Saturday, December 31, 2005
So What IS This Gospel?
See unlike some over at http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk my thoughts are on far more loftier things. To think ... that back in my immaturity I used to leap around and indulge in such postmodern excesses ... anyway enough of that!
Tonight I want to ask - what IS the gospel? I got the amazing present of John Piper's latest book for Christmas from my brother and have begun diving in. I adore John Piper - he doesn't waste any of our time in 'warming up' but dives right in with weighty theology. I got to chapter 2 on the bus coming into work and was absolutely overwhelmed with Piper's excellent outline of the "Gospel". I feel that the word, "Gospel" somewhat like the word, "Cross" has become something of a catchphrase among some evangelical streams today and is bandied around in sermons, in notices and dare I say it - even in songs; (http://wordandspirit.co.uk/blog/index.php?/archives/152-Awesome-God-CD-Review.html) - yet I wonder if some newer Christians were pinned down and asked - so what IS the gospel? - whether a clear and concise answer could be given? Piper has done just that.
1. There is a Living and Imperial God.
Piper is careful to begin with God - as we must. What is the point of beginning at the Cross and the death of God's Son if the non-believer doesn't even believe in God? (Acts 14:15) "A living God who made heaven and earth". Piper wrote; "No cherished aspect of the Christian gospel would have any redemptive meaning if there were no living God who created heaven and earth".
But we must insist that not only is God alive and present, He is not just a disinterested bystander. This is His earth and He rules it. (Isaiah 52:7) "Your God reigns". Piper goes on and writes; "God's sovereign rule is essential to the gospel ... In other words the reign of God has broken into this world to set things right for the sake of His people".
2. Jesus, A Saviour Who Died.
Paul makes the explicit link between the gospel and the death of the Son of God by writing; "I would remind you, brothers of the gospel .. that Christ died for our sins". Piper wrote; "The coming of the ... Messiah was the coming of a Saviour because He died to bear our sins". Here is the dichotomy - that the triumphant ruling and reigning Messiah expected actually had come - to die. He must die.
And it is hear that some stop - even unconciously. Yet Ern Baxter reminded his hearers that there is "nothing positive about the Cross on its own". Hence I got goosebumps as Piper continued in his defining the gospel.
3. Jesus, Risen from the Dead!
Piper puts it as bluntly and simply as possible; "There would be no gospel if Jesus had stayed dead". Many who seem to stop at the Cross in their thinking, singing and preaching would protest that they do indeed believe in the resurrection and I am sure that they do. But what message does it convey to the non-believers among the church when on Easter Sunday morning, the message of Calvary is preached? Much care and attention must be given, I think, to ensuring that the gospel that we preach is balanced and whole and no undue attention is given to one particuar part to the exclusion of others.
Rant over and back to Piper ...
(1 Corinthians 15:17) "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins". Hmm ... it seems the Word of God is even more blunt that Piper! That is why it was so glorious to sing Kate Simmonds wonderful anthem at Brighton; "In Him I have believed, on this my hope now rests - that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!".
4. The Promised Holy Spirit.
Piper writes; "The Spirit will be for us the Presence and the power of Christ Himself. The fellowship of Christ, promised in the gospel, happens by the Spirit's Presence in us". And then he goes on and gets even more detailed; "What makes the gospel good news in the end is the enjoyment of the glory of God in Christ. The Holy Spirit provides the present experience of that enjoyment. Therefore the promise of the Spirit in the gospel is what makes it good news".
If the rest of this book turns out to be as such rich quality as this chapter I have just summarised, (and according to Dr Sam Storms it is; (http://samstorms.com/article2.asp?id=644) then I am in for a real treat. And the most exciting thing about this book is that common to Piper, it is absolutely mission orientated. He doesn't write merely to inform. He writes to stir, to waken. Here is a quote from the introduction to close:
"The world needs nothing more than to see the worth of Christ in the work and words of His God-besotted people. This will come to pass when the church awakens to the truth that the saving love of God is the gift of Himself, and that God Himself is the gospel".