When in the midst of counseling, focused discipleship, sermon prep, or a weighty time of confession with another follower of Christ – if you are anything like me – a moment rises to the surface and you think, "What do I say?" or "What do they need to hear?" or “How do I bring this to the gospel?"
In comes the Gospel Grid. The grid covers four M's:
Working through the grid helps keep the ball rolling by providing a track for your words. And it helps the conversation come back to particular truths and encouragements from the gospel again and again.
1. Gospel Message -- What needs to be heard?
The gospel is a word with many words. It's a message, a proclamation of truth. Here we ask ourselves the question, "What do they need to hear?" Volumes could be said, but what will be particularly helpful to this situation and to their heart?
In Message, we are appealing to the earth shattering, veil-tearing truths of our gospel identity. Remind people that they are:
- New creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Freed from sin (Galatians 5:1)
- Adopted (Romans 8:15)
- Forgiven (1 John 2:12)
- Loved (Romans 5:8)
Before cooking up a slab of good advice, put the good news on the grill and watch the aroma of Christ fill the room. If we are diligent to remind the saints that the Son of God suffered in their place, not begrudgingly, but with joy, to forgive them of this sin – joy is not far away. Gospel focus will harp on belief before behavior. Good news before good advice. Beholding before behaving.
Remind people of Jesus' identity. It is vital to think rightly of Jesus. Without him, we can’t think rightly of ourselves.
Jesus is our friend and our Lord. He is the Cosmic King, and he’s closer than our skin. We ought to fear him, but should never be afraid of him. The gospel is meant to humble us. And part of the gospel is the glory due Jesus. The glory of Christ needs to take hearts and minds hostage. Jesus is to be exalted over all things in our lives. We have not been given names at which every knee will bow (Philippians 2:9-11).
Gospel-centered discipleship should always resound with the person and work of Jesus. No one can hear too often that Jesus is our great God and Savior, he has made us his people, and he is purifying us for his glory and our good (Titus 2:13-14).
I’ll never forget hearing another pastor confess pain and heart ache to Ray Ortlund. Ray looked into his eyes and began with, “Brother, Jesus loves you.” Powerful.
2) Gospel Motivation -- What needs to be done and why?
Message focuses on right thinking. Motivation hones in on right doing for the right reasons. Here we are asking the question, "What needs to be done?” in accordance with a gospel-driven motive.
Do they need to go ask someone for forgiveness? Do they need to forgive? The gospel compels us to seek and grant forgiveness with one another as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). Confession and repentance is essential in all discipleship, but especially if we want to be gospel-centered.
What sin(s) need to be brought the chopping block of mortification? The gospel reveals to us that we are no longer our own, but that we belong to Jesus. And now we make it our aim to honor and please him (1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:9). Encourage them to flee sin, not simply to avoid getting in trouble, but to enjoy God and glorify Jesus.
I’ve heard Christians say, “I’m waiting to be freed/released/saved from ______.” The satanic forces conjured up that formula. Christians are not waiting to be freed sin. Here’s why – a man from Galilee once screamed, “It is finished.”
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:6-14)
So why should we flee sin? We’ve been brought from death the life. Why won’t sin bully us any longer? We’re under grace. The chains don’t need re-breaking. We need renewed minds (Romans 12:1-2).
Cultivate Good Works
In discipleship, it is common to focus on the things we shouldn’t do – but gospel soaked discipleship also explains what we should do.
Encourage disciples to flee sin – yes and amen! – and invite them to the good works that Jesus has prepared (Ephesians 2:10). What was Jesus’ motivation in his life and ministry? “Hallowed be your name…” Ours? “Hallowed be your name.” And through their serving “God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
Ask the disciple if there is someone to serve as they have been served? Is there someone to go and encourage? Are they living on mission with a passion to see others worship Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
Gospel motivation seeks to mortify sin and cultivate good works with a constant gaze on the person and work of Jesus, “to let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
3) Gospel Model -- How should it be done?
Here we focus on attitudes, tones, postures, and the heart. The gospel gives the reason (motivation) and the rhythm (model).
How should a husband and wife relate? In accordance with the model God provides in the gospel – Jesus and his Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Is the disciple pursuing community with the people that God obtained with his blood (Acts 20:28)? Jesus didn’t only buy people; he bought a people, a body, The Church.
Are they practicing humility in all corners of life? Jesus is the definition of humility. Philippians 2:1-11 extols the striking humility of Jesus; and that Christians should “have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus [emphasis added] (v.5).”
All Christian virtue is modeled and made known to us by the person and work of Jesus. If we want to be more loving, humble, and selfless – there is nowhere better to look than the cross (John 15:13).
The Proverbs are a wonderful, but often abused, section of Holy Scripture. They are more than quick-and-witty tips to living right. The Proverbs are details into the life of Jesus, who is our Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30), that we can now live because of Jesus.
4) Gospel Means -- How will it be done?
Up to this point everything sounds all fine and dandy, but a question looms. The disciple will wonder it – you’ve thought it too. “How am I going to change and do all this? I fail often. I struggle. I want to change and grow but my goodness – this seems beyond me.”
Assure them, “You are right. This is beyond you – way beyond you. But not Jesus.”
We cannot forget our gospel means. Without this truth, our discipleship will be nothing more than mega-ton yokes.
Gospel-centered discipleship clutches to the words, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Remind the disciple that Jesus is alive in them. The same power that rose Jesus from the dead – a.k.a. God – has setup shop in their body. He is tinkering, sanctifying, and empowering them to live anew. Whatever God demands he also supplies.
The means, muscle, capacity, and know-how of the Christian life are not in us; but in Jesus. And if we are in Christ and Christ in us, the power for the Christian life is now in us. The Holy Spirit of God is rumbling through our lives – and he will bear fruit. Christians work in concert with the Spirit of Christ (Philippians 2:12-13).
In gospel means we are moving the disciples eyes away from sola bootstrapa and towards solus christus – Christ Alone. Do they believe that apart from him they can’t do a single thing (John 15:5)? Gospel-centered disciples admit total reliance upon Jesus. And it leads to a plea, a prayer for help.
“Jesus, apart from you I cannot do _______. I cannot be ________. I need you. I need your strength, power, and righteousness. Help me Lord. Renew my mind. Do this in me, for your glory and my joy. Amen.”
Putting It all Together
One final example; Pastor Paul said it best.
I have been crucified with Christ (MESSAGE) It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (MEANS). And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God (MODEL), who loved me and gave himself for me (MOTIVATION). – Galatians 2:20
Jeff Medders is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, TX. He is pursuing his M.Div at Southern Seminary. He and Natalie have one precious little girl, Ivy. Jeff digs caffeinated drinks, books, and the Triune God. He blogs at www.jeffmedders.org and tweets from @jeffmedders.
For more in-depth discussion of sharing the gospel, check out Jonathan Dodson's Unbelievable Gospel.
For more free resources on strengthening your witness, read: Jeremy Carr's Impressing the Gospel Through Questions, David Fairchild's Gospel Diagnostic Questions, and Jonathan Dodson's All the Right Answers: Reason it's Difficult to Share Our Faith.