I recently gave a lecture on the subject of Salvation to a great group of folks from various churches. I spoke candidly about some concerns I feel regarding how the gospel is preached in our churches. Let me share my concerns here. Some of these might be worth pondering further:
1. The Gospel is about Christ. As one writer has put it, it is about being brought into the intimate circle of God’s knowing himself in the Trinity. The focus is theocentric and Christocentric. It is not supposed to be me-o-centric, or behave-o-centric, or even creed-o-centric.
2. The Gospel requires clarity about which God we are referencing. As I have written on this site (and elsewhere), there is too much assumed awareness in terms of the identity of the God we are speaking about. The gospel often doesn’t feel like good news because listeners have zero desire to be brought into relationship with a distant despot (often their view of God is closer to a biblical understanding of Satan than the true God).
3. The Gospel is about relationship. It is not primarily about behavioural reform, or creedal assent, or social conformity. Don’t get me wrong, what people believe matters, and the gospel will bring transformation to a life. My concern is with the number of people in our churches who believe the right things, live the right way, and yet apparently, or admittedly, have no real love for Christ. 1Corinthians 16:22 – selah. Love cannot be forced, but functions via invitation and response.
4. The Gospel is, and is more than, justification by faith. This biblical truth has to be part of our gospel presentation, but it is not the full extent of the presentation. Whether we focus purely on justification, or on other aspects of the gospel, there is a danger that our message reinforces the very sin problem we believe the gospel solves. That is, listeners who are absolutely self-obsessed, can be offered the solution to their worst fears (hell), so that they get to go to a nice future (heaven) . . . all without any repentance toward Christ, without any change of heart, without any transformation from death to life.
More tomorrow . . .