Category Archives: Living the Bible

The Three Worst Qualities of the Gospel-Centered Movement

There are three major failings the gospel-centered movement is prone to. From time to time I see them in myself and I want to warn you against them.

Legalism

The gospel-centered movement has the potential to turn us into legalists about the gospel.

Gospel-centeredness is all about grace and how the whole Bible points to it. So how can legalism be a part of that? Unfortunately you can be legalistic about grace.

Gospel-centered Bible study has the potential to turn us into legalists because it is so true. What do I mean by that? When you come to see the beauty of how the Bible points to Jesus you begin to view everything through that lens. Along with the positives, it can breed negative results if we don’t guard ourselves: Continue reading

How To Use The Gospel To Pursue Holiness Part 2

This post is part of a series about the gospel’s power for sanctification:


How do we grow in sanctification? By viewing God’s mercy:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Rom 12:1

In view of what mercy?

  • We deserve God’s wrath (Rom 1:18, 2:5)
  • But Jesus bore our punishment (Rom 3:21-26)
  • In him we are made righteous (Rom 3:27-4:25)
  • We are reconciled to God (Rom 5:1-2)
  • We are freed from slavery to sin (Rom 6:6)
  • We receive the deposit of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14-17)

Paul sums up how we should react to this mercy in Rom 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

God’s mercy should propel us into worship. That worship should propel us into a life pointed in his direction (Rom 12:1). Paul instructs us to be transformed “in view of God’s mercy.” So we need to view God’s mercy.

If you have a sanctification problem don’t focus solely on your actions. Look to your worship first.

How To Use the Gospel To Pursue Holiness

This post is part of a series about the gospel’s power for sanctification:


We just looked at how we can use the gospel to kill sin in our lives. But if we turn away from sin what is it that we turn towards? Today I want to look at a sermon by Peter Vinke titled, “How is Gospel-Grace the Best Motive to Holiness?” Vinke uses this sermon on 2 Timothy 2:19 to explore how Christians can use the gospel to fuel their good works.

How Not To Pursue Holiness

Vinke first discusses how the gospel should not be used to promote holiness. If we look at the gospel and think we need to repay God we are headed in the wrong direction: Continue reading

How To Use the Gospel To Kill Sin

This post is part of a series about the gospel’s power for sanctification:


The gospel isn’t just for non-Christians. It’s not something we move past once we’ve entered the Kingdom. Believing the gospel and living in light of it is how we grow in our faith:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Gal 3:1-6

Notice a few things about Paul’s exhortation:

  1. We are not yet fully mature and need to be “perfected.”
  2. The Holy Spirit is the alternative to “the flesh” as the power for our sanctification.
  3. The Holy Spirit works through our faith – in the gospel.

If 1) we need to be perfected 2) through the work of the Holy Spirit 3) through our faith in the gospel, how does that process work? We can invite and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work in us by asking ourselves five questions and then working hard to fight the sin along side Him:

1. What is the selfish heart condition which seeks to improperly fulfill a natural, God-given desire?

Why do we sin? We sin because we want to fulfill legitimate desires in illegitimate ways. Some examples:

  • Lust: The sins of lust and adultery are corrupted means of fulfilling our God-given desire for sexual satisfaction in God-honoring, God-reflecting marriage.
  • Anger: The sin of anger is a corrupted means of fulfilling our God-given desire for justice.

Before we can fight sin we need to know what the sin actually is. Look beyond the action to the motivation – that’s where the sinful heart produces the sinful action:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

2. How did God fulfill that need for us through the gospel and free us from having to fulfill it for ourselves?

We are not left alone trying to satisfy our God-given desires. We do not need to resort to corruptions. We have a way out:

God has provided for all our needs in the gospel.

  • Lust: God ordained the desire for sexual intimacy to pull us into marriage – a reflection of his love for us. (Eph 5:25) Not only that but the gospel paves the way for reconciliation within marriage so we can flourish in that relationship.
  • Anger: God has poured out his wrath on injustice so that we don’t have to. The anger that boils up in us when we feel personally wronged pales in comparison to the anger that was due us but extinguished on the cross.

The gospel doesn’t just address these needs and desires, it fills them in a more beautiful and satisfying way than we can on our own. The gospel isn’t just a ticket into heaven. It’s the answer to our most pressing problems.

3. How can we remind ourselves of this when tempted to sin?

The only way to stop the cycle of sin is intervening with the gospel. How do we cut into it?

Pray: Remember how we began this discussion recognizing that Paul said that the Holy Spirit is involved in our sanctification? Ask God to make the gospel beautiful to your eyes. When tempted, cry out to him to make the gospel seem beautiful and sufficient so that you do not need the sin to be satisfied.

Reflect: You won’t remember how the gospel preempts and overpowers your sin unless that knowledge is embedded deep inside. This means we must meditate on how the gospel fills our need before temptation comes. Think ahead and anticipate your temptations. When are you most likely to be tempted? What will you be thinking about? Meditate on the beauty of the gospel before that time. This needs to be a habit in your life because our desires to sin are so strong – we need to preemptively attack.

4. How can we learn to hate the sin?

Defeating sin requires that we ultimately hate sin.

If sin is detestable to us we won’t be tempted to indulge in it. In fact, it won’t be indulging anymore because we only indulge in the things we like. The question is, “How do we learn to hate sin?”

We could look at the filth of our sin all day long. Or we could look at Jesus:

If you will see sin’s sinfulness to loathe it, and mourn, do not stand looking upon [your] sin, but look upon Christ first, as suffering and satisfying for it.
- Thomas Wilcox via Of First Importance

Summary

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12:1-2

We need to cast off the sin that entangles us.

How?

By looking to Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. Find this beautiful and you will not find sin beautiful.

Remember, though, that this is a program for inviting the Holy Spirit to help us crush the desire to sin. This does not mean that we are free from the responsibility to work hard against the sin. In fact, looking again to Hebrews 12 we see that we are responsible to run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Never think that you are relieved of your responsibility to work hard against sin.

That’s not all.

Defeating sin is an important part of our sanctification. If we are to look like our Elder Brother we need to be killing sin. But that’s not our only goal in sanctification. We also need to pursue good works.

How can we use the gospel to pursue holiness? That’s what we’ll discuss next.

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Further Reading:
The gospel is not just for the unsaved.
Calling God “Fool” – I’m Sanctifying Myself

Gospel-Centered Means Being Evangelism-Centered

This article, as part of my sabbatical, is a reminder of content you may have missed in 2012.

Holding God and his gospel in high regard is the center of the gospel-centered movement. What does that mean? It means we declare the news of “the good news”:

Bottom Line: If we aren’t evangelism-centered we aren’t gospel-centered.

Read Gospel-Centered Means Evangelism-Centered.

Mission New England 2013

Mission New England ConferenceIf you live in New England and you believe that being gospel-centered means evangelism-centered, listen up.

The Gospel Alliance New England is bringing in pastor Rob Burns, who has been really effective in evangelism in Philadelphia, for a conference discussing how he’s seen success sharing the good news on “hard ground.” The conference is being held at my home church, Norwich Alliance Church, in Norwich, CT.

The three sessions of this conference are titled:

  • “A Gospel Worth Proclaiming” – What is the Gospel? Why would we proclaim it?
  • “What is Proclamation?” Declaration and Demonstration (Words and Deeds)
  • “Everyday Living” – What does it look like to live the everyday with Gospel Intentionality

Cost for this whole-day event will be $12 ($15 at the door) for individuals or $10/person for groups of 5 or more. Also, lunch is included in that price! Be honest – you were going to spend that much on lunch alone.

Sign up now!

If you plan on attending please let me know in the comments below (email subscribers please click through to the website) so we can meet up during the conference!

2012 Christmas Season

NativitySome unrelated thoughts…

Merry Christmas

I hope that you have a happy holiday season, that you enjoy some time off and spend time with family. But most of all, that you love Jesus.

Thank you Jesus for coming into this world to rescue us and make us your own.

Newtown School Shooting

I grew up in the town next to Newtown, CT. I competed in sports there, had friends from church there and my mother taught in Newtown’s high school for a time. A pastor at the church in which I grew up now pastors a church in Newtown which lost children in the tragedy. This school shooting hit close to home. I’m not going to write a long post about it but here are some quick thoughts:

  • Do not make gun control, in either direction, an issue of Christianity.
  • Consider making increased mental health protections/services/etc a political issue.
  • Weep with those who weep.
  • No matter how Calvinist you are (and I am), do not say, “It was God’s will.” God hates evil. You can read my thoughts on tragedy.

Taking A Break

A few things going on in my life right now:

  • Expecting our first child in June.
  • Deciding how to follow God’s call for seminary. Do I leave the military this summer? If so, how do we pay for everything?
  • Working on an evangelism project.

If you are able, please pray that Erin and I would faithfully seek to glorify God, that we would have discernment and that we would trust God completely.

I won’t post new articles for a while.

Because of all these pressing issues, I won’t publish regular updates in the next few weeks. Instead I will highlight some past articles. I hope you’re blessed by some content you may not have seen before.

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Image by violscraper