All posts by Dave

Gospel-Centered Links June-July 2014

Top 20 Christ-Centered Expository Preaching Checklist

I’ll begin my link post with a link to a link post!

Preaching Christ From All The Scriptures Qualified

A very important article:

But as every good virtue in this fallen world has its Achilles’ heel, so this good and excellent principle has been taken too far by some. The very text we use, most often, to defend the preaching of Christ from all the Scriptures – does not, in fact, teach that every passage is necessarily about Him or His work. The misuse and abuse of the beauty of Christocentricity has (1) caused some to over-react in response and thus miss the clear testimony to Jesus from all parts of Scripture; and (2) caused some to be robbed of the “whole counsel of God” because they trample underfoot many profitable things in their zeal to pave a way to Jesus from every text and syllable.

Biblical Theology: Engine for Gospel Proclamation

If you want to read ahead a bit you’re going to see some thoughts on biblical theology coming from me over the next few months. My definition of “biblical theology” is a bit narrower than this one – I limit my own use of the term to biblical themes (#3 on this list).

When the heart is fat with the love of Jesus

This post shows one goal of Christ-centered preaching: Continue reading

Are You Reformed?

“Are you reformed?”

I get that question quite a bit as a Baptist attending a Presbyterian seminary (Westminster). It’s a tough question to answer. My answer depends on the context: What does “reformed” mean to the person asking the question?

What “Reformed” Used to Mean

“Reformed” properly refers to:

  • The theological heritage of John Calvin, the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Confession
  • A commitment to covenant theology, including pedobaptism
  • Belief in predestination and reprobation (i.e. TULIP, commonly called Calvinism)
  • A preoccupation with the glory of God
  • A preoccupation with the sovereignty of God
  • A commitment to redemptive-historical hermeneutics (The whole focus of this website.)

As a credobaptist I can’t say that I’m in that heritage. However… that doesn’t mean I’m not reformed. It depends on the situation.

What “Reformed” Means Today

Like the term “evangelical” the meaning of “reformed” is changing. In the west today “reformed” theology has lost the implications of covenant theology, pedobaptism, and its credal heritage.

Today “reformed” has typically dropped the first two criteria and simply means: Continue reading

The Gospel In Real Life

I am enjoying the current issue of Themelios. The article Do The Work of an Evangelist by D.A. Carson is truly excellent. It ties closely to the main theme of Armchair Theology so here is an excerpt with my commentary.

For some Christians, “the gospel” (equivalently, “the evangel”) is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: “Biblical Leadership,” “Learning to Pray,” “What to Do with Your Money,” “Christian Marriage,” and so forth—none of which falls under “gospel,” but only under post-gospel discipleship.

One of my main goals is to see the gospel applied to all life – especially growth in holiness:

In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that “gospel”/“evangel” is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news about what God is doing in and through King Jesus, especially in and through his cross and resurrection. A careful reading of Scripture shows how often Christian conduct is grounded in the gospel itself.

This was a game-changer for me a few years ago. Every time we see a command in the Bible it is prefaced with the gospel message. This isn’t limited to just the New Testament. Read Ex 20:2 and see how the ten commandments are prefaced with a message of God’s saving work for his people.

For instance, the gospel is to be obeyed (e.g., 2 Thess 1:8); certain behavior conforms to the gospel, while other behavior does not (1 Tim 1:10–11). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)—transparently, this is a gospel appeal. In short, in the NT the gospel is preached both to unbelievers and to believers. It calls unbelievers to repentance and faith; it calls believers to ongoing faith and conformity to Jesus.

Gospel ministry is ministry that is faithful to the gospel, that announces the gospel and applies the gospel and encourages people to believe the gospel and thus live out the gospel.


Further Reading:

Here’s a quick note that Iain Duguid’s ebook Is Jesus in the Old Testament? is available for free download on the Westminster Bookstore website to help promote a sale on three of his commentaries.

If you scroll down you’ll also see deals on other books he wrote about finding the gospel in the Beatitudes and the lives of the patriarchs.

Getting Holiness Right

This is a follow-on to the previous post You’re Doing Holiness Wrong about the debate surrounding Tulian Tchividjian about living a holy life. That post presented the history of the discussion. This is my take on the matter.

Tchividjian’s Critics Are Missing His Point

It seems to me that some of Tchividjian’s critics believe he is teaching that obedience is unnecessary since Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. That’s not the case.

Tchividjian’s point is this: We should obey God. The way we get the strength to obey God is by reflecting on the amazing grace of our justification.

In other words, we are empowered to obey God by the Spirit-induced realization that all our obedience was bought for us at the cross.

What’s Right, What’s Wrong

Tchividjian is correct: He is correct that the glory of the gospel gives amazes us and gives us strength to live holy lives.

Tchividjian is wrong: He is incorrect in saying that this is the only way God has provided for us to live holy lives.

Christians have more inspirations than justification.

There is more to sanctification than simply looking to the cross. Here is a partial list of the glories we look to to inspire our holiness:

  • Gazing on the glory of the cross empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of the empty tomb empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of our future heavenly home empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Jesus himself empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of the mystery of the Trinity empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Christ’s victory over Satan empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Christ’s body, the Church, empowers us.

Christians have more empowerment than inspiration.

But we aren’t empowered only by looking at glorious things and feeling inspired. God has given us other strength in the fight:

  • We have power from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • We have a new nature that is no longer enslaved to sin.
  • We have encouragement from our brothers and sisters in the Church.
  • We have the instruction of the Bible.
  • We have the strength of our own striving. (Yes, it’s okay to work hard at your sanctification, just not your justification.)

In the end, Tchividjian has hit on one facet of one part of our strength for holy living. His answer is correct as far as it goes but it’s simply incomplete. By hanging onto a doctrine of “empowerment by a single inspiration” he has:

  • missed many other inspirations within the same category and…
  • he has missed other categories of empowerment altogether.

Postlogue

I would be remiss to say that Tchividjian’s critics get him completely wrong. Two of DeYoung’s questions address the center of the issue:

2. Is there more than one motivation for holiness? Is preaching our acceptance in Christ and God’s free grace for sinners the only way to produce change in the Christian? Or are there many medicines for our motivation in godliness and many precious remedies against Satan’s devices?

6. Is sanctification by faith alone? We know that work has no place in justification, but what about in sanctification? Should we say that sanctification is monergistic or synergistic, or are these the wrong categories altogether? How are justification and sanctification different?

This is an ongoing conversation so don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

So now it’s your turn: What other things has God given us to empower us to live holy lives pleasing to him?


Update: Tchividjian claims to have been kicked off the Gospel Coalition website and is now blogging elsewhere.

You’re Doing Holiness Wrong

“You’re doing holiness wrong.”

That’s the debate going on right now at The Gospel Coalition. In the center of the discussion is pastor Tullian Tchividjian, who has increasingly made comments that seem to border on antinomianism.

Antinomianism? That’s the idea that you the gospel frees us entirely (anti) from the law (nomos) and, once we are saved by Christ, we no longer have to obey it.

If that sounds familiar to you it’s probably because the apostle Paul had some strong words about it:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:1–4

So, what’s the debate? Continue reading