Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The centrality of the gospel

The authors of Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow quote Tim Keller, "The Christian life is a process of renewing every dimension of our life - spiritual, psychological, corporate, social - by thinking, hoping, and living out the ramifications of the gospel.  The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving."  At a time when many in the church are tempted to isolate their faith from the rest of their lives, these are sobering words that should make us think  The Christian faith was never intended to be put in a special box that is only opened on Sunday morning, and the gospel was not given to merely provide us with an introduction to Christ and faith.  The gospel speaks to the most important issues in one's life, and to try to separate discipleship from the gospel must not be done.  Someone has said that the gospel is not the ABCs of the faith but the A-Z of the Christian faith.  It encompasses everything.

Churches today offer a variety of ministries intended to address human needs.  Smaller churches may offer a marriage enrichment class while larger churches may have an entire weekend conference dedicated to building up marriages.  Financial Peace University is conducted in numerous churches each week.  Organizations dedicated to helping people overcome a variety of addictions often meet in churches.  The list of such ministries could go on, and many of these are wonderful ministries designed to assist people overcome challenges they may be facing.  But, if they are offered apart from the gospel they lack the power to truly transform someone's life.  For example, teaching the correct techniques may improve the communication between a husband and wife, but if they do not learn to apply Ephesians 5: 25-32 to their relationship their marriage will not experience the transformation God desires for it.

This transformational aspect is what is absent in many of our discipleship efforts.  It is one thing to give people a list of do's and don'ts; it is another thing entirely to change people's hearts so that the gospel becomes the influential force in people's lives it was intended to be.  If we can somehow once again help people apply the gospel to every aspect of their lives we will see remarkable things happen in their lives, and we will see our ability to take the gospel to those who doubt its validity increase as well.  One of the reasons so many remain skeptical of the gospel is that they haven't seen it make much of an impact in the lives of those of us who call ourselves Christians.  Unfortunately, it is not the gospel that is lacking; it is our application of it to every area of our lives that is lacking, but they do not know that.

Leonard Sweet asked a powerful question in his book Carpe Manana: Is Your Church Ready to Seize Tomorrow?.  He wrote, "The church has tried everything except the one thing that is needed.  It has tried to be an inclusive church.  It has tried to be a confessional church.  It has tried to be a program-driven church.  It has tried to be a purpose-driven church.  It has tried to be a seeker-sensitive church.  What if it tried to be a spiritual church?"  We can become the kind of church that reaches unbelievers for Christ and helps those who have trusted Him in their discipleship journey if we return once again to the centrality of the gospel.

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