The dominant mode of evangelical preaching on sanctification, the main way to motivate for godly living, sounds something like this:
You are not _____;
You should be _________;
Therefore, do or be ________!
Fill in the blank with anything good and biblical (holy; salt and light; feed the poor; walk humbly; give generously; etc.).
This is not how Paul and the other New Testament writers motivated the church in light of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did give imperatives (=what you should do), but they do so only based on indicatives (=what God has done).
The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that “imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities” (to quote Tullian Tchividjian). Or another way that Tullian puts it: “gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.”
Yes. This is crucial for anyone aspiring to gospel-centered teaching and preaching, and to anyone aspiring to gospel-centered ministry, from how we teach our children Bible stories and Bible lessons to how we "gospel" each other in small groups and classes.
Last weekend I had the great privilege and blessing of speaking to youth pastors, youth workers, and youth themselves at The Calling conference in Auburn, Maine. In a morning session, I preached to impress the importance of gospel-centrality for all of life, and therefore all of ministry. In the afternoon session, I preached a message called "The Empowering Gospel," in which I spoke from this thesis: the gospel empowers its own implications.
In this message I preached against sin -- specifically, pornography and a catch-all I called "superficiality" -- and I cast a vision and issued a call for ministry, mission, and church planting in New England, but I endeavored to do so by appealing to Christ's finished work and the believer's new identity in Christ, not by leveraging by means of law or guilt.
You can listen to this message here.
I think this gospel truth -- again, that the gospel empowers its own implications -- is really, really important. It's something I am also exploring and celebrating in my current book project.
The Gospel Empowering Its Own Implications is Poetry
Apply the Gospel to Everything