No Other Gospel: Reflections from The Gospel Coalition

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
— Galatians 6:14 —

For three days this week, ten of us from Occoquan Bible Church traveled to Indianapolis to join 8,500 other followers of Christ at The Gospel Coalition’s bi-annual gathering. This year we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and its recovery of the gospel. The theme of this week’s conference was “No Other Gospel” and in less than 72 hours we heard six messages from Galatians and three messages on the historical figures of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformation heroes, including the women who contributed to the Reformation. We also sat in on countless breakout sessions related to church history and practical ministry. In all it was a much needed time of refreshment and recalibration.

In all, our trip to Indy was an encouraging time of worship, fellowship, and learning. I benefitted most from John Piper’s opening message on Galatians 1 and Tim Keller’s closing message on Galatians 6. In particular, Keller’s connection between boasting in the cross (Galatians 6:14) and spiritual transformation was powerful.

His point was this: It is not enough to know about Christ and his cross. If one wants to be changed—i.e., freed from sin and full on grace—he or she must boast in the cross. This means verbal praise but even more, it is a confidence in life that taunts all other competitors and presses deeper into Christ. There is nothing more glorious than Christ and his cross, the message of the gospel. As we cling to that truth and boast about that reality above all others, God will change us.

With that in mind, let me share a few more observations from the men who went to Indy. Hear them boast in Christ, his cross, and the chance to devote three days to worshiping. Let it spur you on and encourage you to listen to the sessions online or to join us next year. Continue reading

Theological Triage (pt. 2): Unity in the Gospel, Separation in the Church

t4gOn Monday, I considered the idea of theological triage—the process of holding different Christian beliefs at different levels of importance—and how the first level differentiates “mere Christianity” from errant cults and false religions. Today I will continue to consider theological triage as it relates to second-level Christian beliefs, those doctrines on which gospel-believing churches agree to disagree.

Recognizing and Affirming Historical and Doctrinal Differences Increases Unity

Within orthodox Christianity, second level doctrines separate genuine believers. Points of division at this level include baptism (What does it signify and who is the proper candidate?), the Lord’s Supper (What do the elements represent?), and the use of spiritual gifts (Do tongues continue today?)—to name a few prominent ones. How such doctrines are espoused and questions are answered causes the need for different assemblies of worship. Historically, it has often been disagreement on one of these issues that have separated (or created) different churches (or denominations).

For Baptists, our pedigree originates about 400 years ago, when a growing number of Protestants began to realize from Scripture that baptism by immersion was the proper mode for professing believers. Stepping away from state churches, local Baptist congregation were free and responsible to God for their actions, and on their biblical conviction they recovered the practice of believer’s baptism. Because of its historical roots, Baptist churches share much with other evangelical denominations (e.g., all the matters agreed upon in the first level), but there are enough distinctives that make it impossible for Baptists to congregate with paedobaptists. Continue reading

A Biblical Theology of Dessert

foodBethany Jenkins has kicked off what promises to be a fascinating blog series on—of all things—the making, selling, buying, and eating of . . . chocolate cake, apple pie, and no-bake cookies. Continuing to explore the subject of vocation, Bethany has begun this week’s series by sketching a Biblical Theology of Dessert.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

In truth, I’ve never thought about dessert in the Bible. I’ve considered the importance of food—it’s blessedness in the Garden, its role in the Fall, and its place in redemption. But dessert? I like dessert, but I’ve never considered what Scriptures says about it.

So I am thankful for Bethany’s interest in brownies and her theological inquisitiveness to dive into this subject. I would encourage you to tune in to this series and to let the theology of the Bible interpret the sweets you eat.

Let me give you a taste of her article: After noting the complex relationship of sweets in the Scripture, she speaks of the three modes of eating in the Bible—ordinary, fasting, and feasting. Moving past the first, she quotes Kyle Werner and Tim Keller to explain the importance of food in our lives.

In feasting and fasting, however, we see two very different modes of eating. According to Kyle Werner, a classical composer, amateur chef, and former Gotham Fellow:

In the Bible, we see God regularly calling his people to fast and to feast. Through fasting, we learn an increased dependence on God’s strength; our physical appetite helps intensify our spiritual appetite. On the other hand, feasting reminds us of the original goodness and bounty of God’s creation, the redeeming work he is doing, and our fellowship in the body of Christ. Our regular eating routines can benefit greatly by being expanded in both directions through the extremes of these two spiritual disciplines.

In feasting we see the glorious purpose of dessert. Although it is not necessary to life for daily sustenance, dessert can give us a foretaste of the divine. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes:

The work-obsessed mind—as in our Western culture—tends to look at everything in terms of efficiency, value, and speed. But there must also be an ability to enjoy the most simple and ordinary aspects of life, even ones that are not strictly useful, but just delightful. Surprisingly, even the reputedly dour Reformer John Calvin agrees. In his treatment of the Christian life, he warns against valuing things only for their utility: “Did God create food only to provide for necessity [nutrition] and not also for delight and good cheer? . . . Did he not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use?”

For more on a biblical theology of dessert, see Bethany’ whole post: “Toward a Theology of Dessert,” as well as the YouTube video included at the end of her post: “A Theology of Food” by David Kim.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss


Via Emmaus: A Christ-Centered Walk Through the Bible

Yesterday, The Gospel Coalition ran an article on how to teach through the whole counsel of Scripture in a year.  It was something that I wrote based on the things I learned when our church walked through the Bible together in 2010.  For those who are interested in what those lessons looked like, here are the lessons I shared with our people each week.

Introduction: An Overview of the Bible

Genesis 1-11: The Beginning of It All
Genesis 12-50: Four Families Under the Faithfulness of God
Exodus 1-15: Salvation Through Substitution & Conquest
Exodus 16-40: Moving Into the Presence of God 
Leviticus: Sinners in the Presence of a Holy God
Numbers: In the Wilderness
Deuteronomy: God’s Royal Covenant with Israel


Joshua: Into the Land

Judges: A People in Need of a King
Ruth: A Painful & Pleasant Providence
1 Samuel: The Good, The Bad, and the Ruddy
2 Samuel: The Rise and Fall of King David
1 Kings: Redemptive History is a Royal Mess–Part 1
2 Kings: Redemptive History is a Royal Mess–Part 2
Ezra: Return, Rebuild, Renew, Repent
Nehemiah: Rebuilding God’s City and Reforming God’s People 
Esther: Seed Warfare

Job: Knowing God In The Crucible Of Satanic Suffering

Psalms: Redemption in the Key of D(avid)
Proverbs: Wisdom is the Way to the Obedient Son
Ecclesiastes: To Work Wisely is Futile, To Fear Faithfully is Wise
Song of Songs: More Than Just an Old Fashioned Love Song


The Prophets (1): Hearing the Spirit of Christ in the Days of Elijah

The Prophets (2): Putting the Prophets in their Place: Before the Exile
The Prophets (3): Putting the Prophets in their Place: During and After the Exile
Isaiah: The Servant-King Will Lead His People Into a New Creation
Jeremiah: A New Heart For An Idolatrous People
Ezekiel: That You Might Know the Lord
Daniel: Keep the Faith! The Sovereign LORD Reigns In History
The Twelve: Judgment and Salvation is a Major Theme in the Minor Prophets

Matthew: The King and His Kingdom
Mark: Seeing the Christ of the Cross
Luke: The Messiah Must Go To Mount Zion
Acts: Taking the Gospel From Zion to Zimbabwe
John: Jesus, The Son of God, The Messiah of Israel, and The Savior of the World

The Letters and Revelation
Paul (1): The Apostle to the Gentiles
Paul (2): The Prison Epistles and Philemon
Hebrews: Believe and Draw Near, For Jesus Christ is Greater Still
General Epistles: James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude
Revelation: The Revelation of Jesus Christ

On the Incarnation: How Should We Talk About Christmas?

Yesterday, I preached from John 1:1-5 on the eternal Son of God who came to be God with us.  One of my main points was the fact that while Jesus had a beginning, the Son of God did not. The Son takes on flesh to become fully human, but in no way does God the Son lose or set aside his deity.

Today, Matt Smethurst says something very similar in his post at The Gospel Coalition.  In his article, “God Plus or Bust: Lose the Incarnation, Lose It All,” he helpfully points to an article by J. I. Packer called “The Vital Question” which articulates two kinds of Christologies.  Matt’s synthesis of Packer’s article points out that “All Christologies . . . can be boiled down to two basic brands: “Man Plus” and “God Plus.”  He unpacks this saying,

“Man Plus” Christologies almost unanimously agree that Jesus was an utterly unique figure. He was no ordinary man. He was man plus a number of things—a unique sense of the divine, uncommon personal charisma, unfettered religious devotion, God-given insight, and so forth. Jesus of Nazareth was a godly man, perhaps even the godliest man ever to walk the earth. Nevertheless, the idea that Jesus was God is a myth. It doesn’t correspond to space-time fact, nor does it really need to.

“God Plus” Christology, on the other hand, is the orthodox position. It’s the view that Jesus of Nazareth was actually—that is, historically, publicly, objectively, necessarily—God incarnate. He was divinity plus humanity. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger was the eternal second person of the Trinity.

Understanding the nature of the Incarnation is vital–not just for the seminary lunchroom–but for all believers.  Knowing who God is and how he has come to rescue us is vital for our faith.  Celebrating Christmas as a holiday that commemorates a special child born in a manger who just happens to be divine–whatever that means–sets the believers faith in a vulnerable position. Such a belief is true as far as it goes, but it is little different than the “man plus deity” of liberal theology.  By contrast, knowing that God himself took on flesh–that he added something to his deity, namely a human nature–in order to save his people with the full power of Deity Incarnate, gives vitality and endurance to believe that what God started two millenia ago, he will finish at the end of the age.

Much praise is due to God for all that he is especially for the fact that Jesus is not just “man plus.”  He is “God plus,” “God with us!”

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Beholding the Beauty of Christ in Wal-Mart: The Backstory

Christmas is a beautiful time of year, one that prompts giving, singing, family gatherings, and worship of our Savior born in Bethlehem.  Contemplating these things, I wrote an article for our church newsletter that The Gospel Coalition also ran on God’s hidden beauty revealed at Christmas.

To give a little backstory, I wrote it on a day when I had walked through the aisles of Wal-Mart and sadly had a bah-humbug spirit.  Surrounded by God’s image-bearers my sinful heart was not loving my neighbor.  It was simply wanting to get in, get out, and get done with what I had to do.  Such an attitude is sinful and selfish, and it stems from a vision problem–I was not seeing the people around the way Christ sees them.

Accordingly, I wrote the piece “Beholding the Beauty of Christ in Wal-Mart” as a means of preaching the gospel to myself.  I need the gospel everyday to remind me of my ugliness before the Lord, and how in Christ he has showered his beautiful grace on me.  If there is anything good in me, it is from the Lord (John 15:5; 1 Cor 4:7). Prayerfully, such amazing love and forgiveness will result in greater love for others.

As I walked out of Wal-Mart that day, I was confronted with the ugliness of my un-love.  I still groan over the fact that I am drawn to worldly beauty more than heavenly beauty, and that this causes me to slight people and make much of me.  Ugh! I praying that God would continue to renew my mind and change my heart, and I to do so, I keep looking to the person and work of Christ.  He alone is beautiful, and in his light we see light.  As we behold him, we become like him.  I wrote this article for that reason, and I share it with you that you might benefit too.

Here is how it begins,

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so the old saying goes. Just the same, we choose to behold (read: pursue and acquire) what we think is beautiful. Unfortunately, for so many of us, we have given little attention to what the Bible says about beauty. While Christians may have read the Bible for years, I wonder, when it comes to beauty, how many of us have been shaped by magazine covers, movies, and prom nights more than God’s inspired Word?  Christmas may be one exception.

You can read the whole thing at The Gospel Coalition website.

Repentant and Repenting, dss