Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cherish the gospel!

What do you most cherish in life? In ministry? What drives your private conversations, your small group discussions, your preaching? What gets the adrenaline pumping and stirs your heart with affection?

Is it the gospel?

While studying through 1 Corinthians, I've enjoyed reading some of D. A. Carson's paperback The Cross and Christian Ministry. The paragraphs below really caught my attention and invite deeper thought. It really summarizes the whole reason for movements like the The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel, and hopefully the Great Commission Resurgence as well.
What it means to be 'spiritual' is profoundly tied to the cross, and to nothing else...

This lesson is especially important when so many Christians today identify themselves with some 'single issue' (a concept drawn from politics) other than the cross, other than the gospel. It is not that they deny the gospel. If pressed, they will emphatically endorse it. But their point of self-identification, the focus of their minds and hearts, what occupies their interest and energy, is something else: a style of worship, the abortion issue, homeschooling, the gift of prophecy, pop sociology, a certain brand of counseling, or whatever [we might add social justice here]. Of course, all of these issues have their own importance. Doubtless we need some Christians working on them full time. But even those who are so engaged must do so as an extension of the gospel, as an extension of the message of the cross. They must take special pains to avoid giving any impression that being really spiritual or really insightful or really wise turns on an appropriate response to their issue.

I have heard a Mennonite leader asses his own movement in this way. One generation of Mennonites cherished the gospel and believed that the entailment of the gospel lay in certain social and political commitments. the next generation assumed the gospel and emphasized the social and political commitments. The present generation identifies itself with the social and political commitments, while the gospel is variously confessed or disowned; it no longer lies at the heart of the belief system of some who call themselves Mennonites.

Whether or not this is a fair reading of the Mennonites, it is certainly a salutary warning for evangelicals at large. We are already at the stage where many evangelical leaders simply assume the message of the cross, but no longer lay much emphasis on it. Their focus is elsewhere. And a few, it seems to me, are in danger of distancing themselves from major components of the message of the cross, while still operating within the context of evangelicalism. It is at least possible that we are the generation of believers who will destroy much of historic Christianity from within - not, in the first instance, by rancid unbelief, but by raising relatively peripheral questions to the place where, functionally, they displace what is central. And what shall the end of this drift be?

We must come back to the cross, and to God's plan of redemption that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification. (pp. 62-64)

Oh may this be true in my life, my family, my ministry, our local ministerial, our denomination, and evangelicalism as a whole.

Photo credit: El Struthio

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