There are three major failings the gospel-centered movement is prone to. From time to time I see them in myself and I want to warn you against them.
The gospel-centered movement has the potential to turn us into legalists about the gospel.
Gospel-centeredness is all about grace and how the whole Bible points to it. So how can legalism be a part of that? Unfortunately you can be legalistic about grace.
Gospel-centered Bible study has the potential to turn us into legalists because it is so true. What do I mean by that? When you come to see the beauty of how the Bible points to Jesus you begin to view everything through that lens. Along with the positives, it can breed negative results if we don’t guard ourselves:
- When I see a Christian who doesn’t apply gospel-centered principles to the Bible I look down on them. “How sad,” I think, “that they don’t see what the Bible is all about.”
- When I hear a sermon that doesn’t use the gospel to help apply the lesson I wonder if God can even use that pastor effectively. “How can God use a preacher who doesn’t even understand the basics?”
- When I see a Christian who can’t quite articulate the gospel I get judgmental. “Is this person even saved?”
In other words, I can be a Pharisee about the gospel.
The gospel-centered movement has the potential to turn us into worshipers of the gospel instead of worshipers of God.
Similarly, we can become so focused on being gospel-centered that we forget about the reason to be gospel-centered in the first place – God. We can get so caught up in being gospel-centered that the next Christocentric sermon or Bible study becomes our idol.
Are you more interested in the system of gospel-centered preaching than you are in the God revealed in the gospel?
As we endeavor to the make the gospel of Jesus Christ the main thing in our ministries, let’s do so in a gospel-centered way. Not a gospel-centered-centered way.
– Eric McKiddie
I need to pray daily the prayer that Scotty Smith recently posted:
Forgive us for having a PhD in the indicatives of the gospel yet failing so miserably when it comes to the imperatives of the gospel.
Forgive us when we love “the gospel” more than we actually love you, Jesus, as impossible as that may seem.
In other words, the gospel can be more important to me than the God who created and is revealed in the gospel.
Hit-And-Run Gospel Connections
The gospel-centered movement has the potential to disconnect the gospel from our lives.
It’s tempting to trivialize the gospel by announcing a connection to the gospel but not having it let any impact on our lives. Our checklist goes something like this:
- Identify the main point of the passage.
- Identify the main change the passage requires of us.
- Identify a connection between the passage and the gospel.
If we let the gospel connection dangle off the end, what purpose has it served? If our preaching doesn’t demonstrate the practical power of the gospel in our daily lives we make the gospel look powerless.
We must apply the gospel.
How Do We Fight These Failings?
With the gospel.
That might sound counterproductive but it’s not. We need to relentlessly strip away everything that stands between us and God. The best way we know him is through the message of the gospel. In it we see His justice, His mercy, His compassion, His love, His desire to free us and so much more.
God paved the way to Himself with the gospel. To break our legalism and smash our idols – even when the legalism and idols revolve around the gospel – we need to look deeper into the gospel.
- Have you become legalistic about the gospel? Let the grace of the gospel shape you.
- Are you enamored with the gospel-centered system rather than the God revealed by the gospel? Look past the system to its subject – God.
- Are you settling with only finding a connection to the gospel? Use the gospel to empower obedience or change your thinking – use it!