Wednesday 25 March 2009

Steven Childers on the Gospel

Steven L. Childers, ‘True Spirituality: The Transforming Power of the Gospel’.

Childers takes his title from a book by Francis Schaeffer, and begins by referring to Schaeffer’s observation that among those who had fought hard to uphold orthodox theology he had seen correct doctrine but little or no spiritual transformation, even in his own experience. Schaeffer came to realise that true spirituality is not only a matter of the mind and the will, but also a matter of the heart.

Childers outlines three counterfeit remedies to this problem:

• Intellectualism – which focuses on the mind, and reduces Christianity to a set of doctrinal beliefs to affirm
• Passivism – which focuses on the emotions, and relinquishes control, letting go and letting God
• Moralism – which focuses on the will, and seeks to try harder…

In response, Childers addresses two questions, taking his cue from Mark 1:14-15 in both cases:

• What is the gospel?
• How does the gospel change a Christian?

1. What is the gospel?

• Good news of a kingdom
• Good news of a king
• Good news of pardon and power
• Good news for the lost and found

2. How does the gospel change a Christian?

• Repentance: turning heart affections away from idols
• Faith: turning heart affections to Jesus Christ
• Obedience: nurturing faith by the means of grace

The whole thrust of the article is to make sure Christians do not disconnect their discipleship from the gospel. From Tim Keller comes the observation that the gospel is not just the ABC of Christianity, but the A to Z of Christianity. It’s not merely a plan or programme for spiritual self-development, but a person – Jesus Christ – who says not only ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:14-15), but ‘come to me… and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28-30).

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