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Getting Explicit About the Gospel

The Explicit Gospel by Matt ChandlerRick Warren said, “If you read only one book this year, make it this one. It’s that important.” The gospel is a message that never loses its relevancy and always needs retelling. I found Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel to be an awesome retelling of it.

Chandler’s explanation of the gospel is ultra-clear, and while I detect that hint of his Reformed leanings (to which he alludes a time or two), his book avoids extremes, stays between the theological rails, and at least once even seems to rebuke calvinists for making the TULIP the central issue of the gospel. (To be fair, he rebukes anyone  who makes anything other than the biblical gospel central to the gospel.)

The first four chapters of the book could stand alone as a great summary of the most essential truths ever articulated. I love this for several reasons.

First, we need to realize that there is nothing “deeper” than the gospel. The gospel – the good news of God’s holiness, wrath, and love in giving Jesus as our substitute and raising Him again so that all who repent and believe in Him will have their sins forgiven – is the essence and entirety of our faith. It is both the introduction, the body, and the conclusion of the Christian faith.

Second, I love Chandler’s example to Pastors. Augustine, Spurgeon, Criswell, Piper, Stott, and so many other voices of influence in the history of Christianity were what we might call pastor-theologians. Many of the greatest had little formal religious education, yet they were willing to study hard and articulate theology from the viewpoint of a practitioner who shepherds people living through real circumstances. I applaud Chandler for writing the book, and I hope to see many other Pastors with the courage to enter the arena of writing theologically.

In the second part of the book, Matt takes the church to task – not in a way that is condemnatory or condescending, but rather as a passionate plea to return to the biblical gospel. He writes…

The moralism that passes for Christian faith today is a devastating hobby id you have no intention of submitting your life fully to God and chasing Him in Christ. (p. 70)

and further…

… Rick Warren was onto something when he opened his best-selling book with “It’s not about you” and subtitled it What On Earth Am I Here For? (p. 106)

His book serves as a stern warning against our wanderings and our extremes. Any deviation of the church from the gospel once delivered to the saints is dangerous no matter how “good” it may seem for other reasons.

Though it occupies just one chapter, I also love Chandler’s treatment of eschatology, which he refers to as “consummation,” keeping it in line with the centrality of the gospel’s power to make all things new. I’ve felt his tension of hoping to avoid the subject of the end times because so many have treated and represented this area of theology so poorly and too dogmatically. But I love how he brings it all back around to the eternal enjoyment of the results of the gospel. Redemption is forever.

My biggest personal takeaway is the need to avoid reducing the Christian faith to mere moralism. It’s a trap that I’ve fallen into in the past in my life and leadership, and I want to be careful stay focused on Jesus instead. Hear Chandler’s excellent explanation…

“The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life, but to outright destroy it. Out of love for Jesus, he wants sin starved to death, and he will hunt and pursue the death of every sin in his heart until he has achieved success. This is a very different pursuit than simply wanting to be good. It is the result of having transferred one’s affections to Jesus.”

The gospel is not about doing better. It is about Jesus, and the change that happens in us when we fully surrender to Him in repentance and faith. Our doctrine determines our direction, and soaking in the goodness of the gospel will do more to change our direction than a hundred practical tips for better behavior.

Therefore… read The Explicit Gospel.

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Start Your Family Well (What To Pray Over Your New Home)

Last night I had a pretty neat experience. A couple who have recently married and begun their new life together asked me to come and bless their home, something I’ve never been asked to do in almost 14 years of ministry. The short version – we talked about Jesus and prayed over their family’s future. The long version…

They showed me around each room and then we talked for a while about some friends of theirs whom they are praying for over various needs. Then we talked about the importance of dedicating our homes to God as houses of worship. As I prayed, I asked God for certain things to happen in this particular home, and it occurred to me that not only is this a great way to begin a family life together, but that it also reveals certain great principles about being a “Christian home.” Here are some prayer considerations…

  • May God bless this family with joy.
  • May there be laughter, joy, and fun in this home.
  • May this home be a refuge from the world – a safe haven, and a heaven on earth.
  • May all who enter here feel the presence of God.
  • May this home be a place of safety and security – may God protect it.
  • May this home be used for ministry to others.
  • May this home be filled with peace as a respite from the world’s turmoil.
  • May this home be a house of worship, an altar of prayer, and a place of discipleship.
  • May Christ always be the most honored guest.
  • May this home reflect God’s ideal for family leadership.
  • May this home be a lighthouse in this neighborhood – a witness to the lost all around.
  • May this home reflect righteousness in this and the the next generation.
  • May all children born here find a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • May the marriage built here be a reflection of Christ’s love for His bride – His church.

I’m sure there are others – feel free to share your own in the comments. The experience has been a reminder that I’m the prayer leader of my home, responsible for praying for my wife and daughter (and right now, for more children) continually.

By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?,, and Our Online Ivory Tower

I’ve been getting a lot of email invitations to join, which claims to be the first “Christian alternative to Facebook.” If you want to join FaithOut, go right ahead. I’m sticking with Facebook, and I ‘m a Christian. My spirit is stirred at what some believers are doing in the online realm of things. Instead of engaging and impacting the online culture for the Kingdom, we’re attempting to create an online Christian subculture into which we can retreat. GodTube is another very popular example. (I actually use GodTube simply because of a lot of videos that are offered there that you can’t find on mainstream alternatives, but nonetheless…) This, in my estimation, is quite similar to the popularity in the brick-and-mortar world of Christian bookstores, Christian coffee shops, and other forms of Christian alternatives to secular offerings. Here are my concerns…

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Ending the Creation-Evolution Debate

In our midweek Bible study last night, we went through a supplementary study on creation and evolution. There were many things I wished I’d had time to cover in the Sunday messages but simply couldn’t. In preparing, I studied areas of science that fascinate me. I wanted to have some basic knowledge on everything from the fossil record to quantum physics (like I said, fascinating!). I was so blessed by the exchange. People asked questions, gave their thoughts, and generally expressed their faith in Scripture as God’s perfect Word.

At the end of the night, I decided to close discussion on the issue. This Sunday, we’ll be moving on to the more personal nature of Genesis, chapter two. I couldn’t help but to add this one thought, however, after reading Job 38. The creation-evolution debate is much like the theological battle that took place between Job and his friends. They reason with one another about the nature of God and God’s world. Then God finally speaks.

What does He say? To summarize the chapter, it is “Were you there when I created the worlds? Then how do you think you know anything?” He goes on to illustrate His majestic and dynamic creative power. Can you make the sun rise? Have you ever seen the center of the earth? Can you make an intricate snowflake? Can you make rain or suspend clouds of water over the earth? Good questions! We can study, we can observe, and I believe we ought to explore the amazing world God created around us. Science is good, until it goes to our heads.

God ultimately settles the argument. We might say in modern vernacular, the buck stops with Him! God, the Creator and only eyewitness of creation, knows exactly what happened in the origin of all things. So at the end of our quantum theories, evolutionary theories, and Big Bang theories, all of which are questioned and debated regularly by men more skilled than I, God sits above the circle of the earth, stretching out the universe like a curtain and calling out, “Seek me and find me with your whole heart!” The debate ultimately ends with worship!

Remembering the Fallen

Yesterday was a very special day at Bethel. Though we had a lot of folks out on vacation for the holiday weekend, we who remained celebrated God’s greatness in raising up heroes throughout the centuries. From Hebrews 11, we recounted the lives and deaths of some of God’s greatest servants. Many in the chapter remain unnamed, but their works and martyrdom are mentioned. My favorite line in the passage says, “Of whom the world was not worthy!” Those words reflect my feelings about every man and woman who has served in the face of such great risk in every war America has ever fought.

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting my haircut down at the Corner Barber shop. In came a man who must have been in his late 70’s. He sat down and I noticed his cap. He was a World War II veteran and the cap named his fleet from the South Pacific and told the number of survivors from his unit. I sat there, imagining what this man must have seen in his time in combat. What we see dramatized on the big screen and embellished for effect, this man had witnessed with his very eyes. His mind had recorded thoughts I could never imagine. Yet here I was, serving as Pastor of a church where I have the privilege every week of carrying a Bible to the pulpit and freely preaching the gospel without fear of arrest or penalty – because of men like this.

When I rose to leave, I paid for my haircut, and his too. He chuckled and commented about how that wasn’t necessary, so I said, “Well I saw your cap and wanted you to know that I appreciate what you went through for me.” His face changed, he shook my hand firmly, and his emotions suddenly impacted me deeply. I still don’t know the man and may never see him again, but his life has influenced mine. I feel that same sense of gratitude toward every soldier that has ever fought.

Today, on Memorial Day 2007, we’re making barbeque, playing some games, and enjoying the company of friends. But we also ought to pause to thank God for those whom He has raised up to stand for our freedom and our faith. Let this be a memorial day, not only to those who have died in battle, but to those who have died as martyrs for the Christian faith, and to all those who have been living sacrifices for His dear cause!