5 Ways We Get the Great Commission Wrong

Trevin Wax: The missionary imperative of Jesus at the close of Matthew’s Gospel (28:18-20) is a key text for Christians: 18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (CSB)   But it’s easy for us to take some wrong turns in our understanding of Jesus’s instruction. Here are five ways we sometimes get the Great Commission wrong. 1. When We See ‘Teaching’ as Exclusively or Primarily Informational The first pitfall is seeing the “teaching” component of disciple-making as exclusively or primarily informational rather than holistic. David Sills puts his finger on this weakness, saying, “The heart is often overlooked in discipleship programs and traditional classroom models. Focusing intently

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The Danger of “Assuming” Evangelism

  Trevin Wax: “Don’t assume the gospel!” has become a rallying cry for gospel-centered pastors and leaders. D. A. Carson has warned against this slow but sad progression: From a generation that believes the gospel and all its implications… To a generation that assumes the gospel but identifies more with its implications… To a generation that loses the gospel altogether. “Make the gospel explicit!” we say, in an effort to ensure that the good news of Jesus – the only news that has the power to transform lives – stays front and center in our message, our methods, and our ministries. But what happens when it’s not the evangel that gets assumed, but evangelism?  Is it possible that a generation deeply committed to making the gospel present and explicit in the church’s preaching and teaching, might assume that Christians know how to share the gospel? Or that Christians understand just how vital evangelism is? I wonder about “assuming evangelism” because of some of the books I’ve read recently, books

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Laying A Gospel Foundation, But Not Building Anything

  Trevin Wax: If you read books or go to conferences with the word “gospel” in them, you’re likely to hear phrases like this: “The gospel is not the ABC’s, but the A to Z of salvation.” “We never move beyond the gospel; we move deeper into the gospel.” “The gospel is not just what we need at the beginning of the Christian life; it’s what we need to sustain our Christian life.” I agree with each of these statements and have said similar things before. I believe you can back up these statements with Scripture, the manner in which the biblical authors seek to foster spiritual growth among the early Christians. What About Hebrews and Leaving the Basic Gospel Message? But if there’s one passage that should give the gospel-centered movement pause, it’s Hebrews 6:1-3. After challenging a lack of maturity on the part of his hearers (they want milk when they should be eating solid food), the author

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On the Cross: The Multifaceted Diamond of Christ’s Atoning Work

Trevin Wax: The atonement is like a multi-faceted diamond. What Christ accomplished on the cross is so massive, and the window into the heart of God is so big that no one explanation or description of the atonement can tell the whole story. Because the atonement is at the heart of who God is and what he has done for us, we can never fully exhaust the riches that flow from this event. But recognizing our inability to mine all the theological treasures represented in the cross of Christ should not keep us from pondering the beautiful truth of this event. In recent weeks, guest contributors have written about the different aspects of Christ’s atoning work. Here is a summary of their posts, with links for you to dig deeper into the significance of each truth. On the cross, Christ slays the Dragon and wins our victory: In the cross and resurrection, Christ the warrior king is the new and

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A Deeper Look at the Most Popular Worship Song of 2013

Trevin Wax: The first time I heard Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” on the radio, I knew I was listening to a song that would soon be sung in churches across the United States. The plaintive melody perfectly suits Redman’s paraphrase of Psalm 103, and the chorus was singing in my head the rest of the day. According to CCLI’s biannual list of 25 songs reported by churches across the country, “10,000 Reasons” is now the most-often sung contemporary worship song in America. Since Redman’s song is so popular, I thought it may be helpful to take a deeper look at the main themes of the song, in comparison to the themes of the psalm on which it is based. I enlisted a hymnwriter and student at Belmont University (Bryan Loomis) to analyze the song’s message, and the two of us had a lunch conversation recently about its strengths and weaknesses. The Chorus The song begins with the chorus, a paraphrase of the beginning

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The Spirit-Formed Community

Trevin Wax: The power of Pentecost makes for a fantastic story. Rushing wind, flaming tongues, and the proclamation of a fisherman turned evangelist calling people to repent and be baptized. But don’t miss how Acts 2 ends. The power of the Spirit that flowed through the apostles’ proclamation is the power that gathers people into a new community. So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They

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Four Reasons to Preach the Bible as One Story

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

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7 Ways of Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

By Trevin Wax: No pastor wants his preaching to be considered “Christ-less” or something other than “Christ-centered.” Still, it is sometimes difficult to understand what exactly is meant by this kind of terminology. Likewise, no pastor wants to “read into” the text something that is not there. In the initial chapter of his book,Preaching Christ from Genesis,Sidney Griedanus lays out seven ways that a preacher can legitimately preach Christ from the Old Testament. I’ve adapted the examples for each category in order to keep the focus on how there are multiple ways to preach Christ from an Old Testament account (such as Noah). 1. Redemptive-Historical Progression The redemptive-historical road to Christ is the “broadest and foundational path from an Old Testament text to Jesus Christ” (3). It takes into consideration the history of redemption which begins with the opening chapters of Genesis and culminates in the vision of a restored paradise in Revelation. This journey from creation to new creation

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Jesus Gives Us an Identity, Not Just a Task

Trevin Wax: We often think of “witness” as something we do (such as evangelism), rather than something we are. But in the commissioning scenes in Luke (24:44-48) and Acts (1:4-8), Jesus speaks of the disciples in terms of present reality (“you are My witnesses”) and future identity (“you will be My witnesses”). What’s the significance of being Christ’s witnesses? Jesus is the Focus of Our Witness First, note the emphasis in both accounts on Jesus claiming authority over the disciples’ identities and activities: My witnesses. This could refer to the fact that the witnesses belong to the Lord —”you are the witnesses who belong to Me.” Or it could mean that the witnesses speak of the Lord in line with their identity —”you are the witnesses that speak of me.” I’m inclined to go with the latter understanding since Luke 24:44‒48 focuses on bearing witness to all that has been fulfilled in the Old Testament (not to mention the focus in Acts on the expansion

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When We Say “Gospel,” Do We Really Mean “The Spirit?”

Great post from Trevin Wax: Evangelicals love to speak in theological shorthand. We employ phrases and terms that become popular, become a badge of identification, and over time get emptied of their meaning. Obedience Fueled by the Gospel? Take “gospel-centered” language as an example: Our obedience is fueled by the gospel. The gospel is what motivates our obedience. We need to be captured again by the gospel. We need be refreshed in the gospel every day. And on and on. The more I hear this kind of talk, the more I’m convinced that we are using the word “gospel” where we really mean the Holy Spirit. We often talk about the gospel doing stuff when actually it’s the Spirit who is working. So we say, “The gospel fuels our obedience,” but what we really mean is the Spirit captures our affections with the gospel in order to fuel our obedience.  Now, knowing the Spirit, He probably doesn’t mind all that much that we’re devoting so much attention to Christ. That’s who He’s about, after all. But I do

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