The Gospel Coalition, New England Chapter, held a wonderful conference this past weekend in Boston at the Back Bay Events Center. The conference title was The Gospel Shaped Life (a broad subject which the speakers poignantly and effectively addressed). I had the privilege to attend with many other Gordon-Conwell students and pastors/leaders from all over New England. There is a bulls-eye on church revitalization and church planting in New England, with specific emphasis on the importance of reclaiming the central truths of the Gospel. While New England is among the most unchurched parts of the country (although it ironically has some of the most church buildings in the country), there is a great push for a new awakening in a new era. To this aim, the conference added an immense encouragement to those seeking to be faithful in this difficult soil. Here are some highlights from the first day of the conference:
Tim Keller: The Gospel Shaped Ministry (Pre-Conference Message) Keller called those in ministry in New England to communicate the Gospel in effective ways in a post-Christian society. His big idea was that we need to be a particular kind of community that engages our culture as a witness to the Gospel. Here are six distinctives of what that community should look like according to Keller: As witnesses of the gospel we need to be a…
Contrasting Community: The church’s understanding of sex, money and power need to be contrasted in relationship to the world’s understanding of sex, money and power. We need to show a different way of being human.
Servant Community: The people around the church need to see the church as existing for others, not just ourselves; they need to see us serving the city, being a servant to our culture. People will listen when we do this.
Unifying Community: “We’re not like those Christians,” we define ourselves over and against other Christians. But we should be defining ourselves as different from the world, not every other Christian. Be respectful and cooperative with other denominations and Christians. We need to have a unifying attitude that is not divisive.
Lay Launching Community: The Christian message is carried by individual Christians, the early church embodied this. We live in a time of capitalism. Christians themselves tend to be consumers. We view ourselves as customers. We are weak here, we go to church to consume, not as ministry providers, we don’t minister as much as we want to be fed. The church needs to be launching people out to share the Gospel, our people need to be trained!
Suffering Community: Outside of the West, suffering is a major part of Christian witness. In the West, as soon as we get persecuted, we complain. We need to learn how to suffer for the sake of Christian witness.
Prophetic Community : In a blue collar community my pastoring set up my preaching and in a white collar community your preaching earns your pastoring. Christianity is first of all the message if which believe leads to a way of life. There are many churches that devalue preaching and overvalue community, this is wrong. The Gospel takes all burdens away, our fears. Community does not do this. The Gospel is news about what Jesus Christ has done. Therefore the essence of Christianity means we must say something, we must preach, we have to convince people it is true! History is not changed by modeling, history cannot be told with how someone lives, it must be spoken, using words! Preach it. Christianity is not just a way of life, it is words, relaying the message of the Gospel. If it’s a way of life, then we are telling people that if you live a certain way then you can be right with God. Justification by works.
__________________________________________________________________ Tim Keller: The Gospel Shaped Life: Plenary Session One Keller opened the conference by looking at four substantial questions that address what the Gospel shaped life looks like.
What’s the Gospel? The Gospel is news not advice, it is a report that something has happened in history that calls you to respond. Only Christianity is the religion where God comes to get us, not like the rest that have tips on how to find God. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, not through Jesus. The Gospel is news not advice!
Does the Gospel shape a life or not? There are plenty of people who say that the law shapes the life, not the Gospel. The Gospel saves you, but the law directs how you are supposed to live, we please God based on how God has commanded us to live in the law. This is true in one sense, the law does prescribe the will of God in our lives, however it is too neat to say that only the law shapes our lives. It is impractical too. The law of God can only give standards, the Gospel gives motivation! There’s a deep motivation because of what Jesus has done for you! Jesus’ generosity is the basis for our generosity, it shapes who we are. Sin withers when the Gospel is brought to bear on it (it withers our desire for it), it does not wither in light of law.
What does the Gospel shaped life look like? You are not your own, you were bought with a price (summation of Calvin’s understanding of the Gospel life). This is the summary of what it means to be shaped by the Gospel! There is something more important than our own happiness and desires. The Gospel shaped life transforms selfish desires into God desires. Christianity fulfills you, gives you something bigger to live for, but it humbles you with the knowledge that you are saved by grace. This turns us outwards, others focused, living for God’s mission. A Gospel shaped life should be culture shaping! It should be clear to people that Jesus is what they need. We must show the difference between Religion and the Gospel.
How does the Gospel change and shape our lives? Examples of what a Gospel shaped life looks like:
Depression: Moralist-You must be doing something wrong, repent. Relativist-you don’t like yourself, boost your self-esteem. Gospel-Focuses on the heart, something in your life has become more important to you than God, find that thing!
Parents: Gospel-Put Jesus in the center of your life, not your parents, throw their expectations out the window. The Gospel frees us from their opinions.
Grace: Until you get the Gospel deep it will be very difficult to be gracious. We turn our moral differences into righteousness if the Gospel doesn’t sow grace deep within us.
Humor: A good sense of humor is essential for a Gospel shaped life. A pharisee constantly frowns at jokes. Relativist humor is very cynical and skeptical. The Gospel makes us able to laugh at ourselves without cutting and bitterness.
John Piper: The Gospel Shaped Mind: Plenary Session Two
Both of Piper’s messages at the conference made my short list as a few of his greatest talks. They were inspiring. Here’s the gems:
Main Point of Piper’s Two Messages (Big Idea): God created you with a mind and with a heart so that the heart when rightly served by the mind would treasure God with white hot affection. The mind exists to serve the act of worship which comes from the heart. But because of Sin neither the heart nor the mind do what they are supposed to do, the don’t serve rightly or treasure rightly, until the Gospel saves and shapes the mind and heart. If we apprehended reality correctly our heart would be white hot for Him. Right thinking exists for the sake of worship! The head is meant to serve the heart! Thinking serves affection.There is a reciprocal relationship between the function of the mind thinking and the function of the heart right feeling for God. The mind exists as kindling for the furnace of your hearts white hot affection for God. It throws logs of combustible truth in the furnace of the heart for the purpose of inflaming your hearts affection for God. Use your mind to stoke your heart with a passion for God. God’s purpose for you reaches its ultimate climax not in right thinking but in right affections of Him.
The Gospel Shapes Your Mind: Three ways it does:
Submission: Since the Gospel involves the objectivity of a God outside of you and the historicity of Christ outside of you and visible events (crucifixion) and sentences in Scripture, therefore the Gospel demands that the mind would not be a creative organ, but submit to the objective realities outside of you!
Liberated: The Gospel shapes the mind by liberating the mind from self deceiving, reality distorting bondage to self-exaltation and preservation. In Christ all the destructive powers of my badness are over, I can’t be destroyed if I’m holding fast to Jesus. The Gospel provides an absolutely certain outcome of my final glory, eternity with Jesus. The Gospel delivers our mind.
Instrument of Regeneration (serves heart as organ of perception): The Gospel shapes the mind by the Holy Spirit taking the objective statement of the Gospel and makes it the instrument of the miracle of regeneration. The mind perceives the Gospel and makes the heart come alive in regeneration. The mind by grasping the Gospel is becoming the instrument by which the heart is set on fire through regeneration.
The Mind is Crucial in Serving the Heart: 7 ways in which it serves:
Let your mind serve your zeal by bringing truth into the furnace of that zeal. If the mind doesn’t serve the heart, the heart can have wrong affections for God.
God gives truth through the mind. By thinking God gives you truth! We cannot dichotomize thinking and feeling. Thinking is not the goal, it is a path and tool.
The mind construes, articulates the Gospel and becomes the instrument by which the Holy Spirit opens the heart, raises the dead, gives eyes to the blind and saves sinners. Paul’s reasoning, explaining and approving engages the organ of his mind and engages people with rational conduct. Words become the means by which the dead live.
Jesus assumes we will use logic. Luke 12:54-57. Thinking is essential.
Deception Alienates.Matthew 21:23-25. If you want alienate Jesus, be cunning with your brain.
Thinking rightly is crucial to living the truth. “Do you not know?” Jesus asks this 13 times. If you knew you would know how to act and think. You acted as if you did not know. Use your mind so you can know!
It takes your mind to know the Bible! The Bible is a book. It is the Word of God, containing truth. We learn of Jesus here. He chose to preserve his holy word in a book. The implication is that you must use your mind. It must be read to have any influence, and to read is to learn to think. To read well is to think well.
Summary: God created you with a mind and with a heart, a organ of thinking and reflection and an organ of affection and emotion. The mind when it is rightly serving the heart causes the heart to be aflame with Christ as it’s supreme treasure. Spare no effort to use your mind and think rightly so that by your mind you would be pouring fuel into the furnace of the heart for the sake of inflaming a white hot affection for God.