Gospel-Centered Discipleship is a mix of gospel theology, personal story, and discipleship practice…and I think it works! My wife has been making fun of me all week because I’ve been sitting around the house reading my own book (making noises while I read). Weird, I know, but there really is something to stepping back from a staggered, creative process and taking in the whole for the very first time.

Jesus Frees Us to Be Ourselves

The gospel frees me to enjoy reading my own book, provided I don’t enjoy it inordinately. It frees all of us to be authentic ourselves in Jesus (a theme I discuss in chapter 3). Upon conversion, Jesus does not replace us with an otherworldly version of ourselves. Instead, he renews our existing self, which is why all Christians should not look the same. Jesus didn’t die to make hyper-religious versions of our former selves. Rather, he rose to renew our existing selves with resurrection life. Jesus wakes us up from the dead, so to speak, so that we can truly live the way he made us to be. The gospel injects our personality and gifting with steroid-like grace. The more we take it in, the more our true selves are liberated to live a whole life wholly under the reign of Jesus.

Integrating Divided Things in Discipleship

Living a whole life wholly by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord is integrated discipleship (chapter 1). When the gospel is central in life, it integrates things that we typically keep divided in Christianity. Holiness and mission, worship and vocation, church and craft come together when our faith is in Jesus Christ as Lord. (This does not mean that everything should be explicitly Christian.) As Lord, Jesus reigns over every sphere of life, calling disciples to honor him with everything, not just “spiritual” things. As Christ, he forgives us for our every failure in any sphere of life, and calls us to press on in a very public obedience. The gospel does not permit an inauthentic division between “work” life and “church” life because it reminds us that Jesus is Lord over all of life.

This means that things like writing, music making, art, business, mothering, crafting, sports, teaching, technology, and product creation can take on a more meaningful role in our discipleship. Faith in Jesus does not mean we should abandon the things we love to do. As disciples, we don’t have to make excuses for the things we love; rather, we get to run them through grace in the service of God. We learn how to worship with them not without them (nor should we worship them). The gospel also teaches us to take our faith out of what we love, and from our faith in his love, use what we love for Him. This should not translate into cheap, Christian art or proselytizing instead of working. Rather, it should motivate art and work that stands out, reminiscent of the excellence and beauty of Christ.

If it is true that Jesus is Lord of all creation, and that he has made us for a very public obedience and devotion in every sphere of life, then disciples should be among some of the most vibrant, creative, excelling, joyful people in the world.

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Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. Dodson has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others.