Monthly Archives: September 2014
I hope that being gospel-centered is more than a catch-phrase. However, I fear for a great many “Christians” it is nothing more than that.
So what does it mean to be gospel-centered? Here is an insightful article by Dane Ortland that addresses that very question: What’s All This Gospel-Centered Talk About?
Below is an excerpt from the article that uses dating as an example of what it looks like to be gospel-centered. I hope you read it and in doing so, you are enticed to read the rest.
Example: Gospel-Centered Dating
Given this context, what might be meant by “gospel-centered dating”?
Such an approach to dating remembers the fierce works-righteousness orientation of the human heart and the way we tend to build our identity on anything other than Jesus.
Gospel-centered dating wouldn’t be dating that tries to share the gospel with as many dates as possible. It would be dating that refuses to build a sense of worth on whom we’re dating, what they think of us, and the happiness they can provide if the relationship works out long-term. It would be letting Jesus be the one who saves us—not only from judgment before God in the future, but judgment before our dates in the present.
Dating can be truly enjoyed if we go into every evening out with a heart-sense of the gospel. If we know we are accepted and approved in Jesus, acceptance and approval by the person sitting across the table loses its ominous significance. If we know God delights in us with invincible favor and love, dates that go poorly will disappoint but not crush us. If we know that no matter what happens in a relationship we will always have Christ, and he is everything, then we are freed from having our mood dictated by dating success. And even if dates go well with someone early on, it’s only a matter of time before a boyfriend or girlfriend (or spouse) will disappoint us and let us down. There’s only one who never lets us down.
A gospel-centered life, in other words, is the only life that can truly be enjoyed, no matter your circumstances. Nothing can threaten our sense of worth and identity. Christ himself is our mighty and radiant friend.
On Monday Ryan and I usually record the “famous” Eagle Heights Q & A Podcast in which we answer questions from the previous Sunday’s sermon. For the next few weeks Pastor Ryan is gone and so I will be answering questions via blog. Also this week, Colby Nicholson, our youth minister, will be helping me speak to the question we received.
PART 4 SERMON SUMMARY
First, here is a brief summary of the sermon this week. If we believe the Bible and trust in Jesus and His good news, we should want to speak of Him. We should want to confidently declare who He is to those who have not trusted in Him.
Why don’t we? Why are we so tepid and luke-warm and even apathetic when it comes to speaking of Jesus? How does God empower us to boldly speak of Jesus?
From John’s Gospel and the book of Acts, I tried to explain how God equips and empowers us to bear fruit for God’s glory and the joy of those who are trusting in Jesus.
- For the Glory of God the Father, Disciples will bear fruit (John 15:5). Fruit bearing is the mark of true disciple of Jesus. How?
- By abiding (remaining, staying, persisting) in Christ. To abide in Christ is to remain in His word (15:4-7).
- Abiding in Christ and His word is the way we are filled with the Spirit. The Spirit inspired God’s word and the Spirit will use God’s word as we fill our lives with it (John 15:26; Acts 4:31-33).
- When we are filled with the Spirit, who seals and indwells all who are saved (Eph. 1:13-14), we will testify about Him and glorify Him (John 15:26; John 16:14; Acts 4:31-33).
- To testify about Jesus, at least in part, is to bear Kingdom fruit. This glorifies God and is for our joy in Christ (John 15:8, 11).
- Conclusion: We need the power of the Spirit to overcome our flesh to speak of Jesus with confidence.
- Application: We should focus on abiding in Christ and remaining in His word by filling our lives with His word, with the intent to gladly obey Jesus. God will use this to empower us to want to speak of Jesus. If we never want to speak of Jesus, then we should examine ourselves to see whether we are spiritually alive (saved), and we should interrogate ourselves to see whether we are really abiding in Christ (Bible intake and Prayer – John 15:7).
In the sermon introduction, I briefly reviewed the third sermon in which I said that “ongoing relationships are the primary vehicle for speaking of Jesus.” Both last week and this week I suggested that our programs and events are like training wheels that often hinder us in speaking of Jesus because we never mature enough to be independent of them. At some point, we should mature to the point that we don’t need the training wheels of programs and events to speak of Jesus. This will allow our lives to be the program in which we relationally invest in others to invite them to Christ.
Here is the question we received: “A thought and question about training wheels…If I choose to ride a bike, I don’t need training wheels but my granddaughter does need them. If events and programs are like training wheels, don’t we need them? We aren’t all in the same place in life.”
I truly appreciate the question. But before I address it, below is a video that I first watched several months ago that gave me the idea for the training wheels illustration. It starts about 1:40 and the pastor does a good job of explaining the healthy balance of programs and their purpose. I recommend watching the whole video.
I would agree that there is always going to be some healthy level of programming or training and equipping structure. I would not completely exclude events either.
As a local church we have quite a few programs. For those who may not know, we have Core Groups, AWANA, Women’s and Men’s Ministry, Celebrate Recovery, Elements Training Courses, various children, youth and collegiate ministries, church membership, biblical church leadership, missions going, giving and sending, partnership ministries (Stillwater Life Services, Stillwater C.A.R.E.S.), Converge – our summer discipleship training, etc.
We also have done and continue to do quite a few events. For example, we have done various movies, Upward Basketball, at least one concert, various attempts to be in the community (block parties, free window washing at gas stations, free car maintenance, volunteering to winterize low-income houses, teacher meals at the schools) children and youth camps, multi-church sports camps, Celebration Stillwater, free gift wrapping at Christmas, Vacation Bible School, fair-trade fair, some have done neighborhood Christmas parties, Relationship Weekend, Revolution Weekend, etc. Not to mention we do a Sunday Morning worship gathering every Sunday in which the gospel is always present in print, singing and teaching. I reference these to point out that it is not as if we have stripped our church of either programs or events. (In writing this, I feel like Bubba in Forrest Gump, naming all the various ways shrimp can be enjoyed.)
With respect to these programs and events we should be willing to ask this: “How do we do them in such a way that we are helping people mature so that they are not perpetually dependent on them to lovingly serve each other and speak of Jesus?” There are some means that the Christian will never shed, at least if they are a Christian and desire to be a healthy Christian – God’s Spirit working through God’s word to build up God’s people for God’s mission – but our well-intended ministry structures should facilitate the kind of growth that would enable following Christ if our organized ministry was limited for any number of reasons – like persecution.
I agree with the texter, we need some sort of training organization and structure (program), but I wonder if we have often unwittingly made the programs and events the end when they should be a means? Activity in our systems does not necessarily mean we are successfully making disciples, which is the very thing Jesus commanded us to do (Matt. 28:19).
Yes, let us continue to provide training wheels for those who need them, but let’s also help people grow out of them so they can help others do the same wherever God is sending them. I don’t think the answer is programs or not programs, I increasingly believe, however, that we need to carefully evaluate whether our efforts are producing as many maturing disciples as possible. That also means choosing carefully thinking about the why and the how of the what (what is done). And as can be seen above, we aren’t in danger of doing nothing.
As Colby and I were talking about this, he had some helpful ideas that I want to share. He said, “People who are young in their faith do need some sort or training wheels but having programs does not relieve them of the responsibility to be active in evangelism without programs and events. What I think would be better training wheels would be partnering with a more mature believer to go out and do evangelism as part of a community. That way others can see it modeled and participate through prayer and encouragement. The great thing about this type of “training wheels” is that once you have had this done for you, you will be equipped to do it for someone else.”