(originally published in our local newspaper on 2/1/12)
We’ve thus far defined the gospel, talked about its cosmic implications, and last week showed one practical way in which the gospel affects our relationships. I have argued that the gospel is more than just good news—and certainly nothing less—as well as it affecting everything, the spiritual and natural world. It also changes how we perceive ourselves (we understand ourselves to be born with a propensity towards sin) and how we perceive God (he is holy, just, loving, wrathful and gracious). Having this “gospel grid” can teach us better ways in which we see the world.
C.J. Mahaney wrote a wonderful little book called “The Cross-Centered Life,” and in it he quotes theologian D.A. Carson. Carson says, commenting on the Apostle Paul and Paul’s theology, that, “He cannot long talk about Christian joy, or Christian ethics, or Christian fellowship, or the Christian doctrine of God, or anything else, without finally tying it to the cross. Paul is gospel-centered; he is cross-centered” (pg. 11).
The obsession in the New Testament is the gospel and at the center of the gospel is suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. Everything revolves around the cross for Christian theology. Struggling with sin? Look to the cross. Struggling with money? Look to the cross. Frustrated at your job? Look to the cross.
The glory of God is shown most vividly when Jesus died on the cross. He died for us, and as Martin Luther says, it was the “Great Exchange.” Jesus takes our sin; we get his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus takes our failures,; we get his successes. Jesus obeys perfectly, cleans our filthy hearts, and removes our guilt. We are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). It was at the cross where business was done between God and man.
Before we implement the “gospel grid,” let’s get practical for a moment.
As a pastor, there is one relationship paradigm that I am most confronted with in counseling: marriage. Marriages continue to falter under the pressures of this world and it seems that many people in our churches are all feeling the same pressure. The pressure to have both spouses working, the daycare bills, the mortgage payment, gas prices, layoffs at work, grocery bills growing, cost of insurance on the rise and the list goes on and on. Marriages are strained because of this pressure. But what would it look like to have a gospel grid in your marriage?
Husbands: it looks like you repenting first and blame shifting never, taking full responsibility. It looks like men growing in their knowledge of the Lord and choosing to lay their lives down for their wives, just like Jesus did for the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
It looks like it does for every other relationship, and here is the secret. Are you growing in awareness of your own sin while simultaneously growing in your awareness of God’s holiness? That’s part of what it means to live a gospel-centered life. Repentance and faith, repentance and faith, repentance and faith… This is what it means to be enamored by the gospel.