Glorifying God Together
505 Courtney Way, Lafayette, CO

The Kind of Teaching We Need – Part 1

Zach Putthoff Written by 
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 01:41

Few things are as essential to the health of a local church than the right kind of preaching and teaching. As proper nutrition is essential to physical health, so the right kind of teaching is essential to the health of God’s people in the local church.

And yet, the matter of biblical teaching is far more serious than the matter of one’s personal diet. You can eat Doritos and drink Dr. Pepper in moderation and be perfectly in bounds of the wisdom of Scripture, but you’ll never find God giving freedom to His people to enjoy and embrace the spiritual junk food of fat-filled, sugar soaked teaching and preaching. Rather, He commands them to expect much better from those who teach them.

As a result, I’d like to spend a few posts reminding all of us of the kind of teaching and preaching we should expect at Shepherd’s Community Church. What kind of teaching do we need?

The question is answered for us very clearly in a letter of the Apostle Paul to a church-planter named Titus, a man who had been commissioned to bring young, unsettled, and vulnerable churches on the island of Crete to spiritual health and vitality. Specifically, the question is answered for us in Titus 2:15, where Paul commands Titus:

“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15 ESV).

In the context of the letter as a whole, what Paul is calling Titus to do is to build up the church under his leadership by serving them a steady diet of strong, Gospel-rooted teaching; what today is often referred to as ‘Gospel-centered’ teaching.

And herein we see the kind of teaching that we need to grow spiritually as a church. Specifically, we see three characteristics to desire in the teaching we are giving and receiving at SCC. We’ll look at the first characteristic today.

So, first of all, to put it simply…

We need Gospel-centered teaching.

When Paul says in Titus 2:15, These things speak and exhort and reprove…” he is talking about the things he has already covered, particularly in Titus 2:2-14. And what has he said in those verses? Basically, he has commanded Titus to teach his church to live in such a way that brings glory and honor to Jesus (vv. 2-10) in light of what he has done to save us from our sins (vv. 11-14).

Bringing health to the local church requires teaching, but not just any kind of teaching, and not teaching on just any topic. Rather, leading a local church into spiritual health requires teaching that emphasizes the importance of living in such a way that brings glory and honor to Jesus – in light of the greatness of what he has done to save us from our sins. This is what you could call “Gospel-centered teaching.”

Gospel centered teaching is specific in its content and does two things. First, it grounds the Christian life in the riches of what God has done for us in Christ. That is, it magnifies the grace of God despite of and in the face of our sin. These things unpack what is often referred to as the “indicatives” of the Gospel; all that God has done for His people in Christ.

But secondly, truly Gospel-centered teaching calls people to a kind of living that shows Christ to be glorious. That is, it magnifies the power and intention of God’s grace to break us from the chains of our sin and enable us by His grace to live godly lives; what are often referred to as the “imperatives” of the Gospel. True Gospel-centered teaching proclaims as Bryan Chappell puts it, “grace despite sin” and “obedience through grace.”

Paul proclaims both of those things here in Titus 2:2-14 – though in reverse order. In 2:11-14 he emphasizes the grace of God despite our sin (“for the grace of God has appeared…”; i.e. the embodiment of God’s grace has appeared in the person of Jesus) – and in verses 2:2-10 he emphasizes the need to live lives of self-control and obedience as a response to God’s grace in Christ. Both “grace despite sin” and “obedience through grace” are equally emphasized by the Apostle.

Teaching that neglects one of these things or the other, presents a Gospel that J.I. Packer says is not “fully dressed.” He writes, “Our preaching and teaching of the Gospel…must include teaching the godly manner of living that accords with the sound doctrines of the Gospel.” (Packer, Grounded in the Gospel, p. 100)

In Titus 2, Paul is offering to Titus a pattern of teaching that he wants Titus to follow in his own ministry, and then in 2:15 basically says, “Just keep stressing these things! Keep on proclaiming God’s grace despite our sin, along with God’s grace to overcome our sin – distinguishing the indicatives of the Gospel from the imperatives of the Gospel – but also rooting the imperatives of the Gospel in the indicatives of the Gospel.” In other words, “Keep showing how God’s commands that teach us to live self-controlled and godly lives flow out of the grace God has given us in Christ.”

One of the main reasons this is so important, is because people desperately need to see that the commands of God are not the means to get right with God, but rather are the natural responses to receiving the grace of God that is in Christ.

Counterfeit Christianities say, “I obey God, therefore he accepts me.” Biblical Christianity says, “God has accepted me, therefore I obey him.” When you strip the commands of God away from the saving work of God in Christ, those commands quickly start to seem arbitrary and pointless (which they would be apart from the Gospel). However, when you begin to see the commands of God in light of the saving work of God in Christ – those commands become the sweet expressions of grace from a gracious and loving God who wants what is best for us and is committed to our eternal good; who is not out to squelch our joy, but to increase it for eternity.

I love to listen to teachers and to learn from other brothers and sisters who love to ground the commands of God in the saving work of God in Jesus, because, what I find that happens in listening to these brothers and sisters is that my love for God and my sensitivity to what displeases him increases. Why does this happen? Because they are pointing me to the grace of God in Christ – which alone has the power to change my heart. So, as they point me to Christ and his saving work, I find my heart being changed, along with my attitude toward God’s commands, and I find a renewed and increasing love for God driving out my love of sin.

So, focusing on the Gospel and the implications of the Gospel upon my life shows me that obedience is a very good thing, and not a bad, burdensome, or boring thing.

In light of what God has done for me in Christ, it makes sense why he calls me to love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. In light of the Gospel, it makes sense why God calls me to run from temptation and to pursue purity of heart and mind. It makes sense why God calls me to make war against sin and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life in this age while I wait for Jesus to return. When I see that the intention of God’s grace is not merely to free me from the penalty of my sins, but also the power of sin over my life, then I can understand why God calls me to live out that freedom in my day to day life, and it makes me want that freedom all the more.

And that’s why giving adequate focus to the Gospel and its implications upon our lives is such an important thing to the health of our church. If we focus merely on the grace of God despite our sins – we could easily become a really loose and licentious group of people who love our sins and who make sin look more attractive than the One who died to save us from it. But then, if we focus merely on the grace of God to overcome our sins, we could fall off the other side and become a group of proud, legalistic and self-righteous religious people who make it seem like grace is not really needed to be right with God. And falling off either side would be really sad and tragic.

But teaching that gives adequate focus not merely to the greatness of God’s grace despite our sin and God’s grace to overcome our sin – but to the practice of rooting God’s grace to overcome our sin in the amazing grace of God despite our sin – protects us from falling off either side of that boat.

And we have God’s promises that if this kind of teaching is unleashed in our church; we’ll see God save sinners and change lives for his glory. We’ll see our own hearts changed and new affections growing within them. We’ll see our kids saved and transformed into hard-following disciples of Jesus. We’ll see disciples made. We’ll see leaders raised up. We’ll see missionaries and pastors and teachers raised up from within our ranks. We’ll see people pursuing holiness and loving one another. If we remain committed to this kind of teaching, we’ll see a real, New Testament, Christ-loving and Gospel-centered church built right here – and God will get the glory!

We need teaching that focuses on the Gospel and its implications for our lives. That’s the first thing we see here. We’ll consider the second thing next time.

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