Grace For The Journey
Last week in my blog, I looked at Acts 2:41-47 and presented five traits that determine if your church is truly Gospel-centered. We certainly did not exhaust the truths found in those verses (i.e. we could have talked about the fact that the early church was committed to preach and teach the Word of God or that they were committed to worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth). That will have to be left to another day.
There are encouraging signs today, amidst all the churches who are departing from the faith, that more and more churches are coming to better understand their biblical mission. God is leading pastors to come to the realization that they are not preaching and teaching the gospel. That seems like a strange statement – Christian churches that do not preach the gospel? It might lead you to ask: “Are they teaching anti‐Christian doctrine? Am I ranting against liberalism again?” Often, it’s not that these churches have fallen into some gross heresy. Most likely . . .
It’s just that over time,
They’ve let the gospel slip
In favor of another way
To try to draw people
And change people.
A few of the most prevalent things that can crowd out the gospel are:
Moralism – Using fear, rules, and commands as the basis for discouraging sin and
encouraging holy living. This sadly results in increased pride and self‐righteousness among rule-keepers and absolute despair in those who are unable to live up.
Pragmatism – When, in an effort to reach new people, church leaders spend more time
teaching helpful techniques or useful how-to principles than actually pointing people to Bible truths, which is the only thing that has real power to change both hearts and lives.
Political agendas – Out of a desire to get involved in the public square and to influence policy, Christians of every political stripe often begin to equate the spread of the gospel with the growth of a specific political party or platform.
Social gospel – In the effort to “do what Jesus did” churches are getting in on meeting the social needs of people in their communities. They major on meeting the physical, emotional, intellectual, and relational needs of others. While this is an area that the Bible does that Christians will be concerned and involved with ministering to the poor and less fortunate in our society, the Social Gospel movement seeks to replace “gospel preaching/witnessing” with efforts to better the economic, moral, and social conditions of the poor. The Social gospel movement teaches that “the duty of Christians is not a matter of getting individuals to heaven, but of transforming the life on earth into the harmony of heaven.” The Social Gospel movement is driven by the belief that “the Second Coming of Christ could not happen until humanity rid itself of all social evils by human effort”. Followers applied Christian ethics to social justice issues, especially as it related to economic policy.
What’s tricky is that usually these “isms” start with a noble aspiration:
- A desire to help people change & grow,
- A desire to reach out to people far from God,
- A desire to use influence to change the way things are done.
Unfortunately, when something other than God is our primary goal, no matter how good that goal is, we will eventually start taking short cuts to get what we want accomplished.
A gospel‐centered church
Understands that change
Or transformation of any kind,
Especially authentic heart‐transformation,
Cannot happen apart from the gospel of grace
Which is proclaimed in the Word of God.
A gospel‐centered church roots and keeps the focus of all its activity – teaching, worship, outreach, social activism, and discipleship – honed in on the gospel:
The riches of the grace of God are available
Because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for sinners.
Because of this, a gospel‐centered church is committed to:
- Reading, teaching, and living by the entire Bible in light of the Gospel.
- Preaching the gospel to believers, not just unbelievers.
- Leaders applying the gospel to themselves first; church leaders are the first repenters.
- Cultivating a leadership and membership culture marked by ever increasing “gospel astonishment.”
- Being known for an atmosphere of grace; gospel‐centered churches are safe places for seekers, skeptics, and those outside of the faith – safe places where they are free and welcome to come and where they will hear “thus saith the Lord” regarding their lives.
- Producing people who don’t just know the doctrine of the gospel but who love the person of Jesus Christ.
These are the themes that we are committed to living together at First Baptist. At the end of the day . . .
Grace isn’t just something we “get”
And the cross is not just some object in time.
These things hinge on a Person.
At the center of it all is a Person – Jesus.
In an age when His name is easily tossed around or relegated to some minor point of
doctrine used to win arguments and manipulate people, we long for the day when Jesus is seen for what He is: the glorious God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sovereign of the Bible!
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”