Tag: gospel

Quotes from: “What is the Gospel – Revisited?”

John Piper was recently presented with a festschrift called For the Fame of God’s Name, in which pastors and scholars contribute 27 chapters, totaling 508 pages, in honor of Piper’s God-centered life and ministry. New Testament scholar D.A. Carson made a considerable contribution in his chapter “What is the Gospel?–Revisited” (free by clicking on Sample Pages). This chapter will prove essential in clarifying positions and understandings of the meaning and scope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Though at times technical, this work is worth the read. After all, it doesn’t get more foundational or monumental than the Gospel!

Below I set up some important quotations from Carson’s chapter that help us clarify just what the Gospel is.

The Kingdom Gospel vs. The Salvation Gospel

Some have identified a “Gospel of the Kingdom” in contrast to a “Gospel of Salvation.” Carson explains why a distinction between the “individual” and “communal”, the saving and the kingdom gospel is artificial. His main point is that the Gospel of the Kingdom is something that is heralded by Jesus on his way to complete the Gospel Story. In other words, the Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus in the Gospels can only be announced because of where Jesus is headed in the Gospels, namely to the cross and to the resurrection. To interpret it otherwise is backwards hermeneutics. He writes:

That is why it is so hermeneutically backward to try to understand the teaching of Jesus in a manner cut off from what he accomplished; it is hermeneutically backward to divorce the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels from the plotline of the Gospels. p. 160

Are the Narrow & Broad Two Gospels?

Carson then enters into a discussion of the narrower and broader foci of the Gospel. He points out that the narrower focuses on Jesus’ story (cross/resurrection) and the latter focuses on what Jesus’ story has secured (kingdom/new creation). Some have protested that there is too much focus on the former and that we need to focus more on the “gospel of the kingdom.” Carson points out that this reasoning assumes there are two gospels, to which he replies:

But this means that if one preaches the gospel in the broader sense without also emphasizing the gospel in the more focused sense of what God has done to bring about such sweeping transformation, one actually sacrifices the gospel. (emphasis added) p. 162

The Gospel is not Just for Non-Christians but for Christians

Preaching the gospel, it is argued, is announcing how to be saved from God’s condemnation; believing the gospel guarantees you won’t go to hell. But for actual transformation to take place, you need to take a lot of discipleship courses, spiritual enrich- ment courses, “Go deep” spiritual disciplines courses, and the like. You need to learn journaling, or asceticism, or the simple lifestyle, or Scripture memorization; you need to join a small group, an accountability group, or a women’s Bible study. Not for a moment would I speak against the potential for good of all of these steps; rather, I am speaking against the tendency to treat these as postgospel disciplines, disciplines divorced from what God has done in Christ Jesus in the gospel of the crucified and resurrected Lord. (emphasis added) p.165

BUILD: a gospel formed man

I’m honored to be speaking at the BUILD: the construction of a gospel formed man October 22-23. Register here. I’ll be speaking on Gospel Identity & Missional Community. Joining me will be all these fine men:


Main Session #1:  Jonathan Dodson, Lead Pastor of Austin City Life (Austin, TX)

Main Session #2:  Joe Thorn, Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship (Saint Charles, IL)
Main Session #3:  Dr. Bob Smart, Lead Pastor of Christ Church PCA (Normal, IL)

Music led by Stephen Miller, Worship Leader of The Journey (St. Louis, MO)


Jon Bricker, Lead Pastor // Charis Community Church // “Viewing Marriage through a Gospel Lens”
Tom Cheshire, Pastor of Discipleship // Delta Church // “Father Factor:  God the Father, Your Father, and You”
Jonathan Dodson, Lead Pastor // Austin City Life // “The Church as a Missional Community”
Kevin Galloway, Lead Pastor // Countryside Church // “Leading Your Family with the Gospel”
Ryan Huguley, Lead Pastor // Redemption Bible Church // “Gospel Movement:  Pushing Through Passivity”
David Keithley, Pastor of Youth/Family // Christ Church PCA // “Gospel Implications for Adolescent Culture”
Robert Livingston, Lead Pastor // The Source Church // “Gospel-Driven Prayer”
Jeff McCord, Pastor of Ministries // Christ Church PCA // “Reconciliation & the Gospel:  Hope for People in Conflict”
Jerry McCorkle, Executive Director // Spread Truth Ministries // “Sharing God’s Story”
Duane Otto, Pastor at Large // Ithaka Fellowship // “A Rooted Hope: The Gospel & Creation”
Joe Thorn, Lead Pastor // Redeemer Fellowship // “Practicing Our Theology”

The Need for Sacred Space in Cities

The spiritual has been banished from the city commons, certainly the Gospel of Jesus. It’s not appropriate to talk about Gospel, especially with strangers or acquaintances in the city. It wasn’t always this way.

The Importance of Sacred Space in the City

As it turns out, the spiritual was critical to urban flourishing throughout history. Joel Kotkin points out that the cities have flourished the most are the sacred, safe, and busy. For centuries religious structures have been prominent in cities—temples, churches, cathedrals, mosques, pyramids. In the ancient city of Ur, in Mesopotamia, it was the priestly class that created a critical sense of order and continuity in the city. Very often the temple was the center of city life. Now why was this important? The sacred space in cities provided moral and social order, an agreed upon set of mores that promoted the general welfare of the city. Kotkin goes so far as to say that “Without the notion of sacred space, it is doubtful cities could have ever developed anywhere in the world.” (9)

Without the notion of sacred space, it is doubtful cities could have ever developed anywhere in the world.

Removing the Sacred from the City

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, it was the Christian clergy that revitalized the city in Europe. They preserved language through translating the Scriptures, promoted education, and advocated a sense of authority often absent from the post-Roman era. However, when the sacred was removed from cities they declined. In the industrial era, crime and slum housing abounded especially in cities like Berlin, Leningrad, Moscow. Cities devoid of sacred space became rampant with crime and poor living conditions. There was no moral restraint but that of the state. The state was not enough. In his concluding remarks after a sweeping analysis of the history of global cities, Kotkin writes: “Cities can thrive only by occupying a sacred place that both orders and inspires the complex natures of gathered masses of people.” (160) History shows we need spirituality to order socially dense cities.

What makes Christianity so unique? Christians, in particular, have a history of building renewing cities. This is part of sociologist Rodney Stark’s thesis in Cities of God. He points out that when cities were ravaged by plagues, poor sanitation, and crime, it was the early Christians that stayed behind to tend to the sick, the poor, the orphans, and slaves. He says that Christians created a “miniature welfare state” within the city. A “city within the city” if you will. What about the modern era of New Urbanism? In modern cities we find that the sacred role is now often ignored. Kotkin says of new urban planners: “they rarely refer to the need for a powerful moral vision to hold cities together.” (158) This does not bode well for the welfare of the city.

The Church as the Sacred City to Come

Secularism has displaced the sacred space so crucial to cities. The skyscraper has replaced the temple. The new religion of urbanization is wealth, status, and quality of life, all of which are often driven by greed. The spirituality of the city is secularist consumerism. With increased quality of life comes a higher price of life. Low-income housing is hard to find. Minorities, students, and artists scramble to pay rent and live in the city. Many cities are experiencing a massive reordering of social life in our city. A deepening fissure between the haves and the havenots due to a misuse of money and power. An inordinate desire for more hurts others. It would appear that there is a need for more than a simple social reordering. Secular space has not sufficiently replaced sacred space. In fact, it has arguably made it worse. The city needs an alternative spirituality, a “sacred space” that is powerful, potent enough to reorder the spirituality of the city.

The Gospel of the kingdom promises this alternative. It is the good news that Jesus Christ came to inaugurate a kingdom that will eventually right all wrongs, reorder the disorder, and secure an eternal city that is sacred, safe, and busy. The end of history is a city. In Revelation 21, that city is also depicted as a temple illuminated by the light of the glory of God in Christ. As Andy Melvin sings, “The sun and moon will be replaced by the light in Jesus eyes.” According to Malachi 3, for some that light is a burning oven, consuming the unjust and the wicked to establish justice on the earth. For others that light is the sun of righteousness with healing in its wings. The same flame that burns is the same flame that heals. Is the church reflecting or obscuring the light of the Lamb?

Through the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, Jesus is building that city that is to come. He is constructing a city of light–the Church–that is to be a foreshadow of the city to come, a people so renewed by the gospel that they renew their cities. Are you foreshadowing well or poorly? Revelation 21 shows us that the city that is to come is not a sacred space in the city; it takes up the whole world. It is not one sacred space in the bustling urban environment. restraining moral disorder and social ill. The whole world is now a sacred space, a holy city, teeming with life, justice and happiness, where people ultimately live for God not self, ordered around Jesus not a self-made spirituality.

As Kotkin avers, there is need for sacred space in the city. Not a holier-than-thou kind of space but a serving-you-well kind of space, a kind of Christian that makes the best of the sacred and the best of their city.

Repentance Doesn’t Lead to Neutral

I’m reminded this morning that repentance is always good news. It is the reminder of Christ’s profound love for us, that God has accepted and forgiven otherwise unacceptable and unforgivable sinners. Jesus said to the church at Laodicea: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”(Rev 3:19) Repentance is good news because it draws us away from unfaithful lovers to sweep us back into the arms of our one, true Love.

Love Doesn’t Lead us to Neutral

In repentance, God’s loving leads to our turning. Turning from sin is turning to Christ. It’s not a hollow confession in the neutral zone of a no man’s land, where we are left drifting, unguarded only to drift back into the same sinful fray all over again. Love doesn’t lead us into neutral. It doesn’t overlook sin and leave us stranded in no man’s land. It confronts, calling us to the better land. To not settle for slums when there is a paradise to be had. This is the love of Christ—reproof and discipline—pouring out upon us, the church.

Repentance Includes Resolve

So this morning, Lord, I receive your good news and I repent of wandering eyes and turn to fix my eyes on the beauty and glory of Christ. I repent of impatience with my children and turn to the great patience of the Father with me, his son, that I might extend an enduring love to my own children. I leave behind the false lovers of lust and self importance. I zealously repent this morning, turning to your open arms, unfailing love and never-ending importance. I refuse to fake repent, to enter the no man’s land of hollow confession and habitual sin. I will push into the promised land with zeal and flee the slums of sinful indifference. I cry out for the help of the Father to strengthen his helpless son. I resolve to so trust you that I live more dependently and obediently. And I do so, not despairingly but with hope…

Repentance Leads to Feasting

For your call of loving repentance comes with a promise: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the do0r, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Repentance is good news because, as I close the door on sin, I open the door to Christ. Notice that this is a call to the church. When we respond to his rap-a-tap-tap upon our hearts, he meets us, not with a disapproving frown, or impatient scolding but with a warm embrace, an embrace that moves us from slums to paradise, from lovers to one, true Love, from disobedience to obedience. He waits, lovingly to feast with us. He will dine with me and I will dine with him. True repentance leads to feasting, feasting with the King!