Do you give good advice or the gospel?

Here is my basic premise for writing this; too often we are giving people human wisdom to deal with problems in life and we fail to give them what they most desperately need, the good news of Jesus Christ.

AdviceWhat do you do when someone in your small group begins sharing that they no longer feel as if they are in love with their spouse? We can tell them that everyone struggles with their feelings from time to time. We can encourage, support and tell them we will pray for them. Anything wrong with this? No, not really. The issue is that it does not go deep enough, it does not have the power to bring healing and spiritual transformation.

What if instead of merely giving this struggling friend some advice you presented them with the gospel? Some aspects of your conversation would not need to change. You still need to listen, support, love and pray for them. But the greatest act of love would be for you to point them to the only One who can truly heal what is broken in their heart and in their marriage. What if instead of giving them some advice you pointed them to a passage like Ephesians 5:22-33.  In this passage we clearly see that the gospel reveals to us that love has little to do with how we are feeling. Through the cross we see Jesus loving us passionately while we were mired in sin and living in complete rebellion to the ways of God. That is how Jesus loves us and we respond by extending that same love to our spouse.

I have a growing conviction that as leaders in the church we need to be training our people to see all of life through a gospel grid. Even though a person has been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ they need to learn how to apply that same grace to everyday life.

Let’s be fair. There are some situations in life where it would be unnecessary, and quite awkward,  to explore the depths of the gospel and how it applies. If my son, Justice, wants to know if he should use a sniper rifle for paintball or an automatic pistol I won’t try to take him to the cross to find the answer. This would make me look like an idiot and infuriate my son. But when it comes to the deeper issues of life we need to make sure we are not merely dispensing some Hallmark advice and instead relying on the power of Jesus Christ.

How does this impact the way we train and equip our leaders?

How does this impact the way we communicate with our neighbors?

Do you give good advice or do you give the gospel?

What does a gospel-centered church look like?

I find myself constantly thinking through the implications of the gospel in my personal life and in the life of the church. In fact I want my mind to be like a gospel grid in which I see, interpret and understand everything in this world. With that said, here is a wonderful description from Tim Keller, Center Church, of how the gospel impacts every aspect of the church. First of all let’s articulate what the heart of the gospel is…

New Testament scholar Simon Gathercole offers the following outline of the gospel taught by Paul and the Gospel writers:

1. The Son of God emptied himself and came into the world in Jesus Christ, becoming a servant. This is the incarnation and the upside-down aspect of the gospel.
2. He died on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice. This is the atonement and the inside-out aspect of the gospel.
3. He rose from the grave as the firstfruits of a whole renewed world. This is the resurrection and the forward-back aspect of the gospel.

So those are three key aspects of the gospel. How does that impact the church?

A church that truly understand the implications of the biblical gospel, letting the Word of Christ dwell in it richly (Col 3:16), will look like an unusual hybrid of various church forms and stereotypes. Because of the inside-out, substitutionary atonement aspect, the church will place great emphasis on personal conversion, experiential grace renewal, evangelism, outreach, and church planting. This makes it look like an evangelical-charismatic church. Because of the upside-down, kingdom/incarnation aspect, the church will place great emphasis on deep community, cell groups or house churches, radical giving, and sharing of resources, spiritual disciplines, racial reconciliation, and living with the poor. This makes it look like an Anabaptist “peace” church. Because of the forward-back, kingdom/restoration aspect, the church will place great emphasis on seeking the welfare of the city, neighborhood and civic involvement, cultural engagement, and training people to work in “secular” vocations out of a Christian worldview. This makes it look like a mainline church or, perhaps, a Kuyperian Reformed church. Very few churches, denominations, or movements integrate all of these ministries and emphases. Yet I believe that a comprehensive view of the biblical gospel-one that grasps the gospel’s inside-out, upside-down, and forward-back aspects-will champion and cultivate them all. This is what we mean by a Center Church.

It is critical that we are teaching and training our people to think about how the gospel plays out in the context of everyday life (home, neighborhood, work, culture). It is equally as important that we are equipping our leaders to deeply reflect on how the gospel affects every area of ministry in the church. The moment we divorce the gospel from life and ministry we, and our church, become more religious than we are Christ-centered (gospel-centered).

Taken from Center Church, Chapter 3, “The Gospel Affects Everything”

Interview with Gloria Furman-Author of “Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home”

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

momWe moved to Dubai in 2008 to help start an evangelical church planting movement in this region. Dubai is a major city in the United Arab Emirates, a country that sits on the Arabian Peninsula just north of Saudi Arabia and across the Arabian Gulf from Iran. My husband Dave pastors Redeemer Church of Dubai, which was planted in January 2010, and helps coordinate other church planting efforts. When we landed on the sizzling tarmac five years ago we had one child, and now we have four (#4 due next month).

Describe what happens, spiritually and emotionally, to a mother who does not see the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in the mundane activity of daily life.

Speaking from my own experience, what this looks like for me emotionally is a burnt out, bitter frustration with everything—God himself, the season he has placed me in, the people he has placed around me, the things I’m responsible for, and the everyday circumstances that I deal with. Spiritually, this is a recipe for disaster. I’ve experienced flippant apathy toward prayer, evangelism, Bible reading, service, and participation in fellowship among other believers.

What are some practical ways a person can stay focused on Jesus and his ongoing work in everyday life?

This is a great question! We want the affections of our heart to be enamored by the person and work of Jesus. Then, temptations toward distraction are pushed out the heart by the expulsive power of a greater affection. Practically speaking, I think the spiritual disciplines are of tremendous help (especially in a busy home life!), and our conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit in these efforts is a guard against our tendency toward legalism.

What would you say to encourage stressed out, busy people to open their homes and show hospitality to their neighbors?

I’d say, in short, that God has designed showing hospitality to be a blessing to you and your neighbors even in the midst of your stress and busy-ness. The joy we receive in opening our homes and serving with the strength God supplies is joy in Christ himself. There’s much more to be said about hospitality and how God enables us to serve; I’ve expanded on this in a chapter dedicated to hospitality in Glimpses of Grace.

In your book, Glimpses of Grace, you write that the routine of everyday life provides us with an opportunity for spiritual growth and transformation. Can you explain what you mean by that?

To get the answer to this question go HERE and download the first chapter of “Glimpses of Grace” for free.

What are some books that have encouraged you when it comes to a greater understanding of the gospel?

A couple of my favorite contemporary books on the definition and application of the gospel include: God is the Gospel (Piper), Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Packer), Gospel for Real Life (Bridges), Comforts from the Cross (Fitzpatrick), What is the Gospel? (Gilbert), A Gospel Primer for Christians (Vincent)

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To buy “Glimpses of Grace”