Does the gospel, with its promise of forgiveness of sins and fellowship with God in a kingdom not of this world, promote the abandonment of this world and the gross neglect of hurting people?
In 1666 the English Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote, “The soul being so precious, and salvation so glorious, it is the highest point of prudence to make preparations for another world.” In our pandemic age, as in every age, it is essential to ask, are we preparing?
Against the Pietist and Fundamentalists we must continually reassert Christian liberty. Against the libertine, however, who will be governed by no law, not even love, we must assert limits. Love limits us. Grace frees us from the arbitrary rules of the Scribes and Pharisees, but divinely revealed laws and wisdom and discretion and love limit us.
I propose a new church-growth model: Preach in such a way where you try to offend as many peoples’ sensibilities as possible. The Apostle Paul seems not only content to keep stumbling blocks in his message but scandalize through his bullhorn.
Outside the church (i.e., outside the visible, organized Christ-confessing covenant community, where the gospel is preached purely, the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered purely, and where church discipline is used), the church often looks very different than it does to members. Those outside the church quite often assume that only those who have achieved a state of perfection are welcome in church. Let’s put that to rest immediately: the church most assuredly is not for the perfect. Were that the case, the church would be entirely empty as there are no perfected Christians this side of heaven. The only congregation of perfect people is what Reformed theologians call “the church triumphant” (i.e., that gathering of glorified believers in heaven). We get a picture of that congregation in the Revelation (e.g., chapter 4). The church as it exists in this world, in this life (called the “church militant”) is full of nothing but sinners, who manifest the effects of sin in every conceivable way. It has been that way from the moment sin …
In 2017, George Barna reported on the state of evangelism. The news is not good. Less than 40% of those who claim to be born again Christians believe they should share the gospel. Meanwhile, the percentage of young Americans who profess faith is shrinking.
The theology of many who claim Christ is more than a little unsettling. Nineteen percent of those who say they were saved by grace alone “strongly agree” one can be saved simply by being a good person. Furthermore, only 40% “strongly reject” this claim. That means 60% of those who say they’ve been saved by grace alone are open to the possibility God will save people on the basis of their good works.
Author Don Whitney is excited about evangelism: “Only the sheer rapture of being lost in the worship of God is as exhilarating and intoxicating as telling someone about Jesus Christ.” Do you feel the same way? I’m concerned his attitude is all-too-rare in the church today. We equate sharing the gospel to flossing our teeth—very important but easily neglected. I want to encourage you share the gospel more. For some, it may feel like a chore. But the more we understand what the gospel is, the more we will share it freely. There are many good reasons to evangelize. We may share out of obedience, a love for neighbor, and even out of a hope of future reward. But the gospel itself is a reason to share.
Does it pay-off to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Is it a sound investment? A good decision? Can it be justified in the light of what it costs a person? These are the questions that make up the cost-benefit analysis of discipleship. And this helps us get at the heart of Jesus’ words on discipleship in Mark 9:42-50: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to …
Henry David Thoreau famously observed how the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. The late theologian Carl F. H. Henry took it a step further when he argued most people don’t really know where they are or where they are going. It’s as if they “cower at the bottom of a well run dry.” 1Carl F. H. Henry, Toward a Recovery of Christian Belief: The Rutherford Lectures (Crossway, 1990), 17. The thrust of this essay is basically a summary of Henry’s important book. Imagine what it would be like to sit at the bottom of a dry well. There is no water to quench your thirst and no light to help you see. You can’t explain where you are, and unless someone reaches in to save you, you’ve no hope of escape. This is the condition of most people today, though they’d never admit it. This is what life is like without faith in the triune God of the Bible. Sure, many people will claim meaning for their lives. Yes, quite a few will assert that …