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The transforming power of the gospel in salvation includes more than merely saving people from sin’s penalty. The gospel also saves people from sin’s domineering power. And the gospel is good news for those suffering under all forms of poverty and injustice. Therefore, a gospel-centered church (and life) centers on:
1) Good News for the Lost = Effective Evangelism
2) Good News for the Found = Intentional Discipleship
3) Good News for the Community = Compassionate Mercy
In this new course and chapter, you’ll learn what it means to be a gospel-centered church and Christian through whom God’s invisible kingdom becomes more visible to the lost, found, and poor in your community.
Vision for the Gospel of God
by Steve Childers
Our focus in this session is on what it means to be a Gospel-Centered Church through which God’s invisible Kingdom becomes more visible bringing transformation to both human hearts and society to the glory of God.
In Romans 1:16 the Apostle Paul writes “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”
Paul’s understanding of the power of the Gospel in salvation included more than merely saving people from being under sin’s penalty.
He saw the Gospel as also saving people from sin’s domineering power and transforming the whole world.
In Colossians 1:6 Paul writes, “All over the world this gospel is producing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.”
Paul is referring here to the saving power of the Gospel at work in and through people’s lives since the day they heard and understood it not merely on the day they heard and understood it.
Many Christians today have a very limited understanding of the Gospel as merely being good news of salvation for non-Christians with little or no relevance to the Christian life once someone has believed in the Gospel.
But the Scriptures teach that the Gospel should be seen as not just a gate we must pass through one time, but also as a path that we need to be walking on every day of our lives.
Now Paul shows us this same view of the Gospel in Romans 1:8 when he’s commending the Roman Christians for their strong, mature faith by writing:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being proclaimed in all the world.”
And then in Romans 1:15, Paul writes to these same mature Christians, who’s faith was so strong it was proclaimed throughout the world, “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
Now many Christians today would be confused by Paul’s eagerness to preach the Gospel to them because after they believe in the Gospel, they think the Gospel is no longer really for them anymore it’s for unbelievers.
In Romans, Paul taught that the salvation through the Gospel should be seen as encompassing all three tenses:
In the past tense–
We have been saved from sin’s penalty. Paul expounds that in Romans 1-5.
In the present tense–
We are being saved from sin’s domineering power. Paul expounds that in Romans 6 and 7.
And in the future tense–
We will be saved from sin’s presence. Paul expounds that in Romans 8 and following.
You can’t fully understand the meaning of the Good News until you understand more fully the bad news. As a result of sin, something terrible happened.
Our relationship with God was broken, but through that, our relationships with ourselves, our relationships with others, our relationships with creation or vocation and work, they were all broken and are now marked by alienation.
There are three primary consequences of sin that have resulted from the fall:
First: Is the problem of Personal Guilt
Because of sin, our relationship with God changed from a status or state of innocent obedience to a different state, a status of guilty disobedience. We now have a bad record in the heavenly court.
We lost our original right standing with God and we’ve became alienated from him.
One of the tragic results of sin is becoming guilty before God, in the heavenly courts, under his just judgment.
The result of sin is death, both physical and spiritual—eternal separation from God in hell.
And although God is loving and merciful and does not want to punish us, The Scriptures also teach He is also perfectly just so He must punish sin.
The Second consequence of the Fall is the problem of Personal Corruption
Sin not only separates us from God and places us under His just judgment. Sin also defiles us, it enslaves us.
Jesus said, “…everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
Sin is not just a legal problem before God—it’s also a deep problem of the heart.
At its root, sin should always be seen as idolatry–that is trying to find ultimate happiness in life apart from God, apart from Christ, and apart from His purposes.
Sin is more than disobeying God’s laws.
Sin is a deep-seated, invisible, terminal disease. The Scriptures teach that outward sins are always the result of inward sins of the heart. Jesus said, whatever comes out of men comes from a defiled heart and defiles him.
So we not only need forgiveness from sin’s condemning penalty but we need freedom from sin’s corrupting, enslaving, and dominating power.
A third consequence of the Fall is the problem of World Corruption
The Scriptures teach, as a result of God’s curse on humanity, all creation has also been cursed. That means every sphere of God’s creation has now been disrupted, it’s now been broken by the fall of humanity into sin. It’s now under the domain of darkness.
This is why life is not the way it’s supposed to be.
All suffering, injustice, poverty, racism, and terrorism. Death, it can all be traced back to sin, to our rebellion against God.
And in light of this understanding or Vision of the Gospel of God, what is a Gospel-Centered Church?
A Gospel-Centered Church primarily focuses on proclaiming this Good News. The Good News that God promises all who repent of their sin and trust in Christ a new record, a new heart, and a new world to come.
This means a Gospel-Centered Church is one that places a top priority on the ministries of Good News for the lost or evangelism. Good News for the found or discipleship or spiritual formation. And Good News for the poor through ministries of mercy and justice.
Let’s review and summarize these three priorities in order to gain a deeper understanding of what a Gospel-Centered Church is:
1) A GOSPEL-CENTERED CHURCH PROCLAIMS GOOD NEWS FOR THE LOST
This Good News is that God promises to save from sin’s penalty everyone who will believe in Christ, and He promises them to consider them as His children.
And as Judge, in the heavenly court, God promises to accept the sacrificial work of Christ, the shedding of His blood on the cross as satisfying His just wrath against sinners. He substituted Himself to satisfy Himself. And consider all of humanity’s sin counted to Christ and all Christ’s perfect righteousness counted to their record, it’s a new record, its an alien righteousness Marin Luther said that God gives to us through faith.
As Father, God promises to accept and love those who believe in Christ and consider them as His beloved, adopted children. With a love for them that He previously reserved for His one and only Son.
2) A GOSPEL-CENTERED CHURCH ALSO PROCLAIMS GOOD NEWS FOR THE FOUND
God also promises to save Christians, to save those who believe in Christ from sin’s on going, domineering power over their lives.
He does this by giving us a new heart and a new Spirit, the Holy Spirit, so we have new life, and so we can know God, honor God, and find our ultimate joy in God forever.
Although we can never be free from sin’s ongoing influence until heaven God does promise us, through Christ, that we can be delivered us from sin’s domineering, enslaving power if we will just keep coming to Him by drawing near to Him in repentance and in faith in Christ.
A Gospel-Centered Church not only proclaims Good News for the lost by prioritizing the ministry of evangelism and Good News for the found in prioritizing the ministry of discipleship and spiritual formation but as Gospel-Centered Church…
3) …PROCLAIMS GOOD NEWS to the POOR IN ACTS OF MERCY and JUSTICE:
Jesus began his public ministry (Luke 4) by picking up the scroll and reading from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”
He was not speaking of merely the spiritual poor, but those who are truly poor. “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” That’s how Jesus commenced, that’s how He began His ministry with the proclamation of that Good News for the poor.
A Gospel-Centered Church does not see the world as rigidly divided between the sacred and the secular, but instead sees that God is right now, through the resurrected and reigning Christ, by His Spirit “reconciling to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)
So a Gospel-Centered Church focuses on so much more than merely seeing “souls saved,” as important as that is.
It also focuses on seeing the invisible Kingdom of Christ made more visible throughout the every sphere of life by not only words of truth, but also relentless acts of mercy, acts of justice through which the crookedness in our corrupt society is made more straight and the darkness of our culture and corrupt world is dispelled, more and more by light of God’s truth.
And all of this to see God’s Kingdom come and see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven to the hallowing, to the glorifying of God’s name.
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