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Archive for December, 2009

Improving the Gospel or Losing the Gospel?

Mark Dever on Unbiblical Theology: Questioning 5 Common Deceits
Adapted from Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology

New challenges to the clarity and sufficiency of the gospel arise in each generation. Today some people, even within evangelicalism, are acting and speaking as if Jesus Christ alone is not fully sufficient and as if faith in him and his promises alone is a reduction of the full gospel. They are effectively modifying, or expanding, the gospel we have received.

There are several different ways that people are trying to supplement or add to the gospel. Let’s consider some of the threats that we face, some of the mistaken notions that threaten to carry us away.

1. “Make the Gospel Social!” I don’t mean by this to communicate any indifference about issues of this life. Are both evangelism and compassionate service to be part of our individual discipleship? Yes. Are they both to typify our lives as Christians? Yes. Are they equally part of the gospel? No. Never substitute doing good works for sharing the gospel. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it social; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

2. “Make the Gospel Larger!” There is a problem of confusing an action of ours with the gospel itself, even if that action can be said to reflect the gospel or to be consistent with it, perhaps even be an implication of it. When someone says that the gospel includes opposition to abortion or working to end unjust laws, then I have a few questions: does it also include nationalized health care or the war in Iraq? To require us to include what we take to be implications of the gospel as part of the gospel itself can too easily confuse our message and cause us to lose the radical and gracious sufficiency of faith in Christ alone. We want a Christian worldview and we don’t want to confuse that with the gospel. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it larger; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

3. “Make the Gospel Relevant!” We should reject any kind of “relevance” that sacrifices the very distinctiveness that Scripture tells us will a part of our life-saving witness to the gospel among those we would reach. We should illustrate the gospel before them by our lives of Christlike love. The gospel’s relevance appears precisely in our being distinct. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it more relevant; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

4. “Make the Gospel Personal!” Some people seem to understand the gospel only in reference to themselves as individuals with no idea of the local church. This individualism, which ignores the local church, ends up distorting our discipleship and even our gospel. The local church is a glorious testimony to the gospel, which is greater than the sum of its visible parts. The local church is not simply a collection of individual lights; it is a furnace that rages against the dark that God uses to create more lights. Don’t try to improve the gospel by decoupling it from the church; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

5. “Make the Gospel Kinder!” Many people have assumed that the ultimate purpose of the gospel is the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Therefore, we should do whatever we can to reach whomever we can (which in and of itself, of course, is good). But here, “reaching them” is not seen as merely making sure they hear and understand the gospel, but making sure that they accept the gospel. God is in this for our salvation—and even our glory, as Paul says in 1 Cor 2:7—but also, and more fundamentally, he is in it to please himself, to demonstrate himself to the universe. He has a larger end in mind—the display of his character in creation, the theater of his splendor. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it appear kinder at first glance. If you do, you’ll end up losing the gospel. We must preach the gospel we have received.

*You can also read chapter 5 on The Curse Motif of the Atonement by RC Sproul here.

Gifts of Faith: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Last week Jay Leno joked that two of the three wise men must not have gotten the memo about the appropriate gift to bring Jesus. They brought only frankincense and myrrh while the third one brought gold.

James Montgomery Boyce gave further insight to these “gifts of faith” in Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus:

Gold: It is easy to see why gold is an appropriate gift for Jesus Christ. Gold is the metal of kings. When gold was presented to Jesus, it acknowledged his right to rule. The wise men knew Jesus was the King of kings.

Incense: Incense was also a significant gift. It was used in the temple worship. It was mixed with the oil that was used to anoint the priests of Israel. It was part of the meal offerings that were offerings of thanksgiving and praise to God. In presenting this gift the wise men pointed to Christ as our great High Priest, the one whose whole life was acceptable and well pleasing to his Father.

Myrrh: Myrrh was used for embalming. By any human measure it would be odd, if not offensive, to present to the infant Christ a spice used for embalming. But it was not offensive in this case, nor was it odd. It was a gift of faith. We do not know precisely what the wise men may have known or guessed about Christ’s ministry, but we do know that the Old Testament again and again foretold his suffering.

December 25, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Holidays,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:00 am | (2) Comments »

For Your Sake He Became Poor

2 Corinthians 8:9
From Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening:

The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.” As the wealthy believer cannot be true in his fellowship with his poor brethren unless from his wealth he ministers to their needs, so (the same rule holding with the head as between the members) it is impossible that our Divine Lord could have had fellowship with us unless He had given to us from His own abounding wealth and had become poor so as to make us rich. If He had remained upon His throne in glory, and we had continued in the ruins of the Fall without receiving His salvation, fellowship would have been impossible on both sides. Our position by the Fall, apart from the covenant of grace, made it as impossible for fallen man to communicate with God as it is for Satan to be in communion with Christ. In order, therefore, that communion might be enjoyed, it was necessary for the rich relative to bestow his estate upon his poor relatives, for the righteous Savior to give to His sinning brethren from His own perfection, and for we, the poor and guilty, to receive of His fullness grace for grace, so that in giving and receiving, the One might descend from the heights, and the other ascend from the depths, and in this way be able to embrace each other in true and hearty fellowship. Poverty must be enriched by Him in whom are infinite treasures before it can begin to commune; and guilt must lose itself in imputed and imparted righteousness before the soul can walk in fellowship with purity. Jesus must clothe His people in His own blood or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of His fellowship.

Believer, herein is love. For your sake the Lord Jesus “became poor” that he might lift you up into communion with Himself.

December 24, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:00 am | 0 Comments »

Glory to God in the Highest

Isn’t it interesting how in Christmas cards and on public displays we often see the words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men”? But how seldom we see the prior words, “Glory to God in the highest”! But there is no peace, there is no good will, unless there is glory to God in the highest first. We forget to put God’s glory first. Fortunately, he does not. God will be glorified.

Would you or I have begun this announcement the way the angels did, with glory to God first? Obviously, the angels did not understand the importance of relevance and contextualization and meeting felt needs. They started with God, not with peace on earth! Why? Because the most relevant message to this sin-ruined world was, is, and always will be, “Glory to God in the highest.” Our whole problem is our God-neglect. But the best news for sinners like you and me is that, whatever we might do, God is still God, God is glorious, and God’s glory is supreme over all other realities. And when his glorious kingdom is finally consummated, then there will be perfect peace on earth, good will toward men.

Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. from Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

December 23, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Holidays,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:00 am | 0 Comments »

Getting to the Heart of Materialism

9781433502804‘Tis the season to celebrate the advent of Christ. But it’s also the season of shopping, gifts, commercials, and a culture that tempts consumers that they need and deserve stuff.

In Worldliness (edited by C. J. Mahaney), contributor Dave Harvey gives some practical warnings and advice:

Materialism is fundamentally a focus on and a trust in what we can touch and possess. It describes the unchecked desire for, dependence on, and stockpiling of stuff. In some people it’s more painfully obvious than in others. But it pervades every heart.

Materialism is a far deeper problem than having stuff. It’s an expression of worldliness with incredibly persuasive force . . .

Covetousness is a glutton for stuff. Through covetous attractions and distractions within the heart, our stuff takes on meaning in our lives far beyond what God intends. In fact, the apostle Paul makes the point that covetousness is a form of idol worship (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5). Idolatrous cravings maneuver our hearts away from God and affix them to things of this world. Hence the ultimatum from Jesus recorded for us later in Luke:

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Luke 16:13).

Covetousness is choosing earthly trinkets over eternal treasure.

Dave continues to describe the chains that bind our hearts to the world:

  1. My stuff makes me happy
  2. My stuff makes me important
  3. My stuff makes me secure
  4. My stuff makes me rich

Ideas of what your guard against these things should look like:

  1. Consider your true riches
  2. Confess and repent
  3. Express specific gratitude
  4. De-materialize your life
  5. Give generously
  6. Parents: Guard and guide your kids

Check out Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World to learn more!

December 22, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Holidays,Life / Doctrine,Money,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:00 am | 0 Comments »