Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Luther Rocks (and so do Carson, Keller, & Wayne)

Here's how my strange mind works. I knew a kid back in high school named David Jolly. Also, there's a blogger named David Wayne, whose blog is entitled JollyBlogger. I keep having to resist the insistent thought that these two are one and the same person.

Anyway, with that piece of irrelevant nonsense out of the way, let me now point out that David Wayne the Jollyblogger had a post last week called Prioritizing Discipleship Over the Gospel. David is drawing on points made by D. A. Carson. Carson thinks there is a trend in the contemporary church to emphasize discipleship over the gospel.

Now here's where David quotes Tim Keller, who is summarizing an insight from Martin Luther:
Martin Luther's fundamental insight was that . . . the principle of 'religion' is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to spiritual deadness, pride and strife and ministry ineffectiveness.
I like the way David illustrates Luther's insight from his own experience in ministry. Check this out:
In my own experience, whether it is a casual conversation with a friend, a counseling session a small group meeting or what have you, I find that people will fully engage with me as long as I keep the discussion on the level of "what you can/should/must do." When I say that they engage with me I don't mean they always like what I say - sometimes they do, but sometimes they dislike what I say and will argue. But even argument is engagement and the argument is over a difference in opinion about what we should do.

But if I turn the conversation in a gospel direction that often throws people. It's often as if someone asked me "what is 2 + 2?" and I answered "rutebega." When I go in a gospel direction some will say "that's not the issue." Others will say "I already know that, but what I really need to know is what to do." Some simply disconnect. If we can frame the problem in terms of mistakes or lack of effort and frame the solution in terms of corrective actions and harder work and frame the outcome in terms of improved performance then people can understand and engage with that. But if sin is the problem, repentance and faith are the solution and forgiveness is the outcome, that's very hard for most Christians to deal with.
I have seen this phenomenon myself. Like David, I see it frequently in myself, and have also experienced the conversational "disconnect" that he speaks of in trying to communicate the gospel to others.

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