Guest post by Jared Wilson.
Mike Leake shares these words from Andrew Fuller circa 1786, noting his hope that this won’t happen with the concept of “gospel-centrality”:
It seems to be one of Satan’s devices, in order to destroy the good tendency of any truth, to get its advocates to [make it trite] out of its senses, dwelling upon it in every sermon or conversation, to the exclusion of other things. Thus the glorious doctrines of free and great grace have been served in the last age, and so have fallen sadly into disrepute. If we employ all our time in talking about what men ought to be and to do, it is likely we shall forget to put it into practice, and then all is over with us.
It is a very real danger to be gospel-centrality-centered rather than gospel-centered, just as it’s a very real danger to talk for miles about Jesus without following him an inch.
But for those of us who traffic in this “gospel-centered” stuff, we ought to keep a close watch on our life and doctrine, lest we revel in the reveling. And reveling in the reveling can easily turn into a promotion of gospel-centeredness that is less than gospel-centered. I remember the vivid realization, born of the Spirit’s in-the-moment conviction, as I was concluding a sermon one Sunday morning that I was chastising my flock toward gospel-centrality. “Be gospel-centered!” I was essentially saying. And of course, as Luther says, It is the supreme art of the devil to turn the gospel into law. That’s what I was doing, unwittingly. In the heat of the moment, in my passion for my congregation’s obedience to the gospel, I had become a nag. “Be gospel-centered!” is a good command, in the right spirit and in the right measure. But this command piled on and muddled with grace evinces forgetfulness of how the Spirit produces obedience to it.
I shifted gears in the middle of my cajoling. And instead of holding up “gospel-centrality” as some kind of hoop to jump through, I instead began to hold up Christ as preeminent and supreme and his gospel as astonishing, trusting the Spirit to open up eyes and ears so he might be beheld as beautiful and found worthy of orbiting around.
Related: Bill Streger, pastor of Kaleo Church in Houston, Texas, preached an excellent message on this subject at last year’s LEAD Conference in Auburn, Maine. He titled it Gospel Hype.