Hot Pepper Gospel

Hot Pepper Bite“Theodoret, a Syrian bishop in the fifth century, likened the gospel to a pepper: “A pepper outwardly seems to be cold…but the person who crunches it between the teeth experiences the sensation of burning fire.” In the same way, he goes on, the gospel can appear at first like an interesting theory or philosophy.  But if we take it in personally we find it full of power.

What does its power do? It is the power of God “unto salvation” (Romans 1:16, KJV).  The gospel’s power is seen in its ability to completely change minds, hearts, life orientation, our understanding of everything that happens, the way people relate to one another, and so on.  Most of all, it is powerful because it does what no other power on earth can do: it can save us, reconcile us to God, and guarantee us a place in the kingdom of God forever.”

(Timothy Keller, Romans 1-7 For You, p 20) 

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Tipping as a “Gospel-Driven” Christian

Christians are terrible tippers.  It is a reputation that is repugnant to me, but unfortunately lived down to by too many Christians.

Have you known Christians who pray before the meal, don’t tip, but leave a gospel tract?  How about the angry Christian who blames the server for the kitchen’s mistake, and still gives little or no tip after the server fixes the mistake?  Or the Christian who shares the gospel to the server but gives a measly 10% tip or less at the end of the meal?

I have known and witnessed these astonishing acts of gracelessness.  Out of shame on the behalf of believers in Christ behaving badly, I have left an extra large tip to cover my the lack of my brothers and sisters in Christ and apologized to too many servers for the actions of others.

I do not want to come across as self-righteous.  Rather, I am speaking to challenge and convict bad-tipping Christians to repent and live out their faith with a gospel-driven mentality in all areas of life, including tipping at restaurants.

Jared Totten, who has worked for years in the service industry, gives some insight on how the gospel can change the way we tip:

3 Ways the Gospel Changes How We Tip

Put your money where your mouth is…

In my line of work, I’ve experienced good tippers and bad ones. But the most memorable ones were the Christians who tipped like legalists. I’ve worked in the service industry longer than I have in the church (at least according to my W-2s) and am currently bi-vocational, working part-time as a hotel shuttle driver. I am paid below minimum wage much like restaurant waitstaff, so tipping is an expected part of my income by my employers.

The most personally painful moments have come when the occasional Christian convention or retreat takes over the hotel and the entire group tips poorly. I’ve found myself apologizing to my fellow tipped employees—even trying to use the opportunity as a springboard into presenting the gospel. Believe me, that’s a tough sell! And I’m sure they’re thinking the same thing as you right about now:

“What does a tip have to do with the gospel?”

I’m glad you asked. I’ve had many hours behind the wheel to ponder this very thing. Here are three personal guidelines I’ve formed as the gospel relates to Christians and how we tip.

1. Your tip should reflect Christian generosity.

God’s generosity towards us should affect the bank account. Every Christian knows that. But there is perhaps no better test on how great a hold the idol of Mammon still has on us than how we tip.

“I disagree”, you’re thinking. “What about tithing and charitable giving?”

Yes, but we do both of those with our “Christian hat” on. When we give in such ways we are acting out of our Christian sensibilities.

When you tip, however, I bet you’re all business. Right down to the penny (or rounded down to the dollar if you’re lazy or bad at math). But when testing your heart against the idol of money, how you handle the last 90% matters as much as how you handle the first 10%.

2. Your tip should demonstrate grace—not law.

If there’s a problem with my meal, the last thing I do is take it out of the tip. I want to give the server every chance to make up what could be honest mistakes or problems out of their control. To begin subtracting from the tip before giving the server an opportunity to make it right reflects the heart of a hard-nosed legalist, not a heart stricken by grace.

But—and this is a huge “but”—nothing models gospel grace like a generous tip even after a server has blown it and failed to “make it right.” I know this is a hard pill to swallow for many of us (myself included), but why should the tip be the last thing to be impacted by the grace that has been poured out on us?

I’ve talked to Christians who will simply gush about the grace of Christ towards us… and then not think twice about leaving a terrible tip for terrible service. Why reinforce the system of law by which the whole world runs when we have the resources of grace to draw from?

3. Your tip should embody the gospel.

I know, I know. “Embody the gospel? In a tip?!”

But if the gospel really is the all-encompassing reality that it is, then it should affect every area of our lives and every area of our lives can reflect it. Your tip should be a tangible outgrowth of the grace and generosity you yourself have received as not just an undeserving but ill-deserving sinner. We have all performed below what was expected of us and even in direct rebellion against the one we were made to serve.

Yet the gospel is this: God gave out of his riches both generously beyond what we could have hoped for and graciously beyond what we ever could have earned. And if God has given out his endless and bottomless generosity on our behalf, we have that same treasury to draw from. The gospel allows us to release our vice-grip on earthly riches and instead use it to apply the gospel in our own lives in the most practical ways.

P.S. Don’t leave a gospel tract unless you’ve done points 1-3.

Okay, so maybe tracts aren’t your thing (if they’re still a thing at all). In my context, it’s church pens and invite cards. But if you have anything you like to leave in the name of outreach, don’t leave it unless you are tipping out of generosity, grace, and the gospel.

To leave a gospel tract with a poor tip is unattractive at best. To leave a tract instead of a tip is often downright detrimental (especially those ones that look like paper money at first glance). But a tract with a generous tip—especially after poor service—well, that might actually preach.

Offended by the Gospel

offended“Paul has already said that the preaching of the gospel is terribly offensive to the human heart (Gal. 5:11-12).  People find it insulting to be told that they are too weak and sinful to do anything to contribute to their salvation.  The gospel is offensive to liberal-minded people, who charge the gospel with intolerance, because it states that the only way to be saved is through the cross.  The gospel is offensive to conservative-minded people, because it states that, without the cross, “good” people are in as much trouble as “bad” people. Ultimately, the gospel is offensive because the cross stands against all schemes of self-salvation…

The cross is by nature offensive!  And we can only grasp its sweetness if we first grapple with its offense.  If someone understands the cross, it is either the greatest thing in their life, or it is repugnant to them.  If it is neither of those two things, they haven’t understood it.”

-Timothy Keller (Galatians For You, pp 180-181)

Savoring the Gospel

Savoring

Savoring the Gospel 

By Joe Thorn

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.”
1 Timothy 1:8

It seems that every few years there is a fight over keeping the Ten Commandments in the public square (a courthouse, a public school, etc.). I’m not interested in getting into the merits of the arguement for either position here, but I do find it sadly ironic that many Christians are ready to fight for the Ten Commandments to be lifted up in the public square, but are much less motivated to see the gospel take center stage. It is as if some think that the law of God is a cure-all. That if we can just gather ourselves around the law things will change: our cities, our citizens, our culture. And, this is not only a social/political issue. Many of us are also tempted to think this way as it relates to our own growth in the grace of godliness. It is as if we think that the law of God is our cure-all. That if we can just gather ourselves around the law we will change: our thoughts, our hearts, our lives.

THE NEED FOR JUSTIFICATION

But law does not save you. The law cannot save you. This does not mean the law is bad. The law is holy, just, and good. It is still the gift of God, but the law cannot save you. It is a gift that shows us his way, our rebellion, and our great need for the gospel. The law deals a crushing blow to our sense of self-righteousness, but also prepares us for the good news of God’s forgiving and restoring grace. In the law we see God’s standard of righteousness, but in the gospel we see Jesus fulfilling all righteousness for us. Here are the two gifts: one that exposes our guilt, and another than unleashes God’s grace; one that crushes, and another that revives and renews. The law is good when used rightly–not to justify–but to show our need for justification that must come from outside of ourselves.

No, the law does not save, but it does help us to savor the gospel.

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” 1 Timothy 1:8

It seems that every few years there is a fight over keeping the Ten Commandments in the public square (a courthouse, a public school, etc.). I’m not interested in getting into the merits of the arguement for either position here, but I do find it sadly ironic that many Christians are ready to fight for the Ten Commandments to be lifted up in the public square, but are much less motivated to see the gospel take center stage. It is as if some think that the law of God is a cure-all. That if we can just gather ourselves around the law things will change: our cities, our citizens, our culture. And, this is not only a social/political issue. Many of us are also tempted to think this way as it relates to our own growth in the grace of godliness. It is as if we think that the law of God is our cure-all. That if we can just gather ourselves around the law we will change: our thoughts, our hearts, our lives.

THE NEED FOR JUSTIFICATION

But law does not save you. The law cannot save you. This does not mean the law is bad. The law is holy, just, and good. It is still the gift of God, but the law cannot save you. It is a gift that shows us his way, our rebellion, and our great need for the gospel. The law deals a crushing blow to our sense of self-righteousness, but also prepares us for the good news of God’s forgiving and restoring grace. In the law we see God’s standard of righteousness, but in the gospel we see Jesus fulfilling all righteousness for us. Here are the two gifts: one that exposes our guilt, and another than unleashes God’s grace; one that crushes, and another that revives and renews. The law is good when used rightly–not to justify–but to show our need for justification that must come from outside of ourselves.

No, the law does not save, but it does help us to savor the gospel.

Gospel Fears: Misplaced Identity

unbelievable gospelOur reluctance to talk about Jesus to others springs from honoring the approval of others in our hearts instead of resting our hearts in the approval of Christ the Lord…

People may reject us but our forever acceptance in Christ gives us every reason to speak of him, of his grace, mercy, kindness, love, and triumph over sin, death, and evil.  O for stronger men and women who sink their identity deeply into what Jesus says about us more than what peers and co-workers (might) say about us!  our silence will convince no one of rich, rewarding faith in Jesus.  Fear over co-worker frowns will not inspire a smiling faith…

People need to see our hope burn in our bones.  they need to sense the Lord Christ set apart in our hearts.  They need to see that the gospel not only makes sense but that it also works.  Christian faith is intellectually satisfying and existentially rich.

(Jonathan Dodson, Unbelievable Gospel: How to Share a Gospel Worth Believing, pp. 61, 66, 68)

The Most Offensive Verse?

With all of the hot-button issues regarding the Bible and God’s standard of holiness and morality being thrown around the news lately, I was intrigued by one writer’s proposed way of tackling the issues if he were ever interviewed by “Piers or Larry or Tavis or Rosie or Ellen or The View” (or as the author calls them, “TaPierRosEllRy”).

offended

Rather than tackle the particular issue with its certainty of a resulting firestorm of being called intolerant, ignorant, backwards (and any other version of slander and libel tossed around by those seeking to dismiss anyone who dares to publicly present the Word of God for what it says), this author said that he has decided to side-step the conversation and start with the “most offensive” verse in the Bible.

I like the tactic, not because it is sure to pour more fuel on the fire, but because this author’s “most offensive verse” was selected because it goes to the root of the problem, the basic source of all the various controversies that pop up when a person holds a stance based upon the belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that God actually means what He says.  The tactic is an interesting way of cutting through the smokescreens as well as opening and easy door to present the gospel.

So, what is the author’s “most offensive verse” in the Bible?  Genesis 1:1.

Why Genesis 1:1?  Read the article below and find out for yourself.

The Most Offensive Verse in the Bible

by Dan Phillips

In the Sunday School class at CBC we’re doing a series called Marriage, the Bible and You. In the second lesson of the series, I brought up the subject of secular talk shows and how they like to try to beat up on Christians of any size, shape, and significance about whatever topic they think is most embarrassing and controversial. Of course, at the moment it’s “gay” “marriage,” or the topic of homosexuality at all.

In the course of the lesson, I remarked that I think — from the comfortable quiet safety of my study — that I’d take a different approach.

When Piers or Larry or Tavis or Rosie or Ellen or The View or whoever tried probing me about homosexuality, or wifely submission, or any other area where God has spoken (to the world’s consternation), I think I’d decline the worm altogether. I think instead, I’d say something like,

“You know, TaPierRosEllRy, when you ask me about X, you’re obviously picking a topic that is deeply offensive to non-Christians — but it’s far from the most offensive thing I believe. You’re just nibbling at the edge of one of the relatively minor leaves on the Tree of Offense. Let me do you a favor, and just take you right down to the root. Let me take you to the most offensive thing I believe.

“The most offensive thing I believe is Genesis 1:1, and everything it implies.

bible shock

Therefore, we are not free to create meaning or value. We have only two options. We can discover the true value assigned by the Creator and revealed in His Word, the Bible; or we can rebel against that meaning.That is, I believe in a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another. God is Creator and Lord, and so He is ultimate. That means we are created and subjects, and therefore derivative and dependent.
“Any time you bring up questions about any of these issues, you do so from one of two stances. You either do it as someone advocating and enabling rebellion against the Creator’s design, or as someone seeking submissive understanding of that design. You do it as servant or rebel. There is no third option.

“So yeah, insofar as I’m consistent with my core beliefs, everything I think about sexuality, relationships, morals, the whole nine yards, all of it is derived from what the Creator says. If I deviate from that, I’m wrong.

“To anyone involved in the doomed, damned you-shall-be-as-God project, that is the most offensive truth in the world, and it is the most offensive belief I hold.

“But if I can say one more thing, the first noun in that verse —beginning — immediately points us forward. It points to the end. And the end is all about Jesus Christ. That takes us to the topic of God’s world-tilting Gospel, and that’s what we really need to talk about.”

I mean, why quibble about minor offenses, when we know how to take them right to the mother lode of all offense — that God is God, and we are not?


 

Law-Gospel Theology

The Pastoral Practicality Of Law-Gospel Theology

By Tullian Tchividjian

Our church was recently hit with a high-ranking moral tragedy. It was discovered that a staff member (and close friend) was engaging in marital infidelity. I was both shocked and saddened. I didn’t see it coming. None of us did. Of all the crises I’ve faced and had to deal with over the last 17 years of pastoral ministry, this was a first for me. I have dealt on numerous occasions with husbands and wives in the throes of an extramarital affair, but never a staff member. Never someone this close to me. It’ll take me a long time to get over this one.

On top of having to deal with this on a very personal level, I had the weighty responsibility of leading our church through this. How do you handle something like this? What do you tell people? I reached out to a small handful of older, wiser, more seasoned friends of mine who are pastors and counselors that have lived and led through situations like this. Their help and counsel and encouragement and insight were indispensable life savers for me. What would I do without these people in my life?

One week after we discovered the affair, I had to stand up on my first Sunday back from vacation and tell our church what happened. I, of course, did not share much. I steered clear of details. I simply told our church that this man had been engaged in marital infidelity and the situation was such that it required him to be removed from his position. I shared with our church the detailed ways that we were caring for the families involved and communicated our long-term commitment to continue caring for the families involved. It was a tough morning for me. It was a tough morning for everybody. The hurt, the anger, the sadness, the confusion.

I preached from Gal 5:13 that morning, and among the things I emphasized and explained to our church was that we are not a one word community (law or gospel) but a two word community (law then gospel). A law-only community responds to a situation like this by calling for the guy’s head (sadly, many churches are guilty of this). These churches lick their chops at the opportunity to excommunicate. A gospel-only community responds by saying, “We’re no better than he is so why does he have to lose his job? After all, don’t we believe in grace and forgiveness?” A one word community simply doesn’t possess the biblical wisdom or theological resources to know how to deal with sinners in an honest, loving, and appropriate way.

Explaining that we are a law-gospel community, I showed how pastorally this means we believe God uses his law to crush hard hearts and his gospel to cure broken hearts. The law is God’s first word; the gospel is God’s final word. And when we rush past God’s first word to get to God’s final word and the law has not yet had a chance to do its deep wrecking work, the gospel is not given a chance to do its deep restorative work. Sinners never experience the freedom that comes from crying “Abba” (gospel) until they first cry “Uncle” (law).

I illustrated this point by reminding our church that the Father of the prodigal son in Luke 15 did not fall to his knees and wrap his arms around his sons legs as the son was leaving, but as he was returning. He had been waiting, looking to the horizon in hope. When he saw his son coming home, crushed and humbled, he ran to him. But he didn’t stop him from leaving. He didn’t rescue his son from the pigsty. If we really love people and want to see them truly set free, we have to get out of God’s way and let the law do its crushing work so that the gospel can do its curing work. I’ve seen way too many lives ruined because parents, pastors, families, and friends have cushioned the fall of someone they love–robbing that person from ever experiencing true deliverance because they never experience true desperation. As John Zahl has said, “God’s office is at the end of our rope.” Grace always runs downhill–meeting us at the bottom, not the top.

With tears in my eyes and deep longing in my heart, I long for the day when I can look out on the horizon and see my crushed friend walking toward me. On that day I’ll know that God’s law has done it’s work. And when that happens, I will run to meet him, fall on my knees, wrap my arms around his legs, and throw a party. No questions asked. Just a party.

I’m waiting for you, my brother!