Every person has a “personal center.” Whatever is at the center of our life will
be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom and power. Security represents
your sense of worth, your identity, your sense of being somebody. Guidance
means your source for moment-by-moment decision making and doing. Wisdom
is your perspective on life, your understanding of how the various parts and
principles of life apply and relate to each other. Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something.
There are many “personal centers” that are inadequate and self-defeating. For example, money/possessions can be an inadequate “personal center.” You tend to define your personal worth by your net worth. You are vulnerable to anything that threatens your economic security. Money becomes your source of security and power. Profit becomes your decision-making criterion. Money making is the lens through which life is understood. If you are successful with money, the temptation is to superiority; if you are not as successful as others the temptation is to jealousy and envy.
Other inadequate “personal centers” are work/achievement, family/children, pleasure/comfort, spouse/love, relationships/approval and religion/morality……ad infinitum.
The only adequate “personal center” I know of is a Gospel-centered life. Gospel centrality has to do with the Gospel becoming our “personal center” i.e. the source of our security, guidance, wisdom and power. Let us unpack this for a moment.
So what is the Good News according to Jesus Christ? The prayer of belief says, “Lord Jesus, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through You, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I repent of my sins of self-ruling and self-saving. I thank You for paying my debt, bearing my punishment on the cross and offering forgiveness and new life. Thank You that my sin and rebellion are Yours and Your righteous, perfect and obedient life is mine through faith in You. Knowing that You died on the cross and have been raised from the dead, I turn from my sins and receive You as Savior and Lord, and I anxiously await Your return when I will see You face to face. I now resolve in humble reliance on the Holy Spirit and through the power of the Gospel graciously working in my life to seek to walk in a manner pleasing to You.”
To be Gospel centered means first of all that the Gospel is our source of security. Security is a sense of safety, invulnerability, peace and hope. It has to do with our identity, our sense of being somebody. Kierkegaard, that great Danish philosopher argued that sin is essentially an attempt to construct an identity apart from God. In modern thought identity is determined by what you do and how well you do it. In postmodern thought identity is not a given but is something you construct. You might have to try on several identities to find one that fits. The Gospel gives us the only identity that fits and gives us the security we all crave. Identity cannot be the result of achievement or construction. Identity is a gift, a free gift given only to people who don’t deserve it, want it or think they need it. Our personal worth, identity, etc. is defined by the gift of Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). I don’t attain it or construct it, I receive it. Christ’s record of perfect righteousness becomes mine as much as if I had accomplished it myself. The resurrection verifies and validates the acceptability of that righteousness (Romans 4:25). Christ also atoned for my sins. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Christ has become my identity. I feel safe, invulnerable, at peace and filled with hope. Everything I deserved He got and everything He deserves I get. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Who I am is defined by who I am in union with Him. Since I am saved by grace I am neither inferior nor superior to anyone. Since inferiority falls into the trap of comparing ourselves with others and feeling I am less—(the false gospel of accomplishment)—I now know that there is none righteous, no not one. Since superiority is an inflated, emotional view of my worthiness the Gospel totally deconstructs that illusion. If who I am is a gift, then how can I boast in it or take credit for it (Ephesians 2:8-10). All striving for, and achieving worth and identity are worse than futile. I can rest in Christ and be comfortable in my own skin. The Gospel is my source of security.
To be Gospel centered also means that the Gospel becomes the source of moment-by-moment decision making. The Gospel is not merely an identity and source of security, it is a lifestyle. The Gospel is not just entry-level information but is upper-level, graduate and post-graduate truth. As Paul told Peter in Galatians 2:14, we are called to live in alignment with the Gospel. All ethics in our relationships with God, self, others and the world are found in the third way of the Gospel. I act neither moralistically (legalism) nor relativistically (license) but through the Gospel I act obediently (freedom); that is, I love. An example may help. How should I as a Christian respond to suffering? If I approach suffering legalistically I will believe that suffering is a cause and effect phenomenon. I will try to trace my current suffering back to a particular sin (usually a Technicolor one, not black and white) and deduce that God is punishing me. I will attempt to relieve my suffering by acts of penance to prove I am sorry for my sin. The relativistic response is to blame it on others and to assume the identity of a victim. I become bitter and resentful toward life and adopt a jaded and cynical viewpoint. The third way of the Gospel gives us the ability to face suffering realistically. We know that suffering is not punishment for sin because Christ was punished for our sins and there is no double jeopardy in divine justice. We also know that we are both victims and victimizers who deserve far more suffering than we receive. Therefore the Gospel helps us to see suffering as a means through which we participate in the sufferings of Christ and enter more fully into deep fellowship with Him (Philippians 3:10). Suffering enables us to be conformed to the image of Christ. We don’t glory in suffering (we are not masochistic), but we welcome what it produces in us. This is an example of how we respond with the Gospel as the source of our moment-by-moment decision making.
Gospel centrality is also the way of wisdom. J.I. Packer in Knowing God defines wisdom as the use of the best means to accomplish the greatest ends that brings the most glory to God and the greatest good to man. In I Corinthians 1:30 Paul says the Gospel is the wisdom of God i.e. it is our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. I like the term Gospel logic. The Gospel gives us a new paradigm, an interpretive grid, a way of seeing. We learn to read Scripture through the lens of the Gospel and are able to distinguish between the law’s “do this and live” and the Gospel’s “live and do this”. Gospel logic helps us understand things like “don’t just do something, stand there,” strive to enter rest”, “the way up is down”, “the way to life is to die”, etc. As our mind is renewed by truth we are able more and more to prove the acceptable will of God (Romans 12:2).
Finally, the Gospel is our source of power. We are often weak, struggling, resistant and impotent. We cannot change ourselves much less anyone else. The Gospel itself is the power of God to all who believe. The message produces fruit. Paul, while thanking God for the Colossians’ faith and love and hope which he attributes to the “word of truth, the Gospel which has come to you and indeed the whole world as it is bearing fruit and growing as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth (Colossians 1:4-6). The Gospel delivers us from the penalty of sin all at once, the power of sin gradually and the presence of sin ultimately. We need to be gospelized daily.
So in conclusion, to be Gospel centered is to be Christ centered. In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and you are complete in Him.