Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Part 1: Gospel-centred change

Imagine yourself in a change room in a women’s clothing store. There is a bit of a queue forming and only two stalls. One of the women using one of the stalls comes out wearing one of her selections. She stands looking at herself in the mirror for several minutes. Focussed. Unflinching. Refusing to acknowledge that there is a queue of people waiting. She goes back into the stall, comes out with another selection and repeats the process, all the while the queue growing and patience diminishing.

In your thought life, in your emotional life, in the things you spend your time doing, who is at the centre? Where is your gaze directed?

Gospel-centred Life shows us for what we are and looks at how the gospel, placed where it should be at the centre of our lives, should shape our focus. Not on ourselves, but on Christ. The first part of the book examines the ways in which the gospel changes us for a life for God and others and a life of change and miracles.

It was good to think about what I was and what I still tend towards. I am prone to standing in front of the mirror (while a literal case can be made, I’m meaning more metaphorically here). It is all too easy to allow to creep into my life and my thinking a priority and focus on myself. Social media, print and television media, advertising, shopping centre architecture all propel me towards a resolute, unflinching gaze in the mirror. And like Ovid’s Narcissus, this form of self-love will only lead to death.

Timmis and Chester helpfully direct my gaze towards Christ: “If my life is primarily about me, then Christianity is substantially less than the inside-out, upside-down revolution that Christ died to achieve. Jesus promised that the truth would set us free. In breaking the hold of sin in our lives, He has done precisely that. Loving self is the cruellest of all slaveries: it promises everything and delivers nothing. Loving God and others is the most liberating of all freedoms: it promises everything and gives us more than we can ever imagine.” (p. 15)

Hebrews 12:1-2 directs my gaze not to myself, but to Christ. It smashes the mirror. There is no room for such passivity when we are to “run with endurance the race that lies before us”.

So, how will this focus shape me TODAY? How will seeking God’s glory and the needs of others impact on what I think, speak, do? Well, this week it is praying and striving to be someone who forgives and forgives and forgives. To be generous towards others as my heavenly Father has been generous towards me.

This month is a little different for EQUIP bookclub as we’re looking at three books instead of one. While we’ll focus on Gospel-centred Life, we’ll also be road-testing Gospel-centred Family and having a brief look at Gospel-centred Marriage.

Gospel-centred Life is short. It is also simple (deceptively so), with its conversational tone and easy-to-read format. But in attempting to convey (often complex) gospel truths in a simple manner, means that questions are inevitably raised which, because of the condensed form, are either treated superficially or left unanswered. Despite this I felt that in its pithiness the book was able to focus the reader in on some very important things and say them clearly.

Last year I read Gospel-centred Family and loved it for it’s pithy focus on how the gospel should and can impact family life, moving from principle to practical example. So I was quite excited to read Gospel-centred Life. Although not as ground-breaking for me as Gospel-centred Family it is an important book, dealing with things that all Christians should know. My impression is that it would be a great book to give to a new Christian.

About this month’s contributor: Siân likes reading and loves God.

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