Gospel-Centered Reading

Gospel-Centered Reading

This post is part two in a series on “Reading for the Glory of God and our Joy.” See part one here.

One of the greatest evidences of God’s grace toward his church is the recovery of the gospel over the last decade or so. In the last ten years there has been a movement to recover what’s been called, “gospel-centrality.”

The reason this is important is because the gospel is the foundation of the Christian faith. For some time, many churches have been preaching anything from self-help sermons to cross-less behavior modification sermons. These are not Christian sermons. It’s been said before that if a sermon can be true even if the death of Jesus Christ didn’t happen, there is still work to be done.

By God’s grace this is changing. “Gospel-centered” is just about everywhere you look. Here are a few books that I recommend to get a better grasp on the life-altering news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how it can lead to joy in all areas of your life. These books are in no particular order:

Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-8-04-17-pmJared Wilson is one of my favorite writers in the “gospel-centered” movement. I’m not sure of any writer alive who has pushed the gospel into every crevice of my life like Wilson has. This book is at the apex of that reality. I know I said order doesn’t matter in regards to this list, yet if you can only read one on this list, make it this one.

The Gospel by Ray Ortlund

This work by Ray Ortlund is a gift to the Church. In very few pages, Ortlund gives great insight into the gospel and how it’s for all of life. You’d be hard-pressed to find a book that packs as much beauty into as few of pages.  This would be a great book to give to a new believer or someone interested in what it means to live life centered around the gospel.

Gospel by J.D. Greear

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-8-06-26-pmIf you are looking for an entry door into gospel-centered thinking, this is an extremely helpful book. Greear talks about what it means to be gospel-centered in many areas including relationship, missions, service, and many others.

The Plight of Man and the Power of God by Martyn Loyd-Jones

This is another short, yet powerful work. Loyd-Jones in just five chapters expounds on the biggest problem facing mankind and how the gospel resolves this issue. This book is a classic, and because it’s focused on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it will be timeless.

The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton

This book comes after Horton’s, “Christless Christianity,” which is also a very helpful book in its own right. Horton picks up on how the gospel should be the driving force behind all that we say and do in our lives.  He convincingly explains how the gospel is the purpose that drives us, and nothing else.

ronni kurtzRonni Kurtz is the Pastor of Teaching and Equipping at Emmaus Church. His passions center around the gospel, his wife, historical and systematic theology and helping the people of Emmaus treasure Jesus. Ronni and his wife Kristen have been married for 3 years.

Husband, Your Wife Needs Your Theology

Husband, Your Wife Needs Your Theology

I want to take you back to a scene you’re most likely familiar with. It’s a scene in which a deceptive snake is in dialogue with a woman in a garden. He says to her, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’… You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The story takes a heartbreaking turn as the woman sees that the fruit the deceiver was describing was desirable to her and so, with cosmic consequences, she takes and eats. Moreover, when she eats she turns to her husband and serves him the fruit that leads to death.

Due to the severity of the action and the consequences thereof, there’s much that can be – and has been – said about this back and forth. Yet, I’d like to add another to the conversation, a theologically equipped husband could have been a vital interjector at this junction.

Imagine Adam standing up at the beginning of the dialogue and saying, “Eve, no. We know that God, who gave us each other and the garden, is our satisfaction and delight. We lack nothing when we have him.”

While we’ll never know if this hypothetical situation would have changed the outcome, the moral remains; husbands should seek theological awareness for the good of their marriages.

Husbands, your wives, like Eve, are going to be bombarded by lies. Day in and day out she is going to be told things that are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. She will be told that she needs to look a certain way, say certain things, and have certain items. She will be told that if she doesn’t meet a flawed societies view of femininity, that she has little or no worth. These lies will come from friends, co-workers, family, and often time, her own mind.

When the storm of lies washes upon your wife, many things will help you lead her well, and theology is certainly one of them. When the culture tells her she has little worth because she is lacking in some misconstrued area; you can assure her that because of her union with Christ she lacks nothing and that every good thing she needs has been secured for her in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. When she’s tempted to listen to the lies in her head about how she’s not good enough. You can assure her that her justification isn’t in how her co-workers or family perceive her; rather it’s in the atonement of a murdered son who took on flesh for her behalf.

I’m not saying that a man who has all of his theological ducks in a row is guaranteed to be a gifted husband. What I’m arguing for is that husbands who are thinking clearly about theology will have a unique ability to point their brides to the splendor and comfort of the Rock of Ages.

Husbands, your wives need you to deeply know the Lord and his ways. She needs you to think critically about the gospel.  She needs you to have sat in awe at the depth of Christ and be ready with all your might to show and lead her to the truth. She needs your theology.

ronni kurtzRonni Kurtz is the Pastor of Teaching and Equipping at Emmaus Church. His passions center around the gospel, his wife, historical and systematic theology and helping the people of Emmaus treasure Jesus. Ronni and his wife Kristen have been married for 3 years.

Reading for God’s glory and our Joy

Reading for God’s glory and our Joy

I haven’t always loved reading. In fact, when I was young, I despised it. In my youth I was much more pleased to be outside with a bat and a ball or a skateboard then inside with a book. This was true for me all the way through a majority of my high school years. I missed the great novels growing up, I wasn’t well acquainted with the classics, I couldn’t tell you who Mark Twain or Oliver Twist were. That just wasn’t my upbringing.

All of that changed when I was handed a book in my dormitory of my freshman year of college. I was given a copy of, Knowing God, by J.I. Packer and was told I had to read it. I hesitantly opened the volume and began what I was sure to be an uneventful time. I was wrong. Dead wrong. That book changed my life on many levels but one of the ways was that I was noticing something strange happening. I started my way through the book and realized a few chapters in that I was deeply enjoying myself. I even found myself thinking about how to get back to my dorm between classes so I could get a few more pages in.

So then, what changed? How could I go from a boy who didn’t ever have the desire to read to one who couldn’t find an excuse good enough to stop reading? In my reflection of this time, I can think of a few things:

The distance between my head and my heart isn’t far.

What I was falling in love with while reading Packer’s work wasn’t the act of reading per se; it was the act of learning. With every page I read I could feel my understanding of who God was grow and grow. I vividly remember saying to myself about 3/4’s into the book, “It feels like I worship a different God than Packer does, and I want his God.” The book was removing some cloudy mystery around God that existed in my mind and I found myself gazing at the glory of God a bit more clearly through reading what Packer had to say. What I realized while reading this book was that my head and my heart weren’t that far apart. I was seeing that the more I learned about God, the more I saw He was beautiful, and the more I loved Him for it. This ignited a hunger that by the grace of God hasn’t ceased.

Books can be much more than pages glued and bound together to take space on a shelf. Books can be an invitation to learn about the God who breathed out stars and tells the oceans where to stop. You might feel I’m overstating the role of reading here, yet I’m convinced I’m not. Few things have helped my affections for Jesus Christ soar then time-spent reading about His wonder.

The Conversation we don’t deserve to be a part of.

A second reason that I have fallen in love with reading is that it allows me to be apart of a conversation that I should have never been invited to. I had a professor once say that, “God has been up to something in between the time of Jesus and your Grandma, and you should care to know what that it.” Though his statement can be taken as trite, there is a deep truth to what he said. Christians have been talking about God for thousands of years. Some of the most brilliant men, as well as some not so brilliant ones, have taken to the task of describing God through books for years. When we crack open a book, we aren’t in a vacuum. Rather, we are entering into a cosmic conversation about the One who upholds all things and we get to observe and even partake in the dialogue. Reading should be thought of as the ability to walk through the halls of a school with permission to peek into any room. We are welcome to listen to Augustine lecture on humility and sin. We are welcome to partake in Luther’s monologue on justification. In another room we can sit at the feet of Calvin as he instructs us to worship a big God. This is a gift that should not be taken lightly.

We know because of our sin that we deserve condemnation and abandonment from God. What we don’t deserve is to be able to commune with God and other Christians through the act of reading. So hear this, reading is grace. This conversation is one that, because of your sin, you shouldn’t have been invited to. Yet, through the blood of a son and the grace of a Father, you can share in the task of learning about the Lord.

The ability to place myself in a story.

I’ll admit, the first two points seem to give themselves to non-fiction (theological) reading. Yet for the Christian, fiction should be considered a great gift as well. There are a number of reasons for this truth, but I will share just one that has blessed my soul. When you read a great fiction book (or really good non-fiction books) you can feel the weight of the story. If you’re reading about a superhero you can feel the weight of the responsibility to save the damsel in distress and rid the city of villains. If you’re reading a romance novel you can feel the wonder and hardship that comes with love between two characters. Fiction has a way of pulling you into the story sometimes in capacities when it’s hard to remove yourself from the plot or the characters. I would argue, this is a good thing.

You see, the reason I say this is because when I feel the bravery of a superhero saving a town and selflessly helping others I can’t remove myself and I begin to think, “it would be incredible to actually be able to experience something like this.” Yet, the crazy thing about the Christian narrative, is that our story is better. Yes, Superman might save a few people and rescue Lois Lane. You, Christian, have been chosen by the one who created life and have been given a mission to proclaim news that will bring dead people to life, free prisoners, ransom captives, and usher in a Kingdom. Superman’s story is phenomenal, but it is nothing on the story of a Christian who’s been saved by grace and commissioned by the King of Kings. Fiction helps me feel the weight of stories and helps me realize that they all, even the greatest of them, pail in comparison to the story God has chosen for His Church.

You, Christian, have been chosen by the one who created life and have been given a mission to proclaim news that will bring dead people to life, free prisoners, ransom captives, and usher in a Kingdom.

Conclusion

Needless to say, I’ve become a reader. I count books more valuable then gold. I believe within the task of reading is an invitation to see God more clearly, partake in a cosmic conversation, and feel the weight of the gospel story. These are things that we do not want to miss, and therefore we cannot miss reading.

There is so much more to be said about reading, yet I want this post to serve as an introduction for a series of post – In the future, you will see on this blog book recommendations from me. They will come in all shapes and sizes: theology, topical, fiction, non-fiction, seasonal, etc. I hope that these will serve the people of Emmaus and give all of you a starting point on what books to engage in. I’ll be writing post like, “5 books to better understand the gospel”, “10 books that stirred my affections for Jesus.” Etc.

Emmaus, reading is an avenue where we can gaze upon the glory of God and have our joy stirred deeply. May we handle this responsibility with deep gratitude and diligence. Let’s read to the glory of God and for our joy.

ronni kurtzRonni Kurtz is the Pastor of Teaching and Equipping at Emmaus Church. His passions center around the gospel, his wife, historical and systematic theology and helping the people of Emmaus treasure Jesus. Ronni and his wife Kristen have been married for 3 years.

The Greatest Doctrine You’ve Never Heard of

The Greatest Doctrine You’ve Never Heard of

In his work, The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung says that, “Union with Christ may be the most important doctrine you’ve never heard of.”

I think he is right. Union with Christ deserves to stand next to the most vital of the Christian doctrines in terms of significance yet many of the people in our churches have never heard about it. This must change.

Defining Union

One of the reasons Union with Christ isn’t taught in many churches is that it can be a difficult doctrine to wrap our heads around. Where there are 10 scholars you will have 11 nuances as to what the doctrine actually is. In short though, Union with Christ is the reality that by grace through faith the Spirit makes a believer “one” with Christ, and therefore confers upon the believer many of the rights and rewards that Jesus has earned.  

What this is getting at is this reality: The believer is found in Christ. This has incredible implications. Maybe none greater than the fact that when you are in Christ, the Father looks at you and doesn’t see your wickedness, rather he sees the beauty of His Son, Jesus.

That means for every time that you lie, the Father sees Jesus telling the truth.  When you lust, the Father sees Jesus being pure. When you cheat, the Father sees Jesus being honest. When you are wicked and ruined and found in low places like you and I both find ourselves in more than we would like to admit, The father sees His perfect and righteous Son.

The Beauty of the Union

It is difficult to get at the beauty of Union with Christ in any amount of words, let alone a short blog post. Yet, think with me for a moment about some of the more beautiful realities of Christ’s ministry.

His perfect obedience, Christ came and lived a life full of temptation like you and I yet without sin. He was completely obedient to the Father in every way.

His atoning death, Christ was obedient to the Father even to the point of death. Though we deserved to die a cursed death, Christ becomes a curse on our behalf on His glorious and gruesome cross.

His death-killing resurrection, Christ utterly brings death to death in his resurrection. What’s more is we are promised to share in this outcome when He comes back for His bride.

These 3 realities alone are enough to cause the Christian to be in awe of God for the rest of their days. Here is where the importance of Union with Christ comes in. None of these things matter for the believer if they are not United to Christ. Union with Christ is the place where the beautiful realities and rewards of the gospel are given to the believer.

Breathtaking Prepositions

The reality that Union with Christ is the place where gospel realities are given to the believer isn’t too difficult to see in the scriptures. All one has to do is pay attention to the God breathed, God inspired prepositions. Let’s take the preposition, “in” for example. We can see that the believer has redemption in Christ (Eph. 1:7) Lost all condemnation in Christ (Rom. 8:1) Sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 2:1) Chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4) and even raised in Christ (Col. 3:1) These are but a fraction of the glorious rewards the Christian has “in” their Christ.

If you want to have your breath taken away by grace, wonder the New Testament in search for what happens to wicked men and women who are “in, with, through, and by” Christ.

Christian, when you are in Christ you are abiding in a Savior that brings rest and liberty to all those who are found in Him. No longer can you depend on your hard work mentality or your 5-step lists to get you through the Christian faith. On the contrary, you rest in the reality that when you are in Christ you have everything you need to be completely redeemed.

 “No longer can you depend on your hard work or your 5-step lists to get you through the Christian faith.” -@RonniKurtz

Praise God that our salvation is not found in our strength, or in our ability to follow along and keep rules or promises. Praise God that our salvation is found, “In Him.”

This post originally appeared on FTC.co

ronni kurtzRonni Kurtz is the Pastor of Teaching and Equipping at Emmaus Church. His passions center around the gospel, his wife, historical and systematic theology and helping the people of Emmaus treasure Jesus. Ronni and his wife Kristen have been married for 3 years.

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