If we believe in the sufficiency of the gospel and its unique power to change the life, and if we believe that this working can only happen from the inside-out, then why do we put so much emphasis on external things? Why is it that churches slowly become consumed with image management, personal performance, and acceptable associations—rather than the gospel? Is there a lost confidence in the power and sufficiency of the gospel? Have we found a substitute for grace?

Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp address this problem in their book How People Change. They describe our efforts as attempts to fill “the gospel gap” with externalism. The result is a counterfeit gospel. They list seven ways the gospel gets replaced (I have added some brief comments after each):

  1. Formalism: Going through the motions of Christianity
  2. Legalism: Measuring spirituality with a list
  3. Mysticism: Basing spiritual growth on experiences
  4. Activism: Allowing a cause to be your primary attention
  5. Biblicism: Mastering the Word without it mastering you
  6. Psychology-ism: Being preoccupied with the needs of people
  7. Social-ism: Developing unhealthy dependences on other people

Whether we like to admit it or not, we can get the theology of the gospel right on paper, but quickly desert it in practice for one of these attractive counterfeits…and yes, we all have a tendency to do that.

The gospel IS all-sufficent. It is the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ—from eternity to eternity. The gospel is so much more than “getting or being saved,” it is how we are to live every day.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

What Matters Most: How We Draw the Lines

This is part 3 of a multi-part series on “What Matters Most. Click these links for part 1 or part 2.

I believe that the same lines that I draw for an orthodox Christian faith are the same lines that I should draw for Christian fellowship. I believe that every true born again Christian is a brother or sister in Christ and that not only can I have fellowship with him or her, it is what Christ has intended, and it is what brings him great delight (Romans 1:1; Philippians 2:1-11). For me to draw dividing lines that He has not drawn grieves Him, hurts the body of Christ, and hinders the work of the Great Commission.

The mode of baptism, timing of the rapture, cessationist or non-cessationist positions, dispensational or covenant positions, church polity, style of music, philosophy of ministry—are NOT fundamentals of the faith. They never have been. When we get to heaven I think there are going to be a lot of people feeling ashamed about how they fought over these things and neglected what matters most.

Every local church or ministry will have its functional distinctives, and we need these. Every believer will have his own personal convictions, beliefs, and opinions. We need these as well. They are not unimportant and they may even affect the degree of practical cooperation in certain ministry contexts. But, these are not matters of separation and those who don’t agree with someone else’s opinions are not simply disobedient brothers.

A disobedient brother is someone who is in clear violation of biblical teaching and one who after repeated confrontation continues in his sin. The Bible gives plenty of instruction on how to work through these situations in love and toward restoration (Galatians 6:1-5).

What do we separate over?

  1. The Christian should expose and separate from a false Gospel (Galatians 1:8,9).
  2. The Christian should expose and separate from another Christian who continues to walk in disobedience (after following a biblical process for restoration, I Corinthians 5:9-13).
  3. The Christian should separate from the world (This is another discussion that I would like to take up in the future because I find many people have a wrong view of  “the world” I John 2:15-17).

I can visit a church on Sunday morning, fellowship with believers, love what I am seeing, encourage fellow believers in what they are doing—and still choose not to join that particular local assembly. When we start separating over every belief and opinion we soon find ourselves standing all alone, criticizing the rest of body of Christ. I don’t think that is what God intended (I Corinthians 1:10-17).

Let’s separate to Christ and enjoy the sweet fellowship with every believer walking with Him. Let the church be the church autonomous. Let every believer stand and give an account for his own life as a priest before God. And let us discuss our differences with grace, integrity, and humility.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

What Matters Most: Is it all About the Gospel?

This is part 2 in a series, “What Matters Most.” Part 1 can be found here.

Recently I heard someone say, “It’s not all about the gospel.” This caused me to think through the scope and implications  of a term I use so often—the gospel. If we reduce the gospel down to salvation or the events of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, then I think a person might conclude that there has to be more to Christianity than just that. But, I do not see how we can reduce the gospel in such a way.

I see the gospel as the full person and work of Christ from eternity to eternity with all of its implications for us. It is more than a matter of our justification; it is also about how we live and what we are called to do. For Paul, his separation to the gospel was seen in his theology, life, and message. If we believe Christ to be God; our creator, the lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and the one to whom we will ultimately give account, then we will see this good news from eternity to eternity. While the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ prove to be the centerpiece of the story, everything flows from Him, through Him, and to Him (Romans 11:36).

We must, however, be careful. There are other ways to be overly simplistic, even shallow. If we answer in a pious tone, “It’s all about the gospel,” to everything we are asked, we can push off serious thinking or discussion. Thabiti Anyabwile last week had an excellent post on this very problem, “I’m Tired of Hearing “The ‘Gospel’ Warning: Mild Rant).”

I have referred to Galatians several times in previous posts. Paul is fiercely adamant about the gospel, and makes it very clear that we have to get this right. He shows how this effects both justification and sanctification. It is a warning about both. The same gospel that saves us from sin and gives us eternal life is the same gospel that fuels the Christian life on earth. It is a doctrine of grace, through faith, evidencing itself in love.

Yes, when it comes to Christianity in its fullest sense, it IS all about the gospel!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.