Remember this guy?
After 19 months . . .
of booty-skooching . . .
and a drawer-full of worn out knees . . .
he's finally . . .
up and running!
If you're a Christian, then even in the most heated moments of temptation, what you actually desire most deeply is God, not sin, because of the transforming work God has done in you. He's changed you at your core. You're a different person now because of the hard surgical work he's done inside you.
That's why such an important part of fending off temptation--whether it be something Paul lists in verses 5 and 8 of Colossians 3 ("sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry," or "anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk"), or something else--what's important is simply to first come to terms with who you are, what you've been remade to be. Bring that reality into the moment of temptation, and be reminded by the gospel of who you are now, and of what you want most, even in the face of sin's deception about what you really desire. Identity (who we are) precedes practicality (what we do).
If we would just stop and remember the gospel, we would realize that God really is what we want most, even in our worst moments, no matter how strong the temptation we're battling.
Lasting behavioral change happens as you grow in your understanding of the gospel, and then as you learn to receive and rest in--at your point of deepest need--everything Jesus secured for you. (179)
"what's important is simply to first come to terms with [your new identity in Christ]" (italics mine).
"Identity (who we are) precedes practicality (what we do)."
"Behavioral change happens as you grow in your understanding of the gospel" (italics mine).
Bottom line: The gospel is not the enemy of good works, unless one is seeking justification by obedience, as Paul makes clear in chapter 3. In fact, the gospel is the ground of good works. The goal is both to be clothed with Christ’s alien, perfect, and complete righteousness and to be more and more “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:11). So not only when we are resting in Christ for justification, but when we are going out of ourselves to love our neighbors in sanctification, the Triune God has it all under control. We’re only working out that which he has worked for and within us according to his gospel. Holding fast to the word of life, we work out our salvation in the knowledge that “he who began a good work in you will bring it completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).The bottom line of my comments here: I encourage those who would seek a fuller understanding of the gospel and of the freedom they have in Christ to read Jesus + Nothing = Everything. You may just find yourself resting in the gospel a little more fully and struggling toward obedience a little more faithfully.