Book Review: Explicit Gospel

“If you are a teacher, if you are a politician, if you are a businessman, if you are in agriculture, if you are in construction, if you are in technology, if you are in the arts, then you should not be saying, “I need to find my life’s purpose in this work,” but rather, “I need to bring God’s purpose to this work.” The missional Christian should see all things through the lens of the gospel, because the gospel’s aim is “all things.” Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

I’ve been on summer vacation for the past three weeks.  That is definitely one of the perks of being in education.  You work like crazy for 11 months of the year, but you get to enjoy some serious down time in the summer.  You go from a million miles an hour to zero for a few blissful weeks.  I am so grateful for this downtime to really reflect and recharge for the coming year.

God has been speaking to me very loudly about growing in my knowledge of Him.  When I think of people in my life that I look up to…I look up to them because of their knowledge of Him.  I’ve never looked up to someone simply because of something they can do or someone that they are.  I want to be like people that always know just the right verse to share in a situation or who understands doctrine and theology on a level that challenges the thinking of those around them.  I want to be a person that truly understands the gospel in a way that compels me to share it in an irresistible way to those that are far from God so that they can experience new life in Christ.  How can that happen?  I have to be completely saturated with the gospel through study, prayer, and fellowship with those who desire the same.

I’ve heard a lot about Matt Chandler’s book The Explicit Gospel and I quickly added it to my summer reading list.  My awesome husband and I had a few days to ourselves last week in Chicago and I did a good bit of reading while we were there.  I read The Explicit Gospel and it further confirmed my desire to grow in my faith and to be totally saturated in the Word and person of Jesus Christ.  Hold me accountable to this!

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted them below…

  • The idolatry that exists in man’s heart always wants to lead him away from his Savior and back to self-reliance no matter how pitiful that self-reliance is or how many times it has betrayed him.
  • We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the power of his resurrection. If you add to or subtract from the cross, even if it is to factor in biblically mandated religious practices like prayer and evangelism, you rob God of his glory and Christ of his sufficiency.
  • There is nothing confining God. His creativity is transcendent because his very being is transcendent. Everything that is is his, and he can make more of anything he wants out of nothing at all. There is no human category for this kind of richness. It makes Bill Gates a pauper, Rockefeller a beggar, and one of those island-owning sheiks in the Middle East a hobo. I don’t know what it makes you and me, but it certainly moves us into the perspective of awe that God deserves. Now we get a glimpse of what would move Paul to sing from his soul, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”
  • Why in the world do we, with our nanosecond’s worth of existence on the earth, still presume to judge how God operates?
  • The universe shudders in horror that we have this infinitely valuable, infinitely deep, infinitely rich, infinitely wise, infinitely loving God, and instead of pursuing him with steadfast passion and enthralled fury—instead of loving him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; instead of attributing to him glory and honor and praise and power and wisdom and strength—we just try to take his toys and run.
  • This avoidance of the difficult things of Scripture—of sinfulness and hell and God’s notable severity—is idolatrous and cowardly. If a man or a woman who teaches the Scriptures is afraid to explain to you the severity of God, they have betrayed you, and they love their ego more than they love you. In the same way that it is not loving or kind not to coach your children on the dangers of the street and the dangers of the swimming pool, so it is not loving not to warn men and women about the severity of God.
  • Failing to note the severity of God is attempted theft of all he’s due. To discount, disguise, or disbelieve what God does in response to the falling short of his glory is, in itself, falling short of his glory.
  • To discount the enormity of God’s severity, as if we aren’t really that bad and really deserve mostly kindness, is to discount the enormity of God’s holiness.
  • The chasm between heaven and hell is illustrative of the chasm between God and us. He is glorious; we are not. He is holy; we are not. He is righteous; we are not. And this chasm between God’s total perfection and our total depravity deserves the chasm of stinking, smoldering Gehenna.
  • Even if you could scare people into a semblance of Christian religion, they would not be true worshipers, because their fear of God—which is a good thing—would not be shaped by their love for God.
  • We play with the eternal weight of glory like a child does a Happy Meal toy.
  • We have to feel the weight of God’s severity, because without feeling the weight of his severity, we won’t know the weight of his kindness, and we won’t be able to worship him and him alone. Worship of him is why we were created.
  • The cross of Jesus Christ was not some surprise, not some plan B for God, but rather the plan known about within the Godhead since the beginning. God’s response to the belittlement of his name, from the beginning of time, has been the sacrifice of Jesus.
  • Nothing runs to the center of God’s kindness and severity, demonstrating his justice, his love, and his glory all at once, besides his incarnate Son’s sacrifice on the scandalous cross.
  • Jesus puts it simply: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).
  • The invitation is bound up in the gospel message itself. The explicit gospel, by virtue of its own gravity, invites belief by demanding it.
  • What if the sacrificial system was given so that we would learn, no matter how much we gave and how much we worked and how many pricey things we sacrificed, that we still can’t fix what is broken?
  • The religious, moralistic, churchgoing evangelical who has no real intention of seeking God and following him has not found some sweet spot between radical devotion and wanton sin; he’s found devastation.
  • Isaiah 6:10: Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.
  • We are never, ever, ever going to make Christianity so cool that everybody wants it. That is a fool’s errand. It is chasing the wind. We can’t repaint the faith. It doesn’t need our help anyway.
  • We need to rightly divide between gospel and response, or we compromise both. D. A. Carson writes: The kingdom of God advances by the power of the Spirit through the ministry of the Word. Not for a moment does that mitigate the importance of good deeds and understanding the social entailments of the gospel, but they are entailments of the gospel. It is the gospel that is preached.
  • If we piggyback the work of the church onto the message of the gospel, we don’t enhance the gospel. It is just fine without us; it doesn’t need us. Furthermore, doing that results in preaching the church rather than preaching Christ. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves,” Paul writes, “but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5).
  • Science is ever-changing. But our God has no shadow of turning (James 1:17). His everlasting proclamation is firmer than the shifting sands of empirical observation. This is not to say that science is obliterated by Scripture, but rather that it is subsumed by it.
  • Every aspect of creation, from the largest galaxy to the tiniest burst of flavor in food or drink or seasoning, radiates the goodness of God.
  • We are exiled from the garden into a wasteland, and we keep thinking we can make this wasteland into the garden. But that doesn’t work and never will. What has been lost is too great for us to recover on our own; the chasm is too wide for our feeble efforts to bridge.
  • Ecclesiastes is in the Bible so that nothing would be in our heart but Jesus.
  • God’s glory is eternal; therefore, sin is an eternal offense.
  • We’ve been given the covenant community because we need each other, and together we’ll be more mature, experience more life, and know more joy than we ever would apart from one another.
  • We are to outdo one another in honor (Rom. 12:10), we are to serve one another (Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 4:10), and we are to be built up by what every joint supplies (Eph. 4:15–16). God has intrinsically wired and gifted you as an individual, and that wiring and gifting has not been given to you simply for your own purposes but rather for the glory of God.
  • If you are a teacher, if you are a politician, if you are a businessman, if you are in agriculture, if you are in construction, if you are in technology, if you are in the arts, then you should not be saying, “I need to find my life’s purpose in this work,” but rather, “I need to bring God’s purpose to this work.” The missional Christian should see all things through the lens of the gospel, because the gospel’s aim is “all things.”
  • We go on the offensive full of gospel confidence, because we see that day coming when what God has inaugurated in Christ he finishes in Christ. We forge ahead in faith, in hope, and in love because that day of consummation is coming soon.
  • When we look at the gospel from the air, through the grand narrative of the Scriptures, we see that the gospel is not just about God’s forgiving us of sins and giving us eternal life, but also about what we are being forgiven for and what eternal life is like.
  • Acts 17 takes the idea that I have been uniquely wired by God and moves it to the idea that I’ve been uniquely placed by God.
  • To fill empty bellies, to build shelters for the homeless, and to put silver and gold in the cups of beggars without any concern for the eternal nature of their souls is an exercise of futility. Our hope should always be the gospel.

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