Around the Interweb (02/14)

Centered on One or the Other

Via Ray Ortlund:

A gospel-centered church holds together two things. One, a gospel-centered church preaches a bold message of grace — so bold that it becomes the end of the law for all who believe. Not our performance but Christ’s performance for us. Not our sacrifices but his sacrifice for us. Not our superiority but only his worth and prestige. The good news of substitution. The good news that our okayness is not in us but exterior to us in Christ alone. Climbing down from the high moral ground, because only Christ belongs up there.  That message, that awareness, that clarity. Every Sunday.

Two, a gospel-centered church translates that theology into its sociology. The good news of God’s grace beautifies how we treat one another. In fact, the horizontal reveals the vertical. How we treat one another reveals what we really believe as opposed to what we think we believe. It is possible to say, “We are a gospel-centered church,” and sincerely mean it, while we make our church into a law-centered social environment. We see God above lowering his gun, and we breathe a sigh of relief.  But if we are trigger-happy toward one another, we don’t really get it yet.

…A gospel-centered church is a variegated collection of sinners. They come together and stick together because they have nothing to fear from their message or their culture. The theology creates the sociology, and the sociology incarnates the theology.

The one deal-breaker in a gospel-centered church: anyone for any reason turning it into a culture of legal demandingness and negative scrutiny.  Few would do that in the theology, of course.  But still, a church with a message of grace can stop being gospel-centered in real terms.

A major part of pastoral ministry is preaching the doctrines of grace and managing an environment of grace. The latter is harder to accomplish than the former. It is more intuitive. It requires more humility and self-awareness.

May the Friend of sinners grant beautiful gospel-centricity in all our churches.

Reading this reminded me how much I appreciate our pastor at Harvest. If it does the same for you and yours, maybe take a minute today and give him a bit of encouragement.

In Other News

Mike Wittmer (author of Don’t Stop Believing and Heaven is a Place on Earth) is reviewing Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianityintro, question 1, question 2, interlude and question 3. Darryl Dash also has a very helpful review up on his site.

A critique of Pagan Christianity. This is incredibly insightful and well worth reading.

John Hiscox is the winner of the Crave book giveaway. Congratulations, John! Look for another giveaway this week.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Crave: Wanting So Much More of God by Chris Tomlinson and a Q&A with the author

A review of Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Spurgeon: “If you desire shame, desire pride.”

Crave: Stories of Simple Obedience

Crave by Chris Tomlinson has given me a lot ot think about this week, specifically about taking steps of simple obedience, trusting God in what He’s asking me to do today.

If you’re unfamiliar with the book, you can read the review here and the first three chapters below (via Scribd). After the jump, learn how you can win a free copy of Crave.

An Act of Simple Obedience

This weekend, I’m sharing with our church about a step of obedience that we took this past Christmas, sending letters telling our families about how God used the events of 2009 to reveal more of Himself to us and grow us in our faith. [Read more...]

Craving More of Jesus: A Q&A with Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Acadamy and the UCLA Anderson School of Business. He lives in North Virginia with his wife, Anna, and is the author of the newly-released Crave: Wanting So Much More of God.

But if there’s one thing you need to know about him, it’s that he really loves Jesus and wants you to love Him, too.

(Okay, maybe that’s two things.)

Chris and his publisher, Harvest House, were kind enough to include me in the blog tour in support of the book, and he has graciously agreed to take part in a short Q&A.

Enjoy the interview and look for the review tomorrow.


What was the greatest challenge you faced writing this book?

Writing this book was a tremendous joy and an enormous challenge. I think there are two ways to get at this, and there’s nuance to both.

In one way, the actual writing was both easy and hard—easy because the words often just seemed to flow onto the page, and hard because going back and putting those words into their final form for the book was a slow, painful process. I once heard that the hardest part of writing is in the re-writing, and I’ve found this to be true. So the two years it took to rewrite the book (twice) posed a huge challenge to my ability to be a good disciple, husband, worker, and friend.

In another way, the writing of this book opened up the sinfulness of my heart in entirely new ways. I never knew how much I longed for affirmation from people rather than God. I never knew how hard it would be to accept praise on God’s behalf for the gift He has given me to be used for His glory. I never knew how self-absorbed I would become during the promotional phase of the book. Dealing with this kind of sin has been a challenge as well, but one I am embracing, through confession and meditation, as a means towards greater Christ-likeness. [Read more...]