Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Channel Marker

Keller discusses in the next section of his essay two ways of thinking that tend to impose an internal set and drift for the Christian.

The two “thieves” of the gospel.

Since Paul uses a metaphor for being “in line” with the gospel, we can consider that gospel renewal occurs when we keep from walking [sailing] “off-line” either to the right or to the left [port/starboard]. The key for thinking out the implications of the gospel is to consider the gospel a “third” way [center line, but not in the middle] between two mistaken opposites. However, before we start we must realize that the gospel is not a half-way compromise between the two poles--it does not produce “something in the middle”, but something different from both. The gospel critiques both religion and irreligion (Matt. 21:31; 22:10). Tertullian said, "Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so this doctrine of justification is ever crucified between two opposite errors." Tertullian meant that there were two basic false ways of thinking, each of which "steals" the power and the distinctiveness of the gospel from us by pulling us “off the gospel line” to one side or the other (outside the channel). These two errors are very powerful, because they represent the natural tendency of the human heart and mind. (The gospel is “revealed” by God (Rom. 1:17)--the unaided human mind cannot conceive it.) These “thieves” can be called moralism or legalism on the one hand, and hedonism or relativism on the other hand. Another way to put it is: the gospel opposes both religion and irreligion. On the one hand, "moralism/religion" stresses truth without grace, for it says that we must obey the truth in order to be saved. On the other hand, "relativists/irreligion" stresses grace without truth, for they say that we are all accepted by God (if there is a God) and we have to decide what is true for us. But "truth" without grace is not really truth, and "grace" without truth is not really grace. Jesus was "full of grace and truth". Any religion or philosophy of life that de-emphasizes or lose one or the other of these truths, falls into legalism or into license and either way, the joy and power and "release" of the gospel is stolen by one thief or the other.

"I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe" (vs. antinomianism)
"I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope" (vs. legalism)

The moralism-religion thief.
How does moralism/religion steal joy and power?

Moralism is the view that you are acceptable (to God, the world, others, yourself) through your attainments. (Moralists do not have to be religious, but often are.) When they are, their religion if pretty conservative and filled with rules [we military-types love this]. Sometimes moralists have views of God as very holy and just. This view will lead either to a) self-hatred (because you can't live up to the standards), or b) self-inflation (because you think you have lived up to the standards). It is ironic to realize that inferiority and superiority complexes have the very same root. Whether the moralist ends up smug and superior or crushed and guilty just depends on how high the standards are and on a person's natural advantages (such as family, intelligence, looks, willpower). Moralistic people can be deeply religious--but there is no transforming joy or power. [moralist live by the extent of Christian "chest candy" accumulated]

The relativism-irreligion thief.
How does relativism steal joy and power?

Relativists are usually irreligious, or else prefer what is called "liberal" religion. On the surface, they are more happy and tolerant than moralist/religious people. Though they may be highly idealistic in some areas (such as politics), they believe that everyone needs to determine what is right and wrong for them. They are not convinced that God is just and must punish sinners. [I mean, can't we just be positive and encouraging?] Their beliefs in God will tend to see Him as loving or as an impersonal force. They may talk a great deal about God's love, but since they do not think of themselves as sinners, God's love for us costs him nothing. If God accepts us, it is because he is so welcoming, or because we are not so bad. The concept of God's love in the gospel is far more rich and deep and electrifying. [recall my submission of the great Gospel equation: the extent that one's sinfulness is understood is directly proportional to the extent that the Gospel is understood in that person's life]

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Hub Of Truth

". . . in him all things hold together . . ." ~ Col. 1:17

Continuing on with Keller (because, hey, it's worth it!). He talks about the "hub" of truth that is the Gospel, reminding me of the critical importance of the hub to the propeller in providing the driving force of propulsion for the entire ship. In a very real way the Gospel is the hub that connects the driving forces of our lives, providing propulsion for our souls, mind and body, as we operate in this world.

Implication #2- The sufficiency of the gospel.

Second, Paul is showing that we never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced”. The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom. We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal.3:1-3) and are renewed (Col. 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom. 1:16-17). It is very common in the church to think as follows. "The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience." But Col. 1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and "hard work" that is not arising from and "in line" with the gospel will not sanctify you--it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them "to the word of his grace, which can build you up" (Acts 20:32) The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel--a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, "The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine....Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually." (on Gal.2:14f) The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not "get" it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel--seeing more of its truth.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Deep Roots --> Reap Fruit

Centrality Of The Gospel
By Tim Keller [one of my favorite authors]


In Galatians 2:14, Paul lays down a powerful principle. He deals with Peter’s racial pride and cowardice by declaring that he was not living “in line with the truth of the gospel”. From this we see that the Christian life is a process of renewing every dimension of our life-- spiritual, psychological, corporate, social--by thinking, hoping, and living out the “lines” or ramifications of the gospel. The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving. The implications and applications of Galatians 2:14 are vast.


Implication #1 - The power of the gospel.
First, Paul is showing us that that bringing the gospel truth to bear on every area of life is the way to be changed by the power of God. The gospel is described in the Bible in the most astounding terms. Angels long to look into it all the time. (1 Peter 1:12). It does not simply bring us power, but it is the power of God itself, for Paul says "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16). It is also the blessing of God with benefits, which accrue to anyone who comes near (I Cor. 9:23). It is even called the very light of the glory of God itself--"they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ...for God...has made his light shine into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:4,6)

It has the life of God. Paul said to the Corinthians, "I gave you birth through the gospel"! And then, after it has regenerated us, it is the instrument of all continual growth and spiritual progress after we are converted. "All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth." (Col. 1:6). Here we learn: 1) That the gospel is a living thing (cf. Romans 1:16) which is like a seed or a tree that brings more and more new life--bearing fruit and growing. 2) That the gospel is only "planted" in us so as to bear fruit as we understand its greatness and implications deeply--understood God's grace in all its truth. 3) That the gospel continues to grow in us and renew us throughout our lives--as it has been doing since the day you heard it. This text helps us avoid either an exclusively rationalistic or mystical approach to renewal. On the one hand, the gospel has a content--it is profound doctrine. It is truth, and specifically, it is the truth about God's grace. But on the other hand, this truth is a living power that continually expands its influence in our lives, just as a crop or a tree would grow and spread and dominate more and more of an area with roots and fruit.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Not Re-Inventing The Wheel

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ec. 1:9

I wanted to begin highlighting a few articles/devotionals I have been reading over the next few days. They have been powerful and effective at creating within me the beginnings of a repentant heart. I hope they will cause a similar work within you. The truth is, life is beginning to become increasingly busy and writing time is a bit short, so I thought I would do like a good SWO and simply cut & paste what others have written with my thoughts interspersed ;-)

* Remember the premise is: change the leader, change their sphere of influence. (For my part - I desire to influence the influencers, strategically imparting functional Gospel Truth to the military society's opinion-makers.) As Christians our intent is to change so as to reflect the image and character of Christ that we may change the environments in which we lead and the lives of those we influence. For the Christian change occurs through repentance. Repentance happens through accurate self-assessment in light of the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, all change is a community project. Therefore, upon pondering the sin that inhibits us (and offends God), we then turn (i.e. repent) away from the root cause of the sin (not simply the action) toward the redemptive provisions afforded by the Gospel (which is to say submit them to the Lord, lay them at the foot of the Cross, in faith believe them to be forgiven, and depend on the the grace of Christ to create us anew as we are empowered by the Spirit unto sanctifying transformation). *

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Command At Sea

Command at Sea: the prestige, privilege and burden of command
By Joseph Conrad

Only a seaman realizes to what great extent an entire ship reflects the personality and ability of one individual, her Commanding Officer. To a landsman, this is not understandable - and sometimes it is even difficult for us to comprehend - but it is so!

A ship at sea is a different world in herself, and in consideration of the protracted and distant operations of the fleet units, the Navy must place great power, responsibility and trust in the hands of those leaders chosen for command.

In each ship there is one man who, in the hour of emergency or peril at sea, can turn to no other man. There is one who alone is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation, engineering performance, accurate gunfire and morale of the ship. He is the Commanding Officer. He is the ship!

This is the most difficult and demanding assignment in the Navy. There is not an instant during his tour as Commanding Officer that he can escape the grasp of command responsibility. His privileges, in view of his obligations, are almost ludicrously small; nevertheless, this is the spur which has given the Navy its great leaders.

It is a duty which richly deserves the highest, time-honored title of the seafaring world - Captain.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Live Like You're Redeemed

Great post and timely in light of our discussion of Redemption's implications on how we live/lead from TheResurgence.

Live Like You're Redeemed

Charles Spurgeon

The Prince of Preachers

Bought with a Price: Click | View Series

1 Corinthians 6:19-20—"You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

He slays our sins at the cross. "You were bought with a price." Let us consider this argument, that we may find therein death for our sins.


"So glorify God in your body."

Glorify God in your body:
By cleanliness, chastity, temperance, industry, cheerfulness, self-denial, patience, etc.

Glorify God:

  • In a suffering body by patience unto death.
  • In a working body by holy diligence.
  • In a worshipping body by bowing in prayer.
  • In a well-governed body by self-denial.
  • In an obedient body by doing the Lord's will with delight.

Glorify God in your spirit:
By holiness, faith, zeal, love, heavenliness, cheerfulness, fervor, humility, expectancy.

Remember, O redeemed one, that:

  1. You will be closely watched by Christ's enemies.
  2. You will be expected to be more gracious than others and rightly so, since you claim to be Christ's own.
  3. If you are not holy, the sacred name of your Redeemer, your Proprietor, and your Indweller will be compromised.
  4. But if you live a redeemed life, your God will be honored.

Let the world see what Redemption can do.

Let the world see what sort of men "God's own" are.

Adapted from Charles Spurgeon's sermon notes, which are in the public domain.