Centering life around the Gospel intimately involves the following: (1) the truth that "I am more sinful than I could ever imagine," and (2) the truth that "God's grace in Jesus Christ (and His substitutionary atonement for my sin, 2 Corinthians 5:21) is greater than I could ever dream." To the extent that we live out these truths, we would be freer to trust in God's work in our lives, repent of our deep-rooted sins of our heart (leading to active sins), live dependently on the Father's grace in active community, and live with humble boldness, humble because we see the pollution, consequences, and brokenness in our sins with respect to our relationship with our Father, and boldness because we see that we can do nothing to lose God's favor for us in Christ (since we did nothing to 'earn' it in the first place).
The irreligious don't repent at all. The religious only repent of sins. But Christians also repent of their righteousness. Moral and religious people are sorry for their sins, but they see sins as simply the failure to live up to standards by which they are saving themselves. They may go to Jesus for forgiveness-but only as a way to "cover over the gaps" in their project of self-salvation. But a Christian is someone who has adopted a whole new system of approach to God. They realize their entire reason for either irreligion or religion has been essentially the same and essentially wrong! Christians realize that both their sins and their best deeds have all really been ways of avoiding Jesus as savior.
... the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin...
A Christian says: "though I have often failed to obey the law, the deeper problem is why I was ever trying to obey it! Even my effort to obey it is just a way of seeking to be my own savior. In that mindset, even if I obey or ask for forgiveness, I am really resisting the gospel and setting myself up as Savior." To "get the gospel" is turn from self-justification and rely on Jesus' record for a relationship with God. "Lay your deadly doing down, down at Jesus' feet. Stand in Him, in Him alone-gloriously complete."
Tertullian said, "Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so this doctrine of justification is ever crucified between two opposite errors." These errors continue to "steal" the gospel from us. They are "legalism" and "liberalism". On the one hand, "legalists" have a truth without grace, for they say or imply that we must obey the truth in order to be saved. On the other hand, "liberals" have a grace without truth, for they say or imply that we are all accepted by God regardless of what we decide is true for us. But those with truth without grace, do not really have the truth, and those with grace without truth, do not really have grace. In Jesus we behold the glory of the one "full of grace and truth". De-emphasize or lose one or the other of these truths, you fall somewhat into legalism or somewhat into license and you eliminate the joy and the "release" of the gospel. Without a knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the gospel seems trivial and does not electrify or transform. But without a knowledge of Christ's completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin would crush us or move us to deny and repress it. Take away either the knowledge of sin or the knowledge of grace and people's lives not changed. They will be crushed by the moral law or run from it screaming and angry.
As Luther put it, the Christian is simul justus et peccator (simultaneously accepted, yet a sinner). We are more sinful than we ever dared believe, but through Christ we are more accepted than we ever dared hope. When the gospel dawns on the soul, it becomes a transforming power (Romans 1:17). Instead of seeing the law of God as an abstract moral code, Christians see it as a way to know, serve, and resemble their Master. Instead of obeying to make God indebted to them, they obey because they are indebted to him. Instead of being driven by an anxious sense of being unacceptable, they are empowered by grateful joy. The difference between these two ways of morality could not be greater. Their spirits, goals, motivations, and results are entirely different.
One of the basic theological premise is that the gospel can change any one, any place. Part of the driving force behind it is the conviction that most people have not heard the gospel clearly, whether they have been raised in liberal churches or conservative churches. Many people are on "trajectories" of reaction to either their conservative or their liberal backgrounds or experiences. But the gospel is off the continuum altogether. When people actually hear the gospel, they are surprised and brought up short. There can be neither personal transformation nor social transformation without a grasp of it. The gospel transforms our hearts and thinking and approaches to everything. As you read the following, consider ways that the gospel might transform your ways of thinking through theses areas. Some examples:
All problems, personal or social come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. All pathologies in the church and all its ineffectiveness comes from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. We believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look very unique. People will find both moral conviction yet compassion and flexibility. For example, homosexuals are used to being "bashed" and hated or completely accepted. They never see anything else. The cultural elites of either liberal or conservative sides are alike in their unwillingness to befriend or live with or respect or worship with the poor. They are alike in separating themselves increasingly from the rest of society. Avoiding the excesses of the dispensationalist, charismatic, or mainline liberal churches (who all lose the balance of the gospel truth in different ways), a gospel-centered church will break stereotypes and shine brightly in the city.
The following sermons can be found on the site