Posts filed under ‘Christianity’

The ERLC Leadership Summit


The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention will host the first annual ERLC Leadership Summit April 21-23 in Nashville, Tenn. The inaugural Summit’s theme is “The Gospel and Human Sexuality.” It will equip pastors, church leaders and lay people to speak to these critical issues in their congregations.

Speakers include ERLC President, Russell D. Moore; J.D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C.; and Trillia Newbell, ERLC’s Consultant for Women’s Initiatives. Keynote addresses, panels and breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin.

“So many of the questions that pastors grapple with today deal with situations that would not even have been possible a generation ago,” Moore said.

“As technology advances and the culture changes, the questions that we have to grapple with are often increasingly complex. At the ERLC Leadership Summit, we’ll talk about these questions, and how we can be be faithful in ministry, gospel-focused in engagement and Christ-shaped spiritual warriors in the ways we seek to wrestle with the principalities and powers of this age.”

The main sessions will be live-streamed on Follow the conversation on Twitter by following @ERLC, @ERLCPressRoom and #erlclive. A complete schedule of events and speaker information can be found online.

April 21, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Evangelism as Captivating with the Gospel


I recently wrote this article for Facts & Trends magazine on The Power of Story: Captivated by the Gospel.

Do you remember the last time you heard a good story? 

It’s easy to become captivated by a compelling narrative or a fascinating myth. Stories are instruments of powerful mnemonic and formative capability.

From movies to novels or warm conversations over dinner, stories can capture our imagination and shape the way we think about the world like nothing else can. We love stories.

And like children sitting on the edge of a bed awaiting their parents to read a beloved bedtime book, we long to be told a good story. But more importantly, we want to be part of a good story.

Stories help us make sense of where we find ourselves, what has gone wrong with things, and what can be done about it. Stories shape and narrate how we view ourselves. These narratives speak to a deep longing in our hearts, opening the doors of possibility to things that could be.

However, most of the narratives that captivate the imaginations of children are nothing more than fanciful myths.

Sadly, the same can be said of the worldviews that narrate the worlds of most adults. The burning question that each of us must ask is, who gets to narrate my world?

The true story of the whole world

As Christians, we understand all people are confronted by a host of master narratives that compete with, and often contradict, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We also believe God has revealed the true story of the whole world. The story of Christ is, as C.S. Lewis put it, “the true myth.”

In many ways, the Bible presents redemptive history as a four-part drama—creation, fall, redemption, restoration. In that drama, Jesus isn’t part of the story; He is the point of the story.

Evangelism is sharing the greatest story ever told, namely, the story of redemption through Jesus Christ.

In order to make sense of our lives, we depend on narratives that provide us a broader framework of meaning.

I believe Alasdair MacIntyre was correct in After Virtue, when he wrote: “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”

This principle is extremely important for evangelism. Not only do we need to understand the true story of the whole world, we also need to understand how to read the story of those we talk with. What narrative shapes their worldview, outlook and self-image?

Reading their story, sharing Christ’s story 

Too often our evangelism efforts are driven by one-sided, canned presentations. How often do we listen to those we are sharing with in order to present the gospel to them with wisdom and care?

What if our efforts in sharing the good news were less about putting people in evangelistic headlocks until they make a decision and more about capturing their imagination with the beautiful gospel?

We believe the story of Jesus’ life and work is directly related to the story of our world, and to the personal stories of everyone we meet.

When we share the gospel with others, do we ever stop to wonder if they are able to perceive how the gospel is good news for them? How does Jesus’ story enter their story?

What people need to know is not only what the gospel is, but also what the gospel does. We need to show them the beauty of the gospel and pray that God would open their eyes to see it.

In his book Unbelievable Gospel, Jonathan Dodson suggests that using gospel metaphors at the prompting of the Holy Spirit is a more effective way to aim at the heart of the listener.

In other words, apply the gospel to their story.

  • To those searching for acceptance in all the wrong places, we can point them to perfect acceptance in the gospel of justification.
  • To those searching for fulfilling relationships, we can point them to profound, personal union with Christ.
  • To those who struggle with tolerance, we can show them the uniqueness of Christ in the gospel of redemption.
  • To those who fear disapproval or demand the applause of others, we can share the gospel of adoption, which offers an enduring approval and produces humble confidence.
  • To anyone longing for a new start, there is the hope of new creation.

Tell His story

This is not changing the message of the gospel, but aiming that message to hit people at their deepest needs.

The gospel story is the only story that will help your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors make sense of the world they find themselves in, what has gone wrong with it, and what has been done about it.

As those who are captivated by God’s story, let us go as storytellers and captivate others with the grace of God found in Jesus Christ.

Sin and death may be part of the story, but we know where the story ends. Paradise may be lost, but in Christ we are headed for peace and satisfaction forever after.

The gospel story is good news. Do you remember the last time you told this great story?

April 17, 2014 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Free Theology Books for Kindle


Here is a list of classic theology books for free on Kindle. HT Justin Holcomb.

St. Aquinas

Martin Luther

John Calvin
Jonathan Edwards
D. L. Moody
William Wilberforce
John Bunyan
R. A. Torrey

G. K. Chesterton

April 15, 2014 at 7:05 am 4 comments

David Platt on “Heaven is for Real”

There are many books circulating the market right now that claim to recount visits to heaven – and millions of people are reading them.What should we make of these supposed “post-death experience” stories?

In this video David Platt argues that if we want to know what heaven is really like, we should read the Bible, not fanciful accounts of near death experiences. (HT J.A. Medders)

Justin Taylor notes the MacArthur book that Platt is quoting from: The Glory of Heaven: The Truth about Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (2nd edition, Crossway, 2013).

Taylor also references a podcast by John Piper, in which he argues against such books from Isaiah 8:19 (And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?)

God’s beef with necromancy [form of magic involving communication with the deceased] is that it belittles the sufficiency of his communication. Why would you inquire of the dead to find out what you want to know instead of inquiring of me? And if they say: Well, I have inquired of you and you didn’t tell me what I want to know. He would say: Well, that is your problem. I have told you what you need to know. You don’t need to know about such and such if I haven’t told you. And, in fact, if you go trying to inquire about such and such that I haven’t told you, you are dishonoring me. So that is the nature of the argument. And, therefore, I think the prohibition of séances and necromancy applies to this kind of thing and people ought to stop writing those books.

April 11, 2014 at 11:38 am Leave a comment

The Gospel and Our Adoption in Christ

In February I had the privilege of preaching at my home church, Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC. My sermon was titled “The Gospel and Our Adoption in Christ”, and was based on Galatians 4:1-7.

You can also download the audio from iTunes here.

April 5, 2014 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

T4G Panel on “Group Ministry in the Local Church”


Groups are a big part of local church ministry. Whether they come in the form of discipleship groups, accountability groups, Sunday School, or home groups, it’s clear that evangelicals believe groups matter.

For this reason, The Gospel Project is excited about hosting a discussion panel on Group Ministry in the Local Church at Together for the Gospel on Wednesday, April 9th in the zero dollar book store from 2:00-2:40. Our panelists will include:

During the discussion our panelists will explore the theological foundations (why) and practical applications (how) of group ministry. We’ll be tackling issues like:

  • How do you integrate a group philosophy into your church’s overall theological vision for ministry?
  • Should groups be on campus or off campus?
  • How do you raise and train new leaders for groups?
  • Should groups monologue or dialogue?
  • How do you connect the spiritual disciplines into the structure of your groups?
  • How do you multiply groups?
  • Should groups have an outward or inward focus?
  • How do you cast vision for groups from the pulpit?
  • Should groups primarily gather to study the Bible or focus on fellowship?

According to the research behind Transformational Groups, the majority of church attenders don’t believe groups are that important to the church. However, a survey among Protestant pastors, 76% agree (32% strongly) that groups are the primary network to mobilize their church and its work. Why is there such a discrepancy between the church leaders and their members? Join us for the panel discussion as we explore the answers.

April 3, 2014 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Charles Spurgeon’s “The Carrot and The Horse”

Charles Spurgeon once told a story, of a king a farmer and a noblemen:

“Once upon a time there was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.

But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?” The next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and simply dismissed him.

The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”

How often do you and I approach God presenting our good deeds with the heart of the nobleman, rather than giving love filled worship in response to our good King with the heart of the gardener?

March 31, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

The Moral Influence of The Cross

Wax Header

This post first appeared at Trevin Wax‘s blog in his Theology of the Atonement series.

The spring study of The Gospel Project for Adults and Students leads participants through the “Atonement Thread,” which helps people put the Bible together to see how the theme of atonement runs from Genesis to Revelation.

The Moral Influence of the Atonement

Discussions concerning the atoning work of Christ have, for the most part, been relegated to the purpose and extent of Christ’s sacrifice, and rightly so. After all, our evangelical faith holds this doctrine of penal substitution at the center of what we believe about the atoning work of Christ (1 Cor. 15:32 Cor. 5:21Col. 2:14).

Even so, there is another aspect of the atonement of Christ often overshadowed by our wonderfully cross-centered theology. If we are seeking a truly comprehensive and robust survey of that wonderful cross, the moral influence of the cross is a necessary companion to the atonement conversation.

The Cross Moves Us

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
…And pour contempt on all my pride.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

This portion of Isaac Watt’s 1700′s hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” has regained popularity in recent years and illustrates this doctrine well. The words focus on the emotive effect of the cross on the observer. Before we go any further, it may be prudent to address a few concerns many of you may have already begun to consider.

1. Does the theory of the moral influence of atonement necessarily lead to legalism?

No, and we must be careful not to react legalistically to anything that holds Christ up as an example. As John Stott reminds us, the way to holiness is not by imitation of Christ, but through union with Christ.

How do we express union with Christ? We would all acknowledge that to some degree, worshipping the Lord through a holy lifestyle is a part of that equation, especially if we take seriously Paul’s words in Romans 12:1-2.

2. Isn’t the moral influence theory of the atonement the bastion of mainline liberal theology?  

Well, it is, unless the moral influence of the cross is rooted in the purpose of the atonement. Leon Morris has rightly argued that by itself the moral example of the cross is inadequate, but this does not render it untrue. In every instance where Christ’s death is presented as an example to be followed, one can also find his substitutionary sacrifice as the foundation and motivation for that example close by. We cannot disconnect the two.

The Bible teaches that the sacrifice of Jesus not only provides salvation, but also impels us towards sanctification, inspiring us to reflect God’s love to others (2 Cor. 5:14Rom. 8:35-39).

Did Jesus not tell His disciples that the greatest display of love is found in laying down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13)? The motivating power of His sacrifice is seen on the cross. Jesus’ obedience to God and His petition that God would forgive those who crucified Him moved one of the criminals on the cross beside him to believe (Luke 23:39-43Mark 15:39).

Likewise, Paul argues that the death of Christ not only provides the way of salvation, but also provides the supreme demonstration of love (Rom. 5:8). For this reason, he called the church to imitate Jesus’ love and compassion and adopt an attitude of unselfish concern for others (Eph. 5:1-2Phil. 2:3-8).

Peter also exhorted the church: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).” Christ serves as the example of love and perseverance for the church when they suffer unjustly.

The Supreme Example

Jesus Christ is the supreme model of Christian discipleship, the ethical exemplar of the Christian life (1 Cor. 11:1Heb. 12:2). The compelling force of Christ’s sacrificial example is one answer to indifference and inaction in our broken world. Once we truly grasp what Christ did on our behalf, we will be compelled to live our lives in a way that reflects his self-sacrifice for all others (2 Cor. 5:14).

The cross of Christ not only atones for sin; it also provides a gripping vision that demands our souls, our lives, and our all.

March 22, 2014 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

“United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity” by Trillia Newbell

My friend Trillia Newbell has just released a book titled United: Captured by God’s Vision for DiversityTrillia’s writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published at Desiring GodTrue WomanThe Resurgence, The Gospel Coalition, and more.

N_185Trillia is currently the consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Newbell is also the Lead Editor of Karis, the women’s channel for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

United is going to be a helpful book for the life of the church. Once you hear Trillia’s heart you will see why…

Is racism still a problem in this country in 2014?

To be honest, it’s easy to feel discouraged about where we’re at today, and—in those moments—I have to remind myself about the progress that has been made, most especially in broader society. We know that civil rights leaders of fifty years ago fought hard, risking life and limb, to overturn the “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws. Those leaders hoped that blacks and whites would enjoy life together and that blacks would no longer be subjected to discrimination and hate crimes. This was the dream for the entire nation. Martin Luther King Jr. famously shared his dream that “one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” America has clearly come a long way since the 1960s. Our public facilities, parks, pools, and educational facilities—once segregated—are now filled with a variety of ethnic groups enjoying the benefits of their liberties. Yet our churches too often remain separate but equal.

After so much progress in society, why does the church remain relatively unmoved?

N_185_authPerhaps we are all tired of the conversation about race. It doesn’t take much to recognize that our country continues to be divided along racial lines. Perhaps it seems that the country is moving toward unity, but it’s a façade—just check your local news. And though our society may want to move on, we can’t, and neither can or should the church. Maybe our churches remain segregated simply because it’s comfortable. There’s nothing malicious to it; we are just more comfortable with “our own.” But also, it might be because diversity and racial issues are scary. Talking about race and racial reconciliation can be downright terrifying. No one wants to offend, and in our politically correct society, who would blame you? If you say the wrong thing, ask the wrong question, or call someone by the wrong name, will they be angry? Are you black or African-American? Chinese or Asian? Hispanic, Latino, or Mexican? This is an explosive topic, and sometimes it seems that the wisest course of action is to avoid it at all costs.

You believe it’s vitally important to fight through the risks and the discomfort in order to fully live out the Gospel of Christ.

Yes. We can so clearly see throughout Scripture that God celebrates the diversity of His creation. He does not distinguish between races: He created man in His own image, sent His Son to save the world, and saves anyone who believes. God calls Christians to be imitators of Christ and to walk in love. If He doesn’t show partiality, neither should we. The problem with the current church model and experience for most of us is that while we affirm these truths with our lips, Sunday morning reveals a different story.

Your father played a big part in shaping your desire to embrace diversity.

Absolutely. I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap as a young girl while he told stories about being beaten for not standing to sing “Dixie” at a sporting event and about the torture and pain that many blacks experienced in the South. He’d end his sobering stories, which never failed to rile me up, by saying, “But, Trillia, we need to love everyone regardless of race or religion.” As a result, I grew up wanting to accept everyone, despite my own rejection at times. It was how my father raised me—to love those who hate you.

How did becoming a Christian shortly after high school change your perspective on identity?

What I discovered as I grew in my Christian faith was that my identity is not solely that I am a black female, nor is it dependent on what others think of me. My identity is in Christ. When I find my identity in Christ and not in outward appearance, there’s satisfaction. I’m satisfied in Him because He loves me. I finally understood that my identity is not my own—my identity isn’t about me. But it’s one thing to know this truth; it’s another to understand it and have opportunities to apply it. I am thankful that I have found those opportunities within my church and throughout my walk with Christ. Understanding that my identity is no longer in my blackness, what I do and don’t do, or how others view me has been incredibly freeing. This knowledge allows me to enjoy my relationship with Christ and my relationships with others. It has also provided me the opportunity to enjoy my identity as a black woman in a better way. Being black is a part of my identity. But it isn’t my entire identity.

What would you say is the clear benefit of diversity?

By building into diverse relationships, we display the reconciliation and redemption of Christ to a world that is broken and divided. True unity is found first through being reconciled to God and then to each

March 3, 2014 at 8:05 am Leave a comment

Free eBook: “The Scarlet Thread Through The Bible” by W.A. Criswell


Download the free eBook The Scarlet Thread Though The Bible by W.A. Criswell as a gift from The Gospel Project.

There is a scarlet thread that runs throughout the Bible and it is the binding that holds the pages of the Scripture together. That great scarlet thread is redemption through Jesus Christ. In this book, Criswell traces the scarlet thread of redemption from the blood of covering after the fall in the Garden of Eden to the blood-washed multitude standing before the throne of God in eternity. The content of this eBook was originally delivered as a sermon by W. A. Criswell at First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas. In his introductory remarks Dr. Criswell said:

400x_scarletthreadcover“The sermon is as if a man stood on the top of a great height and looked over the whole creation of God. As Moses stood on the top of Mount Pisgah and saw from afar the Promised Land, so this message tonight. We are standing as it were on a great and lofty eminence. And we are looking over the entire story of human history from its beginning in the eternity of the eternities, in the unknown distant ages of the ageless past, and as it reaches forward to the great incomparable consummation of the ages that are yet to come.”

To download the free eBook of The Scarlet Thread Through The Bible by W.A. Criswell, click here.

February 25, 2014 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

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