J. A. Medders. Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2014. 200 pp. $14.99.
Are you still looking for a devotional read to set the pace for 2015? Is spiritual formation an emphasis that you wish to foster during this coming year? Would you like a stimulus for gospel-rich reflection?
Redeemer Church Tomball pastor, J. A. Medders, provides a meditative tonic for the gospel thirsty entitled Gospel Formed. It’s a two-hundred page work that garners thought provoking and potent word pictures of the gospel. In five parts, Medders encourages readers to reflect on the core of the Christian faith – the gospel. Why? Pointing to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 he submits, “God says the gospel is the most important truth in his word…it’s the head of the pack, the alpha truth, all other truths fall in line behind it.” (34).
This being the case, Christians should be centered on the gospel. It is the focal point of Christian living. Spiritual formation originates and terminates with the gospel. Elsewhere, Medders writes: “We don’t graduate from the gospel. Moving toward gospel-centered living means we never move on from the gospel; rather, its force moves further into our heart” (16). Our worship (part two), identity (part three), community (part four), and mission (part five) ought to find themselves rooted in the mineral rich soil of the gospel. This, then, is why each of the four parts of Gospel Formed, following the gospel starting block (part one), pivot upon the gospel.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
In recent years, a new wave of writing has found its central theme and motif in the gospel. The emergence of this grace-fueled writing is often credited to Jerry Bridges and his book, The Discipline of Grace. Others well known for championing gospel-centrality include Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness; Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional; Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything; and many more. Gospel Formed is a welcomed addition to this litany of gospel-centered studies.
One enriching aspect of Gospel Formed is its unwavering commitment to see this movement prosper. Jared Wilson, a forerunner in this new wave of gospel-centered writing, graciously commends this book, saying in the foreword: “We need more and more resources that show us the gospel in its multitudinous glory. This is what we need, now and ever! This is why I am grateful for the growing gospel-centered body of literary work in evangelicalism, and why I am grateful for Jeff Medders’s contribution to it” (10).
Throughout Gospel Formed, Medders conveys that deep, ever-blossoming affection for the gospel – one that he wishes would foster in others – is only through God’s grace. This is yet another commendable quality of Gospel Formed. This book prevailingly points out that heart renovations are accomplished through the Carpenter’s handiwork alone.
Like I said above, Gospel Formed brims with stout and provocative images that engross readers. You can tell that when Medders says, “Be engrossed by grace. Be engulfed in grace. Nothing deserves our obsession like the gospel,” he means it (41). I mean, how else could one look at a bottle of Drano and see a gospel word picture or likewise with high-voltage cables, punch cards, and bunker-busting missiles? What do I mean? Read these quotes:
“Keep dropping the high-voltage cable of the gospel on your heart and it will spark soon enough. It’s the power of God” (66).
“The gospel is like Drano for all that clogs up glad hearts” (88).
“Jesus smashed sin’s scepter, and now he reigns forever” (108).
“Grace isn’t a punch card; it’s a cross” (137).
“Every truth from the gospel is like a bunker-busting missile” (151).
These punchy, picturesque statements are reminiscent of the Puritans, who often artfully crafted arresting images of the Word, sin, or the gospel. It’s evident that, like the Puritans, the gospel has so captivated Medders’s attention that he looks at the world through gospel-tinted glasses. Everything he observes is potentially a vibrant and fresh expression of the gospel.
As I said at the beginning of this section, gospel-centeredness is a trending subject in recent years. Yet, if you poll champions of this movement, you might receive a plethora of definitions for gospel-centeredness. Just glance at pages 18-21 of Gospel Formed to see what I mean; Medders offers a fellowship of such definitions. One beneficial component of Gospel Formed is that Medders distills these definitions into a solitary coherent one:
“Gospel-centeredness means that the person and work of Jesus is the central message in all things; he is our model for all of life and ministry; the Son of God is our motivation in obedience to God’s Word; and Jesus of Nazareth is the means to carry out all that God commands.” (22)
We liked this definition so much that we asked our friend, Lore Ferguson (tweeting @loreferguson), a gifted writer and designer living in Dallas, to create a graphic of this definition. Below you’ll find three image files that would look great on your computer desktop, tablet, or smart phone. We hope you like this definition as much as we do and share it with others.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Gospel Formed by J. A. Medders contains all the kindling necessary to ignite your heart with gospel affection.