A Place At The Table For You
Today we have reserved a place for you at the Harvest Table. It is a precursor to our March 29th Ladies meeting, and we pray it will help your heart and build your anticipation for our time together with Jesus. As you may or may not know--our next gathering will be focused on worship and prayer. We are full of faith that all who come will be encourage dand built up; that you will leave the meeting more in love with Jesus than when you walked in the door.
Following is a song we believe will help you and encourage you. Once you have spent five minutes in personal worship from your place at the table, we encourage you to read the following chapter from a book titled, Gospel Formed, by J.A. Medders. We are praying even now that the Holy Spirit will meet you and begin preparing your heart for all that He has planned for you.
It is a privilege to sit at this table with you!
INTRODUCTION – GOSPEL FORMED
by J. A. Medders
"Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…" ROMANS 16: 25
The secret to Christian growth is no secret. It’s Christ. The cat is out of the bag. This book is an attempt to follow that cat— the Lion of Judah.
Every Christian wants to grow and mature in his or her faith, but sometimes we can’t get any traction. We spin our wheels, give up, and fall back into the proverbial La-Z-Boy of the Christian life. I’ve been there, and since you are reading this, I’ll bet you have too. Surely there is more. Right? Of course there is, and it’s simple and jaw-dropping. It sounds too good to be true.
The good news for Christian growth is the Good News. The very truth that saved you is the same truth that sanctifies you, grows you, forms you. You grow not by a new method or revelation but by the old, old story. You don’t need new tricks and tactics but the truth of Jesus, his person, and his work— the gospel. We grow by the gospel. We grow in the gospel.
We grow with the gospel. 1 Gospel-centeredness is where we need to live. We need a constant reformation under the gospel of grace.
Jesus died in the place of sinners to grant forgiveness, cleansing, renewal, justification, hope, freedom, and the power to change through his promised Holy Spirit. 2 We don’t move on from Jesus. We don’t graduate from the gospel. Moving toward gospel-centered living means we never move on from the gospel; rather, its force movesfurther into our heart. In the long run, devotionals, accountability groups, books, and sermons won’t change us— if the gospel is missing. It is the very message of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit that changes us.
We need the prescription-strength “preaching of Jesus Christ.” In Romans 16: 25, the apostle Paul is clear: it’s the gospel that makes us strong. Saints require the continual reminder, encouragement, and proclamation of the person and work of Jesus for sinners.
So, Christian— slow down. For real. I hope this entire book helps you to quit laboring in the self-serving salt mines of sanctification and to leap in love for your Lord because of his great love for you. George Müller (1805– 1898), faithful pastor, prolific man of prayer, and founder of orphanages in England, recounting his conversion, helps us when he says,
Apprehending in some measure the love of Jesus for my soul, I was constrained to love Him in return. What all the exhortations and precepts of my father and others could not effect; what all my own resolutions could not bring about, even to renounce a life of sin and profligacy: I was enabled to do, constrained by the love of Jesus. The individual who desires to have his sin forgiven , must seek it through the blood of Jesus. The individual who desires to get power over sin, must likewise seek it through the blood of Jesus. 3
The love of Jesus constrains us, drives us, moves us, changes us, forms and reforms us. I believe with all my heart that when you start leaping because of his love, you’ll be leaving sin behind and clinging to your Savior. That’s Christian growth. My prayer for you is that you will, as my friend Jared Wilson says, go from “Woe is me!” to “Whoa is God!”
Before we go on, take some time, right now, and re-remember the gospel. Now is the time to worship.
Jesus. He isn’t Diet God, JV God, or God Jr. He is very God of very God, eternal, all-powerful, Creator and Sustainer. 4 A man from heaven, who is also God from Galilee, died in your place, for your sins, he rose from the dead, and Jesus is very much alive today. He gave you a new life. He justified you. He redeemed you. He cleansed you. He filled you with the Spirit. He adopted you. He loves you. He empowers you. He makes you more than a conqueror. He will never leave you, lose you, or quit loving you. 5
Is your soul stirring yet? Let this truth weigh in: You are fully accepted before God, not because of anything you do or don’t do but because of everything Jesus did and is doing for you right now. God loves you when you are growing in leaps and bounds, and he loves you when you’ve blown it. Gospel-centered Christians base their hope and joy on the stellar performance of Christ, not their own— or their lack thereof.
To move toward gospel-centeredness means you need to relentlessly rehearse the truths, or glories, of the gospel. Remind yourself that apart from Jesus, you can’t do a single thing. 6 Soak your heart and mind in the truth that “Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2: 20 NLT).
The apostle Paul was convinced that the gospel, the preaching of Jesus, is exactly what you need. Everything else is a placebo. Accept no competitors. Knockoffs will not do. You need the tried-and-true message of God’s glory shining at Calvary.
What Is Gospel-Centeredness?
If gospel-centeredness is where we are headed, then what in the world is it? So you don’t only take my word for it, I emailed a few top scholars, writers, thinkers, and pastors and asked what they think gospel-centeredness is. Here’s what they offered:
Jerry Bridges, author of many gospel-saturated books:
Being gospel-centered means relying on the shed blood and righteous life of Jesus for our standing and acceptance with God. It means that we seek to obey and serve God out of gratitude for what he has done rather than obeying and serving in an effort to earn his acceptance.
Matt Chandler, pastor, author, and president of Acts 29 Network:
Being gospel -centered is being empowered by the Holy Spirit not only to understand the robust nature of the gospel but also to walk in the implications of it in every area of our lives— to repeatedly be shaped and defined by our identity in Christ, and to build rhythms and structures at home and church that support marveling, cherishing, and being formed by the gospel message.
Dr. Jim Hamilton of Southern Seminary and author of the pyrotechnically brilliant biblical theology God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment:
To be gospel-centered is to believe in the one who, though he was rich, became poor for our sake, so that by his poverty we might be rich. 7 Gospel-centeredness is believing in him and then following him in the impoverishing of ourselves for the enrichment of others in Christ.
Sam Storms, pastor and author:
To be gospel-centered begins with the reality that the gospel is not simply the entry point into the Christian life but also the foundation and force that shapes all we do as followers of Jesus, both in our daily lives and in our experience as the corporate body of Christ. The gospel is the good news of what God has graciously done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath and secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in Jesus by faith alone. The gospel informs, controls, and energizes all we do, from the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and marriage to work, our use of money, speech, parenting, mission, and all aspects of ministry in the local church and beyond.
Tim Challies, überblogger and pastor:
To be gospel-centered is to live your life with the constant awareness that the gospel changes everything. It is to ask in every situation, What difference does the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ make here and now?
Douglas Wilson, pastor and prolific author:
I believe in a gospel-centeredness that extends out to the circumference of all things. The gospel is not simply a password for getting into heaven. The gospel is a true explanation of the world.
Dr. Russell Moore, brilliant author and president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
Gospel-centrality means that any aspect of life is viewed in its cosmic context, in which God is “summing up” all things in Christ (Eph. 1: 10– 11). All of creation is seen in that full context, and connections are made between everything that is and the kingdom purposes for which it was called into being. Every passage of Scripture is interpreted in light of the story of Jesus, as is every passage of a believer’s unfolding life story.
Owen Strachan, author, professor, and president of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
The gospel-centered life is one that is driven by the knowledge that God has redeemed me, a sinner, through the vicarious death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Spirit brings this truth to mind daily, and this daily meditation transforms my life, allowing me to experience power over sin in every area such that I give maximal glory to God as his recreated image-bearer.
Tullian Tchividjian, pastor and author of many grace-laden books:
The gospel is God’s good-news announcement that Jesus has done for sinners what sinners could never do for themselves. The gospel doxologically declares that because of Christ’s finished work for you, you already have all the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning, and rescue you long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus. The gospel broadcasts the liberating truth that God relates to us based on Jesus’ work for us, not our work for him; Jesus’ performance for us, not our performance for him. Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life doesn’t have to be a tireless effort to justify ourselves. He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel to “get it done.” The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail.
I hope you are getting the picture. The risen Christ shapes our lives. Gospel-formed people are Jesus-centered people. Here is my attempt to wrestle down a definition using what I like to call a gospel-formed grid.
A Gospel-Formed Grid
Gospel-centeredness means that the person and work of Jesus is the central message in all things; he is our modelfor all of life and ministry; the Son of God is our motivation in obedience to God’s Word; and Jesus of Nazareth is the means to carry out all that God commands.
The gospel is a word with many words. It’s a message, a proclamation of truth. Jesus is not a side message to the Christian: he is the Message, the Truth, and the Life. It’s all about Jesus.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is where we find out who we are as people in Christ Jesus. We start with the gospel message because the gospel of the kingdom informs us how we, as citizens, are to live. We learn our identity from earth-shattering, veil-tearing truths from that place called the Skull— ground zero of the gospel. 8
While our identity matters, it only matters if we know Jesus’ identity— because we are in Christ. If we don’t think rightly about Jesus, we won’t think rightly about ourselves. Jesus is our friend and our Lord. He is the cosmic King, and he’s closer than our skin. We ought to fear him, but we should never be afraid of him. The gospel is meant to humble us. And part of the gospel is the glory due Jesus. The glory of Christ needs to take hearts and minds hostage. Jesus is to be exalted over all things in our lives. We are not the ones who have been given a name at which every knee will bow (Phil. 2: 9– 11).
The person and work of Jesus fuels gospel-formed lives. No one can hear too often that Jesus is our great God and Savior, he has made us his people, and he is purifying us for his glory and our good (Titus 2: 13– 14). Jesus is the rocket fuel of the Christian experience, of life “in Christ.” And he’s the destination. We will be with him forever, and we are being formed into his image. I’m convinced, more and more, that we need the teaching of Jesus Christ brought to our weak and trembling hearts. Paul, at the end of Romans, writes, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ …” (Rom . 16: 25). God himself makes us strong. He does the strengthening. But what does God use? He uses the message of Jesus, the gospel of grace, to transform us. And this is available to Christians everywhere. No seminary credentials needed. No spiritual pedigree required. Christ is available to us all. And he is who we need.
I once was privy to a conversation I’ll never forget. Over a tasty lunch, a fellow clergyman confessed his pain and heartache to pastor, scholar, and author Ray Ortlund. I was on the edge of my seat to hear Ray’s response. His steady, hope-filled eyes looked into the other man’s eyes, and softly and firmly he said, “Brother, Jesus loves you.”
Powerful. We need more of that. I need more of that.
While message focuses on right thinking , motivation hones in on right doing for the right reasons. Jesus shapes what we do and why we do it. The gospel compels us to seek and grant forgiveness with one another as God in Christ forgave us (Eph. 4 :32). The gospel reveals to us that we are no longer our own; we belong to Jesus. Now we make itour aim to honor and please him (1 Cor. 6: 20; 2 Cor. 5: 9). The glories of Calvary ignite in Christians a mad dash away from sin, but not simply to avoid getting in trouble— also to enjoy God and glorify Jesus forever.
I’ve heard Christians say (and I know I’ve said it before too), “I’m waiting to be freed/ released/ saved from _____.” Is that truly biblical? I think the satanic forces conjured up that formula and have been peddling it in accountability groups since the nineties. Christians are not waiting to be freed from sin. Here’s why: a man from Galilee once screamed, “It is finished!”
Our brother Paul writes: "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." (Rom. 6: 6–14)
So why should we flee sin? We’ve been brought from death to life. Why won’t sin bully us any longer? We’re under grace. The chains don’t need re-breaking. We need renewed minds (Rom. 12: 1–2) and re-fixated eyes on our encouraging Christ (Heb. 12: 1–2). The gospel motivates us to pursue holiness because we are free, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Cor. 3: 17).
Jesus isn’t only about what we shouldn’t do; he is also about us moving into the things we should do. The gospel motivates us to flee sin— yes and amen!— and the work of Jesus invites us toward the good works that Jesus has prepared for us to walk in (Eph. 2: 10). What was Jesus’ motivation in his life and ministry? “Hallowed be your name.” What is ours? “Hallowed be your name.” The Holy Spirit gifts us for good works so that “God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4: 10– 11).
If the gospel is our message and our motivation for obedience, it is also our model. Here we see that Jesus models for us the right attitudes, tones, and heart-posture in all of life. The gospel gives the reason (motivation) and the rhythm (model).
How should a husband and wife relate? In accordance with the model God provides in the gospel: Jesus and his church (Eph. 5: 22–33). All Christian virtue is modeled and made known to us by the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If we want to be more loving, humble, and selfless— there is nowhere better to look than the foot-washing, ever-patient, always-compassionate, ultra-caring Jesus Christ who loved us sinners at the cross (John 15:13).
Up to this point, everything sounds all fine and dandy, but a question looms: “How am I really going to change? How can I do all this? I fail often. I struggle. I want to change and grow, but my goodness— this seems beyond me. I want a gospel-formed life. I want my life to be all about Jesus, but I don’t even know where to start.”
Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you: You are right— you cannot do this. None of us can. This kind of life is way beyond our horsepower. But the good news is that it isn’t beyond Jesus. It is Jesus. We cannot forget our gospel means: the One who now lives in us (Gal. 2: 20). The means, muscle, capacity, and know-how of the Christian life lie not in our personal sufficiency but in Jesus. And if we are in Christ and Christ is in us, then the power for the Christian life is now in us. The Holy Spirit of God is rumbling through our lives— and he will bear fruit, he will help us cry out, “Abba!” We unspectacular Christians work in concert with the glorious Spirit of the Christ (Phil. 2: 12– 13). We are totally at the mercy of our merciful Lord. Is there a better place to be?
A gospel-formed life has Jesus as our message, our motivation, our model, and our means. All of this matters because the worship of Jesus is the goal of the gospel.
Worship Is the Aim
My goal for Gospel Formed is to serve you in the worship of God. Some of the chapters will be punchy, and some of what you read will be irritating, because truth is known for going against the grain. If you grew up in the Bible Belt (like me), there are lots of grains that need some going against. Grace does that.
The ultimate aim of this little book is to crank your worship of Jesus up to eleven. Only God can do this in you, and only the glories of his gospel are able to ignite our hearts to worship in spirit and in truth, not just words. Our Christian culture’s gospel-centered jive is in danger of being a dance with no soul or a Quick-E-Mart chemical cake passed off as Aunt Betty’s homemade Chocolate Cardiac Hero: a complete fake. Being gospel-centered in language and theology isn’t enough. Pharisees can yack away with hyphenated gospel-talk, but we are after the spirit and truth of gospel-centeredness: worship.
My deep prayer over this project is that these expository mutterings would stir our hearts to rejoice over our great God and King, our Lion and Lamb, our Savior and Friend. Let’s worship Jesus. There is a reason why we oughtto beat the gospel -centered drum again and again, and then some more. The Bible gives us ample motivation to worship Jesus. It’s called the gospel.
We Worship Jesus Because…
We worship Jesus because “he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1: 3).
We harp on the gospel because “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5: 21).
Our hope is wrapped up in the truth that “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53: 5).
We center our lives on Jesus because “we know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom. 6: 9).
We sing, sacrifice, and follow Jesus because “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2: 5).
We go on gospel mission because “the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1: 15).
We have confidence in life and death because of Jesus, “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Gal. 1: 4– 5).
We walk with joy and no condemnation because “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2: 24).
We know we are saved because “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9: 12).
Jesus is our great reward and love because “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1: 7).
And lastly, we are gospel-centered because “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2: 6– 11).
That’s why we worship Jesus! It’s all about Jesus.
Here is my prayer for you (and I hope you’ll pray it too): that over the course of these pages, you’ll be drawn deeper into the treasure trove of the gospel and be immersed in the greatness of Christ— his awesomeness and his love. We can’t comprehend the magnitude of grace unless God guides us into it (Eph. 3: 16– 19). The Puritan theologian Thomas Manton was right in saying, “The gospel is God’s riddle, which none but himself can expound. Beg the Spirit of revelation; you cannot have a knowledge of it without a revelation from Christ.” 9 We need the Spirit of Jesus in order to behold Jesus. He can do that work in us. Today, even. Is this too much to ask of our lavish God? No way. Let’s pray that he will do more than we could even ask, think, or imagine. 10 Throughout the rest of this book, I hope we can look at the gospel and our lives, where the bloody cross meets the road we travel. Since the gospel is our message, model, motivation, and means, the gospel informs and shapes our worship, identity, community, and mission are all rooted in the gospel of the kingdom.
As you dive into this book, I hope to be a mere tour guide. We’ll look at a text and I’ll make some comments, hopefully directing your gaze to our crucified King, and if I do my job, you’ll forget I’m even here. We’ll look at gospel worship our gospel identity, the meaning of gospel community, and our charge for the gospel mission.
Now let’s plumb the depths of the wall-to-wall glories of the gospel together. And let’s always, only, and totally worship our King of kings.
"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—
if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." 1 PETER 2: 2– 3
1 . “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing— as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1: 5– 6).
2 . Forgiveness: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26: 28). Cleansing: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10: 22). Renewal: “[ God ] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3: 5). Justification: “[ Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification ” (Rom. 4: 25). Hope: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope …” (1 Tim. 1: 1). Freedom: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5: 1). Power to change: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5: 16).
3 . Roger Steer, George Müller: Delighted in God (Fearn, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2012), 18.
4 . “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1: 1– 2).
5 . Dive into Romans 8 to find all of these great truths.
6 . “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15: 5).
7 . “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8: 9).
8 . “And he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them” (John 19: 17– 18).
9 . Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 11 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 134.
10 . “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us …” (Eph. 3: 20).
More in Harvest Table
January 8, 2018Welcome to 2018 - God has a lot in Store for You
September 6, 2017Facing the Storm
August 23, 2017Fear Not - Recap of July 2017 Metro Life Church Women's Ministry Meeting