Saturday, June 30, 2012

Celebrating with the family

Congratulations are in order for Sten-Erik, one of our contributors here at Christians In Context! He has been offered (and subsequently accepted) the position of Associate Director of the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary.

In Sten-Erik's own words, "In the space of two weeks we went from being without a home, job, or educational future to having a home, a job, and a fully-funded educational future! To God alone be the glory!

"God provided me not merely with a job that would provide an income and benefits. God provided me with a ministry about which I am passionate, working with men and women I know and love, and serving the institution that has served me so well. One of the benefits of this new position at the seminary is a tuition benefit. My Ph.D. (with the exception of the required books) has become fully funded"

We're celebrating with you, brother! (And now we're all expecting some stellar blog posts from that fully-funded education.)

There are even more things we're celebrating here at CIC (including a long awaited project finally wrapping up with Zondervan), but we'll say more about that later.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Redemption: Why I Hate That Lebron James Won The NBA Title

Yesterday I wrote why I was happy that Lebron James won the NBA Title.  I haven’t changed my mind about that, but there are two sides to this story.  I’m still happy he won and had this great story of redemption, but like most stories of redemption it isn’t a perfect parallel to Christ’s redemption.


Lebron worked hard after last season’s loss.  He went to work, prepared himself, got himself better and did the work to get back and win.  He picked himself up by his bootstraps and put it together.  That’s a great story.  That’s a great picture of hard work, perseverance, and never giving up.  The problem is that is not the story of Christ’s redemption.

The Story

The story isn’t:
  • God creates
  • Man takes a flying leap into sin and is cursed
  • Man keeps all the laws that God lays out
  • Man is redeemed
The story is:
  • God creates
  • Man takes a flying leap into sin and is cursed
  • God becomes man and pays the price for sin
  • Man is redeemed by grace through faith
Do you see the difference?  Maybe this will help.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

We were weak, without hope, without help, without anything in ourselves to help ourselves and in that moment God sent Christ to live and die and rise.  It wasn’t man working hard.  It wasn’t man putting it together.  It wasn’t man pulling himself up by his bootstraps and getting better.  It was God saying, “I love man and I will redeem him.”

God stepped down from His throne, emptied Himself of his divine characteristics, and became man.  He was born.  He had dirty diapers.  He cried.  He grew up.  He lived sinlessly.  He taught.  He had compassion.  He was falsely accused.  He went to a cross.  He paid the sin debt owed.  He went in a grave dead.  He got out of that grave 3 days later resurrected.  He ascended to Heaven.  He prays for us now.

He did this because we couldn’t redeem ourselves.  He did this because He had unending, never stopping, unconditional love for those whom He created.  This is redemption.  This is how we are redeemed.
Christ is all,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Scarecrows in a Cucumber Field

Recently in my Bible studies, I have been focusing on some of the picturesque language that communicates truth to us.  I have been spending a lot of time in the book of Jeremiah.  In many ways we do not envy the ministry of this weeping prophet.  Seldom did people heed his warnings. His was a lonely venture speaking for God.

On one occasion Jeremiah spoke about the folly of following after idols instead of the living God.  It would be easy for us to dismiss this teaching because , after all, we are much too sophisticated to fashion idols out of wood, stone or other materials.  That would be a mistake.  We all have bowed down to the inventions of our minds even if we have avoided the inventions of our hands.

Jeremiah paints a vivid picture of the foolishness of inventing and following idols.  Read his words:

Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
(Jeremiah 10:5 ESV)

Like scarecrows in a cucumber field.  That is what our idols are like.  They cannot speak.  That is, they cannot teach us, comfort us nor guide us.

They cannot move.  Instead of the Lord who leads us by his own movements, idol worshippers have to move their ideals in the direction they already want to move.  It is like the Ouija board game.  Ask a question and then move the game piece towards the answer that you want to receive.

That's the problem with idols.  They take you where you already want to go on your own.  Or you take them where you already want to go.  They just add a "spiritual" element or justification to your sinful desires.

In the midst of a cucumber field, a lifeless scarecrow cannot really protect the crops from the hungry birds.  If the birds ignore the scarecrow, they face no consequence of feasting on your vegetable plants.  Only the living God of heaven can protect you.

Are you building scarecrows (idols) in your fields?  If so, you are on your own.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

There is no substitute for the church

You may have wondered why fire trucks are red. Here’s the answer: Fire trucks are red because they have four wheels, and eight people ride on a fire truck; everybody knows that four plus eight is 12. There are 12 inches on a ruler. Queen Elizabeth was a ruler. They also named a ship after her, and that ship sailed the seas. Seas have fish and fish have fins. People from Finland are called Finns, and the Finns fought the Russians. The Russians used to be called “Reds.” Fire trucks are always rushin’ around. So, that is why fire trucks are red.

Listen, if you think that is bizarre and convoluted, you ought to hear some people try to explain why they don’t faithfully attend and love the church.

Paul’s reason for writing 1 Timothy was “that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The pillar and ground of the truth! We cannot overestimate the importance of the church unless we elevate it above Christ. But we can certainly underestimate the importance of the church, and many do. Those who say they love Jesus but cannot stand the church are like the man who says to his wife, “Honey, I just love your head, but I cannot stand your body.” What would that man say after he woke up?

Or think of it another way, as Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck do in their book, “Why I Love the Church.” Imagine every time a certain friend comes over to your house, he takes potshots at your wife. He makes fun of her, puts her down, and asks why in the world you would ever want to be with her. Would you want to hang out with a “friend” like that? No. But, apparently, some people imagine Jesus wants friends like that. Friends who “roll their eyes and sigh over the church.” The church is the body of Christ and his future bride. Flawed and blemished now, yes. But he is washing her with the water of his Word, getting her ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Until that time, the church plays a vital role in God’s kingdom, as it is God’s only plan for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. He has entrusted that task to the local church in every place.

The question we must ask is this: Why are there more people today on the earth than there have ever been who say, “Yes, I am born again and believe in Jesus, and no, I do not go to church, nor do I have any plans to?” John Stott wrote, “I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. For the church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God.”

The problem in our culture today is that the church is no longer the place we run to in order to be saved, but, we are told, church is the place we must run from if we are to truly find God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The local expression of the body of Christ is not an optional extra for those who want to know Him. It is the pillar and the ground of the truth. Find one that believes and lives that out every week, and get planted and rooted there. There is no substitute for the church.

Redemption: Why I Love that Lebron James won the NBA title

Micro Redemption: Lebron James

This year’s playoffs were great. There was lots of drama, lots of last second heroics, and lots of hype surrounding Lebron James and the Miami Heat. James is a lightning rod of controversy within basketball. He came right of high school 2003 and went straight to the NBA, straight to the starting lineup of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, and straight to the most marketable athlete in pro sports. Then two years ago he spurned the Cavaliers to team up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh; famously, “taking his talents to Miami”. In the spectacle that was “The Decision” he said they were going after multiple NBA Titles.

Then last year they reached the NBA Finals and lost to the Dallas Mavericks. Worse, for King James was that he disappeared in the Finals. Commentators everywhere were ready to call Lebron a failure and his decision to go to the Heat a giant ego play.

Then this year he turned it all around. He went from the goat that everything was blamed on to the hero. He had an outlandish performance in the playoffs (playing and defending all 5 positions). He scored, he rebounded, he played stellar defense, he facilitated the offense. He did it all. He was vindicated. His reputation was redeemed.

He had been in the doldrums. He was down, broken, and rose up and accomplished his goal. He got what he went after. I love that story. I love the story of redemption. I love a team that loses and comes back and wins. I love a guy who loses everything he has and comes back and becomes millionaire. I love redemption.

Macro Redemption: Jesus

Redemption is the great theme of Scripture. If you follow the overarching theme of the Bible it isn’t about being good or moral uprightness. The overarching theme of God’s revelation to us is redemption.

The story starts with God and His perfect creation in Genesis 1. The story moves into the Fall of man in Genesis 3. This plunges the whole world into decay and brokenness and dooms men to Hell (not to mention missing the whole point of existence). However, even in that bleak moment, God makes an unbelievable promise to people:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
(Genesis 3:15 ESV)

He starts the hype of redemption. In essence He’s saying, “this fall will curse men, but I will redeem them”. The rest of the Old Testament shares the unfolding of that, continuing to predict the coming of the Redeemer.

THEN the New Testament kicks off with the coming of this Rescuer, Jesus of Nazareth. His life, death, and resurrection are put on full display as the key points of history and the fulfillment of the Genesis 3.15 promise. His life is perfect and without sin. His death redeems those who believe. His resurrection makes proof of His power. This Rescuer makes redemption possible, but we are still waiting for the fulfillment, where ALL things are made new. It will happen. I can’t wait for it to happen.

I love the story of Lebron James winning because it’s a small picture of redemption. Jesus winning is the ultimate story. Jesus wins. Jesus will always win.

Christ is all,

Coming Friday, "Redemption: Why I Hate That Lebron James Won The NBA Title"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: Date Your Wife

Justin Buzzard has written a helpful book entitled "Date Your Wife" which I would like to commend to you.

The premise of the book is quite simple: men should date their wives. Before marriage husbands often pursue their wives, once they are married, as Justin points out, we often stop dating and pursuing our wives. Once we "have them" as it were, we stop pursuing them and cultivating a relationship with them. We often leave our marriage in maintenance mode.

While the premise of the book is simple and straight forward as the title suggest, the path by which the reader is taken is one that we often would generally not expect when it comes to most treatments of the topic of dating. Justin is thoroughly gospel centered. I never thought I would see a book that expounds how and why to date one's wife so undergirded with a basic "two-Adam" scheme that is central to the gospel story line. To this I cannot say "Bravo" loud enough.

Justin writes out of a rich theology that is found in the pages to Scripture yet his style is conversational, down-to-earth, and pastoral. This means those who like theology will be enriched, but those who rarely read books and hate theological tomes will find this book winsome, applicable and engaging. 

The basic plot line of the book is creation-fall-redemption-restoration although the actual divisions are titled: "Good" (two chapters on God's creation of marriage), "Bad" (three chapters on what's wrong with husbands), "The New" (six chapters, first with the gospel, then with practical applications for action) and "The Perfect" (a final chapter on the goal of marriage and the future of our glorification).

If you are expecting a book that makes you feel guilty, this one will but not in a legalistic sense. Most relationship books make you feel guilt for all you are not doing by telling you everything you should be doing. This book gets right to the heart of the problem: the problem is sin. The problem is that every husband is in Adam. The problem is every husband has a "religious" view of marriage. We think if we just try harder God will bless our lives.

Justin Buzzard challenges us to find our sufficiency and identity as men and husbands in Christ and his work. The best part about the book is how it takes you back to the gospel at the core. So when Buzzard convicts you and motivates you it is always with an eye to Jesus.

As I read this book, I was impressed by how personable and relatable the book was. Often the basic content is wrapped in a story or example. The book is also quite practical with actionable solutions to build an "air war" and a "ground war" in cultivating your marriage. Each chapter concludes with a series on introspective questions. There is an appendix of 100 suggestions for dating your wife. The creative husband will be pushed to think of more in order to tailor things to his marriage.

I highly recommend this book. I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This is the kind of book that you can give to husbands but pastors can give in the expectation that it not just builds husbands but will build disciples. This is also the kind of book you can read quickly without getting bogged down but you can also read richly finding deep gems to ponder. Justin's first main goal is to make you love Jesus more--and the book accomplishes that task while it teaches us how to date our wives.

Three minor theological points of question or disagreement:

1. Buzzard makes Genesis 2:15 as central to the husbands mission that he guard and cultivate his wife. Technically though, Genesis 2:15 is not instructions for how we relate to our wives but how Adam (and humanity) relate the the Temple-Garden and exercise vice-regency. The wife is the helpmate to that mission not the object of it. Justin's point is right (men should guard and keep/cultivate their wives by ministering to them) but his use of this Scripture is at best an implication rather than the command of Genesis 2:15 he wants to make it. That said, husbands should guard and cultivate their wives. One would probably be better making the point from Song of Songs or Ephesians 5 since Genesis 2:15 relates to the garden of Eden.

2. Buzzard confused me with his imprecise notion that there was "gospel" given in the pre-fall state. He writes the following:
"Adam's Genesis 2:15 calling was meant to flow out of Adam's Genesis 1:31 identity. God told Adam what he thought about him; he gave Adam his approval--before Adam lifted a finger in the garden. Adam received his God-approved identity before he had a chance to do anything to prove himself. This is what we call grace, or the gospel--the good news of receiving favor from God that we don't deserve or earn." (p.73)
Buzzard is right that Adam had a royal endowment as being made in God's image. Adam had an identity in God. However, Adam was, I think, put on probation. Not all theologians and scholars agree with a covenant of works, but if true Adam was certainly not created in the eschatological glory state. His full identity was not there yet. So Adam's job obediently finished would have secured the garden had he obeyed (see Beale's A New Testament Biblical Theology). Adam didn't have it all and even then failed. Thus, Christ had to be second Adam passing the covenant probation by offering Adamic-obedience as well as atoning for sin. Buzzard seems to have a notion that Adam's fault was he tried to earn his identity, a salvation by works. But this to me misses the clear covenant probation in the garden.

More important, while Adam was gifted with a role in the garden, and that was from the kindness of God, it was neither grace nor gospel. Grace should clearly be seen as post-fall. Grace is generally defined as favor extended where wrath is deserved. There was God's favor in the garden on Adam pre-fall but not grace, which is post-fall. There is certainly not gospel until Genesis 3:15. That said, Buzzard's over all point seems true that Adam should have believed and accepted his identity as an empowering to do the task he was given.

In his attempt to get sinful husbands today to stop thinking they will "earn" their marriage's health and cultivate it in religion's 'salvation by works,' I think Buzzard pushes the "we can't earn it" paradigm too far back into the garden where clearly covenant works were both possible and noble.

3. Buzzard states the following about God's resolution in Genesis 3: 
"God listens. Then God curses. God doesn't curse Adam; God curses the Serpent" (p.75)
Buzzard's larger point is there is gospel in this passage when the serpent is cursed. The seed of the woman will crush the seed of the serpent. Amen. Yet it is a misstatement and false to say Adam is not cursed. Yes, the passage surprises us that Adam is not cursed first and even given hope in the curse of the serpent. But Adam is cursed. This is why cultivating and guarding is a failed endeavor in creation now. This is why Adam is removed from the garden. This is why there is death in creation.

With those concerns, the book is still excellent. It grounds dating one's wife in Biblical theology and the story of the gospel. It gives practical advice. It motivates not through guilt but through the sufficiency of the cross. It relies on justification: my identity is secure in Christ, I have all I need because of His work. It relies on sanctification: the Holy Spirit empowers us and changes us to respond to our wives.

Over all, again, a very good book. I would gladly pass it on to men in my church. Husbands: please get this book.

(Cross posted at my blog "The Voyages")

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This is the Gospel Project

The Gospel Project is a Christ-centered curriculum that examines the grand narrative of Scripture and how the gospel transforms the lives of those it touches. Over a three-year plan of study, each session immerses participants—adults, students, and kids—in the gospel through every story, theological concept, and call to missions from Genesis to Revelation. My church has signed up for the pilot program, which allows us to get the first month free in return for our feedback. (If your church is interested, I think the offer is still available)

 Using images from well-known pieces of art, the video team from "The Gospel Project" has put together a three-minute video that is well worth your time!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One week, three milestones

Jesse, age 1
Jesse, age 18

One of our favorite home movies includes a two-minute solo by our fifth child, Jesse, who belted out “Bare Necessities” in his pajamas one evening when he was 4 years old. It’s a classic, including his inventive re-scripting: “the simple bare neh-whessipees.” We knew then that Jesse loved music, and when he asked for his first guitar at age 8, we did not hesitate. I thought about that two weeks ago, when we watched Jesse on stage at his graduation ceremony, playing his guitar and helping to lead an ensemble in a tribute to their class. I am not sure what the Lord has in store for Jesse next. One thing is certain, however. Whatever he does will always include music, somehow, and especially the guitar. Just ask the 15 or so children and adults who take lessons from him every week. Jesse loves to play and he is gifted to teach. Come to think of it, that song may just turn out to be prophetic. Most who make a living with their music get by on just the bare necessities!

Mark and Cindy, married 30 years in 2012
Just a few days later, the scene changed from a high school graduation to a wedding anniversary. Cindy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage June 5, and as we drove out of town for a night away, we talked about what we were doing 30 years earlier on our wedding day. We laughed about how young and foolish we were. Mostly, we reminisced about how good God is and how much we have grown to love him, and each other, in these 30 years.

Three days after we returned from celebrating our anniversary, Cindy and I participated in the wedding of our second son, Caleb, to his sweetheart of many years, Celia. Here is part of what I shared with them and the congregation: “Marriage exists first to display God and the sacrificial death of Christ for his bride. When a man and a woman live according to God’s design, they do so for God’s glory. It is worship, perhaps the finest act of worship this side of heaven. I know you both love worship and missions, Caleb and Celia. Your first act of worship as husband and wife will not be the song we sing together in a few minutes. It will be the vows you speak before almighty God and these witnesses, as you promise to love each other for God’s glory all the days of your life. Your first mission trip as husband and wife will not be to Kenya in a few weeks. It will begin on your honeymoon. Everywhere you go this week you will put on display the relationship between Jesus and the church.”
 Caleb and Celia, married 6/9/12

It is not every week that three such milestones take place, and Cindy and I were humbled by them. We were humbled because we know that God is good, not us. What a blessing! We felt like we were sitting down to a banquet of fresh fruits and vegetables that we had planted, by God’s grace, in a different season. All of the agony of back-breaking toil in the hot sun was forgotten because the harvest was in and the feast was prepared. The labor was eclipsed by the sweet reward. The fruit was delicious and satisfying.

The Psalmist said, “Give to the Lord the glory due His name.” As we enjoy the great blessing of a graduation, an anniversary and a marriage, that is all we want to do.

Thank you, Lord.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Pray If God Knows Everything?

"Why pray if God knows everything?" This was a question that was posed to me after the sermon I preached yesterday. It reminded me of a similar question I got last semester in my Community Group, and I thought I'd share my reply with you.
"My first answer would be that if anyone in the history of the universe didn't need to pray, it would have been Jesus. He didn't have sin to confess, and he always had a certain confidence that the Father's will would be done. Yet we find Jesus praying all the time, sometimes to the point of exhaustion and through the night rather than sleeping. So this must mean that there's more to prayer than confessing sin and asking God to do something.

"If the point of prayer is just to give God information or to get God to do something for us, then your husband is right, we don't need to pray. But this treats God like a computer, not a person. If God is a computer, then sure, just plug in the right information and you get your desired result. But if God is a person and desires a relationship with us, then not praying can be one of the most detrimental decisions we can make. Communication is as important between us and God as it is between a husband and wife in a healthy relationship. If my wife and I never talked, never shared our hearts with each other, then our relationship would stay cold, distant, and stunted. There is a health, growth, and vitality that comes to our relationship only by conversing. And the fact that Jesus prayed so much seems to confirm this dynamic. Jesus, even though he was and is God, knew that prayer was vital for a thriving relationship with the  Father.

"Praying brings us close to God. Of course, God is everywhere (omnipresent), but there is a spiritual nearness that happens when we pray. Our spirits/souls feed off of that, just like your heart gets fed from having a deep/loving conversation with your spouse or friend. I may not be giving my wife any new information, I may not be changing her mind or getting her to do anything for me, but talking is still vital to a healthy marriage.

"The best answer I can give you is that prayer is as important to our relationship with God as talking is to your marriage. One cannot expect to have a healthy marriage without talking, one cannot expect to have a healthy relationship to God without prayer."
Feedback: Do you agree? Surely this characterization isn't all-encompassing. What's missing?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why I believe 29 Year Old Divorcees Should Be Forbidden to Write About Marriage

Ok, I don't really believe that 29 year old divorcees should be forbidden to write about marriage. But it is strange that this article actually got published at all:

Editorial standards aren't what they used to be.

In fairness here are my stats:
Current age - 32
Happily Married for just shy of 12 years
Blessed with four kids (the first one came when I was 23).
Met my wife at age 17.
Married at age 20.

So maybe I have an axe to grind, but then no more than the author of the aforementioned essay.

If this article is the standard bearer for thoughts on marriage eligibility, perhaps we should forbid allowing anyone under the age of 30 to write anything for public consumption. Or better, perhaps we should forbid people 29 year old with such ideas from voting--so that we don't have to suffer from their stupid ideas becoming law.

Of course, everybody would agree with that this is the wrong solution to the problem of one bad essay. But isn't that the point: we see the obvious when you put it that way---yet this author is able to seriously argue that marriage should be forbidden before the age of 25. What's the evidence? Essentially: a bunch of people do it wrong.

The lines of argument for the essay are basically two fold.
(1) Personal experience.
While personal experience builds connection with an audience, it isn't supposed to be an argument for serious thoughts on any subject. The obvious reason is obvious: personal experience varies widely. Anyone equipped to pass a freshman course in logic or public speech should recognize this--if someone can't well lets make a mandatory age of 30 for graduating college. Fair is fair. 

(2) Argument from statistics.
To validate the personal experience, the author then turns to statistics. Statistics can be good. They are certainly more solid that personal experience. However, statistics are tricky things. Here's why this author essentially misuses them:

(a) Correlation does not equal causation. Again, freshman logic classes should have drilled home this point. Just because you can show that many young people get divorced doesn't mean that you have proven that the reason they are getting divorced is caused by the age at which they get married. 

The author's argument is a young person hasn't matured enough to make decisions. Unfortunately, statistics do not prove this. Typically this argument should be made from social sciences. Other articles have made that case. But I was flabbergasted that the typical argument: "it's unwise to get married young" [which may be true in some cases] has now moved to: "it should be illegal to get married young."

(b) "Is" doesn't equal "ought" or "ought not". This argument is a bit tricker because it involves ethics and metaphysics... twenty-nine year olds can't be expected to grasp such subtleties of these disciplines since we don't legislate them.

Here's the problem: the author argues from "is" e.g. "approximately 60 percent of marriages in which the couple marries between age 20 and 25 will end in divorce" and makes the leap to "ought not" e.g. it's best if "we could change the law to prevent couples from getting married before the age of 25."*awkward record scratch*

The buried presupposition is divorce is bad/evil or at least undesirable and we should therefore eliminate it. But a statistic doesn't prove that. Not even a statistic that says "85% of divorced people are unhappy" can help you make that leap. After all, sometimes even unhappy stretch us and cause us to grow.

What about Personal Liberty?
Since the article is bad all around, maybe we should limit the free speech. Too much sarcasm? 

As someone who is politically somewhere between conservatism and classical liberalism, I bristle at the very suggestion that the government should make another law to regulate private individual behavior. Besides isn't it always the progressives telling us the government can't "legislate morality"? But apparently we can legislate paternalism to protect people from making free choices. Hey where'd my 16oz soda go?

Puppy Love vs. Covenant Love
The ending to the article takes the cake for foolishness:
"Who knows? Maybe there are 20-year-olds that get married and stay madly in love for their whole lives. Maybe puppy love can last forever. 
Could be. Maybe there is such thing as fairies and unicorns too. 
Just saying..."

Well, of course puppy love doesn't last forever. As a pastor, with those I do pre-marital counseling I always try to ferret out the differences between naive starry-eyed puppy love and the true love that builds covenant commitments. The pastor who married my wife and me did the same for us.

True love, should be like God's unchanging steadfast loyal covenant love. The Bible often uses the word hesed to describe this concept. 

In marriage this love is built over time. You change but you change together as a couple. Of course at 20 I knew very little about the world and even myself. But I made a covenant commitment to walk with my wife. We agreed to grow together. Our souls were being knit together by God.

I can honestly saw, I love my wife much more now then I ever did at 20. We still have our seasons romance and puppy love. But it grows out a covenant commitment and those things take work. They aren't just magic. But what do I know... maybe I should quite blogging and go feed the unicorns in the backyard with my wife. 

Throwing Punches and the Sovereignty of God

I am preaching tomorrow, and here's an illustration I am using to talk about the balance and tension between the providence and sovereignty of God and the moral freedom and responsibility of humanity:

My daughter loves Disney movies, and right now Tangled is one of her favorites. Disney also released a four-minute short called Tangled Ever After, and when she first discovered it, she wanted to watch it over and over. So after watching it at least 10 or 20 times (I lost count, I blacked out), I said “OK, that’s enough”. In a second, the face of my child went from beaming to blood-thirsty. A cloud passed over her face and the veins in her neck bulged. And she swung at my face.

Now a UFC Fighter my daughter is not. The blow seemed to move in slow motion. She swung out away from her body like it was some kind of combination slap/punch. She even tucked her thumb, which any amateur knows can break your thumb if you connect right. To her credit, I think she was aiming for my throat.

Needless to say, I caught her blow in mid-air. Now at this point, I had a choice to make. I could have said “No harm, no foul!” . . . if I wanted my daughter taking throat-shots at people every time they crossed her. But no. Even though I was, for all intents and purposes, sovereign over the entire situation (from the action that I knew was likely to upset my daughter all the way down to the landing of her blow), my daughter was still free and responsible for the decision that she made. And because of that, there was some “corrective parenting” that took place.

Now I know this illustration isn’t perfect, but I think it helps. Yes, I was in control of the situation. I knew that turning off Tangled Ever After was likely to make my daughter mad. And I was able to prevent her from inflicting as much damage as she intended. But she also made a morally free choice and she was responsible for it, even though I was in control of the outcome. It is similar when it comes to us and God.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

God's Immutability and Reliability

For Sunday School I am currently teaching a class on the attributes of God. This has provided me with fruitful meditations of the character of God. 

For simplicity's sake, in the class I have stuck to the classic distinction in the attributes of God of incommunicable attributes and communicable ones. I realize there are some problems with this classification. Nevertheless, introductions to the attributes need to stay introductory. The incommunicable/communicable distinction is helpful for remember how God is fundamentally unlike us but also how we truly can bear the image of God.

Before I started the class I started reading this book just for my enjoyment. Having finished it, I find it incredible helpful in a key area regarding the doctrine of God and God's relationship to all his creation (full disclosure, I studied under the author in seminary). I believe it offers a helpful and correct theological grid for thinking about some of the knotty theological and exegetical problems such as how can God in Scripture be described as both changing and unchanging. How can God be beyond time and eternal but also interact with his creation. 

So when it comes to God's immutability, God does not change in His nature yet because God has freely and willingly connected Himself to creation and taken on covenant attributes, God is in real relationships with his people. This involves God's response within creation without compromising His Lordship and absolute perfection over it. Thus God's aseity, immutability, eternality, infinity, etc. are all left uncompromised.

It is amazing to me how God's immutability is a doctrine that has fallen out of favor in contemporary evangelicalism whereas in Scripture it everywhere grounds the promises, reliability and trustworthiness of our great God.

It is often assumed that once we show a few passages of Scripture where God is described as changing we have defeated the doctrine without any references to clear passages where God does not change (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; Numbers 23:19, etc.) Such shoddy handling of Scripture will not do.

We should not think that 'immutability' is a philosophical doctrine nor that the traditional approach ignored a host of Scriptures related to God's seeming 'changeability.' In fact, traditional orthodox theologians have argued that it is not inconsistent for God to be immutable and relate to his creation.

Here I find this extended quotation from Herman Bavinck to be very helpful and thought provoking:

"This immutability, however, should not be confused with monotonous sameness or rigid immobility. Scripture itself leads us in describing God in the most manifold relations to all his creatures. While immutable in himself he nevertheless, as it were, lives the life of his creatures and participates in all their changing states. Scripture necessarily speaks of God in anthropomorphic language. Yet, however anthropomorphic its language, it at the same time prohibits us from positing any change in God himself. There is change around, about, and outside of him, and there is change in people's relations to him, but there is no change in God himself. In fact, God's incomprehensible greatness and, by implication, the glory of the Christian confession are precisely that God, though immutable in himself, can call mutable creatures into being. Though eternal in himself, God can nevertheless enter into time and, though immeasurable in himself, he can fill every cubic inch of space with his presence. In other words, though he himself is absolute being, God can give to transient beings a distinct existence their own. In God's eternity there exists not a moment of time; in his immensity there is not a speck of space; in his being there is no sign of becoming. Conversely, it is God who posits the creature, eternity which posits time, immensity which posits space, being which posits becoming, immutability which posits change. There is nothing intermediate between these two classes: a deep chasm separates God's being from that of all creatures. It is a mark of God's greatness that he can condescend to the level of his creatures and that, though transcendent, he can dwell immanently in all created beings. Without losing himself, God can give himself, and, while absolutely maintaining his immutability, he can enter into infinite number of relations to his creatures." (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2 pp.158-59.)

But there is a deep practical import to the doctrine of God's immutability: God's promises are reliable because the nature, purposes and plans of God do not change. Because He is an immovable and eternal Rock, I can be find a perfect anchor for my soul. We should not think that God is approachable and relational because He is mutable (as if that were a good thing), we should assume that the covenant and relational God is dependable and reliable in His covenant relationships because He is fundamentally immutable.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Faithful Man

I am grateful to God that He has allowed me to write a book that has been in the works for the past 6 years. A Faithful Man: Equipped to Lead as Prophet, Priest, Protector and Provider. (Xulon Press, 2012)

This is what Norm Wakefield says about A Faithful Man:
“Most husbands and fathers have a desire to lead their families, but they testify that they don't know how to lead. Mark Fox has solved that problem in his book A Faithful Man. Flowing out of a passion for Jesus Christ to be glorified in the lives and families of those who bear His name, Mark provides clear, biblical, practical, doable encouragement for men as leaders of their families. The heart-warming personal stories, interesting illustrations, and helpful examples make the book relational as well as entertaining. As you read you feel like you're visiting with a friend, a fellow-laborer in the field of family life. A Faithful Manwritten in a simple, easy-to-read style, invites you to read on attentively much like someone prospecting for gold stays at his task – the prospect of another treasure on the next page or in the next chapter. Any man who seriously desires to be a Christ-like leader of his family will be encouraged and equipped by Mark Fox's A Faithful Man.

-- NORM WAKEFIELD, Author, Speaker, and Executive Director and Founder of The Spirit of Elijah Ministries International, Bulverde, TX

I want to help men discover the truth of 1 Corinthians 11:3, because I believe understanding our role as leader in our homes is key not only to revival in our homes, but to revival in our churches, and even to revival in our nation. Richard Baxter, the great Puritan pastor and writer, said, “You are not likely to see any general reformation until you see family reformation.”
To purchase A Faithful Man from Amazon, click here

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Redeeming Corruption: Manny Pacquiao v. Timothy Bradley

Admittedly, I am not a boxing fan. I don’t find it brutal or anything like that. I just think it’s boring. This morning, however, an undeniable discussion continues about the Manny Pacquiao v. Timothy Bradley fight. Over the weekend, the Filipino lost in a split decision to Timothy Bradley. On the surface it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but if you hear commentators, sports talk hosts, and boxing aficionados talk about it you’d think the world was coming to an end. The big deal is that the outcome is extremely controversial AND corruption within boxing is being cited as the major factor. (You can read an article about it here).

People HATE injustice. We hate the idea of someone wronging another. We hate stories like Bernie Madoff who made off with billions of dollars in a Ponzi Scheme. We hate hearing about corrupt judges, officials on the take, and politicians who trade kickbacks for votes. People hate corruption. People hate injustice.

I think that this is something that God has put into the heart of man (Jeremiah 31.33). He’s placed it there, He’s put a sense of right and wrong in us and when that is violated we want to take action. We want things set right. We are looking and deeply desiring someone to set right everything that has gone wrong. It isn’t just corruption. We long for redemption. All of creation does. We want things that were destroyed at the Fall set straight.

Where It Starts

Redemption is something that we long for and that we’ll ultimately get when Christ returns.   BUT we have to want it not just in a macro way, but in a micro way. We have to desire it within ourselves. We have to want the end of corruption not just in the public arena (that’s so easy to see), but within our own hearts. This starts with a firm understanding of ourselves.  I gain a lot of perspective from 1 Timothy 1.15:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Paul is writing and says that he IS the foremost.  He isn’t talking about his previous life, before Christ, where he was the equivalent to Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, or Nero but currently he is the worst sinner he knows.  He knows the depth of his depravity.  He knows that his heart is corrupt aside from the work of God through Christ.


My heart’s desire is that we all understand that we shouldn’t just hate corruption in the world, but that we hate corruption within ourselves.  My hope is that we take the Gospel and apply it not just to the moment of salvation, but apply it to EVERY part of our lives and see the corruption be progressively drained from us.

Christ is all,


Jason Crandall is a pastor at FBC Pearland overseeing Young Adults, Students, and Administration. He received his M.A. from Liberty University and his MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married with two sons. He blogs at

The power of God to subvert evil

Amy Hall over at the Stand To Reason blog recently finished reading and reviewing If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn. She shares her struggle even as a Christian to reconcile "the sheer weight of all the evil and suffering in the world".
"I think I’ve been looking at this all the wrong way. I was measuring the strength of goodness by looking for good to put an end to evils, when all along, the evils were being used strongly by God for good. It’s hard to imagine thanking God for a painful life of paralysis, but people do. People do! Isn’t that incredible?

"They’ve learned the secret: God has power over all evil that would seek to destroy, and it will all work to serve God’s good purposes.

"Of course, that is where faith—trust in God and His character—comes in, because we can’t always see what good is being accomplished through any one person’s suffering. Sometimes it takes years to see, and sometimes the answer is beyond us in this life. But the avalanche of very specific stories in this book gave me hope like nothing else. Seeing God’s goodness and faithfulness in the lives of those whose level of suffering will probably far exceed mine in my lifetime, and seeing the resulting depth of their knowledge of and trust in God, changed something in me."
You can read the rest of her thoughts on the book here. You can also read the Christians In Context review of the book here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wanna Play?

I invented a game the other day.

There are no rules (other than the ones you make for yourself) and no way to keep score (at least, not one we can agree upon). I feel like a winner at my game as long as I can find someone that's worse at my game than me. I'm pretty sure that I'm better than you.

I'd love to play this game with all you moral relativists out there!

Oh wait, that's the game you're already playing.

P.S. I just realized that moral relativism is actually just Calvinball in disguise.

Cost-Effective Compassion: Getting the most bang for your charitable buck

Have you ever given to a charity and wondered how much of it made it to the targeted people in need? And beyond that, how much of an impact you were really making by giving at all? Well fret no more. The cover story by in the February 2012 issue of Christianity Today by Bruce Wydick (sorry, I'm just catching up on my periodicals) was written for you: "Cost-Effective Compassion: Economists rate the impact of 10 popular strategies for helping the poor".

"Today, thanks to economic globalization and the Internet, those who want to care for the poor overseas enjoy a plethora of attractive options: sponsoring a child, donating a farm animal, making a small loan to a budding entrepreneur, installing a well in a village, getting a morning caffeine jolt with fair-trade (instead of free-trade) coffee—among others.

"But what are the best ways to help those living in developing countries? By "best," I mean most effective: things that actually help people rise out of poverty, and that carry with them a sizable "bang for your buck"—programs in which the impact on the poor is significant per donated dollar.

"Giving that gives in response to feelings but which disregards consequences can turn into a narcissism that is only semiconscious of motives. Genuine love carefully considers how an action affects the recipient. In some cases, love may call us to acts of compassion even when there is little hope of a life-changing result, such as when we stay by the side of a dying person. But in many cases, it is more feasible to measure tangible impacts of our giving, especially when it comes to helping the poor. In these cases, we are not being good stewards if we give blindly without understanding the impact of our giving. The blessings of givers should be rooted in the blessings of receivers."
To answer this question, Wydick polled top development economists who specialize in analyzing development programs. He also lists a number of organizations that are meeting these needs and notes those that are faith-based organizations. Here are his results (For a more detailed explanation of the ratings, see the full article):
  1. Get clean water to rural villages. (Rating: 8.3)
  2. Fund de-worming treatments for children. (Rating: 7.8)
  3. Provide mosquito nets. (Rating: 7.3)
  4. Sponsor a child. (Rating: 6.9)
  5. Give wood-burning stoves. (Rating: 6.0)
  6. Give a microfinance loan. (Rating: 4.2)
  7. Fund reparative surgeries. (Rating: 3.9)
  8. Donate a farm animal. (Rating: 3.8)
  9. Drink fair-trade coffee. (Rating: 1.9)
  10. Give a kid a laptop. (Rating: 1.8)
Feedback: Do these ratings make a difference in the way you approach charitable giving? What types of charitable giving have you contributed to? Is there something missing in the research done here?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I Love My Church

A month ago, I wrote a post entitled "The church: are you a lover or a leaver?". I promised a short series of posts to follow and challenged the other contributors here at CIC to tell us why they love their churches. So far, Frank Gantz and J. Mark Fox have done so (no pressure on the other guys!).

Today it is my turn to tell you why I love my church (and make excuses for why I haven't added any more posts to the series in the process). I am the worship pastor of Redeemer Church in Omaha, NE, a church plant that currently meets in a middle school cafeteria. We will be moving into our own facility in July, just a month shy of our five year anniversary on September 16th. Needless to say, there's a lot that has to get done as we transition from being a mobile-site church to our own space, and I apologize that I have been a little more absent around here lately than I would like. Anyway, here are a few reasons I love my church:

Biblical Dependence: Our sermons are centered around the text. Our Community Groups, by design, are centered around the sermon and thus centered around the text. Our leadership structure, flow of worship, and all the things we say "no" to are based on what we read in the Bible (even when it's a departure from what some of our peer churches are doing).

Humble Shepherding: Pastor Lee Cordell is clearly and continually pointing away from himself and to Jesus as the head shepherd of our church. He is honest about his weaknesses and need to get all of us involved and serving so that he's not the "bottleneck" for what Redeemer will accomplish.

Unchurched Visitors: Based on a completely unscientific survey of the visitors that check out our church week after week, we have a surprisingly high number who have not been to church since childhood, if at all. I would partially attribute this to a factor I heard Tim Keller speak on once. If you preach as if the unchurched and non-Christians are in attendance (even when they aren't), then your members will feel comfortable bringing the unchurched and non-Christians to your church.

Inexplicable Momentum: Our numbers aren't necessarily impressive. We've finally reached an average adult attendance around 100 just in the last couple months. Still, there is an energy and excitement in the air that goes beyond the fact that we're finally getting our own building. I actually think that all the above points are factors. Because we have previously unchurched members, they aren't bringing a consumer mentality from a previous church experience. Because Lee is constantly calling us out to serve, people are getting involved and have "buy in" on the mission early and often. Because the Bible is front and center, it defines our mission, directs our ministry, and dissects our messy hearts.

But there is also a lot happening at Redeemer that is solely from the hand of God. So many things that we cannot control and cannot take credit for have fallen into place (all the way down to the approval by the Omaha Zoning Board for a variance around a zoning issue that would have been an immediate "deal killer"—a variance they've only approved five other times).

Pray for us that we would be faithful to the gospel and, Lord willing, fruitful in our mission to "help people encounter and follow Jesus".

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Guard what was committed to your trust

The story of faith through history includes many unlikely individuals whom God used to guard the truth of the Gospel, some to the point of giving up their lives. One such man was John Brown. Not the abolitionist John Brown, but the Scottish farmer John Brown. He was a poor man who never owned more than 20 sheep, but Brown was rich in faith; he loved Jesus Christ. He and his wife were married by Alexander Peden, a Scottish covenanter, who pronounced after the wedding in 1682 that Isabel should love her husband well because she would not have him for long. He told Isabel to keep John’s shroud (burial cloth) close by because she would need to use it, and when she did it would be stained in blood. Not a typical toast at a wedding reception, but the Scottish Presbyterians were under heavy persecution then.

John had a speech impediment that prevented him from his heart’s desire of becoming a pastor. However, his stammering did not prevent John from teaching young people. Every week, they came to his house and he taught them the Bible and the foundations of the faith. This was one of the reasons why Brown was hated by the authorities. They came to his house in 1685, claiming to be searching for Alexander Peden. While ransacking Brown’s house, the soldiers found papers that related to the teaching of the Bible and they questioned him about that. They asked him to swear an oath of allegiance to the king and he refused. The officer in charge then told John Brown to kneel and pray because after that he would be shot. John began to pray. And pray. And pray. Apparently, he was not stammering at all and at one point the officer got angry because the prayer was sounding like a sermon. He said to one of his soldiers, “I thought you said he couldn’t preach!” John Brown looked up and said, “Sir, you know neither the nature of preaching nor of praying that calls this preaching.” One biographer wrote that John Brown ran to God in the face of death with the alacrity of a boy bounding home from school. When the prayer was done, the officer said, “Take good night of your wife and child.” The woman whom he loved was standing nearby with a baby in her arms and he turned to her and said, “Now, Isabel, the day has come.” She answered, “John, I can willingly part with you.” He replied, “This is all I desire. I have no more to do but die.” He kissed her and his child and said he wished gospel-promised blessings to be multiplied upon them. The officer then ordered the soldiers to shoot, but they were so moved by the scene they had witnessed that none of them moved. In a rage, the officer took one of the soldier’s guns, put it to John Brown’s head and pulled the trigger. He then turned to Isabel and snarled, “What think ye of your husband now?” She replied, “I have never thought so much of him.”

The persecution you and I suffer who hold to the truth of the Gospel is not worthy to be compared to that of men such as John Brown. Or to Ri Hyon Ok, a 33-year-old mother of three who was executed just three years ago in North Korea for distributing Bibles. But according to the World Christian Database, approximately 171,000 Christians are martyred each year.

We who follow Christ are called to “guard what was committed to (our) trust.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture

The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church. By Shane Hipps.
Grand Rapid, Michigan: Zondervan (2005). 176 pp.

Coming from a strategic planning background in advertising, Shane Hipps has a unique and valuable perspective on the issue of media and ministry. This unique perspective enables Hipps to present a challenging and at times controversial approach to understanding media and its impact.

Before being exposed to this book, I had always embraced the truism that “the methods can change as long as the message stays the same.” Hipps successfully tears down that idea and replaces it with the McLuhan-esque thought that “The media is the message.” For many years Hipps was a successful advertising executive who utilized media to demonstrate to people that what they were truly missing in their life was his product. As he grew in his faith, he realized that he was filling the void people felt in their life with false deliverers. Desiring to be obedient to God, he left his successful career and attended seminary so that he might deliver the correct message.

Hipps turns his eye to how our world and perceptions are significantly shaped not by the message, but by the media that carries the message. The first half of his book demonstrates this truth convincingly. This is where the value of the book truly is. Eye-opening and sobering, we can see how we have inadvertently altered or watered down the message of the gospel by utilizing media ineffectively.

Hipps systematically walks through the development of technology in communication. He demonstrates his point by discussing the printing press, the telegraph, the radio, and the photograph. Through these technologies we can see how western thought has evolved. Authority has been displaced, the individual is exalted, and we now live in a graphic culture. Through his analysis, Hipps clearly demonstrates the hidden power of electronic culture, and why we should care.

The second half of the book is sadly lacking in regards to our response. Hipps attempts to rescue Christianity from the rubble of modernity without sacrificing truth at the altar of post-modernity. Unfortunately, he starts down a potentially dangerous road in his proposed applications. For example, he spends some time talking about “God’s chosen media.” For Hipps, God’s chosen media is the church, and the people within. Although I can see an element of truth in this statement, it misses the mark. God’s chosen media is His word as given to us in Scripture and His general revelation of which the church is a part. The church is his tool, but it is (sadly) deeply flawed. The church is made up of fallen people with questionable motives, sinful natures and slanted theological filters. As such, it is an inconsistent and unreliable source and should not be considered “God’s chosen media” par excellence as proposed by Hipps.

He poses several nascent ideas but does not explore them with any depth, ultimately leaving us with more questions than answers. The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture is a must read. But it must be read with discernment, prayer, and humility. The world is changing. Media does have a very real impact on the message. How can we embrace the tools at our disposal without compromising the message? This book is a valuable tool in the kit, but it is not the cure.

Monday, June 4, 2012


YOLO! It’s the newest abbreviation sweeping the world.  For those of you less informed it stands for: YOU. ONLY. LIVE. ONCE.  It’s joining the ranks of BTW, FYI, BRB, and LOL.  A Facebook friend of mine had the following status update:
While in line for the Millennium Force (a ride at Cedar Point, the greatest roller coaster park in the world) there were guys behind us that all had YOLO tattoos. Two guys had it on their necks and the other two guys had it on their arms. Two girls walked up and asked if they were real, the boys said yes and the girls said “Oh sweet! We have it on our lip!” Then showed it on the inside of their bottom lip.
That whole thing sounds painful to a guy with zero tattoos outside my body or inside my body.  At face value YOLO sounds a lot like Carpe Diem, but it is usually associated with doing extremely stupid things.  Some other Facebook friends posted the following:
  • Getting smashed tonight #yolo
  • Partying hard in Vegas, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas #yolo
  • Today I’m cussing out my boss #yolo
YOLO describes our culture so well in a 4 letter acronym.  Rather than a noble idea of Carpe Diem it is much more like Craig Kilborn’s old SportsCenter tagline: “If it feels good do it”.  Essentially, You Only Live Once so you better get everything that feels good done now.  You better do everything you can to get your pleasure.  You better get all the money, all the sex, all the revenge, all the partying, and the like done now because…YOU. ONLY. LIVE. ONCE.

YOLO is immature, but it is also TRUE.  You really only do live once.  You only get one shot on this spinning ball called Earth.  You really do only get one life then your heart stops beating, your brain stops functioning and they have a funeral for you.  They bury you and put a head stone up with your name, the years of your life, and maybe a phrase or a remembrance statement: “Here lies Frank Jones he really YOLOed.”

BUT (and that’s a huge BUT) while the body stops, life does not.  The body dies, the soul goes on.  The soul keeps going.  You Only Live Once, but also FOREVER.  Heartbeat, breathing, brain function stops…life does not.

What you’ve done with the years you’ve had matters.  The way you’ve spent life matters.  It’s like what Maximus says in Gladiator “what we do in life echoes in eternity”.  If this life is spent in the constant pursuit of personal pleasure raging after the highs of money, sex, drugs, and power (and more) then this life is WASTED.  That’s not what God gave you breath for.  That’s not what God intended.  It’s like what the ancient writer, Solomon said:
“I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. “
(Ecclesiastes 1:14 ESV)
We were meant for more.  We were meant to live for more.  God has plans of grandeur.  God has plans of eternal significance for us.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and
for him.
(Colossians 1:16 ESV)
We were created for more than living for ourselves and our pleasure.  WE. WERE. MADE. FOR. HIM.  We were made for His glory and His purpose.  If you live in pursuit of that NOW then that day when your heart stops, brain waves cease and lungs quit you won’t have anything to worry about.  You’ll have lived for eternity.

So I agree YOLO, but realize this life matters, make it last for eternity.  #yolobaf (You Only Live Once, but also Forever).

Christ is all,

P.S. if you have questions about how to yolobaf email me.  I’d love to talk it through with you.

Jason Crandall is a pastor at FBC Pearland overseeing Young Adults, Students, and Administration. He received his M.A. from Liberty University and his MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married with two sons. He blogs at

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Quotes from the Explicit Gospel

As I am reading The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler, I thought I'd share some quotes that I liked:
"Unless the gospel is made explicit, unless we clearly articulate that our righteousness is imputed to us by Jesus Christ, that on the cross he absorbed the wrath of God aimed at us and washed us clean—even if we preach biblical words on obeying God—people will believe that Jesus's message is that he has come to condemn the world, not to save it." (p. 208)

"Grace-driven effort is violent. It is aggressive. The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life but to outright destroy it. Out of love for Jesus, he wants sin starved to death, and he will hunt and pursue the death of every sin in his heart until he has achieved success...moralistic therapeutic deism is fine with sin hiding in a foxhole. The gospel wants to nuke the hole." (pp. 217-218)
The Explicit Gospel is currently on sale at the Westminster Bookstore: $10.65 (41% off list price).