Providing gospel-centered resources to mobilize the church for global orphan care.

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That’s become one of the pressing question of the 21st century, at least in modern evangelicalism. Truck loads of ink have been spilt in attempts to answer this question and the blood pressure of many has risen as discussions, sometime heated ones, have ensued.

“And,” you may wonder, “what’s Gospel-centeredness have to do with adoption?” Great question.

Historically, the Sunday School answer to a question like this would have been “Jesus.” Although a 5-year old sitting quietly in a Sunday school classroom may not realize it, her “Jesus” answer is profound beyond her years—even beyond our years!

Here’s one way I answer the question about what Gospel-centered is and also about how it relates to adoption.

When God began to form and shape creation at the beginning, He began with the words,

“Let there be…”

“Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).
“Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1:6).
“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear” (Genesis 1:9).

And so on.

But on the 6th day of creation, the climactic day, God did not say, “Let there be man.” Rather, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27). God changed His modus operandi. Why did God do that? Because something utterly one-of-a-kind-unique took place on that day. The 6th day was a day of cosmic significance.

The Triune God’s first word to man was not to man at all. It was actually a word about man that He spoke to Himself—His-Triune being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until after God had formed man from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) that He actually spoke to him.

God created man and then, and only then, did He speak to him. It’s from that point onward that God spoke to man and man enjoyed fellowship with God. This was the way life was supposed to be. Man’s life in Eden as the steward of earth was to be heaven on earth.

But then man did the unthinkable. He rejected God’s good word, he disbelieved it, and the result was catastrophic. All of creation was then subjected to the bondage of futility.

Yes, God did subsequently raise up the occasional man or woman who would listen to His word (Abel, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Moses, Aaron, Rahab, David, Solomon, etc). But even these men and women disbelieved God’s word at crucial junctures. All of them ultimately failed to be people who unfailingly and unceasingly “walked not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of scoffers; but whose delight was in the law of the Lord, and on his law meditated day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

If we are honest, that’s horrifically bad news. Psalm 1 begins with the words, “Blessed is the man who” happens to live this way unfailingly and unceasingly. Relatively speaking, many people do separate themselves from the world’s value system (Psalm 1:1) and delight in God’s instruction (Psalm 1:2). But no one, and I mean no one, does it as man was meant to do it. We all fall miserably short. Damnably short.

But here’s the good news; and there’s no better news in all the universe of existence.

In Jesus, who is fully God and fully man in one Person, we find God’s word to man and man’s perfect and faithful response to that word for us. The Gospel is centered in Jesus because in him we find God’s word to man and man’s perfect response to that word in our place. The Son of God did not become a man for himself. He became a man for us and for the glory of the Father who does all things well. If you think about it, there’s no other way to really frame gospel-centeredness. To be gospel-centered, then, is to look to Jesus, trust Jesus, depend on Jesus, live to and from Jesus, because he is the one who in his very Person is both God’s word to us and our response to God.

Ultimately, to be gospel-centered, then, is to be in union with Jesus by the Spirit through faith in Jesus. This is where the connection between adoption, union with Christ, and gospel-centeredness begin to come into view. In Ephesians 1:5, Paul writes that we have been predestined “for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,” and then in the very next verse he informs us that this blessing of adoption was given to us “in the Beloved.” If we look at these two verses together, we learn that adoption is the placement of a son in the Son. Adoption is the God-ordained link between non-gospel-centeredness and true gospel-centeredness.

The sum of it all is that to be gospel-centered is to be in union with Jesus, who alone is truly and fully and eternally gospel-centered for us. All our gospel-centered talk, then, should focus more on who Jesus is for us and who we are gradually and progressively becoming in him because of our family-relation to him. That, to me, is true gospel-centeredness. Jesus is the Gospel in his own Person.
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To learn more about this perspective on gospel-centeredness, read Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father or attend our October 21-22 conference in Phoenix. Conference Theme: Missional Living, the Gospel and Orphan Care.

  • http://twitter.com/JordanAMogck Jordan Mogck

    Thanks Dan! So often the phrase ‘gospel-centered’ ends up fragmenting the Church by deeming certain segments of the Church “more” gospel-centered or “less” gospel-centered. When, really, it is much more of an integrated, over-arching “status-deed” that is either a present quality, or not. And in the Church, it is present.

    I am with you in that family is the best paradigm for understanding it. I think John 15 really gets at how abiding (or gospel-centeredness) is a “status-deed” that makes a lot of sense in a familial paradigm.

    Family is part status
    I belong to the Mogck family simply because I have been deemed a Mogck by the Mogcks. I didn’t have anything to do with this. Nor can I escape it within any rational means. I am in the Mogck family.

    “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you.” (John 15:3)

    Family is also partly functional
    I am a Mogck because I have tendencies which I share with other Mogcks. I also had little to do with this; although, more so than the name thing. Somewhere along the line, I observed my family’s behaviors and began internalizing and exhibiting some of them. In other words, the Mogck family is in me.

    “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:5,8)

  • Anonymous

    Great points, Jordan! Thanks for adding them.

  • Pingback: What is Gospel-Centeredness? That’s the Question | The Gospel Centered Life


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