On the Gospel-Centered Train

On the Gospel-Centered Train

Many in the church are now talking about being “gospel-centered” or “gospel-centrality.” What’s this all about? In Acts 29, the network our church is in (or at least will officially be in a few months), we’re often accused of having our own vocabulary. But the goal is not to be cool, but clear. Let’s break it down.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

Jesus made this thing simple.

The arrogance of man made it complex.

Pride loves complexity because it creates elitism, special knowledge, and hierarchies; pyramids that give a high perch and lots of control to the one who has accomplished the most.

But that’s not the gospel.

That’s not Jesus Christ.

That’s not the spirit of true Christian faith.

Beware the center.

What’s in the center of the gospel? Paul taught nothing more than “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:17-23). To be gospel-centered means that Christ’s finished work on the cross ALONE is the center…nothing more, nothing less. We add nothing to the cross to determine or define our righteousness, but rest our faith in the simple fact that God accepts us based on our trust in Christ’s work.

Paul took this gospel to Galatia, where he battled false teachers who believed that we must add circumcision to the center.

Jesus plus circumcision.

Paul, like a furious father protecting his children, refuted their teaching and reminded the Galatians of the grace to which they were called when he said, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21).

Jesus plus nothing.

To be gospel-centered means we keep “extrabiblical excess” away from the center. By “extrabiblical” I don’t mean “unbiblical” but I’m referring to things that would fall under the category of personal convictions and beliefs about which the Scripture has no clear teaching. These are personal areas left up to liberty and conscience. When these things are brought to the center and made one of the pillars of the gospel, it creates legalisms, divisions, and splits.

Jesus plus wear a head covering.

Jesus plus don’t have a TV.

Jesus plus homeschooling.

Jesus plus be a republican.

Jesus plus pre-tribulation rapture.

Jesus plus don’t listen to secular music.

Jesus plus don’t drink alcohol.

Jesus plus tithing.

Jesus plus pray an hour every day.

And the list goes on and on and on.

This has an enormous bearing on how we relate to other Christians. If we allow areas of personal conviction or conscience into the center, we remove Christ from the center. It becomes about our work and not His work. Love is now conditional. Fellowship is a minefield.

One of my heroes, Great Awakening preacher George Whitefield, would often say, “We will love all those who love Christ, even though we disagree on some points.”

At GraceLife, our new church plant, we are asking the Lord for his grace to help us build a gospel-centered community on a mission together. But if we don’t embrace the simplicity and purity of the gospel ourselves, how can we complete our mission? That’s why it’s important to constantly exalt Christ and His finished work among us every chance we get. We believe that even as we teach practical Christianity, it’s important to connect every message to Christ. Otherwise, we’re just moralists introducing another gospel, and if we’re not careful, another Jesus.

I’m on the gospel-centered train not because it’s cool or trendy, but because it’s true. It’s biblical. Anything else is just traditions of men.

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