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Resources for Gospel Centrality

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As I’ve grown over the last 25 years as a Chrsitain, I’ve watched various doctrines or beliefs change how I see God, myself, and, well really everything. For instance, Learning of God’s sovereignty changed how I saw salvation, suffering, my marriage, and even my anxiety. God’s hospitality to outsiders edited how I evangelized, and prayed. Of all the shifts in my theology however, none created as much of a sea change as the centrality of the gospel for all of living. 

 Before 2009, I believed that the gospel was the power of God to save those who trusted themselves to it, but that was as far as it could reach. Once day 2 came, the same powerful gospel wasn’t useful for my marriage, anger, or financial giving - just evangelism. After 2009, God was kind to me in showing me more of the “length, depth, breadth and width” of the gospel for my every day. I now saw racism and sex through the eyes of the gospel. I saw sleep and work through the prism of the gospel. Even enjoying food and music was altered by the deep reach of the gospel. 

 Certainly, God used key passages to accomplish this. I’d read, meditate, and the Holy Spirit would quicken the truth in my heart of hearts. Passages like the Prodigal Son or Paul reminding the Corinthian church to re-centralize the gospel, and even Jesus telling the Ephesians to return to the gospel. I also had books by men who were ahead of me in the same path. I grew through their writing to see the various shades and hear the various chords of the same true and great story. I grew through this story applied to everything from evangelism to church planting. 

 I read and re-read these books and thought it helpful to line them out for you. If you were to build a small library, start with these books. Read them slowly, take notes, interact with them. When they cite passages, go the the Bible and follow along. When you finish, type up a book report (yup, just like in middle school). Develop a robust theology on how the gospel is the best story ever told - the story we’ve received, stand in, and carry with us. 

 In somewhat of a vague order...

  • The Gospel Transformation Bible
  • The Explicit Gospel, Chandler & Wilson
  • Gospel Deeps, Wilson
  • The Gospel, Ortlund
  • Gospel Fluency, Vandersteldt
  • The Transforming Power of the Gospel, Bridges
  • The Unbelievable Gospel, Dodson
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible, Lloyd-Jones
  • Note to Self, Thorn
  • The Gospel for Real Life, Bridges
  • The Gospel as Center, Carson & Keller
  • Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, Piper
  • The Return of The Prodigal Son, Nouwen
  • The Pursuit of Holiness, Bridges

 I hope these help. Feel free to leave a comment below regarding titles I may have missed. I’m still building my gospel library until Jesus comes to renew everything and bring home to us. 

Posted by Luke Thomas with
Tags: books, gospel

Naked and Exposed

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During our evening meal the other day, my son, Charles Isaac said to me, "I can't imagine you having hair on your head!"  

I have no idea why we were discussing my baldness, but we were. This made me realize that "bald dad" is the only dad that he has ever known. He doesn't know anything about the glory days of my follicles. It is true, I have not always been a bald man. I once had long, majestic, flowing beautiful hair that I shampooed, conditioned, and brushed with loving care. Nowadays, I just rub a bar of cheap soap on my head, and shave the rebel stragglers who do not realize that they lost the war. The Fabio look is just not in the cards for me at this age of my life. I probably more closely resemble John Malkovich. 


Being bald has its unique challenges. When I go to a store with my wife, I always gravitate to the hat section. My head needs to be protected from the elements. In the winter, a hat or toboggan is not a fashion statement, it is a basic survival tool. In the summer, I cover my head with a straw hat to protect it from the sun, yet give it access to the cool breeze. Sometimes, I resort to slathering it with sunscreen to guard against damaging ultraviolet rays. 


We all attempt to protect and cover ourselves in a different way. The writer of Hebrews said "...all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." 


When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid behind the trees of the garden. God already knew that they were naked, and that they disobeyed Him. The trees were not accomplishing the goal that Adam had in mind. We are already naked and open to God, but God wants us to realize this, and come out into the open. He wants us to stop standing behind the trees that he made and be honest with him about our hearts. Just as He did to Adam and Eve, He now asks the same questions of us: "What have you done? Where are you?" 


Where are you? Where is your heart? When God asks us, we do that same thing our ancestors did. We hide behind the things that He created. 


God knows this about us and provided an answer. He incarnated His perfect Son, Jesus to die in our place. That's the good news. If you have heard this before, don't tune out on me now. Listen. 


Why is it good news? Because once we see that the cross has already exposed us for who we are, we can stop hiding. God knows that we have all sinned. Not only that, all other people, whether they be Christians or not, know that we all have sinned. Just ask them. Oh, they may use different verbiage. They may say: "Nobody's perfect. We all make mistakes". That's just another way of saying, "I acknowledge that we all fall short of God's glory". 


So how does this pertain to your day to day life?   


If you didn't fall short, it wouldn't make sense for God to send His flawless Son to die in your place. It's not a secret. You sin. You have sinned in the past. You sin now. You will sin until the day that you die. So why hide? The good news gives us freedom to come out from behind the trees & confess to God. When we do that, God continues to cover us with something that works - the gospel. It also gives us freedom to be honest with those that we are in community with, with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our brothers and sisters can pray for us, encourage us and help us because they realize they are right there with you - saved by grace. We are saved from the embarrassing attempt to cover up the truth with our pitiful, anemic lies.  


My son doesn't know everything about me, even though He has known me all of his life. The problem is, he hasn't known me for all of my life. God, on the other hand, has always known us. Before we were conceived in the womb, He knew everything. Before anything in creation was created by Him, He knew it all. He foresaw our lives, and He knew that we would sin. He knows how many hairs are on your head. If you counted one star in our universe every second, it would take you 12,500 years to count them all. He knows how many stars there are, and He knows everything about them, things that mankind will never know. 


So be honest with the Lord when you pray. As you do, His grace will become bigger in your eyes, and His power will slowly, over time, help you to sin less. Be honest with the Christian friends that you trust. They may not handle it perfectly, but if they are true, they will falteringly and humbly try to lead you again and again to this amazing grace that we share.