Christianity · Matt Chandler · Suffering · Titanic · Uncategorized

100 Years of Titanic Dreams

It was evening, over 100 years ago, in the summer of 1907 when some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people sat in a mansion and started down the path that would lead to the greatest ocean liner of its time. This liner would be the envy of the shipbuilding community, cater to the richest of society and set the standard for everyone else. On March 31, 1909, in the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding yards in Belfast, Ireland, the keel for the Titanic was laid. The hopes, dreams and ambition of many men were poured into this vessel. This ship was a crowning achievement in Victorian engineering, a floating dreamland and a ship that God himself could not sink.

On April 10, 1912, this monument to the ingenuity of man was at full steam on its maiden voyage. On April 14, 1912 at 11:40 p.m. an iceberg was spotted. First officer Murdoch shouted, “Iceberg right ahead.” All engines where thrown in reverse, but it was too late. The ship’s starboard side was compromised and the dream became a nightmare. The Titanic reported her location at 41° 46′ N, 50° 14. On April 15, 1912, exactly 100 years ago today, the mightiest ship of its time, the colossal floating palace, sank and became the poster child for the foolishness of man.

“Everyone has a dream,” Billy Joel sings. There are so many things that we long to do or experience. Like those who conceived and built Titanic, we have big dreams. These dreams are mighty enough to drive much of our lives. They help inform where we will go to school, if we marry, who we marry, where we live, who we are friends with, what the priorities of our lives will be, and what presuppositions we will hold to. The fulfillment of these dreams are what we believe will make us happy and satisfied in life. “Happiness is the driving force behind everything that you do. Anything you do has the desire for happiness at it’s center.”

Inevitably, our ship of dreams runs into disaster. We are forced to abandon them and jump into a lifeboat for safety. We are separated from the protection of the liner and become much more susceptible to the squalls of life. We are tossed around, capsized or just left to drift endlessly. The separation is not just from our dreams, it also from each other. Sitting alone in our little boats we cling to the hope that we will run across land or someone else. We long to join our hearts to something beyond ourselves.

The question for many of us becomes, “What is the purpose of this suffering? Why have my heart’s desires not been satisfied? Is there a chance that this devastation has some meaning?” And we answer these questions by buying, “into the philosophy that what we need to finally be happy is more of what we already possess.”* So we pursue more money, more power, more sex, more things and it leaves us even more isolated and unhappy than before.

“The majority of human beings believe that people and circumstances exist to make them happy. We believe the brokenness inside will be satisfied by things outside.”* God needs to allow us to run to the end of ourselves in the hope that we will stop looking to our dreams and to other people to fill what only he can. God wants us to stop worshiping the stuff he created and reorder our lives. It is by placing ourselves under this divine order that we can truly be free to live life to the fullest.

“God gives gifts to all men. Whether you believe in God or not, you are living, walking, and wearing his stuff. He gives gifts to all: food, drink, work, friends, family. He gives gifts to all, but only the children of God, only those who believe in Jesus, receive the gift of lasting enjoyment. Why? Because if we’re oriented around Jesus, our satisfaction is not tied to anything but him. We can actually enjoy God’s good gifts the way they’re designed to be enjoyed, because they are in orbit around the right sun – not our self, but our Savior.”*

Jesus said,

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:9-11 ESV)

*Quotes from The Explicit Gospel – by Matt Chandler

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The Explicit Gospel – Review

12ExplicitGospel_L_859027438The Explicit Gospel

Matt Chandler

Wheaton: Crossway, 2012 237 pages  $17.99

Matt Chandler cements himself as one of the best Bible teachers today with his first book, The Explicit Gospel. There have been a flurry of books on the gospel in the last year and for me, this makes the third in what I am calling the “Gospel Trilogy”. This includes Gospel by J.D. Greear,  Jesus+Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian and Chandler’s book. Matt’s book is a fantastic capstone to these other books (this does not mean it does not stand alone, which it certainly does). The Explicit Gospel is just what the title says – it is a concise and yet surprisingly comprehensive look at the gospel in less that 230 pages.

The introduction lays out the why and the how Matt will tackle this subjet. There were growing concerns, for him, of seeing people who had been in the church all their life and hearing them say something like this,

“‘I grew up in church; we went every Sunday morning and night; we went to Wednesday prayer, vacation Bible school, and youth camp. If the doors were open, we were there. I was baptized when I was six, seven or eight, but I didn’t understand what the gospel was, and after a while I lost interest in church and Jesus and I started walking in open sin. Someone recently sat me down and explained or invited me to The Village and I heard the gospel for the first time. I was blown away. How did I miss that?’ Or they would say, ‘No one ever taught me that.'”(12)

This lead to a realization that began to haunt Matt. Why was this such an issue? What has happened in the church to allow this kind of thing to become so prevalent? He began to see that much of what the church was teaching was not the explicit gospel but, “Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”.

“The idea behind moral, therapeutic deism is that we are able to earn favor with God and justify ourselves before God by virtue of our behavior.  This mode of thinking is religious, even ‘Christian’ in its content, but it’s more about self-actualization and self-fulfillment, and 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.

The moralistic, therapeutic deism passing for Christianity in many of the churches these young people grew up in includes talk about Jesus about being good and avoiding bad – especially about feeling good about oneself – and God factored into all of that, but the gospel message simply wasn’t there. What I found was that for a great many young twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, the gospel had been merely assumed [Chandler’s italics], not taught or proclaimed as central. It hadn’t been explicit.” (13)

The goal of the book is to make the gospel explicit. “But I want to spend my time with you trying to make sure that when we use the word gospel, we are talking about the same thing.” (15) So, “in part 1, ‘The Gospel on the Ground.’ we will trace the biblical narrative of God, Man, Christ, Response…When we get to part 2, ‘The Gospel in the Air,’ we will see how the apostle Paul connects human salvation to cosmic restoration in Romans 8:22-23…If the gospel on the ground is the gospel at the micro level, the gospel in the air is the story at the macro level” (16) “Both are necessary in order to begin to glimpse the size and the weight of the good news, the eternity-spanning wonderment of the finished work of Christ.” (17)

I could walk through both of the sections here, but I would only end up quoting the whole book, instead of letting you read it. Chandler constantly builds on each chapter and methodically shows how the gospel has impact on the person and then on all of creation. I was surprised at just how much theology he is able to fit in each chapter. None of this is exhaustive, but it is a concise and easily understood introduction for anyone. And because of the depth in each chapter, it is engaging for those who may feel like they have heard it all before.

The next section of the book looks at the problems that can arise for us if we focus exclusively one aspect over another.

“The explicit gospel holds the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air as complementary, two views of the same redemptive plan God has for the world in the work of his Son. By holding these perspectives together, we do the most justice to the Bible’s multifaceted way of proclaiming the good news. When we don’t hold them together, either by over affirming one or dismissing (or outright rejecting) the other, we create an imbalance that leads to all sorts of biblical error.” (175)

Then he moves to moralism and the cross and the danger he mentioned in the beginning of the book: not being explicit about the gospel to the detriment of souls.

“…the truth that unless the gospel is made explicit, unless we clearly articulate that our righteousness is imputed by Jesus Christ, that on the cross he absorbed the wrath of God aimed at us and washed us clean – even if we preach biblical words on obeying God – people will believe that Jesus’s message is that he has come to condemn the world, not to save it.

But the problem is deeper and more pervasive. If we don’t make sure the gospel is explicit, if we don’t put up the cross and perfect life of Jesus Christ as our hope, the people can get confused and say, ‘Yes, I believe in Jesus. I want to be saved. I want to be justified by God,’ but begin attempting to earn his salvation. By taking the cross out of the functional equation, moral, therapeutic deism promotes the wrong-headed idea that God probably needs our help in the work of justification and most certainly needs us to carry the weight of our sanctification, as well. The result is innumerable Christians suffering under the burden of the law’s curse because they have not been led to see that gospel-centered living is the only way to delight in the law” (208-209)

The beginning and ending quotes I have shared are monumental for me. Personally, the trilogy of books that I have read in the last year have had a – well, what adjective is sufficient to explain the life-changing nature that the gospel has had in my life? God has opened my eyes and has illuminated the Word to me in a truly life-giving and life-altering way. So, do I recommend this book? Yes, but as I do, I recommend reading it with the Word of God ever in your focus and praying that the gospel would come alive to you.

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