(This post was originally published on the Baptist Convention of New England’s blog on August 21, 2019. You can find it here.)
Martin Luther was a 16th century German cowboy with a one-trick pony called “Gospel.” Utterly obsessed with the subject, this firebrand monk once wrote that “the truth of the gospel is the principal article of all Christian doctrine . . . Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” If you went to dinner with this guy, you could depend on coming away with a greater sense of why Jesus matters.
Despite the intervening few hundred years, modern believers are called to be cowboys (and cowgirls) with just such one-trick ponies, constantly circling back around to the gospel. In a world teeming with problems crying out to be addressed, no other solution applies as widely, profoundly, effectively, or forcefully as the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
All of the self-help strategies available at our fingertips, though, can tempt us to think that the gospel lacks a certain kind of luster by comparison. It’s old and dusty—there’s just no pizzazz. So redemption and atonement are shoved aside for shinier concepts like positive affirmations or visualizing success. Sure, the gospel alone can save a soul, but after that, shouldn’t we be able to anticipate smooth sailing through a secular world on a secular ship?
This mindset springs from a misunderstanding of the vastness and goodness of our news.
To borrow an idea from St. Augustine, the gospel is deep enough for an elephant to swim, yet shallow enough for a child not to drown. Centering our entire existence on the person and work of Jesus couldn’t possibly get boring; it’s where we come alive, what fills us with hope-saturated energy. There’s always more to discover and to praise the Lord for here at His feet. Without exception, every single human issue has a gospel component, and to overlook such a treasure trove of resources would be an absurd waste of a life.
Paul, another one-trick-pony man, resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Why do we assume we can form the cross into a cherry on top of a pile of other things worth knowing? Classes and podcasts and books and blog posts and conferences and trainings tout fix-alls at every turn. You’re in debt? No need to look for potential idols at play. Here’s a budget. Hurting after a breakup? Who needs God’s thoughts about you? Girl, just wash your face. Whether you’re dealing with a relational, psychological, physical, spiritual, financial, emotional, sexual, intellectual, societal, or personal issue, the gospel is the linchpin of any lasting cure.
Take another ride around that arena on your one-trick pony. Fix your eyes afresh on the cross and let it speak to whatever wounds you carry, whatever questions you’ve been afraid to ask, whatever bondage that won’t let go. The more extensively you put it to work in your own life, the more easily you’ll be able to apply it to the needs of others. Goodness knows the world could use some more gospel cowboys. Saddle up!