Monthly Archives: April 2010





Jared C. Wilson|7:32 pm CT

The Gospel and Vermont Pure Dark Amber Maple Syrup

This is a snip from my current book in progress, titled for the time being Gospel Wakefulness:

The divinely entertained heart of gospel wakefulness finds itself daydreaming about the gospel constantly. It hardly needs prompting. This “autopilot” gospel-centrality is the result of gospel wakefulness itself. It comes from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.

All Christians have tasted that the Lord is good. Most Christians believe the Lord is good. But fewer and fewer it seems have seen in their tasting that the Lord is good.

When I moved to Vermont I heard a lot about the maple syrup here. I thought I had had maple syrup before. It turns out I had only engaged in a corn syrup masquerade. Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth — all shams. (Those probably aren’t even their real names.) It wasn’t until I actually tasted 100% pure, dark amber Vermont maple syrup that I “saw” what I had only heard about before. And now — this is the key — I will not have any other kind of syrup (except under protest). It is too late. I will not go back. I’ve tasted the goodness and lost my taste for the pale imitations. Unlike the boy of C.S. Lewis’s parable, I have had the holiday at sea, so making the mud pies has lost all its luster.






Jared C. Wilson|2:16 am CT

The Gospel Empowering its Own Implications Is Poetry

“Run, John, run
The law commands
But gives neither feet nor hands
Better news the gospel brings
It bids us fly and gives us wings.”

– John Bunyan






Jared C. Wilson|7:52 pm CT

"Every Time: Grace Wins"

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tony Carter’s breakout session message “Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel” was the absolute best thing I heard at Together 4 the Gospel. It was brilliant, compelling, thrilling proclamation. I don’t know if the audio will be made available, but if it is, I highly recommend it to you.

Here is a great snippet of Carter on sin and grace from an Anthem Conference message:

The Stain of Sin and the Grace of God from David Wells on Vimeo.

In the T4G message, Carter quoted a bit from Robert Louis Stevenson and turned it into one of the most powerful illustrations in the sermon. In this video he goes with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. As a lit-geek, I’m loving that stuff.






Jared C. Wilson|7:36 pm CT

The Gospel in Marriage Counseling

There is a good post over at Counseling Solutions today on bringing the gospel to bear in a marriage counseling situation, especially when the couple assumes the gospel is the ABC’s of life and now they need some “better” help.

An excerpt:

Let’s suppose that you really do understand the Gospel and that your understanding is something deeper and broader than the casual, average, run-of-the-mill understanding that any person who has ever been associated with Christianity possesses. The following is a short list of attitudes and behaviors you should demonstrate:

* Daily amazement at what has happened to them.
* Daily gratitude for what has happened for them.
* Joyful awareness that their greatest problem in life has been resolved.
* Overwhelmed by hope because they now know that no problem is too big for God.
* Sobered awareness of what they were: amazed awareness of God’s mercy.
* Serving others is their first thought, as it pertains to behavior.
* Hope, joy, care, encouragement, gratitude, and kindness are the characteristics of their lives.
* Tearfulness is a normal response as they think of Christ and what he did for them.
* Gospel-centered-motivations shape what they do.
* Radically transformed from the inside out.
* Uninhibited in their transparency with others.

Unfortunately the descriptors above do not describe Jeremy and Carol . . .

HT: Together 4 Adoption’s Dan Cruver






Jared C. Wilson|10:44 pm CT

New Facebook Page

Every week I get a fresh round of Facebook friend requests from people I’ve never heard of. Usually we have mutual friends, but the mutual friends are also writer/speaker/blogger folks, so I assume most of these requests are from readers of the blog, the tweets, the books, or what-have-you. And this is cool.

I am glad to connect with all peeps, but I’m seeing the increasing need to not have all my personal Facebook stuff — family pics, etc. — out there for everybody’s perusal. I know there’s ways to strategically establish privacy, but this is more maintenance than I care to involve myself with and more time on Facebook than I care to spend.

Since Facebook has now phased out the “fan page” terminology, I’ve taken that as an opportunity to create a separate Facebook portal for my “professional” self. I hope all my friends — real and virtual and everywhere in between — will “Like” it. Find me here.

I’ll do publishing/speaking updates from there, and do some giveaways every now and then from the friends list, etc, so don’t be shy.

And if we are current Facebook friends but we don’t really know each other any other way, I hope you will not be offended if I “unfriend” you from my personal page. It’s nothing personal. I appreciate your readership a lot. Let’s stay connected at the new page, ‘kay?






Jared C. Wilson|11:42 pm CT

Transforming Publishing

One of the absolute best blogs you’re (probably) not reading is Milton Stanley’s Transforming Sermons. Milton hosts what is essentially a link-blog, but every link is to quality gospel-centered writing. Milton does the hard work of searching out gospel gems from today’s bloggers in a similar way to how Of First Importance searches out gospel gems from writers/scholars from the past.

And now Milton and his team have launched Transforming Publishing. You can read all about it here, but it seems like an excellent avenue for you writerly bloggers and pastors out there who are looking for an alternative publishing venue for your commentary work or other writing. They are looking for authors. It’s not a self-publishing racket. It’s an indie with a specific heart and target audience. And they might just be for you. Check ‘em out.






Jared C. Wilson|11:58 am CT

10 Reasons to Under-Program Your Church

I’m a big fan of the “simple church” concept, but I have experienced just how daunting a task it can be to under-program my church. We are inundated constantly with opportunities for activity from other churches (which we don’t want to turn down lest we appear uncooperative and standoffish), advertised “movements” local and national (which are good at getting people excited), and “good ideas” from our own community (which we are reluctant to deny lest we break someone’s heart). But what all this so often amounts to is a church that is merely busy, and busy does not always equal diligent or successful.

Here, then, are 10 reasons to under-program a church:

1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well. Craig Groeschel has some great things to say about this subject. Also check out Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s Simple Church.

2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness. A bustling crowd may not be spiritually changed or engaged in mission at all. And as our flesh cries out for works, many times filling our programs with eager, even servant-minded people is a way to appeal to self-righteousness.

3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community. If we’re all busy engaging our interests in and pursuits of different things, we will have a harder time enjoying the “one accord” prescribed by the New Testament.

4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “Type-A family” mode of suburban achievers. The church can become a grocery store or more spiritual YMCA, then, perfect for people who want religious activities on their calendar.

5. Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness. Because it can overextend leaders, increase administration, tax the time of church members, and sap financial and material resources from churches.

6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body. Certainly there are legitimate reasons for gathering according to “likenesses,” but many times increasing the number of programs means increasing the ways and frequencies of these separations. Pervasive segmentation is not good for church unity or spiritual growth.

7. Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers. If a church looks like it’s doing lots of things, we tend to think it’s doing great things for God. When really it may just be providing lots of religious goods and services. This is an unacceptable substitute for a community on mission, but it’s one we accept all the time. And the more we are engaged within the four walls of the church, whether those walls are literal or metaphorical, the less we are engaged in being salt and light. Over-programming reduces the access to and opportunities with my neighbors.

8. Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members. It’s a fast track to burnout for both volunteers and attendees, and it implicitly stifles sabbath.

9. Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church. Here’s a good test, I think: take a look at a typical over-programmed church’s calendar and see how many of the activities resemble things seen in the New Testament.

10. Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead. Always ask “Should we?” before you ask “Can we?” Always ask “Will this please God?” before you ask “Will this please our people?” Always ask “Will this meet a need?” before you ask “Will this meet a demand?”






Jared C. Wilson|11:48 pm CT

Hi, I’m Doug; I Have Just Met You and I Love You- Squirrel!

Grace: “Dad, can I have a tortilla for my treat?”

Dad: “Grace, do you know that God took your sin and put it on Jesus and took Jesus’ perfection and put it on you?”

Grace: “Does that mean Jesus is bad now?”

Dad: “No. He took your sin to the cross and when he died, he left it there. And then he rose again. So now you’re dead to sin but alive in Christ.”

Grace: “But we still sin. Every now and then.”

Dad: “Yeah. But when we sin now we can be thankful that God forgives us already if we trust that Jesus died for our sins. Isn’t that cool?”

Grace: “Yeah.” [pause] “Can I have some Fun-Dip?”






Jared C. Wilson|2:57 pm CT

A Feeble Faith May Lay Bold on a Strong Christ

If you’ve ever heard the name Augustus Toplady, you probably heard it in the context of the great hymn “Rock of Ages,” which Toplady penned. At the Together 4 the Gospel conference, I had the great blessing to find myself in Tony Carter’s breakout session, in which he preached a magnificent message on “Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel,” in which he quoted a fair bit from Toplady’s writing on assurance. Hungry for more, I did some poking around online and found this fantastic selection. It’s in the public domain and available for free distribution, so I’m posting it in its entirety. I hope it will minister to and bless you like it had me. (I have bolded my favorite lines.)

It has long been a settled point with me, that the Scriptures make a wide distinction between faith, the assurance of faith, and the full assurance of faith.

1. Faith is the hand by which we embrace or touch, or reach toward, the garment of Christ’s righteousness, for our own justification.-Such a soul is undoubtedly safe.

2. Assurance I consider as the ring which God puts, upon faith’s finger.-Such a soul is not only safe, but also comfortable and happy.

Nevertheless, as a finger may exist without wearing a ring, so faith may be real without the superadded gift of assurance. We must either admit this, or set down the late excellent Mr. Hervey (among a multitude of others) for an unbeliever. No man, perhaps, ever contended more earnestly for the doctrine of assurance than he, and yet I find him expressly declaring as follows: “What I wrote, concerning a firm faith in God’s most precious promises, and a humble trust that we are the objects of his tender love, is what I desire to feel, rather than what I actually experience.” The truth is, as another good man expresses it, “A weak hand may tie the marriageknot; and a feeble faith may lay bold on a strong Christ.

Moreover, assurance after it has been vouchsafed to the soul may be lost. Peter no doubt lost his assurance, and sinned it away, when he denied Christ. He did not, however, lose the principle of faith; for Christ had before-hand prayed, concerning him, that his faith itself might not fail: and Christ could not possibly pray in vain. — A wife may lose her wedding-ring. But that does not dissolve her marriage relation She continues a lawful wife still. And yet she is not easy until she find her ring again.

3. Full assurance I consider as the brilliant, or cluster of brilliants, which adorns the ring, and renders it incomparably more beautiful and valuable. Where the diamond of full assurance is thus set in the gold of faith, it diffuses its rays of love, joy, peace, and holiness, with a lustre which leaves no room for doubt or darkness. While these high and unclouded consolations remain, the believer’s felicity is only inferior to that of angels, or of saints made perfect above.

4. After all, I apprehend that the very essence of assurance lies in communion with God. While we feel the sweetness of his inward presence, we cannot doubt of our interest in his tender mercies. So long as the Lord speaks comfortably to our hearts, our affections are on fire, our views are clear, and our faces shine. It is when we come down from the mount, and when we mix with the world again, that we are in danger of losing that precious sense of his love, which is the strength of saints militant, and the joy of souls triumphant.

But let not trembling believers forget that faith, strictly so called, is neither more nor less than a receiving of Christ, for ourselves in particular, as our only possible propitiation, righteousness, and Saviour: John i. 12. — Hast thou so received Christ? Thou art a believer, to all the purposes of safety. — And it deserves special notice that our Lord calls the centurion’s faith “great faith;” though it rose no higher than to make him say “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.’.’ Matt. viii. 8-10.

The case likewise of the Canaanitish woman is full to the present point. Her cry was, “Have mercy on me, 0 Lord, thou Son of David!” And, a little after, -Lord, help me!” Jesus at first gave her a seeming repulse: but her importunity continued, and she requested only the privilege of a dog, viz., to eat of the crumbs which fell from the master’s table. What were our Saviour’s answer and our Saviour’s remark? An answer and a remark which ought to make every broken sinner take down his harp from the willows: — “O woman, great is thy faith.” Matt. x. 22-28.

5. The graces which the blessed Spirit implants in our hearts (and the grace of faith among the rest) resemble a sun-dial; which is of little service except when the sun shines upon it. The Holy Ghost must shine upon the graces he has given, or they will leave us at a loss (in point of spiritual comfort), and be unable to tell us where-abouts we are. May he, day by day, rise upon our souls with healing in his beams! Then shall we be filled with all joy and peace in believing, and abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Rom. xv. 13.

6. Are there any weak in faith who come under the denomination of bruised reeds and smoking flax? Let them know that God will take care of them. The former will not be broken: the latter shall not be quenched. Bless God for any degree of faith; even though it be as the smallest of all seeds, sooner or later it will surely expand into a large and fruitful tree.However, stop not here; but, as the apostle advises, covet earnestly the best gifts: and the gift of assurance, yea, of fullest assurance among the rest. The stronger you are in faith, the more glory you will give to God, both in lip and life. Lord, increase our faith! Amen.






Jared C. Wilson|3:24 pm CT

The Message of the Gospel is Not "Behave!"

This is the major malfunction of American evangelicalism’s political idolatry. To the extent we equate God’s blessings and his kingdom coming to bear with the right men on Capitol Hill and the right laws in place, we settle for moralism and a righteousness born of self.

We’d all reject this theologically, I think, but it is implicitly central in a lot of the rhetoric and the exasperation from American Christians about what’s wrong with America, etc etc.

As I was waiting for my ride to the airport from the hotel in Louisville, KY last week after the Together 4 the Gospel Conference, I was reminded of cultural Christianity’s real concerns. The transportation attendant at the hotel noticed from my tag that I was from Vermont. Our conversation went like this:

Him: “You’re from Vermont?”

Me: “Yup.”

Him: “That’s great. That van load that just left were from Vermont.”

Me: “Oh cool.”

Him: “Yeah. Good to know you guys are getting the good news out up there.”

Me: “Well, we’re trying.”

Him: “Need to get some Republicans up there.”

And there I was transported back to everything that drives me nuts about American evangelicalism: the equation of the good news with something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this case — as is often the case — with political conservatism.

I believe many Christians in America would be satisfied if “the culture” just stopped using pornography and drugs and alcohol and stopped aborting babies and started “acting right.” As far as I can tell, that would be a Win.

But it’s not a win. A land where everybody acts right and is on their best behavior, where peace reigns and social decay is no more and the poor are helped and the hungry are fed, but Christ is not worshiped as the sole supreme satisfaction in all the universe, is a big fat FAIL.

As C.S. Lewis says:

We must not suppose that if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world.

The message of the gospel is not “Behave!”

But that is the message American evangelicalism — Southern and Northeastern, and most other places — has been proclaiming. It is at its heart pharisaical.

We are called to preach not moralism but Christ crucified, foolishness to American culture and a stumbling block to American Christians.

Michael Horton illustrates this well in his book Christless Christianity:

What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached.

There is a great difference between “being good” and the gospel. Some call it moralism. Moralism, in fact, blinds us from the gospel by giving us something of “the real thing” ensuring that we miss out on the true gospel all together. We must remember that Christ came first not to make bad people good but to make dead people live. If we forget that, our Christianity will turn out to be Christless.