Saturday, October 3, 2009

Recovering the Gospel - Part I

I have recently finished reading two outstanding books, the first is Milton Vincent's A Gospel Primer for Christians, and Murray Brett's Growing Up in Grace. I am have also just begun the Prologue in John chapter one in my Adult Bible Class called the Sojourners. I am also preparing a message to deliver to the entire church body in a couple of weeks as I fill in for our pastor who will be gone one Lord's Day. I am bringing a message from Romans chapter one called the Prize of the Gospel - God Himself.
Anticipating John chapters three and John six I have decided to re-read John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. As I re-read this book I am drawn to and captivated by the preface by J. I. Packer. Some one once said that this is worth the price of the book alone and I fully agree. The preface is awesome and priceless.
I am convinced that each generation must redefine the gospel. No, not redefine it in the sense of changing the gospel by adding to or by taking away any core element. Each generation must wrest it back from those who would change it by diluting it, diverting it, or by changing it in the hopes of making it more palatable for the masses to accept.
So, as I contemplate the gospel both for my own life and the lives of those in my Adult Bible Class, and prepare for this up and coming message I want to share with you the preface of J. I. Packer from the reprint of Owen's book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. I will deliver it in about six or seven parts since it is so long and complex. I hope you will take the time to chew on it, suck out the flavor, and digest the rich nutrients offered by this august servant of God. I offer you part one:
There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor's dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead.
This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty.
The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God–centered in their thoughts and God–fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do.
One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be "helpful" to man––to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction––and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was "helpful," too––more so, indeed, than is the new––but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God.
It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on Whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not.
Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.
To be continued... (What do you think?)

1 comment:

pilgrim mommy said...

Great quote. Borrowing from David Wells, we are in the therapeutic age. The issue isn't "is this true", it's "how does it make me feel."

(I'll have to add this book to my wish list.)