keeping the gospel front and center

I have come to believe something like I believe scripture and that scripture is the written word of God because I believe in the gospel. And that I don’t believe the gospel because I believe or accept scripture as God’s word written. And that churches which in one way or more keep the gospel front and center are doing well, whereas churches that fail to do this are not.

While scripture itself and faithful exposition will to some extent help us against this, there is a tendency to fit what we understand of it into our own world view and goal for life. For example our goal may be to somehow find something of “the American dream.” Not all of that is necessarily bad in and of itself, but like anything good, it can easily become an idol. We can somehow think that following Christ can help us along to our goal, can make us a better this or that. On the other hand whatever our calling actually is can be well enhanced through the gospel, as we live for Christ and for the gospel and not for ourselves.

The gospel (gospel meaning good news) pure and simple is Jesus Christ and God’s grace and kingdom come in him. At the heart of it is Christ’s death and resurrection, ascension, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the church for life and mission to the world and the promise of Christ’s return when heaven and earth become one in judgment and new creation. The gospel is that Jesus is Lord. It is a saving gospel, as particular as each one of us, but as large as all creation. Saving us from our sins and bringing us into new life.

How do we keep the gospel front and center? I like N. T. Wright’s teaching that we read and see all of scripture as part of God’s story which is actually a gospel story fulfilled in and through Jesus. That is the Christian way of reading the Hebrew Bible along with what we Christians call the New Testament. And I endeavor to look at all of life in light of the gospel. I measure politics in light of it since the gospel is indeed political in terms of the kingdom of God come in Jesus. Again the gospel is as big as all of creation encompassing human culture. Jesus fulfills God’s calling to Israel to be the blessing to the world which puts the world not only on the right track, but on a new track altogether. But certainly in fulfillment of God’s calling to humankind in Genesis which we see in the ending of the story in scripture in the Revelation. In all of this Jesus Christ and God’s work in him is kept front and center. The Spirit is poured out when that’s the case.

Good liturgy and regular participation in the Eucharist (the Lord’s Table, or Holy Communion) weekly in our church gatherings can help us keep the gospel front and center. I need the gospel myself, everyday. I  need to be not only encouraged to keep on keeping on because of that gospel, but I need to be confronted by the demands of that gospel as well, the call to regular confession of sin with the forgiveness in Jesus that accompanies that. And the call to take up my own cross and follow Christ to the end, and the many details involved in that.

The gospel is the vantage point from which I see all of life. I can’t explain everything in light of it, but I seek to view everything in its light, and I find whatever good is in anything (excluding sin) is fulfilled in the gospel to be realized in some measure now and completely later in and through Jesus.

And so I seek to carry on along with others in the power of God for the salvation of all who believe, the gospel of King Jesus.

For a full, succinct telling of the gospel, see Scot McKnight’s, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited.