Category Archives: gospel

Intellect and Action

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

In a meeting today I was reminded of this verse.  Paul distinguishes his doctrine from the false teachers because it produces love.  The genuine gospel that Paul preached was the basis for a life of love.  A gospel changed person loves with a “pure heart” (a heart cleansed from sin), a “good conscience” (a conscience clear from guilt), and a “sincere faith” (a life free from hypocrisy and insincerity).

For me the application is twofold:

1.  Is my love based on the gospel that through the work of Christ I have been freed from sin (Rom. 6), declared righteous, and given the gift of a new heart?  Because of what Christ has done for me I am able to love appropriately in return.

2.  The result of good doctrine is obedience to Christ (Jn. 14:23), not merely theological information.  The temptation, sometimes, is for there to be a “hiatus between the arena of the… theologian’s actual spiritual growth and what he already knows intellectually about this arena” (Thielicke).  Are my actions consistent with what I know about God and the gospel?


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Cake or Icing?

Many of our North American churches seem to have everything — culturally relevant outreach, attractive facilities, and a broad range of programs to match any and every lifestyle.  Add to this the experience of dynamic speakers, professional-quality music, and inviting small groups.  How could those who are most active in these churches be stagnant and dissatisfied?

There’s nothing wrong with top-quality facilities, creative programs, and a genuine sense of community.  But the fundamental question is, “What message are we sharing in our community and within our walls through our programs?”  I believe its our substance, not our structure, that is leaving so many stagnant and dissatisfied.  A church may have polished programs, well-trained staff, and dynamic speakers.

But content is what people walk away with.

(Andrew Farley, The Naked Gospel)

As you may or may not know, my wife loves weddings.  She loves making someone’s wedding day beautiful and memorable.  Recently she told me about a trick some people use to save money on the wedding cake.  For those particularly concerned with a beautiful and ornate cake sometimes decorate Styrofoam or cardboard with fondant and decorative sugar flowers.  This is all well and good because during the serving of the cake the wait staff takes the cake in the kitchen and swaps it with a pre-cut bargain priced cake.  No one ever has to know.

Not a big deal when it comes to wedding cake but a very big deal when it comes to a church!  My concern is that many Christians and churches have become more concerned with the look of the church rather than the substance. When someone goes to cut into our proverbial cake, all they find is a piece of cardboard.

Christian Education

Tomorrow I have the privilege of speaking at a chapel service at a Christian High School.  I speak at various Christian schools somewhat frequently throughout the year.

Tomorrow I will be speaking at my high school alma mater.  I recognize that many of these students have attended a “Christian” school for many years and their view of life is uniquely shaped by this environment.  Tomorrow I hope to clearly communicate the gospel and avoid any hint of “moralistic, therapeutic deism.”  My goal is not behavior modification or indoctrination.

Are You Self-Aware?

They say “ignorance is bliss.”  It has always been my contention that ignorance is merely ignorance.  I do not believe that genuine bliss can contain ignorance.  Certainly when one is unaware they do not “worry” about their situation, but when informed with reality their is no true “happiness.”

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:8).

The reality of our situation is one of sin.  We are sinners in need of grace.  Ignoring this fact may give one an excuse to live in their own fantasy world, but it does not change the reality of their situation.

Rather than live in the myth of my own goodness, I pray that I understand the reality of my sin and I live in the reality of God’s grace.

The Gospel for All of Life

October 23-25 Nansemond River Baptist Church (Suffolk, VA) hosted a D*Now weekend for young adults  (“Disciple Now” for those unfamiliar).  I wanted to bring in a few good teachers so I convened the “unlikely disciples” triumvirate.  All of the Bible Study materials and worship services were directly focused on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  The result was a chance to hear, explain, and apply the gospel while modeling how to read a meaningful unit from the text of Scripture.

Below are the four main teaching times from Bryan and Andy (apologies that Bryan’s second message was truncated due to technical difficulties on the recording end).

01 The Gospel Matters (Galatians 1_1-10) 1

02 Gospel Confrontation (Galatians 2_11-16) 1

03 Do I Have a Story to Tell_ (Galatians 4_8-11) 1

04 The Gospel for All of Life (Galations 5_1-6) 1

Crucifying My Wife

It is disconcerting to be vulnerable on the “interweb.”  I am about to share my marital woes with millions of my closest friends.  Here goes anyway…

I’ve been thinking a lot about idolatry and my own life.  I have a lot of idols (e.g., sports, dreams, job, popularity, friends, etc.).  The most dangerous idol I have recently discovered is the one God has called me to love more than myself — my wife.

In my haste to love and adore my wife (which I most certainly do), I have put a lot of expectations on her.  I noticed recently that I started to get very terse with my wife when she let me down in even the smallest ways.  Their are a myriad of reasons why this is the wrong way to act (e.g., she is the most talented and loving person I know, I act like a jerk way more than she does, she demonstrates sacrifice toward me every day, etc.).

Here is one way that Donald Miller explained it recently:

I realized that for years I’d thought of love as something that would complete me, make all my troubles go away.  I worshiped at the alter of romantic completion.  And it had cost me, plenty of times.  And it had cost most of the girls I’d dated, too, because I wanted them to be something they couldn’t be.  it’s too much pressure to put on a person.

That is so true.  Only God can handle the “pressure” of demonstrating perfect love.  The application of this sentiment is what hit me the hardest.  Here is how Miller finished his thought:

I think that’s why so many couples fight, because they want their partners to validate them and affirm them, and if they don’t get that, they feel as though they’re going to die.  And so they lash out.  But it’s a terrible thing to wake up and realize the person you just finished crucifying didn’t turn out to be Jesus.

Ouch.

Why I Attended a Public University.

Parents and high school students are often asking my advice in regard to their undergraduate education.  To those students who are well-grounded in their relationship with Jesus I almost invariably recommend attending a public university.

In my own life I decided to attend a public university for very specific reasons (in no particular order):

1.  Quality of education.  I have found in my state (Virginia) that public universities have the highest quality of professors and students.  My undergraduate institution (The College of William and Mary) carefully selects students who are serious about academics and extra-curricular activities.

2.  Campus Culture. Every university and college is different.  You have to know what type of campus community is important to you.  I wanted to go to a school that offered plenty of educational and extra-curricular activities but maintained a genuine feeling of community.  I also wanted regular access to my professors outside of the classroom.

3.  Cost.  An in-state education is a significantly better value than most private or out-of-state colleges and universities.

4.  Exposure.  A public university offers diversity in so many ways.  Many parents use the teenage years to shelter there kids.  I believe it is essential to give young people opportunities to interact with persons who look, think, and act differently.  Diversity of thought is essential to understand one’s own beliefs and learning how to articulate those beliefs.  A “big view” of the world will combat narcissism, expand access to information, and give a more accurate portrayal of the world.  Pew Research Center has found that 57% of United States Citizens have never lived outside of their hometown and 37% have never left their hometown!

A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village:  the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and microphone of his own age (C. S. Lewis).

A public education will ideally provide access to a wide range of scholarship and a diverse student body to deal with this common error.

5.  Mission.  I had been told that sharing the gospel to all people a la the Great Commission was important, but outside of a few short term mission trips in high school I had no real gospel opportunities.  All of my friends went to my Christian high school or my church (read: Christian bubble).  My undergraduate education was the first time in my life were the majority of my regular contacts and friendships were with non-believers.  Sure my Mom was scared of the “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” but she trusted me as a mature Christian young man (though she almost peed her pants when I mentioned that I was living in a co-ed dorm).  Further, the context of a university lends itself to the free exchange of ideas.  I have found few contexts more hospitable to the gospel (the dog park is coming in second right now).  Further, bringing the “gospel to the nations” is particularly simple at college because the nations come to you in the form of international students.  In addition, the university will help fund your own international excursions via study abroad programs!

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At this point you might ask why I am really writing this post.  I minister to parents and teenagers every week and I have noticed a particular brand of “bunker mentality.”  It is essential to develop meaningful relationships with non-believers in which to model and articulate the gospel.  These relationships cannot happen unless young adults are given opportunities to interact in the “real world.”  Many Christians claim to be missionaries but have given up on going to hard places.  Most college students in America go to public universities.  How will we reach them with the gospel unless we go to public universities?  Most of the world’s population lives in large, urban cities.  How will we reach them with the gospel unless we go to these cities?