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As we celebrate the resurrection this Sunday, I find myself reflecting on our tendency in 21st century to miss the point of the gospel message. The good news is that Jesus came to save us, but from what? The number one answer today is likely that Jesus came to save us from hell, from the consequences of our sins. But is that really the goal of Jesus death and resurrection?

In his gospel Matthew tells us that he was named Jesus because He would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Later we are told that Jesus message was to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Even the “Great Commission” includes an expectation to teach disciples to “observe all that [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). The bottom line is that the goal of Jesus ministry was that people turn from sin and follow him.

Here’s the where I believe the confusion has come. We have come to view just punishment as bad rather than the actions that provoke. As a culture we frown on those who spank their children, because we see spanking as “bad.” Nobody is talking about the bad actions that led to the disciple. We frown on the death penalty as “inhuman,” because we fail to see their victims as human. We view hell as bad, because we cannot image a loving God actually punishing people for their unrighteous actions. Ultimately, we see hell as bad, because we have lost any sense of what sin really means.

As  result of these distortions, we feel a need to be saved from punishment,  because we don’t get that our action warranty the publishment. So instead of having a problem with sin and feeling a need to be rid of sin itself, we long to be freed from sin’s consquenses without needing to change our actions.

Bottom line: What’s worse hell or the sin that necessitates it? What would make the world a better place: getting rid of sin or getting rid of hell?


In my previous posting, I addressed the response of the wise men to the revelation of Jesus’s birth. We read in Matthew 2 that after showing up in Jerusalem, they are sent to Bethlehem where they “fell down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11). This reminded me of another reason why we should tell others about Jesus, so that they can come to worship him.

I have heard it said that “missions exist because worship doesn’t,” but that is just another way of saying that Christians engage in evangelism, because there are people not yet worshiping God.

I am persuaded that this point is crucial to a proper understanding of our goal in evangelism. We do not just want to see people’s lives reformed or our churches grow in numbers, but we want to see that God is given the worship that He rightly deserves. To miss this is to miss the fundamental cause of sin.

Consider Romans 1 where Paul tells us how men and women all know God (1:19-20). However, instead of giving Him the honor (worship) that He deserves, they “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (1:23). The reason God gives people up to their sinfulness is “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (1:25). Man’s fundamental problem is a false worship problem.

So at least one purpose of evangelism is to turn people enslaved to the worship of created things back to worshiping the one true God. I think this is why Paul talks about the gospel as the “glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4) or “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Evangelism is ultimately an attempt to tell others why God in Christ deserves to be worshiped. So evangelism must challenges the idols that people hold on to, because it must present a God who is better than those idols. We talk of the righteousness of Christ, because it is superior to our own. We talk of how Christ fully satisfied God’s wrath on our behalf, because there is nothing we could ever do that would. We talk about how God took the initiative in loving use, because we would never have loved Him first. The gospel fundamentally draws attention to our unworthiness and points us to the One who is worthy.



The last few days, I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between the guy standing behind the pulpit preaching on Sunday mornings and the people sitting in the pews. As a part of the reformed tradition, I understand the primacy that we place on the preaching of the Word. After all, bad preaching will eventual produce bad fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). However, in this post I want to offer three reasons why the pew might be more important than the pulpit.

  1. The Church is Every Believer, Not Just the Preacher. Sometimes it feels like Christians define the church much like they do a business. The church consists of a building or other physical location where one can go to participate in worship. The church has “employees” who are responsible for organizing and engaging attendees in a worshipful experience. It should be noted that these “employees” are the people hired to conduct ministry. The problem with this mindset is that it fails to appreciate that the church is made of people rather than a physical structure.Furthermore, we down play the importance of the people in the pews, when identify a church based on its pastor or preacher. The preacher exists for the good of the people in the pews, but the people in the pews have a responsibility to hold the preacher accountable to the Word of God.
  2. How People Respond to Preaching Matters. While the fundamental goal of the preacher should be to faithful declare the Word of God, it should also include a desire to see that Word bear fruit. Jesus was pretty clear about the dangers of hearing his words and not obeying them (Matthew 7:24-27). If a pastor preaches and no one actually applies that preaching to their lives, then has it really accomplished its purpose? I guess it all depends on what the preacher really wants. Are they satisfied with hardened hearts bound for eternal judgment or do they long for broken hearts stirred for love of God and love for one another?Now some one might say that a preacher can only be faithful, the fruitfulness of their preaching is out of his hands. It depends on God. They are right. However, the preacher (and the church) that are not satisfied with the fruitfulness of the preaching can do something. They can pray! We do not have because we do not ask!
  3. The People in the Pew Determine the Future of the Pulpit. Regardless of what form of polity a church has or how they go about hiring a pastor/preacher, the people in the pew will eventual determine who is in the pulpit. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3). Let us not separate this point from the previous one. If the Word of God is not effecting and transforming the people in the pew, they eventually will either go find a different preacher or seek to replace the current one with one more suitable.The reality is that the longevity of a church’s existence depends on the impact that the preaching has on the people in the pews. The future of a local church depends on both the faithful preaching of the Word of God and its fruitfulness in the lives of those in the pews. And both of those depend on the Spirit of God working in the lives of both the person in the pulpit and the people in the pews.

Review of The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief by James R. White

Now I will be the first to admit that I have not read much about the trinity other than a couple of sections out of various systematic theology books, so this book was a very welcome read. It is always good to contemplate the character of God, but what better than to think on what the Athanasian Creed calls “The Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity.”

It has long been understood by theologians that the term “Trinity” is not recorded in Scripture. But has White demonstrates if the following three foundations are true, the only conclusion that we can come to is that of One God in Three Persons, the One Trinitarian God.

  1. Monotheism: There is Only One God
  2. There Are Three Divine Persons
  3. The Persons Are Coequal and Coeternal

Therefore, as White approaches the three foundations, he gives the scriptural support to show that Christians have always believe in One God, the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The fast majority of the book however is devoted with dealing with the Deity of Christ. I appreciated White’s treatment of texts that are often used to deny the deity of Christ, especially Pilippians 2, John 1, and Colossians 1. As a believer it was a delight to mediated on the Incarnate God and the significance and yet perplexity of the Unity of the Father and the Son and the Unity of the Divine and the Human in One Person. The discussion of the deity the Spirit while brief was a great reminder that the Spirit is not some immaterial force, but a Person, who has feelings, an intellect, and a will.

The doctrine of the Trinity is presented in this book in simple and understandable pieces. It is written in a way that is accessible to the lay person, but offers tidbits for the more scholarly reader. Two specific examples are his explanation of the Greek of John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and his connection of Philippians 2:6 “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasp” with the theme of humility in Philippians 2:3-11.

One other helpful section of the book was his discussion of the history of the doctrine of the Trinity as he attempted to show from the writings of the early church fathers that they held to a Trinitarian doctrine (i.e. One God = the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). They held to a monotheistic believe, but at the same time believed the Father to be God, the Son to be God, and the Spirit to be God.

While it is true that no one can explain the nature of God completely, we as believers should endeavor to know what ever trues about Himself He has chosen to reveal to us. This includes understanding the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit and their relation to on another. The Forgotten Trinity is a great book for beginning that quest.