Dever: Does Your Church Make the Gospel Visible?

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I won’t be taking notes on all the T4G sessions, but I did for Mark Dever’s. He began by quoting Ephesians 3:10-11: “. . .  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. . . .”

How does your church make the gospel visible?

You can lose the gospel by not proclaiming it clearly, but you can also work against the gospel by the life your congregation lives.

A manifestly unhealthy church undermines our proclamation of the gospel.

1. God (Holy, Loving, Authority)

1a. Holiness

Distinct lives point to a distinct God. Our lives should be marked by God’s holiness and by the fruit of the Spirit. Our distinct lives should make clear what the gospel is like. Holiness is freedom.

Is your church marked by such holiness?

1b. Love

Part of the way we’re supposed to be distinct from the world is how we love.

1c. Authority

Authority is meant to be good and life-bringing. 2 Sam 23:3-4

Our right use of authority in our congregation reflects God’s authority.

On the other hand, authority may be abused or absent. This represents a lie about God.

Do our churches show the world around us something better with regard to authority?

Trust can be extended and honored. Authority and love can go together.

2. Human Beings (Created in God’s Image and Fallen)

We were made in the image of God, and that value should be reflected in our churches. We should have relationships across typical boundaries.

Our congregational life should also acknowledge that we are fallen. We are not the assembly of the self-righteous. Is humility honored in your congregation?

An understanding of depravity sets us up to understand church membership, because we are already redeemed but God is not yet finished. It frees people to confess their sins to one another. We know there’s something not right, and we’re the ones who can tell the truth about that.

3. Christ (His Person and Work)

We are the people who bear his name and his purpose. We are his body, his temple. How do we make Christ visible? Through our teaching and our constant worship.

Our lives together should provocative. How do we help each other know that we love God? It’s by loving each other inconveniently. God has loved us by purchasing us with Christ’s blood. How is God’s love for us in Christ being reflected in our churches?

We demonstrate our love across differences and across denominations.

4. The Right Response to the Gospel (Repentance and Faith)

We are to teach and model repentance and faith.

We repent of our selfishness. The Christian life is personal but not private.

Congregations are groups of people acting upon things they cannot see. It is a community based on God’s promises. The Word should be central in our churches. Sermons should be central because they hold our God’s promises to us.

Do you want to see your church do better at evangelism? Then help your church be a better church. Our churches are meant to depict the truth of the gospel. We are to be the appearance of the gospel to the world. This is the clearest picture the world sees of who God is and his will for their lives.

Do not miss the importance of the local church for the gospel.

Dever ended by quoting John Newton, the full quote of which is:

I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient!

I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!

I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.

Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

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