What is the Relationship Between the Gospel and Social Action?

Take Your Vitamin Z recently posted the following quote on the relationship between the gospel and social action. I found it to be extremely helpful as I’ve been thinking through these issues.

Given that the greatest need of people is to be reconciled with God and given that this need can only be met through the message of the gospel, it might seem logical to say that evangelism has priority. The problem is that it is not clear what “priority” means in this context. It suggests a choice between the two, and so evangelism should be chosen; it sets the two activities up as competing priorities in which social action can be neglected. We prioritize by making a list and doing the activies at the top of the list. If there is no time left for item lower down the list, then this does not matter because we have deemed such things less important. The implication of saying evangelism has priority in this sense is that it does not matter if we have no time for social action.
However, such choices rarely bare any relationship to reality.  In our involvement in the lives of others, we cannot choose to ignore their social needs.  We cannot treat people in isolation from their context.  Evangelism alone might make sense in the lecture room.  It may even just about make sense in a middle-class suburb.  It makes no sense at all when working among the poor.  Mission takes place in and through relationships and relationships are multi-faceted.  Proclamation should be central, but a center implies a context and our proclamation should take place in the context of a life of love.

So social action and evangelism should neither be identified with one another, nor separated.  Evangelism and social action should be viewed as distinct, but inseparable activities in our mission to the poor in which proclamation is central.  In any relationship with poor people or with a poor community, we must as evangelicals be looking for opportunities to share the message of the gospel.  This is not because our social action is invalid without evangelism.  It is because love requires that we share the message of hope that meets people’s greatest need.

Engaging With The City, Porterbook curriculum, Year 1, Module 12


HT: Vitamin Z

July 31 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on What is the Relationship Between the Gospel and Social Action?

The Essence of Sin & The Essence of the Gospel

For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. – John Stott, The Cross of Christ.

September 12 2012 | Blog | Comments Off on The Essence of Sin & The Essence of the Gospel

God as a Travel Companion…

Eliza Wood has a heart breaking article over at the Huffington Post on God as a Travel Companion. I don’t think I’ve read anything recently, that so succinctly summarizes everything that’s wrong with our modern, American approach to religion. Here’s an excerpt:

God is becoming a popular travel companion.

With increasingly busy lives, many start to find themselves in spiritual lost and found. Old habits of including God in daily or weekly practices can easily give way to the need for some down time; the opportunity to get in a round of golf, or the pleasure of a quiet Sunday morning at home with a cup of coffee and a newspaper.

Sadly, church, for some, is becoming a hard place to find God. There is some stress in getting there on time, getting one’s kids out of bed, making sure they are well groomed, getting one’s chores all completed, and getting into the mental readiness to give up thanks and ask for help…

Maybe people are starting to prefer more anonymity in their worship. Maybe the hymns have grown so outdated they are a chore for some to stand around and sing. Maybe the sermons we can stream into our lives from elsewhere appeal to us more than those we have access to locally. Maybe the scripted prayers leave us wanting more of a personal connection to God.

What’s so heartbreaking about this article is how self-centered religion has become. If it doesn’t fit into my pre-conceived categories, my schedule, my comfort level, than it’s not worth my time. What that implicitly teaches is that life is all about me. I am my own greatest reference point, but faith is about something much greater than me, God, and His invitation to participate in His story. In short, life just isn’t about you! That’s why God will never be a travel companion, He will be Lord or He will be Judge but He will not be your accessory.

July 25 2012 | Blog | Comments Off on God as a Travel Companion…

“Go Deeper”

Jesus says, "You see, if you have me, I will actually fulfill you, and if you fail me, I will always forgive you. I’m the only savior who can do that." But it is hard to figure that out. Many of us first start going to God, going to church, because we have problems, and we’re asking God to give us a little boost over the hump so that we can get back to saving ourselves, back to pursuing our deepest wish. The problem is that we’re looking to something besides Jesus as savior. Almost always when we first go to Jesus saying, "This is my deepest wish," his response is that we need to go a lot deeper than that. – Tim Keller, King’s Cross.

October 26 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on “Go Deeper”

The Death of the Mushy Middle

Tim Keller gives some great thoughts here on what he calls the death of the mushy middle.

Tim Keller – Interview Session #3 from Vintage21 Church on Vimeo.

June 17 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on The Death of the Mushy Middle

The New Middle Road

Great thoughts here from Francis Chan on “The New Middle Road”

June 10 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on The New Middle Road

Where Must a Man Go for Pardon?

“Where must a man go for pardon? Where is forgiveness to be found? There is a way both sure and plain and that way is simply to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. It is to cast your soul, with all its sins, unreservedly on Christ, – to cease completely from any dependence on your own works or doings, either in whole or in part – and to rest on no other work but Christ’s work, no other merit but Christ’s merit, as your ground of hope. Take this course and you are a pardoned soul.”
J.C. Ryle – Old Paths, “Forgiveness”, 185, 186.

HT: Truth Matters

June 08 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on Where Must a Man Go for Pardon?

One Year Old

This is a letter to my son Luke, who turned one a few days ago. My plan is to write a personal letter to each of my boys on their birthday every year, recapping some of the highlights of the year and reminding them of the gospel.

photo-761647Dear Luke,

Of all my boys, you seem to be the one who is changing the fastest. I suppose that’s not really a profound statement, seeing as you are so young but nonetheless you are a joy to watch grow up.

I think the word “joy” is the best word to describe your life this past year. You brought tremendous joy to your mother and I when you were born and you continue to bring us great joy with every new thing that you learn. Now that you’re a little bit older, you bring a lot of joy to your big brothers as well. Cody was pretty unsure about you at first, but within a couple of months you had won his heart over. Now he and Micah chase you around the house calling you “honey” and making sure that you stay away from the fireplace and the television.

Not only have you brought joy to our family, but even at your young age it’s clear that you are full of joy yourself. You always have a smile for your mommy, me, or any stranger who happens to catch your eye on the street. For quite a while, you were perfectly content to let anyone in the church hold you, as long as mommy was nearby. Although, lately you’ve been a little bit more particular about things. To tell the truth, there are times when you don’t even want to go to me Smile.

Even at your young age, my deepest prayer for you is that you would believe the gospel and come to know Jesus Christ as your great joy. You see faith in Christ is all about pursuing joy in Christ. I pray that as you grow up you will become a radical Christian Hedonist, passionately pursuing joy in Jesus Christ to the neglect of all other things because He is the only one can truly satisfy our longing for joy.

‘Til Sin is Bitter Christ Will not be Sweet,


April 04 2011 | Blog | 2 Comments »

Three Years Old

This is a letter to my son Cody, who turns three this month. My plan is to write a personal letter to each of my boys on their birthday every year, recapping some of the highlights of the year and reminding them of the gospel.

photo-751955Dear Cody,

This has been a year of really big changes for you. Three days after your birthday, you were given a present that you weren’t sure you really wanted when mommy and I came home with your baby brother. At first, it was a tough adjustment for you as you were no longer the baby of the family, but I have been so proud of you in how you’ve stepped up to the challenge. You really do love your baby brother and I love watching you take care of him, keeping him out of the toilet and away from the fireplace. You are a very good big brother.

Another big change this year was moving from Mount Vernon, WA to Cool, CA. You probably don’t remember any of this, but I think the move was harder on you than anyone else. You and I are a lot alike, we love consistency and we hate change. Well moving requires a lot of change and with every box that got packed and every piece of furniture that got sold, I could see your little heart grow more and more anxious about the changes in your life. I was so happy to find you continually in my arms looking for comfort amidst the changes in your life, because that’s where I go when I need to find comfort and a quiet place, I go to my Heavenly Father.

Cody, my deepest prayer for you is that you too would know my Father by believing the gospel and becoming one of His children. I pray that you would know who God is, that He is the creator to whom you are accountable. I pray that you would know who you are, that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. I pray that you would know who Jesus is, that He is God’s own Son who died and rose again as a sacrifice for your sins. Finally, I pray that you would respond in faith and repentance to this wonderful good news that we call the gospel.

Since our move down to Cool, you have really begun to enjoy yourself and your new surroundings. You love visiting the pool and playing in the water. You love annoying Micah as much as you can (BTW, you really should stop that). You love your mommy and her kisses (as do I) and you love food. Oh my goodness, do you love food!

This next year will be full of even more changes I’m sure. Micah will be going to school full time, Luke will continue to get bigger and pretty soon he will be the one annoying you. That’s pretty much how life goes, it’s full of changes and yet through all of the changes in life one sure thing remains that you are a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior. I love you Cody.

‘Til Sin is Bitter Christ Will Not be Sweet,


March 28 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on Three Years Old

Jesus Died for Me

This is a great video to start your day off thinking about Christ and the Cross

HT: Tim Challies

March 25 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on Jesus Died for Me

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