- John Steinbeck, The Paris Review
In warning his readers against divisions, Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel to those of us who are being saved is the power of God. That describes the beauty of a book like Jared Wilson’s Gospel Deeps. It’s an extended meditation on this glorious word of the cross.
“Does love demand freedom?” he asks in chapter one. That’s the idea we get from many stories and some ministers. “What we are asked to believe is that God doing whatever he wants with whomever he wants is a simplistic, fatalistic view of love, and that God letting us do whatever we want is a more compelling vision of his love.” But God, who is the author and giver of life itself, whose character defines love, peace, joy and other virtues, could not be more loving than he is. God is love, though love is not God, as some would have it. “Maybe the reality is a love more multifaceted than we can understand with finite, fallen minds… that the God of the Bible is as transcendent as he is imminent, that his ways are inscrutable, that his love is glorious and astonishing precisely because it is too wonderful for us” (pp. 27-28).
Jared isn’t a mystic on a frozen Vermont hillside. He has done the dirty jobs of pastoring and discipling. He has plowed the ground of his own heart and despaired at the rocks found there. His previous book, Gospel Wakefulness, describes many men who have been broken by God’s astonishing love. In Gospel Deeps, he marvels at the power that breaks men unto eternal life. “Uneducated men with stuttering tongues and unclever speech set the world on fire because they were content to simply arrange the wood and trust the torch of the gospel to do its thing” (p.45).
The gospel, Jared teaches us, reconciles individuals to God, individuals to each other, and us together to God—three distinct area of reconciliation. Not only this, as if this wasn’t enough, in Christ Jesus “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:19-20). All things. How could any five-step system delivered confidently from mainline pulpits improve on that which reconciles all things to our righteous Lord?
“The best preaching exults in the Scriptures so that hearers will know that worship is the only proper response to who God is and what he’s done. Preacher are laboring for the joy of the hearer, after all (2 Corinthians 1:24). Exultational preaching is an act of worship itself, the proclaimer faithfully expositing the Bible while enjoying it at the same time, speaking its God-breathed words as if they were delicious, reflecting on them and reacting to them as if no words were ever more impressive, staggering, powerful. Because none are” (p.80).Jared dwells in wonder on the Trinity and how each person of the Godhead plays a role in our salvation and perseverance (note 1 Peter 1:1-2). He describes who we are by faith in Christ Jesus (note 1 Cor. 2:12,16; Eph 1:3-5, 13-14; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:13-14). He observes the joy we have in the Lord, even the joy that sprouts from broken ground: “But if holiness makes you a sourpuss, you’re doing it wrong.” This and many other joys are found in this book, which I highly recommend to you.