- God just wants you to be happy.
- You only live once.
- You need to live your truth.
- Your feelings are reality.
Kudos on the cover design that pushes me to turn the book on its face whenever I have it out. You could call that a drawback, but wouldn’t this be a great book to leave on top of the Gideon Bible in hotel room drawers?
Some of the points touched in the book:
- Does God just want you to be happy or is your unhappiness a symptom of misplaced priorities or even a difficult calling? Could your happiness be the main thing drawing you away from him?
- What do you justify with #YOLO? Is it godly living or self-indulgence?
- What you call your truth may be relative, but the truth is not. Unfashionable? Sometimes. Reliable? Definitely.
- Your feelings may not mean what you think they mean. They need biblical interpretation
Jared writes with light-hearted quips from our culture, quotes from contemporary and classic authors, and vulnerable illustrations from his own life.
When I’m not priding myself on being more whatever than others, I hate myself for not being whatever enough. The weird thing about humility is that the more you think about it, the more it goes away. That’s me.
The other lies he tackles:
- Your life is what you make it.
- You need to let go and let God.
- The Cross is not about wrath.
- God helps those who help themselves.
I found his exploration of problems with the clichic “let go and let God” eye-opening, and the next chapter on substitutionary atonement should be understood by everyone. Heartily recommended.
I read an article the other day criticizing a renewed push by some U.S. House conservatives as well as some writers to ban pornography in America. The writer took no moral stance for or against it, but defended it as a point of individual rights. But what is freedom if it is not moral freedom? What is law if not moral law?
I almost linked to this First Things article arguing for ways we could regulate and restrict it, but I feared it was misguided. And maybe I feared other things.
It’s hard to ignore the implicit cries for help seen on Twitter by survivors of sexual abuse who say a parent groomed them with dirty images or that criminals are fueled by it. But being only one person, what can you do?
One of our favorite authors, Jared Wilson, points out the shock factor in Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:8-9, “And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out.”
He says, “It’s not the temptation that leads you away—it’s your ‘foot.’ It’s not the sinful vision that leads you away—it’s your ‘eye.'” And the stakes for continuing in sin are far higher than you want to admit.
This summer, one of our favorite authors, Jared C. Wilson, has three ten-year anniversaries, and he reflects on those years at his blog. “It was an odd feeling at the time when Your Jesus is Too Safe became my first published book. I’d been trying ten years at that point trying to get published as a novelist.”
That novel, Otherworld, has seen the light of day, and he has two others in the works, but only one with a contract (let’s step it up, publishers). “By God’s grace, I have been privileged to write nearly 20 books and study resources in the last 10 years.” His next published work looks exciting: The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like the Truth, coming January 2020.
Jared Wilson has seen a lot of backlash and argument since the WWW installed itself on our society. Watch bloggers are now a thing. Twitter is easily understood as a cess pool and Facebook an echo chamber. For some people, chatting about anything online feels like walking in front of a firing squad. I preemptively blocked a couple profiles on Twitter last week after they attacked the character of a podcasting pastor under the mantle of spiritual discernment.
To believers who appear to be aggressively attempting to hold everyone accountable, Jared asks, “Is it possible you aren’t contending for the faith but are just being a jerk?
This is something missing in far too many of the online prophets — tears. Setting aside the fact that the biblical vocation of God’s anointed messengers isn’t really a one-to-one correlation with self-appointed pundits on Twitter, we certainly can learn from them — and many other places in Scripture — that there is a certainly a place within the church for pastoral rebuke, prophetic witness, and courageous calls to repentance. But this is but one aspect of prophetic ministry. The guy spending all day every day looking for people to fisk, mock, or otherwise use for his own promotion and praise isn’t echoing biblical prophetic ministry. If anything, he is more like the pharisaical enterprise of nitpicking, condemning, and “laying traps” to catch people in alleged errors or missteps.
Jesus told a story about a successful man and social outcast who rescued the victim of highwaymen on a Jericho road in response to a lawyer’s self-justifying question. “Yes, yes,” the lawyer said, “I know loving God with all of my heart, mind, and strength means I must love my neighbor, but surely some people are not my neighbors. Some people are actually beneath me, aren’t they?”
And we continue to seek self-justification today.
Jared Wilson offers five reasons for applying the gospel to societal ills as a rebuke to those who suggest orthodoxy means orthopraxy and to spend much time on the latter will undermine the former. (Of course, those who teach this don’t believe that because they only bring it up in select context.)
Jesus did not come simply preaching the gospel as idea but the gospel as kingdom. One need only consider Paul’s words in Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 to see how expansive the finished work of Christ really is, just how much it is supposed to impact. For several years now, we’ve had certain corners of the church warning us about neglect of holiness and the law, scolding what they see as “cheap grace” and bloodless belief. Now many in these same corners are insisting that just the gospel message will do the trick against ethnic divisions or other sins. You rarely hear this imperative in response to the challenges of illegal immigration or the systemic injustice of abortion. Perhaps it’s because those issues do not effect us — or indict us — as directly.
I was scared into the kingdom by one of those late-’70s “Left Behind” films. Nothing could be more important than to stand for the truth, even in the face of the anti-Christ’s persecution.
We Saw You at the Pole, where evangelical students gathered ostensibly to pray for the country but also, honestly, to thumb their noses at all those worldly humanists who wanted to take away our right to pray in schools.
We ate apologetics books like communion wafers—and were about as nourished. What we learned was to argue, to corner our opponents in their intellectually unfurnished corners, defeating them with our theistic strength and consistency.
And then something happened. Our Merlins and Gandalfs became Barnums and Baileys.
A months ago, Jared C. Wilson wrote this piece on a shifting tide. Let’s keep praying the waters will flow in the most beneficial direction for everyone.
Forgive me, father, for I have punned.
Jared Wilson is a pastor-author who is focused on the gospel in ways the church may neglect. “You find a church’s idols by changing things,” he says in the interview below.
Pastors and Writing with Jared C. Wilson – Rainer on Leadership #269
Pastor Andy Stanley has been making headlines by questioning what he calls “The Bible says” preaching. He says we live in a post-Christian world, and many people have already dismissed the Bible’s authority. How can we reach the lost, he asks, with sermons that appeal to the authority of Scripture if our audience doesn’t already trust that authority?
You’d be shocked by how many students and adults in your church view the Bible as a spiritual book that says true things to live by as opposed to an inspired collection of documents documenting events that actually happened. This is why I will continue to insist the foundation of our faith is not an inspired book but the events that inspired the book; events that inspired writers, born along by the Holy Spirit, to document conversations, insights and events—the pivotal event being the resurrection. While it’s true we would not know these events occurred had they not been documented, two other things are equally true. First, they were documented years before there was a Bible (i.e., New Testament bound together with the Jewish Scriptures). Second, it is the events, not the record of the events that birthed the “church.” The Bible did not create Christianity. Christianity is the reason the Bible was created. The reason many Christians struggle with statements like these is they grew up on “The Bible says” preaching. And that’s fine as long as one first believes the Bible is inspired.
Stanley compares this faith in the Bible’s inspiration to Muslims’ faith in the Quran. If you don’t already believe the Quran speaks to your life, why should anyone appeal to it as an authority?
Jared Wilson points out the huge problem with this statement.
There is zero room here for the actual reality of the Bible as God’s living Word. There is zero room here for the supernatural reality that the Bible carries a weight with lost people they don’t often expect it to! But this inadvertent nod to materialism and pragmatism is certainly expected from those with a proven track record of treating the Bible like an instruction manual rather than as the record of the very breath of God.
If preachers are trying to Christianize people into acting like Christians because the Bible says they should, then yeah, they will have problems motivating people to do what they want. But Christianizing people isn’t the gospel. We can’t justify recommendations found in Scripture based on unbiblical worldviews in an effort to make non-believers look like believers. What we can do is tell them about Jesus, to talk about life in the light of Christ, and to marvel at the Son of God in their presence. What we want to do is demonstrate our preeminent love for the Father by how we love our neighbor, all the while speaking of the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).
How is anyone going to believe the Bible if we do not preach the Bible?
How do you react to the claim that what a Christian does at church on Sunday morning is the most important thing he can do that week? I think some pastors have said this as a way of saying worshipping God is our most important act, but if that’s what they intend to say, they aren’t quite saying it. One could easily hear in such a claim that attending church that morning is the most important part of the week. Is that what worship is? Are we only able to worship the Lord in an organized service on one day or can we develop a lifestyle of worship for the whole week? Is the church’s mission to draw people into its organization or to declare the wonders of Christ Jesus?
Jared C. Wilson has experience in churches that put all of their creative energy into making the Sunday morning service exciting, unique, and attractive to the people of their city, and he believes those church leaders have lost the vision for Christ’s church on earth. The manner of the services and the theme of the sermons (or talks) point to good feelings and self-improvement. “But are they the real message of Jesus?” he asks.
Wilson’s argument in The Prodigal Church rests on his belief that what you win people with is what you win them to. “Pragmatic discipleship makes pragmatic Christians. The way the church wins its people shapes its people. So the most effective way to turn your church into a collection of consumers and customers is to treat them like that’s what they are.”
He urges church leaders to question their assumptions about what takes place in their services and programs. If their goal is make clear the claims of Christ or to help others make God of first importance in every part of their lives, then they are on mission regardless their presentation style.
You could walk away from the attractional church’s pattern of teaching and think you needed some more skills, some more enthusiasm, and some more advice, but you’d rarely walk away thinking you need more grace.
Wilson is careful not to overly criticize. He isn’t arguing for his preferred church style or saying that everyone has to agree with him on what makes for a good worship service. He admits we have different styles, but making consumerism a normal part of the American church does not lift up the name of Christ or apply his grace in healthy ways. That’s not a style choice. It’s a problem. It isn’t cultural sensitivity; it’s being co-opted by the culture.
The second part of the book offers many thoughts on how to do church well, including some stories of people who realized their manner of ministry didn’t accomplish their intentions. I heartily agree with and recommend this book.
Many attractional churches still preach that Jesus died for our sins, of course. But too often this message of Christ’s death has become assumed, the thing you build up to rather than focus on. Or, in too many other cases, this message is treated as the “add-on” to other messages, the proposition presented at the end of a message that is more about our personal success than Christ’s personal victory.
A cognitive dissonance can result for those who hear a message all about what they should do to be more successful or victorious or happy or what-have-you, only to then hear the proposition that Jesus died for our sins. To hear a lengthy appeal to our abilities, culminating in an appeal to our utter inability, can cause spiritual whiplash.
But the appeal is easy to see. Attractional is certainly attractive. These kinds of messages, over time, communicate to seeker and believer alike that Christianity is about themselves, making the faith more about self-improvement or life enhancement—which are things we all want deep down. But are they the real message of Jesus?
— From The Prodigal Church:A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo, by Jared C. Wilson
Though I am in no position to challenge Wilson’s assessment here, I want to offer the suggestion that the spiritual whiplash may be negated quite a bit by presenting the gospel with a heavy emphasis on personal choice. These preachers could be summarized as saying that since Christ has done so much for our eternal lives, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of it. Don’t you see how your life would be improved by declaring yourself a follower of Christ Jesus?
That may be a way to make converts, but it isn’t a way to make actual disciples.
“Once we have despaired of all sin and the gods at their genesis, we are free. Really, truly free. To eat fat juicy steaks, for instance.”
Jared C. Wilson describes what he calls “the chocolate-ness of chocolate and the coffee-ness of coffee” in light of the gospel.
Jared Wilson tells a wonderful story on how we don’t want to be put a period where J.I. Packer puts an exclamation point.
Also, if you missed the news earlier this month, Packer, that greatly anointed author, has lost his sight. He talks about it in this interview.
No, in the days when it was physically possible for me to do these things I was concerned, even anxious, to get ahead with doing them. Now that it’s no longer possible I acknowledge the sovereignty of God. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” (Job 1:21). Now that I’m nearly 90 years old he’s taken away. And I won’t get any stronger, physically, as I go on in this world. And I don’t know how much longer I’ll be going on anyway.
Jared Wilson enthuses over the mysteries of God and his creation by hoping Bigfoot exists and isn’t found.
I like that God keeps some things just to himself. It reminds me that he’s God and I’m not. It reminds me that this world he’s created is revealing his glory, not mine. This is part of the reason, I suppose, that when God responds to Job’s inquiries with an epic journey up the dizzying heights of divine sovereignty, he includes some stuff about sea monsters.
What is among those trees, glorifying the Lord in short, unobserved lives?
Jared C. Wilson’s new book, The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo, urges churches to seek Jesus and his mission over all other people or missions. “I think the stakes are too high to simply preach to the Amen corner in the ‘young, restless, and Reformed’ movement. My hope for this book is that it may challenge the status quo outside my own tribe…”
Are we effectively looking to the nations to see if we can worship our God the way they worship their gods? No Christian wants to do that, but many have not been circumspect enough to recognize how they are doing it now.
Photo by jesuscm/Flickr (CC 2.0)
Joe Carter, formerly of The Evangelical Outpost, is wicking out the nostalgia in me by profiling three God-bloggers who started blogging in 2003, a year before I started this lit-blog. Like Joe, I have admired these men for a long time. They helped shaped the blogosphere, or it feels like they did for me.
Of Tim Challies, Jared Wilson, and Justin Taylor, he asks these questions:
- What was your motivation for starting a blog?
- How has blogging changed your life over the past decade?
- What is one lesson you’ve learned from blogging about writing, communicating, etc.?
- How has blogging itself or the blogosphere changed in these ten years?
Tim says: “I learned that I think best when I write. I don’t really know what I believe until I write it down and work it through in my word processor, and in that way writing has been a critical part of my spiritual development. For some reason it took me beginning a blog to figure this out.”
Jared says: “Then one of our guys said, “Why don’t we stop the clunky email chains and do this on a weblog?” I had no idea what that was, but we all kinda said, ‘Okay.'”
Justin: “Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think we are more bored with blogs than we were ten years ago. Our attention spans are even shorter as we want to hear from and interact with more people but with fewer characters — hence the rise of Twitter. What was a short piece ten years ago is now almost considered ‘long form.'”