Review of Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

A quick read dealing with the need to be explicit about what the gospel preaches. Chandler separates the good news into two categories: the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air. The gospel on the ground is basically the personal message that we share with our friends and loved ones. In this part of the book, the author works through the biblical teachings on God, man, Christ, and then our response as fallen people to that good news. The gospel in the air is then the wider good news that spreads to all of creation. God’s glory will not leave anything untouched. It is in this second section that Chandler touches on creation, fall, reconciliation, and consummation. He argues for a healthy balance between the two. Reading this book after Word versus Deed, by Duane Litfin, was helpful, as Litfin works through this same issue of social gospel versus the concrete message of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross.

In his section on man’s need for a savior, he deals with the severity of God. This, Chandler notes, is an area where many Christians have stopped being explicit. We don’t want a God who is severe. In one place the author writes, “…it makes no sense to run up a tree afraid of a kitten while walking up to a lion and slapping it in the face. Will we fear man while outing God?” Chandler offers us a healthy discussion of God’s wrath.

One of my favorite parts was his discussion of hardened hearts. He notes that the “gospel of Jesus is dangerous.” It has the power to put people in their place. Some people in Christian circles don’t seem to give the gospel this respect. They play around at church, being moralistic and commenting all about what Suzy is wearing to church.  I love this quote: “The religious, moralistic, churchgoing evangelical who has no real intention of seeking God and following him has not found some sweet spot between radical devotion and wanton sin; he’s found devastation. The moralism that passes for Christian faith today is a devastating hobby if you have no intention of submitting your life fully to God and chasing him in Christ.” How will we treat the dangerous power of the gospel? How will we present it to the youth we come into contact with? These are important questions that Chandler brought me to. I know for a fact that some young people go into a church and only receive a moralistic rant about their clothing and behavior. Chandler notes that the gospel will cut some people open; others it will only scar, further hardening them. Let’s be serious. Let’s be explicit.

Also, his application section at the end had some interesting stories and a good breakdown of moral therapeutic deism. Chandler talks about a VBS where he sang a song about liars going to hell. All he remembers from that VBS was that God hated liars. In another part, Chandler writes, “If you listened to Journey, you’re going to do meth and kill your parents. So don’t listen to Journey. If you like Journey, then you should like this Christian band.” He says that this was the main message he would get from Christians early on in his faith. The story about a dirty rose that he shares is also a powerful example of the problem of moralism. “Moralism doesn’t do that. (point to the beauty and glory of Jesus) The moralist tends to forsake sin so that God might love him, so that he might earn the favor of God. All of his effort and striving become his foundation of hope and comfort. And it simply doesn’t work. If anything, it’s shame upon shame upon shame as we continue to fail.” Wow.

Don’t assume the gospel, Chandler pleads, be explicit. The disciples of Jesus knew for certain that Jesus had the words of eternal life. May that be our case as we lead people toward the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ.

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