Saturday, March 31, 2012

Delicious Morsels from *The Explicit Gospel* by Matt Chandler

. . . which you need to read in its entirety, because there is so much more goodness than what I can highlight in one blog post, but here are a few bites to savor as a nice appetizer. ;-)
  • We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the power of the resurrection. If you add to or subtract from the cross, even if it is to factor in biblically mandated religious practices like prayer and evangelism, you rob God of his glory and Christ of his sufficiency.
  • There is nothing confining God. His creativity is transcendent because his very being is transcendent. Everything that is is his, and he can make more of anything he wants out of nothing at all. There is no human category for this kind of richness. It makes Bill Gates a pauper, Rockefeller a beggar, and one of those island-owning sheiks in the Middle East a hobo.
  • Trying to figure out God is like trying to catch fish in the Pacific Ocean with an inch of dental floss. It is a foolish act predicated on a foolish overestimation of human intellect and ability.
  • Romans 11:33 tells us that God is incomprehensibly immense, exceedingly expansive, and eternally powerful, and so much so that time and time again our response to many of the things of God ought to be "I don't know." Rather than respond to his incalculable God-ness with our slide rules and flowcharts, we would do better to worship him with reverence and awe.
  • God's sovereign knowing is so beyond our control and knowledge that acting like we're his GPS or like he's our personal valet is not just laughable but sinful. In Romans 11:34 God becomes terrifying: "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" The answer is nobody.
  • He has revealed enough of his character and attributes to save us, or preclude us from excuses for irresponsibility in not being saved, but he has not given us enough information to ever, with even a shred of integrity, second-guess him. Nobody gets to counsel God. Nobody gets to give God advice. Nobody gets to straighten God's path. No one.
  • A God who is ultimately most focused on his own glory will be about the business of restoring us, who are all broken images of him. His glory demands it. So we should be thankful for a self-sufficient God whose self-regard is glorious.
  • . . .what if the Bible isn't about us at all? What if we aren't the story of God's revelation? . . . the Bible is a book about God. To paraphrase Herbert Lockyer, the Bible is for us, but it's not about us.
  • We are allergic to the idea that everything exists, including us, not for ourselves but for the glory of God.
  • The glory of God is God's vision and his plan for seeing it fulfilled. Habakkuk 2:14 promises that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." The supremacy of God's glory is everywhere in the Bible because God's plan is for it to be supreme everywhere in the world.
  • Worship. . . is larger and more encompassing than singing some songs at a church service a couple of times a week. It is the way of life for those entranced by and passionate for the glory of God. We worship God when, while we partake of his good gifts, something occurs in the deepest parts of our soul that forbids glory terminating on the gift itself or on our enjoyment of it but that runs deeper into and extends out to the Giver.
  • God's responses of kindness and severity both come from his perfect and holy self-sufficiency, and they are both extended justly to his creation, but the chief difference between them--and the reason we don't talk about it as much--is that only severity is deserved.
  • The grace of God by definition is unearned. You can't deserve it. That's kind of the point. "Otherwise," Paul says, "grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:6). Grace is a free gift given to someone who has not earned and cannot earn it.
  • To discount the enormity of God's severity, as if we aren't really that bad and really deserve mostly kindness, is to discount the enormity of God's holiness. It is very easy, in this trajectory of logic, to switch things up, completely disregard the Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus, and move into the idea that it's we who are good, and God who is fallen.
  • You cannot scare anyone into heaven. Heaven is not a place for those who are afraid of hell; it's a place for those who love God.
  • God's love--of which so many hell deniers are such cheerleaders--fails to carry the weight of eternal glory when we don't believe it saves us from much.
  • We have to feel the weight of God's severity, because without feeling the weight of his severity, we won't know the weight of his kindness, and we won't be able to worship him and him alone.
  • We have fallen short of the glory of God, and this shortfall must be justified if God is to manifest his sovereign justice. The place the gospel holds out for us is where God's kindness and his severity meet. This place is called the cross, and it is where grace and wrath intersect. It is at this place of shame and victory that God, in the form of the man Jesus of Nazareth, the long-expected Messiah, offered in his death the blood atonement, necessary to satisfy God's justice and secure our salvation.
  • Nothing runs to the center of God's kindness and severity, demonstrating his justice, his love, and his glory all at once, besides his incarnate Son's sacrifice on the scandalous cross.
  • The gospel is such power that it necessitates reaction. . . . The heart of the hearer of the gospel must move, either toward Christ or away from him. Pastor Chan Kilgore puts it this way: "True gospel preaching always changes the heart. It either awakens it or hardens it."
  • Because we are stained with sin from conception, we are rushing headlong into the fires of hell before we can even walk. Jesus lays his body across the path; there is no ignoring him. If it's headlong into hell we want to go, we have to step over Jesus to get there.
  • The moralism that passes for Christian faith today is a devastating hobby if you have no intention of submitting your life fully to God and chasing him in Christ.
  • There is a sentimentalization of the faith that occurs when you sanitize the gospel of Christ crucified or sift it from the substance of the Christian religion. The result is a malleable Jesus, a tame Jesus. The result is, as Michael Spencer says, "a spirituality that has Jesus on the cover but not in the book."
  • At the end of the day, our hope is not that all the poor on earth will be fed. That's simply not going to happen. I'm not saying we shouldn't feed and rescue the poor; I'm saying that salvation isn't having a full belly or a college education or whatever. Making people comfortable on earth before an eternity in hell is wasteful.
  • Scientists say that most sufferers of anaplastic oligodendroglioma live only two to three years after diagnosis. They may be right. But they are not factoring in the God of the universe who holds healing in his hands. Science has severe limitations that the God who created all observational data does not. So I think I can be excused when I doubt what scientists are saying today. I'm too afraid of what they'll be saying tomorrow. And I'm foundationally too confident in what God said yesterday. (LOVE that last line!)
  • We see throughout the Scriptures that the fuller gospel story has in view something larger than just our fulfillment, our security, our joy, and our personal relationship with God.
  • And while individual salvation is at the tipping point of God's gospel--the kingdom is in the midst of us, after all (Luke 17:21)--the designation kingdom itself tells us that the gospel is God's plan not just to restore mankind, but to restore "all things" for mankind's enjoyment, Christ's lordship, and his triune self's glory.
  • We can all look at life and agree that there are some parts that have no purpose--like neckties or cats. (Ok, not the *most* profound statement in the book, but I couldn't resist. . . )
  • Faithless religion is vanity. No matter how many people it practically helps, no matter how good it makes you feel, religious effort not rooted in the gospel is rooted in self-justifying self-worth. This is meaningless.
  • When sin entered the world and fractured it, Romans 1:23 tells us that you and I exchanged the infinite creator God for his creation. When that took place, we began to settle for temporary fleeting pleasures rather than for what is eternal and soul-satisfying.
  • Colossians 1 wants us to see Christ's lordship as very, very big. He is certainly not less than our personal Lord and savior, but he is certainly fathoms, light-years, and eons more than that.
  • The idea, for instance, that "the Bible is God's love letter to you" has a kernel of truth to it, but it is illustrative of how easily we trade the centrality of God's glory for the centrality of our need.
  • The gospel of Colossians 1 is epic; it posits a cross that is cosmic. We see that the peace that is made by the blood of the cross covers "all things." The scope of Christ's reconciling work on the cross spans the brokenness between man and God and the brokenness between earth and heaven.
  • For the reconciliation enacted by the cross to be cosmic, it must encompass more than just our individual relationship with God. We each may be saved as an individual life, but we are not saved to an individual life. We stand as part of God's restoring of all things, and we are brought into the missional witness to God's restorative gospel, the body of Christ.
  • So when we look at our jobs, for instance, no matter what our job is, we view it not as our purpose in life but rather as where God has sovereignly placed us for the purpose of making Christ known and his name great. If you are a teacher, if you are a politician, if you are a businessman, if you are in agriculture, if you are in construction, if you are in technology, if you are in the arts, then you should not be saying, "I need to find my life's purpose in this work," but rather, "I need to bring God's purpose to this work."
  • Cycles of violence such as we've seen in Rwanda and witnessed in Sudan get interrupted not by ordinary acts of charity but by the gospel.
  • Missional power comes not from our good intentions but from the gospel itself. This knowledge demands missional humility. We can't transform. Only God does that. We're not what makes anything new. It's not our act that renews the city. It's the cross that enacts renewal.
  • What is the difference between moralistic deism and grace-driven effort? There are essentially five components to a right understanding of grace-driven effort, and what they all revolve around is not our religious performance but Christ's saving performance on our behalf. These components revolve around Christ's cross, not our bootstraps.
  • We must abandon the idea that our good behavior somehow rubs the spiritual lamp that inclines God, like a genie, to emerge and give us the things we wish for.
  • When we fight sin, we don't do so with our own unction. We fight sin with the weapons that grace gives us: the blood of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the promise of the new covenant, that Christ has paid for our shortcomings in obedience to the law by his perfect life imputed to us.
  • But when all is said and done, if we don't kill the root of sin, we will keep seeing the branches of sin.
  • What ends up happening to so many of us is that we spend so much time trying to put sin to death that we don't spend enough time striving to know God deeply, trying to gaze upon the wonder of Jesus Christ and have that transform our affections to the point where our love and hope are steadfastly on Christ. The goal is this: that Christ would become more beautiful and desirable than the allure of sin.
  • From the standpoint of moralistic legalism, root issues aren't of utmost importance; appearing obedient is. The moralist is far more interested in external actions, which still gives sin quarters in his heart. Moralistic, therapeutic deism is fine with sin hiding in a foxhole. The gospel wants to nuke the hole.
  • We are after a gospel that is resolutely centered on the atoning work of Christ and scaled to the glory of God. Let the explicit gospel drive us to worship with all the "fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19) and in awe of both God's immense, universe-subsuming glory and his deep, personal love for sinners.
WHEW! I know that's a lot, but believe it or not, that isn't even *half* of what I underlined and highlighted. Sweet Jesus and his gospel permeate every single page of this book. So refreshing and so helpful. I highly recommend and encourage reading the book in its entirety. Maybe 2 or 3 times. ;-)

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