anything we can say.’ Everything in the New Testament points to instruction in the faith that yields true discipleship, genuine maturity, and generous fruit-bearing. My life does not preach better than the prophetic and apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, but I can still be saved—even from my hypocrisy—by hearing that gospel again every week.
Mere imperatives [obligations or requirements] to more faithful living will only drive one to either despair or self-righteousness (or a little of both). We are transformed not by hearing more about ourselves and each other but by hearing more about God and his mighty acts of salvation throughout history. Our Buddhist cousins, Muslim neighbors, and burned-out churchgoers need to encounter disciples of Christ who point away from themselves, witnessing to Christ as the Savior of sinners—even Christians like ourselves who still fall short of the glory of God. They need to be introduced to the Good News that is greater than all of our sin, including the sins of Christians. They do not need to see more Christians holding up their lives as gospel, only to watch them fall; they need more Christians holding up Christ as the gospel as they confess their sins and receive his priestly absolution….
And ironically, when we are seeking Christ rather than a generic social and moral impact on the society, one that we could have apart from him, something strange happens. A communion emerges around the Lamb, drawing people
together ‘from every tribe and language and people and nation’into ‘a kingdom of priests to our God’ (Rev. 5:9). From a justifying and sanctifying communion with Christ that they share together, there emerges a foretaste of genuine peace,
love, and justice that can orient our ordinary lives and animate our activity in our worldly callings. Start with the regular proclamation of the gospel and you get everything else thrown into the bargain: faith, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Start with anything else, and it’s business as usual with pious window dressing” (Michael Horton, The
Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples, 275-276).