Am I Gospel-Centered Enough?

16 Sep

Am I Gospel-Centered Enough?

Tim Challies dusted off one of his classics today–I have read it before.  

I have a few thoughts to add to what he has already so eloquently said:

1) Gospel-centered is not a competition.  If I find myself trying really hard to be better at being gospel-centered than someone else, I don’t get gospel-centered!!!

2) Gospel-centered should never be splashed on someone like venom.  I know, I know.  Every doctrine the church has ever had has been used at some point by someone to club another person over the head.  But that doesn’t make doing that right . . .

3) Gospel-centered should never be used to draw a circle excluding fellow believers.  This is a subset of #2, above.  What I see happening with the gospel-centered movement sometimes is that it is being held up as a litmus test of the spirituality of others.  In my generation, we asked if a person was “saved”; in the younger “gospel-centered” generation, those words are used where we would have used “saved.”  In both situations, there is a tendency to just assume that a person is not a fellow Christian if he does not use our word/words to describe his conversion experience.

The Bible uses many words to describe this wonderful supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, making us His own child.  We should never use just one word or phrase as a litmus test of the salvation of others.  That is too much like using a secret password.  Ya know?  

4) Gospel-centered should never be used as hate speech.  It should go without saying that the person who claims to have the gospel at the center of his life should be one of the most loving, affirming, encouraging Christians around.  However, that is sometimes not the case.  In fact, I have seen exclusivity that even parallels that of my generation in the gospel-centered movement.

I am a fundamentalist Christian, meaning I hold to the fundamentals (absolutes, essentials) of the faith identified a century or so ago by a team of great theologians.  After that identification was made, the next century has been spent pushing back against people who will try to insert a secondary doctrine into the essentials and then imply that anyone who doesn’t adhere to that secondary doctrine (whether it be dress, music, or hairstyle, etc.) could not truly be a saved person.

See how that works?  We take the teeth out of Christ’s clear command in John 17 to show the world His real presence by way of our love for one another.  But instead of being honest and saying we really wish to hate our fellow believers, we redefine them, casting aspersions upon their status as fellow Christians.  We then justify hating them by implying they were never Christians to begin with (as though that would make it okay to hate them, if they were non-believers).  

That is what the older generation of fundamentalists has done.  But I see similar dangers in the gospel-centered movement, ironic as that may be.  If they identify someone as lacking in the virtue of gospel-centeredness, they at times conclude that that person was never born again in the first place and that, somehow, it is now okay to hate him.

Reality check:  God said in John 17 that we will show the world that He is real by our love for each other as believers.  There are no qualifications there.  It does not say that we show we are mature believers by only loving on other mature believers.  In fact, how do new believers move from immaturity to maturity if no one ever gives them the agape love of God before they are, in fact, lovable?  That is what the gospel is all about.  That is what salvation is all about.  We relate to God in love, we relate to each other in love, we relate to the world outside of the church in love.  As we grow in love toward God and one another, the world sees our relationships and wants to be part of that.  That is the way it is done.  

Gospel-centered is a wonderful way to live.  The term is a wonderful way to sum up our life in Christ.  But we need to avoid using it to define, in any way, an exclusive club into which others need to earn membership.  

Jesus has earned our membership into the gospel-centered life for us!!!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: