One of the marked trends in our culture over the past few decades is the loss of influence that Christianity and the institutional church has in society.
While many people in church-world are discouraged by this trend, I am actually greatly encouraged and excited because I see many churches, movements, and individual Christians also finding a renewed clarity about their mission and their purpose.
The biggest thing that excites me is a rediscovery of the centrality and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am reading through Paul’s epistles in my own time of devotion and study, and one of the things that sticks out to me is how central the gospel is in Paul’s thinking and in the way he approaches church matters.
For instance, when Paul confronted Peter and the other legalists in the Galatian church, he didn’t condemn their insistence on circumcision because it made for bad public relations. He condemned it because it was at heart a betrayal of the gospel: that we are made right with God solely by Jesus and Jesus’ death on the cross (Gal 2:14) and not by observance of the Jewish law.
Similarly, when Paul denounced the divisions in the Corinthian church, he didn’t denounce them because they were unhealthy (although they were) but because divisions betray the gospel and what it means for the body of Christ
(1 Cor. 1:10–1, 26–31).
Then when Paul dealt with the issue of sexual sin and discipline in 1 st Corinthians 5 and 6, he gave directions for behavior and grounded his appeal in the gospel of justification (6:11) and in the fact that we are ransomed by the death of Christ (6:19–20).
Paul understood something important: the key to living faithfully as Christians is to be so saturated with the gospel that it forms and shapes all of our thinking and living. I believe, more and more, that the key to faithfully reaching people for Jesus Christ is not so much having the right technique or plan, but in being a gospel-saturated person. That was the vision that drove Paul as he led those first century churches.
What if we prayed that, by God’s grace, we would be a gospel-saturated people that would exude confidence in the person and work of Jesus Christ, so that we would be fully enabled to reach people for Jesus Christ? I can think of no greater blessing than to be a follower of Jesus Christ who is characterized by gospel passion and clarity.