In 2008, Michael Horton wrote an excoriating critique of American evangelicalism called Christless Christianity (my review here). It was a wakeup call that our churches’ focus has shifted from Christ to a multitude of other things, calling us back to the centrality of gospel preaching. I found the earlier book to be quite convicting, though it was a little heavy on criticism and light on solutions.
Thankfully, Horton followed that up with this book, which is a helpful and encouraging volume reminding us how wonderful and glorious the Christian life can be when we are driven by the gospel. The two books can certainly be read separately — each stands on its own — but they are best when paired together.
The book is organized around a “news” theme, which is fitting considering the word “gospel” means “good news”. The problem is, we don’t often treat the gospel like it’s a big, breaking news story. Horton reminds us that the gospel is, first and foremost, an urgent message which must be broadcast repeatedly, to all people.
The gospel story has all the makings of headline news. We are in crisis! Every human being is a hell-bound sinner apart from God’s grace, and yet God himself has come in the form of a man to rescue undeserving sinners from this fate. Not only that; He also lavishes kingly riches on those same redeemed sinners, and gives them the power and authority to take part in the redeeming of this world. Think about it: within the gospel itself, we have worldwide calamity, a heroic rescue, the ultimate rags-to-riches story, and countless examples of people banding together in acts of goodwill toward their fellow man. Why would we NOT want to tell this story?
A proper understanding of this story should (and will!) become a driving force in the life of the Christian. As you might have guessed, Horton contrasts the “Gospel-Driven Life” (or the “Promise-Driven Life” as he also calls it) with the”Purpose-Driven Life” popularized by Rick Warren’s best-selling book. As Warren points out, those living in today’s consumer culture have a passion for meaning and purpose, and are driven to discover and act on that purpose. The response of the typical American evangelical, though, is to take a pragmatic approach to finding purpose. This tends to leave Christians attempting to determine their own purpose, rather than seeing that we exist for a purpose determined by our Creator: “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever“.
We don’t have the authority to decide what our purpose is. What we do have are promises from God that each of us does have a unique role to play in the accomplishing of his purposes, and the necessary gifts to fulfill our calling. Seeing things this way requires us to humbly set aside our attempts to “seize our own glory here and now”, but the result is a fruitful and blessed life governed by God’s grace. As Horton writes, “While affirming the importance of having clear goals and a worthy focus in life, I am urging us to put purposes in their place as servants of promise… Christians are driven by God’s promises, and directed by God’s purposes.”
The second half of the book puts feet on this principle, offering practical steps and encouragements (primarily in the form of exegetical Scripture teaching) for living the Gospel-Driven Life. The gospel informs every aspect of our lives; our politics, our community involvement, our family relationships, and our place in the Body of Christ. This book clearly lays out the gospel and its implications, fulfilling the author’s stated purpose of the book: “to reorient our faith and practice as Christians and churches toward the gospel: that is, the announcement of God’s victory over sin and death in his Son, Jesus Christ.”
I hope that many believers will read and be challenged by this book, asking themselves the question: “What drives me?”
Buy it here.