Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yes, Yes, Yes!

Loved this quote I read on Justin Taylor's blog today:

@J.D. Greear: Saying “Preach the gospel; if necessary use words” is like saying “Tell me your phone number; if necessary use digits.”

The gospel is a message. If you take out the words, you have no gospel!


  1. It's a bad analogy.

    A more appropriate analogy might be the saying, "Do as I say, not as I do." Of course parents might say that to a teenager who is starting to push the boundaries a bit by pushing the parents' youthful indiscretions back at them. It's always easier to tell your kids, "don't smoke, drink do drugs etc.." if we ourselves aren't smoking drinking, shooting up etc.

    It's the same with the Gospel and maybe even more so. Christ didn't write a word. Not a single word. Certainly He preached but more importantly he lived what he taught. That is very powerful and indeed I would submit it is the beauty of Christians living a truly authentic Christian lifestyle that will draw others to Christ much faster and more effectively than any words you might want to present to them.

  2. Hi Elena,

    We may be talking past one another on this one, I'm not sure. I was in no way suggesting that an authtentic Christian lifestyle is unimportant to drawing others to Christ. On the contrary, I think it's very important.

    Maybe I would be able to understand where you are coming from a bit better if you answered this question:

    What is the gospel?

    Again, thanks for visiting the blog and for sharpening my thoughts.


  3. Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of heaven, which is the gospel. He not only came to preach, but to teach us how to live that life by His own lifestyle and exemplary living. The gospel isn't something academic that we study and know all the right answers to. It is a way of life - a new way of living in the Spirit. Words are needed to articulate and testify about this life, but if someone is not living that life, then how can they give a testimony? A person who preaches but never does what he/she preaches is like "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal"(1 Corinthians 13:1). Empty.

  4. Yes, I agree that Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom of heaven. But what is that good news? How do I enter the Kingdom of heaven?

    And what relationship do the letters of Paul and the other apostles that are found in the New Testament have with the narratives of Jesus' life that are found in the gospels?

    Another way of asking this question would be, what was the point of Jesus dying on the cross?

  5. Hi Pastor Larry (can I call you that?)

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comment on your blog. I see you have an interesting take on the gospel which is that it is all about words. No words - no gospel. The word 'gospel' as you know means 'good news.' Here is Jesus' own testimony concerning the gospel or good news (emphasis mine).

    "I must preach the GOOD NEWS of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because THAT IS WHY I WAS SENT" (Luke 4:43, NIV).

    I think there is a general misconception throughout Christendom that the gospel is Jesus coming to die for our sins. That is only ONE part of the whole plan of redemption, and not the full gospel. We need to understand also that the plan of redemption and good news is not only about Jesus dying to pay the penalty for our sins, but that it also about the RESTORATION of man into a right relationship with God, and our adoption as sons and daughters into the family of God. As sons and daughters of God we are also citizens of the kingdom of God.

    Therefore, we are called to walk "worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called" and not cause the name of God to be "blasphemed" among the heathen, for we are ambassadors of Christ, and are called by His name, therefore let us live in such a way so that when people see our good works, our Father in heaven is glorified.


  6. Let me also add that Jesus dying on the cross does not by itself remove the tendency for us to sin, it only removes the penalty. In the plan of redemption, the tendency to sin is removed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which we MUST RECEIVE if we are to be changed into new creatures. The old sinful man must be brought under subjection by the power of the Spirit, in order for us to take on the new man, created to be like Christ Jesus. When we are changed into the new man, our lifestyles WILL CHANGE, and our lives will reflect the power of the gospel to change lives, and to restore man into a rightful relationship with God. This is the testimony of the gospel. Changed lives.


  7. Hi Hillary,

    I hope you aren't getting the wrong idea about my understandning of the gospel based on this one little quote. I think if you were to listen regularly to my preaching (you can, at joycf.org) or read this blog regularly you would see that I am in wholehearted agreement that the gospel includes the restoration of man's relationship with God, producing a changed life that brings honor and glory to our Redeemer. I absolutely agree with that. In fact, I would say the the gospel includes not only man's restoration to relationship with God, but also the entire creation being restored and renewed (Romans 8:19ff, Colossians 1:20).

    That said, I still believe that the HEART of the gospel is Christ dying and rising to bear the penalty of our sins and reconcile us to God. This is the fountain from which all of the other wonderful benefits of the gospel flow out from.

    The reason I believe the quote in the original post is important, and the reason I stress that the gospel is a message with words, is because there are many in Christendom who have denied this truth about Jesus dying as a substitute to redeem sinners, and have put the entire focus of the gospel on living good lives, caring for the poor, fixing environmental problems and unjust social structures, etc. Ie, "the social gospel".

    Again, I agree that we should live lives worthy of the gospel and care for the poor and be good stewards of God's creation. Next Sunday I will preach a sermon on how Christians ought to be involved in one of the great injustices of our day: the tragedy of abortion. But to say that is gospel, while denying that which Paul said was the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), is not to preach part of the gospel; it is to deny the gospel.

    Whether or not you want to say that the gospel is all words, it seems that you agree that the whole gospel has not been communicated if the message of Christ's death as a substitute for sinners to be received by faith has not been communicated. For that I am grateful.

    Whereas you say this is only a part of the gospel, I might say it is the gospel. But I would only say that with the addiional qualification that the inevitable conseuqence of that gospel being believed is that we will live changed lives, putting sin to death and performing good works that bring glory to our Father in heaven. I would not call that the gospel, I would call it ADORNING the gospel (Titus 2:10), and all true Christians will do that.

    Paul says in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. No one will be saved by believing that I fed some impoverished people at soup kitchen. Therefore I do not call it gospel. However, in seeing us sacrifically serve and care for the weak and needy, they may be compelled to ask us why we do such things. That is adorning the gospel. In that way, my changed life might give me the opportunity to tell them about how Jesus lavished His riches on me in my spiritual poverty by dying on the cross to forgive me of my sins.

    That is the message that need to be believed in order to be saved. And that is why I call it the gospel, or at least the heart of the gospel.

  8. One more thing. I mentioned listening to my sermons, and if you go the joycf.org site and click on the tab for sermons, I preached a message to my church in which I dealt with some of these issues concerning words and deeds as it relates to the gospel on November 22nd, 2009.

    If you have a chance to listen to it, I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts.

  9. Hi Larry,

    I will definitely take up your offer to listen as soon as I get a chance. Your points are well taken. I think the impetus for change however is us focusing on the life of Christ rather than having others focusing on our lives. Christ lived the perfect life and the more we behold Him, the more we will be changed to be like Him. Many times we are poor representatives of Christ and give poor witness. Our changed lives however are powerful witnesses to the power of the gospel.

    I too believe Jesus' coming to die for our sins is the heart of the gospel, and that is correct. It is upon this foundation of Christ's sacrifice that all else is possible - the renewed life, the resurrection, our sanctification, our purification, holy living,and so on.

    Right now, we are exchanging words about the gospel. These words however will lack power unless they are followed upon by actions that demonstrate our faith and that we believe even the words that we speak and preach.


  10. Hillary wrote:

    "Your points are well taken. I think the impetus for change however is us focusing on the life of Christ rather than having others focusing on our lives. Christ lived the perfect life and the more we behold Him, the more we will be changed to be like Him."

    No need for the word, 'however' there, Hillary. I agree wholeheartedly. I did not mean to suggest that the impetus for change is having others focus on us. By no means! Change happens, as you said, as we see more of Christ and His glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 makes this pretty clear I think.

    In fact, it may not be an exaggeration to say that my entire ministry is built on the fact that change happens through seeing Christ's glory, and that His glory is seen supremely (though not only) in the Gospel of His perfect life, substitutionary death and triumphant resurrection.

  11. I am listening to that sermon. Beautiful sermon. I love the following points (paraphased by me).

    1. Our excitement for Christ during worship and church services fails to "bleed over" into our daily life.
    2. Christians are "bored" when they should be excited about serving Christ.
    3. "Missional life" ministers to others in "word and deed."
    4. We cannot divorce the word ministry from the deed ministry.
    5. All our words about Christ are "really hollow" if it is not backed up by a life.
    6. Going out to "rake leaves" by itself does not tell anyone about salvation and eternal life. That has to be expressed in words.
    7. Deeds provide opportunity for us to preach the gospel.

    Great sermon.

    My challenge to you however is that we as Christians need to move beyond "deeds" as a way of getting our "foot in the door" with others in order to preach to them, but rather, let Christ change our lives so that good deeds become a natural part of Christian living. A life lived in harmony with the principles of the gospel is a life of great testimony to the power of God. It is God's will that we live righteously in this present evil world.

    Thanks for being a good sport. Thanks for standing up to a little challenge. Many pastors sometimes shy away from challenges and hide away. We need more pastors like you who are at least willing to listen to other views that does not necessarily agree with their own :-)

    God's richest blessings,

  12. Well, go figure Hillary: we agree again. Perhaps it was unclear in my sermon, but I agree that good deeds aren't simply a way to get our feet in the door to evangelize people.

    Often people speak of good works or "mercy ministry" as a means to the end of sharing the gospel. I don't like using that language at all. I prefer to say that good deeds are an expression of Christ's love, and sharing the gospel verbally is also an expression of sharing Christ's love. In a Christian, they ought to function together to display the greatness of God.

    A pastor who has influenced my thinking in this way is a guy named Tim Keller. He pastors a growing church in New York City. He wrote a book called Ministries of Mercy that really helped me to think through the relationship of word ministry and deed ministry. You can check his ministry out at redeemer.com

    Thanks also for the encouragement. I am glad you were blessed by the sermon, and I appreciate you sharing your disagreements/concerns in a respectful and charitable way. Blogs are often a place where that kind of humility is absent, so thanks for breaking that trend.