Thursday, January 27, 2011

Applying the Gospel = Theology

I want to put in a good word for Gospel-centered theology today. It seems appropriate as our church begins its study of A Gospel Centered Life on Wednesdays. What we are seeking to do with this study is good theology, that is, applying the truth of the Gospel to every area of life.

We need theology. The fact that God called Paul to be an apostle is proof of the fact. One of the chief reasons that God chose Paul is that the early church needed a theologian. More specifically, the early church needed someone who was well-equipped to apply the Gospel to the new Gentile believers.

Think about the fact that the early church flourished and grew for several years before God even called Paul to be an apostle. In addition, it was some time before Paul began to exercise influence in the early church. What this tells us is that a clear and full theology are not needed for a young Christian church or individual to flourish. However, theology is much needed as the church or individual grows and begins to confront new circumstances and difficult questions.

Most of us know this by experience. When you first came to rest in Jesus, you probably knew very little of the Bible and its implications for your life, but you loved Jesus and rejoiced in your new life and flourished for a time apart from a clear theology. But as time goes on, if we are to continue to grow and flourish, we need to begin to apply the Gospel to every area of our lives. Without this we very soon begin to drift and loose joy and power and hope in our lives.

Doing theology means asking questions such as: How does the Gospel apply to obeying the law? How does the Gospel apply to what I watch on T.V.? How does the Gospel apply to reading God’s Word and prayer? How does the Gospel apply to the house or car that I purchase? How does the Gospel apply to my sexuality or my bad habits or my loneliness or my hyper-critical spirit?

Many people never ask these questions—they never do theology. Gospel theology that brings life also sustains our life in Jesus and makes us fruitful for His Kingdom.

Gently rebuff those who say that theology doesn’t matter. It matters because what God thinks about everything matters. To not care about theology is not to care about what God thinks.

May God help all of us to be “little theologians” because we love Jesus; we love His Gospel. We want to be more like Him.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Destin Log Column

Below is my first column that ran in the Destin Log on December 10, 2010. Enjoy!

Jesus is Great and I am Not
By James Calderazzo
Pastor, Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” These words from the hymn, Amazing Grace are so familiar that it is almost hard to read them without humming along that timeless, lilting tune. John Newton, the former slave-trader who encountered Christ and then went on to become a faithful pastor for four decades, knew first-hand the overwhelming mercy of God’s grace. Near the end of his life he summed up what he considered to be the most vital truth—not just for himself but for all of us. Newton said, “When I was young, I was sure of many things; now there are only two things of which I am sure: one is, that I am a miserable sinner; and the other, that Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour. He is well-taught who learns these two lessons.” I am a sinner. He is sufficient.

As a local pastor, who continues to rely on Newton’s “two lessons” daily, I am thankful every eight weeks or so to have the opportunity to lift up the “sweet sound” of the grace and truth of Jesus in this column. There is simply no one like Him. Even skeptics and atheists must admit the profound and positive influence that Jesus and His teaching have had throughout our world.

I do approach Jesus from a certain perspective. I am a person who, like Newton, has encountered Christ personally and who believes that He is more than just a positive role model--He is the unique Son of God, the Messiah; indeed, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That last description of Jesus is found in the first Chapter of the Gospel of John, and it reminds us of something important. We are sinners. Many people believe that those who follow Jesus think of themselves as good people. That is not the message of the gospel. Those who see themselves as good people have little real need for Jesus. It is Jesus who is great and not us. We are sinners; He is our Savior—the Lamb of God who takes our sin.

In March of 1861 the great Baptist preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, was speaking at the dedication of his new church in London, the Metropolitan Tabernacle. On that day he declared, “I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus.”

Spurgeon also stated, “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ’ Jesus who is the sum and substance of the gospel, who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious embodiment of the way, the truth and the life.”

I am definitely not the exceedingly gifted Charles Spurgeon, nor do I speak from the Metropolitan Tabernacle. But I join with Spurgeon in saying, (with one slight change), “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name Presbyterian; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ’ who is the sum and substance of the gospel.” We need more of Jesus—all of us. Jesus is everything, and there is great joy to be found in knowing and resting in Him.