Reflections on “Explicit Gospel” by Matt Chandler

04-12-explicit-gospelI mentioned in this post that I’m beginning the new year by reading Matt Chandler’s book Explicit Gospel and invited anyone who’s interested to join me. This blog post will serve as an anchor and a conversation point. I’ll be periodically leaving thoughts, quotes and responses to what I’m reading in EG here.

It’s an anchor, because I hope you’ll bookmark this post and come back to it once a week or so to read the new comments.

It’s a conversation point because I hope you’ll interact with me – either through what you read in the comments or through what you’re reading in the book.

I’m going to attempt to read a chapter a day. You don’t have to do that, but that will give you an idea of how to interact.

To kick us off, here’s a powerful assertion/observation from the introduction. Matt (we’ll be on a first-name basis with him in the posts) has seen so many Christians who become Christian again later in life. They make the statement, “No one ever taught me that..” about the basics of the Gospel. Matt then wonders whether churches are teaching the Gospel or a “Christian Therapeutic Deism:”

This mode of thinking is religious, even “Christian” in its content, but it’s more about self-actualization and self-fulfillment, and it posits a God who does not so much intervene and redeem but basically hangs out behind the scenes, cheering on your you-ness and hoping you pick up the clues he’s left to become the best you can be.

Interested now?

On this day...

6 comments

  1. George Edmondson says:
    I think this view becomes even more true and prevalent when looking looking closely at the area we are in…the Bible belt. It is more difficult to talk about this concepts to frequent “church-goers” who have this moralistic lifestyle passed down to them than it is to talk about it to a new Christian or non-believer. So far, I’m intrigued.
    1. Jeff says:
      , you’re so right. After ministering near the buckle of the Bible Belt for 14 years, I can attest to how difficult it is to budge convinced moralistic religious people out of their self-confident postures related to God an into a fearful uncertainty of whether they belong to Him.
  2. Jeff says:
    Matt’s first chapter is about “God.” He explores God’s:
    1. Transcendant creativity
    2. Sovereign knowing
    3. Perfect self-sufficiency
    4. Glorious self-regard
    and then concludes the chapter with a lead-in to the next by examining how we’re all “wired for worship,” but that we worship the finite and trivial.

    I’m really enjoying his writing style – he’s able to navigate easily between a biting and witty humor to a deeply intense theology.

  3. Jeff says:
    Chapter 4:
    The outline of the book so far has been:
    1. God
    2. Man
    3. Christ
    4. Response
    Each of the above has been under the section called “The Gospel on the Ground” – which looks at the gospel at the personal level. The next section witll look at the gospel from the “air” and paint a broad perspective as to what God is doing through “creation, fall, reconciliation and consummation.”

    Chapter 4 is good.. really good. After describing the holiness of God, the sinfulness of every person, Matt deals with what God has done through Christ to remedy the holiness vs. sin issue in all our lives. This finds us in gritty territory in this chapter in which Matt is indescribably clear on two things:

    1. Some people will respond positively to the gospel and be saved.
    2. Others will respond negatively to the gospel and be condemned.

    It’s not possible, Matt asserts, to be neutral to the gospel – to attend church, giving an intellectual or sentimalist nod to Jesus – and to, in reality, be saved by God. God will not be used for our salvation. We must respond to Him on the only terms that He’s provided.

    It’s akin to a defeated and devastated enemy coming to the victor and attempting to prescribe the terms of surrender. Only the victor sets the terms.

    …nobody can really attend church as though it’s a hobby; to do so does not reveal partial belief but hardness. The religious, moralistic, churchgoing evangelical who has no real intention of seeking God and following Him has not found some sweet spot between radical devotion and wanton sin – he’s found devastation. The moralism that passes for Christian faith today is a devastating hobby if you have no intention of submitting your life fully to God and chasing Him in Christ.

    Matt also compares our sorry attempts at appeasing God with half-hearted and inconsistent good works to the Israelites repeated instances of offering sacrifices to God to atone for sin. They used sacrifices like we use the backspace (and our parents used White-Out). They/we have no repentance, no brokenness over our sin offending God. Rather, we just want to “fix it.” We just want it gone. We want white without cost, error-free living without sacrifice.

    Matt compares our attitude to God in this good-works-appeasement-mentality to that of a wife beater who continually brings his wife flowers.

    She doesn’t want his stupid flowers. She wants him to repent; she wants to be honored.

    Our response to what God has done to provide for our sin in Jesus must only be answered in a response to Jesus. We cannot have heaven without Him.

    Jesus lays His body across the path [to hell]; there is no ignoring Him. If it’s headlong into hell we want to go, we have to step over Jesus to get there.

    A Response to Deep and Wide
    I’m also reading Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide right now. It’s really good – as far as church organization, sermon presentation and the pragmatics of doing church. I’d like to throw Andy and Matt into a room together and see who exits unbruised. Matt pulls no punches in this chapter about God being in charge of who enters heaven and who doesn’t. Andy urges us to speak and polish and present the church in the best possible light to make it easy for the unchurched to come back to hear more. Somewhere in these two books, a fight is brewing…

  4. Jeff says:
    Still enjoying the book… at times immensely. At others, Chandler doesn’t necessarily stumble (because the content is good), but it’s clear that, like all books, some chapters just lack the focus, creativity and power of others.

    The chapter on consummation was like that to me. Here’s a topic that should soar in epic prose and creative beauty, and Matt just seems to be a loss to pull it off. Of course, who is able to write of the end times, heaven, Christ’s return and Christian’s transformation in a way that captivates and enraptures? … Well, several have, and Matt misses utilizing them. I recommend Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven to anyone wanting a better vision of heaven than – and here I do like Matt’s description – of our pitiful Tom and Jerry heaven which has us wearing blaring white robes, playing heavy harps for all of eternity.

    What Matt does well in chapter 8 is to point out that Christians should not get caught in the weeds of details about the end times and miss what the end times are for. Christ will renew the earth! Death, sin, and pain will be eradicated. I love how he points out that the Greek for “new heaven and new earth” in scripture doesn’t mean “new in kind” but “new in nature.” He does a great job elaborating on the scriptural view that the earth will be renewed – not as many think that we’ll be raptured off the earth to some ethereal heaven.

    At this point in the book, I’d have to agree with Rick Warren’s cover quote of it:

    If you read only one book this year, make it this one. It’s that important.”

    The Explicit Gospel really does straighten out our immature teachings on the glorious, beautiful, mind-blowing wonder of our faith in Jesus Christ and what it produces in us and in His creation.

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