Category Archives: Rich Lusk

A Primer on the Gospel

We cannot exhaust the beauties of the Gospel, but we can provide a bigger picture of the Gospel than what is typically presented in the Church today. The hope is that we would grow ever more grateful for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the Gospel?

First, the Gospel is about Christ. The clearest Bible passage is found in I Corinthians 15 where the Apostle Paul says, “The Gospel, which he preached, is about Christ and his death and resurrection.” In Romans 1, Paul says he declares a Gospel about the Son, who was descended from David. Later in Romans, Paul makes a powerful connection between the Gospel and Christ’s incarnation. The Gospel must be about Christ. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Christ embodies the Gospel in his life, death, and resurrection. Everything that makes the Gospel beautiful is beautiful because of Christ. So when we think about the Gospel, one fundamental facet of it, perhaps the most central of them all, is that the Gospel is about Christ.

Let’s unpack that a bit more.

The word “Gospel” is not just a word we use in the Christian world. In fact, the word was used in the ancient world for various reasons. For example, the word Gospel was used when Caesar would have a Son, or if he won a great military victory, or a new Caesar ascended the throne – the proclamation of that news was called gospel, and his heralds would announce the gospel in all the empire.

The Christian community adopted this language to proclaim a different message; not a message about Caesar, but a message about Christ. The Gospel is about Christ because Jesus Christ is King. The most basic confession of faith is Jesus is Lord. The Gospel is good news because it announces what God has done in Christ.

Secondly, the Gospel is about History. One pastor put it this way: “The Gospel was planned in eternity, and executed in history.”[1] The passage we read today from I Corinthians 15 says that the Gospel is a historical event. The late Christopher Hitchens was once interviewed by a liberal pastor. The pastor asked him, “Christopher, why do you keep debating these radical Christians? “What do you mean by radical?” the famed atheist inquired. The liberal pastor said, “Well, I mean those Christians who believe the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event. I am a mainline pastor. I don’t believe that Jesus rose literally as the Bible says.” This is where I think Hitchens shined. He told this liberal pastor: “The reason I debate these so-called radicals is because they actually believe in the historical claims of Christianity unlike you.”

If you do not accept that the Gospel is what God has done in history, then you might as well pack your liberal suitcase, close the church doors, and never again refer to yourself as a Gospel minister. Every time you come to Church on Sundays and confess the Nicene Creed you are making historical claims. What does the Creed say? “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate.” Now, Pilate was not a high-ranking political figure. He was a mid-level bureaucrat. The Creed and the Bible mention him because it’s a way of anchoring the Christian Gospel in history.

Thirdly, the Gospel is about the Church. In our definitions of the Gospel, this is one area where I am convinced many simply overlook or miss altogether, which means they are proclaiming an incomplete Gospel.

You see, the Gospel is never just Jesus and “me,” it’s Jesus and “we.” The Gospel creates a new community.[2] The Gospel gives us a new way of being human. And the way we can be most human is by proclaiming the institutional Church as integral to the Gospel from beginning to end.

Far too many Gospel presentations leave the church out altogether. The Gospel becomes only about “How do I get saved’” So let me phrase this provocatively to make my point. It’s not, “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” but “God has a wonderful plan for his Church.” If you want to be a part of that wonderful plan, then be a part of the Church. The Gospel is most clearly seen within the gates of Zion where we meet together as a people. It is in her that we hear the word and taste of the Gospel in bread and wine.

Therefore, when we talk about the Gospel, we are talking about a lot more than simply how I was saved or where I am going to go when I die, but we are talking about the Person and Work of Christ; we are talking about the historical realities of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and we are talking about the Church.

What we are trying to communicate as a Church is a powerful Gospel that encompasses so much more. We are teaching a Gospel that transcends the claims of Nero or Pilate. We are proclaiming a Gospel from another world; a Gospel that came down in human flesh, suffered under Pontius Pilate and gave himself for the Church. A Gospel that says less than these things is still the Gospel, but it is a weak Gospel. Most of the problems we have with the Gospel today is that we have found our pet doctrine, and we tell the world, “Unless you believe that the Gospel is only about this, then you are forsaking the Gospel.” But the breadth and depth of the Bible teach us that the Gospel is more than one mere idea. The Gospel is the promise that our Lord and King, Jesus, is calling us to participate in something greater than ourselves. And this is good news! Believe this and rejoice!


[1] Rich Lusk. Sermons at Trinity Presbyterian. I generously took from Rich’s brilliant sermon. You can find his sermons here:
http://trinity-pres.net/

[2] Lusk.



Answering Questions on the New Ruth Commentary

What is the point of the Book of Ruth?

I think there are two central points: a political and Christological dimension:

What we argue is that Ruth is actually a political tract making the case for the Davidic Kingdom…in other words, why Israel needs a faithful King who will be strong like Boaz, loyal like Ruth, and whose fortunes will turn like Naomi’s.

It’s Christological because it sets the stage for a kinsman redeemer who woos his bride through his generosity and strength, who covers his bride under his wings, who becomes this new land where God’s people can glean freely until the end of history. Jesus is this unending source of blessing to the foreigner and to the citizens of the land.

How do you preach through the book?

It’s such a compelling story that if I were a pastor who had not preached through Ruth, I’d go to Amazon and buy this commentary right now and start a series through it. I kid. But seriously, what are you waiting for? CLICK HERE!

I think the beauty of preaching through it is that you are preaching through a familiar story, which means the contextual dimensions are fairly known, but it also means that people have expectations for what you are going to say, but our goal in the commentary was to show just how nuanced the commentary is and just how the language of Ruth is filled with redemptive meanings from the names of Mahlon and Chilion and to the genealogy in chapter 4 which is generally overlooked.

The pastor can take his time working through each character and bringing out their significance in the larger story.

What is it like to write a commentary?

Well, I think we both have to preach through it first as pastors…we need to read and re-read the text. Lusk, who is the genius behind this, taught a Sunday school class on it and I both preached and taught through numerous times here in the US and in Brazil.

The process can be really slow because we both have full-time jobs, children and other concerns, but we have to find time whenever it is available.

So, the benefit of the Through New Eyes Series commentaries is that much of our theology is already developed. It’s based on the genius of James B. Jordan whose imprint is in every page. With that starting point, we are looking at two elements: first, what does the text say? We are operating on a section or verse by verse analysis of the text

This Worldly

Here is a short section from our upcoming commentary on Ruth:

The Christian hope is very this worldly.  It’s future worldly, but it’s not other-worldly.  It’s this world that’s going to be redeemed.  It’s this body that you’re in right now that you’re going to inhabit for all eternity.  It’ll be transformed and glorified, but it’s your body that is going to be raised up on the last day.  And that’s the Christian hope:  that the very body that has borne the curse of sin will now bear the full weight of blessing and glory and splendor and majesty. And we’ll see how all this is worked out through this theme in the following chapters.

 

A Glimpse into the Ruth Commentary

Here is a little sample of our labors on Ruth; hopefully to be sent to the publisher before the end of the year:

Ruth also shows the world just what she needs.  In a sense, in this book Israel is in the position of Naomi and Ruth.  Where are Naomi and Ruth at the beginning of the book?  They’re without a king; they’re without a husband; they are left desolate and destitute.  The story of Ruth is proof that God will not abandon his covenant bride but will provide for her ultimately by giving to her a greater Boaz and a greater David, a greater Kinsman-Redeemer, and a greater King who will do in reality what Boaz and David could only do in type and in shadow.

Lots of Resources for Psalm-Singing (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs)

My article entitled 10 Reasons Why You Should Sing the Psalms received a lot of attention and several days later it is still on the front page of The Christian Post. I am grateful for all the e-mails I received from pastors and parishioners alike seeking to benefit from the psalms for their own spiritual edification and the maturation of their own congregation.

In order to provide those resources to a broader audience, I will list many of them here and hope to update them occasionally.

I’d encourage you to visit the Genevan Psalter website. It will provide music and lyrics and a host of links to articles on the Genevan Psalter. This is my favorite Psalter.

You may also wish to visit this site, which will give you some ideas and a general introduction to psalm singing.

Another way to benefit from sung psalms is to simply start listening to psalms on your ipod or computer. For a more contemporary rendition of the Psalms, this CD by Greg Wilbur with Psalms and Hymns published by Ligonier is quite good. Nathan Clark George has done some beautiful versions of the Psalms with guitar accompaniments.

If you want to listen to some beautiful Scottish Psalmody, go here on Groove Shark.

One indispensable selection of psalms put into music is from a dear brother, Jamie Soles ( a CREC elder). Jamie has a wonderful gift of bringing psalms into easy and memorable tunes for children, but I confess I listen to them myself often.A great hymnal to get you started is Psalms for Singing. You can find audio samples on-line. You can also purchase the Cantus Christi, which is a Psalter-Hymnal. The Cantus includes about 75 psalms of the 150 (with several chants).  If you would like to hear some of the psalms sung and harmonized, you can purchase this CD. You can also find samples of some of the Psalms on the Cantus Christi:

Psalm 117 – Youtube

Psalm 98 – Youtube (Christ Church, Moscow, ID)

Psalm 148, Psalm-Roar – Youtube

Psalm 42, Audio Only (sung at Providence)

Psalm 45, taught and sung at Providence

Psalm 22 (audio only, Psalm-Roar)

Psalm 122 (Youtube, Christ Church)

Finally, for an award-winning website with more information on the Psalms and psalm-singing than you will ever need has been compiled by the saints of Trinity Presbyterian in Birmingham, AL.  called The Psalm Project.

NOTE: If you find any additional resources, please let me know.

 

10 Things to Expect in a Federal Vision Church

I recently read a post by a frustrated woman on the outcome of some decisions made in different PCA Presbyteries. Among many things, this individual observed that she was deeply concerned for the well-being of the people who attend PCA churches. She urged them to leave the denomination. Many of them have bought into the “Federal Vision theology,” and are possibly doomed to a “Christ-less eternity,” she wrote. They also are grace-less, because they emphasize a robust faith that is not dead.  Among the other things mentioned, apparently Federal Vision advocates do not care about personal relationships, but only church business, because we put so much emphasis on the church. And to top off the list of accusations, we have traded “a relationship with Jesus for religion.”

I am not a PCA pastor, but as someone who served in the PCA for several years, I do want to defend those brothers who are referred to as Federal Vision. Suffice to say, these accusations are childish in every way.

At the same time, I know there is a lot of misunderstanding out there. And in case you are either curious or tempted to visit one of these so-called Federal Vision churches, I would like to prepare the bold visitor for ten things he/she is to expect as they enter into a typical one:

1) Apart from using the term to clarify ideas and misunderstandings in friendly conversations and the occasional men’s study, the term Federal Vision will most likely never be used in the pulpit.  Further, opponents and even advocates of the Federal (Covenant) Vision differ on many points. The closest thing to a consensus is found here, but there are still are sorts of distinctions and qualifications that need to be made.

2) Be prepared for that archaic practice of singing the Psalms. Yes, we confess to singing from Yahweh’s songbook, as well as some old time religion music from the 4th century. Expect very vibrant singing; the one that roars!

3) Be alerted that we are a very friendly congregation, and contrary to what you have heard (if you have ever heard such a thing) we will greet you and likely invite you to lunch after church.

4) Also, do not be alarmed by the little cries in the congregation (Ps. 8:2-3). We really love our little ones and we encourage parents to train them up in worship, and the best place to do that is…in worship.

5) You may be asked to kneel (Ps. 95:6). We believe posture is important to God. Obviously, you do not have to kneel. It is optional, though everyone will.

6) The pastor may get a bit theological at times, he may take the time to explain the text in detail, but he usually explains his theologizing and biblicizing and is very consistent in applying his text and theology to the life of the body.

7) This may truly shock you, but we have the Lord’s Supper every week. And furthermore, we offer bread (real bread) and wine (real wine). This may take some adjustment, but I promise it will make sense after a while.

8) And I know the red flags are all over the place by now, and this is not going to help, but we also believe that baptized children are called to partake of the table of the Lord. Here is where we confess we have strayed from broad Reformed practices. But we have only done so because we believe that the early Christians practiced this. We further believe that I Corinthians 11 actually confirms our practice.

9) The ministers may wear an alb and a stole (though many others may simply wear a suit and tie). This practice serves to point out the unique role the man of God has in proclaiming God’s truth in Word and Sacrament. This may appear very Roman Catholic to you, and you are right. Of course, it is also very Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and yes, even Reformed (see data on clerical collars).

10) Finally, you are correct to assert that we love the Church. We love her because Christ died for her. Our Reformed forefathers were clear. But the Church is no substitute for Christ, the Church is called to build on her firm foundation, which is Christ. You cannot separate Groom and  Bride. And what does this Christ demand of his Church? He demands repentance, and in repentance you will find fullness of life.

I trust you will visit us, but if you do so, we want you to be prepared.

 

This world is not my home…or is it?

Those who follow me on twitter may see several tweets with the hash-tag #Ruthproject. The Ruth project is a new work I am working with a fellow pastor from Birmingham. We are working on a commentary on Ruth. But this will not be just a normal, exegetical work, it is actually a pastoral and theological labor focusing on the nature and goal of redemptive history. We will focus on the content of Ruth’s majestic love story, but also detailing why Ruth serves as a miniature picture for all of God’s history.

We will offer a theological framework for how we are to look at redemptive history and how God is working in it. The commentary hopes to be practical, pastoral, and layman-friendly.

Here is a quote from the introduction:

What you believe about the future shapes how you live in the present.  If your final expectation is just to go and dwell forever in ethereal heaven, compare what your world view and your practice would be to someone whose final hope is of dwelling in a renovated and perfected physical creation in a resurrection body.

Lord-willing we will be able to provide a manuscript draft to our publisher by the end of the summer. Our goal is to have it published by the Family Advance Conference in November.

What the Blessed Man Believes About His Children

The blessed man will not accept what the world says about his children. He will believe what God says about his children. God says they are olive plants, holy and beloved. Thus, the godly man will water his children in baptism and fertilize them with the Scriptures and the Lord’s Supper, so they can bring forth juicy olives, full of the oil of the Spirit.

{Rich Lusk, The Church-Friendly Family}

The Church-Friendly Family

After three years of editing, The Church-Friendly Family is finally available for purchase.

You can purchase the book from Covenant Media:

PhotoOf the making of books about marriage and the family, there is no end. The family is in trouble today―and has been since the sin of our first parents. But the rescue of the family requires more than just good advice, helpful as that can be. It requires more than just a focus on the family. It requires that the family be brought into the church of Jesus Christ. In The Church-Friendly Family, Randy Booth and Rich Lusk set marriage and family in the context of the church, showing how putting the church first enables the family to bear a rich harvest in culture, education, missions, and more.

Essays Include:

The Family and Culture –Randy Booth

 The Family and Worship –Randy Booth

The Family and Education –Randy Booth

The Family Table –Randy Booth

Missional Parenting –Rich Lusk

What is Marriage For? –Rich Lusk

The Blessed Family –Rich Lusk