I have a perma-grin because of the renewal of gospel-centered thinking and living. This recovery is not something new but something biblical (1 Cor. 15:3). Paul tells the Philippian church that they are to have their entire life calibrated by the gospel. The truth of Christ’s doing and dying for them is not to be on the periphery but in the center. The gospel is to be the life-blood of the church. It is the touchstone for all of life and ministry.
We know that this is not always the case—even as much as we want it to be so! When we look at the church in Philippi, a church that was in relatively good shape, there was still a problem of selfishness that needed to get dealt with (Phil. 2:15-18, 2:3-4, 3:1-8, 4:2-3). How then can we who delight in and desire more gospel renewal, identify potential gospel parasites? In other words, what are some impediments to being calibrated by the gospel?
1. An Unbelieved Gospel
Obviously a gospel that is not believed cannot be properly applied. If the church is made up of people who do not believe the truth of the gospel then there will be a serious impediment to gospel-centered ministry. Pastors may consider trying to build a gospel-speaking culture where it is routine to talk about the gospel and its implications. From preaching to practice the gospel should be central in our thinking and application.
2. An Underestimated Gospel
We have all had our feelings hurt or pinched by a difficult situation. Sometimes the problems are with us and other times they are with others; at any rate, we have problems. Now, what do you do about these problems? I have been in situations with people where the issue has been raised and there is a point where there is a decision to be made. Are we going to go with self or gospel? I have said, “This hurts, but listen, we have a big, powerful gospel. Let’s get to work applying it here.” Sometimes I’ve seen people brighten up and look with optimism toward the prospect of putting the gospel to work. Sadly this is not always the norm. Many times people bristle and refuse to put the gospel to work. An underestimated gospel impedes gospel ministry because people don’t believe it can bring about gospel renewal. If this is so, one would have to question if it has actually impacted them in the first place (Rom. 1:16-17).
3. An Eclipsed Gospel
An eclipsed gospel occurs when something (or someone) has gotten bigger than the gospel. It could be a personal agenda, comfort, relationships, honor, a particular sin or whatever. Something gets in the way. Instead of laboring for the gospel’s progress people can labor for their own progress and honor. The advancement of the gospel is good, just not most important. This is devastating to a church; may God forbid that we lose our first love (Rev. 2:4).