You are a unique Gospel that God wants to write: Life or lie message?
In “You’re not the message,” Chris Rosebrough’s podcast episode of “Fighting for the faith,
he takes Ken Shook to task for saying that the Gospel is all about Jesus but then spends the rest of his sermon showing his listeners how the Gospel is all about them.
Before we look at Shook, what is the Gospel. It’s what Jesus did.
1 Corinthians 15: 1-4
1. Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For lI delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day pin accordance with the Scriptures…”
The Gospel is about the Atonement, of which the personal relationship of “at-one-ment” with God is the result. “The atonement through Christ, says R. C. Sproul, is the core of the Gospel. What happens is, the Gospel becomes a personal relationship within Jesus. The devil has a personal relationship with Jesus. What kind of personal relationship, what is the ground of that personal relationship. Obviously, being a Christian involves having a personal relationship with Jesus but there is content to that relationship. When you lose the Gospel you lose Christ.” (The White Horse Inn podcast, “Interview with R. C. Sproul)
Here is Ken Shook’s sermon, punctured en route by Rosebrough’s poignard. My comments are in italics.
“It seems we’re always trying to turn Christianity into some religious words or sermons or slogans. But Christianity is not a sermon or a slogan, it’s the savior. Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with Christ.”
The devil has a relationship with Jesus; not a very good one. In the review of “For the World: Essays in Honor of Richard L. Pratt Jr; Edited by Justin S. Holcomb and Glenn Lucke,” the reviewer writes:
“The chapter on “Redeeming the ‘R-Word:’ Paul against and for Religion” was intriguing and relevant since it addressed the contemporary Christian cliché that “Christianity is not a religion.” Reggie Kid, the author of this essay, noted how Paul was against bad religion (what in the Greek is called asebeia) but this in no way implies that Paul or the Bible ever pit Christianity against religion per se. There is, biblically speaking, room for good “religion,” and good religion is one which adheres to right doctrines and also right practices. The author made a good point that whatever value and advantages gained in using the mantra that “Christianity isn’t a religion,” it can in the long run be counter-productive against the church’s effort in evangelism and discipleship. Hipster Christians need to read this chapter!”
Shook – It (the Gospel) is not a bunch of words; it’s the Word, Jesus Christ.
Rosebrough – So, it’s all about Jesus. But watch what he does here. Misdirection. Magic trick, illusions. Magician – artist of misdirection. Rick Warren begins his “Purpose-driven life” with it’s not about you, but the rest of the over 300 pages IS about you.
S – The Gospel is not about we say but all about what we do and how we are Jesus to the world around us.
R – Did you catch that. What we do, we are Jesus. No, Christ died for our sins he rose on the third day. Anything about what you did, no.
S – St Francis said preach the Gospel a all times and when necessary use words.
R – Francis never said that. False. Debunked. The only way to preach the Gospel IS through words.
At a church cell group I attended, we were talking about “love one another.” One of the group told us she helped an elderly woman at the Supermarket. I asked her, “Did you talk about Jesus.” The group seemed taken aback as if to say “Why talk Jesus when you can do Jesus?” Simple: Muslims, Jews, atheists often “do Jesus” far better than many Christians. More importantly, faith comes by hearing not by doing. The Gospel (good news) consists of words not deeds. And, of course, faith (in the Gospel) without deeds is dead.
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[f]
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
S – I want you to look out for a unique story that God wants to write. Open your Bibles to John’s Gospel 1.
R – Who is that about? Jesus. John 20:30-31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John 1 is not about you getting yourself in alignment with some story for your life and your purpose. It’s about Jesus and what he has done. Very God of very God who came into the world. He (Shook) starts off with he wants to start a church that’s all about Jesus. He’s preaching you.
S – (Shook quotes John 1:1-14) – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Shook then prays:
“Oh God I thank you that within each of us, you placed a life message and you want us to discover it with your life message because you created us and you know how we work best so we can find fulfilment in true meaning….it’s all about you…this church is not about the past but stepping out in faith…”
R – John 1 – Yes, all about Jesus.
S – We read the Bible not to get to know the Bible better but to get to know Jesus better.
I once wanted to find a “house church.” I met the leader at a restaurant in our city and told him that what I would love to do is for members to dig deep into the scriptures. He said his group is not into “bibliolatry.” What counts, he said, was caring for one another. And that is how we come to know Jesus. How in heaven are we to know Jesus (that is, personally) unless we have knowledge of Jesus, facts about Jesus, and facts are always conveyed by words. Content knowledge (facts) cannot be separated from words. If you kill the words, you kill the facts. That’s how language works.
During a debate between Sye Ten Bruggencate and Matt Dillahunty, Turrentinfan reports the following audience question:
“One gentleman asked why everyone isn’t saved, if every one knows/believes that God exists. As Sye explained, the problem with the question was that it presumed that it is enough for salvation for people to know the truth of the gospel (i.e. understand the content), or enough for salvation for people to assent to the truth of gospel (i.e. acknowledge that it is true). Instead, salvation is about trusting in and relying Jesus Christ alone for salvation, which we could describe as viewing the truth as good and desiring it for oneself.”
The Reformers of the 16th Century divided true saving faith into three parts: notitia, assensus and fiducia.
Notitia comprises knowledge, such as belief in one God, in the humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), His crucifixion for sinners (1 Cor. 15:3), His bodily resurrection from the dead, and some understanding of God’s grace in salvation.
Assensus is belief. This belief hasn’t yet penetrated the heart; it is still on the mental level – a mental assent. “I believe it, that settles it.” Of course, when you say that your mental assent is more of a mental descent. To understand why it is a mental descent, you need to ascend to the the third level of faith: fiducia.
Fiducia is full trust and commitment, it’s the heart knowledge of Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17. (See Two conversions: The mind (notitia) and the heart (fiducia) of faith in Blaise Pascal).
Bible doctrine, says Stanford Murrell, is essential to proper spiritual maturity (Proverbs 4:2; 1Titus 4:13). Sound doctrine is the foundation of faith (Titus1:9). What people believe about sin, salvation, the Scriptures, and the Savior will determine their eternal destiny, as well as their relationship with us God the Father (John 7:17). Doctrine does not divide the Church as much as it unites the saints around the truth that has been entrusted for preservation and proclamation (Jude 1:3). Any attempt to minimize the importance of doctrine should be challenged (2 John 1:9-10). The Church of Jesus Christ would not be the powerful force it is in the world today apart from the faithful defence of basic Bible doctrine. While it is unfortunate that controversies about doctrine occur, such discussions are necessary (1Co 11:18-19) as they form an essential part of the history of the Church.
(Stanford E. Murrell, 2014. “A glorious institution/The church in history, Parts 1 and 2. Free ebook.
S – We read God’s word and we study the bible not to fill our heads with Bible knowledge but to get closer to Christ because Christ is the Word. The really good news is that the word became flesh and dwelt among us…God became one of us so that we could understand his life message he was communicating to us, which was the Gospel, the good news.
R – Good news that Christ died for our sins.
S – And then he experienced all the things we go through so that we could relate to him. Pain, rejection and temptation. Never once did he sin. And he went to a cross and shed his perfect blood so that we could receive forgiveness. Then he rose again. And he ascended to heaven and he said “I’m going to leave my spirit with you.
R – Elements of the Gospel there. He’s going to pull the switcharoo here on us in a second.
S – Receive me and you become a child of mine and I will put my spirit in your life literally so that you will be my body and I can live through you. And so Jesus in you is the Gospel.
R – No. The Gospel is Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and rose again on the third day. Not Christ in me.
S – … So therefore you are the Gospel.
R – No, I am not, What Jesus did is the Gospel. Galatians 1: “ I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” If you believe you are the gospel, you are damned eternally.
S – You are the good news. This is what this series is about. You are the good news. Your life message is the Gospel….Every one of us has a unique life message, a unique expression of the Gospel as God uses us and works through our personality and gifts…So my life message is this: my unique expression of Christ to the world. And until you discover your unique life message then you’re just existing instead of really living. You will always be in a fog of confusion in life not really having clarity of why you are on this earth.
Shook is laying on his hearers the burden of a works salvation. An impossible cross to carry. It’s not what you do what saves you but what Jesus did – for you. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you do in life, this temporal state; it’s about trust, which saves to eternal life. From this trust flows obedience, which is evidence of your trust.
R – Talk about fog of confusion. That is what he is spewing right now out of his mouth.
S – Until you discover your life message, you’ll never discover your voice. You’ll never have clarity on why you are here. You’ll always have a dissatisfaction, a disequilibrium of the soul. Something will always be missing. ..If you can find your voice and come alive …you are the message. So how do I discover my life message… listen for the divine whisper.
Shook has perverted “And you hath he quickened (raised to life), who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) into quicksand, into which his narcissistic followers plunge.
R – Discover your unique Gospel? You are the Gospel? Divine whisper? Where are you getting this!
KS – It’s ironic, when you stop talking you find your voice. Practice the ancient discipline of solitude in silence.
R – Where in the bible does it say all this? Must first practice divine solitude? God will whisper to you your divine purpose which becomes our gospel?
S – The problem is we can’t hear his whisper. We always have the noise going…
Rosebrough asks “Where is he getting this?” I suggest not the marquis de Sade but indirectly from the Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre Caussade via a Karl Keating or a Richard Foster.
Here is the French Jesuit,
Jean-Pierre Causssade, famous among Roman Catholic contemplatives for his
handbook “Abandonment to divine providence,” Here is an excerpt from Caussade for whom the Gospel is merely “a tiny stream” in comparison to the river that God
is dying to pour into you.
“The Holy Spirit continues to
carry on the work of our Saviour. While helping the Church to preach the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, He writes His own Gospel in the hearts of the just. All
their actions, every moment of their lives, are the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.
The souls of the saints are the paper, the sufferings and actions the ink. The
Holy Spirit with the pen of His power writes a living Gospel, but a Gospel that
cannot be read until it has left the press of this life, and has been published on
the day of eternity….Teach me, divine Spirit, to read in this book of life. I desire to become Your
disciple and, like a little child, to believe what I cannot understand, and cannot
see. Sufficient for me that it is my Master who speaks. He says that! He
pronounces this! He arranges the letters in such a fashion! He makes Himself
heard in such a manner! That is enough. I decide that all is exactly as He says.
I do not see the reason, but He is the infallible truth, therefore all that He
says, all that He does is true. He groups His letters to form a word, and
different letters again to form another word. There may be three only, or six;
then no more are necessary, and fewer would destroy the sense. He who reads
the thoughts of men is the only one who can bring these letters together, and
write the words. All has meaning, all has perfect sense. This line ends here
because He makes it do so. Not a comma is missing, and there is no
unnecessary full-stop. At present I believe, but in the glory to come when so
many mysteries will be revealed, I shall see plainly what now I so little
understand. Then what appears to me at present so intricate, so perplexing, so
foolish, so inconsistent, so imaginary, will all be entrancing and will delight me
eternally by the beauty, order, knowledge, wisdom, and the incomprehensible
wonders it will all display.” (Mystical YOUnion: Do you want God to write a Gospel about you or are you aching to write it yourself?).
Something is amiss in this mystical effusion, namely, the belief that besides the “Gospel” proper, which for Caussade means the scriptures, there is another Gospel, a Gospel for you and for me. It seems quite possible that God takes copious notes on each individual’s story, but should we call that individual story another Gospel, even if we mean it metaphorically? The word of God in the scriptures “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16). The focus of Christians should not be on the memorable, momentous “Gospel” God is writing about their lives, but on the historic remarkable life of Jesus Christ.
(See My gospel: much about noting).
The mystical kind of spirituality is very popular today among all kinds of religions and non-religions. Those who get tired of the world yearn for an experiential connection to God. But, this yearning downplays the place of faith and Scripture. It exalts “transcendental” experiences that propel the person out of the mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. But this talking with God is not Biblical prayer. If any practice – be it prayer, or some other contemplative practice – does not square with the Bible, it is not of God. For this reason, mystical meditation and “centering” (Richard Foster, Abbot Thomas Keating) is more a flight of fancy than Biblical Christianity. Biblical spirituality involves the study and meditation upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality, in contrast, looks for a “deeper meaning”, where scripture is regarded as allegorical rather than literal (the normal meaning of grammar, meaning and context, where history does not become allegory).
(See In search of French past (7): The hermit, the poet and the clown).
Finally, the Gospel does not, can never, should never, become “my Gospel” – not allegorically and – God forbid – literally, as in Shook. The only one who has the right to talk of “my Gospel” is the apostle Paul, because it is God-breathed, that is, Christ’s Gospel:
25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from[f] faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
J.C. Sproul said above: “When you lose the Gospel you lose Christ.” When you find the Gospel you find Christ. When you find your Gospel you lose Christ.