• September 1, 2014

The meaning of ‘Gospel-centered’

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Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2013 4:30 am

Picture a man swaying and moving his lips in sync with music you cannot hear. At first, it seems odd because you don’t understand what he is doing. Then you realize he is listening to headphones.

“Ah, he’s not crazy,” you say to yourself, “he is responding to music.”

You’ve probably seen this sort of thing a thousand times. What if you then decided you could be as happy as him if you swayed and moved your lips like him?

How would that work out? You might enjoy yourself for a little while, but it would quickly become very awkward if you can’t hear the music.

Many of our churches are filled with people attempting to practice the Christian life by mimicking the moves of others, rather than responding to the message of God’s grace.

This image has stuck with me for years from a book I read as a young Christian. It is a helpful way to remember that we do not initiate God’s grace; we respond to it.

Paul rebukes the Galatians for this very thing in Galatians 3:2-3, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Respond to God’s grace

We must respond every day of our life in faith to God’s grace, just as we did when we first heard the good news of Jesus’ substitutionary life and death for us. God not only forgives us by His grace, but He sustains us.

Colossians 2:6 says it this way, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”

Paul defines the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. He says it is of “first importance.” It is our hope of salvation. It is literally the “good news” of Jesus’ death for our sins and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as our guarantee of eternal life.

There is a renewed interest among evangelicals in “Gospel-centered” ministry. It is reflected in the titles of books and in the core value statements of many churches.

Term confuses some

While any Christian would agree with the words “Gospel-centered,” some are confused about what people actually mean by it. The popularization of this term over the last 10 years has a unique meaning.

“Gospel-centered” in this current sense means: declaring the person and work of Jesus Christ as our hope of salvation AND as our motivation and empowerment for holy living and substantial change.

Tim Keller says it like this: “The gospel of grace is not just the ‘A-B-Cs of our faith’ but the gospel is the ‘A to Z’ of our faith.”

We might easily agree that the person and work of Jesus is our hope of salvation, but we don’t live as if He is our motivation for change and holiness.

God the Father forgives me through Christ. He also likes me, every day, and this is my motivation for change. It’s not that He likes me because of how well I respond to His music. I respond because He likes me. I respond because I’m amazed at His grace!

We hosted a preaching seminar recently and wrestled through this concept with preachers from 12 churches in Killeen. We all were seeking to understand how to live out 1 Corinthians 2:2. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Pastor Yancey Arrington of Houston challenged us to see God’s rescue in Jesus as the single story of all 66 books of the Bible. Genesis 3:15 promises a rescuer and the rest of the Bible is filling in the details. He reminded us that when Jesus was walking with men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), He could have shown them His face, but instead He showed himself through the teaching of the Old Testament.

Every text of the Bible is about the work of Christ. Make sure you keep the order right. Make sure you remember that the Bible always calls us to respond to God’s grace, not respond FOR God’s grace.

True worship and obedience are motivated by God’s rescue. Thank God for good news.

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