The Gifts of This Age Point Us to the Age Still to Come

Jared C. Wilson: And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. — Luke 20:34-36 Jesus knows that the Sadducees he’s speaking to do not believe in a resurrection, and in a way, their very misunderstanding of what Jesus believes about marriage betrays their disbelief. The Sadducees, like so many others then and today who don’t believe in Jesus, think this is all there is. Nothing comes after death. You die and that’s it. They do not think on the scale of eternity. That God is endless and therefore life is endless. That when God created the world, not even the fall of mankind and the sin unleashed into the world

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The Weakness of Prayer Makes Strong Christians

Jared Wilson: We have to be very careful in how we wage spiritual war. Thanks to some fanciful fictions and inspirational clichés, a lot of bad theology has crept into the Church’s thinking on these matters. The way some people talk about prayer owes more to New Age spirituality than biblical Christianity. Many of us were even taught in our church classes about “spiritual warfare” in ways that seem foreign to the Bible! Sometimes God and Satan are cast as warring opposites, a kind of yin and yang balancing each other out, even while squaring off. Which side will win in the battle over your soul and the fate of the universe? Well, whichever side you support, of course. Obviously it sounds a little silly when put that way. But books, songs, and movies were made for the evangelical subculture that reflected just that kind of warped theology of the spiritual plane. Jesus sometimes sounds like a version of Tinkerbell, needing our “applause” to

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The Gospel Kind of Christ-Centredness

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, ascended for our intercession, and seated to signal the finished work

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Christ Our Ransom

Jared Wilson: Like many others, I have been moved over the last several years to repeatedly reassert the biblical emphasis on Christ’s propitiating work on the cross in what is typically called the “penal substitution” view of the atonement—for instance, devoting an entire chapter to it as the “sharp edge of the atonement” in my book Gospel Deeps and another whole chapter defending it from recent critiques in a forthcoming book (2020) with Thomas Nelson. But penal substitution is of course not the whole of the atonement. The gospel is more multifaceted than that, and one of the least considered facets is Christ as our ransom. Psalm 49 establishes a dilemma of direst condition: Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice . . .  (49:7-8) The condition of man since the fall is one of bondage to sin and corruption from death. Having

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Does Hebrews 6 Teach that We Should Move On from the Gospel?

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,and of instruction about washings,[a] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. — Hebrews 6:1-2 Jared Wilson: Doesn’t the author of Hebrews tell us to move on from elementary gospel truths (6:1-2)? This may seem like an odd question, but it is one I get occasionally whenever I stump hard for constantly returning to the centrality of Christ’s finished work for both the lost and the found. I remember several years ago a fairly prominent evangelical scholar citing this passage in his criticism of me on this very point. Just yesterday I was reminded again by a critic online of the alleged “graduation” from the gospel encouraged by Hebrews 6. And yet, the apostle Paul tells us in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15 that the gospel is of first importance.

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The Perils of Preaching an Implications-Free Gospel

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. — Galatians 2:10 Jared Wilson: One of the strangest developments of late in the ongoing scrums over the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of “social justice” is the shifts in understanding by various evangelical tribes and movements of the distinctions and connections between law and gospel. “Just preach the gospel” has become a frequent rebuke heard from camps who are concerned about the muddling of gospel and works. To be clear and fair, not everyone concerned about emphases on social justice agrees with the alleged antidote of “just preaching the gospel,” but this imperative has been leveled enough — and from some places of influence — that it has gained a fair amount of traction. Also to be fair, the muddling of gospel and works is always a threat to real Christianity, and nobody is immune. We must take care not to confuse any works, be they works we call “social justice”

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Every Christian Must Be a Theologian

Jared Wilson: Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, I used to tell this to my church often. And the looks I got from some surprised souls are the evidence that I had not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by laypeople is important. Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead. But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical

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The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnation of the Omnipresent Word

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  — Hebrews 13:8 Jared Wilson: Every year at this time as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus to the virgin Mary, I don’t suppose it occurs to too many merrymakers that what they’re really celebrating is the incarnation. All of the other miracles are in service of that central miracle: God became man. And in becoming, through spiritual conception, the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God did not cease to be God. Baby Jesus, from the moment of conception to the straw habitation of the manger, was fully God and fully man. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. When we put our minds long to the idea of Jesus being 100 percent God and simultaneously 100 percent man, they naturally feel overwhelmed. The orthodox doctrine of the incarnation is compelling, beautiful, biblically sensible, and salvifically necessary, but it is nevertheless utterly inscrutable. And that’s okay. In

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The Gospel-Shaped Pastor

Jared Wilson: Pastors are a motley bunch of souls. We represent different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations, traditions, and theologies. But I’ve learned over the years that there is something many of us all have in common—a profound sense of insecurity for which the only antidote is the gospel. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to compare one’s ministry to that of another pastor, or give in to the need to impress others and be liked. The only remedy for these ministry idolatries and all others is the gospel because it announces, among many things, we are justified, accepted, loved, and satisfied by God in Christ. Until pastors discover and embrace their identity in Christ—which is accomplished by Christ and received by faith, not works—they will keep trying to find their identity in their position, their preaching, their persona, and their programs. While every pastor would affirm the gospel’s centrality to their ministry,

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How Do You Get a Revival?

Jared Wilson: It is not a miracle, or dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means–as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means. There may be a miracle among its antecedent causes, or there may not. The apostles employed miracles, simply as a means by which they arrested attention to their message, and established its Divine authority. But the miracle was not the revival. The miracle was one thing; the revival that followed it was quite another thing. The revivals in the apostles’ days were connected with miracles, but they were not miracles. I said that a revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means. Those are the words of Charles Finney from his Lectures on Revivals of Religion. I say that Finney is dead wrong. Dangerously wrong. But Finney’s words here serve as the philosophical precursor to countless

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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 gracious

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12 Signs of Genuine Repentance

Jared Wilson: I have sinned against you. I have apologized. But how do you know if I mean it? How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance: A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships.

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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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