C.J. Mahaney is doing an interview with Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. So far, it’s been awesome. Lots of stuff said which I resonate with. As I mentioned before, I love Mahaney’s and Sovereign Grace Ministries’ focus on the gospel and the cross.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson is Reformed in theology, as is Mahaney. If you’re a non-charismatic, then you may be familiar with Ferguson and with a lot of authors I’ve quoted in the past and will quote in future. I’ve learned a lot from this branch of the Church, though do not agree with everything from there now. But I learned the gospel of grace from there over 10 years ago. But I have to qualify this because I think that while some of the biggest proponents of the gospel of grace come from that tradition, some of the biggest proponents of a legalistic “mixture” gospel come from there too.
So anyway, I’ll quote a lot from authors and theologians to whom many charismatics may be unfamiliar with. I think this shows two things. Firstly, for charismatics who criticize New Creation’s gospel of grace, it’s not just New Creation you’re criticizing. The most essential aspects of New Creation’s gospel of grace did not originate from Pastor Prince or New Creation at all. I would argue that it originated from the 16th Century Reformation. (I’m not going to say it originated from Paul eventhough I do think so because that doesn’t help in clarifying things, if you know what I mean). Secondly, for non-charismatics who criticize New Creation’s gospel of grace, I think it should be noted that (I believe) many non-charismatics who are firmly established in good Reformation theology would totally dig the kind of gospel message that is preached at New Creation. Of course, they have to get past the little sprinklings of the prosperity message here and there, which I believe has never been the main emphasis of New Creation. In all my years (over 10) as a believer in the gospel of grace, I’ve been to many Churches – charismatic and non-charismatic – and I’ve never heard the gospel of grace so beautifully preached as I’ve heard it in New Creation.
And so we go back to Sinclair Ferguson’s interview:
The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are looking outward. We need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.
… I realized by looking at the literature that was being produced (including the literature I was producing), that it had more about how to live the Christian life.
…For preachers it’s much easier to seek to bring about conviction of sin and expose sin than to magnify and glory in the Lord Jesus.
A person who truly understands the gospel of Jesus Christ knows that Christ and His work on the cross is what Christianity is all about. Nowadays, churches talk more about what we should do for God, than about what God did for us in Christ. Sunday after Sunday, it’s about how we ought to live better and more Christlike lives. So much burden is placed upon us every Sunday that we start to get the idea that the most important thing in Christianity is what happens inside us. There is no doubt God changes us and doesn’t leave us the way we were before we became Christians. However, whatever change happens and no matter how much we grow in practical holiness, our lives still fall short of perfection. That’s why we need to always keep our eyes on Christ and what He did on the cross – something that is outside of us – than focus on any change in our lives. Preachers should spend less time pointing out how imperfect and sinful we are (which unwittingly occurs when they focus on how we ought to live better Christian lives) and more time pointing out how perfect and righteous we are because of Christ. This brings glory to Him and motivates us to lead a more Christlike life – not out of fear of punishment or hope of rewards, but out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us.