TCC’s values, #1: Gospel-centred

22 May 2014

In the next few blog posts we’ll recap our core values as a church, starting with #1: We’re a gospel-centred church (for more, listen to this sermon given early on in our life as a church).

This is our theological distinctive value. Here’s what we mean:

The Gospel is the centre of the Bible.

The Bible tells one story, and Jesus is the hero (see Luke 24.26-27, 44-47). Since the Bible is the record of God acting in human history, the gospel is therefore the centre of all of history: the big picture. This is a big part of Paul’s emphasis in the early chapters of the book of Ephesians. The ‘big picture’ of the gospel tells the story of creation – decreation – recreation – new creation.

The Gospel is the centre of salvation.

The gospel is the ‘power of God for salvation for everyone who believes’ (Romans 1.14). This means that what Jesus has done for me personally is the very centre of how I am saved. This is the ‘small picture’ of the gospel. It tells the story of a holy God, a hopeless sinner, a perfect substitute, and personal faith.

The Gospel is the centre of the Christian life.

The gospel is not just something that we learn and trust once, and then move on from. Rather, it is the very air we breathe. Martin Luther said – in the first of his famous 95 theses – that all of Christian life is of repentance from beginning to end. In other words, the way in is the way on. Paul says, ‘just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him…’ (Colossians 2.6-7). On reflection, we realise that almost all of the New Testament was written to Christians (not non-Christians), and that almost all of the New Testament is teaching, reminding, and applying the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who already believe it. Thus, gospel-centred living means that we continue to repent and believe, and that by continually returning to the truth of the gospel we grow. The gospel is not only our core content, it is our core competency; it is not what we know and recite best, but what we know and do best.

Thus, the gospel is like our ‘DNA’; every cell is characterised by the same DNA. Everything in the Christian’s life is to be ‘shaped’ by the gospel; from our attitudes, marriages, work ethic, relationships with our neighbours, and so on. The gospel is like our Christian ‘control centre’; at an airport; all decisions must go through the control centre and be controlled by them. For a follower of Jesus, everything is controlled and centred around the gospel: who Jesus is and what he has done for us. The gospel is not only our message, but also what controls our methods and our manner.

A crucial distinction we can make is between these two terms: gospel-based and gospel-centred. In a gospel-based church, the gospel is the foundation. The gospel is very important and precious. The gospel is guarded and defended. But it remains in a compartment separate from everyday life and thought. It is a little like someone with a valuable car who drives it once a day, takes care of it, and only lets certain people drive it since it is so precious. But, for most of his day, the car is parked outside somewhere. In the same way, in a gospel-based church people may know the gospel well and be able to articulate it in detail, but it does not control or define their daily lives. In a gospel-centred church, the gospel becomes the very air we breathe and the blood in our veins; the gospel is not only something that we know and love and teach, but something that we live out in our thoughts and relationships.

Our core value of being gospel-centred builds upon the doctrine of justification: because of who Jesus is and what he has done, we have received a new acceptance. The centrality of the gospel answers the fundamental question of life, Why? Why do anything at all? The Russian writer Dostoevsky said that we can answer life’s ‘hows’ if we could only answer its ‘why’. The gospel gives life profound meaning to life, since God has redeemed our lives and is redeeming all of creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus his Son.

The centre of the gospel emphasises the ‘God with us’ aspect of our spirituality: since God has forgiven and accepted us, we have assurance of his love for us.

The gospel-centre is built firmly upon the doctrine of atonement; that Jesus died for our sins and reconciled us to God: it has an ‘inside/out’ paradox; what is on the inside is of greater value to God than the outside, since Jesus died to wash away our sin and give us new hearts, making us clean from the inside out.

How can I know if I’m gospel-centred? Here are two key questions: Am I repenting of sin? Am I applying the truths of the gospel to my heart in whatever context I’m in right now?

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.