The following is an excerpt from Jared Wilson’s recently published book, Gospel Wakefulness.
One of the marks of gospel wakefulness is the failure of anything else to thrill the soul like the gospel. When the heart treasures Christ and savors his power, sin grows bitter. Even good gifts that God made delicious recede to their proper flavors. Good things we have made “god things” don’t cease to be good; in fact, they continue to provide pleasures and satisfactions, but they keep their proper functions and blessings, in service to the common grace the God of glory ascribes them.
Signs You are Not Awakened to the Gospel
The purpose of Gospel Wakefulness is not to shake your assurance but to bolster it, and in doing so to invite you deeper into your own spiritual brokenness to find the glistening diamond-riddled cave of the gospel treasure. Nevertheless, allow me the tender ministry of pressing on your assurance like a doctor would a troublesome extremity. Allow the application of a diagnostic test. The Scriptures do tell us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, so the aim of this diagnostic is not to shake your foundation, but to shake off whatever might not be of God that has been erected upon it. Some signs you have not experienced gospel wakefulness:
- The gospel doesn’t interest you—or it does, but not as much as other religious subjects.
- You take nearly everything personally.
- You frequently worry about what other people think.
- You treat inconveniences like minor (or major) tragedies
- You are impatient with people.
- In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in
- your life (Gal. 5:22–23).
- The Word of God holds little interest.
- You have great difficulty forgiving.
- You are told frequently by a spouse, close friend, or other family members that you are too “clingy” or too controlling.
- You think someone besides yourself is the worst sinner you know.
- The idea of gospel centrality makes no sense to you.
That last diagnostic question raises what I call the “catch-22” of gospel centrality.
As a pastor I am frequently faced with questions, either from curious people or from temptation from the Devil, about the durability of the gospel week in and week out. It is the centerpiece of my preaching, the central theme of my ministry, the heart of my life, and the joy of my tongue and pen. Occasionally I am faced with this question: can it not get worn out from all that use?
Here is the catch-22 of gospel centrality: whether one “gets it” or not, the prescription for preaching and all of life is still the gospel. The critic of the one-note Johnnyism of gospel centrality just doesn’t get it. But the gospel is versatile enough for those who do and don’t. And there’s the
awesomeness of the gospel-centered life! Those who haven’t yet experienced gospel wakefulness can only do so by hearing the gospel, and those who have experienced gospel wakefulness don’t tire of hearing it!
Either way, the gospel is the answer.
The Beautiful Monotony of the Gospel
As I have said, one sign you are gospel wakened is the recurring newness of the gospel to you, the lack of gospel fatigue you experience. Gospel wakefulness creates a constant state of awe about the gospel.
One fear pastors like me must put aside in our quest for greater gospel centrality is that it will not preach week to week. The enemy and our own flesh will test our commitment with this “plausible argument” (Col. 2:4), that the gospel will just sound so one-note. We are tempted to think the repetition will have the unintended effect of boring people or making the gospel appear routine and commonplace.
But the gospel is resilient. It is miraculously versatile. It proves itself every day for those awake to it. Because it is the antidote for all sin of all people, power effectual for all types of people no matter their background or circumstance, it is God’s might to save every millisecond and therefore every Sunday.
Perhaps we’ll sound like a broken record. It’s true the gospel is one song. But it is a song with many notes. The news is the same, but some of the words may change and the angles shift. (Use a thesaurus if you have to.) If we are awake to the gospel and seek the wakefulness of others, Christian and non-Christian, the playing of the greatest song at every instance is a lot like the exuberance of childlike wonder in monotonous fun. In his classic work Orthodoxy, the great G. K. Chesterton writes:
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce
and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always
say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly
dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that
God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it
again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies
alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got
tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy;
for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.*
When we “get” the gospel for what it really is—the power to save, the most thrilling news there could be, the declaration that God’s Son died for us and then came back to life to be the risen Lord and supreme King of the universe, achieving for us not just the entry fee for heaven but the currency for all of life—we revel in the new creation it unleashes in its wake at every turn. We never get tired of hearing it. It’s the new song that never gets old. “Play it again, play it again!” we will cry.
God is strong enough to bear the monotony of our daily sin; he has placed that burden on his Son, who bore it obediently and sacrificially, who took it to the cross and killed it, covering all debts for us, public and private, from the foundation of the world until the streaming nightless days of eternity. With such freedom, gospel-wakened people have been given the strength to exult in the beautiful monotony of the gospel.
The further good news is that those who are dulled in their senses will not be further dulled by the gospel. In fact, only the gospel can deliver them from their dulled state. The gospel renews our affections to embrace the God-centered life.
So I am eager to preach the gospel to you . . . (Rom. 1:15)
*Gilbert K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane, 1908), 108–9.
Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. He is an award-winning author whose articles and short stories have appeared in a number of periodicals, and has written the popular books Your Jesus Is Too Safe and Gospel Wakefulness, as well as the curriculum Abide. Wilson lives in Vermont with his wife and two daughters, and blogs daily at GospelDrivenChurch.com.