Posted by: Tom Gaddis | July 18, 2009

Theological Compass

1163046_compass_rose_1A Sabbatical offers up a theological compass. It forces you to reevaluate your life and ministry. This, then, is my second response to the question: “How did the sabbatical impact your life?”

Merry-go-rounds are a blast. My grandkids love them and I loved them as a kid, but at some point you have to step off and take a break.

Ministry, like merry-go-rounds, can be dizzying, leaving you unsure of your steps until equilibrium, our internal compass, straightens out our stagger.

Sabbatical has been a time to break away from the pace and whirl of ministry. It’s been a time to recover my perspective and to align my theological compass.

Questions that have helped me regain firm footing have been:

  • Has my life been Christ-centered?
  • Have I been faithful friend of the Bridegroom pointing His bride to Him and not myself?
  • Have I been preaching the gospel?

My answers to the above questions have been mixed with success and failure and so have called for repentance on my part. One question I would like to say a few words about in this blog is about the gospel.

What is the gospel?

Simply put, it is the great news that God has through Christ rescued our lives, now and forever, through faith in his work on the cross, his resurrection, and his present working through the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean to us?

It means that our Christian lives are grace-based. Grace is God doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. And what is it we aren’t able to do for ourselves? How about everything—forgiveness of your sins, transformation of our character, access to his heaven, strength for today, my every need, purpose, calling, hope, faith—to name a few.

The gospel means that God hasn’t joined the never-ending line of friends, counselors, authors and even some well-intentioned preachers who have good advice for us. The Good News isn’t advice—it’s news. News of what God in Christ has done for us.

Too much of today’s “Christian” teaching is little different from the mass-market self-help fluff that fills bookstores. Authors galore pushing their man-centered advice call us to be better and do better. It’s like telling the person who can’t see why he should go see the Sierras this summer. It is flawed advice when it doesn’t treat the fundamental problem—blindness. Telling a hopelessly dysfunctional couple seven ways to a better marriage flies right over their hearts filled with stubbornness, pride, and bent towards iniquity. A lack of knowledge, insight and principles is not their primary need. It’s something much deeper.

(It would be a great move on the part of the National Christian Booksellers to edit these books closely and identify them with a warning label on the cover featuring Frank Sinatra singing, “I did it my way.”)

In these deep-as-a-puddle diatribes the responsibility for change is always put upon the reader. But here’s the truth: We can’t through our own efforts make ourselves into the people God wants us to be.

What do you think? Is my compass whacked or is it pointing out the truth?



  1. O so beautifully pointing to the Truth! I love the gospel! “News of what God in Christ has done for us!”

  2. Like so many in our culture it took me a long time even as a Christian to “get” the grace-thing. I didn’t even know that I wasn’t truly “getting” it until I finally truly “got” it and my whole world changed. When it finally sunk in that my actions were not in any way related to how much God loves me I could finally relax and bring to him my failures instead of hiding them and defending myself. I found that trying harder doesn’t bring healing but letting God and his great love in to those deep places I’ve always protected and defended allows me to lay down defense mechanisms and gives me strength to deal with life’s hurts in a healthy way. I could have never transformed myself like this by working harder at it.

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