Jonathan Edwards once said: ‘God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.’ It is not enough to say, ‘I guess he is God, so I have got to knuckle under.’ You have to see his beauty. Glorifying God does not mean obeying him only because you have to. It means to obey him because you want to – because you are attracted to him, because you delight in him. This is what C. S. Lewis grasped and explained so well in his chapter on praising. We need beauty.
Tim Keller and Redeemer announced the New City Catechism: “A joint adult and children’s catechism consisting of 52 questions and answers adapted by Timothy Keller and Sam Shammas from the Reformation catechisms.” The New City Catechism officially debuts on October 15, but you can check out the website and download the free iPad app today.
Sally Lloyd-Jones’ new book, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, was released on Tuesday of this week – Foreword by Timothy Keller and Illustrated by Jago. If you like The Jesus Storybook Bible you will love this devotional book. Watch this video and get a glimpse.
Last week our friend Tullian Tchividjian released his new book, Glorious Ruin. “In this world, one thing is certain: Everybody hurts. Suffering may take the form of tragedy, heartbreak, or addiction. Or it could be something more mundane (but no less real) like resentment, loneliness, or disappointment. But there’s unfortunately no such thing as a painless life. In Glorious Ruin, best-selling author Tullian Tchividjian takes an honest and refreshing look at the reality of suffering, the ways we tie ourselves in knots trying to deal with it, and the comfort of the gospel for those who can’t seem to fix themselves—or others.”
Tim Keller’s first book, Ministries of Mercy, is now available on Kindle. This book is actually a great follow-up book to Generous Justice, which is now available in paperback. Remember that first book doesn’t mean worst book, and older doesn’t mean irrelevant.
Luther says that if we obey God’s law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our good deeds we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning and happiness. We may be trusting in our good parenting or moral uprightness or spiritual performance or acts of service to be our real and functional “saviors.” If we aren’t already sure God loves us in Christ, we will be looking to something else for our foundational significance and self-worth. This is why Luther says we are committing idolatry if we don’t trust in Christ alone for our approval.
The first commandment is foundational to all the other commandments. We will not break commandments two through ten unless we are in some way breaking the first one by serving something or someone other than God. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something which comes because we are trusting in that thing rather than in Christ for our righteousness or salvation. We sin because we are looking to something else to give us what only Jesus can give us. Beneath any particular sin is the general sin of rejecting Christ’s salvation and attempting our own self-salvation.
The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one . . . It is only when, as in the gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance. Only then can he repose in him as one friend reposes in another . . . The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.
At some point you need tell the Christian story in a way that addresses the things that people most want for their own lives, the things that they are trying to find outside of Christianity, and show how Christianity can give it to them. Alasdair MacIntyre said this about narratival apologetics: ‘That narrative prevails over its rivals which is able to include its rivals within it, not only to retell their stories as episodes within its story, but to tell the story of the telling of their stories as such episodes.’ Read that sentence again.
There is a way of telling the gospel that makes people say, ‘I don’t believe it’s true, but I wish it were.’ You have to get to the beauty of it, and then go back to the reasons for it. Only then, when you show that it takes more faith to doubt it than to believe it; when the things you see out there in the world are better explained by the Christian account of things than the secular account of things; and when they experience a community in which they actually do see Christianity embodied, in healthy Christian lives and solid Christian community, that many will believe.
The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world. The simple fact is that the imagination ‘gets you,’ even when your reason is completely against the idea of God. ‘Imagination communicates,’ as Arthur Danto says, ‘indefinable but inescapable truth.’ Those who read a book or listen to music expose themselves to that inescapable truth. There is a sort of schizophrenia that occurs if you are listening to Bach and you hear the glory of God and yet your mind says there is no God and there is no meaning. You are committed to believing nothing means anything and yet the music comes in and takes you over with your imagination. When you listen to great music, you can’t believe life is meaningless. Your heart knows what your mind is denying. We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk.
If you think you really understand the gospel – you don’t. If you think you haven’t even begun to truly understand the gospel – you do. As important as our ‘gospel theologizing’ is, it alone will not reach our world. People today are incredibly sensitive to inconsistency and phoniness. They hear what the gospel teaches and then look at our lives and see the gap. Why should they believe? We have to recognize that the gospel is a transforming thing, and we simply are not very transformed by it. It’s not enough to say to postmodern people: ‘You don’t like absolute truth? Well, then, we’re going to give you even more of it!’ But people who balk so much at absolute truth will need to see greater holiness of life, practical grace, gospel character, and virtue, if they are going to believe.
Traditionally, this process of ‘gospel-realizing,’ especially when done corporately, is called ‘revival.’ Religion operates on the principle:I obey; therefore I am accepted (by God). The gospel operates on the principle: I am accepted through the costly grace of God; therefore I obey. Two people operating on these two principles can sit beside each other in church on Sunday trying to do many of the same things – read the Bible, obey the Ten Commandments, be active in church, and pray – but out of two entirely different motivations. Religion moves you to do what you do out of fear, insecurity, and self-righteousness, but the gospel moves you to do what you do more and more out of grateful joy in who God is in himself. Times of revival are seasons in which many nominal and spiritually sleepy Christians, operating out of the semi-Pharisaism of religion, wake up to the wonder and ramifications of the gospel. Revivals are massive eruptions of new spiritual power in the church through a recovery of the gospel. In his sermon on Mark 9 Lloyd-Jones was calling the church to revival as its only hope. This is not a new program or something you can implement through a series of steps. It is a matter of wonder. Peter says that the angels always long to look into the gospel; they never tire of it (I Pet. 1:12). The gospel is amazing love. Amazing grace.