If a person or church is gospel-centered, it tells us that there are other things around which it is not centered. It is not tradition-centered (as, perhaps, fundamentalist churches may be); it is not pragmatically-centered (as church growth churches often are); it is not culturally-centered (as are so many churches today). It is the gospel that stands in the very center of the church or of the believer.
Living a gospel-centered life is really simply living in such a way that this gospel is central. Thus, when any kind of situation arises we can say, “How does the gospel apply to this situation?” When I am dealing with a particular sin or temptation I can ask, “How can I apply the gospel to this sin?” When I am confused about parenting, or how I am to raise my children, I can ask, “What does the gospel tell me about my task in parenting?” The primary reality of the Christian life is this one: Christ died for our sins and was raised. Therefore, everything else flows out of that gospel, and every question is answered in reference to it.
I like how Joe Thorn phrases it: “The gospel-centered life is a life where a Christian experiences a growing personal reliance on the gospel that protects him from depending on his own religious performance and being seduced and overwhelmed by idols.”
Joe points out four fruits of a gospel-centered life:
Confidence (Heb. 3:14; 4:16)
When the gospel is central in our lives we have confidence before God – not because of our achievements, but because of Christ’s atonement. We can approach God knowing that he receives us as his children. We do not allow our sins to anchor us to guilt and despair, but their very presence in our lives compels us to flee again and again to Christ for grace that restores our spirits and gives us strength.
Intimacy (Heb. 7:25; 10:22; James 4:8)
When the gospel is central in our lives we have and maintain intimacy with God, not because of our religious performance, but because of Jesus’ priestly ministry. We know that Jesus is our mediator with God the Father and that he has made perfect peace for us through his sacrifice, allowing us to draw near to God with the eager expectation of receiving grace, not judgment.
Transformation (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13)
When the gospel is central in our lives we experience spiritual transformation, not just moral improvement, and this change does not come about by our willpower, but by the power of the resurrection. Our hope for becoming what God designed and desires for us is not trying harder, but trusting more – relying on his truth and Spirit to sanctify us.
Community (Heb. 3:12, 13; 10:25; 2 Tim 3:16, 17)
When the gospel is central in our lives we long for and discover unity with other believers in the local church, not because of any cultural commonality, but because of our common faith and Savior. It is within this covenant community, if the community itself is gospel-centered, that we experience the kind of fellowship that comforts the afflicted, corrects the wayward, strengthens the weak, and encourages the disheartened.
By Tim Challies