The Essence of Gospel Renewal

Three Ways to Respond to God

  1. Irreligion – “I avoid God by ignoring him and rebelling against him.”
  2. Religion – “I obey; therefore I am accepted.”
  3. The Gospel – “I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.”

Preaching the Third Way for Everyone

  1. Nominal believers – “Sunday Christians”
  2. Genuine believers who are angry – “Superior Christians”
  3. Cultural believers – “Seasonal Christians”

Moralistic Behavior Change

  1. People behave out of fear of punishment – “you will be in trouble”
  2. People behave out of pride – “you are better than this”
  3. Will yourself to change your behavior, and you can save yourself.
  4. Moralistic behavior change simply manipulates and leverages radical selfishness without challenging it.
  5. Without the “gospel heat” – the joy, love, and gratitude that result from an experience of grace – people will simply snap.

Gospel Behavior Change

  1. The gospel, if it is truly believed, helps us out of the extreme neediness that is natural to the human heart.
  2. Through the gospel, we come to base our identity not on what we have achieved but on what has been achieved for us in Christ.
  3. The gospel destroys the inner engines that drive sinful behavior.
  4. The gospel destroys pride, because it tells us we are so lost that Jesus had to die for us.
  5. The gospel destroys fearfulness, because it tells us that nothing we can do will exhaust his love for us.
  6. When we deeply embrace these truths, our hearts are not merely restrained but changed – their fundmental orientation is transformed.

The Importance of Idolatry 

  1. Idols can be good things (family, achievement, work and career, romance, talent, etc – even gospel ministry).
  2. A sure sign of the presence of idolatry is inordinate anxiety, anger, or discouragement when our idols are thwarted.   
  3. Idolatry is the root of our other sins and problems.
  4. If the root of every sin is idolatry, and idolatry is a failure to look to Jesus for our salvation and justification, then the root of every sin is a failure to believe the gospel message that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is our justification, righteousness, and redemption.
  5. Those who preach and counsel for gospel renewal should constantly speak about underlying idols, which show us our hearts’ particular, characteristic ways of failing to believe the gospel.

NEXT: The Work of Gospel Renewal

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