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Book Review: Gospel Transformation (Second Edition), by World Harvest Mission

Recommended. The best study on how the gospel changes all of life that I’ve come across to date.

If you’re like me, you believe that, somehow, the good news of God’s love for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–that is, the gospel–changes absolutely everything about our lives on this planet. From the way we approach our work to the way we love our families to the inner workings of our hearts and minds: the gospel changes it all.

But then, if you’re really like me, what that practically looks like each day can be a bit challenging to figure out. If only there was a rich resource that we could work through each day to prompt our hearts and minds to slowly chew and digest the nourishing facets of God’s good news.

That’s why Gospel Transformation has been rocking my world since I received it from New Growth Press. Each of the thirty-six lessons in the course is rich with the practical implications of the gospel. As I’ve worked through the lessons, I’ve been amazed how, day after day, I’m given so much material for contemplation and application that I need to allot a week or more to each lesson.

In GT, I daily find new ways of thinking about the age-old things most precious to the Christian–the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and this news’ implications for all of life.

The 36 lessons of GT are divided into six units, and, to give you an idea of the topics covered, I’ll include the lesson titles as well (I’m having trouble getting the formatting to work correctly, so bear with me):

  • Unit 1: Introducing the gospel
    • God’s story–your story
    • Broken world, broken lives
    • Our need for the gospel
    • A new reputation
    • A new family
    • Sinners in the hands of a loving God
  • Unit 2: Enemies of the gospel
    • Idolatry
    • Self-centeredness
    • The flesh: lust
    • The flesh: anger
    • Satan and the World
    • False repentance
  • Unit 3: Believing the gospel
    • Living by faith
    • United with Christ
    • Believing God and his promises
    • Living in light of the cross
    • Who am I: “saint” or “sinner”?
    • Barriers to believing
  • Unit 4: The power of the gospel
    • Genuine repentance
    • Repentance and transformation
    • The power of the Spirit
    • The desires of the Spirit
    • Life in the Spirit
    • Grieving the Spirit
  • Unit 5: The fruit of the gospel
    • Love: the expression of faith
    • Fruit of the Spirit
    • Imitating Christ
    • Prayer of the heart
    • The goal of sanctification
    • A new community is born
  • Unit 6: The gospel in relationships
    • The wrong use of laws
    • The gospel is for others
    • Incarnation
    • Forgiveness and compassion
    • Honesty versus judging
    • Barriers to love

Another positive aspect of GT is that it is a flexible resource. It’s ideal for group study but can also fruitfully serve as a personal devotional guide. I used it in the latter capacity while preparing for this review, and I feel like my daily times with God are richer than they have been in a long while.

Two recommendations that I would make in using GT are, first, to use the comprehensive leader’s notes in the back to enrich your understanding of some of the tough questions asked in the lessons, and, second, to take the time to actually look up and read the Scripture references used throughout both the lessons and the leaders notes.

Special thanks to Suzy Knapp for pointing me towards this incredible resource — I pray many will hear about it through this review and be changed by it!

Buy it at New Growth Press.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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How the Gospel Makes Any Job a Joy-filled One

One day as I was walking to my car after a long day of work, I smiled and thanked God. It had been a good day. Despite the challenges and frustrations that had inevitably come, God had given me the grace to talk problems through with Him, to seek Him for help, and to pray for students. Because of the closeness that this gave me with Him, my day was exciting–not because of the content of my work (for example, I spent nearly an hour filling in bubbles on Scantrons)–but because of the One with whom I shared it.

This isn’t a pat on the back anecdote. During the day, I sinned repeatedly–I harbored anger against students, avoided numerous unpleasant tasks, complained in my heart, wasted countless minutes on worrying or inbox-tidying… and that was before lunch! No, the fellowship I enjoyed with God at work had nothing to do with me. Were it up to my performance, I would be alone at my job completely, and I would only be able to find satisfaction in my work when everything was going my way. As a public school teacher, that would mean I would almost never find satisfaction in my work! I’m sure you can relate regardless of your occupation.

So why do I get unlimited access to my Maker, whom I habitually turn away from in my heart? Why am I able to be filled with joy in my job, no matter how bad it gets?

There was once a man–Jesus–who did his job in perfect obedience to God. He held a secular job as a carpenter and a service-oriented job as a travelling teacher and healer. Despite the constant temptations each day to ignore God, this worker never forgot about Him. But then, at the pinnacle of his career, this worker was given an impossible assignment. It meant losing his reputation, his friends, his family, his comfort, and his body–and, worst of all, it meant losing his connection to God.

Ever obedient, Jesus took the assignment. On the cross, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46), because he was literally being cut off from God–his connection with God was being severed; his ability to be filled with joy was smashed; the eternal joy of being a part of the Trinity was being torn from Him.

Because of this, no matter how bad my job gets–if they take away my benefits, take away my raises, cut my salary, give me the worst classes filled with the most unruly students for the rest of my career, move me to the basement, sue me, accuse me, slander me, spite me, betray me–God will never leave me. Because Jesus lost him, I will never lose access to Him. Because Jesus was cast out of His presence, He will always be present for me.

This is one way that the Gospel completely changes how we look at our work. This is why we can no longer partake in idle complaining about our jobs. We should always seek to improve the places at which we work, but never with complaining hearts. The Lord we follow got the worst work assignment in the world, and he took it for us. Now we can go to our jobs with an unshakable joy that no circumstances can touch.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: In Christ Jesus How the Spirit Transforms Us — Sermon #1: Perfect Freedom

Sermon preached on November 19, 2006.

Teaching is based on Romans 6:1-7; 11-18.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Intro: If salvation is sheerly by grace, why would you change the way you live?

We’ll be looking at 3 principles to profound life change

I) recognize the shape of your spiritual slavery

Anger: If someone blocks you getting a good thing, you get angry; but if something blocks you getting an ultimate good thing, you get epi-angry

–if you’re having trouble forgiving somebody, at the root of it is a spiritual master

Fear: If someone good in your life is threatened, you’re worried; but if something ultimate in your life is threatened, you’re paralyzed

Sadness: If you lose something good, you grieve; if you lose something that’s ultimate, you want to throw yourself off a bridge, because there’s no meaning in life

Martin Luther: you don’t do anything else wrong in your life if you don’t first break the first commandment; idols motivate all wrong that we do

II) realize the scope of your cosmic unity with Jesus

United with Christ’s past

Died with Christ? Seated at the right hand of God in Christ? What does that mean?

  • Ex: A rich man gets rich himself, but when he gets married, all that wealth becomes the wife’s, too—how come? Legal union; grace.

Christ has accomplished so much in his life, and the text says that everything Jesus Christ has done is now legally attached to you. God sees you as free from condemnation from the guilt of your sins as if you had died yourself

Risen with Christ?

You are connected to Christ’s future.

  • Palingenesia: complete cosmic renewal, and the power of that future, where all sadness will be purged and everything will dance

CS Lewis: Imagine yourself as a house… God comes in to fix it; at first you understand what he’s doing… You thought he was making a decent little cottage, but He’s making a palace, in which He intends to live.

III) Live daily out of your new identity

Get rid of your low goals; get rid of your your goals

Anticipate that you will not be able to anticipate the magnitude of the changes that when they come you’ll be so thankful for, but they’ll be way beyond anything you could ever ask or think; there’s no way you’re smart enough to recognize what it is that you need.

v. 6: We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin will be done away with… Who you once were is gone. You have a new identity.

v. 11: Though the identity is the secret, it’s not right away. You’ve got to treat yourself like you’re a new identity. You’ve got to remind yourself. If you’re not changing, you don’t lack the resources if you’re a Christian—they just need to be deployed. If you ever fail to change, you’re not remembering who you really are, you’re not conscious of who you are.

(This is where my notes on this sermon end, although it does not seem at all like this is where Keller would have ended. The sermon in its entirety can be found at Redeemer’s sermon store.)

Tim Keller Sermon Notes – 3 Traits of Spirit-Filled Life

In one of his excellent marriage series of sermons, Tim Keller reviews three qualities of someone who is filled with the Spirit of God. I don’t want to forget them:
–able to receive criticism without being crushed
–able to give criticism without crushing
–able to forgive with no residual anger

Movie Notes – Star Wars, Episode I, The Phantom Menace

Crystal and I started watching the Star Wars movies last night with Episode I. She’s never watched them before and was pretty leery about making a start at it, but she’s hooked already. We decided before we watched them that we’d look for gospel parallels, just for fun. I know, we’re dorks, but what do you expect from Star Wars fans?

Here’s what we found:

Parallels

  • “Fear gives way to anger, anger to hate, hate to suffering.” Yoda says this regarding Anakin. We’re not sure if it’s God’s timeless truth, but undoubtedly these things are all connected in the mess of our sinful hearts. Relying on a sinful “chosen one” spelled suffering for the entire universe in Star Wars.
  • Anakin is the “chosen one” (or is he?) who will bring balance to the force. Jesus came and brought His followers back to Himself by living a sinless life and taking our sins upon Himself on the cross. Anakin will eventually die for the galaxy by sacrificing his busted up body as Darth Vader in Episode VI.
  • Anakin is born to no father. “The Force” spawns him, allegedly. Perhaps God the Father is the force in these movies — the insurmountable problem with this, of course, is that the Force has a dark side, and God is infinitely far from darkness.
  • There is always hope for sinners, even for Anakin, who is given much and eventually uses what he’s given for evil.
  • We leave a legacy of ourselves in those we disciple, just as Qui Gon Jin leaves a legacy in Obi Wan Kenobi. At the start of the film, Obi Wan seems to be more of a straight-and-narrow type, but by the end, after Qui Gon is dead, Obi Wan seems to be ready to step into his defiant shoes.
Non-parallels
  • The Jedi are an elite group, and they  gain entry into the group by born qualities and demonstrated ability. Christians are part of an incredibly amazing group (God’s children), but they are invited into an eternal family based not on their performance or abilities, but rather on Christ’s.
  • Anakin, the chosen one, is sinful. And his son, Luke Skywalker, who may be the real chosen one, is also sinful. Jesus isn’t. He’s perfect.

The gospel under the dentist’s drill

Lord Jesus, You suffered immense pain on the cross, in all ways, so much that, in it’s absolute undeservedness, You absorbed the full wrath of God, and now here I am, uncondemned, and I want to feel like I’m in a spectacular, wonderful light!!! I want to feel like, “WOW!!!”

Lord, today I went to the dentist for a cleaning and there were cavities. God, my fears of the dentist just about pummeled me. They did pummel me. I took the filling, but it’s just an uncontrollable physical reaction! It’s unpredictable pain, a supersonic grinding into my nerve endings in my bones in my mouth, and it makes me swallow rapidly and shut my eyes and breathe eratically and clench my fists and pray, “GOD! I! NEED! YOU! I NEED YOU GOD I NEED YOU GOD I NEED YOU GOD I NEED YOU I NEED YOU I NEED YOU!”

I was so disappointed in my inability to handle this pain that is so small compared to Christ’s sufferings. Lord, You have shown me, though, that there is sanctification that can be done by Your magnificent Holy Spirit within me in ANY SITUATION. There is no situation (provided it’s not me willfully partaking of sin; for example, this isn’t possible in the act of adultery) that Your Holy Spirit cannot use to further sanctify me, to deepen our relationship, to make me more holy, more in the image of Your Son.

God, what is the gospel under the dentist’s drill???? Lord, what is to Your glory in the dentist’s office?

Some thoughts did come to me as I desperately screamed prayers in my mind under the drill:

1) Someday this will not be necessary. The initial take-away from that was that this was a passing thing; this too would pass, as Crystal texted me earlier (God bless her!); I would get over this; I just needed to roll with this punch like I was learning to roll with other punches. Christ Jesus died 2000-some years ago on a cross and, being fully God and fully man, made the sacrifice necessary for all of creation to be redeemed from the effects of sin. When He returns, the earth will be renewed, and creation will be as it was always meant to be. What we see now is a shadow next to that. Think of your favorite food–how it tastes, feels, and smells. Just the food of these new heavens and new earth will make that appear like dust. This is the gospel: that Jesus was Who He said He was and that He died to save us from this present darkness. This rescue operation can successfully pull You from the darkness now.

But now I see this: Right now, it is necessary. My tolerance for doctor-induced physical pain is laughable. As soon as I get into a non-predictable or new doctor situation that might involve surgery or cutting or prodding, I’m all shakes. I think I was traumatized as a child or something. But I look not to the reason behind my fear; rather, I stare with eyes popping out at the King behind my fearlessness. I must, for there is naught else I can do. No other alternative is available. Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone will take me through this fear; He alone will cure me of it; He alone will numb the pain where it must be numbed and allow the pain where it must be experienced.

Why do I have to experience jarring pain now, and in the dental office of all places? I have no idea. I have no clue. But I must remember that next to God I am like our old dog who, having an ear infection, looking terrified and fought fiercely to get away from the swab of medicine we had for her. The gap of intelligence between the dog and us prevented her from understanding what we were doing, or even how any good could come out of it (usually she was trusting of us, but in this case her eyes said, “Why are you trying to kill me?” The gap of intelligence between me and God is infinitely greater. This truth should completely change my life and its fears. Completely.

And yet, God, presented with this truth my mind may be temporarily comforted but my feelings of fear and anger and confusion and a desire to get out of this or cancel the next appointment RAGE within me!

Someday, this will not be necessary… but right now it is.

2) As Jesus was upon the cross, and the other criminal asked Him to remember Him in heaven, Jesus told the other criminal that that night they’d be together in paradise (Luke’s account of the cross). I believe during Jesus’ life He was constantly thinking about the cross that lay before Him, and that on the cross He was finally free, even from the pits of hell, to meditate on what was to come.

I don’t understand the cross at all–if I did, I imagine I’d be overcome with joy to the point of tears every single day and I’d not be able to shut my mouth about the timelessly good news that God has made a way for all our fears to be utterly ameliorated.

God, that is my precious prayer — that I might understand the incredibly riches of the CROSS; that it might phantasmically estinctify any fears of physical pain again; that it might send me to the dentist’s office or the hospital or my own cross with something that currently I lack. Currently, God, I am a fearful, cowardly man. Please make me into a fearless man who is properly fearful of You.

I’ll have another chance to meditate on this very soon — I have an appointment for the third and most complicated filling (this one requires numbing) this Saturday at 11am.

Tim Keller sermon notes / Series: Practical Grace / Sermon: Forgiving Grace

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

I dug up these sermon notes this morning, wanting to post them today. I picked them seemingly at random. But as I read them, what joy I had. I just spent a half hour meditating on Romans 15:7, which is basically the gospel (I’m unacceptable, yet I was accepted, so I can accept people). My thoughts went to a situation today where a student whose been defiant and disrespectful to me for a long time made pretty clear evidence against herself as a vulgar graffiti artist. My inclination was to get out a sample of her writing, compare it to the graffiti, and take the case to our assistant principal tomorrow.

But this is a good word from Tim Keller: If you try to get justice before forgiving someone, you’re not going for justice, you’re going for vengeance. And, you’ll never get justice.

God bless you, and may He use these notes to sanctify You as a Father instructs His children.

Tim Keller / Series: Practical Grace / Sermon: Forgiving Grace

Scripture: 2 Cor 4:7-18 “jars of clay”, 12:7-10

 

Suffering = not a choice

Long-suffering = an active choice

 

Forgiving spirit: the ability to bear injuries and mistreatment from other people without it taking your poise or getting you down.

 

Hebrews 12:15 Take care lest any harbor a root of bitterness…

–Anger is called a root in this metaphor, the deepest part of the tree.

1. We can admit to others and ourselves the sin of anxiety, worry, lust, depression, but we cannot admit anger. We hide it from ourselves, we always minimize it. We always minimize just how mad we continue to be. The anger passes into you and it twists you, making you cynical and hard and starting a low- grade spiritual fever that goes on and on and on and on.

 

2. Anger works in a subterranean way in your life. It’s down there and you don’t know it, it’s affecting you and don’t know it.

 

Long-suffering—to not have how you’ve been wronged affect you. This is the big task!

–If you don’t have this, you’ll be in prison, tortured, not free

 

What is it?

3 things you’ve got to do when the little roots of anger try to come in:

  1. Cancel the debt, refuse revenge

    • You do not make the other person pay the debt of emotional pain, but you pay it down yourself. When someone wrongs you it creates an emotional debt of pain, it’s a debt that you feel.

    • The other person has to pay: insult them, gossip about them, ruin their reputation with other people, slander them, all while saying “revenge is beneath me”

    • You want to hurt them because it makes you feel better. It’s paying down the debt. You want to see them pay. Slowly you feel less and less that the person owes you.

    • BUT it passes into you. It has melted you into its likeness. When we make the other person pay, we are becoming like the evil it did to us.

    • Paying it down yourself: Every time you want to rehash the past with a person, but you don’t, it hurts. Every time you want to rub their nose in it but you don’t, it hurts. Every time you see them prospering and you refuse to stick little pins in them in your imagination, it hurts.

    • Why does it hurt? Because it’s costly not to take the revenge. (Wow.)

    • But dealing with that hurt and refusing to take revenge means you still possess your soul. You’ve beaten your wrongdoer—you’ve beaten them with love.

  2. Be moved with compassion for someone else’s misery.

    • Automatically when someone wrongs you your heart is going to start enumerating the differences between you and that person.

    • If you want to possess your soul, you’ve got to stress the commonality between you and the person.

    • Whenever someone wrongs you, you caricature them in your heart, making huge their worst feature. Deep in every human soul is a deep desire to justify yourself. We’re afraid that we’re not okay, that we’re not desirable. That fear is behind workaholism, racism. It’s all self-justification, rooted in fear. It’s behind how you caricature the person who wrongs you. You need to feel noble, you need to feel superior, you need to feel better.

    • In order to transform that to grace, you’ve got to focus on the commonality. I am fallible, so is this person. I am weak, I make dumb mistakes, so does this person. (This is amazing.)

3. Let him go.

 

I don’t want to forgive, I want justice. If you want to confront them before forgiving them, you’re going for justice. You’re going to hurt them. AND you’ll never get justice.

 

Vengeance is selfish, you’re not concerned with truth, it’s all about you.

Resignation is selfish, you’re letting a person go on sinning.

Forgiving spirit: Doesn’t like conflict, doesn’t avoid it. Doesn’t do vengeance, doesn’t do resignation.

 

How in the world are we ever going to do this?

Behold the king who became a servant. Jesus Christ: It’s paid. He knew that his servants would ruin him—that’s why he came.

After all she’s done for me, I’m almost happy about this tiny opportunity to show her how much she means to me.

Jesus didn’t make you pay a bit.

You’ll never be able to pay the debts people have to you unless you see the infinite debt. After all he’s done for me, I’m almost glad to have the opportunity to show him what he means to me by paying this debt.

 

Col 3:12 Therefore as God’s chosen people set apart and dearly loved clothed yourselves with patience.

Not be patient in order to be loved, but because your utterly loved you can be patient. — (This is a facet of the gospel-changed heart.)