HOW DO CHRISTIANS GROW & CHANGE? PART 1
One of our values at Redeemer is promoting Gospel centrality. Admittedly, this is a buzzword that assumes you know what it means. However, more and more people have asked what does this mean. So, beginning today and going for the next couple months, I'm going to try and explain what Gospel centrality is, at least, how I understand it.
Stated very simply, Gospel centrality means that God uses the message of the Gospel -- Jesus' perfect life, substitutionary death and victorious resurrection in response to our sin -- to sanctify as well as save. In other words, apart from the Gospel we can’t be saved or experience healthy change, as Tim Keller said “the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel” (from his article, “The Centrality of the Gospel”).
We agree with the advice of the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther who said it was “extremely necessary that we come to know [the Gospel] well and constantly inculcate it” (Works, Vol. 26, p. 91). Just in case you don’t use “inculcate” everyday, the word means to “instill an idea or habit by persistent instruction” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). So, I prefer a slightly different translation of the same passage in Luther’s Galatians commentary where he said we should “beat [the Gospel] into [our] heads continually” (Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, 101) (As an aside, this passage from Luther’s Commentary on Galatians is quoted favorably by Tim Keller in the aforementioned article, by John Stott in his The Message of Galatians [p. 59] and by S. Lewis Johnson in his article in the Emmaus Journal [Vol. 12, p. 168]).
Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why did he give all those citations and mention all those authors?” I did it (1) so you can make sure I am quoting Luther correctly, and (2) to show that nothing I just wrote is new or novel. Gospel centrality actually has reputable, mainstream Christian "authorities" on the Bible going back at least 500 years who agree with the idea that the Gospel needs to blend, even forcibly, into every aspect of our lives for growth and change.
My goal in subsequent posts is to show that what I (along with Keller, Luther, Stott and Johnson too) said above is actually a biblical idea and is therefore, true. To make my case for Gospel centrality, I’m going to start by looking at the structure of the New Testament and the structure of individual New Testament letters to make this point.
I'll end this opening post with two important quotes that, again, express what I think the Bible teaches about the Gospel’s role in a Christian’s sanctification:
Tim Chester: Christians never "graduate from the gospel to some advanced way of holiness or progress" (You Can Change, 107).
Tim Keller: “The gospel is not the first ‘step’ in a ‘stairway’ of truths, rather, it is more like the ‘hub’ in a ‘wheel’ of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom” (from his article, “The Centrality of the Gospel”).