How does the church portray the beauty of Christ?
The gospel is a theological message. But this message also creates human beauty—beautiful relationships in our churches, making the glory of Christ visible in the world today.
In this timely book, Pastor Ray Ortlund makes the case that gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. In too many of our churches, it is the beauty of a gospel culture that is the missing piece of the puzzle. But when the gospel is allowed to exert its full power, a church becomes radiant with the glory of Christ.
The full title of this book is The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. And the subtitle is important to understand Ray’s point. He wants to show how gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture – and all that is display Christ’s beauty. Thus, in this short book, Ray seeks to show how the gospel implications for the individual, the (new) community (of believers) and the cosmos. These are the first three chapters of the book which provide the theological framework for the next four chapters. In chapters 4 – 7, Ray fleshes out what it looks like to ‘do church.’ He is realistic. Thus, he warns of suffering, of discouragement, of difficulty; at the same time he shows readers that because God is building His church, there is the joyful certainty that if the gospel is at the church’s ‘sacred centre,’ it can gradually become the community God designed it to be. Ray writes with great humility, gently showing us the folly of Christian self-trust (which, if we are honest with ourselves, is almost always the case), and pointing us to the glories of Christ’s gospel. This book is a call for churches to enjoy the gospel once more if we have lost sight of it, and to behold its beauty every day, because we can never get enough of it. It is also an encouragement and challenge for Christians to live passionately for the gospel. He quotes Francis Schaeffer ‘if we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim.’ And we can only show that kind of beauty if we have tasted, and are daily devouring the beauty of the gospel. I know my church needs a truly gospel culture. I don’t think I will suddenly love my fellow Christians in a drastically different (and better way), but this book has pointed out to me what I must do if I want to love better – be gripped by the gospel. So if you want to love the church better, I’d say this gem of a book is for you.
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