Category Archives: Gospel-center

A Gospel-Centered Home: Are You Qualifying Your Children for Earth but Not for Heaven?

A home may be of Christian parents, but it does not mean it is a gospel-centered home. When we are governing our homes by parenting with behavior modification techniques and throwing in Scripture, we can produce “perfect” children who may end up breaking our hearts. Consider the rich young ruler of Matthew 19: 16-20. And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Wow! Who would not want that resume’ for their teenager? He even asked a very spiritual question! However, the narrative does not end there. In verses 21 and 22 we read, Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. The perfect teen breaks your heart. A young man so close, yet so far away!
Newtown2
John Angell James, a British Pastor in the early 1800s wrote in his book, The Christian Father’s Present to His Children, “But how it would embitter our last moments, and plant our dying pillow with thorns, to leave you on earth in an unconverted state; following us to the grave, but not to heaven. Or should you be called to die before us, how could we sustain the dreadful thought…that the very next moment after you had passed beyond our kind attentions, you would be received to the torments which know neither end nor mitigation? And when you had departed under such circumstances, what could heal our wounds or dry our tears…O! no: they may qualify for earth but not qualify for heaven.”

Charles Spurgeon once wrote this about his mother:

“I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay home with us, and then we sat round the table, and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scriptures for us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading: there was a little piece of Alleine’s Alarm or of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat around the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord.”

“Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is gray. I remember on one occasion, her praying thus, “Now Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience, and stirred my heart.”
…..Spurgeon, Autobiography, The Early Years, Banner of Truth Trust

“My mother said to me once, after she had long prayed for me and had come to the conviction that I was hopeless. “Ah” said she, “My son, if at the last great day you are condemned, remember your mother will say ‘Amen’ to your condemnation.” That stung me to the quick. Must the mother that brought me forth and that loved me say ‘Amen’ to my being condemned at last?’ …….. Spurgeon, “The Chaff Driven Away.” Sermon October 23, 1859

Is the gospel being proclaimed in your home or are you leaving that up to others?

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WHY OUR KIDS DON’T NEED THE “LITTLE g” GOSPEL

Here is a great reminder of preaching the gospel to our children daily and to evaluate what gospel you endorse in your interactions. The article is by Erin Davis at True Woman:

Newtown2 I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

There are all kinds of little “g” gospels. These are messages we preach to ourselves citing the (false) reasons God will surely love and accept us.

  • There’s the gospel of association: “I’m a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home.”
  • There’s the gospel of achievement: “God loves me because I do so much for Him.”
  • There’s the gospel of comparison: “I am holy because I’m not as messed up as she is.”

These are all false gospels. Association, achievement, and comparison will never give us victory over our sin.

But there is another little “g” gospel that is particularly dangerous and tempting as we parent. It’s the gospel of goodness. “God will love me if I am a very, very good boy or girl.”

We preach this gospel to our children when we give them the impression that church is about sitting quietly through a sermon. We do it when we try to spackle over our own junk whenever we head into church or gather with other Christians. We do it when we reduce the Bible down to a list of don’ts. We do it when we believe the lie that parenthood is about raising well-behaved children rather than radicals for Christ.

When Paul wrote this first letter to the church in Corinth, he wanted to get one thing straight—there was only one gospel he cared to preach. It was the only gospel with any power after all. It’s Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way you and your kids can:

  • have power over sin.
  • be reconciled to God.
  • live holy lives in a corrupt and godless generation.
  • be salt and light to your lost neighbors and friends.

The good boy/good girl gospel will never get you or your kids there. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified ever can.

I realize there are levels and ranges of spiritual maturity with our kids and grandkids. I’m not advocating you show your two-year-old The Passion of the Christ or try to explain propitiation to your preschooler. But I think Paul’s creed is a good one: I am here to preach Christ and Him crucified. No little “g” gospel will work instead. The message my children need to hear me preaching most often is that Jesus paid the price for their sin. His love and acceptance of them is not rooted in their ability to be good.

As we seek to influence children who know Christ and ultimately devote our lives to Him, let’s seek to preach the gospel of grace, not goodness.

HT: http://www.truewoman.com/?id=2637

Another Prayer: About Children and Childlikeness

I have had one of those weeks where prayer has been a particular comfort for me. As I think about parenting and families, sometimes turning to prayers gets to be the seemingly only comfort you find at the moment. Here is one that Pastor Scotty Smith wrote:

     People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15-17

     Most welcoming Lord Jesus, there’s no more important or necessary gift we can give our children than to keep on bringing them to you. Whether they’re babies, teenagers or adults, themselves… it makesfamily-praying no difference. At every stage of life, our kids need you, Jesus.

For our children who’ve yet to find life in you… have mercy on them, and bring them to a saving knowledge of yourself, Jesus. They don’t just need to “grow up.” They don’t need religion. They don’t need moral reform. They need the gospel of your grace. Show them how much they need you, and show them how much you love them. Keep them restless until they rest in your complete forgiveness and perfect righteousness. More than we want Harvard for our children, we want heaven.

Jesus, some of us grieve the ways we’ve made the gospel less than beautiful and believable to our children. Forgive us, and show yourself to be the God who’s limited by nothing, including parental self-righteousness. Transcend the ways we’ve “blown it.” But also grant us humility and grace to repent… first before you and then to them. Free us to give our children the gift of our repentance

For our children who know you, but currently seem to have waning or zero interest in you… or even ambivalence or antipathy towards you… here our cry. Restore to them the joy of your salvation. Our confidence is in the our Father’s promise to bring to completion the good work he’s begun in each of us, but Jesus, we cannot afford to be either presumptuous or passive. Work powerfully. Work presently. Work persistently, Jesus, we ask for your name’s sake. Give us patience with their doubts. Give us forbearance in their struggles. Give us grace to welcome prodigals home.

Lastly, Jesus, we ask you to restore us… restore me, to the childlikeness of our early days of knowing you. Free us from childishness, indeed, but renew our hearts in childlike joy, playfulness, gratefulness and simplicity. Our bodies and minds are getting older, but cause our hearts to dance again in the utter and matchless delights of being loved by you. So very Amen, I pray, in your glorious name.

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/

A PRAYER FOR THE MOM WHO IS WORN OUT

Exhausted-MomThe following article and prayer from Christina Fox, http://toshowthemjesus.com/ is hopefully a great encouragement to you moms. I watch my daughter with 6 boys ranging from 6 years old to 15 and feel like a fan at a football game who get exhausted watching a game while there are 22 players doing all the work. Hang in there moms and may God bless you with all the heavenly blessings in Jesus Christ.

Motherhood is both the best job and the also hardest job I’ve ever had. It has brought me great joy and revealed to me a level of love I hadn’t known before. It has also stretched me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve lived on less sleep than should be humanly possible. I’ve even learned more than I care to about bugs, science, and how machines work (two boys will that do that to you). While the physical stretch marks may fade, the ones on my heart are there to stay.

Though the joys are many, there are days when motherhood wears me down to the core. Some days, I’m not even sure I’ll make it through to bedtime. When night time finally does come, my head hits the pillow hard, and I wonder what I accomplished all day. My heart sighs because I know that tomorrow will most likely be a repeat of the same. Because the job is never done, I’ll wake up the next morning to the house still in disarray and mountains of laundry to wash. And based on the sniffles I’ve heard lately, certain illness looms on the horizon.

Some seasons of motherhood feel more intense and exhausting than others. It’s easy to become discouraged by the endless cycle of cleaning up the messes—physical and emotional. Joy sometimes feels like a thing of the past and just out of reach. We can feel isolated and alone. We may question our qualifications to be a mother or think we’ve failed our children.

The truth is, motherhood is hard, and we can’t do it on our own. As John Piper wrote in A Godward Life  “I need help. Always. In everything. I am simply kidding myself if I think I can move an inch without God’s help.” Just as we cannot live without water, we cannot do anything apart from Christ, including motherhood. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

Rather than swim in guilt or wish life were different, we need to go to the Source of our strength, joy, and peace. We need to drink from the living water that only Christ provides. There we’ll find that the truths of the gospel are always within reach, always ready to refresh, remind, and restore.

Jesus died to free us from trying to do life on our own. He came to redeem us from slavery to sin and restore our relationship with the Father. He faced every temptation and sorrow that we face, yet lived a sinless life. The grave could not hold him, guaranteeing a future resurrection for all who trust in Christ. As these truths saturate our thirsty soul, we find the nourishment and strength we so desperately need.

And it’s because of Jesus that we can go before the throne of grace in confidence to find the help we need (Hebrews 4:16). If you are like me and feel tired and worn, this prayer is for you:

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Dear Father in heaven,

I come before you weary and beat down by this long day. Being a mother can be so hard. I often feel helpless and inadequate. Part of me wants to complain, but then I remember the extent to which you were beat down, and I’m struck quiet. I remember that you are the Man of Sorrows and that you understand just how hard life can be. I also remember that you collect all my tears and care about my troubles, trials, and fears.

The Book of Hebrews tells me I can come to you in confidence and find the grace and mercy I need. And so I come to you now to lay all these burdens at your feet. I feel so overwhelmed by the details of life. It seems like I can never get ahead. Just when I clean up one mess, another one pops up somewhere else. Some days I wonder if I’m really cut out for motherhood.

I know I failed to glorify you today. I failed to love as you love me. I failed to extend the grace you’ve given me. Forgive me for striving in my own strength. Forgive me for not finding my complete satisfaction in you and seeking it elsewhere. Each of these failures reminds me of just how much I need a Savior. Today reminds me that I need Jesus more than I did yesterday and that tomorrow I will need him even more.

I’m so thankful that there is so much of you to give. You’re never tired or weary. Even while I sleep, you remain at work. Nothing happens outside your knowledge and will. You’re never stretched beyond what you can handle. And the well of your grace never runs dry.

Because of what Jesus did for me, I ask that you create in me a clean heart. Renew a refreshed spirit within me. Give me gospel strength to get through the day. Open my eyes so that I see your hand at work in the mess of my life. Be my constant in my fluctuating emotions. Keep the gospel ever before me and make it a reality in my daily life as a mother.

I pray that tomorrow you would be with me in all the muck and mire of motherhood. Help me to find my joy in you and not in my circumstances. May I remember that even when it feels otherwise, you are always with me, will never leave me, or forsake me. Tonight I’ll sleep in peace knowing that even when I lose my grip, you never let go of me. And I’ll open my eyes in the morning to find mercy, fresh and new, ready for the taking.

It’s because of Jesus and in Jesus’ name that I pray, amen.

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/

GOT KIDS? Protecting their Heart

In my Sunday school class this past Sunday we took time to talk about wisdom and reaching the child who is living the life of a fool in rebellion. Our bent is to use the book of Proverbs and other sources as tools to modify their behavior and not look to the gospel meaning of God’s Word to reach their heart. To blast them with Scripture will only crush them or harden their heart. Jesus, in speaking to the Jews in John 5: 39, 40 states, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

 To help our children in their rebellion, we need to bring to them words and questions that will reach in their heart and help them see how Christ offers himself as the means to fulfill what they are seeking. It is through the gospel of Jesus Christ that we find reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins and the mercy that is available and possible for both you the parent and for your child. 

 Here are some suggestions on getting to the heart:

  1. Remember that the power of God is Jesus Christ and the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18). A deeper understanding of the cross of Christ is the pathway to the heart. What tends to get in the way of the cross is moralism where thinking that if we just change some behavior, it will obtain the favor of God. This is just the opposite of the gospel where God’s favor is found in what Christ has done, not us. The parent’s task is not just to get your child to act right but is to bring the gift of Jesus Christ to them. Another obstacle is whose desires are they pursuing? We all are motivated to go after what we want but your child (and you) will need help to change those desires to God-centered desires and what God wants.
  2. Avoid the focus in your child’s training on the problem and be helping them see solutions. Problems need to be identified but the gospel brings to us the means of restoration. When solutions are determined, ask your child questions regarding what went right rather than focusing on what went wrong. For example, rather than “How did things go for you?” try “What went well for you today?” If they mention things that did not go well, have them think through some of the solutions they can employ.
  3. Help your child to learn the necessity of repentance and godly sorrow over sin. For the healthy Christian, this is our daily practice. We get to see the power of the cross when through repentance the obstacle of my sin is taken away. Repentance is a work of the Holy Spirit and though an apology may be part of the work of repentance, it is not the totality of it. Repentance is principally the acknowledgement of my sin, the impact of my sin to God and man, and the commitment to turn away from what is offensive to God and to others and move towards restoration. It is a new pathway and is not always a destination.

 Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) in his work, “A Cabinet of Choice Jewels,” wrote, All tears of godly sorrow drop from the eye of faith. Godly sorrow rises and falls – as faith rises and falls. The more a man is able by faith to look upon a pierced Christ – the more his heart will mourn over all the dishonors which he has done to Christ. The more deep and wide the wounds are, which faith shows me in the heart and sides of Christ-the more my heart will be wounded for sinning against Christ.

 

John Angell James and Eternity in View for His Children

John Angell James was a British pastor and author of several books who lived from 1785-1859.  I present this as another motivation to preach the gospel every day to your children. The quotes are from his book “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children. ” He wrote:

AuthorityBut how it would embitter out last moments, and plant our dying pillow with thorns, to leave you on earth in an unconverted state; following us to the grave, but not to heaven. Or should you be called to die before us, how could we sustain the dreadful thought … that the very next moment after you had passed beyond our kind attentions, you would be received to the torments which know neither end nor mitigation? And when you had departed under such circumstances, what could heal our wounds or dry our tears…

What then, my children, are all worldly acquirements and possessions without piety? … Original genius, a vigorous understanding, a well-stored mind, and all this adorned by the most amiable temper and most insinuating address, will neither comfort under trials of life nor save their lovely possessor from the worm that never dies and the fire that is never quenched. O! No: They may qualify for earth but not qualify for heaven.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO GAZE UPON THE BEAUTY OF THE GOSPEL

Newtown2By Tad Thompson, Harvard Ave Baptist Church, Siloam Springs, Arkansas

It is amazing to me that a Christian has to ask this question, “What is the gospel?” This is the one item of truth that ought to become the most crystal clear in our homes and churches. This is why we must never take for granted that our children know the gospel. One of my personal goals for my kids is simply that they are able to articulate the gospel. I not only want them to articulate the gospel, but I want them to be able to articulate the gospel in all of its richness and beauty as presented in the Scripture.

We have a small group ministry as a part of the church I pastor that we call growth teams. One of the exercises we are doing is taking turns sharing our life stories. The point of this sharing is to see how the gospel comes to bear in each of our lives, which helps us learn how to communicate our story in a way that demonstrates the gospel. One of the interesting aspects of this discussion is how various facets of the gospel are amplified in the stories of our people.

For some, the doctrine of adoption is very important because of their difficult upbringings. For others the focus is on the process of sanctification as they were raised in gospel-centered homes and churches. It seems that every story intersects with God’s sovereign design as we can each see how He has divinely orchestrated the events of our lives. We have discovered, in each of our stories, the richness of the gospel.

If we are going to saturate our homes with the gospel, we must learn to gaze upon the Good News in all of its beauty, as a jeweler might gaze upon the facets of a diamond. Below, I list six different facets of the gospel. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it’s a place to start. Think about these truths and begin to meditate on the Scriptures. Look for opportunities to discuss the depths of the gospel with your children.

Sovereignty
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. “ (Ephesians 1:3-12)

Salvation
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:1-9)

Substitution
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14)

Satisfaction
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Sonship
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17)

Sanctification
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-39)

RESCUE: THE FAMILY AND THE GOSPEL

I began class with the overview that was posted yesterday. Then it is important that vocabulary be clarified and two terms that must be understood are the terms “gospel” and “gospel-centered.” Today I will clarify the word gospel and tomorrow what a “gospel-centered family” means.

As far as the proclamation of the gospel, I would invite you to click the link at the top of the page here, “The Gospel” This is a clear presentation of the good news that addresses the bad news. In class I shared the gospel in terms of the biblical story of creation, fall, redemption and consummation. It is sharing the gospel as a unified, coherent narrative of God’s Word and his ongoing work within his kingdom. After God had created the world, and after human rebellion had marred it, God set out to restore what he had made: God did not turn his back on a world bent on destruction; he turned his face toward it in love. He set out on the long road of redemption to restore the lost as his people and the world as his kingdom. The Bible narrates the story of God’s journey on the road of redemption. It is a unified and progressively unfolding drama of God’s action in history and our salvation. The Bible is not a mere jumble of history, poetry, lessons in morality and theology, comforting promises, guiding principles and commands; it is fundamentally coherent. Every part of the Bible-each event, book, character, command, prophecy and poem-must be understood in the context of the one storyline.

For learning how the Bible impacts us as a family, we have to avoid reading the Bible as if it were merely a mosaic of little bits-theological bits, moral bits, historical-critical bits, sermon bits, and devotional bits. To read the Bible in such a fragmented way is to ignore its divine author’s intention to shape our lives through its story. If we allow the Bible to become fragmented, it is in danger of being absorbed into whatever other story is shaping our family, and will thus cease to shape our lives as it should. The dominant cultural story of the secular Western world has been twisted by idolatry. If as believers we allow this story (rather than the Bible) to become the foundation of our thought and action, then our lives will manifest not the truths of scripture, but the lies of an idolatrous culture. Thus the unity of Scripture is no minor matter: a fragmented Bible may produce theologically orthodox, morally upright, warmly pious idol worshippers!

(I must give credit to Craig Bartholomew and his book “The Drama of Scripture” for some of the description of the gospel storyline)

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “GOSPEL-CENTERED?”

In articles to come, a term I am likely to use often is “gospel-centered” which will be descriptive of life, parenting, marriage, and ministry. It will be helpful to define this up front and why I would use this rather than terms like “biblical” or “Christian.”

To start, the term gospel needs to be clear. In a sentence, Paul states it best in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” It is the good news that God, by his grace, has provided redemption to a fallen world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For a more detailed description, see the tab “The Gospel” at the top of this website.

To be gospel-centered then is take the gospel message and the object of the gospel, Jesus Christ, and center on it our hope, our joy, and passions. It is to make the gospel of first importance over the way I parent, be a husband, and the way I deal with the joys and the trials of life.

Making the message of the gospel central protects me from depending upon any religious performance as a means of thinking I am meriting favor with God and it protects me from being seduced by idols. It helps me as a parent to guide my children by nurturing and disciplining them from the perspective that they are sinners needing guidance and grace just as I do. I can love my wife like Christ loves the church because daily I experience such love as one pledged to Christ. I can live a gospel-centered life because my identity is found in the perfect obedience of Christ, my standing before God is based on Christ’s death for my sins, and my living is shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel is not just a message for unbelievers to be saved but is the basis of the storyline of Scripture and brings meaning to every aspect of our lives here and is the focus of the life to come. In other words, to be gospel-centered is to recognize that the gospel is the basis of meaning to everything.