It started, really, with some of the work I did on my thesis. It began to crystalize with a sermon I heard late last year preached by a pastor in Charlotte who had returned from his sabbatical and committed to preach differently, echoing Paul’s words, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). It continued with a quote from Tim Keller, as well as a set of lectures he delivered on preaching, and has been reinforced by bloggers like Jared.
It’s a renewed focus on the gospel.
Late last December I preached a sermon:
Maybe part of the problem is that we like to complicate things…There’s enough in the Bible to get lost unless we keep our eye on the big picture. Jesus himself tells us what the central message of Scripture is. Luke 24:27 says of Jesus, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” That is something I would have liked to have heard. Jesus opened up all the Bible and told these two people he met how the Scriptures spoke of himself. Somebody’s said, “All the strands of the witness of Scripture to the identity and purpose of God converge in Jesus Christ” (Daniel L. Migliore). Every part of Scripture must be understood in relation to the person and work of Jesus Christ…
So we must make Jesus central. We must never lose sight of who he is and what he did for us. We must resolve, as Paul did, to make this our main concern, believing that this simple message is at the heart of everything that we need to know for life. We will never outgrow this message.
I can’t tell you what this renewed focus has done for me. I know this isn’t a new thing, but I find that our grip on the gospel is easily lost, especially in ministry. Martin Luther wrote, “The truth of the gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine….Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” Not to mention beating it into our own heads. As many have said, we have to preach the gospel to ourselves daily.
It matters less and less to me if a church is shaped in traditional or new ways, or characterized by many of the other things that we get worked up about. These are important issues, but they’re secondary. What matters is that we get the gospel and live and serve in light of its reality. Without knowing it the gospel can be pushed to the periphery and almost lost. It’s been an amazing year of re-centering life and ministry around the gospel, and (I hope) I’m just getting started.