[Please Read To The End For An Opportunity To Win A Free Copy Of The Explicit Gospel]
I have really grown in my faith in the past couple of years by listening to Matt Chandler preach. So, when I heard he was putting some of his thoughts about the gospel into a book, I was really excited to read it. With the help of Jared Wilson, Matt Chandler has written a great primer on the topic of the gospel called The Explicit Gospel. It is a book that argues against the moralistic deism of our day. As he so often does in his sermons, Chandler takes on the religiosity of our culture in an attempt to show that Jesus and the cross should in fact be changing us from the inside out. The message of Christianity is not about being a good person. It is about being changed by the only good person that has ever lived--Jesus Christ. Throughout the years of his ministry, he has found that many people assume the gospel to be present in their ministries, but that same gospel is often not explicitly taught or explained.
The book is written with two different lenses in view. He explains it as the gospel on the ground (zoomed in lens) and the gospel in the air (wide angled lens). Both views are of the true gospel, and he will argue that both views are necessary in order to stay balanced with your gospel presentations.
The Gospel On The Ground
In the first section of the book, Chandler shows the biblical narrative of God, Man, Christ, Response. God is the One to whom all glory is due. He alone knows everything at a macro and micro level. He asks the very personal question, "What if the Bible isn't about us at all? What if we aren't the story of God's revelation" (33)? He continues,
"From beginning to end, the Scriptures reveal that the foremost desire of God's heart is not our salvation but rather the glory of His own name. God's glory is what drives the universe; it is why everything exists. This world is not present, spinning, and sailing in the universe, so that you and I might be saved or lost but so that God might be glorified in his infinite perfections" (33-4).
After building up a very large picture of God, he shows how man blew it all. He explains that mankind is headed toward and deserves eternal destruction because of His sin. From here, he shows that the only hope for mankind is not found in man, but outside of man. Our only hope is that Christ came to this earth and took our shame and punishment upon that cross. But there is a response that happens to those that truly hear the gospel. Some respond in anger and hatred. But others respond in faith. He poses a few questions to see which category we might fall in:
"'How am I responding to the good news of Jesus Christ? Am I stirred up toward obedience, or is Jesus becoming cliche to me? Am I becoming inoculated to Jesus, or do I find myself being more and more stirred up to worship him, to let other people know him, to submit my life fully to him?' We have to ask these questions, because everybody responds to the gospel. We must test ourselves to see if we are int he faith (2 Cor. 13:5), because it is faith by which salvation comes. Faith is the only saving response to the gospel" (84).
This is the gospel on the ground, a vivid picture of how the cross of Jesus is involved in our everyday life.
The Gospel In The Air
While the gospel on the ground is micro, the gospel in the air is macro. He shows this by explaining the creation, fall, reconciliation, and consummation of all things. In the creation of all things, God is meant to be glorified. But then He is not glorified because of the fall of mankind. In fact, in the fall, all things are ruined, even creation. He takes some time in the chapter on the fall to show how Solomon, the richest and wisest man to ever live, did it all and couldn't find happiness. He couldn't find contentment. He couldn't find his purpose and meaning of life, that is, apart from God.
The reconciliation of mankind is not just the purpose of the cross. It is also about overthrowing evil once for all. When someone comes to faith in Jesus, it is like a rock that hits a calm lake.
"The first ripple is our personal reconciliation to God. The second ripple establishes the body of Christ, as we are reconciled to each other. The third ripple is the missional posture of the church as we mobilize to proclaim the fullness of reconciliation in the gospel" (144).
One helpful section in this section was when he explained the difference between attractional and missional ministries. The first one says "come and hear," while the second one says "go and tell." It seems as though both are necessary if one is to be balanced in the gospel.
The last section in the book seeks to explain the dangers of being on the ground or in the air too much with your gospel presentation. These insights were very valuable and helpful in my own personal ministry. He ended the book with an explanation of how he has seen moralism at work in the church. If you have heard Chandler preach at all, you have heard these stories. But they were interesting to read about once again.
In the end, I greatly enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to many as it will help bring some balance to the church at large. There will be some who are gospel on the ground people who will not like the section about the gospel in the air. And vise versa. But I think it will be extremely helpful to read and listen to some discerning words from Chandler on the need of both.
Win A Copy Of The Book
Thanks to the good people of Crossway, they have agreed to give away a free copy of The Explicit Gospel from my blog. There are many ways to be entered into the drawing, but you must click on the PunchTab link below. The contest will run until Saturday, May 5th at Noon Eastern. Even if you do not win this book, I would highly recommend that you read it.