This fall I had the honor at speaking at the Church Planter retreat for SEND Network (SBC) and received a copy of the book that was given to all the attendees. I was familiar with the authors because of the podcast they do (which I often listen to). I THOUROUGHLY enjoyed the book which primarily focsed on Gospel doctrine and Gospel culture. Here are 20 of the things I underlined while reading it.
When the gospel is taught clearly, and when the people of a church believe it deeply, it does more than renew us personally. The doctrine of grace also creates a culture of grace. In such a church, the gospel is both articulated at the obvious level of doctrine and embodied at the subtle level of vibe, ethos, feel, relationships, and community. In a gospel-shaped church, for starters, people are honest in confession, bear one another's burdens, and seek to outdo one another in showing honor.
Trusting in ourselves that we're righteous and viewing others with contempt always go together. When we notice ourselves drifting into dismissive contempt, there is always a reason: a gospel deficit in our heart, however sincere the gospel profession in our head.
That's the first indicator of gospel doctrine getting traction in our hearts. It's us trusting in Christ alone, even when people misjudge us.
We're called to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. There's the gospel in four words: "Christ has welcomed us." Okay then, now we know how much welcome matters.
Whatever darkness inside of you troubles your heart, whatever capacities for wickedness and stupidity lurk within, whatever still haunts you from your past, however fearful you are that you will never change, know this: your sin does not intimidate Jesus. What is right in him far outweighs what is wrong in you. There is more grace in him than guilt in you. He is better at saving than you are at sinning. It is at the point where all of us feel the most disgusted with our-selves, the most hopeless and most worthy of judgment it is in our worst defilement that we find Jesus the most tender and gracious toward us.
Welcoming others reenacts the gospel itself, especially as we open our homes and hearts to those we might not even know. It deepens our own openness to Christ. Welcoming others can reinternalize the welcome of Christ to us. For this reason, Paul tells us not only to show hospitality but to seek to show it. We're on the hunt. We're keeping our eyes peeled. We’re sitting on the edge of our seats, eager for opportunities to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us. Our own faith will weaken if we don't practice hospitality.
In much of the Western world, hospitality is performative. It's about proving how well we can cook or giving a tour of our beautiful home. It's showing off an Instagram version of our lives. (No wonder we call it entertaining.) Biblical hospitality, however, is about opening up to others rather than trying to impress them. This means all of us can be great at hospitality. It takes only humble willingness.
A church is more than a mere human support group. The empathy we share is wonderful, but more importantly, a church is where a miracle happens. The sacred blood of Jesus comes down on sinners with cleansing power, felt power, as the cross of two thousand years ago washes into our needs today. How does this take place? When we stop posing, and when we bring our real shortcomings, betrayals, and failures to Christ in fellowship with one another. That is when he meets us by his Spirit with fresh cleansing.
That's part of welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed us, isn't it? I mean, one of the freeing things the gospel gives us is the truth that God knows the worst about us, and it's still safe to come to him. When we see that translated into our relationships, they become safe. Then it's safe for me to let you know some of the worst things about me, and doing so reinforces the truth of the gospel.
Christ has given his heart to us. Let's give our hearts to one another. And if you're thinking, "But my church is a mess." well. what church isn't a mess? But it's his mess, and his glory is there too. Heaven keeps sneaking into our churches, showing up in flawed people like every one of us. The Lord himself is there in your church. He put you there too. You and your church believe the gospel. So, you're already equipped in every essential for the display of his glory together.
If we put mission front and center with community only as a time-permitting afterthought, we'll discover we are not only less compelling as a community but also less convincing in our attempts to reach the world. Jesus himself brings us into a new kind of community with one another. He died to do so. And it's this kind of community life that empowers the church's mission.
Here [Mark 10:29-30] he takes it for granted we'll leave dear things and people behind to follow him. The fact is, we can't turn to him without also turning from other things. All Christians bear some cost in following Jesus, though we may not always see it. Rosaria Butterfield once said, "We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us."' It's one of the reason we need to go easy on each other; we just dont see all people are going through. We don't see the price they may be paying just to show up at church.
The instinct of so many is to feel that nothing is more important than family. Even in the West, we still think this way. But along comes Jesus, and quite unselfconsciously says "I am" (see John 8:48, for example). He audaciously claims to supersede the most significant human elationships we have in this life. He eclipses all others. He assumes he's more compelling than all of them, even all of them combined.
…our church family is what is included in Jesus's promise [Mark 10:29-30]. He promised an abundance of family to those who bear the heaviest relational cost of following him. If we don't attend to living as that family, we risk making Jesus look like a liar. The relational health of the local church is not incidental. It must not be an afterthought because his reputation is on the line.
As Francis Schaeffer once wrote, "Jesus is giving the world permission to judge whether we are true Christian disciples on the basis of whether we love one another."
There will be times pastors need to apologize to members of the church, even to the church itself. It hurts one's ego to confess sin publicly, but it reassures the church that their pastor is a real Christian and that he, like them, is striving to put sin to death and press on in holiness. Knowing he too is flesh and blood also makes it a little easier for others to move forward in their own confession and repentance.
The phrase "as for the saints in the land" opens our eyes to the people around us at church every single Sunday, not simply as members of that church but also as members of Christ himself. God has deeply included them too. And his new community, embodied at your church, is heavens gift to a hellish world. Your church is a holy, sacred, blood-bought glory in the making. Your church is how Jesus gives his felt presence to your city. Let's all hold ourselves to the hishest standards of integrity. in all our churches, for we yes, even we are together his saints.
I believe that in a gospel culture, sinful people (which is all of us) find safety where we can open up with one another and admit to what's going on and gently pray for one another. That can only end well because the Bible says God promises healing in that place. We pastors need healing. If we pastors will go there, if we'll just say, "Okay, I'm done with my isolation. I'm done with my aloofness. For by God's grace and for his glory, I'm going to find that place of healing. I'm going to find one or two other men in my city and meet with them regularly to tell them my mess and pray together."
'How do you out of the countless number of sins in your life know which to confess to your friends?' I said, 'For me, it's quite easy. As I'm driving over on a Monday afternoon to see you guys, it's the thing I don't want to share with you. That's normally the clue as to what I need to confess. I just ask, 'What don't I want them to know about from this past week'
What, then, does it mean for us to "walk in the light?” It cannot mean living in sinless perfection. After all, the light is where we find cleansing from sin. The context in 1:5-10, clearly, is all about facing ourselves and our sins honestly. So, walking in the light is opening up to an honest relationship with Jesus and one another, so we're free to grow. If God really is light with no darkness at all, if God really is beauty with nothing distasteful at all, then we really can come out of hiding. We can get real with him. We can get real with one another. We don't have to appear better than we really are.