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How does the gospel change everything?

For the past few months, I’ve mostly been stumped when trying to articulate what I mean by this claim: the gospel changes everything. In my head and heart, there is no better or more comprehensive way to describe why the Jesus makes so much sense to me and why living with Him energizes and motivates me.

I first heard this claim while a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, but they certainly didn’t coin it. However, in a newsletter article titled ” Covenant Renewal and Redeemer’s DNA,” Tim Keller does a good job of getting me closer to understanding what it means for the gospel to change everything.

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Tim Keller on Preaching

In his blog article “Lloyd-Jones on the Practice of Real Preaching,” Tim Keller gleans some points from Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers. I am not a preacher, but I found that much of what I’ve been thinking lately about church and service and the gospel for all of life is addressed in Keller’s article.

Keller draws two points out from Lloyd-Jones’ writing: that people will come to hear preaching, even in our contemporary culture, but that 1) it must be real preaching and 2) it must be done over the long term.

Keller describes the allure of real preaching: “[Vistors] will be shocked at how convicting and attractive the gospel message is, and they will feel like they’ve never really heard it before (even if they have been raised in a church)”. I find that, the more I think about the gospel and seek to bring it to bear on the questions that contemporary teachers, the more they resonate with the message–even when it is starkly convicting, which of course it must be. The gospel does not need to be manipulated to become attractive to outsiders–it merely needs to be clearly communicated and applied to the questions being asked by contemporary people.

Lloyd-Jones, Keller writes, was worried about the preaching veering into either of two extremes: on the one hand, adapting it too much into the image of the culture, and, on the other hand, making it so objective that it becomes dry and intellectual. Preaching should be “profoundly life-related, [and] the preacher’s tone must not be affected and ‘parsonic’ but genuine, passionate, and transparent. If you listen to the [Lloyd-Jones]’s evening sermons in particular, you learn that he was always referring to current events and intellectual trends, often expounding Scripture in order to answer the questions posed by the culture. So the preaching must not be just a ‘running commentary’ or an overly-cognitive explanation of the text, but must have shape and passion and connect forcefully with the heart and life of the congregant” (Keller).

One final connection I made with Keller’s article is that of the need for patience if we are to become fair communicators of the gospel. To be a preacher who does real preaching, Keller commends the unpopular notion that it takes a long, steady work:

“[I]t requires many years and hundreds of sermons before a preacher becomes as good as they have the capacity to be. Some of that means the preacher staying put and becoming involved enough in the lives of the people and city so as to be able to address their questions and issues well from the Scripture. Some of that means coming to understand the Bible well enough to always make it clear. Some of it means years of repentance and prayer that creates an increasingly holy, transparent character.”

Go ahead and substitute “teacher” for “preacher” in the preceding quotation, and you’ll have an idea of what I think it takes to become an increasingly gospel-centered, excellent public school teacher.

Article Notes: Save Money, but Don’t Ever Think it Gives You Real Security

The title of this post is a paraphrase of an excellent post over at Kevin DeYoung’s blog. I appreciated how quickly yet comprehensively DeYoung develops a theology of money and acknowledges the complexity of doing so.

DeYoung points out how easy it is to develop unbalanced theologies of money because of how much the Bible says about money. Some options are the prosperity theology and an austerity theology. You could take numerous passages and argue both that God loves rich guys and God hates rich guys.

The place to start, DeYoung says, is in Proverbs, because there we are given numerous angles through which to look at money.

The post deserves a look. I really loved the takeaways DeYoung gave:

  • You’ll probably acquire more money if you work hard and are full of wisdom. But if all you care about is getting more money, you are the biggest fool.
  • Money is a blessing from God, but you’ll be more blessed if you give it away.
  • God gives you money because he is generous, but he is generous with you so that you can be generous with others. And if you are generous with your money, God will likely be more generous with you.
  • It is wise to save money, but don’t ever think money gives you real security.
  • Wealth is more desirable than poverty, but wealth is not as good as righteousness, humility, wisdom, good relationships, and the fear of the Lord.
I hope that’s helpful!

Article Notes: The Secret to Dealing with Fear and Anxiety, by Ed Welch

Over at CCEF.org, Ed Welch posted recently on handling fear and anxiety. The secret, he says, is humbling ourselves before we “cast all [our] anxiety on him” (1 Peter 5:7). In the verse before 1 Peter 5:7, Peter writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he might lift you up in due time.” Welch says that we often simply come to God expecting him to take away our cares when we cast them on him–and certainly, we know he can change our circumstances and take away our suffering–but that this approach isn’t always one of humility. Essentially, we can often say in this approach, “Well God, here are my cares–now take care of them.”

For more on this, check out the post.

Confession of an Angry Professional

Anger is one of those respectable, often hideable sins. We shake our heads at those few colleagues who occasionally lose their temper. How can these people be so unprofessional? we wonder.

Yet, anger is expressed in many ways: bitterness, complaints, excessive criticism, or even silence. For the Christian, none of these more acceptable forms of anger are in any way acceptable!

  • “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31).

BUT–you might exclaim–what about when we are merely reacting to the injustices around us, like the foolish things our bosses waste our time on, or the ways those we serve do not value us as they should? Isn’t there such a thing as righteous anger?

There sure is! Jesus expressed it frequently. But fallen people rarely have that Jesus-type anger. We’re not often angry about how the injustice goes against God’s Kingdom–when it gets down to it, we’re just mad because it goes against us! The rarity of good anger is why the Bible repeatedly says things like:

  • “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).
  •  “Men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Tim. 2:8).
  •  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31).

So: I confess that, even though I rarely lose my cool at my workplace, I often do possess anger. Whether its expressed or suppressed, it’s not good.

In his article “Killing Anger,” John Piper gives some great tips for… well, killing anger:

First, ponder the rights of Christ to be angry, but then how He endured the cross, as an example of long-suffering: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Second, ponder how much you have been forgiven and how much mercy you have been shown. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32)

Third, ponder your own sinfulness and take the beam out of your own eye: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3–5).

Fourth, think about how you do not want to give place to the Devil, because harbored anger is the one thing the Bible explicitly says opens a door and invites him in: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26–27).

Fifth, ponder the folly of your own self-immolation, that is, numerous detrimental effects of anger to the one who is angry — some spiritual, some mental, some physical, and some relational: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Prov. 3:7–8)

Sixth, confess your sin of anger to some trusted friend, as well as to the offender, if possible. This is a great healing act: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

Seventh, let your anger be the key to unlock the dungeons of pride and self-pity in your heart and replace them with love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4–7).

Eighth, remember that God is going to work it all for your good as you trust in His future grace. Your offender is even doing you good, if you will respond with love: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).

Ninth, remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be double jeopardy or an offence to the cross: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting his cause to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

Finally, let me recommend a book: Uprooting Anger. Any good idea in this article that wasn’t John Piper’s was probably from that book!

Article Notes: “Young Women, Idolatry, and the Powerful Gospel,” by Elyse Fitzpatrick

This article hit home for me. As the dad of a 7-month old little girl, I’ve already spent plenty of time thinking (and, I confess, probably worrying) about how to help Hadassah see through fleeting things that our culture tells girls to give their lives for: a certain ideal of beauty, a relationship with Mr. Right, projecting just the right image to others.

Fitzpatrick offers some great thoughts that are worth reminding ourselves of:

1. We all worship something. It’s easy to see the things other people worship–an iPhone, a nice house–but it’s harder to see what idols our hearts tend to bow to.

2. As humans made to worship God, worship isn’t an option–everyone does it.

3. At the heart of all sin is worshipping something besides God — this is why the first commandment is first.

4. As parents, we can help our kids see their idols by being humble and confessing ours.

Article Notes: “Googling Ourselves to Death,” by Jason Stellman

I found this article an interesting read today. In it, Jason Stellman discusses thoughts on what the Internet as a medium is doing to the way we think. But then Stellman goes on to look at the impact it might be having on our spiritual growth. For example, might our repetitive truncating of messages in texts and tweets be leading to more truncated prayer? He points out that sometimes we only grow to the extent that we put in effort–a principle that is certainly true in other realms, such as the intellect and the body.