On Being Gospel Centered     

Being Gospel centered is all the rage in evangelical circles, which in my judgment is a good thing, though often misunderstood in its application.  So what does it look like to be a Gospel centered person?  If I center my life on the good news of Christ’s death for my sins and the imputation of His righteousness, what difference will that make in my daily life?  How will it affect my relationship with God, others and myself, my prayer life, my worship, my work, my leisure time, my marriage, my parenting, etc., etc.  Our center is the place we go when we are afraid, insecure struggling, anxious and confused.  Our personal center must be shaped, contoured and nuanced by the Gospel.  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.

Another inadequate personal center might be family/children.  Family idolatry is a problem for Christians because we all want godly families. Calvin said idolatry is wanting a good thing too much, i.e. inordinately.  Our sense of worth and identity can come from how well we parent or how successfully and godly our children turn out.  We are vulnerable to anything that threatens our family security.  Our family health becomes our decision-making criteria.  Family is the lens through which we understand life.  If we are successful with our families, we tend to develop a superior attitude toward others and if we are unsuccessful, we tend to be bitter and envious of others. Other inadequate “personal centers” are work/achievement, 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.  Our personal worth is defined by His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  There is therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  Christ becomes my identity.  Who I am is defined by who I am in union with Him.  Since I am saved by grace, I am neither inferior to nor superior over anyone.  All striving for and achieving worth and identity are redundant.  I can rest in Christ.

To be Gospel centered also means that the Gospel becomes the source of moment-by-moment decision making.  I am to live in alignment with the Gospel as Paul told Peter (Galatians 2:14).  What to do is found in the third way of the Gospel.  I act neither moralistically (legalism) nor relativistically (license) but through the Gospel I act obediently (freedom), I love.

Gospel centrality also is the way of wisdom.  In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul says the Gospel is the wisdom of God, i.e. it is our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  The Gospel paradigm is a whole new way of seeing how the parts fit together to make a glorious whole.  It is truly shalom.

Finally, the Gospel is our source of power.  Power is the ability or capacity or strength to achieve or to accomplish.  In Romans 1:16 Paul says the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.  Salvation encompasses deliverance from the penalty, power and presence of sin.  Paul says the Gospel has within it the power to accomplish this for us.

So to be Gospel centered is to be Christ centered.  It is to live out of Him.

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