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Sermon from Luke 18: 9-14

Doupu Kom

00:00 / 43:17

Gospel Shaped Life

Luke 18: 9-14

“The gospel” is a phrase that Christians often use without fully understanding its significance. We speak the language of the gospel, but we rarely apply the gospel to every aspect of our lives. Yet this is exactly what God wants for us.

So the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom or just for non-believers but is the way to address every problem and is the way to grow at every step. It affects the way we do everything at NCI – how we relate to people and work, how we motivate people, how we worship, how we take criticism. Therefore the gospel changes everything. It is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16) and the transforming power that we are seeking for our people and city.

A gospel shaped life is completely and radically different. Gospel shaped life is not about following some rules, it is encountering the news about what God has done. And this good news about what God has done is life changing, turns your world upside down, challenges you and shapes you. 

One way to understand the gospel is to see it as a perspective or worldview by which we view all of life. It is like having a new pair of glasses, the vision is clear. 

For Example: My wife got a new pair of glasses.

Tertullian, a Christian writer in the second and third centuries, said, “Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so this doctrine of justification is ever crucified between two opposite errors.” He meant that there were two basic false ways of thinking. 

These two errors are very powerful, because they represent the natural tendency of the human heart and mind. The “thieves” can be called moralism or legalism on the one hand and hedonism or relativism on the other hand. Another way to put it is: the gospel opposes both religion and irreligion.

On the one hand, moralism/religion stresses truth without grace, for it says that we must obey the truth in order to be saved. On the other hand, relativism/irreligion stresses grace without truth, for it says that we are all accepted by God (if there is a God) and we have to decide what is true for us.

The world operates in a worldview called the moralistic/ religious and relativistic/irreligious worldview. We approach God, life and people through this perspective. Today we are going to contrast between a moralistic/religious worldview, relativistic/irreligious and a gospel worldview.

These two errors have been around since the days of the apostles. The book of Galatians is written to combat the error of legalism: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Gal. 3:3). The book of Romans addresses the error of license: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Rom. 6:15).

But “truth” without grace is not really truth, and “grace” without truth is not really grace. Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Any religion or philosophy of life that deemphasizes or loses one or the other of these truths falls into legalism or license, and either way, the joy and power and release of the gospel are stolen.

1. Moralism/Religion Worldview.


Moralism is the view that you are acceptable (to God, the world, others, yourself) through your attainments or achievements. 

Some of the underlying assumptions of the moralistic worldview are 

a. God justifies those with a good record and condemns those with a bad record 

b. If you do good, you will do well in life 

c. If you are doing well, then you must be doing good (Corollary: if you are not doing well, then you must have done something bad) 


Look at v.11 

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 

Pharisee is praying about himself: “I am not like others, robbers, evil doers, unjust, those who commit adultery or like the tax collectors. I don’t do this but I do this: give tithes, fast, pray, worship. He feels justified before God because he does certain things and avoids certain behavior.  He feels he deserves God’s blessing and that God should be impressed with him. 

He also compares himself with the tax collector and feels better and morally superior. 

The reason why he thinks he will be justified before God is because he has a moralistic worldview: God justifies those with a good record & condemns those with a bad record.

But Jesus shatters this moralistic worldview. 

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.  

Moralistic worldview looks at the world as good vs. bad. 

These people are good and those people are bad. We even teach kids this. If you do this you are bad and if you obey you are good. There is nothing wrong in obedience and staying away from sinful and harmful behavior. But a person with a moralistic worldview looks at the world as good vs. bad. 

Moralistic worldview focuses on external behavior and not the heart. 

I am good as long as I do these good things, keep the rules and I don’t do these bad things. The Pharisee had this understanding that I have done all these things and I don’t do these bad things, and hence I should be good and acceptable. But they did not address their heart. Jesus and the gospel addresses the heart. 

This is how people and  the Pharisee view the world. They are good, moral and that’s the reason they are successful, rich and educated. Or, they are rich and successful, therefore they must be good and that’s the reason God is blessing them. We all look at the world and God in this moralistic worldview. 

2. Relativism/Irreligion Worldview

Relativists are usually irreligious, or else they prefer what is called “liberal” religion. On the surface, they are more happy and tolerant than moralistic/religious people. They believe that everyone needs to determine what is right and wrong for themselves. 

They are not convinced that God is just and must punish sinners. Their beliefs in God will tend to picture him as loving or as an impersonal force. They may talk a great deal about God’s love, but since they do not think of themselves as sinners, God’s love for humankind costs him nothing. If God accepts us, it is because he is so welcoming or because we are not so bad. The gospel’s concept of God’s love is far richer and deeper and more electrifying.


For Example: In the story of Luke 15 - the Prodigal Son

How does gospel shaped life look like? It is completely opposite to the religious and irreligious worldview.

3. Gospel Worldview

A. Growing awareness of God’s Holiness

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

God is nothing like us. He is holy, set apart, glorious, blameless, transcendent, pure and faultless. Being shaped by the gospel means there is a growing understanding of who God really is. We understand God from his word, not just some imagination. 

Isaiah 6:3 "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."     

Is 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

B. As my awareness of God’s holiness increases, awareness of my own sin increases. 

Sin is not just about behavior, about what I do and don’t do. But we understand sin to be something much deeper. 

Jer 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;

Rom 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Ps 51:5: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

When I understand who I really am before God, I take a posture of honesty and humility. 

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

A life shaped by the gospel has a growing awareness of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.  

Not that God is becoming more and more holy – he is unchangeable. Not that I am becoming more sinful. The gospel gives us power and victory over sin. But your awareness of both God's holiness and our sinfulness is increasing. 

For Example: Paul’s Life

Early Ministry: 1 Corinthians 15: 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 

Middle Ministry : Ephesians 3:8 - To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

At the End of his ministry: 1 Timothy 1:15 - The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

A gospel shaped life is honest and humble. It is aware of the truth about God and the truth about self. 

C. Growing appreciation for Jesus and the cross 


When I begin to understand this gap between God’s holiness and our real sinful self, we realize this gap is infinitely large. It cannot be bridged by anything we do. Then what’s our hope? How can you bridge this gap? Can you do anything about it? No. Unless God does something. 

This gap is not just bad news but dreadful news. This is because judgment awaits all of us. 

This gap leads to an eternal separation from God. We will face God’s wrath over sin.  

Nothing remains hidden, goes unpunished or overlooked. God’s wrath is out of his holy character and he will not withhold his judgment to be true to his character. 

Ephesians 2:3 says by nature we are children of wrath. Eph 5:6 says the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 

Who will save us from the coming judgment? My best effort is useless.  Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” or “filthy rags”. There is no excuse I can give when I face the judge.  

This is where the gospel is so beautiful. This is where our appreciation for Jesus grows. 

  • God sent Jesus, the Son of God, the perfect one into this world, into our mess. 

  • He came as a human, weak and poor in order to rescue, redeem and save us. 

  • He lived a perfect life as our substitute and died as a substitute in our place on the cross. 

  • He paid for our sin, took our punishment on himself and faced God’s wrath on our behalf. 

  • He who knew no sin became sin for us, so we can become the righteousness of God. 


God was pleased with Jesus’ perfect record that he rose again from dead. His perfect record was credited to us when we accepted his sacrifice on our behalf. 

We no longer have to prove, earn, fear or be distant from God. We become God’s family and his children. God gives us his Holy Spirit and affirms that we are his children, gives us power and a new heart. 

A growing awareness of God’s holiness and our sinfulness leads to a growing appreciation for Jesus.  His life, his death, his work on cross becomes increasingly sweet and powerful. I rejoice in Jesus as my Savior who paid for my sin and rescued me and redeemed me. 

D. Growing reversal of values 


Reversal in how we approach God: The world is accepted into clubs, societies, schools and jobs with credentials, grades and accomplishments. We approach God the same way. The rich and powerful have greater access to gurus and holy places, while others stay far away. But the  gospel reverses how we approach God. The way to approach God is by admitting you are powerless, sinful and weak and that you need a Savior. 

Reversal in how we approach life: The world seeks power, success, recognition, money and status. But in the gospel, we see Jesus, the Son of God came as an unexpected messiah. Jesus was poor, homeless, weak, tortured, killed and died a shameful death. The one who had all the power, gave up his power for our sake, so we can be saved. 

The gospel changes how we view power, success, comfort, money and recognition. We don’t need these things to prove ourselves and we don’t run after these things. Our identity and confidence is in Jesus. 

The gospel changes how we view disappointments and failures. It does not derail us. We don’t become bitter. Rather, the gospel makes us confident in the Father’s love knowing that he’s working out his good purposes in our lives. 

The gospel changes how we view work. We are not looking at work to promote ourselves or get ahead but as a way to fulfill our calling and serve others. 

Reverses how we approach people: The world divides every one on the basis of rich and poor, basis of caste or tribe or status. The gospel changes our attitude to others and breaks all barriers and divisions. There is no male or female, rich or poor, no more barriers of caste or tribe or status, we are one in Christ. We are one family. The gospel changes how we look at others. We don’t look at others with superiority but with humility and grace.  

Is your life shaped by the gospel? 

Do you see a growing awareness of God’s holiness and your sinfulness? Do you see a growing appreciation for Jesus and the cross? Do you see a growing reversal in your values? 

How is this possible? Because you deeply understand that you are saved by the grace of God, it is not something you earn or deserve. The gospel shaped life is radically different from a moralistic life. It leads to freedom, joy and a deep relationship with God.

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