Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thoughts from Tim Keller

Tim Keller is the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Prebyterian Church in New York City. He has become a leading light among reformed evangelicals, and a personal hero of mine. His theology is impecable, his character is admirable, his leadership is effective, his demeanor is humble, and he is filled with the Spirit of God. He was one of the main presenters at the Gospel Coalition Conference last week, and I think I'll just dump my raw notes on you! They will not do him justice, but they will give you the gist of his message from 1 Peter 1-2.

By the way, in mid-June you should be able to download all of the presentations from this conference for free at www.thegospelcoalition.org. This is thanks to Mark Driscoll and his tech team from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, who donated both the equipment and the labor to make this possible. Thanks, Mark!

According to Tim Keller, the gospel is...

Historical: there is a difference between advice and news. Advice is counsel, the latter is objective reality. The gospel is news. Every other religion is sending advice, Christianity is sending good news. This implies that declarative preaching is irreplaceably central to the gospel. See C. S. Lewis, Studies in Words.

Doxological: the design of the gospel is to bring people into a life of worship! Since all sin is anti-worship, right-worship is the proper corrective for sin. This implies that the ultimate purpose of preaching is not just to make truth clear but to make it real. It must be clear, but it must also be vivid. The purpose of preaching is to make truth live!

Christocentric: The basic subject of every sermon ought to be Jesus. Only in Christ can we do what the Bible is calling us to do. Preach not just the gospel, but the Christ who is the gospel.
Personal and Individual: You cannot make yourself a Christian, you have to be born into Christianity.

Cultural: the gospel creates a new culture called the church. 1 Pet 2:12. The radical gospel turns us into a counter-culture for the common good. We know we’re there when some glorify God because of our good works, and others persecute us for the very same things.

Massively Transforming: the gospel radically effects all of life.

Wonderful: 1 Pet 1.12. Angels long to look into these things. Even though they are super-intelligent, eternal, spiritual beings, they never tire of the gospel!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Oh, What Joy!

I want to share more about the conference at Trinity with you, but that will have to wait for a day because I simply must express the joy that's in my heart!

A couple of days ago, my daughter shared with me that she had led one of her friends to Christ! We've known this girl for sometime, and have been praying for her for sometime, but I must admit that I underestimated the joy of seeing her come to Christ--through the influence of my daughter. So, we spent some time rejoicing in this fact together, even shedding a tear or two, and then I told Rachel that I hope this will be the first drip in a deluge of grace that will be upon her life. I told her that my greatest hope for her is not that she be an accomplished musician or a skilled athelete or a dazzling orator, though these things may have some measure of value in them. But my greatest hope for her is that she love God with all of her heart and soul and mind and strength, and that flowing out of that she be a soul-winner!

Brothers & Sisters, are you teaching your child to be a soul-winner? I hope the answer is "Yes." They will live if they don't know how to play an instrument or dazzle a crowd on the field, but others will life if they learn to win souls. As parents, our primary obligation is to disciple our chidlren, and part of that is to give them a passion for and skills in evangelism. So, will you join with me in thanking God for this new sister in the family of God (by the way, Rachel's first words to her were "welcome to the family!") and in praying for grace to teach our children to be soul-winners?

Glory be to God!

Friday, May 25, 2007

More from Dr. Carson

I want to share a little bit more of what Dr. Don Carson shared about the gospel at the recent Gospel Coalition gathering at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Based on 1 Corinthians 15, he shared five sentences that he said clarify some things about the gospel.

First, the gospel is normally disseminated through proclamation. While we must engage in good works like caring for the poor and seekng the good of the city, this is not how the gospel is normally disseminated in the Bible. Instead it is through the ministry of proclamation. (The reason this insight is so important, is that it undermines movements within the evangelical church that are claiming the gospel is a journey to be lived rather than a message to be proclaimed. You cannot demonstrate this from Scripture.)

Second, the gospel is fruitfully received in authentic, persevering faith, and that faith is a gift from God. Thus, though we may seek to use communication media and such things to help us proclaim the gospel, we do not believe that marketing techniques will grow the Kingdom of God. They may well grow churches, but this is a far different matter from converting hearts.

Third, the gospel is properly disclosed in personal self-humiliation. Paul's own self-assessment in light of the gospel was that he was the least of the apostles, even though he had much about which he could boast in the flesh. This is a graphic demonstration that the revelation of the gospel brings about a disposition of contrition, not pride. So, gospel Christians are humble Christians.

Fourth, the gospel is rightly asserted to be the central confession of the whole church, not just Corinth. Here Dr. Carson went to great lengths to show that the gospel was the main issue for every church in the New Testament. This has tremendous implications for our times, for some are now asserting that Paul's gospel is distinct from Jesus' gospel, and they from John's, Peter's, James' gospels, and so on. This cannot be supported by the text of the Bible, but rather only by half-blind and biased assertions.

Fifth, the gospel is boldly advancing under a contested reign but the victory of Jesus the King is inevitable. "For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15:25). This assumes that all of Jesus' enemies are not now under his feet, but surely the matter is a settled one.

Tomorrow I'll share some of what Tim Keller shared about the gospel. For now, my prayer is that you will along with me come to cherish the good news of Jesus Christ to the depth of your soul!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm Back!

Sorry for the long hiatus I've taken from blogging. It was not at all my intention to do so, but it has been an unusually busy several weeks. But I'm back now!

I am at the Gospel Coalition conference with John Piper, Don Caron, Tim Keller, Crawford Loritts, Mark Driscoll, and others. It's a short one--half-day to day and half-day tomorrow, but it has been worth the trip. The concern of this coalition is that the gospel is being compromised and forsaken in several ways within the pale of evangelicalism, and they want to restore a biblical understanding of the same in thought, affection, and practice.

The highlight of the day for me was Don Carson's presentation. Dr. Carson is a professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Here's a quick summary of the introduction to his talk:

The Gospel is much more than something that is told, or that happens, in a moment in time, rather it is the all-embracing category that holds the entire Bible together. In our day, as in others, there are other points of view on this matter:

(1) Some think that the gospel is the news you hear and to which you respond that becomes a sort of "tipping point" into Christianity and then you move on to other things, like worship, obedience, prayer, study, service, and such.

(2) Some think that the gospel is tantamount to the great commandment to love God and others. Dr. Carson did not mention this book, but I read a book in seminary entitled "Godding." The thesis of the book is that one's religion is not relevant to God; what matters is if one loves one's neighbor as one's self. This kind of thinking is alive and well in many sectors of the church today.

(3) Some think that the Gospel is the whole of the ethical teachings of Jesus, and that if one simply walks in them and follows them one will be saved. The problem is that without the benefits of the gospel as the Bible conceives it, such a way of life is impossible.

(4) Some simply assume the gospel and engage in other peripheral activities in such a way that those other activities take center stage. But when attention and passion are given to these other activities in this way, they make light of the gospel and essentially replace the gospel with themselves. Instead, Carson passionately asserted, the gospel itself must be the thing that ignites and sustains our passion.

I have been preaching through Ephesians at our church and have recently come to 2:4-10, which is all about the gospel. So, I've been thinking about these things deeply for some time, and I must tell you, Carson's comments were so moving and meaningful to me. He went on to define the gospel with eight key words which I will only list here without much explanation:

The gospel is...
1. Christological--it's all about Christ
2. Theological--it's all about God the Father
3. Biblical--it's "according to the Scriptures"
4. Apostolic--it's handed down from the apostles
5. Historical--it's rooted in history
6. Personal--it's about grace applied to lives
7. Universal--it's for all nations
8. Eschatological--it's summed up, finally, at the end of time as we know it.

I'll be back tomorrow to share more. Please pray for me as I listen and reflect on the meaning of all of this for life and ministry.