I just finished reading When Sinners Say, 'I Do' by Dave Harvey. It is excellent (Tim Challies reviews it here). The subtitle is, Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. I am so thankful that there are new books and messages out there that are Gospel driven and that old cross-centered resources are finding a new audience among many people in evangelical churches who are weary of the essentially secular approach that many churches and groups have adopted.
I have certainly experienced a dissatisfaction with conferences, leadership events and pastors that don't seem to appreciate the centrality of the Gospel for every day. I try to have a good attitude, but when Christian books, events and programs don't look to grace to justify their purpose, they come off flat and shallow. For instance, a few of our men at church went with me to a leadership weekend a few years back. The presenter spent most of his time quoting from secular business books and dropping names of movers and shakers in the corporate world. There was very little Bible, and we didn't hear about anything in that retreat that only God could do (i.e., grace).
The same applies to various aspects of evangelicalism today; church growth, Christian counselling, parenting and marriage seminars and other aspects of Christian life are based on what we do rather than what only God can do. Secular models are borrowed and the Bible is set to the side (or a few proof-texts are pulled out). So many Christians need reform - a paradigm shift, a Copernican revolution.
In his message on the Gospel at the first meeting of The Gospel Coalition, Don Carson identified the problem as a misunderstanding of what the Gospel really is. He said that many believers think that the Gospel is for "tipping people into the Kingdom" and then it is left behind and the focus shifts to what we do. That is not good. The gospel must be central for all of life. As Jerry Bridges says, "preach the gospel to yourself every day" (if you haven't read any Jerry Bridges' books, or if you've just read, The Pursuit of Holiness, find and read The Discipline of Grace).
One critical passage on this theme is Galatians 3:1-3. The Galatians were "foolish" and "bewitched" because, after starting with grace through faith, they began to rely on human effort. Another key text is Titus 2:11-13 (which Dave Harvey unpacks in his book). The grace of God is operative in training us until the day we see Christ face-to-face.
Declaring this Gospel - from the pulpit and among non-believers - is the absolute center of true Christian life. Dave Harvey calls this "persistent grace to run the race." I love that phrase and I plan to swipe it.
Not everyone in my Fellowship of churches, not all the pastors in our Edson ministerial, not all the people in my my church get this concept yet. It is only by a revolution wrought by the Holy Spirit that we will get the Gospel in this comprehensive manner for all of life. I'm going to keep on promoting the gospel by preaching, teaching, recommending great books and messages and hammering away on this theme on my blog.
Thanks, Pastor Dave, for your book and that great phrase, "persistent grace to run the race."