Friday, November 05, 2010

Getting the Gospel Right

I’ve been doing some thinking lately. This post is a rewrite of something I tried to post recently but decided needed a little more work. I’m struggling through something that I think I have known for a long time but which is becoming ever more clear to me recently as I’ve had opportunity to hear some devotionals given in public settings. And that is that I am growing more and more concerned that a lot of people who think they know the gospel do not truly understand it or, in some cases, even know it. Recently I have heard several things which have left me pondering and weeping and concerned.

I have made several attempts at writing this post where I’ve tried to say what it is that I’ve been hearing that isn’t right, but it just becomes a long list of things, so I’ll sum it up this way: What I am hearing is a very man-centered, shallow, unbiblical version of the gospel. I hear a lot about faith, but not a lot about what exactly we must be putting faith in. I hear a lot of wishful thinking, a lot about hope, but not much about what true hope must be grounded in to be sure.

What I am not hearing in too many of these settings is the biblical gospel. What I am not hearing is the truth about sin and how very offensive it is to Holy God. What I am not hearing is Jesus being exalted and praised and glorified and worshiped. What I am not hearing is a deeper longing to know Him and love Him. What I am not hearing is a biblical explanation of the Cross. And it concerns me that so many people who think they know the gospel don't seem to understand it very well.

I have just finished reading a little book called, What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. I want to strongly encourage you to get your hands on this book and read it. Even if you think you know the gospel, be encouraged at reading it spelled out clearly and well. I was deeply encouraged while reading and thinking about this book.

I wish I could do a more thorough review but I'll just tell you that through the course of the book, we examine, in light of what the Bible teaches, what is the good news, and near the end Gilbert points out that any gospel presentation that either downplays, leaves out, or does not have the Cross as the center piece is not a faithful gospel presentation. This from page 96 is just true and vital to understand: “The way to be included in Christ’s kingdom is to come to the King, not just hailing him as a great example who shows us a better way to live, but humbly trusting him as the crucified and risen Lord who alone can release you from the sentence of death. At the end of the day, the only way into the kingdom is through the blood of the King.”

I am convinced that what we really, truly need is to be proclaiming Jesus Christ, and Him crucified and risen again. I am convinced that we need to be obsessed with Jesus, Himself. We are created by Him and for His glory.

I am convinced that when we begin to live in the light of the biblical, God-centered, Christ-centered, cross-centered gospel, that this is when we will begin to live lives that are gratefully surrendered to the King. Not responding to the guilt that a recent study kind of emoted up in us, but a real heart response to the work of the Holy Spirit in a life that is surrendered to the King.

I am convinced that we have got to get it deep into our understanding that yes, God loves us with an amazing and incomprehensible kind of love, but it is not because we are so wonderful, but it is because He is so wonderful. There is nothing I can bring but filthy rags. The fact that He loved me and saved me while I was yet His enemy, a sinner, this is incredible love. But it is because He is glorious and wonderful and full of mercy and grace. It is not because I am so lovable. What I am saying is that we desperately need a God-centered understanding of the gospel rather than the shallow imitation offered by a man-centered one. I am convinced that as long as it is about us and how we feel, and not yet about Jesus and the blood that He shed on our behalf and for His praise alone, we are not experiencing revival. And I am thirsty for revival. I want to decrease and see Him increase. I want to be all about talking about Him and proclaiming the true good news to people and not watering it down or downplaying the importance of the cross. I want to love Him more than life. I want to proclaim His praise and to learn to be more bold in this. I have not been bold. I want to learn to be.

I am seeking to lay aside the weights and the sin that entangle me from running the race as one who wants to run to win, running wholeheartedly for the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I want to learn to enjoy the good gifts God has given, but not to live in the stupor of worldliness that threatens to dull my senses to eternity. I don’t want to make temporal things so important that I forget and think little of the life to come. Jesus has reconciled me to God and I can boldly approach His throne, clothed in His righteousness, washed clean by His blood, freed to live for Him. I want this to be what consumes my thinking and my actions. And when I am tempted to forget, may I turn my eyes back to Jesus and fight against the worldliness that threatens to turn my attention and affection from what is most worth living for.

That book, again, was What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. Read it. I don’t recommend a lot of books here. This one I am recommending. Even better, read your Bible prayerfully and often. Fill your mind with God’s word and think on it and saturate your understanding with a biblical view of the gospel. If there is anything we must get right, it is this.

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