Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax

Gospel-Centered-Teaching

From my earliest days as a Christian, bad Bible teaching frustrated me, but it was all around me. A steady diet of “how-to” sermons and “what does this mean to me” Bible studies left me feeling twitchy. I wanted to “go deeper”—even though I had no idea what that meant.

Initially, I thought it was all about technique. So I started a Bible study where we more or less just focused on the Bible. We covered the basic questions pretty well: “What does the text say,” and “what does it mean?” But what I missed pretty consistently was “How am I to live in light of this?” The people in our group wound up getting their heads filled with knowledge, but not necessarily having any sort of heart transformation come as a result.

I continued to stumble along through our Bible study, slowly figuring out that going “deep” isn’t just about good information, nor is it about good application. It’s about helping people see Jesus clearly in all of Scripture, and how we might become more like him as a result. But you know what would have helped me get there a lot faster? Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax.

In this book, Trevin cuts to the heart of the “going deeper” dilemma by providing a succinct analysis of the problem at hand (our lack of depth and failure to see how everything centers on Jesus in the Scriptures), a powerful exposition of the gospel itself, followed by three practical chapters on what it looks like to show Christ in the Scriptures, from exposition to application to mission. [Read more...]

My favorite books to review in 2013

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Yesterday I shared some of my favorite books to read in 2013 (many of which I reviewed). Today, I want to share a few of my favorite books to review.

(And no, this isn’t a case of “I just liked so many books I couldn’t limit the list,” as you’ll see in a minute.)

These are not all books I enjoyed, nor are they all books I’d recommend you read yourself. But all were books that challenged me in some way as I tried to figure out how to best review them, whether because of disagreements with the content or because the genre was something I’d never tackled before. Simply, they were some of the books that let me exercise my critical thinking skills.

So, with that in mind, here are the reviews I most enjoyed writing in 2013:

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Why’d it make the list? Being familiar with Evans’ work, I knew I wasn’t likely to agree with her conclusions in the book from the get-to. But the challenge here was finding ways to articulate my disagreement in a way that would be helpful and appreciate the good points of the book.

One of my concluding lines was “On some points, A Year of Biblical Womanhood offers some extremely helpful insights. On others, though, it comes across as petty and juvenile,” so I’m not sure how well I succeeded there.

Mapping the Origins Debate by Gerald Rau

Why’d it make the list? While the book is a bit stuffy in its writing style (it skews academic), its subject matter is too important not to give careful consideration. I’ve seen attempt to present a balanced view of the major positions on human origins. Rau did a very good job of this, as well as pointing out the often overlooked role of our presuppositions in interpreting scientific data.

Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax

Why’d it make the list? Trevin’s book is one of the first serious attempts I’ve made at reviewing a work of fiction. In fact, it might actually be the first fiction book I’ve reviewed. And any time I need to start a review writing, “Clear Winter Nights is not an ugly book,” I think it means I had some thinking to do.

Does God Listen to Rap? by Curtis Allen

Why’d it make the list? Because controversial subjects require a lot of thought. Allen clearly worked hard to address the concerns about Christian rap from a biblical perspective and his arguments require careful consideration.

God’s Good Design by Claire Smith

Why’d it make the list? This book had almost the opposite problem of A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Because I’m in agreement with the arguments made by the author, I still needed to figure out how to think through these with a degree of objectiveness. Again, not sure how well I succeeded there, so you’ll have to be the judge.

The Boy and the Ocean by Max Lucado

Why’d it make the list? Mostly because reviewing a book geared toward children is incredibly challenging. At the risk of being obvious, writing a book for kids isn’t the same as writing for adults. There’s more nuance you can include in a book for big people that doesn’t work well with little ones. Nevertheless, I think I stand by my conclusion: “A gospel-driven book, this is not; but it is an opening to a gospel conversation with your kids. And if that’s what Lucado set out to do, then he’s succeeded admirably.”

A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll

Why’d it make the list? This was, far and away, the most challenging review I wrote all year for me personally. I found myself with a large list of concerns, as well as a number of things I appreciated about the book—which, in hindsight, actually were some of my concerns!

So those were a few of my favorite books to review. Although a number of them are books I’d probably recommend you not read, hopefully checking out the reviews will help you understand why I like the process of reviewing so much.

Is it the method or the message?

Discipleship can be tricky business. You don’t always know what’s going to work with an individual, a small group or the larger congregation. Sometimes we think the solution to discipleship is giving people more books they won’t read. Sometimes we think it’s talking only about how we apply the truth to our lives (even if we don’t necessarily talk about how we arrive at said truth).

Gospel-Centered-Teaching

My friend Trevin Wax gets the frustration; more importantly, he’s voiced it in his new book, Gospel-Centered Teaching. What I really appreciate about what he’s written so far—and I’m only just a few pages in, so this isn’t a review by any stretch of the imagination—is he also get where the frustration stems from: it’s that we’re focused on the wrong thing. He writes:

I get the feeling that a lot of leaders are weary of running to the newest fad. Tired of trying to stir up enthusiasm for doing the same old thing. They realize it’s not enough to give the newest method.… I’m convinced that the method is not what matters most anyway; it’s the method. Get the message right, and God will work through a variety of methods. But miss the message, and the best methods in the world won’t bring about transformation. (Gospel-Centered Teaching7)

When we’re focused on methods, it’s easy for people to hide what’s really going on in their lives. It’s easy to hide your personal sin and struggles behind a video curriculum. It’s easy to ignore conviction when reading a how-to book.

It’s a lot harder when you’re being challenged to think in light of the gospel. Discipleship stems from the “therefores” of Scripture. “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1 (HCSB); but the message comes first. We can’t walk in light of what we don’t know. That’s what Trevin’s talking about, and that’s what we need more of in our thinking on discipleship, whatever method we employ.

Around the Interweb

CrossReference

Dr. David Murray is releasing a new DVD teaching series looking at Christ in the Old Testament, not only the predictions and typologies, but also His appearances as the Angel of the Lord. Dr. Murray explains in this trailer for the series:

HT: Challies

The Winners of the Counterfeit Gospels Giveaway

Over 80 people entered to win a copy of Trevin Wax’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels—and the following three people will be receiving a copy courtesy of Moody Publishers:

  1. Liam Moran
  2. Anthony Forrest
  3. James Chandler

Thanks to all who entered. I wish I had had more copies to give away, but I’d highly encourage you all to order a copy today.

Also Worth Reading

Prayer Request from Tullian: Pastor Tullian Tchividjian is almost finished his next book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Crossway 2011) and he could use your prayers.

Free Audio: This month’s free download at ChristianAudio.com is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Bible: “If . . Then” in 1 John

Conference Messages: The 2011 Ligonier National Conference messages are now online.

The Elephant Room: Chris Vacher live blogged this past Thursday’s big event featuring Pastors Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Perry Noble, James MacDonald, David Platt and Steven Furtick. James MacDonald also posted a number of his own reflections. Video from the event will be released over the next few weeks.

In Case You Missed It:

A review of Counterfeit Gospels and an interview with its author, Trevin Wax.

The Call Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

My Memory Moleskine: Think On These Things

A Legion of Andrews

Speaking Mysteriously of Mysteries

Countering the Counterfeits: Trevin Wax on Counterfeit Gospels

Trevin Wax is a pastor, editor at Lifeway, blogger at Kingdom People, and the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and the soon to be released, Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011). Yesterday, I posted my review of the book, and today, Trevin has kindly agreed to answer a few questions related to it and what he hopes readers will learn from it.


What made you decide to write Counterfeit Gospels?

About a year after I wrote Holy Subversion, I began work on a second book proposal that highlights the fact that truth is beautiful precisely because it’s true. The editors at Moody were intrigued by the “beautiful truth” proposal, but they encouraged me to apply that idea to the gospel specifically rather than just the beauty of Christian teaching in general.

As I got to work on Counterfeit Gospels, I had two goals in mind:

  1. I wanted this book to present a compelling view of the biblical gospel so that common counterfeits would be less attractive.
  2. I wanted to deal with common counterfeits that are attractive to me and the people in my local church. I wanted to look deeply into our hearts and root out those counterfeits that tug at us in some way. In other words, I didn’t want this book to be: “What’s wrong with everyone out there?” but “What counterfeits are affecting me in here, in my own heart and life?” What are the counterfeits that we encounter on television, in bookstores, in conversation, in church? In short, I wanted the book to be pastoral in tone and intent.

How do these counterfeits get started?

It depends on the counterfeit.

Some counterfeits get started because we are uneasy with the idea of not fitting in culturally. So downplaying the notion of judgment (“the judgmentless gospel”) or uniting around social causes (“the activist gospel”) enable us to maintain bits and pieces of Christian ethics while drifting from the offense of a bloody cross at the heart of our faith. [Read more...]

Book Review: Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

What is the gospel?

It seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it? Yet, if you ask 10 different people, you might get 12 different answers.

Why is that? Why is it that there seems to be so much confusion over what all who profess faith in Christ believe is the greatest news of all?

Why have we traded something so glorious for a pale substitute—a counterfeit? That’s the question at the heart of Trevin Wax’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.

So why do we fall for counterfeits in the first place? Why are they so alluring? The reality, according to Wax, is that they’re just easier than the real gospel. Counterfeits don’t cost us anything, and indeed, they can make us quite popular in the eyes of non believers.

Yet a counterfeit gospel will always leave our souls impoverished at just the point we should be enriched. Counterfeits leave our hearts and affections for God depleted at just the time we should be overflowing with passion to share the good news with others. (p. 13)

Our acceptance of counterfeits has led to a threefold crisis within the Church. Where we should have clarity of the gospel story, we have confusion. Where we should have bold proclamation, we lack conviction. Where we should have vibrant gospel community, we instead retreat from society or become exactly like it.

I greatly appreciated reading Wax’s succinct identification of the crisis within Evangelicalism; indeed it was something of an “aha” moment for me as it described many of the frustrations I have had when speaking with fellow believers in my community. This is in no way meant to malign anyone in our city, but when churches see themselves as “homeless” because they’re between buildings or believers don’t feel like they can share their faith with someone because they don’t have any answers to hard questions that might arise, there is something wrong.

Wax quickly moves from identifying the problem to the solution, tackling each aspect of what he describes as the three-legged stool of the gospel, first by unpacking the genuine article followed an examination of the counterfeits. [Read more...]

Counterfeits Are Like Candy

From Trevin Wax‘s forthcoming book, Counterfeit Gospels:

Christians and non-Christians are often drawn to counterfeit gospels. Even those of us who have walked with the Lord for many years may be inclined to cheap imitations of the truth. Why? Because they are easy. They cost us less. And they make us popular with people whose opinions matter to us.

Yet a counterfeit gospel will always leave our souls impoverished at just the point we should be enriched. Counterfeits leave our hearts and affections for God depleted at just the time we should be overflowing with passion to share the good news with others. Counterfeits are like candy. They may be pleasant to the taste, but they leave us spiritually malnourished.

In extreme cases, a counterfeit gospel may lead to heresy, a distortion of the biblical gospel so devastating it leads straight to hell. But in most cases, counterfeit gospels represent either a dilution of the truth or a truth that is out of proportion. There may still be enough of a saving message to reconcile us to God, but the watered-down version never satisfies our longings. Nor will it empower us for service, or embolden our witness before a watching world.

Trevin Wax, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope, p. 13

Around the Interweb (05/02)

Jennifer Knapp & Larry King: Why We Always Lose This Debate

In light of Jennifer Knapp’s recent interview on Larry King, Trevin Wax offers some thoughtful insights into why we “always lose” in the public debate about homosexuality:

“We’re all sinners” comes up again and again in discussions like this. In her Larry King interview, Knapp realized the power of having the pastor admit that he too is a sinner. Once she received this admission, she had the upper hand in asking, “Then why are you judging me instead of me judging you?”

Whenever the discussion centers on “homosexuality is a sin… but we’re all sinners,” the traditionalist inevitably comes across looking like he is singling out homosexuality as a worse sin than all the rest. His protests to the contrary always ring hollow.

But this is the wrong way to frame this debate. We are not saying that some of us are worse sinners than others or that homosexuality is a worse sin than pride, stealing, etc. We are not categorized before God as “better sinners” or “worse sinners.” Instead, we are either unrepentant or repentant. True Christianity hinges on repentance. The pastor on Larry King Live eventually made this point later on in the broadcast, but the rhetorical damage had already been done.

If we are to reframe this discussion along biblical lines, then we must emphasize the necessity of repentance for the Christian faith. The point is not that the pastor and the Knapp are both sinners. It’s that the pastor agrees with God about his sin, while Knapp remains in her sin without repentance. That is why he is questioning her Christianity, for Christian teaching makes clear the necessity of repentance as the entryway into the Christian family.

Ultimately, the debate is not about homosexuality versus other sins. It’s about whether or not repentance is integral to the Christian life.

Read the rest. It’s well worth your time and consideration.

In Other News

Darryl Dash: We Need Gospel Movements, Not Just Better Churches

Technology: Steve Jobs shares his Thoughts on Flash

Jared Wilson: Ten Reasons to Under-Program Your Church

In Case You Missed It

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

My notes from D.A. Carson’s message at The Gospel Coalition conference in Hamilton, Canada, Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days

A review of Dr. Carson’s latest book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus

Don’t study theology, but do study theology

More wisdom from Spurgeon on faith & obedience

His Name was Smeagol

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Colossians 3:5-6

Yesterday I started watching some of the videos Tony Kummer has kindly put online from this year’s Band of Bloggers. Trevin Wax’s address in particular hit me like a freight train. Give it a view:

Trevin spoke about covetousness and blogging and as he spoke, this point really jumped out to me:

The problem with covetousness in general is that it robs God of His glory because we’re seeking an identity apart from who we are in Christ. It also robs us of our joy in blogging. Instead of being this good gift that God has given us that we can use to serve others, it becomes a way for us to prop up ourselves.

He offered the following diagnostic questions that he uses to as a heart check for himself:

  1. Do my emotions ever fluctuate depending on how many hits my blog is receiving?
  2. Do I enjoy the attention I get, regardless of whether it’s praise or criticism?
  3. Do I get depressed if a post doesn’t get the attention I think it should?

Mulling over these questions, because I’ve noticed that on occassion my answers to these questions are “yes.” Not always, but sometimes.

And that’s a problem because, honestly, there are things that are more important. [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (04/11)

Michael Spencer 1956-2010

On Monday April 5, Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, went home to stand before his Savior after a grueling four-month-long battle with cancer. He was 53.

I did not know Michael personally, but got to know a bit about him by reading his blog. I found him to be interesting, thought-provoking and sometimes frustrating. Not because of his demeanor—on the contrary, he struck me as one who modeled how Christians should behave online—but because much of the time I couldn’t get a good read on him. I couldn’t always tell where he stood.

But he always got me thinking. And for that, I’m grateful.

Michael’s book, Mere Churchianity, is coming out in September, courtesy of Waterbrook/Multnohmah. Consider preordering a copy.

Looking at the list of tributes to Michael, I wonder if he understood the impact he was having in the lives of so many?

In other news

RE:Sound released a new record by Red Letter. Go listen to samples and download.

Tim Challies on the writer’s life

Trevin weighs in as a voice of reason as a couple people continue to lose their minds over John Piper inviting Rick Warren to Desiring God’s National Conference.

The Gospel Coalition has just launched a new book review site.

ChristianAudio.com’s free audiobook of the month is Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff. Download this and enjoy a solid 4 hours of laughter. Use coupon code APR2010 when purchasing.

In case you missed it

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

Proud Devoted and Dead

A review of Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods

The Stupidity of the Intelligent

Spurgeon on Faith & Obedience

Around the Interweb (12/13)

Tim Challies: The Next Story (His Next Book)

Tim Challies, the world’s most famous Christian blogger and author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment announced his next book this week.

The working title: The Next Story. The publisher: Zondervan.

True story. Here’s what Tim had to say:

Since I wrote The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment I’ve often been asked the obvious question: what next? That’s a good question, of course. I have deliberately been biding my time. I’ve been in no real hurry to jump into my next project. A few ideas have come and gone, but none have been intriguing or original enough that I’ve wanted to dedicate a year of my life to them. The commitment to a certain topic is really a commitment to spend at least six months reading and writing about it and then a further six months (at minimum) doing interviews about it, speaking about it, preaching about it, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was find a topic that would bore me and leave me dreading it.

[...] The book’s working title is The Next Story. I’m really pleased with the title, but it does have a downside in that it is remarkably difficult to pronounce (try saying it out loud). It is a book about technology in general and digital technology in particular. Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by technology. Like it or not, we rely upon it in unprecedented ways. Many people feel that they are analog creatures in a digital world. Christians are beginning to awaken to this reality and are trying to think critically and biblically about many new realities brought about by technological developments. Yet, there are few helpful and sympathetic voices for those who wish to do so but have no idea how. I’m hoping to fill this gap, creating a book that will help Christians think well about technology. I do not intend to discuss Facebook and Twitter and whatever will be big and popular next month. I want to discuss technology in the bigger picture so that the book will be applicable today, tomorrow and ten years from now.

If all goes well, the book will be published in hardcover in the spring of 2011. And it will be published by Zondervan. I’m guessing that this will be a surprise to a few people. Frankly, it is a bit of a surprise to me. But in the end it was clear that Zondervan had the best all-around offer, from the financial, to the marketing, to the audience. Zondervan will take the book to a whole new audience, I’m convinced, and will work hard to help me find interesting speaking opportunities. They put together a fantastic proposal and I had no hesitations in signing on with them.

This is very exciting news and I’m thrilled for both Tim and Zondervan (and a very wise move on Zondervan’s part).  I’ve no doubt that he’ll bring the same thoughtfulness to this book as he did his first.

Look for The Next Story in 2011.


In Other News

Molly Piper cordially invites you to break your heart

Kevin DeYoung on The Christian Century and the New Calvinism

Michael Hyatt believes the SI Tablet might be the end of book publishing as we know it (and he’s excited!)

Trevin Wax reminds us that contextualization goes both ways


In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Andy Deane’s very helpful book, Learn to Study the Bible

Building Christmas traditions with my family

Ed Stetzer points us to a study on the effects of pornography

Sunday Shorts (06/28)

Marvin Olasky: With Calvin in the Theater of God

Desiring God’s 2009 National Conference, With Calvin in the Theater of God, is coming up this September with an interesting line of speakers, including Marvin Olasky, editor of World Magazine.

Olasky has a very intriguing testimony, as you can see from this video:

You can learn more about the conference at DesiringGod.org.

Michael Jackson: A Tortured Existence

Tim Challies offers some thoughts on the recent death of Michael Jackson:

So the king is dead. What a sad end to a sad life; a pathetic end to a pathetic life (by which I mean to use pathetic in its true sense as “arousing pity and sympathy). I don’t know that I have ever seen, in one man, such a combination of self-love and self-loathing, shocking narcissism combined with equally shocking self-hatred. Truly Michael Jackson was unparalleled.

Read the rest at Challies.com.

Piper vs. Wright on Justification: A Layman’s Guide

Trevin Wax put together a handy layman’s guide to understanding the debate on justification between John Piper and NT Wright. A primer was recently featured in Christianity Today (you can also download it as a chart).

Trevin and Ted Olsen also co-wrote the article, “Not an Academic Question,” which let pastors sound off on how this theological debate influences their ministry.

In case you missed it

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

Don’t Waste Your Life Jim thought he had everything, until…

Book Review: Pastor Dad Reviewing Mark Driscoll’s recent Father’s Day gift to all the men online

With Grace Comes Boldness The power of the gospel and sovereignty of Christ should inspire boldness