Dr. Tim Keller – Advance the Church – How the Gospel Changes our Apologetic

This is an inexhaustible subject. This is an answer to the why question after you’ve already answered the what question. The what is the Gospel. People say why? Why should I believe what you just told me. In response to the why question, Christians try to go back to the what.  But that doesn’t work.  People keep asking why?  Why should I believe you?  Why should I think I’m a sinner.

100 years ago in this country and longer ago in Europe you didn’t need to do apologetics.  People lived in Christendom.  All the main cultural institutions supported the doctrinal and mental furniture of Christianity.  The Bible was treated with enormous respect.  If you wanted to be of any importance in society you had to belong in the Church.

That’s Christendom, not that everyone was a Christian, but that the main cultural instiutions Christianized the mind and conscience even if you didn’t have the heart.  Nobody said why because it already felt true.  It’s like if you ask a fish to tell you about water about wetness.  It’s just the state they’re in.

That’s not the case anymore.  That has changed.  There may be a few places where the cultural institutions are Christianizing the mind and conscience, but by and large that’s not the case anywhere else.  When you present your what you have to give the why or people just walk on by.

There’s a fair amount of pushback on apologetics.  They’re saying you shouldn’t do apologetics and they’re coming from radically different theological perspectives.

Karl Barth said don’t give them the what, just preach the Gospel.  Keep giving them the why.  He said that others are setting the standard.  They want a watertight argument.  He said you can’t make Jesus bow to someone else’s standard, and you can’t make an airtight proof for Jesus.  You have others who are far from Barthian who say basically the same thing.

There are others who say you need to belong before you believe.  Faith becomes credible through their experience.  A great community experience is apologetics.

All of those cautions are very important.  An overly rationalistic apologetic where you say you can prove God or Christianity so that any rational person will have to believe it, you are coming to the bar of autonomous human reason, and you’re not honoring the sovereignty of God.

And community and worship are important too.  The way people come to any conviction is a combination of mind and heart.  But in the end you still have to do apologetics.  When somebody asks you why, you can’t just say I don’t want to give you any human reasons you just have to believe.  You’re basically just saying because I said so.  Or if you invite them in and tell them you’ll know what you’ll just believe, that’s just what every cult just does.

Here are two ways the Gospel shapes our apologetics:

  1. Motive and attitude – The Gospel changes your attitude.  Your self-esteem is based on what you do or who you are physically, which means you have to look down your nose at people who don’t share that positive characteristic.  If you’re a hard worker, you have to look down at those you think are lazy.  If you think your right doctrine has anything to do with your salvation and not just God’s grace, that’s going to show up in your apologetics.I’ve almost never seen apologetics come from a good place when it comes from someone who just loves it.  There’s a love of battle.The Gospel gives you three attitudes of heart that will make you really effective at apologetics:
    1. Humility: I know that I could be sharing Christ with a Hindu and he may be a much better person than me.  Why?  Because I’m saved by grace.  There should be a winsome humility.  I think Christians have an I’m right, you’re wrong, and I love telling you about it subtext to their debates.
    2. Hope: Without the Gospel sinking deep into us and knowing that we’re sinners saved by grace, we’ll dismiss people as the kind that never become a Christian.  Oh, and you’re the kind that does?  David Lloyd Jones used to ask people if they’re a Christian and watch for their attitude.  If they responded matter of factly, “Of course,” there was no wonder or amazement about them, they missed that it’s a miracle.  Jesus preached to Lazarus and he came forth, but all preaching is like that.  You’re preaching to dead people.
    3. Courage: We’re afraid of what people will think of us
  2. Method – I actually do think that a very rationalistic apologetic doesn’t fit with the Gospel.  The Gospel shows you your sin, and then shows you the solution in Jesus Christ.The problem with a completely rationalistic apologetic where you try to prove everything, I’ve got to show that I’m up to snuff and the Gospel’s up to snuff.  I don’t think that works.On the other hand, a purely experiential apologetic doesn’t work.  At some point you have to let the person know they have a problem.  Apologetics needs to setup the problem.  It needs to attack.  It has to show the non-believer where they’ve got a problem, where their worldview has a problem, where their current faith has a problem.If I had an hour with non-believers, here’s what I’d do and have done:
    1. Show them the faith it takes to doubt it.  You can tell me that the only things that are true can be rationally and empirically proved, but the only way to prove that statement is to use that statement, so you’re just begging the question.  You actually can’t prove anything in the end.  You can’t prove you’re not a butterfly just dreaming you’re a boy or girl.  Here are the two of most common oppositions.
      1. Suffering: I can’t believe in a God who would let XYZ happen.  Well what’s so wrong with XYZ?  We’ll it’s so bad.  I just can’t believe in that God.  But in the last 20-30 years, non-Christian philosophers have shown the problem with that argument.  You’re assuming the premise that because I can’t think of why God would let XYZ happen and still be good, then he must not be able to exist.  But if God is powerful enough for you to be mad at for everything that happens, then maybe He has reasons you don’t understand.  CS Lewis recognized this.  If I look at this world and say this should not be happening, I can’t be a secularist.  That’s just the way the natural world works.  The strong eat the weak. CS Lewis is saying the only way to look at violence and suffering and judge it as bad is with a supernatural standard.  If there’s nothing supernatural
      2. He never got to number 2.
    2. The problems you have without it.  If there’s no God, everything is permitted.  Ultimately, there isn’t any way to dfine what should and shouldn’t happen without God.
    3. The beauty you find within it.  At some point you need to be able to go to people and tell the Christian story in such a way that shows how Christ brings everything into peoples’ lives that they’re looking for elsewhere that they can’t find.There’s a way of telling people the story of Christianity that they want it to be real even though they claim it’s not.

Types of Apologetics

  • Hard Constructive Apologetics: Believe because the rational preponderance of evidence is on it’s side.  THat’s not usually most effective, but for some people that is the best approach.  Most people aren’t here.
  • Soft Constructive Apologetics: Why believe? Because Christianity makes more sense of our common experience than other alternatives.  Do you believe in human rights? Yes? Okay, then it makes more sense to believe in a God than not if there are human rights.  It’s not trying to prove there’s a God, but is showing that Christianity is more reasonable than others.
  • Soft Deconstructive Apologetics: Why believe?  Because there’s no good reason not to.  It basically just takes apart the objections that people have.  You don’t try to make a case for Christianity, you just take down their objectives and bring them into community.
  • Narratival Apologetics: Narrates a Christian Gospel in such a way that is very positive to the hearers.

Dr. Tim Keller – Advance the Church – How the Gospel Changes our Heart

I know they gave it to me because they think I’m an expert on it, but I’m not.

Let me remind you, the operating principle of religion is “Obey, there’for I’m accepted by God.” The operating principle of the Gospel is “I’m accepted by God, therefore I obey.” Two people sitting next to each other in church can operate out of those respective principles. They’re both trying to do all of the same things fordifferent reasons, thus there’s utterly different results.

In Romans 1 pagans are seeking to be their own masters, lords and savior, but Paul points out in Romans 2 that believers may be missing it as well. If you think God has got to save me and bless me because of what I’m doing, Jesus isn’t your savior. He may be your example, but you are your own savior.

When Jesus gives the sermon on the mount, both groups are giving, both groups are fasting, both groups are following the 10 commandments, but they have a different motivation

The Gospel when brought to bear on the heart makes things new.

  • A new self image and forms of humility – James 1 bears a lot of reflection. When the Gospel comes into your life you are simultaneously just, loved, adopted and at the same time in yourself a sinner. I couldn’t possibly accept how lost I was until I got the Gospel. Because before that your self-image is based on your performance.The poor Christian ought to take pride in his high position. The poor person gets nothing but abuse in the world. Now that you’re a Christian you should think of yourself as a child of the king. Those of you with inferiority problems, use the Gospel to raise yourself up.Those of you with superiority problems or who are successful, use the Gospel to understand you aren’t as good as you think you are.How do you help the poor person change their self image through the Gospel?  The Gospel tells you that you are not defined by outside forces.  You are defined by Christ irrespective of anything you have achieved or failed to achieve.  That’s justification by grace proclaimed and practiced.

    That’s exactly what James is talking about.  The poor brother ought to take pride in his high position.  The rich brother, the person the world considers successful, you need to think about your low position, that you’re a sinner saved by grace.  It says take pride in your low position.  You need to remind yourself that the reason you can hold yourself up high is because of Christ.

    I once pastored at a church next to a poor town, and a pastor at a church in the poor town said that the only people who came to help who weren’t condescending were from the churches where the Gospel was preached well.

    1 Corinthians 4:3-5: I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court.  I don’t even care if I judge myself.  In other words, you shouldn’t always be trying to live up to what your friends, family, or culture say.  I don’t care what you think.  I don’t even care what I think.  What I care about is the Gospel.

  • A new motivation and depths of joy. – Titus 2:11-15: The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared.  Ever since I was a new pastor and preached the grace of God, people said that if I believed that, I’d have no incentive to live a godly life.  Then I said, if you lose any incentive to live a holy life once you lose fear, then fear was your only motivator, and that’s not right.If grace isn’t an incentive to live a holy life, you don’t have the right understanding of grace.One way to understand it is that it’s free.  Right, okay.  When you go to an event you get a free pad of paper with the company’s logo on it.  Is that grace, well, yes, it’s free.  But that won’t change your life.  But what if you lived in a poor country and you were poor and needed a life changing surgery that you couldn’t afford or access.  Now imagine your friend liquidated all of his assets to provide the funds for you to get that surgery.  That is free, but that is costly.  That changes your life.

    That’s what Jesus did on the cross.  But the cross wasn’t just physical pain.  He was being separated from the Father.  He was experiencing spiritual death.  He was experiencing hell in some way.

    How would you treat that friend who sacrificed everything for your surgery?  Would you treat them poorly?  No.  Sacrificial love breeds sacrificial love.

    In the Bible, joy that displaces the fear becomes the primary motivator to live a holy life.  Not the only one but the primary one.  Imagine a friend paid a bill for you.  How are you going to feel about that?  You need to know how big the check was right?  If it was last months phone bill, great.  That was nice.  But what if it was that back tax bill for 8 years from the IRS that you were going to jail for.  You need to know how big the check was before you know whether to say thank you or to throw yourself at his feet and say command me.

    I was in a meeting selecting elders when guy who was otherwise qualified came up and everyone approved but the senior pastor said he’s not happy enough.   He must not understand how bad his sin is.  He doesn’t understand what he’s truly been forgiven from.

    If someone insults you, who cares if you’re happy enough in the Gospel.  Nothing anyone does can make you furious.  Now, sometimes in the short run you should do the right thing even if it doesn’t come from your joy, but in the long run it’s only joy that is going to make you do the right thing.

    How can costly grace motivate you to live a Godly life?  Joy, joy at response to the grace.

    A woman who I knew years ago who wasn’t even a Christian said that if you’re saved strictly because of costly grace, there is no limit to what God can ask of me.  That’s scary.  I told her that yes, it’s scary, but only because you don’t know the joy it brings.

  • A new set of values and a new logic of influence. – The Gospel gives us upside-down values.  Jesus Christ came not with a sword in his hand but with nails in his hands, not to bring judgment but to bear judgment.  He didn’t come in might; he came in weakness.  He got power by giving everything away.That’s what happens to us.  How do you get power in your life?  By saying I’ve got nothing.  By repenting.  The way to success is to suffering.  The way to riches is through proverty.  The way to influence in through service.  It’s how you become a Christian.That’s going to affect the way you live in every way.  You see some of it in the OT.

    The logic of the Gospel affects how you use your money.  I should be impoverishing myself so that others can become more self-sufficient.  This isn’t just giving alms to the poor.  This is radical generosity.

    Galatians 2, Paul is confronting Peter about his racism against the Gentiles.  Paul does not to say to Peter that racism is against the law of God, though it is.  He says to Peter, you are not walking in line with the Gospel.  James 2 says if you really care about grace you’ll help the poor.  Ephesians 1 says it.

    You can see it in the OT, but it goes wild in the NT.  Christians who have thought about the Gospel don’t fit in the left-right spectrum very easily.  People who’s lives are changed by the Gospel are very hard to categorize.

  • A general unpredictability of thought – Christianity is the most pessimistic and the most optimistic way of looking at the world, especially Reformed, Protestant Christianity.  Total depravity is the most pessimistic view of humanity in the world.  Yet what the Bible holds out is the most optimistic view.  You go out into the world with the most optimistic and pessimistic view in the world.

Thomas Chalmers said, “It is seldom that any of our bad habits or flaws disappear by a mere process of natural extinction… but what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed.” You can’t just stop one thing, but you can replace. “The boy ceases at length to be a slave of his appetite but a more mature taste has taken it’s place.”

JD Greear – Advance the Church – How the Gospel Changes Global Mission

Well welcome to part 2 of the pregame show for Tim Keller.

If the Gospel is true, what does that mean for the mission of our church?  How does the Gospel shape our global mission.  If faith in Jesus is the only way people can be saved, what does that mean for us?  And is that even true?  There’s been rethinking on this recently.  Love Wins just tapped into something that was already in our culture.

But even for those who don’t go that far, there is some kind of background doubt about that question.  They question if God would sort of arbitrarily throw people into hell.  To many people that rightfully seems arbitrary.  What about the innocent native in Africa that didn’t even know about Jesus?

I would argue that most Christians in America functionally believe that most everyone will end up in Heaven, except for really bad people.  Carl Reiner proposed this inclusivism, the idea that so long as you recognize the Gospel elements in your culture, you’ll make it in.  There are many ways to know Jesus.

We think this because there’s something axiomatic in our culture, that you just don’t thrust your belief on others.

I overheard a conversation between a customer and waitress at the Waffle House.  The customer said that he felt this question about God was the most important one to answer, but how do we know what is true.  I’m thinking, how lucky are you?  You have a Master of Divinity right here.  I’m about to interject.  Right then the waitress started, “You know who I really hate? Those born again types who just shove what they think down your throat.”  I slowly put my hand back down…

Paul’s understanding of the Gospel led him to urgency.  There was urgency to what he said and there were great adventures and exploits for the Great Commission.  I want to look at the book of Colossians and draw you to the conclusion that Paul reached.  I want you to feel as Paul felt as he came to these conclusions.

This is very uncomfortable for me because this is stuff that is difficult for me.  It’s things I’ve wrestled with.

Paul’s logic in the Book of Romans moves in 7 major steps.

  1. 1:18 – All people have heard about God.  Creation screams at us that there is more to this world than just the material.  Your conscience tells you there is a right and wrong.  This indicates pretty well that there is a lawgiver.  One of the Alca Indians who was reached by Jim Elliot siad it’s not that we didn’t know there was a God before you came.  We knew there was and that it wouldn’t have been happy with what we were doing.  It’s not that atheists aren’t actually atheists, but they have had to acquire that belief.  It’s not natural.
  2. 1:31 – All people have rejected God.  The universal response to the knowledge of God is to reject Him.  We prefer to rule ourselves.  That is our natural inclination.  People don’t even keep their own standards of right and wrong.  Augustine said he stole a pear not just because he wanted a pear but because he knew it was wrong.  I’ll talk to agnostics who don’t really care if there’s a God.  Really?  If there’s a creator of the universe it doesn’t matter if you rob him of his glory?  We do this as believers.  I’m more concerned about what you think as a preacher than what God thinks.  Atheists can’t see God because they don’t want to.  They don’t like the way God has created the world, his rules.  Others deny God’s glory through legalism.
  3. 3:10 – All people are guilty before God. None is righteous, not even one.  Some do it by rejecting religion, others twist religion so God serves them.  We hated God so badly that we murdered him when he came to earth.  We may have never said that to God, but we live so as to say that to God.  You know why we don’t think others deserve to go to hell?  Because we don’t think we deserve to go to hell.  You know what’s so amazing about grace?  That we do deserve it but Christ came anyway.  Grace by definition is something that I do not deserve.  If we had any concept of what we’ve been forgiven of, we’d drop to our knees and thank God We’re all guilty, not because of what we haven’t heard, but because of what we have  heard and rejected.
  4. 3:21 – But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  God’s salvation is not something we earn. Key words:
    1. Gift
    2. Grace
    3. Redemption – What Paul is telling us is that the rightful wrath of God was coming straight at us and Christ stepped in front of it and absorbed the full force of that wrath.
    4. Believe – That’s our only part.  We don’t do anything to save ourselves, we just consent.  It’s like when you’re all jacked up in an ambulance.  You don’t do anything to save yourself.
  5. 10:14, 17 – People must hear the Gospel to believe and be saved.  What if people responded positively to how they saw God in creation?  Paul already showed us in chapter 3 that no one responded positively.  The hearing of the preached word of God has a strange power.  When we are preaching the Gospel, in the very words of the Gospel is the power to obey the command to believe.  Jesus words had power.  When he told the lame man to pick up his mat and walk, the power to do that was contained in the words themselves.

    That is why it is absolutely essential that when you are preaching you are preaching the Gospel.  Because as great as cute stories about your children are, those words don’t have the power of the Gospel.

    God sends Peter to Cornelius (Acts 11).  Peter didn’t say to him you were already implicitly saved.  Peter told him the words by which he was saved.

  6. 10:14, 17 – The Gospel only goes forward through human instruments.  You will not find one illustration in the book of Acts where the Gospel is delivered through non-human means.  Even Paul’s vision sent him to Ananias to hear the Gospel.  Jesus didn’t tell him the Gospel.  Jesus teleports Philip to see the eunuch.  Wouldn’t it have been easier for a voice from Heaven to do it?

    Couldn’t God have done some stuff off the record?  I guess, but he doesn’t tell us about it. There isn’t one bit of wiggle room in Romans or Acts to assume the Gospel is transmitted any other way than through humans.

    God works in people through dreams and visions, but he still requires someone to tell them.  If people are to hear the Gospel, we are the only ones who will preach it to them.  They have to hear to be saved, and if they are to be saved, we must tell them.  You can’t abuse the sovereignty of God.  Evangelism is the pre-appointed way that God has predestined people to come to him.  We’ve got to quit asking questions about the sovereignty of God when we are commanded to preach the Gospel.

  7. The task is urgent. Only a third of the world even claims to be Christian.  Half of the other 4.5 billion has no access to the Gospel.  They’re in 6k+ unreached people groups.  That’s not a statistic.  Each one of those is an individual created in the image of God, that loves and hurts and for whom it would be a tragedy for them to die and go to hell.  Joseph Stalin said the death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic.  We reduce people to numbers.  Paul looks face to face with that and says, How are they going to call on the one they never heard about?

    Imagine you see a child on the railroad tracks.  He’s crippled and can’t get off and a train is coming. So you pray about pulling the child off the tracks.  No!  You just pull him off.  That’s what it’s like.

You have three options:

  1. You can deny this and move toward liberalism.
  2. You can ignore it and just worry about your church.  Many of us may not be doctrinally where Rob Bell is, but we are functionally where he is.
  3. You can do something about it.

Churches ought to be measured in their success not by their seating capacity but by their sending capacity.  My favorite part of the book of Acts is how it ends, mainly that it doesn’t.  Things are just happening and Luke stops writing.  The same power that’s available there is available to us.  Everyone here wants the power of God in their ministry, but why?  The HS asked me one time what if I sent revival into Raleigh-Durham but did it through someone else’s church?  You still want me to do it?  I knew honestly the answer was no?

There’s no such thing as a closed country.  God raised Jesus from the dead.

We send and give and honor God.  Do you have someone from your church in the field?  Why don’t you pray for 1 for 10 from your church to go.  The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.

Tags: ,

Dr. Daniel Akin – Advance the Church – Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary

Dr. Daniel Akin speaking at Advance the Church 2011 on Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary

Ephesians will provide our baseline for how the Gospel impacts our ecclesiology.

1:22-23 – He put all things under Jesus’ feet, and gave him his head over all things, the church, his body who fills all in all.

3:10 – This mystery is the Gentiles are fellow heirs, memebers of the same body. Of this Gospel I was made a minister by the mystery of God’s grace.  Though I am the very least of all saints, grace was given me to preach to all nations.  What is the mystery? That through the church the manifold wisdom of GOd might be made known to the heavenly rulers.

3:21-23 – Now to him who is able to do more…

8 Introductory Remarks

  1. I’m approaching this as a Biblical theologian.
  2. Who we are determines what we believe and do.
  3. You must know who you are and what you believe before you know what to do.  There must be a foundation laid.
  4. Principles for Church planting and renewal often overlap, especially at the foundational level, however, where we are, our goal is to establish the chance for the Gospel to make disciples.
  5. The indicative of the gospel flows naturally into the imperatives of the gospel and the order is crucial.
  6. Gospel: The good news that king Jesus, God man and promised messiah died for our sin as penal substitute.  He saves every who trusts in him and repent of sin.
  7. A Gospel centered description of the Church: The Gospel should produce churches filled with winsome by theologically solid preaching.  There should be church growth, repentance.  There will be stress on cultural engagement and justice for the poor.  There will be cause for radical christian community with room made for the marginalized.  These communities would strengthen one another.
  8. Why have I chosen the book of Ephesians to guide how we are to be the church?  No book teaches more clearly that God is reconciling all of creation to himself through Chirst.  That is the theme statement of Ephesians.  Ephesians was Calvin’s favorite book of the Bible.

6 Theological Foundations of the Church

  1. The Gospel is to be grounded in a trinitarian soteriology. – 1:1-14  We need to be consistent  and intentional in our preaching of the Gospel as trinitarian.  WE don’t want to miss the father nor dis the Holy Spirit.  The trinity is a distinctly Christian doctrine that is not only something we believe but something we reflect in the life of the Church.
  2. The Gospel is grounded in the knowledge of the resurrected Christ who is the head over the Church His body by which He will fill all in all. – 1:15-23  This results in love for all the saints.  The Gospel allows us to mature into a greater knowledge of Christ.  Finally, this Lord and Messiah now has all things under his feet and has been given all things.  Christ is filling all in all.  As we apply it to how we live out the life of the Church, our goal is to fill our city, state, nation, and world with Christ.  He is filling all in all through his body, this wonderful thing called the church.  The Church is the Body of Christ.  Any agenda that is not about making Christ known is inadequate.
  3. The Gospel is grounded in the reality of human depravity and a gracious salvation made possible by Jesus rooted in faith and resulting in good works. – 2:1-10  God’s design is to show the glory of his son in the Church.  We are saved by faith alone but not a faith that is alone.  Our actions are fueled by our faith.  I would sound a necessary warning particularly relevant to my tradition.  Religious activity apart from the grace of God… Legalism is always lurking at the door and is a deadly enemy to grace.
  4. The Gospel is grounded in the good news that Jesus Christ has destroyed all barriers in creating one new reality the Church – 2:11-22 – All barriers are torn down, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic.  Work hard to build a church on earth that looks like the Church in Heaven.
  5. The Gospel is grounded in a stewardship to preach the good news to the nations to bring light to everyone. 3:1-13 – We are ministers of this Gospel and are to preach this Gospel.  We must steward our churches to take the Gospel to the nations, especially the 6k+ people groups representing 1.6 billion people that have never heard the name Jesus.  No church will be more mission minded with a heart for the nations than their pastors.  If you don’t care about the nations, neither will your church.  This is not a new problem.
  6. The Gospel is grounded in the truth that Christ dwells in us by faith in order that we may know His love that surpasses knowledge and that we may glorify God forever and ever – 3:14-21 –

The Gospel is the main thing, but not the only thing when rightly understood.  It is the primary thing, the prior thing, but it will give way to what I understand as Gospel implications.  We should be about taking care of the poor and marginalized, but that is not the Gospel.  That is a necessary implication of the Gospel.  The Gospel is the hub of the wheel.  It is central and essential, but there are other necessary things.

10 Practical Responses to the Gospel

  1. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages the Christian graces – 4:1-3 – This worthy walk is energized by the Spirit.  We must ask what Jesus did before we ask what Jesus would do.  It includes things like humility, patience, etc.  A Gospel centered church will strive for unity grounded in the word and maintained by the Spirit.
  2. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages sound doctrine with a missionary impluse. – 4:4-6 There is one body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith, etc.  Paul is making very clear that doctrine matters, and doctrine must be taught.  We need to teach the Bible diachronically (creation, fall, redemption) but synchronically as well, doctrines of the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc.  Good theologians will also be good missionaries and vice-versa.  There’s no reason to separate them.  Paul was a great missionary theologian who learned from Jesus.  John Piper makes this clear: What does this text have to do with missions?  Since there is only one God and one Lord, one faith, etc.  Thus we must take this God to the nations.  This is the foundation for mission outside the church and unity inside the church.
  3. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages the exercise of grace gifts. 4:7-11 – All receives such gifts.  No one will be left out.
  4. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages all saints to engage in the work of ministry. – (The word love appears 22 times in Ephesians.  It helps us understand that love is a mark of the Church.  We must be in community loving one another.)  Are you in the process of working yourself out of a job?  If you died tomorrow, would your church be fine?  It could carry on because you are training up people under you.
  5. We must develop a body life that teaches and encourages us to learn Christ and live as Christ – 4:17-5:20 – In 4:25-5:18, Paul admonishes the Ephesians 23 times what a Gospel transformed life looks like.  This is not the basis of our salvation but a natural outgrowth of it.  There are 31 specific admonitions that we receive from Paul in these verses.  It’s almost as if Paul recognized that we could easily devolve into thinking these things somehow merit a right standing before God.  He grounds these things in the Gospel.  The Gospel deals with more than the judicial, our standing before God, it is a comprehensive transformation.
  6. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages gospel-centered homes. – 5:21-6:4
  7. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages gospel-centered workplaces. – 6:5-9  Have you constructed Christian forts and cocoons that isolate you from the lost?
  8. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages strategies for spiritual warfare. – 6:10-18 – Paul likely draws spiritual armor from the OT.  Putting on the Armor of God is putting on Christ, and he gives us the weapons of our warfare clearly.
  9. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages the bold proclamation of the Gospel – 6:18-21
  10. We develop a body life that teaches and encourages love for the Lord Jesus – 6:21-24

Today on planet Earth, Jesus has a body called the Church.  It has hands that can serve, a mouth that can proclaim… Our goal is not to build buildings, grow budgets, or be captivated by social agendas.  Our goal is to fill this world with Christ who fills all in all.

Alan Hirsch – Advance the Church – How the Gospel Changes Christian Discipleship – l

Liveblog of Alan Hirsch’s talk at Advance the Church on How the Gospel Changes Christian Discipleship

The 2/3 world is doing pretty well without us, but as far as the West is concerned, if the Church in America can get it, that is where the battle will be won or lost.

But right now there is not a setting where the church is advancing. This conference is very much a part of that recovery. We’re very scripted to think in certain ways by the media. We take our doctrines lightly and have become familiar with them. We need to think differently.

What I want to wrestle with is some of the big ideas. I come very much as a friend, with some of the same concerns about Christianity in the west, the centrality of the Gospel and how we understand these things.

I want to shoot from the hip and speak from the heart. I haven’t weighed every word.

Discipleship is one of the biggest issues of our day.  It has strategic significance.  Our quality as God’s people is determined by how well we can disciple people.

Discipleship begs the question, discipleship to what, or to whom are we being discipled?  What forces in our culture are discipling us?

The obvious answer seems to be Jesus, but how we answer that question determines what it means to be a Christ follower.  If it’s not Jesus, then other forces are filling that.  I’d argue that consumerism is winning the day.

People are in search of meaning, significance, and belonging.  That’s what buying a brand is.  Marketers reach into people’s worlds.

I had a conversation with a marketing director years ago and he said where the church is stepping back, we are stepping into that void.

It’s idolatry, false worship, the most fundamental of our sins.

What are we following is a huge question, which leads to an even bigger one which gets at the heart of Biblical doctrine, the link between Christology and soteriology.  What is the nature of the connection between these two things.  Unless we understand that link, all we get is more of what we got.

The way I hear the word Gospel being used, it’s as if it’s some stand alone thing disconnected from the rest of Biblical doctrine.  We often use it to bash people around or argue against other Christians.  What I love about this conference and why I canceled other things to come is that they’re trying to put the revolution back in context with the original Revolutionary: Christ.

The most systematic theologian of the Bible doesn’t have that clear cut of separations between doctrines.

I’d argue that the problem goes even deeper.  It is elusive to us.  Partly because we live in America.  The word Gospel has been used in America for a long time.  We use it very easily.

The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus said it is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.  We think we know what the Gospel means, that we’ve got it all worked out, we understand this.

And in fact that might be our biggest problem, that we think we’ve got it all figured out.  Sometiems you’ve got to take another look at something.  We’ve got to step back from it and take another loving look.  It’s like the doctrine of God, once you think you’ve got it down, it escapes from your grasp.  It can’t be boiled down into four spiritual laws, that’s a dangerous reduction of the Gospel.

Henri Matisse is to look at something as though we’ve never seen it before takes a lot of courage.

As we recalibrate the church at this critical time in history, it has radical ramifications for the Church in the future.  What we do now will have major impact in the future.

I get the sense that we think we understand the Gospel.  It’s what Paul taught, right?  Well, yes, Paul’s writings are God-given and God-inspired.  It’s canonical.  But here’s the thing, Paul was given the authority by God to explicate the Gospel.  But here’s the thing, he’s explicating something else, the Christ event.  The Christ event is the Gospel, Paul is just explaining something beyond himself.

It’s all about Jesus in the end.  It really is.  That’s got a very specific shape.  It’s not just some vague notion of God.  It’s not some ideology.  It’s a person.  We can’t just extract our soteriology from the salvation story.  They’re inseparable.

In the NT you have the religion of Jesus.  You get a sense of who Jesus is, but you also have in the NT, the religion about Jesus, led primarily by Paul.  You’ve got to have both together. The liberals have always tried to just focus on the religion of Jesus.  The conservative theologians have focused on the other piece, the religion about Jesus.

What you end up with when you focus only on the religion about Jesus is cheap grace.  You’ve made it cheap and you’ve made it too accessible.

We Evangelicals have tended to focus on the Cross, and that’s a good thing.  We’ve argued about the return piece.  We pretty much stay with the death, resurrection, and return of Jesus, and I think we’ve got it largely right.  But here’s the thing, what ever happened to the incarnation.  The eternal, immortal God enters into creation and becomes one of us.  Is that not a foundational truth.  Should that not shape our engagement of the world?

Jesus enters in doesn’t speak without.  The best we do is think about little baby Jesus at Christmas rather than lord of the world, savior, mystery.  It doesn’t even really play for us at Christmas.  Father Christmas trumps Jesus.

Whatever happened to the other piece in the equation, his historical life, his teachings, his example, the quality, how he showed us to be something.  What happened to that in his teachings?  What happened to the kingdom of God, his lordship, what it means to live under the sovereignty of god?

You can only get that by focusing on his life.  It’s the whole Jesus phenomenon that is the Gospel.

That’s where that whole discipleship piece is, in Christ’s life.

We have all kinds of influences pushing on us, and if we’re not going to allow Jesus to be the force that shapes us, what else is?

We’ve got to re-engage the Gospel as a whole event in which Jesus plays the key part.

It’s a heresy to split the person from his work.  We believe in both things.  We have no right to separate the two, to extract one from the other.  You end up with a Jesusless Gospel.  If you take Jesus out you end up looking like something other than Jesus.

There are books out right now by non-Christians that say the Church doesn’t look like Jesus.  They don’t always know what Jesus looks like, but they’ve got a handle on that.  Jesus isn’t always Mr. Nice Guy, but there is something alluring about Jesus.

This is what Gnostics do.  They believe you’re saved by certain ideas, certain codes.  We are not Gnostics.  We don’t believe you are saved by a piece of information.  Christians have always fought this idea with everything.  Our Gospel has a face, and his name is Jesus.

There is a difference between a disciple and an idealogue. The Pharisees separated Doctrine from the whole God piece of the equation, so much so that they missed Jesus.  They were idealogues.  So was Stalin. So was Hitler. So are the Tea Partiers and their opposites.  And it’s ugly.  Ideology can’t save us.

Of all of God’s people, the Reformed have the most tendency to be ideological, to be Pharisees.  It’s our covenants, that we don’t believe in a separation of law and Gospel.  We’re the guardians of truth and morality.  The problem is that you extract these from Jesus and they’re ideologies.

Jesus changes everything, absolutely everything, the way we understand God, and not just that Jesus is God-like, although that is true.  The greater truth is God is like Jesus.  There is nothing unChrist-like in God.  Jesus says this: If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.  It is Jesus who introduces us to trinitarian dynamics.

Jesus changes what it is to be God’s people.  It’s now the body of Christ.  We’re distinctly Jesus-people.  We should be shaped by him, representing him.  It changes everything, how we do mission, how we see people.

This has everything to do with discipleship.  Discipleship is based on Jesus Christ.  Jesus is Lord and savior.

John Stott says Jesus is the curriculum. He is the classroom, and He is the teacher.  We are to become more and more and more and more and more like Jesus every day, and this is what the Spirit does to us.

The doctrine of Jesus is taht God has been manifest in our humanity, so we understand God because all way have to do is look at Jesus.

Isn’t it funny that Jesus looks like a liberal in liberal churches, a fundamentalist in fundamentalist churches, a teeteetotaler in teetotaling churches.  Jesus breaks all of those categories.

How about this?  What kind of holiness is it that hookers loved to be around this guy?  The sinners loved him.   The religious people hated him.  They put him on the cross.

I often ask people what would happen if Jesus showed up at their church.  One guy said after pondering it, “I think we’d probably kill him again.”  We all sat they’re silently for two minutes.  He was probably right.  Who is this Jesus who shows up at a wedding and provides wine at a party where people are already two sheets to the wind.

Jesus has them bring over the holy water.  That’s what those barrels were used for.  They bring them over and he turns them into wine.  Put that into your teetotaling pipe and smoke it.  I’m not saying you should go grogg it up, but perhaps you could stand to relax a bit.

We put Jesus in a box.  Voltaire said God made us in his image, and we return the favor.

How does Jesus treat sexual sinners?  He is very gracious with them.  He reserves his harshest words for religious people.  We should become like him.  Hang around with some hookers, for the right reasons.

That’s what we must become like.  Discipleship is the process of becoming more like Him.

Once you put discipleship in the context of Christology, it must culminate in a life of following him, a life of obedience.  Obedience to what, to whom? You become a slave to what you obey.

Again, I take us back to Jesus.  The Gospel teaches us how to become like Jesus.

The Great Commission is not an evangelistic text. It is a discipling one.

What does it mean that the truth will set us free?  Look at the context: John 8:31-32.  Jesus says: If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  If you hold to his words and follow him, only then will you know the truth and be set free by it. You’ve got to hold to the Word.

Discipleship is not an impersonal idea.  It initiates us into a journey of what it means to follow Jesus.  That’s the kind of truth that sets us free.  If you take discipleship out you can’t get there.  Obedience is the respect we pay to God to enter in to relationship.  Obedience plays a major role in entering in to discipleship.

The tropoligical interpretation of discipleship has a long history.  The only way you can truly understand the Bible is to obey it.  If you refuse to obey it’s commands, you cannot possibly understand it.  By eliminating simple obedience on principle, we drift into an unevangelical interpretation of the Bible.  You can’t understand it unless you obey it.  Only he who believes it can understand, and only he who understands can believe.  This is Luther’s understanding, trusting ourselves to God.

Have you ever thought about this? Jesus never commands us to worship Him, but he does command us to obey him.  That’s the worship we give to Jesus, obedience.

Folks, if you’re using the Gospel as ideology, seriously, I call you from the bottom of my heart to repent.  If you’re not becoming more and more and more like Jesus every day and are committed to doing that, just step aside because you’re just making it harder for the rest of us.

We’re not supposed to be nice, but we’re meant to outlive everyone else, outparty, outserve, outlive, outdie.  We’re to do it all more fully.

This is our Lord.  This is the one we obey, and it’s good news.  It’s not heavy.  It’s good news.

Dangerous Advocates for the Gospel

God’s primary concern isn’t our safety.  It’s glorifying himself.

At some point—I don’t remember when exactly—I began to pray not just for safety but that God would make us dangerous, recognizing that more important than our physical well-being is living out God’s will and mission.

Last night at our Theology 101 small group I asked God even more specifically to “keep us but make us dangerous advocates for the Gospel.”

After I said it, that phrase struck me, “dangerous advocates for the Gospel.”  It made me question myself.  Am I spreading the Gospel dangerously?  If you encounter me are you at risk of encountering the living Christ, of having your life radically and irrepressibly transformed by the power of God?

I guess the honest answer, is maybe.

What about you?  Are people who encounter you at risk? Not at risk of being offended by “Christian” moralism or judgment, not at risk of being left out of the Evangelical sub-culture, truly at risk of a life-changing encounter with the divine?

Tags: