The God-Centered Gospel
The Bible from beginning to end is the story of God. There is but one living and true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Is. 45:5-7; 1 Cor. 8:4), an infinite, all-knowing Spirit (John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14)–each equally deserving worship and obedience. To be God-centered is to know and experience the God of the Bible in the daily practice of our lives.
You and I live a world that is saturated with idols. From hobbies to entertainment, to workaholism to pornography and materialism, we are inundated with “gods” all around us. To be God-centered is to have a biblical view of God. Sound doctrine must match sound living in our lives. When we have right doctrine, but don’t live in accord with that doctrine, we may answer people’s questions, but we will never do so in a loving Christ-honoring way. Doctrine does not only transform--it must also adorn our lives. To this end, I want to consider four God-centered means and how they change our lives (Titus 2:10).
God is the Gospel, as John Piper has explained. Our view of God has consequences (for both good and ill). For example, people who grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes often view God the Father as a harsh god. Some place their experience of their earthly father on the God who reveals Himself as Father. Instead of viewing God as the Creator of everything and as good, loving, and just—they instead consider Him to be a harsh taskmaster.
The Gospel flips this perspective upside down and inside out. As Creator, God is the Father of all men (Ephesians 4:6), but He is the spiritual Father only to Christians (Romans 8:14; 2 Corinthians 6:18). He has decreed for His own glory all things that shall come to pass (Ephesians 1:11). He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events (1 Chronicles 29:11). In His sovereignty, He is neither the author nor approver of sin (Habakkuk 1:13) nor does He abridge the accountability of moral, intelligent creatures (1 Peter 1:17). He has graciously chosen from eternity past those whom He would have as His own (Ephesians 1:4-6). He saves from sin all those who come to Him, and He becomes, upon adoption, Father to His own (John 1:12; Romans 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Heb. 12:5-9).
Understanding who God is enables believers to have a healthy God-honoring prayer life. Since Jesus has died in our place, for our sin, and has risen again—He now serves as High Priest and Intercessor over His people. Hebrews 4:16 invites God’s people, through Christ, to come boldly before His throne. Sometimes Christians think they have to clean themselves up before they can come to God. Yes, we must confess and repent of our sin (1 John 1:9), but we do so only because we have a right understanding and fear of Him (Proverbs 1:9; 9:10). Without a biblical fear of God, we would never desire God, grow in Christ, or long to call on Him in truth. When we understand that God's ways are just, holy, and good, we will earnestly desire to come before the throne of God’s grace, knowing that He receives us warmly because of Christ, not because of our works.
Every true Christian should spend time in God's Word. In all of human history, the Bible has never been more available than it is today (whether in audio or printed format). Since Scripture is God’s story, His love letter to His people, and the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative for faith and practice, we should long to be in the Word. After all, our story finds its end in His redemptive story.
When we read the Bible, we do so not so we can say, “I read my Bible today.” Instead, Christians read the Bible because it is God’s story to help them know who God is, and how, through Christ, He gave of Himself completely for His people by His death and resurrection.
As God’s people, we read the Bible, not merely out of duty, but also out of delight. It is a delight to read the story of God from the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:1 to the last words in Revelation 22:21. We need to read or listen to our Bible’s each day to grow in our understanding of our God.
God has called people, who were once not His people, to be His people in and through Christ (1 Peter 2:9-10). God has always had people whom He has called His own. Through Christ, He no longer calls them His enemies, but His friends (John 15:15). All who place their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately placed by the Holy Spirit into one united spiritual body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12, 13), the Bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 19:7, 8), of which Christ is the Head (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; Colosians 1:18). The Church is thus a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ, made up of all born-again believers (Ephesians 2:11 – 3:6).
There is so much more that has and can be said about the God-centered nature of the Christian life. To be God-centered is to be focused on Him, to be all for Him, not just in word, but in deed. To be God-centered is to have our lives revolve around not only the question, “Who is God?” but also, “Why does having God in my daily life matter?”
Our God is an infinite treasure to be enjoyed, worshiped, and obeyed. He does not leave us dead in sins and abandoned. Instead, our God is active and has intervened in history through Christ to redeem men from the death penalty they justly deserve by dying in place of man and for their sin and rising again on the third day.
Whether it’s from the angle of the gospel, prayer, Bible-reading, community, or any other perspective that we might consider—our God is good, just, loving, merciful, kind, and holy. God is the Gospel. As we come to understand this critical truth by faith, we are enabled to hope in and have access to the Fountain of Life in Christ Jesus, our Savior, our Lord, and our Commander. To be God-centered is to increasingly have our theology line up with our daily experience as we walk day by day, week by week, and year by year with God in Christ.
Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and a Co-Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook or read more of his writing at Servants of Grace.