The Shepherd’s Church exists to raise up deeply rooted disciples of Christ who are growing in their knowledge of the Word and learning to think Biblically, with all humility, in every facet of their lives. We seek to accomplish this in several ways, but one of them is by choosing various books to read for a given month and then meeting together over coffee to discuss the concepts. November’s book was: “What Is A Healthy Church Member?” by Thabiti Anyabwile, which discusses 10 fundamental character traits of a healthy church member. After reading and discussing this book, I became convinced that our entire church needed to hear this great content. For week 1 and week 2, visit our website. This week we look at the third mark of a healthy church member.
A HEALTHY CHURCH MEMBER IS GOSPEL SATURATED
When we talk about the “Gospel” we are talking about the “good news” of Jesus Christ. We are talking about a message that is infused with the power of God and is mighty to save (Rom. 1:16). We are talking about a message that “forms, sustains, and animates the church”. And we are talking about something so essential to the life, health, and vitality of both the church and the individual believer, that it is not enough to simply know it; we must be saturated by it!
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
Before we can be saturated in something we need to first know what it is. This is especially important when it comes to something as critical to our ongoing health as the Gospel. In the following, the Gospel will be sketched out in its most basic parts. If you want to be a healthy church member (and Christian) you must commit these parts to memory.
Gospel just means news. It is the news of what God has done in Christ to bring us to Him! It is the bad news of our sin along with the good news of our redemption. Here is the story of what God has done.
ACT 1: CREATION
God created a good world and made humans in His own image. He made them like Him, to be like Him, to bless them, sustain them, and keep them in relationship with Him. There was only one thing they were not permitted to do and that was to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Sadly, they rebelled against God.
ACT 2: FALL
When humans rebelled against God (sin) physical and spiritual death entered the world. By physical death, man would no longer live forever. By spiritual death humanity fell from their perfected state and their hearts and minds were darkened. They became incapable of seeking God and transferred their moral and spiritual inability to each new generation. This means all humans, from that point on, were born in sin, spiritually dead in sin, and would die incapable of finding their way back to God. That is, unless God intervened.
ACT 3: REDEMPTION
And that is exactly what God did… At just the right time, God sent His one and only Son into the world, born of a virgin, living a sinless life, in order to redeem His sinful people. He came as fully sinless man, because only a sinless man could stand in our place and pay the penalty for our sins. He came as fully God, because only God can forgive sins and triumph over the grave. At the cross, Jesus took our sin and He gave us His perfection. He took our defeat and gave us His victory. He took our guilt and shame and gave us His freedom and honor. Thus, Jesus accomplished salvation for our souls at His first advent and coming.
ACT 4: RESTORATION
Jesus is also coming back again. He is coming to put an end to physical death, to make all things new, and to restore everything back to the perfected state that it was in before the fall. He is coming to bring a new world, new bodies, new emotions, new wills, and a newly created existence with God, where we will dwell in perfect joyful innocence and obedience to Christ forever.
At the cross, Jesus took my death that He did not deserve, and gave me His life that I could never earn. He did that to justify me before God. He did that to continually sanctify me in this life so that I will grow to look like Him. And He did that to eventually glorify me and present me before God as spotless and whole.
HOW DO WE BECOME GOSPEL SATURATED?
There are many things we may skim over, but let the Gospel not be one of them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ forms our entire Christian identity and is central to everything! We must know it. But even more than knowing it, we must be saturated by it!
DESIRE TO HEAR THE GOSPEL.
The Gospel is not just a message for unbelievers. Christians need to be reminded of the Gospel constantly because we are prone to forget who we are in Christ. We slide into legalism (thinking we can earn God’s favor through better obedience), or antinomianism (shrugging Biblical obedience due to a flawed view of grace). We allow unregenerate thinking to poison our minds, toxic emotions to grab hold of our hearts, and the activities we do to negatively and wrongly define us. All of this and more is addressed by the Biblical Gospel and to be a healthy Christian we must have a healthy appetite for the Gospel.
PREACH THE GOSPEL TO YOURSELF.
Since the Gospel addresses every facet of our brokenness and is essential for our identity, we must not wait for someone else to preach it to us. Of course, it is good and right to hear the Gospel in church services. But to be a healthy Christian and church member, we must also learn how to preach it to ourselves.
For a helpful and practical book on this topic, check out “Note to Self”, by Joe Thorn
TAKE THE GOSPEL TO ITS CONCLUSION.
Behind the Gospel is God. It is not just the good news of our salvation, although it is that, it is the good news that we are reconciled to God. In fact, the fruit of real Christian conversion is not mere excitement for heaven, but a longing for God. He becomes our hope and our greatest treasure. He becomes what we chase after and long for!
So, as we preach the Gospel to ourselves, let us remember one thing. The chief end of man is not to be saved (as wonderful as that is). The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever!
ORDER YOUR LIFE AROUND THE GOSPEL.
As we have seen, Biblical obedience is not a tool we use to get God to love us more. Obedience flows out of the Gospel. Obedience is not the root of our faith it is the fruit of our faith. It is the natural consequence of understanding who God is and who we are in light of what He has done. With that, the Gospel should trickle down into every facet of our lives.
Three helpful resources for understanding how the Gospel applies to the everyday stuff of life are:
The Gospel Centered Life, by Bob Thume
The Gospel in Life, by Timothy Keller
Gospel Fluency, by Jeff Vanderstelt
SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH OTHERS.
As things become important to us, we begin to share them. This is certainly true of the Gospel. As we become saturated in the Gospel, the most obvious result is that we would long to share it with others.
NOTE: Knowing the Gospel is a crucial first step (see above). You do not need a PhD to share Christ with someone you know, but you do need to know the Gospel. If you do not yet have a firm grasp on what the Gospel is, read the above description, read a book on the topic, or talk to one of your pastors. Do not settle for a shallow understanding of the Gospel.
Once you begin grasping what the Gospel is, begin asking yourself: “who in my life needs to hear it?” Pray for opportunities. Pray that the Lord would give you courage. And when the Lord opens the door, share it with love and excitement!
GUARD THE GOSPEL.
Finally, a healthy church member not only knows the Gospel, is saturated in it, and is sharing it with others, a healthy church member also will not stand for error. When error creeps into the church, a healthy church member will point it out with love and grace. When a fellow believer is caught in error, the healthy church member goes to them in love and calls them back to the Gospel. Without a group of committed members who are passionately and lovingly safeguarding the church, a church may easily slide into error.
I hope you have enjoyed this summary of chapter 3 in Thabiti’s book: “What Is A Healthy Church Member” Chapter 4 will go live on our website next week.
Until then, may the Lord bless you and keep you until I write again!