BOOK REVIEW: Gospel Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax

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I was given this book at a writers workshop at The Gospel Coalition’s Womens Conference.  I couldn’t think of better time to pick up a book like this, since our fall small groups are getting ready to start up at my home church.  The book’s first pages have  a lot of great accolades, from prominent teachers, that point toward this being a must read for anyone who is in a teaching position over other believers.   Pastors.  Small Group Leaders.  Ministry Leaders.  This book was written for you.  Not just for those who are currently teaching alone, but also for those who are considering answering the call to teach for the first time.

Regarding the Author:  Trevin Wax

When preparing a book that could be used by scholared teachers of the Word AND your every day small group lay leader, it is important to provide content that is easy to follow.  Trevin Wax has written a book that stays on track, moves from point to point with ease, utilizes famailiar verbiage, and condenses the information into a format that is not intimidating.  This book, if given to a small group leader, could easily be read within a short period.    The book is a comfortable read, and it is evident that Trevin Wax understands the audience that will be reading this book.

Regarding the Book:  Gospel Centered Teaching

When one steps up to teach a small group, for the first time, it can be a bit scary.  What do I teach?  How do I teach?  Will I be a good teacher?  When one has been teaching small groups, speaking in front of groups, or even presenting sermons for a long season; there are times where we can lose focus on what the point of it all is.  Perhaps we have gotten caught up in the bible stories themselves, over whom they point to.    It may even be a possibility that our every day lives have brought us to a place where we have a world view of things vs. a gospel view.   This can taint the perceptions of even the most seasoned teacher.  In some cases we may find ourselves teaching a great moral lesson and tacking a quick snippet about the gospel at the end, for good measure or because we feel the need to.  It becomes an after thought.

Gospel Centered Teaching is a great book for small group leaders and teachers of all seasons* because it helps bring us back into the heart of the scriptures.  We need to know the basics of the Gospel ourselves, we need to make sure that we can present the Gospel accurately, we need to understand WHY we need to keep our teaching Gospel centered, and finally we need to continually remind ourselves to keep the Gospel center to our teaching and presentations.  Trevin Wax’s practical explanations & easy to read format, make this a great book to give to your small group leaders and staff members.

From the Text:

“If we are not careful , the pursuit of knowledge is merely a sham to make ourselves feel intellectually superior to those around us. We start to view spiritual maturity in terms of knowledge rather than obedience.” (Trevin Wax, Gospel Centered Teaching)

“If we learn individual bible stories and never connect them to the big story; We put ourselves in the scene as if we are the main character.”  (Trevin Wax, Gospel Centered Teaching)

“Just because you know the Bible, doesn’t mean the Word will bear fruit in your life.”

 

Gospel Centered Teaching

Author: Trevin Wax

Publisher:  BH Publishing Group

ISBN:  978-1-4336-8172-1

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BUYING SALVATION- Making It Up to God

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In the days before she knew Christ, she was broken.  She felt abandoned by her father.  She never felt good enough for her step father.  She had a great mom, who was overworked and under appreciated.  She attended schools where she was the perpetual “new girl” because they moved a lot.  And, even when she settled in, she was always different than the rest of the kids.  She would withdraw herself into the background, hoping to go unnoticed.

By the time she would graduate high school, she would find her self settled into rebellious ways.  She wanted to stand out, and if she couldn’t be recognized for her accomplishments and her good deeds…. she would take another approach.   The way she dressed, talked, walked all would tell another tale.  A story of a confident, wild child.  An illusion of someone who didn’t care.  A mask that hid her insecurity and her depression.  She would find her self bar hopping and bed hopping.   Looking for acceptance, love and appreciation any place she could find it.

Do you know her, this girl?  I bet you do.

She was that girl from high school, who went off to college and went “crazy”.    She was that girl who shocked everyone when she got pregnant in the 11th grade.  She was the girl who dropped out of school to become a stripper.  She was the friend you thought you knew everything about, until she attempted suicide.  She was your sister, who suddenly got wrapped up in drugs and ran away.  She’s the girl that so many people will often ask “what ever happened to that girl….”.

You may know her.   You may be her.

Then, by the grace of God, she met Jesus.  It may have been in rehab or even that stint she did in the local prison.  It might have been on that cold floor, with her tear stained battered face.  It may have been through that person who approached her on the street corner & told her there was another life for her than this.  The neighbor or roommate, who steadily went to church and simply extended an invite.  It could have happened at the funeral, when she was burying her best friend who died of a drug overdose.  He could have found her lying on her bed, needle dangling from her arm… and he whispered “I am not done with you yet” and breathed new life into her.

She met Jesus.  Her life, your life, changed.

With the deepest of sincerity, she appreciates and acknowledges what God has done in her life.  She is a new woman.  Married.  Children.  House. Dog. Cat. Fish.  She shares her testimony with the youth, the women, and possibly even during a service every now and again.

People look to her with awe.  They see the scars and wounds that have healed, ever present reminders of what she went through & where Jesus has brought her from.

And in her thankfulness, she strives to pay God back for his mercy and compassion and grace.  She volunteers for every committee.  Her tithing is above and beyond.  She leads the church study, leads a recovery group, disciples troubled kids in the church, she goes on missions trips, she dresses modestly, passes out hygiene kits to the homeless and witnesses to those who are lingering on the street corners.  She funnels Christ into everything she does, trying to prove to Him that she was worth saving.

All the while, she holds onto that past, which motivates her to keep doing good, trying to use all of these good deeds to erase the sins of her past.

To you who read this, nodding your head with understanding….

You can not buy your salvation, or ever pay God back for your salvation.   It was a gift.  For you.  Not to shackle you to the memories of your past, but to set you free into a future of great hope and joy.

Satan wants you to hold onto your past.  He wants you to believe that some sins can’t be forgiven or at least forgiven easily.  He wants you to believe you have to earn your salvation; because he knows that when you make a mistake you will feel like a failure.  Whenever we hold on so tightly to our past, we are sinning.  We are showing God a lack of trust in His word and a lack of faith in His promises.

You are a new creation.   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

You have been washed clean.  (1 John 1:7)

You have been adopted in to His family.   (Ephesians 1:5)

You are loved.   (Romans 5:8)

In John 8:1-11 a woman stood accused.  Jesus said to the crowd that if any of them were free of sin, they could cast the first stone.  No stones were thrown, the crowd dispersed.  Jesus said to her “Go, and sin no more”.     That was it.  He didn’t leave her with a debt that needed to be paid.

Because Jesus himself  will pay her debt, paid your debt… my debt.

In Isaiah 43:25 we read that our sins are blotted out.  Blotted out is different from erased.  Erased would imply that it was gone, entirely, disappeared.  Blotted out means that the transgression was marked through, illegible.  This meant an acknowledgment that the sin existed, but it is no longer counted against you.   We should never come to a place where we believe we are NOT sinners.  We all are.  The Word tells us that ALL will fall short of the glory of God.  But, we know that through the blood of Jesus Christ… those sins are blotted out.  They are no longer held against us.  There is nothing we need to pay back.  The debt is paid.  It was paid on the cross…. once and for ALL.

It’s time to let go of the past that shackles you and embrace real freedom.   Stop allowing Satan to steel your freedom through the lies of doubt.  Take down the wall you are building between yourself and God, when you hold on to those sins you think are unforgivable.  Stop wasting time and energy trying to buy your salvation or pay God back for your debt.  Find confidence in the fact that the debt is paid, you are free…. and in that freedom God will take you to places you could never imagine.

 

 

TGC Women’s Conference Notes, Part 3 – Nehemiah Sessions #1-2 (Ch 1-4)

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These are my notes on the book of Nehemiah from The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference.  There were 7 total sessions, covering all 13 chapters.

Session #1 – Kathy Keller, Nehemiah Chapters 1 & 2   (VIDEO:  Nehemiah 1-2 Kathy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99765572)

Nehemiah is an OT Narrative, it is basically Nehemiah’s journal of from that time period.  Israel at this time was a weak conquered remnant.

In Chapter 1, Nehemiah gets word about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile and the state of Jerusalem.  It wasn’t pretty.  The city itself was broken down, damaged.  So were it’s people.  Nehemiah is pained by this news.  He prays to God.  His prayer consists of 1st praise, then confession, then glory to God, and then asking for God’s favor.  This prayer was not a one time event, rather Nehemiah prayed for 4 months.  Until the Lord guided him to act.

In Chapter 2, Nehemiah (who is cupbearer to King Artaxerxes) presents his concerns about his people to the king, when asked why he looked so sad.  King Artaxerxes favored Nehemiah and not only granted his request to go to his people, but also his requests for provisions and provided protection for him.  Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and assessed the situation.  At first he kept his plans to himself.  Once he was able to survey the lands and determine a plan of action, he then shared what God had put on his heart.  The people were ready to work.   Although there were some that stood against him.

From Kathy Keller:

We have prayer from Nehemiah that can be summed up with:  If it will glorify you, then I am ok with it.

When Nehemiah got the word about Jerusalem & it’s condition, he had two choices… a bad reaction or a godly reaction.

The back story here, the history, is that Jerusalem was in ruins, Nebuchadnezzar took the Israelites captive. Time passes Cyrus has compassion for the people & wants favor with their God so he allows them to rebuild the temple (2 Chr 36:22-23) But then Artaxerxes stops the rebuilding progress due to the influence of his counsel.  Remnants of Israel begin to intermarry, their worship practices end.  (Ezra 4-6:10)

Now Nehemiah is a man who understands God’s Word, he sees the bigger picture.  He doesn’t just try to fix the circumstance, he recognizes it is more than just building the temple.  Restoration to the people needs to happen too.  Nehemiah leaps to action by praying.

Nehemiah is 1 small story, in the larger story of Jesus.  It’s a redemption story.  From ruin to renewal.

The Bible is not about us.  It’s not there to access to understand our circumstances.  It is there for Jesus and about how God deal with the world.  We do not need to be feeding our soul with artificial inspiration and toxic devotionals that have no value, aka “Soul Junk Food”.  We need the meat and milk of HIS ACTUAL WORD.

(my personal note…. the devotions I read and write need to be pointed to Jesus, not me… not my circumstances, unless ultimately GOD is glorified through it)

Nehemiah didn’t need a devotion, a fleece or a sign.  He was a man who knew God’s word & took action in that confidence to enable his peopleto be what GOD needed them to be.  Nehemiah didn’t negotiate with God (do this, then I will…).  He just did what God required of him. (I will, so God can…)

In his prayer, Nehemiah was interceding on behalf of Israel.  It wasn’t the first time either, Moses would do it frequently.

After his 4 months of prayer, God set Nehemiah on a fast track of action.  There was opposition, but Nehemiah went for broke.   He had confidence in God, so he had no qualms about asking the King for more provisions/assistance.  He was called.  He went.  Action was needed.  Action was taken.  When God calls you to action, it is often because you see a need others don’t.

Nehemiah was taking radical action based on his knowledge of God’s Word & for the redemption of his people.

Parallels to Jesus…  Nehemiah was with the king, in the comfort, safety and luxury of the palace.  (Jesus was in Heaven, with God).  Nehemiah assessed the situation and prayed before starting his work. (Jesus walked the earth for thirty years before starting his ministry).  He put himself at risk for Jesus.  (And Jesus put himself at risk, for us, and paid the ultimate price).

Additionally what is important to this story is that this HAD TO HAPPEN.  Nehemiah needed to restore Jerusalem and his people, otherwise there would be no Jewish culture/society that would need Jesus.  It would have been entirely lost.  They had to get back in the sight of God, so that God could redeem the people.

“God’s people do not need to be a powerful culture or in a powerful position to be obedient & accomplish his purpose in the world.  All they need is to be faithful.  He will accomplish it.” (Kathy Keller, The Gospel Coalition Women’s National Conference 2014, Nehemiah 1&2)

Session #2 – Timothy Keller, Nehemiah Chapters 3 & 4   (VIDEO:  Nehemiah 3-4 Timothy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99790975)

In Chapter 3 is essentially the delegation of work for the rebuilding of the wall.  Each portion of the wall is built by a specific group, basically repairing the portion of the wall that was was closest to their house.  The chapter details out that the people doing the work were made up of all classes and genders.   All of society was represented.

In Chapter 4 we see the opposition that they face in doing so.

From Timothy Keller:

Nehemiah left the safety of his position with the king, to do what God called him to accomplish.   The wall was the first thing build, to protect his people from those who would oppose the rebuilding process.  This is a parallel to salvation, like the walls of a city, protecting us from sin. (Isa. 26:1)

Keep in mind that we are not building walls to keep non-believers out, to be separated.  NO.  We are building walls of safety, and we are bringing the people into the city, into citizenship.  The gates are open.

Moses was often working for God without the cooperation of the community, they were easily swayed and distracted.  Yet here we see a full community, working together for the greater good.  This is a progression of redemption toward Holiness.  All of us, working together… The whole people of God doing the ministry.  We become living stones in a temple. (Eph 2, 1 Peter 2).

Nehemiah points to the future.   We all have a ministry.  We are one people, united.  All with gifts and talents to be used for HIS glory within our community.  The early churches grew through evangelism, not due to great pastors and preachers.  It grew because EVERYONE did it.  Studies, readings, prayer groups, etc.

We are unified as Christians first, our nationality/position comes second.   Just as all the different classes & positions & genders joined with Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, we must be unified as Christians FIRST in the calling God has laid before us.  It bonds us together, regardless of our individual identity.

In Chapter 4, when they face the opposition to the rebuilding from the outsiders… it says they were despised and insulted.  The response was prayer and then posting a guard.  This points us toward the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

They prayed, first (God’s sovereignty) .  They posted guards, second (human responsibility).

Jesus was sacrificed by God (God’s sovereignty) .  But, he was crucified by wicked hands (human responsibility).

When things happen:   God is in charge (God’s sovereignty).  What you do matters (human responsibility).

Just as Nehemiah and the Israelites were despised and insulted, we will also be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). This side of the cross we have an opportunity to forgive that Nehemiah didn’t…. when people slander us, insult us, hurt us.

“Take the hit to your reputation, because I [Jesus] took more for you”   (Timothy Keller, The Gospel Coalition Women’s National Conference 2014, Nehemiah 3&4))