I had the privilege to hear JD Greear preach while I was studying at SEBTS and continue to listen to his podcasts when I run. He is a phenomenal communicator. Gospel is a powerful book that I am glad I read. I was challenged. I was convicted. I recognized my tendency towards legalism instead of grace. You need to read this book! Stop right now, order it here and then keep reading.
JD’s premise is that moralism and legalism have often eclipsed the gospel, even in conservative Christianity. He is up front with his personal struggle with this and the fact that it has taken him a number of years to recognize his dependency on the gospel for all of life. He writes, “The gospel is not just supposed to be our ticket into heaven; it is to be an entirely new basis for how we relate to God, ourselves, and others. It is to be the source from which everything else flows.”
Often, we substitute religious change for gospel change. Greear notes 3 reasons why religious change will not work:
1. Religious activities fail to address the “root” idolatries that drive our sin.
2. When our acceptance is based on our performance, we exacerbate two root sins in our heart; pride and fear.
3. The insecurity of always wondering if we’ve done enough to be accepted causes resentment of God, not love for Him.
In light of this, he offered a “gospel prayer” that helps reorient ourselves to the power of the gospel in our lives. The remainder of the book is an excursion into each of the four parts of the gospel prayer:
1. In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
2. Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.
3. As You have been to me, so I will be to others.
4. As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.
Lest you think that this focus on the gospel will remove any responsibility on our part, JD emphasized, “The more we taste of the gospel, the more we love it. And the more we learn to love the things of God, the more time we’ll spend time doing those things, less by discipline and more by desire. We enter into a self-reproducing cycle of life. We are sowing to the Spirit, and from the Spirit reaping life everlasting.” We practice the spiritual disciplines not for the purpose of earning God’s favor but in response to the amazing grace we have experienced.
Greear concluded with some helpful distinguishing characteristics of gospel-centered churches:
1. In a gospel-centered church, preaching the message of the gospel is the priority.
2. In a gospel-centered church, the emphasis of the message is more on what Christ has done that what we are to do.
3. In a gospel-centered church, the members demonstrate the beauty of the gospel in the community.
“Love for God is commanded in Scripture, but the command can only truly be fulfilled as our eyes are opened to see God’s beauty revealed in the gospel.”
“The gospel turns religion upside down. The gospel assures us of God’s acceptance, given to us as a gift earned by Christ’s worthiness, not ours.”
“Unless we are actively preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, we fall back into ‘works-righteousness.'”
“Gospel change is the Spirit of God using the story of God to make the beauty of God come alive in our hearts. Having our eyes opened to see our part in that story creates in us a love for God that is strong enough to finally drive out our attraction to other idols.”
“It’s one thing to know that God has accepted your fully in Christ; it’s another thing for that to become the weightiest and most defining reality in your life.”
“Radical generosity and radical commitment to the mission is the response of every person who has experienced the grace of Jesus Christ.”
“There is no shortage in God’s willingness or ability to save. The shortage is in our unbelief that He is as compassionate and powerful as the gospel says He is.”