Why I'm Not Posting

I'm finishing up my doctoral classwork this week and next. Through preparing for it, preparing to preach a couple of sermons even though I'm out of the office, and living in new house where (it seems) the World Wide Web doesn't stretch to our world, the blog was the casualty.

I'll get back once I get the canoe turned back over...

The Gospel is for Everyone

One of the gigantic misconceptions I lived with for a good deal of my life was that the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Christ, was something only the unbeliever needed to respond to. I grew up in a tradition that made that much clear - if you hadn't trusted Christ you needed to trust Him for everlasting life. But I got the impression that the believer had little use for the Gospel except to learn how to share it with an unbeliever.

That understanding began to change in college, and now it's very different. I don't preach at a "seeker" church, but every single Sunday my goal is to see every single person respond to the Gospel. Some respond for the very first time and cross from death to life in our services. Some respond to the gospel again, not so they can have life forever (they already have that); they trust Christ for life for now.

To put it a more theological way, whether we're talking about "justification" or "sanctification," being saved from the penalty of sin forever or being saved from the power of sin today, the object of our trust is always the same: the death and resurrection of Christ.

Paul makes this really clear.

What does the believing husband need? He needs to respond to the Gospel and love his wife like Jesus loved Him (Ephesians 5:25-33). If Jesus really died and rose from the dead for him, it should motivate him to respond by loving his wife differently.

What does the believing person who struggles with anxiety need? She needs to respond to the Gospel and trust that the very worst thing that could happen will never happen because Jesus died and rose from the dead so that her life would never face utter destruction (2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

What does the believer who struggles with insecurity need? To respond to the fact that Jesus' death and resurrection provides humanity with a chance for a new identity hidden "in Christ" so that redemption, adoption, inclusion, and a guarantee from the Spirit are our present-tense possession (Ephesians 1:1-14).

Paul tells believers "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in Him" (Colossians 2:6). How did you receive Him? By grace, through faith, in the Gospel.

The Gospel isn't just something elementary that we trust to get out of hell and then grow out of. It's Truth that demands our response in every single situation we face.

Good Theology, Bad Application

I've been reading through the book of Job recently. Something strikes me about Job's friends.

If you're at all familiar with the story of Job, you're probably familiar with his "friends" Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, who fit firmly in the "With Friends Like These Who Needs Enemies?" category. These guys are convinced that Job has sinned and that Job's troubles are God's discipline. So, they do what any good "friend" does when you're suffering: launch into long sermons giving you a well-thought-out rationale for why you're suffering.

What's amazing as you read these guys, however, is that their mini-sermons almost all begin with extremely good theology. They accurately portray God's sovereignty, holiness, power, and inability to make mistakes. The problem is with their application of good theology.

We normally read the story of Job to learn how to suffer well from Job's example. But a lot of us (myself included) could stand to read the story of Job to learn the danger of really good theology misapplied.

We're clear on God's sovereignty, and use it for an excuse to be passive in evangelism.

We're clear on God's omnipotence, and use it for an excuse to neglect needs we could meet.

We're clear on God's immanence (nearness), and use it for an excuse to treat Him casually, as if He were our "homeboy."

We're clear on God's grace, and use it as license to sin.

We're clear on God's holiness, and use it as an excuse to be mean.

When good theology is applied badly, it can be just as damaging as if we led with bad theology in the first place.