“What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you…. Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all… What joy for those you choose to bring near” (Psalm 65:1ff)
Gospel-centered living is deeply rooted in a God-centered reality! It doesn’t overlook or minimize sin, evil and death but celebrates the Savior’s triumph over them (Romans 7:24-25; 8:1-4, 35-39). It does not ignore or downplay the believer’s struggle in this life but embraces it based on the one who said,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Gospel-centered living views everything in a context that moves from the cross to final glory. It doesn’t deny present sufferings and God’s ordained purposes in them. Yet it also refuses to disconnect struggles and sufferings from the cross and the incomparable glory to be revealed in us (Matthew 16:24,25; Mark 8:34,35; Luke 9:23,24; I Peter 2:21; Hebrews 12:1-15; Romans 8:18).
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (I Peter 2:21)
“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:20-22).
Some of the best expressions of gospel-centered living with this God-centered focus are found in the prayers of the Puritans. Reflect on how these great themes come together in their prayers:
Confession and Petition
“Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find Your mind in Your Word, of neglect to seek You in my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of accusations, but I bless You that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Go on to subdue my corruptions, and grant me grace to live above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lusting of the mind bring my spirit into subjection, but do rule over me in liberty and power.”
“I thank You that many of my prayers have been refused. I have asked amiss and do not have, I have prayed from lusts and been rejected, I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness. Go on in your patient work, answering ‘no’ to my wrongful prayers, and fitting me to accept it. Purge me from every false desire, every base ambition, everything contrary to Your rule. I thank You for Your wisdom and Your love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.”
“No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If You should give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction. Deliver me from every evil habit, every accretion of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of Your grace in me, everything that prevents me taking delight in You. Then I shall bless You God for helping me to be upright.”
“Heavenly Father, if I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty, make my heart prize Your love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings. It is Your mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with gratitude to You, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Your love.”
“When Your Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin He became more dear to me than sin had formerly been; His kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny. Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labor to overcome it, but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and He must become to me more than vile lust had been; that His sweetness, power, life may be there. Thus I must seek a grace from Him contrary to sin, but must not claim it apart from Himself.”
“When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things. Though now I have His graces in part, I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state where You will show Yourself fully reconciled, and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely, with sin abolished. O Lord, hasten that day.”
“Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me purely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Yours alone. Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in You, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Yourself as Savior, Master, Lord, and King. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Your Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from You.”
“Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly Cultivator of hearts, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until You alone are seen in me, Your beauty golden like summer harvest, Your fruitfulness as autumn plenty. I have no Master but You, no law but Your will, no delight but You, no wealth but that You give, no good but that Your blessing, no peace but that what you bestow.”
“I am nothing but what you make me. I have nothing but that I receive from You. I can be nothing but what grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.”
“God of my end, it is my greatest, noblest pleasure to be acquainted with You and with my rational, immortal soul; it is sweet and entertaining to look into my being when all my powers and passions are united and engaged in pursuit of You, when my soul longs and passionately breathes after conformity to You and the full enjoyment of You; no hours pass away with so much pleasure as those spent in communion with You and with my heart.”
“O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life is a spirit of holy watchfulness and godly jealousy over myself when my soul is afraid of nothing except grieving and offending You, the blessed God, my Father and friend, whom I then love and long to please, rather than be happy in myself! Knowing, as I do, that this is the godly disposition, worthy of the highest ambition, and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures and holy Christians, may my joy derive from glorifying and delighting You.”
“I long to fill all my time for You, whether at home or in the way; to place all my concerns in Your hands; to be entirely at Your disposal, having no will or interest of my own. Help me to live to You for ever, to make You my last and only end, so that I may never more in one instance love my sinful self.”
“You are the blessed God, happy in yourself, source of happiness in Your creatures, my maker, benefactor, proprietor, upholder. You have produced and sustained me, supported and indulged me, saved and kept me; You are in every situation able to meet my needs and miseries.”
“May I live by You, live for You, never be satisfied with my Christian progress but as I resemble Christ; and may conformity to His principles, disposition, and conduct grow hourly in my life. Let Your unparalleled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others deem my faith foolish, my meekness weakness, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Your name.”
“Keep me walking steadfastly towards the country of everlasting delights, that paradise-land which is my true inheritance. Support me by the strength of heaven that I may never turn back, or desire false pleasures that will disappear into nothing. As I pursue my heavenly journey by Your grace let me be known as a man with no aim but that of a burning desire for You, and the good and salvation of my fellow humans.”
(From The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett)