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.”

Book Review: Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Title: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David Cook

Depending on who you talk to, the Holy Spirit is either overly discussed or utterly neglected. Francis Chan would be firmly in the latter group.

“[W]hat if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read? .  . . [Y]ou would be convinced that the Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer’s existence as air is to staying alive,” writes Chan (p. 16). And that’s why Chan wrote Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit—to help believers recapture the necessity of the Holy Spirit to the Christian life.

Running on Fumes

Chan feels that we have lost a robust understanding of the Holy Spirit. We have neglected Him. This neglect has caused us to look and act no differently than our surrounding culture. But this should not be. Chan writes,

If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? (p. 32)

In this assessment, I think Chan is right on. If our lives do not have a marked difference in any way aside from what we do on Sunday morning, perhaps we have some bigger questions to ask ourselves, no? If we were dead but now live, there should be some kind of marked difference in how we live, what we think and how we speak… shouldn’t there? [Read more...]