Friday, October 31, 2008

Gospel Renewal

I attended a seminar by Tim Keller this week. It was very helpful and refreshing! Dr. Keller communication style is lucid, conversational and brilliant. Even more important, he is one of the most articulate advocates of gospel centered living. He gave us a ton of excellent notes on Gospel Renewal in the church. I just wanted to pass on one excellent quote he had from Richard Lovelace. Dr. Lovelace influenced Tim in his understanding of gospel centeredness. Hope you enjoy this quote!
"Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives… Many… have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for their justification… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude… Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification. Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons… Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce, defensive assertion of their own righteousness, and defensive criticism of others. They come naturally to hate other cultural styles and other races in order to bolster their own security and discharge their suppressed anger."

Richard Lovelace
The Dynamics of Spiritual Life (IVP, 1979), 101.

I also highly recommend CJ Mahaney's book, The Cross Centered Life, for more on this key truth.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Holy Sonnet on God's Love

Another great sonnet from D.A. Carson. I found this one at "nosuch library book" blog.
(Anyone know where I could get this out of print book of sonnets?)


To grasp how wide and long and high and deep
This love of Christ, experience it when
Mere knowledge bursts its categories, then
Escape the fragile flame of language, reap
The richest crop salvation brings, and heap
Up memories of a sea of love, again
Yet again cascading o'er us---men
Can know no other bliss so rich and deep.

Lord God, in love you have established us,
And rooted us in soil no less fine:
Not single plants exposed to every gust
Of wind, but all the saints drink love sublime.

Make me to know---a creature hewn from sod---
The measure of all fullness found in God.

Don Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century

Holy Sonnets on Hell

I found these sonnets by D.A. Carson today. May they motivate us to run to Christ our only Savior from such a fate and may they motivate us to run to our friends who don't know Christ and love them in his name and speak the truth in love.

Go, bury death in limousines: dispel
Inevitable death in transient mirth,
Acquire toys and earthly wealth from birth;
Pursue position, luxuries, and tell
Your mortal colleagues of your virtues; sell
Your future for the present; measure worth
In prominence, and seek the highest berth;
Send flowers, and do not think of death and hell.
    Appalling folly, attitude perverse—
    Before the one great certainly, to play
    The ostrich and ignore hard facts, or worse,
    Transform the corpse by euphemism’s play.
Still more: as surely as a mortal dies,
His certain death portends the great assize

There are no friends in hell: the residents
With zeal display self-love’s destructive art
In narcissistic rage. The better part,
The milk of human kindness, no defense
Against a graceless world, robbed of pretence,
Decays and burns away. To have a heart
Whose every beat demands that God depart –
This is both final curse and gross offense.
    So not that metaphor’s inadequate
    A fearful mask that hides a lake less grim;
    Relentless, pain-streaked language seeks to cut
    A swath to bleak despair, devoid of him.
This second death’s a wretched, endless thing.
Eternal winter with no hope of spring.

Taken from D.A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century, Baker, 1994.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What is the Gospel?

There is an excellent conversation going on at 9-Marks about "What is the Gospel?". This is such a vital topic for us as believers. Really the answer to this question will determine who we are and what we do as God's people. A bad answer will produce bad fruit and perhaps even spiritual death for our churches. A right and biblical answer will be life and fruit for us and our churches. Check out the first installment from Greg Gilbert below and then go to 9-Marks to read more.

September 17, 2008

What is the Gospel?---There Are Really Two Conversations Going on Here, Not Just One

by Greg Gilbert

Let me offer a thought that might help us to see a little more clearly through this huge conversation about what the gospel is and whether some people are too narrow or too broad in their understanding of it.

It seems to me that the two major camps in this conversation—those who say the Gospel is the good news that God is reconciling sinners to himself through the substitutionary death of Jesus (call them “A”) and those who say the gospel is the good news that God is going to renew and remake the whole world through Christ (“B”)—are largely talking past one another. In other words, I don’t think the As and the Bs are answering the same question. Of course both of them say they’re answering the question “What is the gospel?” and thus the tension between the two different answers. But I think if we pay close attention, we’ll see that they are actually answering two very different and equally biblical questions.

Those two questions are these:

1. What is the gospel? In other words, what is the message a person must believe to be saved? And
2. What is the gospel? In other words, what is the whole good news of Christianity?

When an A-person hears the question “What is the gospel?” he understands it to mean “What is the message a person must believe to be saved?” and he answers it by talking about the death of Christ in the place of sinners, and the call to repent and believe.

When a B-person hears the question “What is the gospel?” he understands it to mean “What is the whole good news of Christianity?” and he answers by talking about God’s purpose to renew the world through Christ.

You can understand why there would be tension between the two. If you answer question (1) by talking about the new creation, people are understandably going to say that your answer is too broad and that you are pushing the cross out of its central place. When people in Scripture asked the question “What must I do to be saved?” the answer they received was to repent of sin and believe in Jesus—not something about the coming new creation.

Yet it’s also true that the Bible sometimes (even often) talks about “the gospel” in terms of the new creation. So to answer question (2) by only talking about Christ’s death in the place of sinners, and to say that everything else is by definition not-gospel (but merely implication), is indeed too narrow. That would be to say that promises such as the resurrection of the body, the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, the new heavens and new earth, and many others are somehow not part of what the Bible holds out as the “good news” of Christianity.

What we need to understand is that neither of these two questions is wrong, and neither is more biblical than the other. The Bible asks and answers both of them. Sometimes it says that “the gospel” is that message which a person must believe in order to be forgiven of sin—and that, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, is the message that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and was raised on the third day. Other times the Bible uses the word “gospel” to refer to the whole complex of promises that God intends to keep through Christ, such as in Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4, and Acts 13.

Once we acknowledge all that, and once we realize that we aren’t all answering the same question when we say "The gospel is . . .", I think we’ll be able to avoid some of the tension in the conversation. Not only so, but it seems to me that we’ll then be able to understand more clearly why the Bible uses “gospel” in both a broad and a narrow sense, and how those two senses fit together.

And that in turn will help us understand why (and this is important) the New Testament puts pastoral and evangelistic priority on the narrow sense—and why it expects us to do the same.

But that's another post.....

Go to for more!

Sane Faith

David Powlison has been writing some fantastic articles for "Boundless" webzine, a publication of Focus on the Family. I believe these articles are life-changing. I've enclosed a portion of the first article below. You'll want to go to the website for the whole thing.

David Powlison has made a huge impact on how we at KGC understand gospel-centered living and biblical counseling. I believe David takes the theological wisdom of the Puritans, tempers it where needed with biblical insight and delivers us a down-to-earth biblically-faithful Christ-centered approach to Christian living. (A note of interest - David has roots in our area - he lived in Newton, MA, went to Harvard and served for some time at McClean Hospital in Belmont. He is a wonderful humble man - I got to sit down with him some years ago.)

Please read the articles slowly - perhaps just one a day or one a week over the next month or so. Take time to think about what David is saying. Get your bibles out and examine the articles in light of the word of God. Pray about it. And then think about how to live in light of these truths.


Garrett, 23, is a recent college grad. When some little thing frustrates him or he doesn't get his way, he explodes in anger. It goes way over the top. In college he was an episodic binge drinker, but he's started to drink regularly and heavily over the past year. The effects of alcohol in him are unpredictable. Sometimes booze mellows Garrett out, but most times it lowers his threshold for volatile hostility. In addition to his growing drinking problem, he routinely turns to online pornography for a "fix." His friends don't know about that, but they fear for his future, wondering if he will self-destruct with his drinking and violent temper.

Official diagnosis and current street wisdom? "Garrett suffers from intermittent explosive disorder (IED) and is an addictive personality — and Garrett is all about Garrett, and has control issues, big-time."

Sarah, a 29-year-old single woman, has become increasingly preoccupied with her looks, her calorie intake, and her exercise regime. She often "feels fat," at 5'9" tall and weighing only 103 pounds, She's relentless in her activities and self-care, competitive, always trying to prove herself. Her roommates and family have become more and more concerned. Sarah seems joyless, and has been detaching herself from normal social interactions. She seems nervously self-preoccupied most of the time, so she has little time, energy, or attention for anything or anyone besides herself.

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Sarah has anorexia — and she's a perfectionist with low self-esteem."

Lise, 32 and married, with a toddler, has felt down ever since she had the baby. Lise has had a tendency to wallow in self-reproach ever since childhood, but lately it's gotten worse. She's mired in loops of self-condemning thoughts, endlessly rehearsing and bemoaning her faults, both real and imaginary. She has developed elaborate "quiet time" rituals that help her feel some sense that her life is OK. She never feels like God loves her. Her husband worries that Lise's ritualistic habits and "sticky thoughts" about personal failings interfere with her ability to raise their child. Her brooding casts a pall over their relationship, too. The simplest question — "How was your day?" — often turns into a dark spiral of complaint and despair. He walks on eggshells: "What can I do? What can I say?"

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Lise has a case of clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — and she sets impossible standards for herself."

Chandra, 21, a senior in college, has battled intense anxiety feelings ever since adolescence. She gets tongue-tied if she's put on the spot in a social interaction. She increasingly avoids social situations, and only goes to gatherings or events if she has a friend with her to run interference and carry the ball conversationally. She hasn't been out on a date since a couple of ill-fated attempts in high school when she "almost had a panic attack" trying to figure out what to talk about. Chandra medicates her anxiety with daytime TV, Netflix and chocolate ice cream.

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Chandra suffers from social anxiety disorder — and she's shy, gets glued to the tube, and needs her chocolate fix."

Do you recognize any of your friends in these people? I do. Do you recognize something of yourself in any of their problems? I do, too.

And do you also notice how each diagnostic label simply takes what we already know and then restates it in quasi-medical-sounding language? The actual experiences of life-lived get turned into a depersonalized "condition." Problems get viewed exclusively as something a person "has," rather than the array of things a person feels, thinks and does.

It's curious. The labels don't actually add any information to what we already know. Yet they somehow alter the entire way we perceive a person. They even alter how people perceive themselves. The story and the struggle get lost in translation.

Hold onto that thought, and we'll come back to it later. First we're going to climb into the story and the struggle.

See for more.