What Is the Gospel? Sandy Island 2011
If you’ve been around Westgate Church for a while, I hope you’ve picked up an increasing emphasis on the centrality of the gospel—the good news of what God has done to accomplish his purposes and deal with our sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that glorious truth should shape everything about us. It should be for us not merely the confessional center of our faith (what we believe), but the functional center of our lives (how we live).
C.J. Mahaney comments on the centrality of the gospel:
If there’s anything in life that we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be. (C. J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life [Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2002], 20-21)
For this gospel-centered commitment to hold and to bear fruit, we must never allow ourselves to assume the gospel—to acknowledge it, but to spend most of our time, energy, and excitement on something else. D. A. Carson describes the dangerous dynamic of assuming the gospel:
Perhaps more common yet is the tendency to assume the gospel . . . while devoting creative energy and passion to other issues—marriage, happiness, prosperity, evangelism, the poor, wrestling with Islam, wrestling with the pressures of secularization, bioethics, dangers on the left, dangers on the right—the list is endless. This overlooks the fact that our hearers inevitably are drawn toward that about which we are most passionate. Every teacher knows that. My students are unlikely to learn all that I teach them; they are most likely to learn that about which I am most excited. If the gospel is merely assumed, while relatively peripheral issues ignite our passion, we will train a new generation to downplay the gospel and focus zeal on the periphery. It is easy to sound prophetic from the margins; what is urgently needed is to be prophetic from the center. (D. A. Carson, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:1-19].”)
We cannot afford to assume the gospel. Rather, we must always believe it, always proclaim it, always be actively appropriating it into our lives. And this means we need to have a clear understanding of what it is. What is essential message that we are believing and shaping our lives around, and what difference does it make (not just for becoming a Christian, but for living as one)?
What is the Gospel? This is the focus of our upcoming all-church retreat at Sandy Island on Lake Winnipesauke in New Hampshire. This year marks the 27th annual retreat for Westgate, and I’m excited for what the Lord has in store. So if you’re at Westgate Church or live in Boston’s MetroWest and are interested coming along and getting to know us better, please join us September 9-11. You can learn more about the retreat, cost, and registration here.