Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Gospel Must Be The Center of Ministries to Men

Every ministry to men in every church needs to make the gospel its center and anchor. Every man, whether saved or not,continually needs to hear the gospel explained, proclaimed, celebrated and lived out in its power, grace and truth. 

The most common mistake most ministries to men make is wrongly assuming most men know what the gospel is and then moving straight on to dish out a litany of things for men to do to change their behaviors. Ask many Christian men to define the gospel and their answers are all over the map, mostly grounded in the gospel being something that happened to them, not to Jesus. For many the gospel is inside them not outside them. It's something they feel or experience rather than a truth claim to be believed and trusted. For them, the personal subjective and experiential trumps the historic, objective announcement of what God did in Christ in 33 AD to set the captives free.  

The Bible says the gospel is THE most important thing any man can know. Our priority therefore should not be pumping men up with tips, techniques and bromides to work harder in order to live their best life now. That kind of moral therapy diet leaves men exhausted, discouraged and robbed of their freedom in Christ. Moralism is not the gospel! The gospel means you don't have to prove yourself to God. Christ's perfection is yours for free. You live by his performance not yours. You have a new identity and new destiny in Christ for which the only thing you contributed was your sin. That's Good News!

The gospel is the historic fact of what God did to save us through the perfect, righteous life Jesus lived for us and the sacrificial, atoning death he died for us. The Bible tells us this Good News is the power of God for our justification, sanctification and glorification (Romans 1:16). It is for sinners, yes, but importantly it’s also for believers who need the gospel as much each day as when they first believed it and were saved

Tim helpfully Keller writes the following:

We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make progress in the kingdom."

We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col. 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom. 1:16-17). It is very common in the church to think as follows. “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Col. 1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you-it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32).

The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel - a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, “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.” The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel-seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.

Dave Brown, Director and Pastor-at-Large, Washington Area Coalition of Men's Ministries