I suspect that if you are reading this blog, written by a pastor of a Bible-believing church, you are probably familiar with the gospel. The gospel, of course, is the good news of Jesus Christ – his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his return some day. The gospel is the story of what God has graciously done for us in Christ in response to our rebellion against Him.
A common temptation is for Christians to shunt the gospel into a “past tense” status in our lives. We look back at that moment in time when we came to the recognition that we had placed our trust in the good news of Jesus Christ. And while it is true that faith has a beginning in our lives, the work of the gospel is not merely in the past. Rather, the work of the gospel in us is a reality now and will continue on throughout eternity.
In light of that, it is good idea to remind ourselves of the truths of the gospel and how those truths can change our lives completely. That is the purpose of Matt Chandler’s book The Explicit Gospel. In a world where far too many things are explicit – language, sexual content, violence – Chandler does a good job of reminding us of the raw truths of the gospel and how those truths should provide direction for our lives.
The Explicit Gospel is divided into three main sections. The first two deal with “The Gospel on the Ground” and “The Gospel in the Air.” “The Gospel on the Ground” unpacks the personal truths of the gospel. It reminds us who God is, who we are as sinners, who Christ is, what He has done, and how we should respond to these truths. It is personal invitation to allow the truths of the gospel to penetrate our lives.
The section entitled “The Gospel in the Air” deals with the truths of the gospel on a cosmic level. Chandler takes the same gospel, flies up into orbit around the earth, and looks at it from the perspective of creation, fall, reconciliation and consummation. He shows how the gospel fits in with the great plan of God to restore the world to its once perfect condition.
Both these perspectives are necessary, because there are dangers in holding too closely to one perspective or the other. In the last section of the book, the author takes a look at the implications of grounding our lives and teaching in one perspective only. For example, if our gospel stays exclusively on the ground, we face the danger of being blind to the big picture purpose of God and we are tempted to make faith a self-centered exercise. If our gospel stays exclusively in the air, other dangers lurk. We can fall prey to removing Christ from our gospel or making culture, rather than the Scripture, the arbiter of truth. As in so many things in life, the challenge it so balance both aspects of the gospel.
The author ends the book with a wonderful chapter on the dangers of Christian moralism. If we are not careful, it is easy for forsake the truths of the cross for a moralism that focuses on doing good without a true, heart-centered work of grace in our lives. This chapter alone is almost worth the price of the book.
I found this book to be a great reminder that in my thinking, my preaching and my teaching, I need to have an eye on both of these facets of the gospel truth. It is indeed personal as much as it is cosmic. The gospel gets down to the ground level in our lives; it also displays the wonders of God’s purpose. We need both perspectives in order to a full understanding of the wondrous grace God has poured out into our lives in Christ Jesus.