just with God but with our neighbors.
The gospel-wakened church pursues unity, then, as an appetite, as an instinct. She needs no artificial program or incentive of success. She is awakened to love, compelled to reconcile, so she does. With Christ’s glory beheld by mutual vision, the gospel-wakened church is harmonized, each distinct voice and gift joined in the unity of the gospel. That together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 15:6)
5. We Resolve to Be Worshipful
The gospel-wakened church can’t help but worship. Her affections are renewed, her sense of worship is wakened to the one true God above all gods. She has seen the antiglories of her own degradation; she has felt great shame. But she has experienced the covering approval of Jesus Christ. She has been healed! So she rises, walking and leaping and praising God. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Rom. 15:7)
6. We Resolve to Glory in the Gospel
How did Christ welcome us? With grace, despite our sin. With embrace, despite our demerits. With cover, despite our shame. With love, despite our animosity. With sacrifice, despite our unworthiness. That is how Christ welcomed us. The gospel-wakened church welcomes each other in that way, for God’s glory.
An excerpt from Jared Wilson’s recently published book, Gospel Wakefulness.
Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. He is an award-winning author whose articles and short stories have appeared in a number of periodicals, and has written the popular books Your Jesus Is Too Safe and Gospel Wakefulness, as well as the curriculum Abide. Wilson lives in Vermont with his wife and two daughters, and blogs daily at GospelDrivenChurch.com.