The Gospel-Shaped Life

The Gospel Coalition 2012 New England Regional Conference


 In this 48-minute session, Timothy Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, unpacks the nature of the gospel and its role in our lives. He asks four questions of the gospel, and, using Scripture and powerful real-life stories, paints a picture of the gospel-shaped life.



Tim provides us with four questions regarding a gospel-shaped life.

  1. What is the gospel?
  2. Does the gospel shape our lives or not?
  3. What does a gospel-shaped life look like?
  4. How do we allow the gospel to shape our lives?

In the first point, Tim unpacked the content of the gospel, defining it as news—not advice. Where advices adds a burden to the listener (“You should do…”), news takes that burden away (“This was done for you…”).  


Think about how you talk about the gospel. Do you treat it as advice to follow, or news to be received?
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When pastors or teachers talk to you about the Christian faith in general or the gospel in particular, do you feel burdened? Or free? According to Tim, what does that say about the kind of gospel you’re hearing?
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How does your view of your Christian life change in light of Tim’s statement that the gospel is news, not advice?
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Tim’s second question asked whether or not the gospel truly shapes our lives. The common thought is that the gospel saves us, and the requirements of God’s holy law shapes us afterwards. Tim says this is oversimplified—the gospel gives us the motivation to do the things the law asks of us. 

When you look at your Christian obligations, do you feel motivated to do them? Why or why not?
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2 Corinthians 8:8-9 (ESV)

8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Tim used the example of Paul appealing to Christ’s generosity as the motivation for the church in Corinth to be generous. How would your view of Christian responsibility if you focused on the character of Jesus, rather than the requirements of the law?
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Tim’s third question asked what the gospel-shaped life looked like in practice. He summarized by saying it is a life of humility—right understanding of who we are in light of grace. Secularism makes people selfish, and religion makes people tribal, but the gospel makes people fulfilled and selfless at the same time. 

Tim quotes Paul, saying, “You were bought with a price; you are not your own.” What does this look like in your life? How does “you are not your own” change your view of yourself?
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In your life today, what does selflessness look like? Who can you focus on instead of yourself?
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Tim’s final question is, “How?” It’s great to know that the gospel can shape our lives, but we need to know how it can mold us. Tim used the example of a depressed person and the difference that a gospel-shaped life makes.

  • A depressed legalist thinks he or she is doing something wrong, and needs to repent.
  • A depressed relativist thinks he or she doesn’t like himself or herself enough, and needs to find affirmation in people or pleasure.
  • A depressed gospel-shaped person realizes that he or she loves something more than God, a needs to find it and replace it with loyalty to God alone. 

When you face trouble in your life, which of the three positions above best describe your response?
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Tim points out that idolatry is the cause of all human problems. Is this true for you? If so, what idols crop up in your life? Can you trust God to be sufficient for you if you choose to get rid of the idols?
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Tim Keller has provided four questions that we can ask about our lives if we want to know if we’re shaped by the gospel. He concludes by saying you can tell what someone thinks about the gospel by their humor. A pharisee says, “That’s not funny.” A relativist says, “It’s only funny because it’s true.” A gospel-centered person says, “I can laugh at myself, because I’m not that big of a deal.” Remember to focus on God’s work in your life through grace, and life selflessly toward others. 


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