All Is Well

I can't tell you how much I love this quote from Phillip Cary's excellent book Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do. Cary is addressing the anxiety that comes from trying to add our good works to the gospel in order to be accepted by God. He writes:

What the gospel of Christ does is give us Christ, and that is enough. We can let everything else be what it is - hard work, worthwhile work, works of love, and heartaches that come with all of that. And we can let our feelings be what they are, whatever that may be. What matters is Jesus Christ, and the gospel tells us that all is well on that score: that we are our Beloved’s and he is ours.

The Sucker Hat

In yesterday's MacBreak Weekly, Leo Laporte talked about the concept of a sucker hat. Here's how it works.

Leo and his wife went to a beach in Mexico. Vendors try to sell you their wares. Leo's wife bought a nice cheap hat from one of the vendors. Leo told her, "You just bought the sucker hat!" That hat was a cue to all the other vendors that she was a sucker and would probably buy their junk too.

I'm pretty sure that sucker hats exist in the ministry.

  • If you're a pastor and dress up like a Transformer, you're wearing a sucker hat.
  • If you move from fad to fad, driven by the latest trends in ministry, you're wearing a sucker hat.
  • If your frame of reference is what's happened in the last ten years, and you have little knowledge of two thousand years of church history and theology, you're probably wearing a sucker hat.
  • If the Word and prayer are being squeezed out in your life and ministry, you're wearing a sucker hat.

I've worn a sucker hat more than once in my life. Sucker hats always look like a good, cheap buy at first glance, but they also make you a target for other hucksters selling stuff you can't afford to buy.

(Almost) In the Elevator with Tim Keller

110927

I like Tim Keller a lot. I discovered Tim right around the time he started to become known in the broader evangelical church. He models the type of ministry I was looking for, and he's had a profound impact on my life and ministry. I'm genuinely appreciative for him. I've met him once, and been in the same room with him a bunch of times. I've interviewed him, and I know he used to visit this blog.

Genuine appreciation can easily cross the line into something that's unhealthy. When I checked in to a hotel earlier this year, Tim was right in front of me. When I walked to the elevator, Tim was waiting ahead of me. I could have taken the elevator with him, but I balked. Shy? Insecure? Intimidated? I don't know. At one level, I understand wanting to give someone like Tim his room. On the other hand, I needed to get to my floor, and I should have just taken the next available ride.

Sometimes we just need to remember that people are just other people, even if they are Tim Keller.

I was thinking of this yesterday as I read Galatians 2. Paul is defending his message and apostleship. Some people accused him of being a second-rate apostle with a secondhand message. Paul talks about his contact with the pillars of the church in Jerusalem, people who were close personal friends and disciples of Jesus. Look at how Paul describes these people:

…from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)… (Galatians 2:6)

Think about that. God doesn't like Peter, Paul, or Tim Keller any better than he likes me.

Later on in verse 9 he talks about James, Peter, and John, and says they "seemed to be pillars." Paul is anything but intimidated by them. Their status didn't mean anything to them. He saw them and himself as God does, and he refused to be intimidated.

Thomas Schreiner writes:

Our evangelical subculture (and larger culture as well!) tends to be dazzled by our religious superstars. How thankful we are for the ministries of pastors like John MacArthur, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Tim Keller! And yet me must not venerate them … May the Lord keep us from venerating evangelical superstars, so that our praise and adoration and wonder are directed to God in Christ alone.

I'll remember that next time I get the chance to go in an elevator with Tim Keller. I'll probably just ask him, "What floor?" and press the button for him, thinking to myself, "What he is makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality." Either that or God will find another way to teach me this lesson.

Opples, Blockberries, and Gaspels

110926

Pssst…I have a deal for you. For only a few dollars I can get you an Opple iPhone or a RIM Blockberry. Yes, the name is spelled differently, but some say that these products are just as good as the real thing. Except of course they're not the real thing. Just don't take them to Apple or RIM expecting service because they won't recognize them as their own.

The same is true with the gospel. There are many versions of the gospel - you can call them gaspels if you'd like. They're the versions of the gospel sold by shady dealers on tables by the alley. You can get the gaspel as a discount, and some say it's just as good as the real thing. Just don't go to God with the gaspel because he won't recognize it as his own either.

We don't get to define the gospel or modify it. It's the proprietary property of God. No knock-offs.

That's the point that Paul makes in Galatians 1. If we modify the gospel, we lose it. The gospel doesn't originate with what people think, nor is it even the product of the church. Quite the opposite: the church is the product of the gospel. We don't get to decide what the gospel is; Paul got the gospel directly from Jesus. If we modify it, we lose it.

Don't settle for gaspels. There's only one gospel, and it originates with God. No substitutes; no modifications.