The Gospel Centered Life
A blog by Cyril Nishimoto
The 2011 JEMS Mt. Hermon Adult and Family Conference was different for me this year. I’ve been to 14 in a row since 1997, and things have changed. I’m now one of the older people. And many of my friends of about the same age group that I’m used to seeing every year weren’t there this year: my 6 a.m. running partners, Jim and Lena, and their spouses, Nancy and Keith: Iwa Board people, Dave and Wayne, and their wives, Cindy and Tina; meal-time and fountain buddies, Paul and Yoko, and Sue. But it’s encouraging that Mt. Hermon has increasingly become a place where young families can come and enjoy a week of spiritual refreshment, family-oriented recreation, and Christian community.
And the speakers are getting younger. Okay, maybe the evening speaker, Curt Ogawa, the lead Pastor of Orchard Valley Christian Church in Sunnyvale, CA, isn’t all that young compared to past speakers (he’s about my age—in his mid-50s). But the morning speaker, Kim Kira, the primary teaching elder at Lighthouse Community Church in Torrance, CA, is on the younger side—a Yonsei in his mid-30s.
The topic Kim addressed—which can be generally described by the title of his first message,“The Gospel Centered Life”—was one that I have been chewing on over the past few years. I’ve been reading books, listening to sermon tapes, and participating in Bible studies on the topic. My Monday night small group from church recently made The Gospel, and how we can work it into our daily lives, the subject for study for six weeks in May and June. So the topic was timely and of great interest to me. It’s something that I’ve come to feel that all Christians need to grasp. To me, it’s at the heart of truly living the Christian life as it was meant to be lived, and living it to the fullest.
At the outset, Kim set forth the key idea that “the Gospel centered life is a life that is daily being defined and transformed by the truths of the gospel.” He said that it’s not just what gets us into heaven, but it’s also something that connects to our daily life and should change everything in it. It should be at the center of our marriages, our jobs, and our education. It speaks to how we parent, how we relate to money, how we handle suffering, and how we move out in mission—the four areas of life that he addressed in his other messages. It’s something that should change the way we see the world.
So what is “the Gospel?”Kim sees it as a single story that runs through the whole Bible, a story that we’re all part of--the story of the salvation and redemption of man through Christ for the glory of God. It starts in Genesis 1 with God as Creator. God creates, but something goes wrong with God’s creation.
Sin enters the world, and it’s a spiritual disease that infects all of Creation, corrupting the very being of us human beings, and becoming a part of our human nature. Because of sin, we all deserve Hell. And without intervention, that is where we all heading.
But Kim asserts that God does intervene. God the Son comes to earth, becomes a human being, and experiences all the struggles that we human beings go through. And on the cross, he suffered and died in our place, so we get credit for what he did for us.
And if by faith we believe in what he did for us,we are saved from spiritual death and Hell, and we can see the world from a whole new perspective, from one of faith. And we get to live for something bigger than ourselves. We are free now to worship the Creator, not
Kim contends that all of life is about worship. All of us adore and trust in something. And the Bible constantly puts forth before us the idea that we are to worship God above all things. So the Gospel tells us that God set everything right through Christ so that we can worship God as we were all created to do. And our daily struggles have to do with what we are worshiping, with whether we’re worshiping God or something else, the Creator or the Creation. So daily, we need to preach the gospel to ourselves by memorizing it, singing it, studying it, reviewing how it changed our lives, and praying it.
So in the rest of his messages, Kim pointed out how idols—things other than God that we worship—come into play and affect different areas of our lives. In our parenting, we are to establish an idol-free home where God has no rivals, where we help our kids find God through the Gospel and shepherd them to love God with all they are (which may mean dealing with education and sports as idols). In relation to our money, through the Gospel we are to find Christ to be our ultimate treasure and our one true Savior and thereby overcome idols of materialism and the love of money.
In the midst of trials and suffering, we are to let the Gospel give us joy as we embrace God’s agenda for change in our lives—a change that comes about as God uses trials and suffering to reveal to us our idolatry and sinfulness, and as we trust God to defeat the idols and sin in our lives, and allow God to produce in us greater holiness and faith. In the area of personal evangelism, we are to overcome the idols that prevent us from sharing the Gospel by making the One who loved us and died for us our King; and we are to allow the Gospel to transform us daily so that we see people differently—as knowing Christ or not knowing Christ—and so that we make the Gospel the message we share (not, for example, just telling people we go to church) because it is the power they need to be freed of the idols that prevent them from knowing him.
The small group I facilitated had excellent discussions on Kim’s messages. All of the participants, except for me, had spouses and kids. So a lot of what was shared related to their families. There were a couple of messages that seemed especially good for eliciting a response in my group. The parenting message generated a lot of discussion on raising kids in a God-centered atmosphere and on treating education and sports as idols. The evangelism message moved us each to share about family members and friends we were concerned about who don’t know Christ. And we spent time at the end praying for each other and for the people we wanted to see come to know Christ. I really appreciated the members of my group for each one’s openness and willingness to contribute. I’m extremely grateful to Blake, Cindy, David, Debbie, Kathy, Stu, and Tiffany for making our small group a memorable and meaningful experience.
What I enjoyed about Kim’s messages was his emphasis on how the Gospel needs to be something we integrate into our daily lives; how we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day; and how we can use the Gospel to deal with idols in different areas of our lives that prevent us from living life to the fullest, as it was designed to be lived, in worship and love of the God who created us and redeemed us. His stories will stay with me: about his tiny Nisei grandmother who loved the Lord and had a powerful influence on him and his family; about his flipping a coin with a scalper to get Giants-Dodgers tickets for $20 instead of $40 right after leaving a Mt. Hermon conference, illustrating the hold that money had on him; and about his back pain that’s a reminder that God loves him enough to keep him from making sports an idol.
Personally, I have taken from the messages some things of great value. For example, I am looking at a current trial I’m going through and trying to see what it is revealing about my own idolatry and sinfulness. And what I see is my pride and defensiveness, and my inability to love people as God does, because of an idol of self-importance—a need to feel I’m better than others. So if I’m to work the Gospel into my heart, I need to preach to myself Philippians 2:5-8—how Jesus gave up his status as The Most Important Being In The Universe, and loved me by humbling himself even to the point of dying for me on the cross so that I can in turn love the hard-to-love person by humbling myself, being willing to “die” for that person, as Jesus was for me.
I am also looking at how money can get me revolving around it even when I don’t have much of it. So to stop worrying about not having enough money, I’m trying to work the Gospel into my heart by reminding myself of Romans 8:32—that God the Father gave up His greatest treasure—His Son—for me; so how will He not also with him give me all things, including the money that I need? And by working that in, I am taking steps on the path toward making His Son, Jesus Christ, my Ultimate And Greatest Treasure as well. I’m looking forward to seeing how much my grip on money loosens as I take hold of Christ.
In processing Kim’s messages, I am getting additional insights. And that includes an Iwa perspective on “The Gospel Centered Life” that’s been floating around in my head. I think I need to get it down on paper. So I’ll leave this for now. But stay tuned for Part II. To be continued. . . .
You can read Parts 2 to 7 on Iwa's Facebook. click here