Bringing back the gospels

We’re talking about the idea of favoring the gospels over the epistles, considering the statement: “I take Jesus way more seriously than I do Paul.” Let me speak first in favor of the proposition.

I believe that we need to preach Jesus more than we do his church. I think we need to preach Jesus more than we do doctrine. People need a Savior.Believers and non-believers need to be pointed to Jesus, urged to imitate him, follow his teachings, do the things he did.

Historically, many Christians have neglected the gospels; this has harmed the church. In a group on Facebook, some people were discussing the Nicene Creed. The creed basically says that Jesus came to earth, suffered, and died. Nothing is said about what he did nor what he taught.

As I mentioned yesterday, many in churches of Christ have wanted to begin with Acts 2. The only important things about Jesus were seen to be his death, burial, and resurrection. Life? Teachings? Minor points. Part of the “Old Testament that was nailed to the cross.” We’re New Testament Christians; that stuff doesn’t affect us. That was the teaching.

That’s wrong. Very wrong. The New Testament church focused on becoming like Jesus. It’s hard to become like him if we don’t know what he did. (which is why the “red letter” movement is equally off base; it takes away importance from the life of Jesus and the things he did)

We need to restore the gospels to their rightful place in the church. So if we’re willing to modify the above statement and say, “I take the gospels as seriously as I take Paul’s writings,” then I’m in full agreement. But if we choose to take away importance from the epistles in order to give more worth to the gospels… I’ve got a problem with that. I’ll take about that in the next few posts.

Choosing Jesus, rejecting Paul

The other day a friend included this in a Facebook post:

“I take Jesus much more seriously than I do Paul.”

That statement didn’t sit well with me.

On the one hand, well… yeah. Jesus is Lord of Lords. He should be taken much more seriously than any other human.

But it seems to me that this friend was echoing a sentiment that I hear in the church today, a need to downplay the writings of Paul and emphasize the gospels. He wasn’t really talking about Jesus and Paul as individuals, but about their teachings.

Historically, churches of Christ have often been guilty of doing just the opposite, preaching Paul and ignoring the gospels. I’ve written before about the strange doctrine that would seek to relegate the gospels to a time long past, discounting their relevance and applicability to people today. That’s an extreme form of the traditional view that argues “The New Testament begins with Acts 2.” (I’ve heard that exact statement)

Today’s view would seem to be the expected pendulum swing that happens so often as churches, as people react to one view by going to the opposite extreme.

I want to spend a little time examining the “gospels only” approach to the New Testament. I’ll include the “red letters only” view as well, which tries to take quotes from Jesus and elevate them above the rest.

Feel free to voice some opinions now or wait until we start trying to cook some of these half-baked thoughts.

Links To Go (January 17, 2017)

Rebuilding Our Witness (Part 1): Why It’s Time to Take a Second Look at Our Christian Worldview in Light of Our New Political Climate

I think it’s time for all of us to revisit what it means to hold to a Christian worldview that primarily embraces two things: the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. To be clear, this is a worldview that holds to God as Creator, Redeemer, Restorer, and Holder of all things. This is Colossian 1:16-18.
But it is also a worldview that cannot divorce itself from what this very God called us to: the Great Commission.
This kind of Christian worldview (and let me be clear, I think it’s the only kind), which holds in one hand the Great Commandment and in the other the Great Commission, cares little about self-preservation and promotion. Instead, it embraces a love of God and a love of others above even ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4).

Rebuilding Our Witness (Part 2): Developing an Understanding of the Connection of Love & Evangelism in Light of Our New Political Climate

The Christian worldview that we embrace has a heart that breaks for those around us who don’t know Jesus. That is the first step: actually caring that those around us aren’t in His family. The outworking of the Great Commandment to love God is that as we worship Him and spend time with Him, our hearts will grow more and more like His. Our eyes will begin to see things they didn’t before.
This moves us towards actually embracing the second step: doing something about the fact that those around us don’t know Jesus. We are compelled to then make sure they hear about Jesus, and are shown the love of Jesus.

November 8th Is Long Gone, So Where do Christians Find Themselves?

It is time for us to stop asking how we get our collective foot into our culture, and instead begin to ask God how we can be faithful to Him and our call to show and share the love of Jesus in a broken and hurting world. We need to remember that what happens in the church house is far more important than what happens in the White House.
Jesus is not coming back on a donkey or an elephant. He is coming back on a white horse to bring victory. I, for one, just want to keep showing and sharing the love of Jesus in the midst of a changing culture until that moment comes. Do you?

How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently

Black believers are more likely to position their growth in Christ in the context of community and fellowship, while white Christians take a more individualized approach, according to a study released this week from Barna Research.

The Hot ‘New’ Church Growth Method

How surprising, then, that David Millard Haskell, Kevin N. Flatt, and Stephanie Burgoyne have found that doctrine grows churches. In their peer-reviewed scholarly article for the Review of Religious Research, a prestigious journal, the trio present findings among mainstream Canadian churches showing that—contra the stereotypes—doctrinally conservative churches that reach out aggressively often grow. Churches that soften biblical teachings and de-emphasize evangelism often shrink.

‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian

For the third year in a row, the modern persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another record high.
But the primary cause, Islamic extremism, now has a rival: ethnic nationalism.
Thus, Asia increasingly merits concern alongside the Middle East, according to the 2017 World Watch List (WWL) released today by Open Doors.

Scientists Find More Evidence That Your Appendix Serves a Purpose

The data also showed that species that have an appendix also have a higher concentration of lymphoid tissue, which supports immunity and the growth of beneficial bacteria, in the cecum. Taken all together, these findings support the theory that your appendix is there to help keep you safe and crawling with the right kind of microbes.

An MLK repost

I posted this three years ago. Seems worth posting again on this holiday:

IMG_0717In September, I had the privilege to speak at the Westside Church of Christ in Baltimore, Maryland. Carolina was able to go with me, and we took a few days to visit Washington before speaking at Westside on Sunday.

I had gone to Washington when I was a boy, so there were several new memorials that I hadn’t seen before. One of them was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. While the statue there is impressive, what really impressed me were some of the quotes that surrounded it. These were some of my favorites: (click on the images to see them in a larger size)


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” (1963, Strength to Love)


“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” (10 December 1964, Oslo, Norway)


“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” (24 December 1967, Atlanta, Georgia)


“It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” (24 December 1967, Atlanta)

Being made worthy to approach God

We see in numerous stories throughout the Bible that God’s people believed that being in his presence would destroy them. Stories like that of Gideon and the parents of Samson show us that. Isaiah thought he was doomed when he saw the Lord in the temple; he was “rescued” by an angel that touched him with a burning coal and took away his guilt. The stories of Uzzah and Aaron’s sons that perished remind us of the seriousness of the presence of God.

When Moses asked to God’s glory, God told him:

“I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:19–23)

“No one may see me and live.” I think this is a statement of fact, not a threat. That is, sinful humans cannot be in the full presence of God and not be destroyed. That’s why sin “disqualifies” us from being in his presence. That’s why sin must be removed for us to enjoy full fellowship with God.

Paul describes God in this way:

“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:15–16)

Unapproachable. There is certainly a way in which we can approach God, but I don’t think that anyone with sin can enter God’s full presence. The darkness in us cannot withstand the light. The sin in us cannot survive God’s holiness. Our only hope is to be made acceptable through Jesus:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19–22)

Without the cleansing that we receive through Jesus, we cannot hope to draw near to God.

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