Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Gospel and Vermont Pure Dark Amber Maple Syrup

This is a snip from my current book in progress, titled for the time being Gospel Wakefulness:

The divinely entertained heart of gospel wakefulness finds itself daydreaming about the gospel constantly. It hardly needs prompting. This “autopilot” gospel-centrality is the result of gospel wakefulness itself. It comes from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.

All Christians have tasted that the Lord is good. Most Christians believe the Lord is good. But fewer and fewer it seems have seen in their tasting that the Lord is good.

When I moved to Vermont I heard a lot about the maple syrup here. I thought I had had maple syrup before. It turns out I had only engaged in a corn syrup masquerade. Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth — all shams. (Those probably aren’t even their real names.) It wasn’t until I actually tasted 100% pure, dark amber Vermont maple syrup that I “saw” what I had only heard about before. And now — this is the key — I will not have any other kind of syrup (except under protest). It is too late. I will not go back. I’ve tasted the goodness and lost my taste for the pale imitations. Unlike the boy of C.S. Lewis’s parable, I have had the holiday at sea, so making the mud pies has lost all its luster.

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The Gospel Empowering its Own Implications Is Poetry

“Run, John, runThe law commandsBut gives neither feet nor handsBetter news the gospel bringsIt bids us fly and gives us wings.”

– John Bunyan

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"Every Time: Grace Wins"

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tony Carter’s breakout session message “Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel” was the absolute best thing I heard at Together 4 the Gospel. It was brilliant, compelling, thrilling proclamation. I don’t know if the audio will be made available, but if it is, I highly recommend it to you.

Here is a great snippet of Carter on sin and grace from an Anthem Conference message:

The Stain of Sin and the Grace of God from David Wells on Vimeo.

In the T4G message, Carter quoted a bit from Robert Louis Stevenson and turned it into one of the most powerful illustrations in the sermon. In this video he goes with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. As a lit-geek, I’m loving that stuff.

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The Gospel in Marriage Counseling

There is a good post over at Counseling Solutions today on bringing the gospel to bear in a marriage counseling situation, especially when the couple assumes the gospel is the ABC’s of life and now they need some “better” help.

An excerpt:

Let’s suppose that you really do understand the Gospel and that your understanding is something deeper and broader than the casual, average, run-of-the-mill understanding that any person who has ever been associated with Christianity possesses. The following is a short list of attitudes and behaviors you should demonstrate:

* Daily amazement at what has happened to them. * Daily gratitude for what has happened for them. * Joyful awareness that their greatest problem in life has been resolved. * Overwhelmed by hope because they now know that no problem is too big for God. * Sobered awareness of what they were: amazed awareness of God’s mercy. * Serving others is their first thought, as it pertains to behavior. * Hope, joy, care, encouragement, gratitude, and kindness are the characteristics of their lives. * Tearfulness is a normal response as they think of Christ and what he did for them. * Gospel-centered-motivations shape what they do. * Radically transformed from the inside out. * Uninhibited in their transparency with others.

Unfortunately the descriptors above do not describe Jeremy …

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A Feeble Faith May Lay Bold on a Strong Christ

If you’ve ever heard the name Augustus Toplady, you probably heard it in the context of the great hymn “Rock of Ages,” which Toplady penned. At the Together 4 the Gospel conference, I had the great blessing to find myself in Tony Carter’s breakout session, in which he preached a magnificent message on “Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel,” in which he quoted a fair bit from Toplady’s writing on assurance. Hungry for more, I did some poking around online and found this fantastic selection. It’s in the public domain and available for free distribution, so I’m posting it in its entirety. I hope it will minister to and bless you like it had me. (I have bolded my favorite lines.)

It has long been a settled point with me, that the Scriptures make a wide distinction between faith, the assurance of faith, and the full assurance of faith.

1. Faith is the hand by which we embrace or touch, or reach toward, the garment of Christ’s righteousness, for our own justification.-Such a soul is undoubtedly safe.

2. Assurance I consider as the ring which God puts, upon faith’s finger.-Such a soul is not only safe, but also comfortable and happy.

Nevertheless, as a finger may exist without wearing a ring, so faith may be real without the superadded gift of assurance. We must either admit this, or set down the late excellent Mr. Hervey (among a multitude of others) for an unbeliever. No man, perhaps, ever contended more earnestly for the doctrine of …

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The Message of the Gospel is Not "Behave!"

This is the major malfunction of American evangelicalism’s political idolatry. To the extent we equate God’s blessings and his kingdom coming to bear with the right men on Capitol Hill and the right laws in place, we settle for moralism and a righteousness born of self.

We’d all reject this theologically, I think, but it is implicitly central in a lot of the rhetoric and the exasperation from American Christians about what’s wrong with America, etc etc.

As I was waiting for my ride to the airport from the hotel in Louisville, KY last week after the Together 4 the Gospel Conference, I was reminded of cultural Christianity’s real concerns. The transportation attendant at the hotel noticed from my tag that I was from Vermont. Our conversation went like this:

Him: “You’re from Vermont?”

Me: “Yup.”

Him: “That’s great. That van load that just left were from Vermont.”

Me: “Oh cool.”

Him: “Yeah. Good to know you guys are getting the good news out up there.”

Me: “Well, we’re trying.”

Him: “Need to get some Republicans up there.”

And there I was transported back to everything that drives me nuts about American evangelicalism: the equation of the good news with something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this case — as is often the case — with political conservatism.

I believe many Christians in America would be satisfied if “the culture” just stopped using pornography and drugs and alcohol and stopped aborting babies and started “acting right.” As far as I can tell, that would be a Win.

But it’s …

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Missional Priority: To Seek and Save the Lost

This post is a much belated entry in the Prologue to Missional Discussion Synchroblog.

I think I am three weeks late answering this question, but the powers that be have not emailed any since then, so maybe I’m golden.

Here are the questions for this round of the synchroblog: Is there a “primary” concern in the mission of God? Is that evangelism, making disciples, societal transformation, or something else? Or, are they of equal value?

I believe there is a primary concern in God’s mission, and that is for persons to know him relationally, to be personally forgiven of their sins and be reconciled to him. The question behind the question is really this: Which is more primary, the gospel of personal salvation or the gospel of the kingdom? This sort of presupposes these are separate concepts. I do believe they are not the same thing, but disagree (with qualifications) that they are separate. Clear as mud, I know.

I believe the gospel, as Tim Keller says, is both one and more than that. But you cannot properly receive and enjoy the “more than that” without the “one.” This is to say that the gospel of the kingdom (which some try to say was Jesus’ gospel) and the gospel of justification by faith (which some say is Paul’s gospel, as if ne’er the twain shall meet) are degrees of magnification of the whole. This is something I explore a bit more fully in my current book in progress, so I don’t want to …

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Cursed be the Cheat, But Blessed be the Name

God through Malachi comes to the end of a series of rebukes of the priests of Israel (for offering polluted and blemished sacrifices) and says this:

Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.– Malachi 1:14

This is a curse you and I bear. We are — every one of us — cheats. Hucksters. Phonies. Charlatans. Hypocrites. We go through the religious motions, we muddle through. We soak in lukewarmness. We vow our best to God and then give him half our heart (or less). And truth be told, there is not a single one of us whose best would not be blemished anyhow, total depravity being what it is.

So there we have it. We sinful, scheming cheats are under a curse. And God, as R.C. Sproul says, “will not negotiate his holiness.”

But he will have his glory one way or another. That is not up for debate. His name “will be feared among the nations.” He has predetermined this, and our sin, though great and total, is not some kind of kryptonite for God’s plans for his own fame. His glory will cover the earth like the waters cover the seas. That’s a promise.

So what to do? Nothing we can do. Just be cursed cheats, I s’pose. Something must give, though. God won’t negotiate the price …

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Winsome to Win Some

The gospel is the most compelling, the most fascinating, the most incomprehensibly wonderful news ever. So how come we don’t preach or teach or talk like it is?

Fog-and-lasers churches don’t trust that the good news is compelling. Sturm und drang churches don’t act like it is.

It is true that the cross is an offense, a stumbling block, “foolishness.” And it is true that attractional-ism is an imbalanced mode of ministry.

But gospel-driven churches ought to be attractive. They ought to radiate joy. Their preachers should be self-deprecating, winsome, and visibly moved by the power of the gospel. If we truly believe the good news is that good, why don’t we make it sound like it is? Why do we sound bored? Angry? Disinterested? Or why do we seem excited about and interested in all sorts things other than the gospel?

This is not about tickling ears. It’s about speaking and living as if we feel that the gospel is true.

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Dudes, Your Wife is Not a Blunt Instrument

I am hearing more and more of husbands who are not tending well to their wives’ hearts. This occurs in the form of “using” their wives for ministry ends and business ends and family ends.

Some church planters and pastors will wield their wives like instruments in building the ministry or furthering the cause.

Some husbands will use up their wives for the cause of a “well-run family” or a “well-ordered home.”

Gentlemen, are you doing this? Are you spending your wife to gain a ministry? That is marital suicide. Your primary ministry is to your wife.

Are you spending your wife to gain your children? That is a lose-lose enterprise, because you will lose your wife’s heart and still not gain your children’s (because they will see how you treat their mama).

The best thing you can do for your ministry and your kids is love your wife gently, tenderly, honorably, affectionately, wisely, romantically, and — above all – Christly.

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