“Gospel-centered preaching.” “Gospel-centered parenting.” “Gospel-centered discipleship.” The back of my business card says “gospel-centered publishing.” This descriptive mantra is tagged on to just about anything and everything in the Christian world these days.
What’s it all about?
Before articulating what it might mean to be gospel-centered, we better be on the same page as to the actual message of the gospel.
I don’t mean Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
What I mean by “gospel” in this article is the outrageous news of what has been done for us by God in Jesus. The gospel is the front page of the newspaper, not the back-page advice column; news of what has happened, not advice on how to live.
Specifically, the gospel is the startling news that what God demands from us, he provides for us. How? In his own Son. The gospel is the message that Jesus Christ delights to switch places with guilty rebels. The one person who walked this earth who deserved heaven endured the wrath of hell so that those who deserve the wrath of hell can have heaven.
And the gospel is not only personal, but cosmic. Christ’s death and resurrection doesn’t only provide forgiveness for me. It also means that in the middle of history, God has begun to undo death, ruin, decay, and darkness. The universe itself is going to be washed clean and made new. Eden will be restored.
But to be part of this movement, we too must die. Grace requires death. We must die to our bookkeeping existence that builds our identity on anything other than Jesus. We must relinquish, give up on ourselves, throw in the towel. And out of this death—letting God love us in, not after getting over, our messiness—resurrection life quietly blossoms.
What does it mean, then, to be “gospel-centered”?
As far as I can tell the phrase is used in two basic ways. One way is to view all of life in light of the gospel. We’ll call this a gospel-centered worldview. The other is to view Christian progress as dependent on the gospel. We’ll call this gospel-centered growth. The first looks out; the second looks in. Take gospel-centered worldview first.