John Piper On What Is The Gospel

I would also strongly recommend his book “God is the Gospel.”  If I were to sum up the premise of the book it would be; The gospel is like a a treasure hidden in a field that a man found and hid.  In his joy he went away and sold everything he had and bought that field.  God is that treasure.  The Gospel is that we get God.  Our sin is forgiven, Jesus completes his work on the Cross, and the Holy Spirit infuses us; SO THAT we get God.  Beautiful.


What Is The Gospel?

I would encourage all of you to continue to engage with this question.  There is perhaps no more important thing you can answer.  That is because the Gospel is the good news of God.  It is something all of us need EVERY day; believer and unbeliever.

Dr. Don Carson in his editorial to the wonderful Themelios Journal gives some great insight into what the gospel is and is not.

It is worth your time to read the whole editorial but at least read this snippet, then take a moment today and preach the Gospel to yourself.

By contrast, the first two greatest commands—to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves—do not constitute the gospel, or any part of it. We may well argue that when the gospel is faithfully declared and rightly received, it will result in human beings more closely aligned to these two commands. But they are not the gospel. Similarly, the gospel is not receiving Christ or believing in him, or being converted, or joining a church; it is not the practice of discipleship. Once again, the gospel faithfully declared and rightly received will result in people receiving Christ, believing in Christ, being converted, and joining a local church; but such steps are not the gospel. The Bible can exhort those who trust the living God to be concerned with issues of social justice (Isa 2; Amos); it can tell new covenant believers to do good to all human beings, especially to those of the household of faith (Gal 6); it exhorts us to remember the poor and to ask, not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whom am I serving as neighbor?” We may even argue that some such list of moral commitments is a necessary consequence of the gospel. But it is not the gospel. We may preach through the list, reminding people that the Bible is concerned to tell us not only what to believe but how to live. But we may not preach through that list and claim it encapsulates the gospel. The gospel is what God has done, supremely in Christ, and especially focused on his cross and resurrection.


The Gospel

What is the gospel?

Yesterday Ryan wrote an insightful post: Militant Mysticism: Wrestling with Rob Bell. In it Ryan brings up some excellent points regarding the importance of the explaining the work of Christ on the  Cross when proclaiming the gospel.

Adding to his thought, I recently came across this definition provided in The Gospel Coalition’s Statement of Faith:

We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is “Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).

What do you think? Do you think the statement is acurate? Can you present the gospel without making the death and resurrection of Christ central?


Militant Mysticism: Wrestling With Rob Bell

Rob Bell gave an interview to Christianity Today which you can read here.  Rob Bell is a guy I wrestle with.  I love his heart.  I believe he loves Jesus, as he understand him, and that he has deep compassion for those who are hurting and lost.  I have been provoked, convicted, frustrated, and inspired by Rob Bell.  But I began wondering a few years ago about his trajectory.  I wondered where his shift in understanding the Gospel to be primarily one of social justice, and joining God in re-creation.  Well the article has me right back in a spot of wrestling with Rob Bell and uncertain about his path.

For example here is one question and response in the interview.

All well and good, but how is this good news to people with no earthly hope? If I’m dying of aids or cancer, I probably don’t give a rip about the renewal of all things. I want to know if my sins are forgiven, and when I die, if am I going to see Jesus or not.

Yes, and I would say that central to that new creation is the problem with the first creation—death. The Resurrection is about God dealing with the death problem. And central to this giant cosmic hope is a very intimate, yes, you can trust this Jesus. You can trust this new creation. You can trust being with him when you die, when you leave this life, however you want to put it. Yes, there is an intensely personal dimension to this giant story that you and I get to be a part of.

Bell’s comments are stirring and emotively resonate with many ( I know they do with me).  But I am left hanging… What is the death problem? And how does God deal with it?  Fundementally there has been a split or separation in the relationship between God and humans.  The death problem is that we have turned away from God in favor of our own rule and will, this is sin (Rom. 6) . I like where Bell is going in this answer but I just wish he would have finished the story like Paul did;

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1:20).

Oh how sweet that through the BLOOD of Jesus on the CROSS God took care of the “death problem.”

Now for some comments that truly puzzle me.

“I like to say that I practice militant mysticism. I’m really absolutely sure of some things that I don’t quite know.”

I do not want to go to far with this but I just do not know what Bell means.  Is he referring to the Trinity?  Context seems to suggest not.  As an overall strategy of militant mysticism (which is a strong reliance on mystery) is a shabby substitute for a God who has gracefully revealed so much, not everything, but more than enough for us not to perpetually walk in the fog of questioning about central matters of the story of God’s redemptive history.

Asked to give a brief telling of what Bell believes to be the Gospel this is the response that Bell gives.

How would you present this gospel on Twitter?

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Against you alone God has humanity sinned. And you God made him who knew no sin to be sin so that we might be reconciled to God.  You reconcile us to you through the Cross so that we might be conformed to his image and that Jesus would be the first born among many brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom.

There is simply no more story or new creation that Rob Bell calls us to, without the work of Christ on the Cross.  If we lose the work on the Cross we lose everything.

I implore all of you to say no thanks to “tiny slivers” of some possible great oneness, and instead choose the blood stained cross, and empty tomb of Jesus.


The Gospel Coalition Conference

The Gospel Coalition bi-annual conference is starting today and for those of us who cannot attend, you can watch the live webcast here. If you do not have the opportunity to watch don’t worry everything will be online within a day after being broadcast.

Check out the Gospel Coalition website as it is a wealth of fantastic apologetic, and Biblcial exegetical articles.

The Gospel Coalition is a movement of pastors and church leaders who are committed to a robust cross-centered gospel being infused into the life of churches.  It has an All-Star lineup (although I hate describing pastors as “all-stars”) of pastors who will be unpacking 2 Timothy.  Dr. Tim Keller, who wrote two of the best books I have read in years, “The Reason for God,” and “The Prodigal God” is first up today.

Do yourself a favor and utilize the content from this conference.


John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll and The Song of Solomon

Tim Challies has a post recapping the recent criticism Pastor John MacArthur has kicked up toward Mark Driscoll’s style of preaching the Song of Solomon.  You can watch all of Driscoll’s teaching on the book or download the sermons here and judge for yourself.  While I dig most of what Tim Challies writes and have often linked to him here on this blog I think he might be a bit off base on this one.  Challies thinks we should leave the veil on Song of Songs and let it stand as evocative poetry.

While Song of Songs is obviously poetry this does not mean it is free of meaning and teaching content.  God obviously had an intent he sought to convey in including it in the Bible.  Besides since we as Christians affirm that all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching we must not shy away from understanding what it is the author is trying to teach us.

The great preacher Haddon Robinson said there are only three things we can do with scripture, explain it, apply it, and illustrate it.  Pastors must not be afraid to do just these very things when it comes to the SoS.  Of course this must be done with wisdom and tact, but truth be told, all scripture should be taught with wisdom and tact.  A few more thoughts.

1.  Some claim it is distasteful to talk about the sexual acts and behaviors that SoS seems to speak of.  But I would simply ask what do you mean by distasteful?  This attitude seems to carry an idea that has for far to long infected Christianity; that sex is dirty.  Sex is not dirty, it is a gift from God that practiced within the confines of heterosexual marriage is glorious and honoring to God.  There is no need for Christians to have a pragmatic/Augustinian approach to sex.  This might come as a shocker to some, but God invented it.  It a gift from Him to us, we must not see it as dirty, but rather something to be redeemed.

2.  Another idea I hear is that there is too much talk about sex in the church recently.  Not sure how you quantify this, is there 10% to much? 20%?  And who decides this?  Now I could understand this complaint if a church had been doing a series on sex for the last five years 52 weeks straight, but just because a handful of churches do 8 week or less series on the topic does not mean there is too much teaching on the subject.  And might I point out the obvious that when Mark Driscoll was doing his series, IT WAS ON A BOOK OF THE BIBLE.  He was teaching scripture.

Besides, if the church does not talk about sex then our people will get their sexual beliefs, values, and ethics from pop culture and the world around them.  It seems every year culture becomes more and more relentless in preaching a secular sexual ethic that pervades almost all areas of life.  Culture is preaching about sex 24/7 and people are listening.  The Bible clearly has teaching on the subject and we should not be afraid to teach it.

Now a word of caution.  As Matt pointed out to me, a preacher can go too far in teaching that just because certain sexual acts are going on in SoS they are prescriptive for all married couples and things we must do.  This is a grievous error and one that could lead to marital abuse, rejection, violation, and the breaking of oneness.  The Big Idea of Song of Songs is not the how and what sex should look like with your spouse.  Rather, it is that there is freedom in the marriage bed for a couple to honor God by liberally enjoying one and other.


Tony Jones, Our Generation’s Reformer

Tony Jones who was formerly the director of the Emergent Village stirred up quite a storm in the last week by blogging about his understanding of the atonement.

Leading Justin Taylor to label his views sub-Christian.  It appears that Tony was none to happy about Reformed folk challenging his ideas of the atonement with Scripture that clearly contradicts what what he was teaching.

Tony decided to write a post today about how it is ironic how these Reformed guys who seem to deeply love Martin Luther, were persecuting him for being a modern day reformer.  To carry out the comparison, Reformed theology, and its followers, are the oppressive Cathlolic Church that is constraining true Christianity from flourishing, and Tony is Luther, the great modern reformer, here to set Christianity free.

Here is the only problem, and the comment I left on Tony’s blog:

Uhhh to point out the big “E” on the eye chart to you Tony; all of Luther’s protests were deeply grounded in the Bible. He was never afraid to interact with certain passages of scripture that contradicted his personal preferences or cultural values.

In your previous posts many listed a plethora of scriptures that blatantly ran in the face of your comments on the atonement and they were met with….silence. So I am more than willing to see the irony if you want to interact with scripture. How about we just start with 1 Cor. 5:21 and what does the word propitiation mean.

Tony Jones and emergent theology is anything but a breath of fresh, reforming, biblical theology; rather its simply the recycled stale ideas of mainline liberal thought that is leading to the death of many churches and denominations as we speak.