Michael Horton: The gospel transforms us in heart, mind, will, and actions precisely because it is not itself a message about our transformation. Nothing that I am or that I feel, choose, or do qualifies as Good News. On my best days, my experience of transformation is weak, but the gospel is an announcement of a certain state of affairs that exists because of something in God, not something in me; something that God has done, not something that I have done; the love in God’s heart which he has shown in his Son, not the love in my heart that I exhibit in my relationships. Precisely as the Good News of a completed, sufficient, and perfect work of God in Christ accomplished for me and outside of me in history, the gospel is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ not only at the beginning but throughout the Christian life. In fact, our sanctification is simply a lifelong process of
Donald S. Whitney: As you’ve surely noticed, everyone is “spiritual” today. Some years ago I came across a USA Today survey where even a majority of atheists consider themselves “spiritual” people. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know, I’m just not a spiritual person.” Perhaps for many spirituality simply means spending time occasionally in personal reflection. For others maybe it means consciously trying to live by certain principles, or attempting to be thoughtful on important issues like the environment or homelessness. However, the common perception of spirituality is not the biblical one. I’m writing from the perspective that spirituality includes—but transcends—the human spirit, and involves the pursuit of God and the things of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s self-revelation (that is, the Bible). Spirituality and the Gospel This kind of spirituality is not self-generated; rather it is one result of the new spiritual life that God creates in the
The gospel of Christ’s painful death on our behalf has a way of breaking our pride and our sense of rightful demands and our frustration at not getting our way. It works lowliness into our souls. Then we treat each other with meekness flowing out of that lowliness. The battle is with our own proud, self-centered inner person. Fight that battle by faith, through the gospel, in prayer. Be stunned and broken and built up and made glad and humble because you are chosen, holy, loved. — John Piper This Momentary Marriage (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 56 (HT: Of First Importance)
Iain M. Duguid has some excellent advice for us when it comes to the focus of our preaching: “Sermons and Bible studies that focus on ‘law’ (the demands of Scripture for our obedience), no matter how accurately biblical in content, tend simply to add to the burden of guilt felt by the average Christian. A friend of mine calls these sermons ‘another brick in the backpack’ – you arrive at church knowing five ways in which you are falling short of God’s standard for your life, and you leave knowing ten ways, doubly burdened. In my experience such teaching yields little by way of life transformation, especially in terms of the joy and peace that are supposed to mark the Christian life. Focusing on the gospel, however, has the power to change our lives at a deep level. Through the gospel we come to see both the true depth of our sin (and therefore that our earlier feelings of
10 quotes from Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund: Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace. When the doctrine is clear and the culture is beautiful, that church will be powerful. But there are no shortcuts to getting there. Without the doctrine, the culture will be weak. Without the culture, the doctrine will seem pointless (21). Every one of us is wired to lean one way or the other—toward emphasizing doctrine or culture. Some of us naturally resonate with truth and standards and definitions. Others of us resonate with feel and vibe and relationships. Whole churches, too, can emphasize one or the other. Left to ourselves, we will get it partly wrong, but we won’t feel wrong, because we’ll be partly right. But only partly. Truth without grace is harsh and ugly. Grace without truth is sentimental and cowardly. The living Christ is full of grace
Sam Storms: In a recent editorial for the on-line theological journal, Themelios, (“Do the Work of an Evangelist,” 39, 1, April 2014), D. A. Carson had some interesting remarks on the nature of the Christian gospel. “For some Christians, ‘the gospel’ . . . is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: ‘Biblical Leadership,’ ‘Learning to Pray,’ ‘What to Do with Your Money,’ ‘Christian Marriage,’ and so forth—none of which falls under ‘gospel,’ but only under post-gospel discipleship. In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that ‘gospel’/’evangel’ is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news
Tomorrow I head for East Africa again. My current ministry in Tanzania is facilitating the formation of a Gospel Partnership among the pastors of Mbeya. Getting the central message of the bible right, and teaching and nurturing a gospel-centered koinonia into existance, is a wonderful privilege. There is great potential here to impact the nation for the Kingdom of God.
Tim Brister: believers practice confession instead of trying to make an impression people are defined by a lifestyle of repenting rather than pretending you embrace truth at all costs, not agreeing for each others approval light exposes & wounds and love covers & heals – both/and not either/or people are happy to be holy not content to be comfortable you own your mess because of His mercy instead of hiding them because of your shame functional saviors & heart idolatry are lovingly confronted & challenged by Christ’s reign & rule unbelieving sinners & believing sinners together look away from themselves & look to Jesus the pleasure of God in Christ to save you liberates you to passionately serve others hospitality is given to those on the margins & those not like you are welcome in your world individual preferences take a back seat to community purposes of loving God and neighbor
Ray Ordlund: A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:18 Two things should be happening in every gospel-centered church every Sunday. One, the gospel should be preached. Two, the gospel should be experienced. What I mean by the second, experiencing the gospel, is a social environment that feels like the grace of God. It is an obvious alternative to what we experience throughout the week. Every day we swim in an ocean of harsh criticisms, merciless comparisons and never measuring up, soaking us in sadness while also telling us to keep faking happiness. This is the “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” wisdom of the world (James 3:15). It doesn’t work. Then Sunday comes, and we step into church, where the victory of Jesus redefines everything, even to the furthest reaches of the universe. In any church with a confidence that big, the vibe will be obviously different from the world. Every Sunday in that kind of church we
By Trevin Wax: There has been a much-needed resurgence of preaching the Bible as one storyline lately. But what’s the big deal? Why is it so important for Christians to be able to connect the dots of the Bible’s grand narrative? Here are four reasons I list in my latest book, Gospel-Centered Teaching: 1. To Gain a Biblical Worldview The first reason we need to keep the biblical story line in mind is because the narrative of the Bible is the narrative of the world. The Bible doesn’t just give us commands and prohibitions. It gives us an entire worldview. Everyone has a worldview, even people who are not Christians. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who do not have a Christian worldview. They may display some of the religious trappings of Christianity, but they demonstrate by their choices that they are living by another worldview. The story line of the Bible is important because it helps us think as Christians formed by the
Ray Ortlund: “. . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Luke 7:34 What does it mean for a church to be gospel-centered? That’s a popular concept these days. Good. What if we were scrambling to be law-centered? But the difference is not so easy in real terms. A gospel-centered church holds together two things. One, a gospel-centered church preaches a bold message of divine grace for the undeserving — so bold that it becomes the end of the law for all who believe. Not our performance but Christ’s performance for us. Not our sacrifices but his sacrifice for us. Not our superiority but only his worth and prestige. The good news of substitution. The good news that our okayness is not in us but exterior to us in Christ alone. Climbing down from the high moral ground, because only Christ belongs up there. That message, that awareness, that clarity. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Two, a gospel-centered church translates that theology into
Gospel Centred Teaching by Trevin Wax.
New Testament scholar Mike Bird offers an intriguing introduction to his new book, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2013): (HT: Justin Taylor)
Dane Ortlund, the managing editor of the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, interviews Bryan Chapell, the general editor. You can find out more about the contributors and the editions and see samples here. (HT: Justin Taylor)
Chuck Collins: I marvel when someone says, “I have no regrets.” That’s not me; I have plenty. Perhaps my biggest regret, outside of not spending more time with my kids when they were growing up and not discovering Irish whiskey sooner, is that for much of my 30 years of ordained ministry I have not preached “the gospel.” By-and-large I have been a nice man standing in front of nice people, telling them that God calls them to be nicer. And just about none of it was life-changing. I have come to see that there are really just two ways to preach: one is the gospel, the other is get-better messages. The first is based on God’s goodness; the second on self-improvement. Gospel preaching presupposes that, even though we deserve punishment for our sins, Jesus Christ suffered the punishment in our place on the cross. Get-better sermons, on the other hand, is moralistic advice in which a preacher mounts a
Coming soon – The Gospel Transformation Bible: Christ in All of Scripture, Grace for All of Life Publishers blurb: The apostle Paul summed up his whole ministry as existing “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). That single-minded goal is the heartbeat of the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. Produced out of the conviction that the Bible is a unified message of God’s grace culminating in Jesus, it is a significant new tool to help readers see Christ in all the Bible, and grace for all of life. The Gospel Transformation Bible features all-new book introductions and gospel-illuminating notes written by a team of over 50 outstanding pastors and scholars. This specially prepared material outlines passage-by-passage God’s redemptive purposes of grace that echo all through Scripture and culminate in Christ. The notes not only explain but also apply the text in a grace-centered way. Focusing on heart transformation rather than mere behavior modification, their points of application
This post by Erik Raymond highlights a principle that must be applied to all our affinities and allegiances: “Recently I was able to sit on a panel for a discussion among some local church planters. One of the questions was, “What are you most concerned about with the gospel-centered movement?” Before expressing any concern I want to be clear: I am very encouraged by the recovery of the center, the gospel, among many, particularly younger evangelicals. This is essential for us at this hour. At the same time I have a cause for concern. My chief concern is not primarily a matter of theology but hermeneutics (the art and science of interpretation). It appears that the gospel-centered movement is very good at buying books, reading blogs and listening to sermons. We excel at catching John Piper’s passion for a God-saturated, joy-effusing, expository exultation (not to mention his penchant for hyphenated descriptors). We buy in to Tim Keller’s Center Church model. We can
From the TGC13 Faith at Work Post-Conference: You can grab the audio here, and get free access to all the sessions here. Keller’s book is Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. (HT: Justin Taylor)
Jude St.John: This is great stuff by Edwards. In the 11th lecture of Charity and Its Fruit, Edwards convincingly declares that men’s practice will be according to their convictions. That is, if a man truly believes something, he will act on it and if he does not act on it, it seems that he is not really and entirely convinced of that truth. Nowhere is this more true than in man’s dealings with the gospel. Gospel-truth is efficacious truth; if you believe it sincerely, your life is changed and this results in a change in the manner in which you live your life. If a man hears important news that concerns himself, and we do not see that he alters at all for it in his practice, we at once conclude that he does not give heed to it as true; for we know the nature of man is such, that he will govern his actions by what he believes and
Ray Ortlund: Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrines of grace create a culture of grace, as Jesus himself touches us through his truths. Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile. Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless. For example: The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Ephesians 2:1-9). The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Galatians 2:11-16). The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Ephesians 2:14-16). The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Romans 6:20-23). The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Romans 5:2). The doctrine of God creates a culture of honesty (1 John 1:5-10). And what could be more basic than that? If we want this culture to thrive, we can’t take doctrinal short cuts. If we want this doctrine to be credible, we can’t disregard the culture. But churches where the doctrine and culture converge bear living witness to the power of Jesus.