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Book Smart And Gospel Stupid (via Mockingbird Blog)

I love it when a new phrase pops up in my feed reader that just seems to express something simple yet important.

This post from Mockingbird Blog explores the problem of people who are more enamoured with theology than with the Jesus their theology should point to.
It’s not a screed against study, or anti-intellectual.
If your love of theology doesn’t produce a surpassing love of Jesus then the theology you love is deficient:

Theologians love God. So they talk about him.
But they can’t do that without talking about Jesus. So they talk about Jesus.
But they can’t talk about Jesus without talking about his saving work. So they talk about his birth, life, death, and resurrection.
But they can’t talk about his birth, life, death, and resurrection without talking about what all those things were for. So they talk about how all of them were for us.
In other words, real theologians can’t shut up about who Jesus is and what he’s done on our behalf.
So-called theologians with little interest in Jesus may be book smart but they’re Gospel stupid.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Praying For A Discontented Church (via Trevin Wax)

Trevin Wax writes about the deadly temptation of desiring a church where everyone is happy with things exactly as they are.

…we are right to pursue unity and peace in the church. But we are wrong to assume that the absence of conflict or complaint indicates that things are going in the right direction. The satisfaction of church members may be a sign not of faithfulness, but of widespread complacency.
Imagine this scenario. You’re a pastor in a congregation where there has been division and disunity over the years. Right now, things are better. Attendance is up. The number of complaints has fallen. People regularly encourage the staff and speak highly of the church. Every now and then, someone says: “Don’t change a thing. We love everything!”
Now, the temptation is to say, “Wonderful! Finally, everyone is happy” as if making everyone happy is the goal of your church. But that temptation is deadly. The mission of the church is not to satisfy the preferences of church members, but to spread the gospel of Jesus so that sinners are saved and find their satisfaction in him.
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We don’t want churches full of people dissatisfied due to their personal preferences going unfulfilled. Neither do we want churches full of people who are satisfied because everything is running smoothly. No, we want people who are satisfied with God but dissatisfied with the state of the world because they live and breathe the mission. They’re driven by the gospel and the mission on behalf of King Jesus and his kingdom.
As one of the pastors at my church, I am praying for more holy discontent. Our goal is not to make things satisfactory for our members, but to encourage and empower more members to be on mission together.

Read the whole article here.


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Instead Of Advice, Christ (via First Things)

Preaching that is full of advice about how people can live like Christians can’t transform, only preaching that points people to God’s transforming power in the person and work of Jesus Christ has the hope of change.
The conclusion of an article about Luther’s theology by Phillip Cary at First Things.

How we have always been justified by faith alone is best seen in light of Luther’s distinction between law and Gospel. Both the law of God and the Gospel of Christ are God’s word, but the former only gives us instructions while the latter gives us Christ. For the law tells us what to do, but the Gospel tells us what Christ does. The distinction grows out of Augustine’s insistence, in his great treatise On the Spirit and the Letter, that telling us to obey the law of love does not help us do it from the depths of our hearts; only the grace of Christ can give us such a heart. Luther merely adds: The place to find the grace of Christ is in the Gospel of Christ.
A great many preachers, Protestant as well as Catholic, overlook the distinction between law and Gospel, thinking they can change people’s lives by giving them practical advice—as if telling them how to be inwardly transformed could help them do it. Augustine already knew better. Luther’s addition to Augustine’s insight is merely the glad recognition that there is indeed something preachers can do to help us be transformed: Instead of advice, they can give us Christ.

source


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The Measure Of How Clearly You Understand The Gospel (via Sinclair Ferguson)

Sinclair Ferguson, commenting on Mark 2:1-12 (Jesus’ healing of a paralytic who was lowered through a hole in the ceiling by four men):

“Here Mark unveils what lies at the heart of the gospel: men need forgiveness; Jesus gives it. To the degree to which you see your own need of forgiveness is the measure of how clearly you understand the gospel.”

Sinclair Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999), 27.


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How To Kill A Church (via Mark Dever)

Mark Dever on the destructive influence of not having the Gospel preeminent and clear in the preaching.

…Martin Luther, when once asked why he was preaching on justification by faith alone for the twentieth time, he said it was because people didn’t remember it after the nineteenth.
Keep preaching the gospel. We need to persevere in the truth and be sure we persevere in the truth and not let our preaching be subtly transformed into a different gospel. This can be subtle. We might not overtly deny the gospel, but we might so ignore it. We might assume, “Well everybody here has heard the gospel. They’ve understood it. Even the ones who aren’t Christians have heard it a thousand times. I’m going to go on and preach on more interesting things.”
Oh, brother, if that’s your spirit before you preach, when you plan a sermon series, or when you’re working on a sermon, check your heart and check your Bible. Confess honestly to your fellow elders you’re facing that, and call it what it is. It is a temptation. And it is a temptation which will do no good to the congregation the Lord’s called you to shepherd.

Source.


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Westminster Confession Of Faith – Lord’s Day 29

Westminster Confession Of Faith – Lord’s Day 29

Chapter 18 – Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation (Cont.) (Paragraphs 3-4)

III. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith but that a true believer may wait long and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.
IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which wounds the conscience, and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.


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Why Pastors Need The Gospel (via Zack Eswine)

Pastors need to know the Gospel, so in addition to proclaiming it, we live it wholeheartedly and consistently.

Zack Eswine:

Pastors need to know this, first, because our whole life is offering the message of God’s grace, and finding a way to articulate it; finding a way to offer it. And we not only offer it with our words, but also in the way we embody a day, from the neighbors we interact with to the way we give ourselves to people, even our enemies. So we need to know the message so we can live it and speak it and communicate it.

More here.