Book Review: The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton

In Christless Christianity, Michael Horton confronted readers with the danger of a gospel assumed. In The Gospel-Driven Life, Horton moves from the problem to the solution: Recovering a robust understanding of the cross and reorienting the church’s purpose toward the good news of the gospel.

It’s Not About Me

“We have to reverse the focus from a human-centered to a God-centered way of thinking. The gospel witnesses not to an inner light within the self, but to the Light that came into the world, shining in the darkness and overpowering it (John 1:4-9),” writes Horton (p. 26). Throughout the first six chapters of the book, he examines this reality in detail.

While seems obvious, it’s very easy to go through life as though it’s a story about me. God is here to help me. To change me. To bless me. I don’t sin, I make mistakes. I’m not a sinner, I’m a “somewhat dysfunctional but well-meaning victim who needs to be ’empowered'” (p. 50).

And that’s the problem.

These things reveal that my picture of God is too small; it lacks an understanding of His holiness and the offense of my sin. That my sins are my responsibility and no one else’s, and I am at fault. But the opposite is true. Horton writes,

Because we are the ones at fault, God is our problem, and this is the one we cannot manage. When the righteousness of God no longer disturbs (much less terrifies) us, we feel no need to cry out for the righteousness from God that is a gift in Christ Jesus. . . .Nobody today seems to think that God is dangerous. And that is itself a dangerous oversight (p.50).

The dangerousness of God is a subject that deserves more attention that this review can afford, but the big idea is this: Sin is an eternal offense to an eternal, perfect, holy and just God and it must be dealt with. And God does deal with it in a wholly unexpected manner—He substitutes Himself for us, giving us new life in Him, for His purposes and His glory.

Recovering Our Role as Good News People

Ultimately, what Horton reveals in the first half of the book is that we are passive recipients of grace. We do not merit His kindness and love, yet He gives it. He determines our relationship with Him; we do not (cf. John 15:15). And because of this, we are free to live as “Good News people in a bad news world.”

Only when we know that we are condemned in ourselves but righteous in Christ are we free for the first time to love God and love our neighbors. Responding to both out of gratitude for a free gift, we are truly freed to love and enjoy them instead of using them for our own ends (p. 79).

It’s only when we fully rely on the gospel in every stage of life that we are able to live out our call as being the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). So we can (and should) engage culture, build relationships, take part in the political sphere, and work for the common good as ambassadors for Christ, proclaiming the news of His death, burial, resurrection and the coming of His Kingdom as we do so.

We are unified as God’s people (as Horton puts it, we truly become a cross-cultural community [pardon the pun]); we embrace the Lord’s Day and gathering together for corporate worship. (“The church is a concrete place, as well as a people,” he reminds us [p. 217].) We are ministered to through God’s Word by those God has chosen to shepherd His people.

But it only happens when our focus is Jesus, not ourselves.

What Drives Your Life?

The Gospel-Driven Life is a challenging book. It’s thoughtful and thick. Pastoral and prophetic. Some will chafe at its message simply because of its focus and its urgent plea for all of us to get over ourselves. That,

Instead of trying to make God and his Christ a part of our story of personal fulfillment, consumer tastes, national pride, or ethnic empowerment, we are given a new script, with a new plot that defines our ultimate identity, hopes, longings and experience. . . Rather than grasping for power and domination, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26) and calls us to become servants rather than lords (vv. 20-27). (p. 266)

I need to hear this message. We all need to hear this message. The only question remaining is, do we have ears to hear?

A review copy of this book was provided by Baker Publishing Group

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton”

  1. Great Book! I didn’t agree with everything in the book, but his main point is dead on! His other book “Christless Christianity” was also right on. Glad I found your site! Thanks,

    Not for Itching Ears!

  2. Pingback: Salt Cellar (2/4) «

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