I’m currently preaching a series to help renew and refocus our church’s disciple-making ministry. By disciple-making, we mean evangelism of the lost toward faith in Christ and encouragement of the saints toward maturity in Christ. Following Tony Payne’s work in The Course of Your Life, I tried to present the centrality of the gospel in God’s plan for the world from Acts 13. From that reality, I brought four basic implications for our life being gospel-centered.
First of all, if the focus of everything God had done and is doing is the gospel of Christ, then we need to know the gospel. If someone asked you what the gospel was, what would you say? Do you know the essentials down cold? Could you explain to someone who Jesus is, what he has done, and how it saves sinners in under a minute?
More than that, do you understand the gospel well enough to read the Bible in light of it? Can you read the Old Testament like Paul did? Can you read Nehemiah and understand what difference the gospel of Jesus makes in how you apply it? What about Leviticus or the Song of Solomon or Ezekiel? You might think, ‘Well, that’s something for Bible scholars’ and try to excuse yourself, but hold on a minute—isn’t this what the Bible is about? Didn’t Jesus and apostles preach the gospel from the Old Testament? How can we be a Bible-reading people and not strive for a ‘gospel-lens’ reading of every passage?
If you’re not there, and you want to be there but don’t know how to be there, don’t worry. There are plenty of articles and books to help with that (some are here). But even now—on your own—read through the New Testament and watch for how the authors quote and apply the Old Testament. Ask God to help you understand how to read the Old Testament that way.
Second, if the focus of everything God had done and is doing is the gospel of Christ, then we need to be speaking the gospel. This is why you have to know the gospel; because it’s meant to be talked about! No one needs theological eggheads at their church. We don’t need people sitting around talking about doctrine and theology just for the sake of discussion and debate. Don’t get me wrong—I believe doctrine is important; even precision in doctrine. I love long talks about the Bible and its theology. But in the end, thinking deeply about God is meant to move our hearts and cause us to open our mouths in worshipful declarations of that truth (Rom 11:33-36).
This declaring of the gospel takes two forms: evangelism or edification. We will either be telling the glory of God in Christ to unbelievers, helping them see the beauty of our Savior (Col 4:2-6). Or, we will be telling it to one another, helping God’s people become more and captivated by the grace of Christ so that our hearts won’t be easily wooed by sin (Col 3:16; Heb 3:12-14).
Third, if the focus of everything God had done and is doing is the gospel of Christ, then we need to live for the gospel. This is related to what we just said about speaking the gospel. If we are going to be serious about speaking the gospel to one another and world, then we need to be constantly re-orienting our life towards that end.
So, when is the last time you went and hung out somewhere where you knew there would be lots of lost people just so you might get to talk to someone about Jesus? When was the last time you tucked a Bible or good, gospel track in your coat pocket, your purse, or the glove box of your car—just ready to say something to someone and leave it behind? When was the last time you planned for, spent money on, or in some way inconvenienced yourself just so you could spend time with people who need to hear about God and his willingness to forgive sins? This is part of what it means to live for the gospel. It means planning for its proclamation.
Finally, if the focus of everything God had done and is doing is the gospel of Christ, then we need to live in light of the gospel. If we have heard and believed that Christ is our Savior who brings us to God, we should not only rejoice in our God-given forgiveness, but also live a life changed by our God-given forgiveness (Col 3:1-4).
In part, this means we should think about our life—every part of it—and ask, ‘How does the gospel affect how I should think about this? How I should live my life in this area?’ How does the gospel affect: How I raise my kids? How I deal with stress? How I love my spouse with my words in public and how I make love to my spouse behind closed doors? How does the gospel affect the amount of time I spent in hobbies and recreation? Where my money goes? How I speak about politicians I don’t like? The gospel is a like a flashlight in a dark cave. When shined, it illuminates the rats, rocks, and snakes that we want to avoid. And when we begin to shine it every part of us, sin should be spotted and dealt with. Everything that we do, think, or say should be impacted by the gospel of Christ.
These four implications certainly do not exhaust what it means to live a gospel-centered life. But they are enough to help most of us get on our knees and prayerfully start making changes.