Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Great Omission (Why We Need to Recover Gospel-Centered Christianity)

I have been concerned and disturbed for some time about trends going on in supposedly evangelical churches and ministries, and recently the reason for my concern crystallized in my mind: way too much of what happens in evangelicalism today, in its worship and witness, its popular trends, in so many of the songs and well-attended seminars, etc., is marked by a glaring omission – the Gospel is being left out. Or at the very least, we ('evangelicals') are no longer Gospel-centered in the way we should be (and in the way we used to be).

When we gather for worship we sing and speak about God maybe most often as the one who strengthens us for coping with life’s trials and troubles. And many evangelical authors and seminar leaders and even pastors may teach about how to live more successfully and strategically. We may even be calling people to live for things bigger themselves. (That’s big with those inclined toward the emergent movement…..)

And many of those things are all good in their place, but they cease to be good if they crowd the Gospel from the center, and even end up being a substitute for the Gospel – for believing it, proclaiming it, celebrating it and living by it.

We are EVANGELicals. That means, literally, we are GOSPEL-centered people. We are not mere theists; we are Christians, and even more specifically we are Gospel-centered (because we’re Bible-believing) Christians!

Remember, the reality and meaning of the Cross is at the heart of the Biblical/authentic Gospel. That’s why Paul could call his message “the word of the cross” and why he would tell the sophisticated and worldly-wise Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor.1:18; 2:1ff.) So again, it’s the message and the meaning of the cross and the resurrection – in other words the Gospel that is at the heart of real, true, authentic Christianity.

And so we must be Gospel-centered Christians (preaching the Gospel to ourselves everyday)…

– The Gospel defines who we are as believers – our faith in Christ takes the shape of believing what the Gospel declares about Him, centering in his being the Son of God who saves through his cross and resurrection.

-- The Gospel, then, is also what defines us as church. We are those baptized by the Spirit into one body when we believe the Gospel of Christ.

-- The Gospel defines how we are to live (e.g., Rom.6:1ff.; Gal.2:20ff.)

-- the Gospel fuels true worship (Rev.5:9-10, 12-13)

-- the Gospel directs how we minister (2 Cor. 5:11, 14-21) We are ambassadors: think of what the function of an ambassador is, and how he can get it wrong by distorting the king’s message. Such distortion happens when we leave out part of what we're to be proclaiming.

“The message about Christ (the Gospel)" is to richly inhabit our worship and our witness, our meetings and our ministries -- in sermons, but also in our songs (Col.3:16f.). The gospel is not merely a message about God helping us to cope with our problems and disappointments and broken dreams, etc. (Liberals believe that much.)

No, the Gospel is about God saving us from our sin – the penalty, power and presence of sin – and saving us specifically through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and saving us by grace alone through faith alone because we were too wicked and weak to save ourselves. The gospel is about the triumph of the gracious reign of God.

THAT’S THE GOSPEL!! And it is just plain wrong (and sad, and silly) when we settle for a lesser substitute message about God being just this nice, benign Being out to help everybody make their dreams come true.

May we recover our commitment to being as Gospel-centered as the apostle Paul, who wrote: "But far be it from me to boast/glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal.6:14)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen! Amen! and Amen!!!