Greg Gilbert has written a new book, “What Is The Gospel?” in which he tries to clear up some misconceptions about what the gospel is and present it clearly. As Kevin DeYoung says, “Greg Gilbert, with a sharp mind and a pastor’s heart, has written a book that will be helpful for seekers, new Christians, and anyone who wants to understand the gospel with greater clarity. … As a sure-footed guide to a surprisingly controversial subject, it clears up misconceptions about the gospel, the kingdom, and the meaning of the cross.”
Gilbert explains why he wrote the book in this interview:
Here is a portion of sample chapter that you can read for free online:
Since the very beginning of time, people have been trying to save themselves in ways that make sense to them, rather than listening and submitting to God. They have been trying to figure out how to get salvation to work—how to get the gospel to work—apart from the Wicket Gate, that is, apart from the cross of Jesus Christ.
That is no less true in our own day. Indeed I believe one of the greatest dangers the body of Christ faces today is the temptation to rethink and rearticulate the gospel in a way that makes its center something other than the death of Jesus on the cross in the place of sinners.
The pressure to do that is enormous, and it seems to come from several directions. One of the main sources of pressure is the increasingly common idea that the gospel of forgiveness of sin through Christ’s death is somehow not “big” enough—that it doesn’t address problems like war, oppression, poverty, and injustice, and really “isn’t terribly important,” as one writer put it, when it comes to the real problems of this world.
Especially now, when we are in the Easter season, this is a good book to consider. But since it is small (124 pages) it would be a great book to read at any time and to give to others as well for good, sound advice.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” — John 8:31-33
There is a tendency for me not to get it. And not only to I not get it, I do what I don’t want to do again and again. That is why I am encouraged when I take up the Bible and read it. Why? Because over and over I see people who fail miserably yet are able, with God’s help, to come back to God. I agree with Scotty Smith, who prays “As you dealt with Peter, so deal with me. Give me all the life-giving rebukes I need to keep me living in gospel-sanity.”
We have not graduated from the gospel. We need it each day. The hard lessons are a good thing for me. I am glad for the imperfect people of the Bible who are there to show me that only God can make me what I need to be, what I hope to be.
Scotty’s prayer is a great one. Read it all and let it soak it.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:7-8
The other day I saw a portion of a new book by D.A. Carson called “Scandalous.” In it, he says “Those who draw really close to Jesus think of themselves, first and foremost, as those loved by him rather than those who profess their love for him.” He is talking about the instances in the New Testament where writers described themselves as being loved by Jesus. The point is is that the attention is focused not on them and their efforts but on Christ and what he has done. This is a good thing to think about because we — me, you, all of us — have a tendancy to inflate our self-worth when talking about our salvation.
But, if that’s the case, then how do we read and understand the verse above? When it says God loved us “while we were yet sinners” it doesn’t mean that we were especially valuable. Rather, it points to the depth of his grace and love. We have a tendancy to get it backwards because we are so intent on protecting our self esteem. In Fifty Ways Jesus Came To Die, John Piper addresses this kind of thinking:
I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.” This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in their lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it.
There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty.
Christ’s death on the cross is a magnificent event. We should all look at it and marvel. But if we come away thinking it’s a lesson about our worth, then we’ve tragically missed the point.
This month, like every other month, christianaudio.com is offering a free download of an audiobook. In fact, this month’s deal is even better than in past months because they are offering not one but two free downloads: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” is free along with John Piper’s “Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die.” If these books are not in your library, then this is a great time to add them. To get them for free, all you have to do is go to the page for each audiobook, add it to your cart and then when asked for add coupons or promotion codes enter MAR2010 for the Bonhoeffer audiobook and MAR2010B for the Piper audiobook. After that you will be given a page with the files to download.
Since we are in the lenten season and Easter is just over a month away, I thought it would be good to look through “Fifty Reasons” and see why it matters — not just for Christians, but for all of humanity — why Jesus came to die. It has been said that there is no one who has anyone against Jesus. After all, he is viewed by people of all stripes favorably depending on your world view and what you seek to advance. His death by crucifixion brings the most important question of that time or any time in history: Why did Jesus have to die?
Beyond the human cause, which some would point to, there is a deeper cause if you explore the Bible. John Piper explains in the introduction of “Fifty Reasons”:
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). The Christian New Testament says, “[God] did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). “God put [Christ] forward . . . by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25).
But how does this divine act relate to the horribly sinful actions of the men who killed Jesus? The answer given in the Bible is expressed in an early prayer: “There were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus . . . both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). The depth and scope of this divine sovereignty takes our breath away. But it is also the key to our salvation. God planned it, and by the means of wicked men, great good has come to the world. To paraphrase a word of the Jewish Torah: They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).
And since God meant it for good, we must move beyond the question of human cause to divine purpose. The central issue of Jesus’ death is not the cause, but the purpose—the meaning. Man may have his reasons for wanting Jesus out of the way. But only God can design it for the good of the world. In fact, God’s pur- poses for the world in the death of Jesus are unfathomable. I am scraping the surface in this little book as I introduce you to fifty of them. My aim is to let the Bible speak. This is where we hear the word of God. I hope that these pointers will set you on an endless quest to know more and more of God’s great design in the death of his Son.
There is so much to learn from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that we will spend less time thinking about meals, clothes, candy and gatherings at Easter and more about what the Jesus Christ accomplished not only in history but for our lives. In the coming days I will be going through the chapters of this little book. If you are not a big reader (and it is not a big book at all to read), you can go download the audiobook for free so you can follow along. If you do like to read, Desiring God offers the book for free online as a PDF download. Either way, take some time to think about the death of the most important man in history and what purpose it served.
Here is a message I had the pleasure of hearing (via the audio) in church a few years ago. It is still powerful and a great reminder.
“That’s My King”
The late Dr. S. M. Lockeridge, a pastor from San Diego, California said these words in a sermon in Detroit in 1976:
My King was born King. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King. He’s the King of the Jews – that’s an Ethnic King. He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s the King of the ages. He’s the King of Heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that’s my King.
Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.
He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s saviour. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s honest. He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent. He’s the grandest idea in literature. He’s the highest personality in philosophy. He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism. He’s the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He’s the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That’s my King.
He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He’s the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He’s the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That’s my King.
Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers. He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords. That’s my King.
His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He’s indescribable. That’s my King. He’s incomprehensible, He’s invincible, and He is irresistible.
I’m coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can’t contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King.
He always has been and He always will be. I’m talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor. There’s nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!
Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We’re around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God’s power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? Forever and ever and ever and ever. . . And when you get through with all of the ever’s, then . . .Amen!
Well, it depends on what you mean by nuances. If you mean the distinction between being judged according to works and being judged on the basis of works, that’s a huge and significant difference.
That’s because the Bible is so clear—and our own consciences bear witness—that if our acceptance with God is grounded finally in our performances of the law, in doing good deeds, then I’m not going to have any security here and I’m not going to be accepted with God in the end. God demands a perfect righteousness, which is what Christ provides for us in his own obedience; and he demands that we be forgiven for our sins, which is what Jesus’ blood provides for us on the cross.