Monthly Archives: October 2008





Jared C. Wilson|12:23 pm CT

Semper Reformada: The Five Solas for Evangelicalism Today

The purpose of this site is to comment on and call for the ongoing reformation of the discipleship culture of the evangelical Church. Today, on Reformation Day, I am reflecting on the five solas for the Reformation.
This is also an entry in Tim Challies’ 3rd Annual Reformation Day Symposium, and at his site, you will find many other thoughts and reflections on Reformation Day from other great bloggers.

Evangelicalism is at a crisis point.

The number of large churches is increasing, but the number of professing Christians is decreasing. And is it any wonder, when the ministry and proclamation of so many of our churches is only marginally Christian?
By some statistics, young adults are dropping out of the Church at a rate of 70%. And the ones who stick around are burnt out on both the legalistic fundamentalism of their grandparents and the licentious modernism of their parents. In limbo between a graceless gospel and a therapeutic gospel, this generation suffers from evangelicalism fatigue.
The REVEAL survey and others have revealed there is a staggering discipleship vacuum in the Church.
The Church is divided between those whose passion is reserved for political power and prestige and those whose passion is reserved for popularity and personality.

The opportunity before is awesome. The Church is God’s plan for the world, God’s only venue for the proclamation and embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pluralistic, pessimistic, problematic—lukewarm and loving it—Western culture and the churches that capitulate to it are as much like Jesus’ day as any time before us. This means the time is ripe for the impact of the gospel.

All is not lost. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us and he has anointed us to preach good news to the captives. Both outside the Church and in, the gospel is now most scandalous, which makes this the perfect time to continue pressing lovingly but boldly for the ongoing reformation of the discipleship culture of our churches.

And on this Reformation Day 2008, we may continue this pressure by calling for a fresh embrace of the Five Solas—the five treasures—handed down to us by the Reformation.

Sola Scriptura

We are suffering from the practical disrespect of God’s written revelation. It has become, at best, a guidebook. Our pastors use it like it’s Bartlett’s. Our communities don’t drink deeply from it; indeed, we hardly read it. We don’t know it.
It is time now, and the tide is turning even in unexpected places, for a return to word-centered preaching and sermon-centric worship gatherings. It is time to preach Christ in the Bible, the sufficiency of both Scripture and the Christ of Scripture, and to preach it as authoritative over our opinions, our alliterations, our cutesy stories, our polls, and our personalities.
It’s time to put down Who Moved My Cheesy Parachute? and Your Best Idolatry Now and pick up the Bible (for extended periods of time). Our churches are starving for the revelation and the authority of Scripture.

Sola Gratia

We hear a lot about grace in our churches but most of them have little to no idea what they’re talking about. Grace is not being nice, nor is it “not being judgmental.”
Grace is for sin, and so if we’re not talking about sin, we’re not really talking about grace.
If we’re talking about seven steps to success, we’re not talking about grace.
If we’re overloading on application, we’re not talking about grace.
If we’re not talking about the sufficiency of Christ, we’re not talking about grace.
It is time to ditch the self-help and the motivational pick-me-ups that is really just made over works salvation—legalism in blue jeans—and embrace the scandalous message of salvation by grace alone.

Sola Fide

From one corner of the evangelical Church to the other, we are preoccupied with whose Christianity is bigger, better, and badder. I show you my spirituality by my conference Calvinism. You show me yours by your social justice initiatives. But we are all baptized into one faith, and anything we add to Jesus for our comprehension of salvation diminishes our faith and makes us idolaters.
Our flesh cries out for works; we are all legalists at heart. We are constantly tempted to trust our productivity and our propaganda as self-justification, when Scripture bids us return to the self-reducing, God-exalting truth that we are justified by faith.

Solus Christus

The only worthy object of our faith, God’s only Son, is noticeably marginalized or even absent from many of our churches. We’ve traded in his way, his truth, and his life for his suggestions, his quotes, and his style. I received e-mails last spring from some churchgoers who didn’t even hear about his death-conquering resurrection on Easter Sunday.
We must repent of having Jesus as our role model and return to beholding him as, the author of Hebrews says, “the radiance of God’s glory.”
Christ is all that matters. Living is Christ. Dying is Christ. One day God will put all things in subjection to Christ. Every knee will bow and tongue will confess that he is Lord over all.
Surely we ought to be embarrassed at what little honor we show him even in our so-called “worship” services.
This problem only means that the call to discipleship to Christ is even more radical than we realized. It is more uniting and more divisive than we knew.
But it is still as necessary as when we first believed. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith; surely he deserves a reorienting of our hearts around his all-surpassing awesomeness.

Soli Deo Gloria

As we are starving for the revelation of God in Scripture, we are starving for God’s revelation period. We are starving for the glory of God.
Habakkuk tells us that one day the glory of God will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea, and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that someday God will be “all in all.” The glory of God is the end game. It is the climax of the story. It is the point of human existence.
What in the world are we doing offering anything less in our discipleship and our worship gatherings than awe-filled enjoyment of the glory of God?
We must repent of seeking our own glory, of pursuing the glorification of our own cleverness, our own innovation, our own knowledge, our own talents, and our own efforts.
We must decrease; he must increase. This is a tall order for the evangelical Church, but with God all things are possible.

We can reform, and we will. It may take trial and trouble. Or it may take revival. Or both. But evangelicalism must repent of its self-idolatry and return to its first love. We can begin that journey by reclaiming the five solas of the reforming Church and dedicating ourselves to them.






Jared C. Wilson|12:22 pm CT

Happy Halloween!






Jared C. Wilson|12:18 pm CT

95 Theses for the American Church, Part 5: Purpose

The first 19, on discipleship, are here.
The second 19, on community, are here.
The third 19, on the Church, are here.
The fourth 19, on the pastorate, are here.

On the Purpose of the Christian Life

77. The purpose of Christian worship is not momentary music but total submission to God and consecration for life.

78. The purpose of worshiping through music and the arts is not emotional reaction but the exaltation of God.

79. The purpose of preaching is not motivation but the proclamation of the gospel.

80. The purpose of teaching is not information but edification.

81. The purpose of evangelism is not recruitment but reconciliation.

82. The purpose of service and justice is not achieving or demonstrating righteousness but obeying Christ and demonstrating his righteousness.

83. The purpose of salvation is not self-improvement but resurrection.

84. The purpose of prayer is not accumulation but intimacy with God.

85. The purpose of ministry is not imparting knowledge or a spiritual impression but knowing and sharing Jesus Christ and him crucified.

86. The purpose of discipleship is not self-actualization but conformity to the will of God.

87. The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is not self-fulfillment but the common good of the church.

88. The purpose of Scripture is not education but transformation.

89. The purpose of community is not fellowship but “follow-ship.”

90. The purpose of the pastorate is not impressing an audience but feeding the sheep.

91. The purpose of love is not reciprocation but the glory of God.

92. The purpose of grace is not vanity but the glory of God.

93. The purpose of the Church is not itself but the glory of God.

94. The purpose of the gospel is the glory of God.

95. The point of human existence is the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria






Jared C. Wilson|12:16 pm CT

Kill Your Idols, Part 2

My latest piece is up at SearchWarp:

Kill Your Idols, Part 2: Anxiety and “God’s Will”

A taste:

We make anxiety an idol when we are really not as concerned about knowing God’s will as we are protecting our own comfort.

We really want to be comfortable. So when we agonize over some decisions, we’re not really saying, “God tell me what you want me to do,” we are really saying “God show me the route that will be easiest and happiest for me.” But many times God’s will is for us to be very uncomfortable, afflicted even. It’s a mistake to assume that, for instance, if you go into business with your friend and the enterprise goes belly up and doesn’t pan out that you obviously stepped out of God’s will. It’s a mistake to assume that if you go across the country to take that scholarship in order to be close to your boyfriend and then he dumps you that somehow this decision was out of God’s will.

It is the mistake of assuming that Christians are not meant for difficulty or trouble, and that if they somehow enter that, they are outside of God’s will or have made a mistake. This is based on a Christianity that promises comfort and ease, though, not the real Christianity of the Bible.






Jared C. Wilson|2:45 pm CT

95 Theses for the American Church, Part 4: The Pastorate

The first 19, on discipleship, are here.
The second 19, on community, are here.
The third 19, on the Church, are here.

On the Pastorate in the American Church

58. The elders and pastors of the church, as ministers of the gospel, are charged by Jesus to feed the sheep.

59. The trend within the American church of orienting the worship gathering around seekers while simultaneously demanding sheep “self-feed” is therefore a sin in need of repentance.

60. Leaders in the church must watch their life and their doctrine closely.

61. Leaders in the church must not remove themselves from the community life of the church, as if they are somehow, by office or giftedness, above it.

62. The pastors of the churches in American have ceased serving as their church’s resident theologian.

63. The qualities necessary for church leadership are clearly outlined in Scripture. These include self-control, ability to teach the Word, and gentleness.

64. The qualities most in demand in the American pastorate are frequently foreign to the qualities made most important in Scripture.

65. The professionalization of the pastorate is stunting the discipleship culture of the American Church. This is not to say that pastors should not receive pay for their service, only that the influence and predominance of professional business and marketing skills and “types” have overtaken the biblical office of church overseer so that the pastorate is more about management than it is about shepherding.

66. Churches should protect their pastor’s livelihood and integrity by both providing for his needs and lovingly demanding he feed them the Word.

67. The pastors who direct the church are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

68. The pastor who preaches not the incarnate Word in the revealed word, who teaches the satisfaction of good works (or anything but Christ) is serving dishonorably.

69. If any pastor preaches no gospel or a different gospel, let him be accursed.

70. The American pastor must repent of ambition.

71. The American Church must repent of its idolization of the celebrity pastorate.

72. The American pastor is right to seek to contextualize the gospel, but he must repent of the idolization of innovation and technology.

73. The American pastor must pastor more than he programs.

74. The American pastor must trust the Spirit, not statistics.

75. The American pastor must repent of the idolization of numbers and results.

76. The American pastor must above all be faithful to Christ, passionate about the gospel clearly articulated, devoted to the Word and the sacraments, and motivated by what is right, not what is expected, popular, or even productive.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on “purpose.”)






Jared C. Wilson|9:00 pm CT

95 Theses for the American Church, Part 3: The Church

The first 19, on discipleship, are here.
The second 19, on community, are here.

On the Evangelical Church and Its Congregations

39. The New Testament designates God’s elect “The Body of Christ,” and therefore the Church’s role in the world is to do what Christ did: proclaim and embody the gospel of the kingdom.

40. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.

41. Much of what passes for church in America will be prevailed against by hell.

42. The local church is intended to be a loving community that truly treasures the gospel.

43. The Church in America is generally not community-oriented and mostly treasures itself.

44. The American Church loves itself more than its neighbor.

45. The message of the evangelical American Church has shifted from bold proclamation of Jesus to an inordinate application of “biblical values.”

46. The American Church loves the spirit of the age and idolizes relevancy.

47. Consequently, the American Church has lost its courage to preach repentance and its faithfulness to the gospel.

48. The American Church needs more and more bold elders and ministers willing to be missionaries for the gospel to evangelicalism.

49. The number of large churches has increased, but the number of professing Christians has decreased. This means what we are being told is working isn’t.

50. Churches are spending lots of money on unnecessary and selfish things.

51. The Church must repent of its idolization of personality and business principles.

52. The Church must repent of its idolization of political power and prestige.

53. The Church must repent of its idolization of the self and its failure to find Christ sufficient.

54. The Church must repent for its neglect of and casual approach to the sacraments.

55. The Church must repent of its idolization of “cool,” in which we dishonor our parents, spite our brothers and sisters in the faith, and merely set ourselves up for the sins we perceive in them — appearing “of the times.”

56. The Church must return to feeding its gathered people the Word of God, not therapeutic motivation, on a regular basis. The Church must return to cultivating community, not maintaining programs.

57. The tide can turn in American evangelicalism if we will return to our first love.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on the pastorate.)






Jared C. Wilson|2:54 pm CT

"Unvarnished" Snippet

Formatting the Jesus book for the publisher this week. Thought I’d share this clip on Jesus preaching that the kingdom is at hand.

Truly, none of us will really know eternal relief and feel total blessedness until the kingdom is consummated at the end of times, but in the kingdom now present, under the reign Jesus really did bring with real-world impact, this blessedness has begun, as a furious foretaste of glory to come. Some may argue that Jesus was only foretelling the kingdom’s arrival, not really heralding its arrival in himself, suggesting that when he said the kingdom was at hand, he only meant it would come someday soon. This is a bit like saying the light at dawn isn’t really sunlight.






Jared C. Wilson|3:29 pm CT

95 Theses for the American Church, Part 2: Community

The first 19, on Discipleship, are here.

On the Necessity of Christian Community and Its American Bankruptcy

20. The culture running counter to the kingdom is neither sympathetic to nor conducive to the experience of real community.

21. The American Christian, immersed in self-idolatrous consumeristic culture, is in his attitudes and behaviors unresponsive to the biblical call to Christian community.

22. The evangelical Church in America, having capitulated uncritically to the values of the surrounding culture, is unwittingly supporting the idolatry of Self and thereby suffocating the community it professes to desire.

23. Discipleship is designed to be experienced in community, but we have privatized our faith.

24. The legacy of legalism, gossip, condemnation, and bigotry in the fundamentalist church suffocates community by removing the gospel-honoring security of bold confession and relational authenticity.

25. The legacy of license, corruption, and theological superficiality in the modernist church suffocates community by affirming the Self and its prerogatives as the Christian’s real gods.

26. There is no such thing as “virtual community.” Technology is a valuable tool in the contemporary church, but it is a powerful one that is used too often uncritically.
The uncritical use of technology by the Church only fosters individualism and facilitates separation from incarnational community.

27. Christian community requires that Christians submit themselves to the benefit of the community.

28. Every Christian is endowed by the Spirit with gifts and talents for the edification of the Church and the glory of God, not only or primarily for the fulfillment of self.

29. When a Christian refuses to submit to community, he is saying “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21) and therefore is spiting the exhortation of Scripture and despising the purpose of giftedness, which is “the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).

30. When a Christian refuses to submit to community he is declaring himself better than others — even if he is abstaining because of elitism or arrogance in the Church — and is guilty of hypocrisy.

31. Christian community ought to be oriented around the treasure of the gospel and purposed around the proclamation of the kingdom.

32. The American Church’s occasional attempts at community are oriented around superficial interests, hobbies, self-actualization, and the livelihood of the church organization.

33. Christians need gospel-oriented community because we are sinners and constantly need to have our brothers and sisters speak and be the gospel to us, and because we constantly need to speak and be the gospel to our brothers and sisters.

34. The gospel is about reconciliation; therefore, to orient around the gospel means (a) to enjoy and to proclaim the good news of the sinner’s reconciliation with God through Christ’s finished work and (b) to enjoy and to embody the good news of the sinner’s reconciliation with other sinners through Christ’s finished work.

35. Christian community is primarily about “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5), not mere fraternization.

36. Thousands of churches holding out Acts 2 as the ideal picture of the Church do so while simultaneously, in the context of their message and their methods, subverting the likelihood of their church resembling what is seen in Acts 2.

37. Our triune God exists in community, so the American Christian’s refusal to submit to community is disobedience to the first commandment.

38. Because Christian community reflects reconciliation with God and reconciliation with our neighbor, the American Christian’s refusal to submit to community is disobedience to the Great Commandment.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on “church.”)






Jared C. Wilson|3:21 pm CT

Filthy Rags

“Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can be found only in Jesus Christ.”

– Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow

I know a guy who is passionate about service but is constantly and unwaveringly angry about other Christians’ lack of service. He despises his brothers and sisters for not doing as much as he does and looks down on them.

He has turned service into righteousness and therefore revealed his own lack.

(HT for the quote: Of First Importance)






Jared C. Wilson|3:10 pm CT

Spiritual Movement

The biblical words for spirit (ruach in the Hebrew, pneuma in the Greek) both bear the basic meanings of “wind” and “breath.” This shouldn’t just inform our understanding of spirit; it should inform the implications of spiritual reality.

Like wind and breath, spirit is something invisible that has visible effects. We can’t see the wind, but we can see leaves rustling. On an extremely gusty day, you can look up into the sky and see nothing extraordinary, but if you ran up a kite, the force of the lift would require some real strength to temper.

This is simplistic, I know. But the illustration makes a very serious point:
The Christian’s Spiritual life is the invisible having visible effects. This is a tough reminder for all the cheap gracers with Jesus as their MySpace hero: If your spirituality doesn’t have a visible effect, it’s crap.