Category Archives: Gospel Foundations

Reversing the Curse: Substitutionary Atonement

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sought to “be like God”–or rather, they sought to be their own gods by declaring themselves king and queen in His rightful, exclusive place. We are guilty of doing the same thing. Yet, Jesus being in the form of God (Phil 2), because He existed as the eternal Son of God, did not exploit that glory for Himself. In fact, He humbled Himself by coming to earth in human form and taking the nature of a servant and dying on the Cross, a sinner’s death in our place. He took our curse so that we might receive His blessing; He became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. His vicarious death and resurrection reverses the curse for us.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ:

“For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God [Gen. 3:1-7], while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man [2 Cor. 5:21]. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.”[1]

Praise be to God for the substitutionary life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Eph. 5). He endured the terrors of hell so that we might experience the joys of heaven. Amen.

[1] John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1986), 160.

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The Relevance of the Gospel

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The Heart of the Gospel

The Heart of the Gospel is the Cross of Christ and the Great Exchange that His Death and Resurrection Secured… His Righteousness for My Sin!

In speaking to Corinthian believers, the Apostle Paul spoke of their status of being accepted by God. As a first step in their experience of being “re-created” in Christ, God exchanged their sin for Christ’s righteousness. This exchange, often called imputation, is the heart of the gospel:

…For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The same truth is conveyed to those in Galatia (Gal. 2:20; 3:13-14). Our sin is accounted to Him and His right standing with the Father is accounted to us: the death we deserved exchanged for the life He possessed.

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According to the gospel, this truth remains an unchanging reality: Whether on my best day or my worst day, I am accepted by God only because of Christ’s righteousness.

  • On my worst day when I am at the pit of selfishness and the filth of my sin, God loves, forgives, and receives me because of what His Son accomplished—Christ became sin so that I might become righteous. God sees us as sons and daughters, rather than rebels, because Christ’s blood has paid our debt and His righteousness has covered our lives. His righteousness produces life in us, by virtue of the Holy Spirit renewing us to resemble Christ.
  • On my “best days” when I feel that I’m on the top of the world and self-sufficient, or even when I’m living in obedience and remain mindful of God, my acceptance with God has nothing to do with anything I am or anything I’ve done. It has everything to do with who Christ is and what He has done. My best deeds are like filthy rags. Yet, in Christ, I have become a new creation and have been empowered to accomplish good works that glorify Him… but even these good works are the outworking–the evidence–rather than the basis for my justification before God.

The only thing that really matters is whether or not Christ has been my Substitute and exchanged His righteousness for my sin. That happens by faith. If not, then my debt remains unpaid and I stand condemned in my sin (Rom. 8:1). When I trust in Christ for salvation, I forsake my sin and all other substitutes of self-justification. I stop trying to earn God’s favor and I stop seeking my own glory. I bow my heart and life to His lordship by faith and repentance, as I turn to Him and forsake my sin. Such faith and repentance is ongoing. While “the great exchange” (His righteousness for my sin) was accomplished once-for-all at the Cross, my faith and repentance are perpetual. His substitutionary death secured my life so that I might be able to embrace a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

As a result of this “great exchange,” we can rest securely in the fact that Christ alone is the basis for our acceptance with God. No more striving. Simply resting by grace through faith. Worshiping God while enjoying His pleasure rather than working endlessly to earn His favor. On our worst day, we find refuge in the cross—for that is where we experience God’s love and forgiveness through Christ. On our best day, we find that we are still inadequate and in need of God’s grace—once again, we find this in the person of Christ as His Spirit lives in us and intercedes for us. May we revel in the fact that God accepts us as we are, because of who He is… and He has graciously purposed all things to make us more like Himself (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 3:18).

[Previous Posts: “Harlots at Heart” and “Justification vs. Sanctification”]

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Podcast: What is the Gospel? (Part 1)

At Christ’s Covenant Church in Winona Lake, Indiana, we’re pursuing a Grow Initiative that includes reading and discussing books geared toward understanding and applying the gospel. As a preview to our discussion night, we’ve done a series of podcasts. Here is the first one…

As you’ll notice, I was not entirely comfortable on camera, but I trust that will come with time, much like preaching.

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Gospel Under Fire

Gospel Under Fire

In our time, there has been much confusion about the gospel. In fact, perspectives on its content and scope are nearly as diverse as the human race. As a result of the fall, every generation of human beings has inevitably wandered from the truth, and our contemporary culture is no different than those that have come before us. Unfortunately, the church is not immune from the same, devastating malady. When the church becomes intoxicated with contemporary culture, it renders itself ineffective and indistinguishable from the Christless world around it.

Regarding the relationship between the church and culture D.L Moody wrote, “The place for the ship is the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets into it.”[1] In extending the analogy, the ship is carrying a priceless cargo—the gospel message—as it navigates its way through the tumultuous sea. The church, as a gospel-people, have been entrusted with “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Yet many churches, even some professing to be evangelical, that should be “the pillar and foundation of the truth” are instead compromising the very message that should define them.  They have abandoned their post of proclaiming and defending the pure message of God’s holy character and sacrificial love—the gospel of Jesus Christ–and have embraced a substitute which is no gospel at all.

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A Case-in-Point

Rob Bell, a Grand Rapids pastor well-known for his compelling NOOMA videos, recently published a controversial promo for his forthcoming book, Love Wins.  In the video, Bell questioned the traditional, orthodox understanding of the gospel and seems to indirectly affirm universalism (the idea that “God saves everyone regardless of their knowledge of or response to Christ”). Given the destructive combination of Bell’s wide-spread popularity and his dangerous theology, several evangelical leaders responded with words of caution and dismay: Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung. While engaging as a communicator, Bell’s teaching reveals that he is anything but faithful to Scripture.

As a pastor and theologian, Bell regularly compromises the very gospel message that is central to Christian faith. The reaction to Taylor’s honest-yet-loving critique was mixed, and it even came from some within the evangelical movement. While some gave resounding affirmations at Taylor’s stand for the purity and primacy of the gospel, others offered a firestorm of hatred and unjust criticism that Bell’s faithfulness would even be questioned. Biblically-speaking, any pastor (or Christian, for that matter) who claims the name of Christ while denying the truths of His saving work should be questioned, and probably avoided at all costs. In light of the controversy, Kevin DeYoung offered an insightful clarification on the issue at-hand; it’s worth reading.

 

Why It Matters…

So, why does this controversy even matter? And, why do Christians need to read a book entitled What is the Gospel?

The answer is simple. Our faith—our standing before God, our present life in the Spirit, and our future with Christ—is completely dependent on the accuracy of the gospel message and our faithful response to it. Not only do we need to understand it, but we must also be able to defend it in a day when attacks come from the world, as well as professing believers. Greg Gilbert’s book, What is the Gospel?, is a much-needed clarification on the truths most central to our faith. He summarizes the good news in the biblical storyline of God, man, Christ, and response, after which he elaborates on its transforming power in the life of the believer. Here’s a brief summary of the gospel and here’s a guide by which you can “preach it to yourself” everyday.

May we, as Christ’s bride, become a gospel community who joyfully embrace, thoroughly understand, and firmly-yet-humbly defend the message that defines our past, present, and future existence. Otherwise, we are little more than a sinking ship unwittingly welcoming the sea into our midst while remaining blissfully unaware of the tragic consequences. Let us anchor ourselves to Christ by faith as we cling to the message that He preached and the response that He commanded. And let us be prepared to articulate, apply, and defend the truths that define us.


[1] Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, 2009).

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Preaching the Gospel to Myself Everyday

Reality Check:  This much I know…

“I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

John Owen said those words and therein revealed that he knew my heart just as well as his own. My only hope is found in perpetually running back to the Cross and clinging to the saving grace that first clung to me. God, through the finished work of Christ and the ongoing work of the Spirit, awakened my soul to life. I too easily forget those truths that saved and continue to sanctify me, or at least, functionally-speaking my life evidences a forgetfulness as I grow entranced by the things of the world. Knowing my propensity to forgetfulness, I need daily reminders of the grace I have received. So, a few weeks ago, I composed the following brief overview of the gospel in an attempt to aid myself in rehearsing the gospel message to myself daily. Lord willing, this recitation will be accompanied by the Spirit’s power as I seek to mortify the flesh and magnify Christ in my heart before each day unfolds. I share it in hopes that some of you may benefit from a similar course of action. Lord willing, it will serve the body of CCC in a similar way in the future. Blessings in Christ, Gabe


Preaching the Gospel to Myself Everyday

God: He is holy and just, sovereign and good.  He created all things—including me—for His pleasure and glory. He made me in His image so that I might worship and reflect Him. I glorify Him most when I find my joy and satisfaction in Him. (Gn. 2:7-18; 18:25; Ps. 34; Mt. 25:31-33).

Man: Adam rebelled against God, and so have I. My heart is deceitful above all things and has caused me to fall short of God’s glory. I sinned against His holy character and righteous law. As a result, I was separated from God and found deserving of His holy wrath and eternal condemnation. In my sin, I was an enemy of God, spiritually dead, and destined for hell. Apart from God’s grace, I am hopeless and entirely helpless to save or change myself. (Gn. 3; Jn. 3:36; Rm. 3:10-23; 5:12-23; Eph. 2:1-4).

Christ: He is the beloved Son of God, fully-man and fully-God, sent into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the worst. He lived the perfect life that I should have lived and died the death that I deserved. He became the curse for me—the Righteous for the unrighteous—so that God might punish my sin in Him and forgive it in me. In death, He bore the wrath reserved for my sin, and in being raised to new life, He caused me to share in it. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I have been given a new, obedient heart, clothed in His righteousness, freed from sin to do good works, and empowered to bear the fruit of the Spirit as I resist all ungodliness. (Jn. 1:14; Rm. 3:21-26; 5:6-8; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:20; 3:13; Eph. 2:4-10; Titus 2:11-14).

Response: The only saving and sanctifying response is repentance and belief. I must daily turn from my sin and turn to God by faith in Christ.  In doing this, I forsake the idols of my heart and worship Christ alone as my ultimate Treasure. He redeemed me from sin and death, and through Him I have been forgiven and reconciled to God.  He has promised eternal life, provided living hope, and given an eternal inheritance that will never perish—all guarded securely by Christ Jesus, my Savior. Through Him, I have received all that I need for life and godliness. As I grow in the grace and truth that He provides, I am transformed into His image, and He causes me to bear the fruit of His righteousness. When He returns to set all things right, I will live with Him forever in His eternal kingdom. In the new heavens and the new earth, creation will be restored to perfection and the redeemed will give Him glory forever and ever! Amen. (Mk. 1:15; Lk. 3:7-9; Jn. 3:16-17; 20:31; Gal. 5:17-25; Rv. 20-22).

(A Guide for Preaching the Gospel to Myself Everyday)

*Disclaimer: This overview is not comprehensive nor is it intended to be. The goal is to provide a brief overview of the essential elements of the gospel in order to begin-and-end each day with Godward focus so that each moment in-between might be more gospel-saturated than it would have been otherwise.

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A Solitary Sentence

A summation of the Bible in ONE sentence, by various scholars/pastors: click here.

A summation of what is the key to healthy Christian growth in godliness in ONE sentence: click here.

See also: How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Stanley Fish

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: Part 4

Seeing Christ in Every Text:

(Previous posts: Part 1: The Gospel in Every Text and Part 2: God in Every Text and Part 3: Mankind in Every Text)

While every passage of Scripture reveals the person of God and instructs us about the character of man, the ultimate meaning of every text is the redemptive work of  Christ. After His resurrection, Jesus encountered some travelers on the road to Emmaus and explained to them all that Moses and the Prophets had spoken concerning Him (Luke 24:24-27). Later on, Jesus further explained to His disciples the things concerning Himself in the Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets. He explained from the entire Old Testament how He would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness from sin should be proclaimed in His name to all nations (Luke 24:44-47).

In John 5:39-40, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for reading the Old Testament Scriptures in an arrogant way and supposing that they had eternal life due to their knowledge and legalistic obedience to it. He informed them that they search the Scriptures for eternal life, and yet miss the whole point because eternal life is found only in Him. They had made an idol of the Scriptures and their strict obedience to it. Yet, they missed the very One who gave life to all who might worship Him.  Once again, Jesus reveals that the entire Old Testament has a central theme: to testify about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Acts 8:34-35, Philip used the Old Testament book of Isaiah to tell the eunuch about the good news of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Later in the book of Acts, Paul tells King Agrippa about his conversion experience. He refers to all that Moses and the Prophets had said as being ultimately that Christ would suffer, die, and rise from the dead before proclaiming light to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 26:22-23).

Furthermore, the apostle Peter wrote a letter to a number of suffering churches. In this letter, he remarked that the prophets of the Old Testament wrote the message of the gospel for their benefit (1 Peter 1:10-12). He said the prophets who wrote about the salvation (“the grace that was to be yours”) searched and inquired carefully as to what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when they predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. Peter emphasizes that the Old Testament prophets’ message was the same gospel message that had been preached to these struggling churches.

Thus, Philip, Paul, and Peter all acknowledge Jesus’ assertion that the entire corpus of Old Testament Scripture has one central message: the gospel work of Jesus Christ. The good news of God’s saving love is most fully embodied in the person and work of Christ, who is the central theme of the entire Old Testament. Therefore, if we are to read the Old Testament (and the entire Bible for that matter) without seeing Christ, then we fail to read it rightly.  So, it is crucial that we read Scripture with eyes to see the work of redemption (i.e., “the gospel solution”) that reveals God’s activity of rescuing His people by solving their pervasive fallen condition.

Some helpful questions to ask when discovering how the text reveals redemption are:

1.  What does this passage reveal about the nature of salvation?

2.  What is the “gospel solution” to the “fallen condition” that this passage states, describes, or implies?

3.  In what specific ways has Jesus obeyed in the areas where you have failed?

An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1.  Nature of Salvation: Salvation is a result of God’s mercy and love (v.4). God brought life to dead sinners–while they were still lifeless, He resurrected them by initiating regeneration (v.5). Salvation is by God’s grace (v.5). Salvation resulted in union with Christ in that believers are raised with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places, with the purpose being to reveal the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward them (vv. 6-7). This salvation through grace comes by means of man’s faith in Christ. Yet, this faith is a gift from God (vv. 8-9). The product of saving faith is a lifestyle adorned by good works (v.10).

2. Gospel Solution: Mankind was dead in sin and walked according to this world. Yet, God mercifully brought sinners to new life in Christ (vv. 4-5). While mankind was living according to this world and working out disobedience by following the passions of the flesh (and deserved God’s wrath as a result), were saved by God’s grace and raised to a place of honor before God with Christ (vv. 5-6). While mankind was entirely sinful and deserved the consequence of such depravity, God desired to save them in order to show them the depths of his grace and kindness through Christ (v.7). Since mankind could not save himself, God offered salvation by grace through faith. This was a provision of His love toward sinful rebels (vv. 8-9). As a result of God’s saving/transforming grace, initiated through Christ and planned in advance, believers no longer walk according to their formal sinful, self-centered ways but instead do good works that reflect the love and grace of God (v.10).

3.  Jesus’ Obedience: Jesus became the curse for us (Gal. 3:13). While we were dead in our trespasses and sins, He is/was “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6). While we followed the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air, Christ remained entirely committed to the Father’s will. He completely obeyed the Father and fended off the temptation of Satan (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 22:42; John 17:4; Heb. 4:15).  Instead of living by a disobedient spirit, Jesus walked according to the Holy Spirit (Matt. 4). He obeyed in the very situations that mankind failed. As a result of Christ’s obedient life and sacrificial death, God made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5) and raised us to be seated with Him (2:6). God showed us that kindness of His grace through Christ (2:7) and created us in Christ (2:10) so that we might be trophies of His grace which reflect the beauty of His glory.

These are just a few examples of how we see the gospel solution displayed in this passage. In the next post, we’ll consider how we ought to respond to God’s saving grace by confessing our sin and celebrating the person of Christ by means of praising God and living in obedience to His person.

{1} See Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching for more information on fallen condition focus and redemptive solution.

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text (Part 3)

Seeing Man in Every Text:

(Previous posts: Part 1: The Gospel in Every Text and Part 2: God in Every Text)

While every text is ultimately about God’s character, activity, and concerns, every text is also about mankind. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The inspired word, therefore, is given for the purpose of equipping God’s children to carry out the work that He has given them to do. Ephesians 2:8-9 informs us that God saved us by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, so that we might do good works. It is this knowledge of Him that gives us everything that we need for this pursuit of life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Psalm 119 provides an incredible list of the ways that God sufficiently provides for us through His word.

So, with this being the case, how does God’s word reveal information about mankind? Well, we find that it does so through revealing our origin and original innocence as those created in the image of God, it reveals our utter depravity and rebellion as a result of the fall (i.e., our fallen condition), and it reveals our remaining sinful tendencies (i.e., sinful heart conditions and idolatry) that continue to plague us this side of glory. God’s word is intended to make us what we cannot be on our own, since we are spiritually incomplete apart from Christ (Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 1:28-2:15). Every text has a central burden of God providing the solution to man’s fallen condition. For the very purpose of God’s word is to reveal Himself as the ultimate solution to our sinful predicament.

The Holy Spirit inspired each passage of Scripture so that God would be “more properly glorified through His people,” and the best way for us to determine the Holy Spirit’s intended purpose is to consider what was the universally-sinful human condition that necessitated it. Bryan Chapell in Christ Centered Preaching (Baker Academic: 2005, 51) defines the Fallen Condition Focus as “the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God’s people to glorify and enjoy him.” God’s word provides the grace for us to deal with human brokenness that has been a barrier to the full experience and expression of His glory in and through us.

Some helpful questions to ask when discovering how the text reveals mankind are:

1.  What aspects of the image of God (longings, desires, interests, values) are reflected in this passage?

2.  What fallen conditions (desires, attitudes, actions, beliefs, etc) are stated, described, or implied in the passage?

3.  What struggles, challenges, temptations, and realities to walking with God are stated, described, or implied in this passage?

 

An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1.  Aspects of Mankind in the Image of God: God has given mankind appetites/desires, and a capacity for worship (though sin has distorted both).  God has given us a longing for purpose and a desire to work.  God has given us an interest in exerting our passions, energies, and strength toward that which brings satisfaction (though once again, sin has distorted the object of our satisfaction). God has given us eternal value, and as a result, He won’t leave every one of us entirely dead for all of eternity.

2. Man’s Fallen Condition: Sin has caused us to be spiritually dead (v.1) as a result of transgressing God’s law. Our tendency is to walk according to the ways of this world, following in the footsteps of Satan, and living in open disobedience.  We are unable to do otherwise, except that God intervene (v.4).  While created as sons and daughters of God, we became sons and daughters of disobedience (v.2). We live satisfy the perverted passions of our flesh by carrying out the selfish desires of our minds and bodies.  Like all of sinful humanity, God’s wrath was being stored up for us (v.3). Apart from grace, we tend to boast in ourselves and our works (v.9), and we tend to serve ourselves rather than the good that God prepared for us to do (v.10).

3.  Man’s Struggles & Tendencies: We struggle, at times, with the futile patterns of our former ignorance (cf. 1 Peter 1:14-23) by pursuing the passions of our flesh despite the fact that we’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ. There is a tendency toward idolatry–seeking satisfaction outside of intimacy with God. We tend to boast in ourselves rather than giving full glory to God for our salvation, sanctification, and the good work of our hands that He alone provides (v.6-10).

These are just a few examples of how we see our fallen condition displayed in the passage. In the next post, we’ll consider how God’s grace provides the “gospel solution” to our fallen condition. He provides the very power and deliverance that we need to overcome our greatest degrees of sinfulness.

Upon reflection of our sinful condition apart from grace, might we praise Him that He did not leave us there for eternity.

 

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text (Part 2)

Seeing God in Every Text:

(See Previous Post: Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: Part 1)

Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself. It is ultimately about His character and activity as a self-sufficient, self-satisfied, infinite being. His word informs creation about it’s existence, purpose, and the experiences of both the fall and redemption. God has revealed Himself in two particular ways: through creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-32) and through His word–both written (Psalm 19:7-14) and incarnate (John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-23). Jesus Christ, the living Word, is the exact representation of God’s person and the embodiment of all of His glorious attributes. Every characteristic described in Psalm 19:7-14 regarding the word of God is most fully displayed in the person of Jesus Christ.

When approaching any text, we should determine what it reveals about the character and activity of God.  The following questions may be helpful in “getting the most out of the text” (as Matt Harmon likes to say it)!  The extent to which any text will include these three categories will vary, but every text will reveal at least a few things about God’s character, whether by explicit citation or implicit inference.

1.  What aspect of God’s character do we see in the passage?

2.  What activities do we see God doing in this passage?

3.  What things, events, people, and situations is God concerned about?

 

An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1. God’s Character: Merciful (v.4), Loving (v.4), Life-giving (v.5), Gracious (vv.5, 7), Redemptive (vv.5, 8), Powerful (v.6), Ageless/Eternal (v.7), Revelatory (v.7), Kind (v.7), Author of Salvation (v.8), Creator (v.10), Good (v.10), Sovereign (v.10).  There are undoubtedly more, but these should whet your appetite.

2.  God’s Activity: God, because of His mercy, loved us (v.4); God made us alive together with Christ (v.5); God, by His grace, saved us (v.5, 8); God raised us up and seated us with Himself in the heavenly places (v.6); God has chosen to one day show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ (v.7); God created us in Christ Jesus so that we might one day bear the fruit of good works (v.10).

3.  God’s Concerns: God is concerned for wretched sinners and is merciful in that He does not leave them all that way (vv. 1-4); God is concerned with bringing salvation and new life to the spiritually dead (vv. 5-6); God is concerned with enabling His children to share in Christ’s exaltation (v.6); God is concerned with displaying the riches of His glory and grace (v.7); God is concerned that He alone receive honor for the work of salvation (v.9); and God is concerned that His children reflect His glory by bearing the fruit of good works (v.10).  God has a great concern for reversing the curse of the fall and bringing new life to a fallen creation.

As you study God’s word, may you see more of Him in it. His word, first and foremost, is intended so that all of creation might know WHO He is and WHAT He has done.  May we praise Him for the revelation of Himself to us!!

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: (Part 1)

Over the next several posts, we’ll be looking at how the gospel is revealed in every text of Scripture, and then we’ll consider how we can properly respond to such revelation.  However, before we examine these beautiful realities, it would be best to give a clear definition the gospel.


What is the gospel?

In short, the gospel is the good news of God’s saving grace toward sinners.

God created the world to be a trophy-case of His glory, to show off the beauty of His incredible greatness. Since God’s character must express itself, He created the world to experience the fullness of Himself. For example, in order to love someone, there must be an object upon which to express your love. God, being immeasurably glorious, created objects upon which He might extend the expression of His glory. And for their enjoyment, those creatures would have the unique privilege of reflecting His glory back to Him.  You see, God was fully self-satisfied without creating mankind, and yet the glorious joy of His character compelled Him to express that in an overflowing manner so that His glorious joy might be enjoyed by others. Thus, God created all the world to reflect the beauty of His glory, and mankind was the pinnacle of God’s creation. It was precisely in this embodiment of God’s glory that mankind experienced ultimate joy and purpose.

Mankind was created in the image of God as a tangible, finite representation of His infinite glory. Mankind was given the amazing privilege of being the caretaker of creation, as a vice-regent of the Cosmic King.  In caring for the Garden of Eden as God specified, mankind would experience perpetual intimacy with God; they being the recipients of His love and satisfaction and He being the object of their worship. Yet, as we all know, mankind rebelled against God by ignoring His counsel and serving themselves. Mankind was not content to worship and obey God, but instead sought to exalt themselves and lean on their own understanding.  As a result of their sin, mankind experienced separation from the Holy Creator and experienced the pending wrath of a Righteous Judge. The sin that alienated man from God brought fallen-ness and death upon the entire created world. Mankind no longer had the essence of life and had no ability to restore all that had been lost. That same reality that plagued mankind from the earliest days of sin has continued to each one of us who have followed-suit by living self-centered lives of our own.

Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh to live in our fallen world amongst fallen people. He came in the world, not to condemn the world but to save it. While being tempted in every way that we are, He overcame sin. He lived a life of perfect obedience and was without sin, and died a sinner’s death, becoming the curse for us. He lived the life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserved. He bore the weight of our sin and endured the Father’s wrath that we so aptly deserved, and offered to us deliverance from sin and death through our faith in Him.

The only saving response is to run to Christ for salvation. Jesus called sinners to repent and believe. He told them to turn from their sin and the horrible consequences that it so rightly deserved, and to instead turn to Him for salvation by putting complete trust in Him to save them. Instead of trusting in their own imperfect works or clinging to the things of this world, they are to put their trust in Him as their only source of hope, security, and satisfaction. He, as the Son of God, is the only adequate object of our affection. Through loving Him as our greatest treasure, God has promised eternal life and unending satisfaction in the life to come. The heart longs for something more, something greater, something lasting… Jesus Christ is the only person in whom our greatest longings may be fulfilled.  He is the only person by which we might escape the coming justice due us because of our trespasses against our Creator’s law. He offers us an opportunity to find amnesty through our union with Him. The King shows mercy to those who honor His Son, and welcomes to His table those who otherwise had no entrance to the feast. Those who refuse to respond to God’s offer of salvation will experience an eternity of His wrath. And the rest of creation will once again be restored to a beautiful reflection of His beauty and glory.

May you recognize God as the cosmic authority, yourself as a great sinner, Christ as a great Savior, and your need to turn from your sin and put your trust entirely in Christ to save you. By those means alone, will you experience salvation from sin and death as God saves you and changes your heart to be more reflective of His.

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The Supremacy of Christ

Hebrews 1:1-4

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”  (Emphasis mine)

We serve a satisfying Christ who is the expression of divine glory and the clearest picture of His nature. May we remember Whom it is that we serve.  The One who made us, gave Himself for us, in order to save and sustain us by the power of His love and transforming grace.  He has promised to purify and perfect us so that we may reflect the beauty of His glory as partakers of the divine nature.  May our every breath be used to worship and reflect Him, even in the midst of our imperfection.  His power is displayed through our weakness for His glory and our good.

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Servant Leadership

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In the context of this verse, James and John came to Jesus with the request that they be given places of honor in His eternal kingdom.  Jesus responds to them by describing that the Son of Man came to serve rather than be served, and that they should do likewise.  From Jesus’ example, I’ve drawn six applications for the manner in which we are to serve.

Servant Leadership is Purposeful: The Son of Man had a specific purpose for which He came.  He was not confused or ambiguous as to His role or responsibility.  He knew exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it.  He had a clear, measured purpose.  When we choose to serve, we ought to have a clear, measurable purpose.  We should know what we are and are not called to accomplish with the limited resources that we have.

Servant Leadership is Outward Focused: Although Jesus was the second person of the Trinity, the Almighty Creator, and the only One worthy of our worship (Col. 1:15-20), He did not come to be served.  He came to serve.  His focus was to meet the greatest human need–deliverance from sin.  In that very pursuit, He often met the physical and emotional needs of those He came to serve.  While in the course of His life and ministry He met many needs, His ultimate focus was reconciling sinners to God so that they might once again become sons and daughters.  The life that He lived in the flesh, He lived for us. The Spirit He gave, He gave to us.  Therefore, our service ought to be an expression of our gratitude toward God and our love for others.  Service should not be self-motivated, but glorifying to God and edifying to our fellow man.

Servant Leadership is Sacrificial: Not only was Jesus focused on serving others, but He was willing to pay the tremendous price of that spiritual service (Phil. 2:1-11).  He knew that His purpose was a costly one, but He joyfully sacrificed His own divine rights, privileges, and preferences (Heb. 12:1-3) in order to serve those who had rejected Him.  When we embraced our sin, we rejected the One for which our lives were made.  Jesus’ servant leadership was characterized by self-denial of the most painful kind.  While we may not have to give up our lives to serve another, we often have to give up our time, energy, preferences, comfort, convenience, and on occasion, our priorities to serve the physical and spiritual needs of others.

Servant Leadership is Clothed in Humility: Jesus was the High King of Heaven.  He could have asserted His authority on the Cross and call ten thousand angels to save Him.  Yet, He endured the shame of the Cross in order to serve our greatest need.  He did that with humility and love.  The heart of a servant leader is marked by gospel humility.  It recognizes its humble state before a holy God, and seeks to glorify Him while serving others.  Such humility does not mean thinking less of ourselves, but thinking more honestly about ourselves.  It requires looking more intently at Christ than at ourselves.  Then we will be weaned of our selfish pride, our fear of man, in order to honor God by thinking rightly of Him, of others, and lastly, of ourselves.  We ought to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:1-11).

Servant Leadership is a Lifestyle:  The entire life of Jesus was marked by service.  He came into this world in the lowest of natures for the very God of the Universe, and yet He did that in order to serve as our sympathetic High Priest. He experienced the growth and maturity that comes with being a human being as He grew in knowledge and stature.  He took on flesh completely and did it without sin.  When He obeyed in the wilderness and later in Gethsemane, He did so for God’s glory and for our good.  His service was not a one-time act, but a lifestyle of giving of Himself.  Through His service, He accomplished for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves.  He served us on the Cross so that we might serve others with our lives.  He loved us to the point of death so that we might love others with our lives.  Our service to others ought to be a lifestyle of giving so that we might be poured out for the sake of the gospel in the moments, as well as the years.  There is no greater purpose than to spend and be spent for the One who was slain for us.

Servant Leadership is Gospel-centered: The heart of Jesus’ service was the gospel (Mark 1:15).  He came to proclaim and fulfill the good news of God’s grace.  He came to endure the Cross and put an end to sin and death.  He came not to be served, but to give up His life to save sinners.  The very heart of His ministry was redemption.  Therefore, He preached the kingdom of God and mankind’s need to respond by faith and repentance.  Without embracing the truths of the gospel as centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ, mankind would be left with its greatest need eternally lacking.  As we seek to serve others, we must do it with a heart for sharing the gospel.  The good news of God’s love as found in Christ must accompany the work of our hands.  If people are not called to repent from their sin and place their trust in Jesus Christ, then we have failed to serve their greatest need.  We are helping no one if our lips and our lives do not proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet. 2; Rev. 19:11-16).

May God give us the heart of Christ that we might serve a world in need with the grace and love of the gospel…


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The Beauty of Redemption

Salvation is a past, present, and future work of God, grounded in the person of Christ.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”  (Titus 2:11-14)

The grace of God is an incredibly amazing thing.  No one actually deserves it, and yet most of us who have experienced it find it difficult express the profound beauty of it.  God’s grace transforms us at the very depths of our being.  It changes our affections and enables us to pursue Christ-likeness in a way that has never before been possible.  While not every person will be saved, God will save all types of persons from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 7:9) in order that His glory might be reflected through the diversity of His people.  The culmination of our salvation is our worship of our Redeemer around His throne for the rest of eternity.  As we live in this world, we are called to be living sacrifices (Rom. 12:2) who exhibit a lifestyle of worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). We do this by the way that we respond to the truths of the gospel.

The Christian life is one of living in the present while remembering the past and anticipating the future. Our present lifestyle of faith and repentance is made possible through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our future hope is rooted in Christ’s return and eternal rule as the Sovereign King of Creation.

John Phillips writes, “The great inspiration to godly living is the second coming of Christ (Titus 2:13) and the tremendous cost of Calvary (Titus 2:14).”

We must remember the cost of our redemption while we wait expectantly for the return of our King who will one day set all things right.  Our future with Him is as certain as the redemption that was accomplished through Him at the Cross.  When Christ arose from the dead, He secured forever the redemption of the sons of God in all of their glory.  He not only sees what we are, but more importantly, what we will become as those waiting to be fully conformed to His image.  Let us therefore, remember the work of Christ as we rely on the power of the gospel to transform us while we await the final fulfillment of our salvation.  Wait for the return of the King as you reflect on the redemption accomplished at the Cross… this is how we are to live in light of the gospel.

Titus 3:4-7 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Our salvation is a work accomplished by the entire Godhead–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. According to the mercy of our Father, He saved us through the precious blood of Christ.  We are made righteous, because the Son of God did what we could never do.  He exchanged His righteousness for our sin so that we might be restored to the Father.  As a result, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us so that we might be born again (regeneration) and given new hearts that love and obey the things of God (renewal).  We experience this transformation so that we might enjoy the blessings of being the children of God according to the hope of eternal communion with Him.  Salvation is God’s work of restoring us to what we were intended to be so that we might forever enjoy an intimate relationship with Him.

Few things are sweeter than meditating on the good news of our redemption… May it cause you to marvel at God’s mercy toward you.

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A Review: Death by Love Part 6

Death By Love: Letters From the Cross

By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and leads the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. He and Driscoll also coauthored Vintage Jesus.”[1]

Review:

Chapter Eleven: Reconciliation

Kurt is a man lost to the world, delving into drugs and alcohol. Kurt as Driscoll notes does not understand how to reconcile with people but more importantly that Jesus Christ through the cross reconciled us to God.  This chapter I found to be the most personally written and least like a systematic theology of the doctrine at hand.  Driscoll compares the reconciliation needed between his brother and Kurt to Esau and Jacob being reconciled.[2] The cycle of bitterness as Driscoll describes is: “Bitterness, Wrath, Anger, Clamor, Slander, and Malice.”[3] In describing these, Driscoll has done the reader a service, showing how the barriers progress in the heart against reconciliation.  The words that Kurt needs to hear as we all do are, “You will see that not only does Jesus reconcile you to God in heaven, but he also takes away sin so that you can be reconciled to people on the earth.”[4] Reconciliation has two aspects to us as Driscoll notes the duality of the reconciliation through the cross.  Noticeably this chapter seems the most applicable for those that struggle with barriers between them and others.

Death by Love

Chapter Twelve: Revelation

Susan does not know what to think, or where to look for Jesus, for God.  She is searching for revelation when in fact Jesus is the revelation.  Driscoll makes a primary conclusion about Jesus Christ.  “Jesus is such an enormous figure in human history that he is the only person who appears in every major world religion.”[5] This is refreshing to see someone go out and say this, it has always been a mystery to me how Jesus is in every religion but is not exalted as being the son of God.  He is who he says he is.  Driscoll also gives eight truths learned through the cross and seven truths from the resurrection.[6] This chapter brings all the previous material together in defense of the cross and Christ being the revelation of God.  When reading this chapter the words of “In Christ Alone” come to mind.

“In Christ alone my hope is found…

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died

The wrath of God was satisfied

For every sin on Him was laid

Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ”

Jesus Christ alone can be: the victor, the redemption, the sacrifice, the righteousness, the justification, the propitiation, the expiation, the atonement, the ransom, the example, the reconciliation, and the revelation.  He is the ultimate champion of all time, reigning on high!  All glory goes to God!

This is the sixth and final post on this book.  Search Death by Love to see the other posts.


[1] From the back cover of the book.

[2] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 224-225.

[3] Ibid. 223-224.

[4] Ibid. 229.

[5] Ibid. 238.

[6] This takes up a majority of the chapter and is a clear gospel presentation.

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A Review: Death by Love Part 5

Death By Love: Letters From the Cross

By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and leads the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. He and Driscoll also coauthored Vintage Jesus.”[1]

Review:

Chapter Nine: Ransom

First and foremost Hank is what many call a pervert, an abuser, and a violent man.  He believes that he is going to hell, because of all that he has done in his life.  Driscoll notes that Hank needs to hear about how Jesus was the ransom for him.[2] Hank knows that he has a debt before God; because of this debt he needs a mediator, a redeemer, and a ransom.[3] Driscoll makes hank aware of his depravity by saying, “You were made by God with dignity but have sunk so deep into depravity that your life is nothing short of a disgraceful tragedy.”[4] The corruption in Hank’s life is what has caused him to need a ransom like us all.  The good news is that “Jesus is willing to be your mediator, redeemer, and ransom.”[5] Driscoll correctly points to Christ alone being sufficient as a ransom for sinners.  “Jesus has paid your debt and by grace will apply that to your account if you pray the words of repentance in faith that Jesus taught you to pray – “Forgive me my debts” (see Matt. 6:12).”[6] Although this gospel truth is not given to a character in the book that I personally can identify with, it does not devalue the truth.  This chapter correctly addresses the depravity in all men.  If you are struggling with how sinful you are, or that you are beyond forgiveness read this chapter.[7]

Death by Love

Chapter Ten: Christus Exemplar

Caleb is going through a great trial; his wife has a brain tumor and is suffering right in front of his eyes.  Driscoll addresses the fact of Christ being our example.  In Caleb suffering he needs to take on the very mind of Christ in his wife’s suffering.  The contrast that Driscoll makes is between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross.  Theology of glory is “which the objective is to glorify self, the power to do so is self, and the means to do so are self-sufficiency, victorious living, pride, and comfort, which together commingle as a false gospel that is of no help when the dark season of life envelope you.”[8] What is clear is that the theology of glory is not followed by someone that realizes that Christ is our example.  “Theology of the cross celebrates what Jesus alone can accomplish for us, through us, with us, and in spite of us…The theology of the cross seeks Jesus, even if that should mean that experiencing pain and poverty like Jesus.”[9] Driscoll put some more meat on these bones but you get the point; Christ alone is the example of a follower of the gospel.  Christ is our example in suffering and in celebration.  To follow this understanding of Christ’s example Driscoll gives five points.  “1) You were made for God’s glory (Isa. 43:6-7).  2) Everything in your life is an opportunity to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31).  3) Rather than glorifying God, you will have a sinful tendency to do what you think will make you happy, and you will end up sinning (Rom. 3:23).  4) When you choose happiness over God’s glory, enduring joy is impossible.  You wind up pursuing things besides the glory of God (e.g., life, friends, comfort, pleasure—ironically, all gifts from God) rather that God himself.  5) Your pleasure is found in God alone; as God is glorified, your joy is satisfied.  My friend John Piper has stated it this way in his book Desiring God, …The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”  Or “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”[10] The theology of the cross exalts Jesus Christ above all others to the right hand of God.  The purpose of God sending Christ as an example, Driscoll concludes is for God to be glorified through us following the example of Christ.  “Indeed, the most perfectly Spirit-filled person who has ever lived, Jesus Christ, worked a simple job, lived a simple life, and died a painful death as a flat broke, homeless man by the power of the Holy Spirit and in so doing perfectly and fully glorified God the Father and tasted pure joy.”[11] To take this doctrinal assertion seriously means that whatever comes your way, you glorify Christ with exaltation of Him through all things.  To be honest this doctrine I have the most trouble living out.  This book makes a good explanation in practical terms of what the implications of this doctrine are on the life of the believer.  Christus Exemplar (Christ our example) needs to be understood as Driscoll presents rather than what the false gospel of Christ being our example but not God, just a social and political leader.  As C. S. Lewis says, either Christ was a liar, lunatic, or the son of God.[12] Driscoll presents Christ as the example of a Christian life lived out!

This is the fifth post of six, to see the other ones please search Death by Love.


[1] From the back cover of the book.

[2] Note: do not confuse this with the ransom theory of atonement.  This book clearly presents the Penal-Substitutionary view of atonement.

[3] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 187.

[4] Ibid. 192.

[5] Ibid. 192.

[6] Ibid. 193.

[7] Grace is beautiful, in that we all are chosen by God.  No one has better standing before God than another except through Jesus Christ!  He was the ransom for sinners that repent!

[8] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 202.

[9] Ibid. 202.

[10] Ibid. 204-205.

[11] Ibid. 211.

[12] This is from “Mere Christianity” his watershed apologetic book.  I cannot currently remember the page number.

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A Review: Death by Love Part 4

Death By Love: Letters From the Cross

By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and leads the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. He and Driscoll also coauthored Vintage Jesus.”[1]

Review:

Chapter Seven: Expiation

The character of this chapter is Mary a girl that over and over has been violated by predators.  Mary continually in many ways was abused by those that were supposed to love her.  She does not understand the doctrine of expiation that Christ fulfilled through dying on the cross.  Driscoll first makes a case for her defilement being caused by both active and passive sins.[2] He is speaking of both those sins that she committed and the ones that are committed against her.  Giving a further framework for understanding defilement Driscoll gives three categories of defilement, with the supporting scripture.  “First, places become defiled by sin…Second, things, such as the marriage bed, become defiled by sin…Third, people are defiled by sin.”[3] All the categories of defilement act in the same way, they bring a sense of shame.  Mary has both previously been sinned against defiled and now is struggling and sinning against others.  When we are defiled or defiling others we want to cover up our shame.  Driscoll uses the analogy of a fig leaf to cover up our shame.  To do this he gives four roles for the fig leaves.  “The first fig leaf is worn by the good girl…the second fig leaf is worn by the tough girl…the third leaf is worn by the party girl…the fourth leaf is worn by the church lady.”[4] All of these different ways of covering the shame of defilement lead one to believe that Christ has not expiated us through the cross.  Jesus Christ was the scapegoat; he took our shame upon himself.[5] Driscoll rightly gives word pictures about cleansing, for Mary to apply to her life; in order to actively live out an expiated life.  This chapter deals with something that definitely is timely in a world that has a high level of abuse to children and teens.  Mary’s situation is not that uncommon and I pray that God will use a book like this to bring people to himself.

Death by Love

Chapter Eight: Unlimited Limited Atonement

This chapter is of special importance to both Driscoll and I, for him he writes this as a letter to his son, for me it is the doctrine that I have struggled with the most.  I found this chapter most helpful to understand this complex doctrine.  On page one sixty eight there is an immensely useful chart on differing views on atonement.  Ranging from Universalism and Pelagianism (both heretical) to Unlimited Atonement, Limited Atonement, and Unlimited Limited Atonement.  This chapter although my favorite does not provide pithy quotes, but directly presents unlimited limited atonement as the most biblically supported.  He summarizes the approach he takes to Unlimited Limited Atonement by saying, “this both/and approach of unlimited limited atonement explains the biblical statements about Jesus’ dying to reconcile all things to the Father.”[6] The atonement has always been and always will a doctrine that will be attacked from both inside the church and outside the church.  Driscoll although the conclusion of this chapter is a modified Calvinist view, and presenting a somewhat progressive understanding of limited atonement, finds its grounding in the sovereignty of God through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Foundationally, I found this chapter to defend the middle ground that I always hoped to hear from a pastor, that does not forsake the authority of scripture for cultural authority.

This is the fourth post of six, to see the other ones please search Death by Love.


[1] From the back cover of the book.

[2] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 147.

[3] Ibid. 148-149.

[4] Ibid. 150-152.

[5] Hebrews 12:1-3

[6] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 173-174.

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A Review: Death by Love Part 3

Death By Love: Letters From the Cross

By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and leads the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. He and Driscoll also coauthored Vintage Jesus.”[1]

Review:

Chapter Five: Justification

The character of this chapter is John, He has committed gross sin with the opposite sex.  He does not understand his justification through the cross of Christ.  Doctrinally Driscoll covers his bases with reviving a focus on the inability of man to fulfill the law.  The conclusion of this is “Total Depravity” and requires a sacrifice to atone for the gross violation of God’s law.  Driscoll points out the reality of Justification through Christ, “You are justified by grace alone, which means that there is absolutely nothing that you can do to contribute to your justification.  Rather, when Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross, he was declaring that all that needed to be done for your justification was completed in him.”[2] John believes that he should die because of what he has done.  The affects of his sinful actions are clear by the ostracization of his close family, church, and general society.  Two passages that Driscoll illuminates for “John” to read are Romans 3:21-31, and Luke 18:9-14.[3] In response to his actions John has seen the physical and spiritual reality of the sin in his life.  Driscoll correctly responds with, “I know that you have given serious consideration to killing yourself in light of what you have done.  The truth is that what you have done is worthy of death.  But the good news is that Jesus has already died for your sins.  As a result, you can now put your sins to death by his power and live a new life as a new man.  Scripture further states that Jesus also rose from death for your justification and, as a result, is alive today and ready to hear from you, speak to you, and walk with you through the rest of your life and into eternity as not only your judge but also as your justifier (Rom 4:25)”[4] Jesus Christ, as Driscoll clearly shows is the only justifier for our sin.  We can only respond in humility and worship of a Holy God that would sacrifice His only Son, Jesus Christ, as the justification that allows us to attain eternal life in communion with God.  I appreciated this chapter but would suggest further study in the area of justification.[5]

Death by Love

Chapter Six: Propitiation

Bill the character portrayed in this chapter was beat as a child by his father.  He struggles with how Jesus Christ through the cross is the propitiation for our sins.  Propitiation is “How Jesus diverts the active wrath of our rightfully angry God from us so that we are loved and not hated.”[6] Driscoll, First, deals with the character of God the Father.  Second, he presents the wrath of God in Scripture.  The sheer amount of Scriptural references in this chapter show the high level of reverence and authority placed on Scripture by Driscoll.  This chapter does not shy away from discussing the wrath of God in detail.  When discussing 1 John 4:10 Driscoll says, “It states that rather than seeing the cross as the place where love was absent as God’s righteous wrath for sin was poured out on Jesus, the cross is precisely the place where God’s love is shown in the propitiation of Jesus Christ.”[7] Both God’s wrath and love were present through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  God’s attributes cannot be divided.[8] Driscoll masterfully presents the equality of man in our spiritual condition in this chapter, and rightly so, uses Old Testament illustrations of this reality.  In conclusion, this chapter was less theological than previous chapters I found, but not to its detriment, because of the personal response of Driscoll to Bill’s situation.


[1] From the back cover of the book.

[2] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 115.

[3] Ibid 117.

[4] Ibid 118.

[5] I should make note that I understand that this chapter is introductory but still left so much out as far as the doctrine of justification.

[6] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 131.

[7] Ibid. 132.

[8] See A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy Page 15.

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Gospel-Centered Life

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World Harvest Mission has just come out with some great gospel-centered resources for discipleship.  I highly recommend checking out their latest introductory study!!

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A Review: Death By Love Part 2

Death By Love: Letters From the Cross

By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and leads the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. He and Driscoll also coauthored Vintage Jesus.”[1]

Review:

Chapter Three: New Covenant Sacrifice

Luke is consumed with “rage, humiliation, and panic.”  His wife has just told him that she slept with his best friend.  But as Driscoll points out Jesus Christ is Luke’s New Covenant Sacrifice.  Driscoll masterfully redirects those emotions back on Luke’s own sinfulness, which parallels his wife’s sin. As the saying goes Luke is “out for blood” to pay for what he has been put through.  Blood is connected to sin in two ways Driscoll states, “First, shed blood reminds us that sin results in death.  Second, God is sickened by sin, which causes death, a connection first made in Genesis 2:17 and repeated throughout the Bible.”[2] The New Covenant Sacrifice of Jesus Christ fulfilled the death that we all deserve and offered a path to life.  Christ and Christ alone was the sacrifice that ushered in the New Covenant community of believers.  Luke as Driscoll points out needs to see that Christ has sacrificed Himself already for the sin’s that have been committed against him.  “As members of the new covenant, you and your wife are continually growing to be more like Jesus by the power of God the Holy Spirit working through your new heart, which is the center of your new identity and new desires.”[3] Both Luke and his wife are pictures of grace; Driscoll wisely notes that Christ is abundantly more through His sacrifice than any sin that they could commit.  “You understand that just as Jesus suffered to be in covenant with you, you too have suffered to be in covenant with your wife—because you love her and continually seek her best.  You also rightly understand that, as the covenant head, you bear a burden for humble service, love, care, protection, and provision so that Jesus can be experienced by your wife, in part through you.”[4] Overall this was one of my favorite chapters, the sacrifice in the New Testament often is misunderstood without the Old Testament background which Driscoll wisely brings into light.

Death by Love

Chapter Four: Gift Righteousness

David is the consummate Christian, perfect in character, but does not understand the Gospel and because of his self righteousness, he cannot see the gift righteousness of Christ.  What seems to be more dangerous is that he cannot see his own sin.  When commenting on 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Driscoll says, “Here we see that the gospel is continual, in that we must continually be reminded of it; proclaimational, in that it much be preached to us often, including preaching it to ourselves; personal, in that we must personally receive it in faith; essential, in that we must continually cling to it alone for the assurance of our salvation; central, in that it is the most important truth in all the world; eternal, in that it is passed on from one generation to the next without modification by religion; Christological, in that it is about the person and work of Jesus Christ alone; penal, in that the wage for sin—death—was paid; substitutional, in that Jesus’ death on the cross was literally in our place for our sins; biblical, in that it is in agreement with and the fulfillment of all Scripture; and eschatological, in that the resurrection of Jesus reveals to us our future hope of resurrected eternal life with him.”[5] This is the money quote of the entire book; foundationally the Gospel should be the center of all Christian activity in the world.  All of the presuppositions that Driscoll brings with this chapter are Christocentric, not anthropocentric; Theocentric, not anthropocentric; righteousness through Christ alone, not the false righteousness of man! Religion does not give the gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.  Driscoll outlines ten statements about religion that do have grounding in the self righteousness of many contemporary Christians and Jews over the span of history.  I will not take the time to outline them here, but it is a start to addressing the problem of works based theology.  The most important part of this chapter (or the take home points) are that gift righteousness: is through faith, not rule keeping, the righteousness God gives is a status that is imputed, reckoned, attributed, or granted to us, and righteousness is imparted to us at the time of faith, at the same time of justification.[6] This chapter essentially gives the foundation of the Gospel and surrounds the reader with a Christ-centered focus.  I greatly enjoyed this chapter and think that any member of the church should read this as a refresher on what Christ attained to through the cross.


[1] From the back cover of the book.

[2] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 76.

[3] Ibid. 82.

[4] Ibid. 83.

[5] Ibid. 92.

[6] Ibid. 101-103. This section is summarized from these few pages of “death by love.”

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