Quotes from The Explicit Gospel

Quotes from The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

The idolatry that exists in man’s heart always wants to lead him away from his Savior and back to self-reliance no matter how pitiful that self-reliance is or how many times it has betrayed him. Religion is usually the tool the self-righteous man uses to exalt himself. location 182

We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the power of his 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. location 189

Here we will see the power of grace for human transformation. location 202

As we examine the gospel in the air, we’ll see from the scriptural testimony of Jesus’s atoning work that the gospel is not just personal, but cosmic. When we consider the gospel from the air, the atoning work of Christ culminates and reveals to us the big picture of God’s plan of restoration from the beginning of time to the end of time and the redemption of his creation. We may see the gospel extended this way in Jesus’s declaration in Revelation 21:5, that he is “making all things new.” location 213

Note: The gospel is not just personal, but is also cosmic…
(The word doxology comes from two Greek words that together essentially mean “words of glory.”) location 246

“Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.” location 272

Were you there when I created the world? No? I didn’t think so. Know your place, son.” And I love this “dress for action like a man” stuff. It’s like God is saying, “Oh, how adorable you are! Now put on a cup, dude, because it’s about to be big-boy time.” location 353

“Are you serious? You’re going to scrutinize how I govern? Do you know how small you are? Do you know how inadequate you are to even comprehend your own life? You can’t comprehend and figure out your own shortcomings, your own failures, why you’re drawn to sin, and why there are things that master you, yet you’ll scrutinize me?” We are the four-year-old in the backseat telling Dad he doesn’t know where he’s going. location 369

He is wonderful and absolutely terrifying. The god of evangelicalism may be tame and tired at times, but the God of the Bible is mighty. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” location 379

Note: Who has known the mind of the Lord or been his counselor? [answer: no one]

Nobody gets to counsel God. Nobody gets to give God advice. Nobody gets to straighten God’s path. No one. location 386

Note: Nobody gets to counsel God. Nobody gets to give God advice. Nobody gets to straighten God’s path.
While we lament the apparent injustice of pain and suffering, how often do we forget that every good thing in a fallen world is wholly a gift of God’s mercy and grace? We think to question God when bridges fall but not to wonder at his grace that every bridge does not. Every fit of laughter, every delectable morsel of food, and every single smile is the result of his mercy and grace; he owes us none of it. location 391

But it has been my experience that most evangelicals believe Christians are in a bargaining position. We carry an insidious prosperity gospel around in our dark, little, entitled hearts. We come to the throne and say, “I’ll do this, and you’ll do that. And if I do this for you, then you’ll do that for me.” In the end God says, “You keep trying to pay me off with stuff that’s already mine.” Some of us even try to bargain with our lives. But God says, “Please. I’ll take that life if I want it. I’m God.” location 395

But the reality is that all God has to do is reveal himself to you, and you’ll gladly join the mission in service to his kingdom. He doesn’t force the issue; he just has to reveal himself as he is: mighty, wondrous, gracious, loving, and radically saving. No man goes back to saltine crackers when he’s had filet mignon. location 408

Note: All God has to do is reveal himself to you, and you’ll gladly join the mission in service to his …
Are we to believe that God—in his infinite perfection—was lonely? And that the response to this loneliness was to create a bunch of glory thieves? location 421

No. We were not created as some missing link in God’s emotional experience. To think this way makes us the centerpiece of the puzzle of the universe! But we are not that close to center. location 426

Here’s my point: what if the Bible isn’t about us at all? What if we aren’t the story of God’s revelation? location 440

From beginning to end, the Scriptures reveal that the foremost desire of God’s heart is not our salvation but rather the glory of his own name. God’s glory is what drives the universe; it is why everything exists. This world is not present, spinning and sailing in the universe, so that you and I might be saved or lost but so that God might be glorified in his infinite perfections. location 445

The root of Christian worship, then, is acknowledging, submitting to, and enjoying the supremacy of God’s glory. In all things. location 480

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. location 489

What happens when we attempt to hijack God’s story about himself and rewrite it with ourselves at the center? This is insurrection. It is infernal mutiny. What happens when we argue with God about how God should govern, even daring to threaten that if he doesn’t govern the way we want him to, we won’t believe in him, won’t follow him, and will become his enemy? location 510

strength—we just try to take his toys and run. It is still idolatry to want God for his benefits but not for himself. location 521

you’ve got the perfect storm of those who have no awe, no respect, and no real worship for the God of the universe. location 549

So hell, when all is said and done, is the absence of God’s goodness and blessedness. Therefore, hell is the absence of anything we can think of that’s good, right, comforting, joyous, happy, and peaceful. location 586

The point is that if we are going to orient around anything less than God—even things that look happy and shiny and pretty, even things that God himself gives us to enjoy—or slip in even a moment’s worship of something other than God, we are declaring our preference for the absence of God. location 590

But 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. location 597

deal. Is this the approach we want to take, that hell for eternity is the wrong punishment for our belittlement of the glory of God? If so, in essence we say, “The punishment doesn’t fit the crime because the crime isn’t that big of a deal.” Is this justifiable logic? location 605

This is Jesus’s way of saying, “Seriously? You’re afraid of what people think of you more than you’re afraid of me? You’re afraid of what people can do to you rather than what I can do to you? You’re more afraid of how people might perceive you than how I perceive you? Are you serious? Listen, the worst they can do is kill you.” location 645

We don’t see that, because no one who’s guilty wants justice; he wants mercy. Knowledge of and belief in hell—as important as they are—are unable to create worshipers. location 675

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. location 677

but you cannot scare people into loving God. You just can’t do it. You can scare them into moral acts of goodness. But that’s not salvation. It’s not even Christian. location 680

They would not be attracted to God so much as repulsed by hell. Is this true worship? Is true worship choosing the lesser of two fears? location 682

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. location 688

Worship of him is why we were created. location 707

Every bit of those affections, every bit of that emotion, and every bit of that passion was given to us by God for God. It was not given for basketball. Where is the nervousness in our guts when we’re coming into an assembly of those pursuing God? Where is the elation over the resurrection? Where is the desolation over our sins? Where is it? Well, it’s on basketball. It’s on football. It’s on romance. It’s on tweeting and blogging. Are you really going to believe we’re not worthy of hell? Thank God for his response to all this blasphemous nonsense: the wrath-absorbing cross of Christ. location 714

Note: Are you really going to believe we’re not worthy of Hell?
We have also seen that the Bible tells us that we fall short of God’s glory in our sinfulness, which is made manifest in our predisposition and efforts to worship things and people that are not God. location 724

We deserve his wrath, and even though we persist throughout our lives in foolishly demanding what we think we are due, he refuses to give us what we deserve. location 734

The place the gospel holds out for us is where God’s kindness and his severity meet.1 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. location 738

Note: The cross is where God’s kindness and wrath intersect.
The cross of Christ exists because mankind—loved by God, created by God, set in motion by God—betrayed God and prefers his stuff to him. location 757

Note: The cross of Christ exists because mankind betrayed God and prefer his stuff to him…
The cross of Christ was God’s idea. The death of Jesus was God’s idea. From that first day, when God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, in perfect unity, said, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26), the cross of Christ cast its shadow across all of eternity. It was the predetermined plan of God. The death of Jesus, the wrath-absorbing cross of Christ, was the plan of God before creation. location 802

But to make any of them the center of the Christian faith, the grounds of our hope, is to disregard the only power of salvation—the message of the cross. location 833

The sacrificial system was instituted under the established truth that to dwell in God’s holy presence requires perfection. Sin is filthy; therefore, sinners are filthy. God will not allow us to belittle his name by assuming our dirty hands are clean enough for the purity of right standing before him. Consequently, in the Old Testament he kills a lot of people. Sometimes it gets pretty wild. The sons of Aaron try to draw near to him, and he kills them. The Ark of the Covenant starts to fall over and a man grabs it and God kills him. This was because you cannot be sinful and get near God. It doesn’t work. God’s holiness will incinerate you. (Note his severity.) location 840

This in a nutshell is the system the worshipers of God lived in for thousands of years. It was brutal, and it’s because God is holy, and we are not. location 861

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.  “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?” (Isa. 1:10–12) location 898

God doesn’t need sacrifices. God is saying, “I don’t need your bulls. I don’t want your goats. You’re missing the point. I’m trying to communicate to you how disgusting and how horrible and how costly your sin is before me. And instead of feeling the weight of that and actually repenting, you just keep doing what you’re doing, all the while bringing me goats and bulls like that’s what I really want.” location 909

Note: God doesn’t need sacrifices. Why do we keep offering them?
Christ’s work demands the response of faith, but we want to make donations. It is astounding how many evangelicals are not doing Christianity at all; they’re doing the Levitical priesthood. They’re trying to offer God good behavior so he’ll like them. We continue living with unrepentant, faithless hearts, making religious pit stops along the way, even frequently, to keep laying things on the altar, and in the end, the altar’s closed. When someone dares to insert the unadulterated gospel into this religious mess, we get discombobulated. We get confused. I’m sure the Israelites were confused over prophecies such as that in Isaiah 1. God commands them to come into his temple courts and make these sacrifices, and then he says, “Who has required of you this trampling my courts?” They’re thinking, “Um, you did. You told us to do this.” Their heartless obedience—and our heartless obedience—demonstrates the bankruptcy of the sacrificial currency. location 914

What if the sacrificial system was given so that we would learn, no matter how much we gave and how much we worked and how many pricey things we sacrificed, that we still can’t fix what is broken? By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. (Heb. 9:8–10) The author of Hebrews is saying that we can sacrifice all we want, and that we can obey all the regulations we can get our hands on, but in the end, if our heart isn’t changed, we’re no better off. Answer me this: is the alcoholic free if he doesn’t drink on Monday but everything in him wants to and needs to, and he’s in agony because he wants to do something he knows he can’t? Is that freedom? Of course not. location 937

You may be able to control yourself against sleeping with somebody you’re not married to, and you may be able to avoid taking someone’s life, but if you are a slave to lust and anger, you are not any more free than somebody who can’t control his urge to murder. Acts of sacrifice, in the end, don’t do anything. They do not cleanse your conscience, and they do not set your heart on the things of God. The routine sacrificial system, then, was not empowered to or designed to cleanse the Israelites’ hearts any more than good works are empowered to or designed to cleanse our own. Even our most rigorous of attempts reveals the hardness of our hearts and the insurmountable brokenness inside them. This whole enterprise is a blessed exercise in frustration, but it is one that points beyond itself. Hebrews 10:1 tells us the law is just the shadow of the good things to come. location 949

The religious, moralistic, churchgoing evangelical who has no real intention of seeking God and following him has not found some sweet spot between radical devotion and wanton sin; he’s found devastation. 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. location 995

Note: Christianity is a sorry hobby.
The result is, as Michael Spencer says, “a spirituality that has Jesus on the cover but not in the book.”2 When we dilute or ditch the gospel, we end up with an evangelicalism featuring special appearances by Jesus but the denial of his power (2 Tim. 3:5). location 1030

Note: Is Jesus on the cover, but not in the book?
Isaiah, then, is not called to be fruitful but simply to be faithful. And, in fact, he’s told he will not be fruitful. The priority God charges him with is not success but integrity. He is sent to proclaim a word to people who in the end can see but not perceive, who can hear but can’t hear. location 1071

Note: Isaiah is not called to be fruitful but simply to be faithful.
God is saying, “Isaiah, you’re going to proclaim faithfully, but they’re going to reject continually. And I’m at work in that.” Now, if Isaiah was a minister within today’s evangelicalism, he’d be considered an utter failure. Jeremiah would be an utter failure. location 1077

There aren’t too many books written about how you can toil away all your life and be unbelievably faithful to God and see little fruit this side of heaven. And yet God sees things differently. We always have to be a little bit wary of the idea that numeric growth and enthusiastic response are always signs of success. The Bible isn’t going to support that. Faithfulness is success; obedience is success. location 1081

Receptivity and rejection are ultimately dependent upon God’s will, not ours. location 1088

The hearer of the gospel is responsible for his response, but God is responsible for his ability to do so. The preacher of the gospel is responsible for his proclamation, but God is responsible for the transforming power. location 1122

They will not come unto Christ, that they may have life. Until the Spirit draw them, come they neither will, nor can. location 1132

But some are going to hear it and be saved. So, relational evangelism? Go for it, as long as it turns into actual evangelism. You hanging out having a beer with your buddy so he can see that Christians are cool is not what we’re called to do. You’re eventually going to have to open up your mouth and share the gospel. When the pure gospel is shared, people respond. location 1204

As we rightly see the gospel as encompassing God’s work, through the culmination of Christ, of restoring all things, we can be tempted to see our good works, whether preaching Scripture or serving meals at a homeless shelter, as God’s good news. location 1215

What we actually see in Acts 2:42–47 is the beautiful fallout of the proclamation that precedes it. This list tells us the hearers’ response to the gospel. Why did they start living in community? Because the gospel had made them a people. Why did they begin to share their goods with one another? Because the gospel had made them a people. Why are they now on mission? Because the gospel had made them a people. Why are they seeing signs and wonders? Because the gospel had made them a people. All of these workings are outworkings of the gospel. location 1229

But the good news is that upon the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God raises, rescues, ransoms, reforms, and reconciles. God saves sinners. location 1249

People are going to respond to the gospel every time it is presented. They’re going to respond in belief, or their heart is going to become more and more hardened toward God. But no heart can ever be too hard for God. Some hearts will grow harder and harder each day until the day God’s mercy blows them up like dynamite. location 1250

The gospel is news, not advice or instruction, but it nevertheless demands response. So, if we look at our lives today, a question I think we have to ask ourselves is this: “How am I responding to the good news of Jesus Christ? Am I stirred up toward obedience, or is Jesus becoming cliché to me? Am I becoming inoculated to Jesus, or do I find myself being more and more stirred up to worship him, to let other people know him, to submit my life fully to him?” We have to ask these questions, because everybody responds to the gospel. We must test ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5), because it is faith by which salvation comes. Faith is the only saving response to the gospel. location 1256

the gospel comes to us as individuals, as the crowns of God’s creation, as people made in his image, and puts before us the prospect of joining the forefront of his restoring of the cosmos. location 1271

Following from the work of scholars like John Sailhamer—whose book Genesis Unbound is brilliant—historic creationists point out that the phrase “in the beginning” in Genesis 1:1 contains the Hebrew word reshit, which does not mean a determined piece of time but rather represents the early stages of an unknowable period of time. So in Sailhamer’s historic creationism view, “in the beginning God created” refers to a time sometime before the seven days next covered began. location 1413

If we’re evolving, the fall makes little sense, because evolution indicates ascendancy, progress. But the fall is just what it says: a fall. On a really basic level, macroevolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, which states that everything is running down, not up. The second law of thermodynamics chains creation to entropy and regress, not to evolutionary progress. Similarly, the concept of evolution violates the first law of thermodynamics, because it is predicated on the introduction of energy into a contained system, and the first law states that this simply doesn’t happen. This law of the conservation of energy holds that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it essentially just changes shape. Basically, the first law tells us that nothing in the natural world can come from nothing. location 1432

It must also be admitted that the age of the earth is not a great concern in the Bible; as Augustine rightly said, it is not a scientific textbook seeking to answer the ever-changing inquiries of science, but rather a theological textbook seeking to reveal God and the means by which He saves us.12 location 1483

God is more interested in declaring than in explaining. location 1487

The goodness of creation is designed not to declare itself but to act as a signpost pointing heavenward. This is why Paul can say, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). He is working from the assumption that anything we do can be done to the glory of God. We are never not worshiping, anyway. It is easy to see that you and I have been created to worship. We’re flat-out desperate for it. From sports fanaticism to celebrity tabloids to all the other strange sorts of voyeurisms now normative in our culture, we evidence that we were created to look at something beyond ourselves and marvel at it, desire it, like it with zeal, and love it with affection. Our thoughts, our desires, and our behaviors are always oriented around something, which means we are always worshiping—ascribing worth to—something. If it’s not God, we are engaging in idolatry. But either way, there is no way to turn the worship switch in our hearts off. location 1519

But we were meant to worship, meant to give glory to something greater than ourselves. location 1547

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. location 1563

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. location 1588

Sin enters the world and fractures all the beauty, all the goodness, and all the peace previously established at every level of creation and society. I’d love to live in Genesis 1 and 2. There’s no subjection to futility there, no bondage to corruption, no slavery to death. There’s none of that. That would be a dream; that would be beautiful. But it’s not the world you and I live in. location 1623

This is not just to remind us of the seriousness of rebellion against God but to indicate that human rebellion against God disrupts the natural order of everything. location 1633

What Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall is often referred to by the Hebrew word shalom. Scholar Cornelius Plantinga explains: The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural seeds are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be. location 1656

Life is more like the film Groundhog Day than anyone wants to admit. We’re trapped. We’re blocked out of the garden. We’re in a rut, just toiling under the sun. location 1749

Let’s not deceive ourselves. Nothing we think of as new is going to give us a way out of the brokenness. That stuff is all meaningless. No change of job, no increased income, no new home, no new electronic device, or no new spouse is going to make things better inside of you. This is what Solomon is lamenting. location 1763

He has tried everything, and everything has come up lacking. It was about as satisfying as chasing the wind. location 1781

This place is broken. There’s no sense in looking into it for the fix. location 1787

The shalom-shaped hole in our hearts cannot be filled with anything but God’s shalom location 1873

The powerful irony of this frustration is that God is the author of every good thing. Pleasure, partying, gardens, work, money, material things, and sex are all his ideas. Adam and Eve were created and set in the garden wearing nothing. That’s a great deal! I love the way God started the whole thing: one man, one woman, a bunch of acreage, and naked. “Go, play, frolic, and have a good time.” This is what shalom looked like! Somehow we have received the idea that God is a cosmic killjoy, but we stand on Scripture to say that this deep longing in the core of who we are that cries out for happiness and delight was put there by him and he means for us to be satisfied. We pursue this satisfaction from day one. In this fallen world, we come out of the womb desperate for shalom. From the second we are born, we seek our own happiness, don’t we? location 1877

Almost all of us, whether we’ll admit it or not, have bought into the philosophy that what we need to finally make us happy is more of what we already possess. This is madness. It’s all meaningless. location 1936

The answer, of course, is nothing, but the destruction of all living things—save those in the ark—shows the deep ramifications of our cosmic treason against God. Because the stewards of creation are corrupt, the earth is corrupt. location 2027

This was in essence the purpose of his ministry: to bring the kingdom of God to bear on the earth. In heaven, all things are oriented to the worship of God. The triune Godhead is at the center of the heavenly universe. On earth, the fall has knocked everything out of orbit. We revolve around an assortment of idols, which is just a projection of our orientation around ourselves as gods. location 2044

Jesus’s ministry of inaugurating God’s kingdom, with himself as king, was not simply a mission of recruitment of subjects, although it is firstly and chiefly that, but it is also about reversing the curse. location 2048

Jesus’s mission, then, is both personal transformation and global transformation. His work is epic. location 2051

When Jesus says he saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky, he is saying that the gospel is about the overthrow of evil itself, not just about our sinful behavior. When Jesus casts out demons, he is saying that the gospel is about his authority and God’s sovereignty. When Jesus heals the sick and the lame, he is saying that the gospel is about the eradication of physical brokenness. When Jesus feeds the five thousand, he is saying that the gospel is about God’s abundant provision through Christ to a world of hunger. When Jesus walks on water or calms the storm, he is saying that the gospel is about his lordship over the chaos of fallen creation. When Jesus confounds the religious leaders, overturns tables, tells rich people it will be hard for them, renders unto Caesar, enters the city on a jackass, predicts the temple’s destruction, and stands silent before the political rulers, he is saying the gospel has profound effects on our systems. When Jesus forgives sin and raises the dead, he is saying the gospel is about individuals being born again, but he’s also saying that the gospel is about his conquest of sin and death. location 2063

One of the dangers of a gospel that stays on the ground too long is man-centeredness. 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. location 2139

The cross of Christ is first and centrally God’s means of reconciling sinful people to his sinless self. But it is bigger than that too. From the ground we see the cross as our bridge to God. From the air, the cross is our bridge to the restoration of all things. The cross of the battered Son of God is the battering ram through the blockade into Eden. It is our key into a better Eden, into the wonders of the new-covenant kingdom, of which the old was just a shadow. The cross is the linchpin in God’s plan to restore all creation. Is it any wonder, then, that the empty tomb opened out into a garden? location 2146

All we see in Romans 8 that’s gone wrong is assailed by God’s gospel offensive. God’s plan is to renew and remake, and God does not lose. The gates of hell will not prevail. The missional offensive is the winning offensive. It’s the only winning offensive. location 2325

These prophecies tell us that, at some point in the future, the earth will become far more productive and spectacular than it is now. location 2415

God calls Israel out of the pagan tribes and nations around them and uses them to show the world how he intends the world to work. It’s important to see that the laws God gave the Israelites shaped every part of their lives. The law was meant to govern their environment, their economy, their family, their society, their politics, their personal lives, and everything between the cracks. And as Israel submitted to the laws of God, they would show the nations around them how God intended the world to function, how he intended creation and all components therein to work. Israel was going to show the world how walking as God’s image bearers under explicit acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and majesty and in complete rhythm with God’s design worked location 2431

As they failed time and time again, the prophets among them looked forward to the day when Israel, God’s chosen people, would return to their land and repent of their sin and live according to God’s will. location 2438

His miraculous deeds demonstrate his healing of a broken world, revealing that the gospel of the kingdom includes the eradication of disease, the usurping of death, and the ushering in of the new order. location 2447

Just as God created Adam to reflect his glory in taking dominion over the created order, in Christ, the new Adam, God is remaking his children to take dominion over the restored creation. Not only is creation made new, but the Bible is pretty clear that you and I are made new and given new bodies. location 2515

So every one of us has preferred creation to the Creator, every one of us has believed that we’re smarter than God, and every one of us has failed to acknowledge him. location 2544

Because we understand that this life is perishable and these bodies are seeds, we live and see the world differently. We’re much more willing to serve, much more willing to sacrifice, and much more willing to endure discomfort because we know that this broken life is momentary. We see this sentiment in Paul’s writing all the time, as he describes current suffering as “light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17), and then he goes on to list things that are far beyond light but are nevertheless momentary. location 2583

creational sign that God’s project is going forward; that opposite poles within creation are made for union, not competition; location 2613

What is promised in this passage is what Isaiah foresaw: a new heaven and a new earth, replacing the old heaven and the old earth, which were bound to decay. This doesn’t mean . . . that God will wipe the slate clean and start again. location 2615

The Temple in Jerusalem was always designed, it seems, as a pointer to, and an advance symbol for, the presence of God himself. location 2620

We can sum all of those characteristics into two things: enduring pain and contending for sound doctrine. On paper, this sounds like a church I want to be a part of. This sounds like a church I want to send my kids to and see them grow into the fullness of Christ. But there is that word of warning too: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” location 2799

One of the things we see happening early on at Ephesus is a raw, gritty admission of shortcoming and guilt, but somehow, over time, Ephesus had become civilized and somewhat cold and obsessively acute in their doctrinal awareness, so they aligned themselves with what was true but lost their missional edge. They had embraced an overly rationalized faith. Their head was in the right place, but their heart had not followed. They had the appearance of godliness but denied the power therein to produce radical affection for Jesus, radical repentance from sin, and radical love for a lost world. location 2811

It is highly likely that the church at Ephesus had gone down the slippery slope from doctrinal precision to doctrinal arrogance, transferring its affections for Christ and its neighbors to intellectualism, and suddenly the Ephesian believers were no longer dealing with witches, sorcerers, and sexual deviance, no longer grappling with their own sin, and no longer making the gospel primary in regard to its reconciling work among them and around the world. They had grown civilized, and their faith had grown rationalized. This happens to any of us if we stop seeing the bigger picture of the gospel and go into hyper-focus on the micro-image of “my faith.” Our intellect comes to fill the temple of our hearts, and we no longer tremble in fear and give ourselves to a mind-set of mission in response to the manifest glory of God, like Isaiah did, because we’ve simply stopped seeing it. Our view is on the ground so long that we’ve cropped the fullness of God’s majesty from the frame. location 2817

to think of the gospel as all about us, not God. location 2852

In a weird sort of irony, both hyper-Arminian revivalism and hyper-Calvinistic insulation have at their root a self-centered gospel. location 2859

Once guilt is the motivating factor instead of the gospel itself, we’ve got a salvation based on works instead of on grace. location 2885

When people stay in the air too long, they can begin to try to make the gospel more palatable, because they desperately want people to know and love Jesus. location 2910

That was my first brush with the moralistic, therapeutic deism that we mentioned in the introduction. If you recall, moral, therapeutic deism is the idea that we are able to earn favor with God and justify ourselves before God by virtue of our behavior. At vacation Bible school in a little Baptist church, I met the arch-nemesis of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This simple song about God hating liars created in me what it aimed to: a desire not to lie in order to win the affection of God. I would battle believing this false gospel for years to come without even knowing it. location 3065

Very early on, it became clear to me that I wasn’t a good enough spiritual athlete to make the team. It became crystal clear, as I tried to do good, that I just didn’t have the legs for location 3084

Sealed in my heart that day was the truth that 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. But the problem is deeper than that and more pervasive. If we don’t make sure the gospel is explicit, if we don’t put up the cross and the perfect life of Jesus Christ as our hope, then people can get confused and say, “Yes, I believe in Jesus. I want to be saved. I want to be justified by God,” but then begin attempting to earn his salvation. By taking the cross out of the functional equation, moral therapeutic deism promotes the wrong-headed idea that God probably needs our help in the work of justification and most certainly location 3146

needs us to carry the weight of our sanctification, as well. The result is innumerable Christians suffering under the burden of the law’s curse because they have not been led to see that gospel-centered living is the only way to delight in the law. location 3153

Why does he do that? He tells us the answer in 1 Corinthians 15:1–2: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received [past tense], in which you stand [present tense], and by which you are being saved [future tense].” We see that the gospel had been received, and now it is holding them up. So the gospel not only saves us, but it sustains us. location 3162

Second, a grace-driven effort attacks the roots of our sin, not just the branches. Grace is a heart changer, because the heart is where behavior comes from. Wherever our heart is, that is where our actions will follow. We can manage our behavior until the cows come home and never have a God-loving heart, which is how the Pharisees lived. location 3223

Note: Grace is a heart changer. Grace driven effort attacks the roots of our sin, not just the branches.

Grace-driven effort not only uses the weapons of grace, but it also attacks the roots, not just the branches, whereas moralism tries just to subdue behavior. Moralism says, “I’ve got a pornography issue. Here’s what I need to do to stop looking at pornography: install filters, tell a friend who will punch me when I mess up, and maybe even throw away my computer if none of that works.” Now, obviously, there’s nothing wrong with safeguards. You won’t solve an alcoholic’s problems by taking the booze out of his kitchen, but you should still take the booze out of his kitchen. But when all is said and done, if we don’t kill the root of sin, we will keep seeing the branches of sin. So grace-driven effort wants to answer the desire, the affections at the heart of what results in use of pornography or alcoholism. What exactly are we medicating with those sins? What are we trying to escape or avoid? And how does the gospel fill those needs? location 3240

Even as we seek practical help to prevent physically drinking, we ought also to shine the light of the gospel over and over again into these dark recesses of our soul. The gospel declares that we are reconciled to a perfect Father whose love for us is unwavering and eternal. location 3250

they’re not broken up because they have sinned against a holy God. They are broken up because their sin is costing them something. They’ve been busted. location 3258

but they are not appalled at all at how they have slandered the God of the universe. location 3264

The believer pursuing holiness by grace-driven effort is not going to serve sin, because he is alive to God. This is the difference between what the Puritans would call “vivification” and “mortification.” 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. location 3272

As we turn our eyes toward Jesus Christ and gaze upon him, as we really see Jesus and behold him, as we become enraptured in his infinite beauties and perfections, then the things of the world grow dim and begin by contrast to lose their power over our heart and life. Christ becomes what we really desire, and earthly things become dead to us and unworthy of our affections. location 3282

Owen knows that to crucify himself to the things of the world, he must “first inquire” into the beauty of Jesus. Moralism doesn’t do that. The moralist tends to forsake sin so that God might love him, so that he might earn the favor of God. All of his effort and striving become his foundation of hope and comfort. And it simply doesn’t work. If anything, it’s shame upon shame upon shame as we continue to fail. location 3290

Note: Moralism forsakes sin so that God will love you. The gospel displays the beauty of Jesus.

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. This is a very different pursuit than simply wanting to be good. It is the result of having transferred one’s affections to Jesus. When God’s love takes hold of us, it powerfully pushes out our own love for other gods and frees our love to flow back to him in true worship. And when we love God, we obey him. location 3295


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"Not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard"

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