What does it mean to be Gospel-centred? There are many places in print or online where you find an answer. For some it might seem already like a tired term. But I am just beginning to use such a term and ideas with my congregation – it will form part of our vision for the future – and so I should articulate it too. In every sermon I give I usually work this refrain in to the introduction:
It basically means that the Gospel is the centre of everything – of devotion, of theology, of worship practice, of our life together with God (that’s code for Church!). When I was a kid I remember being so excited to learn about how all the planets of the solar system revolved around the sun. There’s one less planet now than when I was a kid but the solar system still works the same way. The Sun is the centre. It gives life and power to every other heavenly body. The planets are wonderful, exciting places to examine but they orbit around this blazing centre. Suppose the sun just went *poof* and disappeared; these planets would spin off on their own paths and lose their light and vitality. While there are many things to explore and discover about the planets – it is by the Sun’s centrality that we are able to.
This is like what keeping the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ – at the centre of our faith and practice means. Since I first became a Christian I’ve always thought it important to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is the Good News (not good advice!) which we have been entrusted with believing, guarding, proclaiming. This is a community effort for the entire Church. The Gospel can be pretty slippery. Unless it is concentrated on, enjoyed, and continually articulated it can slip away. That doesn’t necessarily mean faith is lost but the central issue of Christianity can slip into the background. Like the planets revolving around the Sun, every other topic/issue/facet of Christian life and practice finds it meaning, life, and power from the central Gospel. By the light of the Gospel we see everything in Christianity – feel free to see the C S Lewis allusion! Many other wonderful, glorious truths orbit around this central message – church life, spiritual gifts, God’s Father heart, worship, community life, ethics, social concern/action, engagement with culture, good deeds, relationships to money/sex/power/each other…everything else orbits around the central proclamation.
The Gospel needs to be central because, as it has been written, it is the power to save. All those other topics are wonderful. But like planets spinning off without their Sun, each one of them could spin off into powerless goofiness unless they stay in orbit around the Gospel.
How do we keep it central? We must always stay concentrated on it. One of the ways I do this is by saying during every sermon I preach:
The Gospel is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah of Israel. He is God in the flesh – God has come into world He made. He is both Man and God, and lived a perfect sinless life, worthy of God’s blessing. But He was crucified, bled on Cross, where He suffered and died for sinners. On the 3rd day He rose again; the grave couldn’t hold Him and He achieved victory over death. After a time, He ascended into heaven both as Man and God, where He is alive praying for His people. He is still a mediator between God and sinners. Someday He will return and make all things new. He’ll be the Judge of everyone and bring His Kingdom. This is the Gospel
There are implications of this Gospel and here are three major ones: 1) Jesus is Lord; there is no other – no higher authority. He exercises His rule over the world and those who come under His Lordship may become champions of unfashionable causes. 2) Every person who believes is personally forgiven of every and all their sins. They are counted righteous in eyes of God because an exchange has taken place. God has places all the wrath we deserve on His Son, so that all the blessing He deserved may come upon us. We are given eternal life and inherit the Kingdom of God. 3) Those who believe congregate in His church, because He shed His blood for her. They live holy lives, pursue His will, and serve the world in His name.
This is my summary of the Gospel message and its main implications. There may be many like it but this one is mine. We must hear it again and again and always find ways to celebrate it. I’ve said nearly the same thing in the last dozen or so sermons but I got a ‘Hallelujah!’ this last time. That means that someone isn’t getting tired of hearing it – Praise God! Whatever else we hear in the sermon – or sing or pray or share or learn – we do it in light of this central proclamation. We must learn to see everything else by it and how it fuels every other topic of the Christian life. Like the Sun orbited by planets, it is the blazing centre.