Maybe you’ve come across the term “gospel-centered” recently. And maybe this term makes sense to you, but maybe it needs more explanation. So here are at least 2 things we mean when we use this term:
First, the gospel defines our identity. Through Jesus, our identity is based on what God says about us and no longer by what our past says about us. Apart from Christ, our identity is rooted in our sinful nature. In other words, before a person is reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, they are defined by their sin; their problems shape their personhood. But when a person is made right with God through faith in Jesus, their sin is forgiven and removed, and their sinful nature is transformed.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
When a person becomes a Christian, their identity is permanently changed. They are no longer defined by their problems (sin), but by God’s grace. They are no longer the “product” of their past, but the “workmanship” of God (Ephesians 2:10). They are who God says they are.
Second, the gospel changes our community. Because Jesus has removed the guilt, shame and power of our sin, we can now share our lives with one another without fear of being exposed and rejected. If God knows everything about us and still chooses to love us, then we have no reason to hide from others; we can now live in lasting community with others.
This means that we can be honest with each other because we know that we are accepted completely, not because of our morality, but because of the common identity we now have in Jesus. We can bear with one another because our love is not conditioned on our perfect performance, but on Jesus’ perfect performance. We can have peace and unity because anything that could possibly keep us apart has been emptied of its divisive power through the cross. There is literally nothing that can keep us apart from each other, because nothing can keep us apart from Jesus.
So when we say gospel-centered, we mean that at the center of how we understand our identity and community is the cross. This fundamental truth, that God accepts sinners through Jesus, is the basis upon which we deal with our pasts and move forward together.