Division Begins With the Departure from the Truth

Jared Wilson: Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? — Amos 3:3 Christians who affirm the normative, traditional, historical, orthodox view of the Bible’s teaching on various sins are always accused of being divisive when in sticking to their affirmations they must disassociate with those who don’t. It’s a disingenuous claim, however, since unity could have been preserved so long as the agreement did. But when one changes a mind on such matters, the division has begun with them (1 Cor. 1:10), not the one who says, “Ah, you’ve changed the rules; you’ve changed the agreement.” It would be like the adulterer calling after his wife as she’s walking out the door in anger and shame that she’s being divisive. The person who objects is often told they are “singling out” this particular sin as over-important, as more important than unity! But it is not those who protest who are singling out particular sins. It is those

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A Gospeled Church

Jared Wilson: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. — Romans 15:5 The gospel cannot puff us up. It cannot make us prideful. It cannot make us selfish. It cannot make us arrogant. It cannot make us rude. It cannot make us gossipy. It cannot make us accusers. So the more we press into the gospel, the more the gospel takes over our hearts and the spaces we bring our hearts to, and it stands to reason, the less we would see those things antithetical to it. You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time. So a church that makes its main thing the gospel, and when faced with sin in its ranks doesn’t simply crack the whip of the law but says “remember the gospel,” should gradually be seeing grace coming to bear. It works out this way individually. The most

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How Christianity Flourishes

Jared Wilson: Christian mission has always thrived by surging in the margins and under the radar. When we somehow get into positions of power, the wheels always come off. This is pretty much the way it’s always been. I once heard Steve Brown relate this story on the radio: “A Muslim scholar once said to a Christian, ‘I cannot find anywhere in the Qur’an that it teaches Muslims how to be a minority presence in the world. And I cannot find anywhere in the New Testament where it teaches Christians how to be a majority presence in the world.’” Indeed, as Christianity spread throughout the first few centuries as a persecuted minority people, the conversion of Constantine paved the way for its becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire by the end of the fourth century. That’s quite a turnaround for some backwater sect splintering off an oppressed Palestinian Judaism. But as my old religion professor in college,

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The 5 C’s of Preaching

Jared Wilson: What are the basic elements of biblical preaching? How do you know you’re preaching a Christian sermon and not simply giving a religious or spiritual lecture? While I think gospel-centered expository proclamation is the best approach to fulfilling the biblical call to preach, this exercise could probably use some more filling out. And since preachers like alliteration and lists, I thought I might suggest a checklist reflecting what I propose to be the irreduceable complexity of true Christian preaching. Next time you’re preparing a sermon, maybe keep these questions in mind. Or, after the next time you preach, share this list with your fellow elders or another team of trusted advisors and ask them to apply the questions to your delivered message. 1. Is your sermon CONTEXTUAL? The word contextual is important. It’s more specific than simply asking if the message is textual, because a lot of preachers use Bible verses in their sermons, and by this they

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Freedom from the Tyranny of Hyperspirituality

Jared Wilson: My friends tell me the story of a Christian sister from their church past who would agonize in the mornings over which shoe to tie first, for fear of violating the will of God. This is serious business. So let me tell you a serious story from my own church past: When I was in the ninth grade, some of my fellow youth group members and I were a part of something called the “student ministry team” at our Baptist church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One weekend, our youth pastor took us into the beautiful Sandia Mountains for a spiritual retreat, and on that Saturday our assignment after lunch was to get away by ourselves somewhere and listen for God and not return until we had heard from him. Late that night we all sat around our cabin living room floor and shared what God had allegedly shared with each of us. I write “allegedly” there, because I

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The Gospel Kind of Christ-Centeredness

Jared Wilson: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance . . . — 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 To be gospel-centered is to be Christ-centered. But as it pertains to the pursuit of holiness and obedience to God’s commands we may opt more often for the terminology “gospel-centered,” because without more qualifications, “Christ-centered obedience” can be misconstrued to imply simply taking Jesus as a moral example. Jesus is our moral example, of course, but the power for enduring, joyful obedience comes not from trying to be like him, but in first believing that he has become like us, that he has died in our place, risen as our resurrection firstfruits, ascended to intercede for us, and seated to

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The Gospel Past and The Gospel Future Make Your Gospel Present

Jared Wilson: The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5) There is past tense and then future tense. There is “I have loved you” and there is “Your own eyes shall see . . .” God through Malachi is addressing a half-hearted, spiritually

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8 Hallmarks of Attractional and Gospel-Centered Churches

Jared Wilson: Went on a bit of a Twitter run yesterday with some thoughts on the essential defining characteristics of the church model I call attractional, followed by some constructive alternative hallmarks of gospel-centered churches. Hopefully they will bring more clarity to thinking through the relevant issues in evangelical ecclesiology. These are important times to get this sorted. Unfortunate hallmarks of the attractional church: 1) Sermons driven by what Christian Smith calls “moralistic therapeutic deism” 2) Functional ideology of pragmatism. (Not “what’s biblical?” but “what works?”) 3) Truncating of the gospel or relegation of the gospel to background/afterthought 4) Equation of bigness with success, contrary to numerous biblical examples otherwise 5) Treating membership solely or mainly as a means of assimilating volunteers 6) Wide open back door for those needing to be discipled beyond conversion 7) Reduction of the Bible to a source for good quotes 8) Claiming relevance/innovation while insulating from critical challenges to assumptions. Hallmarks of gospel-centered churches:

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21 [quick] Thoughts on Preaching

Jared Wilson: In no particular order, here are some reflections, musings, and bits of advice on the noble task of preaching the Word of God. 1. I’ve heard it attributed to Tim Keller that you have to preach at least 200 sermons to get good. (Or something like that.) I think this is generally true. For those gifted to preach, it does take a long time to hit your stride and become reliably good, and even then, you keep growing and refining. For those who aren’t gifted to preach, I think even reaching the 200 mark shows no discernable growth. Someone is ungifted to preach when they’ve been at it a long time and show no real development. Sermon 201 is probably not noticeably improved from sermon 1. 2. I personally favor the use of manuscripts, but I understand they’re not for everyone. If you can’t preach from a manuscript without sounding like you are reading a manuscript, it’s probably

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The Bible Is Not an Instruction Manual

Jared Wilson: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth Ever heard the Bible explained that way? It’s a handy mnemonic device that certainly has some truth to it. But does it get at the heart of what the Bible really is? The way so many of us treat the Scriptures—as God’s “how to” book—doesn’t seem quite right when we carefully look at what its own pages say. And I fear that the way we use the Bible in this way actually accomplishes the opposite of what we intended. If the Bible is not essentially an instruction manual for practical application, then, what is it? If it’s not mainly about what we need to do, what is it about? If it’s not about us, who is it about? The Bible Is about Jesus About Jesus? Well, duh,” you’re thinking right now. That goes without saying. And I agree. It has been going without saying. But we need to keep saying it. We don’t

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The Divisive Person Is the One Who Departs from the Truth

Jared Wilson: Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? — Amos 3:3 Christians who affirm the normative, traditional, historical, orthodox view of the Bible’s teaching on various sins are always accused of being divisive when in sticking to their affirmations they must disassociate with those who don’t. It’s a disingenuous claim, however, since unity could have been preserved so long as the agreement did. But when one changes a mind on such matters the division has begun with them (1 Corinthians 1:10), not the one who says, “Ah, you’ve changed the rules; you’ve changed the agreement.” It would be like the adulterer crying out after his wife as she’s walking out the door in anger and shame that she’s being divisive. The person who objects is often told they are “singling out” this particular sin as over-important, as more important than unity! But it is not those who protest who are singling out particular sins. It is those

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Saved to the Uttermost

Jared Wilson: (35) Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (36) But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (37) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (38) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” – John 6:35-39 Salvation by Christ’s work is a gift of grace received through faith. This salvation is total (Romans 8:30) and we see its totality in John 6. In Christ, we are: 1. Satisfied (vv.35-36) No more hunger. No more thirst. When we

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Sanctifying Success is the Lord’s

Jared Wison: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Not a single one of us is a perfect repenter. And not a single one of us ever will be. I do believe we cooperate in the work of our sanctification, working out what God has worked in (Phil. 2:12-13), striving to lay hold of the holiness with which God has already laid hold of us (Phil. 3:12), holding true to what we’ve already attained (Phil. 3:16), but the power and the success of sanctification must be the Lord’s alone, if only because only he sees all we need cleansing from. It is a mistake to think that as we progress in sanctification we have less sin to address. We walk through victories, successions of freedoms, but my experience has been that the further

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Kill Your Jesus Talisman

Jared Wilson: I can win any slam dunk contest through him who gives me strength. If I will ask God for the ability to do so “in Jesus’ name,” of course. When I was a kid I had a poster of Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” — with a photo of a guy dunking a basketball. You can bet I thought long and hard about how Jesus was gonna help me dunk on some fools. Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi from jail. Chapter 4, verse 13 may sound like it needs to be slapped on whatever the Christian equivalent of a PowerBar is, but Paul was not talking about Jesus being our genie, but Jesus being our satisfaction in all situations, whether rich or poor, free or enslaved, healthy or sick, successful or getting dunked on. Wherever our promised trouble-full life finds us, we will persevere only in Christ. Similarly, Jeremiah

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Crucifying Defensiveness

Jared Wilson: . . . Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? – 1 Corinthians 6:7 The biggest problem in my life and ministry is me. And the biggest problem among my many idiosyncratic problems is the impulse toward self-defense and self-justification. The Lord has been working well on me over the last several years in this area, and I do think, by his grace, I have gotten better at suppressing this impulse, denying it, even going into situations I know will include much criticism directed at myself having proactively crucified it for the moment. But my inner defense attorney (a voting partner in the ambulance-chasing firm of Flesh & Associates) is always there, crouching at my door, seeking to rule over everybody by arguing in my quote-unquote “favor.” Crucifying the defensive impulse is so difficult because it essentially means choosing to allow others to misunderstand you, misjudge you, and even malign you. (Of course, many times the painful things

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The Fullness of God Dwells Embryonically

Jared Wilson: And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35 Really, the Advent season runs from Genesis 3 onward, and Christmas Day is when the miracle prophesied in Luke 1:35 is fulfilled. For those of us who believe personhood can be derived from Psalm 139:13-15 and Job 31:15, we believe the Incarnation did not begin at Jesus’ birth but at his conception. And if this is so, when Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” we know that the fullness of deity dwelled in fertilized ovum. Will the Empire State Building occupy a doghouse? Will a killer whale fit inside an ant? And here we are told that omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, utter eternalness and holiness dwelled in a tiny person. This makes Santa coming down a chimney seem a logistical cakewalk. “The head

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Don’t Let Christmas Distract You From Jesus

A word in season from Jared Wilson: There is a great danger this Christmas season of missing the point. And I’m not referring simply to idolatrous consumption and materialism. I’m talking about Christmas religiosity. It is very easy around this time to set up our Nativity scenes, host our Christmas pageants and cantatas, read the Christmas story with our families, attend church every time the door is open, and insist to ourselves and others that Jesus is the reason for the season, and yet not see Jesus. With the eyes of our heart, I mean. I suppose there is something about indulging in the religious Christmas routine that lulls us into thinking we are dwelling in Christ when we are really just set to seasonal autopilot, going through the festive and sentimental motions. Meanwhile the real person Jesus the Christ goes neglected in favor of his plastic, paper, and video representations. Don’t get distracted from Jesus by “Jesus.” This year,

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Utterly Saved

Jared Wilson: (35) Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (36) But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (37) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (38) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” – John 6:35-39 Salvation by Christ’s work is a gift of grace received through faith. This salvation is total (Romans 8:30) and we see its totality in John 6. In Christ, we are: 1. Satisfied (vv.35-36) No more hunger. No more thirst. When we are

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10 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering

Jared Wilson, in Gospel Deeps, writes that “while we may not be satisfied with what God has revealed about his purposes in suffering, we cannot justifiably say he has not revealed anything about his purposes in suffering. We may not have the answer we are labouring for, but we do have a wealth of answers that lie in the same field.” Here’s an outline of ten reasons he identifies in God’s Word: To remind us that the world is broken and groans for redemption [Rom. 8:20-23]. To do justice in response to Adam’s (and our) sin. To remind us of the severity of the impact of Adam’s (and our) sin. To keep us dependent on God [Heb. 12:6-7]. So that we will long more for heaven and less for the world. To make us more like Christ, the suffering servant [Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 1:5, 4:11]. To awaken the lost to their need for God [Ps. 119:67, 71]. To make the bliss of heaven

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