Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Gospel according to Greear

Religions sucks and J.D. Greear (blog) knows it. Of cause there is a good religion (James 1:27), but Greear doesn't mean that. He means the ones that tell you you have to do things in order to please God. The ones where if you don't do something good, or if you do something bad then God is angry at you. These religions either make you feel self-righteous as you think you have done or said the right thing, compared to the rest of the world; or it makes you feel depressed and bad, as you can not live up to these rules. Greear knows both these feelings and he rejects them. Instead he looks at the Gospel - the message of grace God has shown us, and how it isn't about us doing things for God, but about God doing things for us, and feelings free from religious rules.

The bulk of this book (9 of 14 chapters) goes through a "Gospel prayer" that Greear has made up. He knows this could turn into some magical incantation that you have to say, or that in saying it you are somehow better than others, but he doesn't want that to be the case. He wants it to be a helpful reminder of the grace that we have been shown. It goes like:
In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.
As You have been to me, so I will be to others.
As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.
As you can see it is Christ focused and exulting. The idea is that if you look towards Jesus and the grace we have been shown and given, we will act in love, forgiveness and acceptance because of the love, forgiveness and acceptance we have in God.

Although it sounds like Greear is anti-rules and despite all his asserting about living by grace, he does note that the New Testament is full of a lot of "oughts" or rules. Greear points out that the rules in the Bible are not bad because they help guide the direction our life should be following. He does also stress that before there is an imperative there is always the indicative of what Jesus has done. This means that all the actions we are to do are to come from a response to the actions that has already been completed in Jesus. You maybe able to act like a Christian but externals will only lead you down the beaten tract of self-righteousness or despair as they are the two outcomes of thinking that your behaviour earns your salvation.

Greear writes well. He is able to simplify ideas and I am able to get what he is saying. One thing I really liked, but one that is limiting in the book is his use of humour and references. Greear is a uni church minister in America, and the 20 something theologically hip (not socially or culturally) person is very much his audience. Statements like being "as nervous as Joel Osteen at an Acts 29 event", or his nightmare of  "I show[ing] up in our big auditorium and it’s just me and my wife, and she is sitting on the front row listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler on her iPod" are funny to me, but also limiting to who his audience is. The Appendix 2 also is quite clear that Greear is targeting the people who like theological ideas and who do not put much in action, nor who are not humble - of which I am apart of that crowed. So what I am saying is that this book was good, and targeted right at me. I would recommend it to anyone who is like me. (And if you are reading this blog and you understood the Joel Osteen reference, that you are like me).

Scott McKight gives this a better review than What Is the Gospel?, but still thinks Greear missed the Gospel in this book, but nails grace. Again I am not sure how much you can separate these ideas, but my next gospel book is going to be his King Jesus Gospel, so I can see what his objections to the last two gospel books I read are.

Related links:
What is the Gospel? - Greear's book is better than this one. This one is basic and doesn't tease out the implications for gospel living as much as this one. Still it is short and its good to get a basic understanding of the Gospel down pat.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, Andrew, I might give this book a go over the coming weeks.