by Dr. Tom Wood
When I was a pastor I was asked on occasion, “Can Christians dance? My answer was, “Well, some can and some can’t. Just look at them on the dance floor and you can tell.”
In reality, all Christians need to learn how to do the Gospel Dance if they hope to see God transform their lives into what God intended originally. Gospel Dance is the three step of sanctification. These steps are in constant, rhythmic motion.
1. The first step in the Gospel Dance is belief (Delight) in the graciousness, goodness, and greatness of God that Christ has done everything for me to make all right with God the Father.
2. The second step of the Gospel dance is a life of repentance (Despair) with an ongoing realization of one’s broken condition, along with a humble admission, “I cannot do this apart from Jesus”, and admission of disbelief and/or disobedience. We also turn from our self-righting activities and plans.
3. The third step is the fight to live by the first two and follow in “obedience that comes from faith” (Direction) to what God has called us to be.
The Christian life is 1-2-3, 1-2-3, believe-repent-fight or Delight, Despair, and Direction. The first or second step of a dance is not the last time you step there. So it is in the Gospel dance. Your first step is to believe. Your second step is repent. You will return to those steps again and again as you follow. This is what it looks like practically:
Engaging the Gospel in Life
How do we work out the Gospel daily? How does it become less of a doctrine and more of a lifestyle?
The Gospel is not so much a truth as it is the fabric of our relationship with God. How does it affect fear and jealousy and worry and envy and discouragement? How does it connect to how we view the hardships of life? At the same time, how does it instruct our joy? How does it connect to the things that give us contentment and satisfaction? Those are the real questions of a Gospel Life.
In these next paragraphs, Martin Luther, one of the fathers of what we now refer to as the Reformation, relates the Gospel to fear, depression (at least that which is not caused by physiological reasons), and what he calls a “troubled conscience”:
“There is a righteousness that the apostle Paul calls ‘the righteousness of faith.’ God imputes it to us apart from our works--in other words, it is passive righteousness...So then, have we nothing to do to obtain this righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only — that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation! Now God sees no sin in us, for in this heavenly righteousness sin has no place.
“So now we may certainly think, ‘Although I still sin, I don't despair, because Christ lives, who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.’ In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God.
“Christians never completely understand [this] themselves, and thus do not take advantage of it when they are troubled and tempted. So we have to constantly teach it, repeat it, and work it out in practice. Anyone who does not understand this righteousness or cherish it in the heart and conscience will continually be buffeted by fears and depression. Nothing gives peace like this passive righteousness.
“The troubled conscience has no cure for its desperation and feeling of unworthiness unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by grace, offered free of charge in Jesus Christ, which is this passive or Christian righteousness… Once you are in Christ, the Law is the greatest guide for your life, but until you have Christian righteousness, all the law can do is to show you how sinful and condemned you are. But if we first receive Christian righteousness, then we can use the law, not for our salvation, but for his honor and glory, and to lovingly show our gratitude” (Martin Luther, Preface Commentary on Galatians).
The Basis for our Work as Leaders Operating by the Gospel
Too often we base our justification (made right with God) on our sanctification (ongoing transformation), and not the other way around. In other words, we judge our relationship with God, and the stability and even certainty of that relationship, based on our actions, behaviors, and emotions. This is especially easy to do when you are leading others! The internal and external voices in your life tell you, “It’s up to me to do this.” We subconsciously obey God and follow him, in order to please him and remain in his good standing so he will bless our lives. Or perhaps we do so out of fear of rejection or loss of his protection.
We must base our sanctification (how much we are changing) on our justification, especially as leaders operating by the Gospel. We must live confidently based on the truth of our salvation. In reality, the Christian life is nothing more, and nothing less, than a lifetime of living out the implications of the cross. We are Cross-shaped leaders. The truest thing about us is the fact that we are a loved, adopted, forgiven child of God. For the Gospel shaped leader, all of life, ministry or work is based on that fact.
Only the Gospel, only the truth of the cross, can give us an accurate self-image. Only the Gospel allows us to agree with common phrase: “We are far more sinful than we could imagine, but, at the same time, God is far more loving and forgiving than we could ever dared to have hoped.”
Want to know more about The Gospel Dance? Download your FREE eBook “The Gospel Dance” today!
At CMM, we believe every leader is created to thrive. We suggest getting a C.R.O.S.S. Gospel Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. A Gospel Coach will help encourage and equip you every step along the way. Learn more today!
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!