Monthly Archives: November 2009

Have you heard of the ‘new’ gospel?

This is an excellent post by Kevin DeYoung.

He explains that the increasingly popular new gospel generally has 4 parts to it:

1) It starts with an apology
2) It appeals to God as love (the sentimental sort)
3) It invites people to join God in his global mission to make the world a better place
4) It is ambivalent about eternity

In explaining why it is gaining in popularity, he offers 6 reasons:

1) It is partially true
2) It deals with strawmen
3) It is manageable
4) It is inspirational
5) It is inoffensive
6) Its distortions are not explicitly stated

Please do read the whole thing. This issue has troubled me for years, and I think Kevin has written a brilliant piece explaining why a gospel as distorted as this can gain so much ground in the church, and more importantly, why it shouldn’t.

 

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7 common mistakes when studying the Bible

1. Deeper does not equal more esoteric. Deeper bible study would be a fuller grasp of the gospel. All doctrines ultimately lead to this one truth: Christ came into the world to save sinners.

2. We are too quick to place a text in our present context, not reading the Bible in the context it was written. In this way, many distorted and peripheral doctrines have come to the core. A classic example would be to read about the prosperity of the Israelites during the time of David and Solomon and assume that this should be the norm for the church today.

3. No eye for God. The Bible is first and foremost revelation from God about himself. All things are ultimately of him, through him and for him, including us. The Bible would make no sense if we only tried to look for what it says about man, without seeing what it says about man under God and God himself.

4. We read our own interpretations into the text. We don’t bother to work with the text and see what it’s true context and content is, but instead pick out nice phrases and words and then use them to teach our own philosophies. A similar variant would be to pick-and-choose favourite passages with no regard to their context.

5. We assume a pluralistic interpretation. Biblical truth is singular. Yes, there are debated doctrines, but the reason for debate is simply the result of each party believing that truth is singular. On the other hand, debates over matters of secondary importance should not divide churches. (Of course, there’s the matter of determining what is primary and what is secondary. Simple rule: we’re united by the gospel)

6. The chasm between doctrine and deed. Some are prone to jump to applications, some are content with knowing doctrine. Both will not do. We must take the time to work out what a text means, and then painstakingly work out whether there are any applications.

7. That being said, not all truths have a direct practical application. Some are there to increase our praise of God. It is vital to realise this, that oftentimes God is content for us to stand amazed at his glory, knowing that such worship cannot fail to work itself out in evangelism and mission and holy living.

 

If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary…

Galatians 1:8-9
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

This video gives flesh to the stark warning of the apostle Paul.

Why are so many people in the thralls of the prosperity gospel? I might consider thinking through this at some point in the future. In regard to the previous series, I will post the last two soon. There have been some personal issues to work through on the bit regarding ‘making the best use of the time’, and I’ll try to work that one out as soon as possible.

Never assume the gospel!

I’ve had this post sitting in my draft section for quite a few weeks, and simmering in my head for quite a few months.

And then I came across this.

Needless to say, I binned my post, as this says everything I want to say in a clearer and more powerful way.

The key gist of the excerpt:

When we think of the gospel, we may have a feeling that “We already know that. Ho-hum.” We assume the gospel as a given. We assume that the people in our churches know the gospel, and we are anxious to move on to more “relevant” and “practical” topics. The gospel is being set aside in our minds and hearts in favor of a broad range of issues, as broadly ranging as evangelicalism is fragmented, while the heart and soul of our faith is falling into obscurity through neglect. The holy mysteries of the incarnation, cross, resurrection, ascension and heavenly reign of our Lord, the great themes of election, propitiation, justification and sanctification, the power and deceitfulness of sin, the meaning of faith and repentance, our union with our crucified, buried and risen Lord, the infinitely superior value of our heavenly reward compared with anything this life has to offer (including the Christian life), the final judgment and eternity—these glorious themes which lie at the very center of our faith, which made the church great at her greatest moments in the past and which can do the same again for us today if only we will recover them and exploit them confidently, prayerfully and biblically, these infinitely precious treasures are being bypassed in favor of legitimate but secondary matters of concern. We must guard the centrality of that which is central.

We should not think, “Well, of course we have the gospel. The Reformation recovered it for us.” Such complacency will cost us dearly. Every generation of Christians must be retaught afresh the basic truths of our faith. The church is always one generation away from total ignorance of the gospel, and we today are making rapid progress toward that ruinous goal. Rather than carelessly assume the gospel, we must aggressively, deliberately, fully and passionately teach and preach the gospel. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. If we do not intentionally search them out, we will miss them.

The conclusion? The gospel is the center of the church. Don’t assume it. Don’t neglect it. Don’t abandon it. If you do, there is no reason for God not to abandon us all together.

Apologies, but here’s an article that’s worth reading

I’ve been pretty busy lately, and quite worn-out at the moment to polish up the next entry for the series. So I offer you this article as an apology.

Prayerlessness is Unbelief

I want to try to make the case for adding Kevin DeYoung’s blog to your RSS feed (or list of  bookmarks), but I can barely string together my thoughts, let alone write grammatically comprehensible sentences at the moment. So in no particular order – he has a nice to read writing style, he is very insightful, offers a lot of biblical wisdom in many relevant areas, and is a great model of what it means to teach and exhort and encourage and rebuke. If none of that convinces you, just add him for a week and decide for yourself.

How to live as an ‘ordinary’ Christian, Part 3

Colossians 4:5
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Walking in wisdom towards outsiders

What does it mean to walk in wisdom towards outsiders? Paul’s prayer for the Colossians that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding gives us a hint. It would not be farfetched to infer that the walk of wisdom is a walk that is in line with the will of God, that is that we be like Christ. To use the biblical phrasing, to walk in wisdom towards outsiders is to be as Christ-like as we can possibly be towards outsiders. The outsiders here refer to those outside the church.

How does this practically work out in our lives? Well, it begins with prayer. As the Christian prays to be more Christ-like and sees and understands what Christ is like, he will imitate Christ. And in doing so, he is a model, however imperfect, of Christ to the non-believer. Our lives are a witness to Christ. While no one will be saved by observing Christ-likeness apart from a proclamation of the gospel, it is a crucial step in winning people to Christ.

However, as many of us soon discover, walking in this way towards outsiders is like walking in a minefield. We need wisdom to recognise where the mines are and how best to navigate through the minefield. Some mines ought to be disarmed, others ought to be sidestepped, but more often than not we always end up stepping on a mine. This mostly stems from the fact that there are so many things we can do (and say – we’ll ignore this for now and return to it in the 5th mark), but there is only so little time. So we have to make choices. We might have to pass up one good action for another.  This relates to the next mark.

How to live as an ‘ordinary’ Christian, Part Two

Colossians 4:3-4
At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

The second mark of the ordinary Christian is that he prays steadfastly for those in ministry.

Prayer for those in ministry

Paul asks that we not only limit to prayers for ourselves, but also pray for those in formal ministry. This does not mean that prayer for ourselves is selfish. Prayer for ourselves to become like Christ is anything but selfish, because such prayers glorify God. They glorify God in the now by showing that the Christian lives entirely on the grace of God. They glorify God in the long run, because as we become more like Christ, he becomes more visible to those we share our lives with, and in that he is glorified. Paul is drawing a logical conclusion: if believers are praying that they become more like Christ, it is because they want Christ to be glorified. But it is not enough to live like Christ. Ultimately, he must be proclaimed.

More often than not, it is teachers and pastors and evangelists who are given the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Christ. A good reason for this is that they are specifically tasked with the responsibility of clearly articulating the gospel, that both believers and non-believers might hear and receive the grace of God. It is essential that we pray that this word from the Bible be clear, that Christ might be glorified by verbal proclamation. Those in formal ministry need these prayers simply because it is difficult for them to maintain their conviction and clarity by sheer willpower, especially in the face of opposition and stony hearts.

They need the grace of God to open doors to the word.

They need the grace of God to convict their hearts of the truth of sin, the righteousness of Christ and the judgment to come.

They need the grace of God to persevere in the face of opposition.

They need the grace of God to boldly and clearly proclaim the gospel, despite the suffering and persecution it will bring.

The latter is especially true of missionaries who have to confront a hostile culture with the gospel. Suffering is the price of the gospel, and it is price more keenly felt by those on the mission field. We should pray that God will help them to persevere for his cause, open for them a door for the word, and that they might clearly proclaim Christ crucified as they ought to. In doing so, Christ is glorified as people from more and more nations are gathered.

At this point you might realise that it would be impossible to pray for everyone in formal ministry during the course of your day. But we are not asked to pray for everyone. Paul appeals to the fact that the Colossians know who he is. Similarly, we ought to pray for those that we know first. This would be our pastors and teachers and perhaps missionary friends. Outside this circle, we can pray for missionaries we know of. This might require us to get in touch with a mission agency and praying for their missionaries. Good alternatives would be to look at things like Global Prayer Digest or the Joshua Project.

Finally, I want to add that prayers need not be restricted to those in ‘formal’ ministry. Some of you might see no distinction between praying for missionaries and praying for the work of evangelism in the city – I would want to argue for a maintenance of the distinction between a missionary and lay people like me doing the work of evangelism (especially in light of the increasing emphasis on what it means to be a missional church), but would encourage prayer for the gospel-spreading work of both.