As we move from assuming the gospel to placing it in the center of our thoughts, affections, lives, and churches, we begin to recognize the need to articulate the message of the gospel clearly. Yet this takes thoroughness of study and carefulness with words.
Tim Keller has taught in several places that we need to recognize that the New Testament provides us lenses with which to view the gospel. He shows us that the gospel needs to be viewed from three different perspectives. In his sermon, “What is the Gospel,” he shows us the three aspects of the gospel. While the common core of all three is “you’re saved by grace,” there are three aspects to the whole message:
- The historical aspect is the announcement, or “news”: Jesus Christ lived the life you should have lived and died the death you should have died as your substitute in your place, so that God can receive you not for your record and for your sake but for Jesus’ record and for Jesus’ sake.
- The sonship aspect speaks to our new identity in Christ: The gospel is that you’re more wicked and flawed than you ever dared believe, but you’re more loved and accepted than you ever dared hoped – at the same time
- The kingdom aspect emphasizes the values of the gospel, which are seen at the cross and become implications for our lives: The way up is down. The way to gain power is to lose power. The way to get rich is to give it away.
Timmy Brister is in the middle of a series of posts on spiritual formation. He is reflecting on the implications of seeing the gospel in three perspectives to the process of spiritual formation and discipleship. Here are a few reflections. I find this very helpful:
When disciples are being made, they need to understand the whole gospel for their whole life to impact the whole world for Christ. I want them to know the content/nature of the gospel. But that is not enough. They need to experience it and find their identity in Christ personally. They also need to understand the implications and application of the gospel for all of life. In my paradigm of gospel-centered spiritual formation, here is how I break it down:
Message of the Gospel: stresses the doctrinal content of the gospel so that we can have a correct understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done (text/normative)
Story of the Gospel: stresses the experience/realization of the gospel so that we can have our affections moved and captured by who Jesus is and what He has done (subtext/existential)
Gospel of the Kingdom: stresses the implication/application of the gospel in the world so that we can have our world brought under the reign and rule of who Jesus is and what He has done (context/situational)
When the message of the gospel gives us right understanding, our minds are renewed through the glorious truths of Scripture. When the story of the gospel gives us right affections, the story of our life is rewritten by the story of the gospel, redeeming and renewing our hearts. When the gospel of the kingdom is applied to our lives, we walk in repentance and faith so that the kingdoms of our world become the kingdom of our God.
I find it imperative that we “see” each of these “perspectives” and “forms” regularly if we are going to have properly formed, gospel-centered disciples. Christians who know, experience, and apply the gospel to their lives will display the infinite treasure that Jesus really is. At the end of the day, that’s what we want. People who love Jesus, speak well of Jesus, and live in the joy of knowing that His kingdom is coming on earth, in their lives, as it is in heaven.
Read the whole thing here.