Of course, there are more than three, but tethered to the cross, emphasizing the doctrines below will serve you and your congregation well.
The story of redemption is the story of the Bible and of all history. The epicenter of that story is the cross of Jesus, where he becomes a substitute for sinners, taking the place of judgment so that we can be forgiven and free.
Substitution is beautifully depicted by C.S. Lewis in his classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Aslan is slain upon a stone table in the place of Edmund, the traitor. When Lucy and Susan discover that stone table cracked and that Aslan is not lying there dead as he had been, they come to realize that the curse upon Narnia has been broken.
It is hard to miss the profound Christological imagery Lewis has woven into the story, whether intentionally or not.
Here is how the scene plays out as the sisters hear a deafeningly loud sound of the stone cracking-a crack that ran from end to end.
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice from behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked around. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself. “Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad….”But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”
Integrating cross-centered theology, identity, and transformation, the preacher’s aim is to reveal how the curse of sin has been broken, not by a Lion upon a table, but by Jesus upon a cross, our substitute in life and death.
With the Cross at the Center, Faithful Pastoral Ministry Will Emphasize Three Core Doctrines
#1 – JUSTIFICATION: GRACE-CENTERED THEOLOGY
At the heart of all of Scripture is the redemptive message of God’s saving grace to sinners in Jesus. Theologically, we call this justification, which is the hub of the theological wheel to which every passage and doctrine is connected. This grace message is the oak from which every acorn of biblical text falls and must be related in order to be properly understood and applied. Or as Martin Luther said, justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. This is why MSP is committed to gospel-centered theology.
#2 – ADOPTION: GRACE-FOCUSED IDENTITY
Every human either will find his or her core identity in a self-achieved righteousness (or the lack of it) or in a gift-received righteousness. We will functionally live as spiritual orphans trying to make a life and name for ourselves, or we will live like adopted and beloved sons and daughters, with all the freedom, peace, hope, and joy that flows from such an identity. The implications are manifold and wide-ranging, touching on practically every area of life. This is why MSP is committed to gospel-focused identity.
#3 – SANCTIFICATION: GRACE-EMPOWERED TRANSFORMATION
What now? Should I expect to experience a spiritual change in my life? If so, how does that take place? What is my role in the process? As Jesus says in John 15, “No one can produce good fruit apart from me.” Practically speaking, this means that we experience the fruit of the Spirit as we consciously abide in the Vine of Jesus’ imputed gift-righteousness. As the Spirit fills us like sap through a vine into a branch, we receive new motives and a new ability to manifest the new life of love, peace, patience, kindness, etc. This is why MSP is committed to gospel-empowered transformation.