“If the gospel becomes that by which we slip into the kingdom, but all the business of transformation turns on postgospel disciplines and strategies, then we shall constantly be directing the attention of people away from the gospel, away from the cross and resurrection.
Soon the gospel will be something that we quietly assume is necessary for salvation, but not what we are excited about, not what we are preaching, not the power of God. What is really important are the spiritual disciplines.
Of course, when we point this out to someone for whom techniques and disciplines are of paramount importance, there is likely to be instant indignation. Of course I believe in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, they say. And doubtless they do.
Yet the question remains: What are they excited about? Where do they rest their confidence? On what does their hope of transformation depend?
When I read, say, Julian of Norwich, I find an example of just how far an alleged spirituality may be pursued, in medieval form, directly attempting to connect with God apart from self-conscious dependence on the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus—the very matters the apostle labels ‘of first importance.’
Wherever contemporary pursuit of spirituality becomes similarly distanced from the gospel, it is taking a dangerous turn. One of the most urgently needed things today is a careful treatment of how the gospel, biblically and richly understood, ought to shape everything we do in the local church, all of our ethics, all of our priorities.”
–D.A. Carson, “What is the Gospel?–Revisited,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 165.