The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church

My friend Jason Coyle reminded me in a recent comment of what he called ‘Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s…brilliant address, “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church”’.

In this superb talk, Dr. Rosenbladt explains why so many people end up leaving our churches not just disillusioned, but angry. He goes on to present the undiluted Gospel as the antidote.

You can listen to (or watch) this address for free on Dr. Rosenbladt’s New Reformation Press website:

Christmas homily: the birth of Christ as the fulfilment of prophecy

This is a near-transcript of a short talk I gave just before Christmas last year. You may, if you wish, read about the occasion and listen to the audio.

Our text is Matthew 1:18–25:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.’

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

With all the myths of the Christmas season – Father Christmas, Rudolf, Mr Ebenezer Scrooge – it is tempting to think of the birth of Jesus as just one more made-up story among many. The nativity as an incidental artefact of a busy midwinter festival. A diverting scene to amuse the children.

But the birth in Bethlehem of a baby boy called Jesus really happened.

Not a myth, but an actual event in history.

No chance occurrence, but the beginning of the fulfilment of dozens of Biblical prophecies.

Continue reading Christmas homily: the birth of Christ as the fulfilment of prophecy

How not to share the Gospel at Christmas

’Tis the season of Christmas. And that means a leaflet through our door, advertising various local church services.

What a wonderful opportunity to share Law and Gospel! What a perfect occasion to explain the significance of the birth of Christ!

First, the leaflet would say something of the Bad News: that we all have broken the commands given to us by our Creator God – that we have all failed to love Him and one another as we ought. That we have thereby rightfully earned the fierce wrath of a terrifyingly holy, pure and just God. And that we shall all surely one day stand before His throne of judgment, with no hope of reprieve from the eternal fires of hell – no hope, that is, if we are trusting in our own works, experiences or knowledge for our right standing before God.

And then, the glorious Good News: that the holy and just creator God is also a God of love. That He so loved the world that He gave even His only begotten Son – sending Him into the world in human flesh. That this God-Man was in all points tempted as we are, but lived a blameless life, perfectly obedient and pleasing to God. That this Son of God then died in the place of sinners like us, pouring out His blood and bearing in Himself the punishment of all who trust in Him, thereby appeasing the wrath of God toward them. That whoever is trusting in this Christ is declared righteous on His account, and therefore has no need to fear the coming day of judgment. That these shall not perish on that day, but instead live forever!

Continue reading How not to share the Gospel at Christmas

Thinking about orthodoxy: defining terms and asking questions

In this post: Introduction; Naming of Parts: Orthodoxy, Heresy, Aberrancy, Orthopraxy and heteropraxy, Monergism vs. synergism, Christian brother or sister; Orthodoxy is narrow; Questions of orthodoxy: On monergism, On the doctrine of hell, On the dangers of mysticism; Final thoughts

Having previously laid the foundations for a correct understanding of Christian discernment, I turn now to the question of orthodoxy.

Over the course of several recent episodes of his Fighting for the Faith programme, Chris Rosebrough has fiercely defended his friend, Dan Kimball. Chris has not merely declared Dan to be ‘a brother in Christ’, and not a heretic, but has repeatedly asserted that Dan ‘preaches, teaches, and confesses, historic orthodoxy’. This has been the source of no minor controversy.

In this article, I first define several terms that are necessary for us to enter meaningfully into the debate, and I endeavour to give them a Biblical basis. I then give voice to several questions that have occurred to me (and I know also to others) as I have heard the debate rage, and particularly as I heard Chris interview Dan.

In asking these questions, I am not so much concerned with Dan Kimball per se, but with the implications that the answers have for how we are to understand what it means to be orthodox. Simply, then, I embrace an opportunity to think aloud about orthodoxy.

Continue reading Thinking about orthodoxy: defining terms and asking questions

How not to speak of Christ and His work

In a comment on an earlier post, I said to my friend Bobby Capps that I have written about Rick Warren far too much already, and that ‘I shall therefore try very hard to lay off [him] for a bit’.

It is always dangerous to make such resolutions. Particularly in respect of a person who has proved such a fecund source of – how may I phrase this charitably? – statements that are open to possible misinterpretation.

It is at this point that Bobby will wish to stop reading, and pretend that I have not written this post. (Bobby, I have failed you. I am sorry for letting you down. Forgive me.)

Which brings me to the topic of this post, and an occasion for me to write once more about the Gospel of Christ Jesus crucified for sinners and raised from the dead.

Earlier today, Ken Silva drew my attention to his latest article, Rick Warren wants us to learn from Henri Nouwen. Ken writes about this tweet from Rick Warren:

Rick Warren tweet
(Online source)

The medicine of Law and Gospel: how & when to apply

I’ve listened to barely a handful of Radical Grace Radio shows, but I’ve already come across a gem. The episode is pitched this way:

Have you ever had an infection, then had a doctor mis-prescribe the wrong medicine for your infection? This is exactly what it’s like when preachers prescribe too much law to you and no Gospel, or too much Gospel with no law.

Pastor Greg LeSieur and Matthew Pancake gently take their listeners through the proper use of Law and Gospel, and the circumstances in which each may properly be applied:

Great stuff.

A closer look at the Alpha Course and whether it is permissible to judge what other Christians teach

In this post: The responsibility of elders for sound doctrine; Do ordinary believers have the right to judge an elder’s doctrine?; Doesn’t Jesus tell us not to judge?; Doesn’t Paul tell us not to judge another’s servant?; Is the Alpha Course really that bad?; Is God not able to use Alpha, even if it imperfect?; In praise of discernment ministries

The Alpha Course is a widely used evangelistic tool designed to introduce people to the Christian faith. The Alpha website describes it this way:

Alpha is an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith in a relaxed setting over ten thought-provoking weekly sessions, with a day or weekend away.

The same website gives an indication of its popularity:

The Alpha course spread during the 1990s, initially in the UK and then internationally, as more churches and groups found it a helpful way to answer questions about the Christian faith in an informal setting. There are now over 33,500 courses worldwide in 163 countries and it is supported by all the major denominations.

In the introduction to my article, Dangerous pragmatism – why a transformed life is not proof of salvation, I mentioned (mostly incidentally) the Alpha Course and its developer, Nicky Gumbel. I drew attention to the fact that many people found the course’s theology to be deeply problematic. And I quoted from an article documenting Nicky Gumbel’s apparent denial of the core Christian doctrine that Christ was punished in the place of sinners.

In his comments on my article, my father made these observations:

You also know that I tend to be reluctant to criticise others who seek to proclaim the gospel, even though they do not understand it quite as I do. God is able to use even the most misguided of putative followers to bring sinners to Jesus.

Our transformed lives: what are we to make of good works?

In this post: On professing Christians who seemingly bear no fruit; Paul Washer on our unbalanced understanding of Christianity; Of those whose lives do seem to bear fruit in keeping with repentance; Bonus comments: Brief study of assurance in 1 John 3:14–20; Is it right to share our testimony of a changed life?

In my article, Dangerous pragmatism – why a transformed life is not proof of salvation, I argued that we should not point people to their good works for definite assurance of their salvation. I closed that discussion with these remarks:

Point me then, not to my own works, but to the exceedingly precious promises of Christ that are mine through His finished work on the cross. Call me daily to repentance, and tell me of the forgiveness of all my sin that has been accomplished through Christ’s death and the shedding of His blood. Exhort me not to look inward to myself, but outward to the one with whom I was buried through baptism into death, the one who was raised from the dead for my justification and even now causes me to walk in newness of life (cf. Romans 6).

In his comment on my article, my father made several observations on this topic to which I thought it would be helpful to respond.

Dangerous pragmatism – why a transformed life is not proof of salvation

In this post: The defective gospel of the Alpha Course; False assumption 1 – We can judge what is right by whether it ‘works’; False assumption 2 – Growth in church attendance proves God’s blessing; False assumption 3 – A transformed life is proof of salvation; The right way, and the wrong way, to view good works; Bonus comment thread: why the Purpose Driven Life movement is problematic

I was chatting with a good friend last week. He is on the leadership track of a self-described Purpose Driven church, and we have a history of (mostly) amicable sparring over the nature of the Gospel and how it should be proclaimed.

(For anyone unfamiliar with the dangers of the Purpose Driven church movement, I recommend Bob DeWaay’s eminently readable and definitive book on the subject, Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose Driven Life Movement.)

Entirely incidental to the topic of our conversation, my friend happened to mention that the home group he leads had been showing a Nicky Gumbel video. Without thinking, I blurted out the mildly disparaging quip ‘Never mind.’

The power of the Gospel

What is the Gospel?

I briefly covered this in my article, The mysterious case of the disappearing gospel. But the topic is so important that I return to it here.

St. Paul defines the Gospel very clearly and concisely in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

1 Cor. 15:1–8, NKJV

The Gospel, then, is the fact that Christ died for sinners, was buried, and rose from the dead.