Here at Sunridge we have been speaking of being “Christ centered and gospel saturated” as part of our theological “reboot.” While many churches “share the gospel,” we are seeking to make a statement about a refocused theological conviction that the gospel message underlies every passage of Scripture — and is sufficient for both salvation and sanctification (i.e., changing and growing to become more like Christ). Without understanding how a passage relates to and finds its fulfillment in the finished work of Jesus, it will be difficult to interpret or apply it properly. Jesus said:
“‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24:44-45 (emphasis added)
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” John 5:39 (emphasis added)
The failure to understand how any particular part of Scripture finds it ultimate fulfillment and application in Christ will lead to unleashing the “twin thieves” of moralism and/or mysticism.
- Gospel transformation is different from moral reformation (i.e., moralism). Moral reformation says, “believe in Christ, obey God’s law, and you will have (earn?) favor with God,” but gospel transformation says, “believe in Christ, enjoy favor with God, and obey out of gratitude.”
- Gospel transformation is also different from the pursuit of mystical experience. Experiencing the dynamic presence of God is the fruit, not the goal, of gospel transformation. “Christian meditation contrasts with cosmic mysticism by being grounded in the truth of God…responding to the love of God…and is an exercise of praise to God.”
Moralism begins with us — and what we must do to please God, while gospel centrality begins with what Jesus Christ has already done. This distinction sets people on a completely different trajectory in their Christian lives and experience. We begin to work and serve FROM God’s favor instead of FOR God’s favor.
Commenting on how Jesus is the scope and focus of the whole Bible, Puritan pastor and theologian Richard Sibbes (1577–1635) remarks: “Christ is the pearl of that ring, Christ is the object, the centre wherein all those lines end: take away Christ, what remains? Therefore, in the whole scriptures let us see that we have an eye to Christ; all is nothing, but Christ.”