Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Anyone who has followed my blog or checked in from time to time might have come to the faulty conclusion that I am a person who has his act together. That because I have an ability to write and communicate ideas in an organized and coherent manner, that that somehow extrapolates to a personal life of order and uniformity, and that when it comes to managing the basics of my life, I probably "have all my ducks in a row".

We're talkin' real basic, practical things like managing my household's personal finances and paperwork, vehicle maintenance, diet and regular exercise, routine medical check-ups, upkeep on the house, and keeping healthy relationships with my wife and children, doing things together as a family, and also maintaining contact with close family, friends, and acquaintances.

And what about that sphere of my life that is distinctively Christian. Certainly I got my act together there, right? You probably think I have a regular private worship time when I read the Bible, pray, and spend time together in relationship with the Lord. That I have a ton of self-control, able to resist's the world's seductive baits that only harm me, and that I would always learn from my past sins, being cautious never to do them again.

Maybe you think that I give my money unselfishly to the church and to others in need. And that during public worship at church on Sunday mornings my mind is focused like a laser beam on Christ and the Gospel alone; never straying, never, wandering into dark areas it should never go. And that in the area of my own Christian ministry to others, whether through my church or on my own, is one of pure devotion and self-sacrifice.

It is a comedy of errors in which I constantly fail at these most basic fundamentals of life. Every aspect and every sphere of my life is one that lacks conformity, stability, organization, common sense, and self-control. And yet, it is through the realization of my wanting to have control and discipline over my miserably unmanageable life that the Lord has taught me to rest in the Gospel and in Christ and His finished work.

Therefore, this is my post-conversion story of how the Lord is liberating me from the legalistic mentality of "I've got to get my life together and organize things. I ve got to eat right and exercise regularly, I've got to keep my car clean and well maintained, I've got to do more around the house, I've got to understand all that stuff about paperwork and taxes and then organize it all, I've got to keep up with my regular medical and dental appointments, do a better job at raising my kids and loving my wife, I've got to maintain a regular private worship schedule of Bible reading and prayer and then immediately pray when an urgent prayer request comes up, I've got to drink less, cuss less, treat people better, clean up my act and then the Lord will not be so disappointed with me, and I will be a happy, contented person".

Through the Lord's great providence (The Lord sovereignly orchestrating and ordering the circumstances of my life) I am learning that true happiness and true peace is found only in the One who lived a perfect life on my behalf and died the death that I deserve. When it comes to God's laws, He doesn't grade on a curve. It's either a pass or fail grade. I have failed in the past, I fail 24/7 in the present, and I will continue to fail in the future. If I am looking for the Lord to give me a passing grade according to my works and deeds, I will be exposed as a complete and utter failure. My grade on keeping God's laws? F

But Jesus was my perfect righteousness for me. He was the One who took my test and aced it! Therefore, although I want to do what is right much of the time, I am free to be a failure at home or on the job, free to be a loser, free to be looked down upon and criticized for failing to lead an exemplary life, and free to be transparent on what a disgusting piece of filth I really am; after all, if the Lord Jesus already knows everything about me and He gladly receives me, then why should I fear the opinion of man?

...before the universe ever was, or for that matter, before time even existed, the Christian God chose me, Casey Nygren, and other people from an entire population of fallen humanity, to be His chosen people redeemed by Christ and His finished work. (Yes, God chooses people, it's everywhere in the Bible). I must be someone special, right? Wrong-o! God does not choose people because they are better, smarter, more persuasive, more loveable, more talented, or more religious that others. And He doesn't choose people because they somehow earned it by living an upright life; contributing their time and efforts for human good, giving more money to church and other worthy causes, and trying harder to be a better person.

Actually, it's the other way around. The Lord usually chooses the losers, the lowly scumbags, the freaks, the underachievers, the outcasts, the morally bankrupt, the unlovable and undesirable. In other words, the Lord's choosing me had nothing to do with me; as if I was somehow special, loveable, or worthy, and that Heaven just wouldn't be Heaven without my presence.

He chose me because it pleased Him to do so. He does whatever He wants to do, He is Lord and He chooses whomever He wants to choose. And that fact alone fuels my gratitude for what the Lord has done for me in spite of my total failure at life, spiritually dead, spiritually blind, morally broken, beyond any ability to save myself. It's what the Bible teaches, and that is what makes the Gospel deliciously sweet and conforting to such a rebel as I.

So I was born in 1962. I was an atheist who fiercely resisted the idea of God. Christianity was especially repulsive and I hated any mention of Christ. I wanted to live my life the way I wanted to, and I didn't want anyone telling me how I ought to live. I always had an undying compulsion to do bad, bad stuff, and I enjoyed the endless evil pleasures this world offered. But I was also miserable at the hopelessness and pointlessness of life; part of me wanted to live, and another part of me wanted to die. In the latter part of 1999, I transitioned from being an atheist to a Christian in the span of about six months. Just amazing! My conversion to Christianity happened, not because I somehow figured things out on my own. It is because the Lord caused me to become a Christian. If you are interested you can read MY CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY on how I became a Christian.

So at God's predetermined time, according to His perfect will, He raised me from spiritual death and opened my eyes to the truth of my own spiritual condition; a ruined, rebellious lawbreaker facing everlasting torment for crimes against a Holy, righteous, perfect, and just Deity. I bent my knee in January of 2000 and prayed for God to rescue me through faith in Jesus Christ. At this point I didn't know what the hell happened to me. All I knew is that know God was Holy, I was a sinner and deserved punishment for my crimes, and that Jesus, the second Person of the Godhead, became a God/Man to fulfill His redemptive work. And by trusting in Him I would be rescued from the torments of Hell and my broken relationship with God would be restored. Theologically speaking, I was basically clueless about anything but the very basics of the Gospel.

But the changes in my life were immediate and profound. By God's grace my brother Mark, a Christian of thirteen years, helped my better understand Christianity and the Gospel, and through Mark I was taught the Reformed Doctrines of Grace, a.k.a. Calvinism. As a baby Christian I was so hungry for Truth. I was constantly reading theology books and listening to cassette tapes of reputable pastors, reading the Bible, and praying to my Savior. I was truly on fire for the Lord and was fed and nourished spiritually by my massive intake of books, sermons, and Scripture.

My wife was a nominal Roman Catholic and was not saved at the time of my conversion. She noticed a big difference in me and thought I was just going through one of my many phases. I emphasized that I had to find a church home, so we settled on Wayzata Evangelical Free Church. It was a large church with many members, and very close to home. Their doctrinal statement was solid, and for the first few years I really liked attending Wayzata Free.

But then God opened my eyes to some things about Wayzata Free that were disturbing. For one thing, they were Arminian and I was Reformed in my theology, and I am absolutely convinced by Scripture and conscience that the Bible teaches the Reformed view as true.

I slowly became aware that Wayzata Free was a seeker-friendly church that sugar-coated the Gospel, watering down unpopular doctrines and turning it into a man-centered theology focusing on the felt needs of "seekers" in an effort to reach them for Christ. That was an unbiblical evangelistic methodology that I despised.

Overall, the preaching at Wayzata Free was shallow; a mile wide but an inch deep. They never transcended to the glorious depths of the Gospel that I yearned for. I was also frustrated at the lack genuine Christian love and devotion the pastors had for their flock. Membership was reduced to business decisions about the church. And I also noticed an increasing lack of biblical discernment on behalf of the pastoral staff at Wayzata Free, allowing in doctrines and teachings that were not biblical. I made my complaints known, yet in all my complaints I felt marginalized. This made me increasingly frustrated so I started seeking another church home.

I discovered REDEEMER BIBLE CHURCH through listening to a Christian radio program called "Talk the Walk with Todd Friel", a local Christian personality. Redeemer pastor Bob Glenn was filling in one day and I happened to be listening. He was discussing the doctrine of Hell, which I thought was refreshing compared to the Gospel-Lite coming out of Wayzata Free. Bob was bold, unapologetic, and really knew his stuff. He mentioned that he was a pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka.

I remembered seeing the blue "Redeemer Bible Church" sign on Hwy 7 and made the connection. I was very interested in this church as a candidate for a new church home. I called the office and asked if they taught the Reformed faith and the reply was "Yes". I asked a few more questions and I knew I had to check this place out. I was very excited.

I visited Redeemer Bible Church for the first time, by myself, in early January of 2006 I believe. Bob was preaching through the book of Exodus and the sermon text was on one of the Ten Commandments, "You sall not commit adultery". I was very impressed Bob's preaching. By now, Valerie my wife was a Christian. I knew she would not like the major change of finding a new church home, but in my mind, this was where the Lord was leading me and my family.

So my family left Wayzata Free and we started attending Redeemer Bible Church. It didn't take long to figure out that the Lord steered me in the right direction. All I can say is that the preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and fellowship of Redeemer Bible Church has turned my world upside down. I met with Pastor Bob over lunch not long after we started attending Redeemer and found him to be a real down to earth, caring, tender hearted guy.

Within a year we applied for church membership, enrolled in the class, and we became members of the Redeemer family of Christians. It's just a fantastic church and I am very bleesed to be there and give hearty thanks to the Lord for bringing me and my family to Redeemer Bible Church.

Anyway, that's enough of my personal story for now. I an just laying a foundation, my chronological post-conversion background that will serve to build the rest of my story on. There will definitely be a Part Two, and maybe a Part Three. I would like to finish my personal story of liberation from LEGALISM through the Gospel by Sunday. On Monday March 5th I plan on initiating the WEEKLY BLOG POSTING SCHEDULE described in my prior post.

I intend to keep up with the Series on Galatians and pastor Bob's series on Acts on wednesdays, but there are some other details I must address first.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


On a recent post, FUTURE PLANS FOR THIS BLOG, I revealed a rough sketch of what I would like to accomplish in the future on my blog THE CROSSING: CHURCH OR CULT. I came up with an outline that I think will strike the right balance between critiquing The Crossing's beliefs and practices coupled with proclaiming, explaining, and resting in the one true Gospel. It goes like this... 
As much as possible, I will attempt to tie together each week's blog post categorically; for example, let's say on Monday's post I share my struggle with the sin of self-reliance. Tuesday's post might emphasize how false teachers advance a false doctrine of self-reliance. I may post a sermon on Wednesday that deals with relying on God and not on self. Thursday I could point out an example from Eric Dykstra's sermon that exemplify self-reliance. Friday I may provide a more in depth study on self-reliance, with Scriptural proof texts. Saturday I may copy/paste another blog post from a reliable source on the sin of self-reliance. I think you get the idea. Sunday I am leaving open, but I have several ideas on different subjects I can post on Sundays. 

 I am not saying that every day of the week will unite under the banner of a single category, but I will be more inclined to tie a certain category together throughout the week. Additionally, blog categories will not necessarily be restricted to one week. I may spend up to several weeks fleshing out a particular category, and I may add to a category I have already covered in the past, Therefore, it's likely I'll have more than one category running at the same time throughout the week.

As I blog, I will provide a hyperlink tool under the heading CATEGORIES that will provide a list of all of my blog posts related to a particular category.

The last thing I want is to be burdened with a blog posting schedule that I absolutely must adhere to, which reeks of legalism, so please keep in mind that I may not post every day of the week. I may only post four times per week, depending on time restraints. So don't be disappointed if you check my blog on Friday looking for a post on Gospel Fundamentals/Doctrine, and it's not there.

It is all about the Gospel. Yes, I do want to focus my attention on the teachings and practices of The Crossing Church. Christians ought to expose false gospels and false teachers; it's in the Bible. But I also want to provide positive, Gospel saturated media to read, listen to, and watch.

If you have followed my blog up until October of 2011, you will notice a sort of random, haphazard collection of posts that lack any sort of organized time frame. I believe that can be frustrating to anyone who follows my blog. But by having the new blog posting schedule in place, followers will know what to expect on a particular day of the week. It will also help me to plan in advance on what I want to focus on in the following week.

My blog posts will be rooted in liberating Gospel truth, and while I may not provide proof texts for every point of doctrine I mention, I can provide the necessary biblical proof texts if you would like, just request the biblical  proof texts to back up my doctrinal point I will provide.  

Right now it looks like Monday March 5th will be the day I will begin with the new blog posting schedule. I would like your input on whether you think you will like the changes that will be taking place, so don't forget to take the poll in the upper right hand corner!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


i I just got back from Lake of the Woods Tuesday night. Needless to say I feel extremely burnt out from excessive fishing and the the long drive home yeateday.. We caught a ton of fish, mostly saugers, bet some decent walleyes in the mix. My nephew Ryan caught a bonafide jumbo perch that was 13 inches long and had to had weighed over a pound easily. It was a fun vacation. A friend from church, Jim, he has a cabin right on the lake, so I have many of opportunities to fish LOTW.

Because I have been away for so long, and I left you with two awesome gospel-centered sermons on my LAST POST, I Thought it would be a good idea to continue on in the two sermon series. We will continue on with Tullian Tchividjian's series on the book of Galatians, just an awesome series for those at The Crossing, and anyone else for that matter,FREE AT LAST-TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN SERIES ON GALATIANS:PART FOUR? I SAY "Part Four" because "Part Three" is missing. But I believe, this is the next sermon of the series after "Part Two". Please commit to yourself to listen to it over the next week.

I would like to continue on the sermon series "Acts-The Ultimate Mission", on the book of Acts that Bob Glenn is currently preaching at Redeemer Bible Church.EXPANDING THE MISSION: PART TWO He is preaching on the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus; a person who wanted Christians dead, to the Apostle Paul who whote thirteen chapters of the New Testament. This is absolutely great preaching the Word of God, and reminds us that NO ONE is outside the scope of God's grace.Please, please, Crossing attenders, listen and contrast this Gospel preaching against the preaching that occurs at The Crossing Church.

Hopefully, I'll have some organization in place pertaining to my entire blog the next time I post.

Until then, God Bless, Casey       

Thursday, February 16, 2012


...I thought I would leave those who follow my blog with a couple sermons to listen to. The first sermon is part two Tullian Tchividjian series on the book of Galatians. In case you missed it, here's the link for part one,  FREE AT LAST-TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN SERIES ON GALATIANS: PART ONE. And here's the link for part two, FREE AT LAST-TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN SERIES ON GALATIANS:PART TWO This series will continue to demolish the legalistic, self-reliant, approval-seeking, works-righteousness that infects all men and women, especially those who go to church and take pride in their spiritual achievments, thinking they can score points with God and gain His approval by doing more, giving more, and trying harder. That is the very antithesis of the genuine Gospel.

This next sermon was preached at my church, Redeemer Bible Church last sunday by pastor Bob Glenn, titled, THE MISSION OF PHILLIP. This sermon is one of a continuing series on the book of Acts. This sermon will give those at BDM and The Crossing church great insight into how the Lord spreads His Gospel, the character and motivation of Eric Dykstra, and what our attitude ought to be in regards to sharing the Gospel with those who have hurt you. As I messaged someone last week from BDM, "The Crossing is not your enemy, it is your mission field!" This is a fantastic A+ sermon relevent to this blog and encourage all to read it.

Just for fun, try to keep count how many times pastor Bob mentions the Gospel in this sermon. Then pick any sermon preached by Eric Dykstra and count how many times he mentions the Gospel. You will be shocked by the contrast. One pastor preaches pure, liberating Gospel Truth, the other pasor preaches a "do more, give more, try harder, and God will bless you" kind of sermon. He wants the congregation to make silly lists, gives you oppressive rules to follow, and wants unquestioned obedience to his theology and The Crossing's mission. These are all forms of slavery and bondage to Law and legalism which Christ came to destroy.

I invite you to attend my church, Redeemer Bible church, just for one day, so you can see for yourself the contrast between what is preached at The Crossing versus what is preached at Redeemer. I would be happy to meet you there. I am a friendly, decent guy. It doesn't matter what you look like, whether you have ten lbs of metal piercings in your face and you are covered from head to toe with tatoos, you will be treated no differently than anyone else, with kindness, respect, and love. If you are interested, contact me at I can't do this sunday because I'll be out of town, but sunday the 26th is open. I will extend this invitation to all Crossing attenders every week and anyone else who would like to visit.

....Our church will begin a huge renovation beginning in march, so once that begins we'll be meeting at a Minnetonka school until renovations are complete. When the renovation is completed, it will be awesome! The plan is to have the first service in the new building on Christmans eve. God Bless, Casey


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


On february 6th I made my first post since October 28th. I asked the question  WHERE SHOULD I GO FROM HERE? and took a poll to gauge whether or not I ought to continue on with this blog. Well, the poll had only six responses, but the responses were all positive. All six responses said they had a greater understanding of the Gospel and false teachers and that I ought to continue blogging on a limited basis. Only one response indicated I ought not continue blogging on a limited basis.

Since results were overwhelmingly positive, I truly believe the Lord is providentially leading me to continue with "THE CROSSING: CHURCH OR CULT?". However, my critique of The Crossing church will be somewhat limited.

Since both I and The Crossing church (at least according to their "Doctrinal Statement") agree that the Bible is the authoritative standard in all matters of faith and practice, my plan is to listen to and examine one Crossing sermon a week, preferably the most recent, and expose particular parts of that sermon that either contradict the Scriptures or lack Scriptural support. I may point out examples when something is taken out of it's biblical context to promote an unbiblical ideology or doctrine. I may also bring clarity to parts of a sermon that lacks specificity and definition.

Not only will I address the unbiblical points of a sermon, I will also make observations regarding "the white elephant in the room", that is, the obvious absence of biblical gospel preaching, and the overwhelming emphasis on works-oriented, performance-driven religion. I will not limit my critique to doctrine only, but also The Crossing's practices. I may also comment on the theological "big picture" of what is happening at The Crossing, that I believe undermines the gospel. I will be fair and objective. I will make every attempt to give credit when The Crossing is biblical in their teachings and practices.

Yes, that's still the plan. Because of time constraints, I cannot possibly address every single thing that is wrong and right with a sermon or The Crossing church. My plan is to pick one day out of the week, and that will be the day I will post my critique. Probably a thursday or friday. Whatever day I pick, I will stick with that day as the day I will critique The Crossing church in light of  the Scriptures.

Therefore, I will be selective in my critique, picking out one or two examples in a sermon where a critical point can be made. I will not limit my critique to particular parts of a sermon. I may also address the overall thesis of the sermon or sermon series as a whole or I may address the methodology of Eric Dykstra's false teachings, and the impact of his false teachings on the congregation.

My intention is to post 5-6 times a week, appointing a particular theme for each particular day of the week, to be announced later. It might be a solid, biblical sermon from a reputable preacher on Mondays, teaching a particular point of doctrine on tuesdays, highlighting a great,gospel-centered blog post on wednesdays, my critique of The Crossing on thursdays, practical advise on living the out the Gospel in your everyday life on fridays, and maybe have an "anything goes" day on saturday, etc. Haven't quite worked out the exact details yet.

The entire point of the blog is sharing the gospel, the good news of one true and living God making good on His promise to rescue His people from their sin's through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and how to live out the implications of the gospel in our ordinary, everyday lives. Gospel, gospel, gospel, gospel, gospel, gospel, and more gospel. Christians ought to marinade in awesome gospel Truth every single day, and throughout the day. Contrary to what the Crossing teaches, it's not just the ministerial "churchy stuff" that matters.

Every sphere of our lives and everything we do as Christians relates to the gospel. Everything in life is an opportunity to glorify God, a ministry opportunity, an opportunity to share the gospel with an unbeliever, and an opportunity to grow in Christlikeness. Everything from changing a baby's diaper, our dealings with difficult people, our family life, dealing with debilitating physical and psychological afflictions, to tragic accidents and deaths, to taking a relaxing vacation, to learning a musical instrument and enjoying art, to our vocation (whether you are a CEO of a major corporation, someone who picks up road kill off the highways, or removes human waste from Porta-Potty's) and of course, exposing false teachers and counterfeit gospels.

It is plainly stated everywhere in Scripture that genuine Christians are to proclaim the one, true gospel and expose error in accordance with God's will. So to everyone who claims to be a Christian who doesn't like what I am doing on this blog, unless you can point to the Scriptures to support your disapproval, you don't have a problem with me; ultimately, you have a problem with the Lord.

 WHY I TEACH THE GOSPEL.... not out a sense of duty, is not because I fear God will not bless me for disobeying, and is not because I feel like I owe God a favor for rescuing me. I teach the gospel out of gratitude and joy for what the Lord has done for me through Jesus Christ. The Lord has tenderized my hard heart to love all the wretched, spiritually blind, rebellious people in the world who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the great joy and peace that can be found only in Him.

For the genuine Christian who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, proclaiming the gospel is a compulsion; it is part of who they are according to their new nature of being "in Christ". Just as a fish swims because it is the nature of all fish to swim, genuine Christians cannot help but share the gospel and live out it's implications in their daily lives.

I cannot think of any person in the history of the world I would not preach the gospel to. It is the Lord who has the power to save whom he desires; but it is through sinful, fallable, pathetic, low-life Christians like me whom the Lord has chosen as messengers of His great gospel message. So this blog is all about gospel proclimation, even in my critique of false teachings and practices I am contrasting false gospel from true gospel, and in that, the Lord is pleased.

The next two weeks will be a bit hectic. I have a vacation planned this friday through tuesday of next week fishing on Lake of the Woods. I want to finish  LIBERTY FROM LEGALISM THROUGH THE GOSPEL: MY PERSONAL STORY , and there is no guarantee that will take only one more post. My best guess is that it should take no more that a month before I get this whole thing rolling again. So basically my blog will spend limited time critiquing The Crossing church, and more time proclaiming the gospel, explaining the gospel, and sharing the impact of the gospel on my life.   

I'll be taking another poll to see if there is a general consensus among those who view my blog on a regular basis.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Coming up, I will be posting about my experience, as a Christian, of possessing a legalistic mindset undermining my freedom found only in the Gospel, and how a deeper understanding of the Gospel liberated (but not eraddicated!)  me from that oppressive, legalistic bondage.This testimony will NOT be about how the Lord sovereignly rescued me from the despairing, dark pit of atheism to soul salvation in Jesus Christ. Here's the link if you want to read  MY CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY .

But before I tell my story, I would like to explain a few THEOLOGICAL TERMS AND CONCEPTS. This is Gospel 101, pure and simple, and each term or concept is will hopefully bring clarity to anyone who desires to understand more about Christianity and the Gospel. This is a stand alone page you can acess at any time. These are short, thumbnail explanations, and are by no means a comprehensive treatment of any particular term or concept. I will be adding new terms and concepts as time goes on, providing hyperlinks so that the reader can understand the term in question.

Some of the terms might be difficult to understand so read carefully and more than once if necessary in order to get the full import of each term. If you have any questions or want proof texts, message or mail me. These are terms and concepts that come up over and over again in the Bible, and it is my contention that they are not clearly or explicitly taught at The Crossing church. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012


If you haven't noticed, Tullian Tchividjian is one of my favorite preachers of the Gospel. Tullian happens to be the grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham. Well, Tullian is smokin' hot on the Gospel. Watching or listening to his sermon's is the perfect antidote to the Crossing's legalistic, rule-keeping, list-keeping, performance driven theology and practices. 

Tullian recently began a series on the book of Galatians. A book that deals with false teachers, false gospels, legalism, and the freedom Christians have in Christ. Here is the first installment.  FREE AT LAST: PART ONE 

If you have ever attended The Crossing, or you just want to revel in Gospel Truth, then let me encourage you to listen to this sermon and contrast that with a sermon, any sermon, from Eric Dykstra. You will notice a BIG difference. I ocassionally listen to Eric's sermon's, but the Gospel is suspiciously absent. Scriptures ripped out of their context to make an unbiblical point and failing to explicitly preach the true Gospel is a damnable offense. Keeping busy, following a set of rules and to-do lists, and being active in church ministry in order to please God and gain leverage over Him makes you no better than a Pharisee. And we all, yes, even Christians, have a Pharisiacal bent to us.  

But in the Gospel, we are free, liberated from all that legalistic, rulekeeping nonsense. We are free to fail (though we try to live right) because Christ kept the Law for us. In Christ, God is never, ever upset with us for not doing enough, because of the imputed righteousness of Christ given to us as a gift by faith in Christ. Even our best efforts to please God are tainted with sin. All our righteous deeds are filthy menstrual rags before God. We stand before God justified, not on account of what WE have done, but because of what God has done for us in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

In my next post I want to give you my own personal story of my own legalistic, rule-keeping mentality I had for my first ten years as a Christian. And now, since I have a greater understanding of the Gospel, I am liberated from that enslaving, false, joy-robbing guilt.

God Bless, Casey  

Monday, February 6, 2012


Hey everybody, I haven't checked the stats on this blog for quite sometime, but am pleasantly surprised that it still get's a respectable amount of traffic, even without posting. I would like to take a poll, right corner, and gather some opinions on whether I should continue this blog on a limited basis. I was thinking on deconstructing Crossing Church sermon's on a weekly basis, and edify people with the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What do you think? For starters, I would like to share this blog post by Tullian Tchividjian, "Religion and the Gospel". If you attend The Crossing or any other church you suspect does not preach the Gospel, please read his blogpost. What is really striking about this piece is Keller's distinction between "Religion", and "Gospel". In what sense does your church preach and teach, the religious way, or the Gospel way? When you go to a church service, do you think more about what you should be doing for God? Because that's "Religion". Or, do you think more about what God has done for you through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ? That's the Gospel. By the way, Christianity IS a religion. It just happens to be the one, true religion. Love Bethke's poem.


A lot of attention has been paid to Jefferson Bethke’s video Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus. Jefferson is a great, humble, teachable brother who loves the gospel. But the response to his video has been varied. Many love it. Others hate it. And still others have raised a caution flag–uncomfortable with the way “religion” is often contrasted with the gospel.

Wary of the trend amongst younger evangelicals to justify their jettisoning of the institutional church and theological traditions in favor of a vague, individualistic, a-theological, a-historical, version of modern licentious spirituality by saying “All of that other stuff is religion…and Jesus hates religion”, is a point of contention for those who questioned the fruitfulness of Jefferson’s video. If that’s what people think when they hear the word “religion”, then I understand the concern. I too am concerned by the individualistic, church despising, “moralistic therapeutic deism” that seems so palatable and popular amongst some younger evangelicals today.

But, the distinction between religion and the gospel that Jefferson makes does raise some important questions. For example, in the Bible, is the word “religion” ever opposed to the gospel? Or, is the main idea of “religion” opposed to the main idea of the gospel? What about what people hear when they hear the word “religion”? Do they hear the word and understand something different than what the Bible says about the gospel? Good questions. Obviously words have their meaning in context and thankfully Jefferson provided context for his use of the word “religion” in the video by writing on his website:
[This is] a poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth.
Regardless of what you think about the video, Jefferson’s definition of “religion” above and Tim Keller’s definition of “religion” below does highlight a crucial distinction between “religion” and the gospel (a distinction that, ironically, even those who raised concerns about the video agree with).
Justifying the contrast between religion and the gospel, Tim Keller has pointed out that the Greek word for “religion” used in James 1 is used negatively in Colossians 2:18 where it describes false asceticism, fleshly works-righteousness, and also in Acts 26:5 where Paul speaks of his pre-Christian life in strict “religion.” It is also used negatively in the Apocrypha to describe idol worship in Wis 14:18 and 27. So, according to Keller, the word certainly has enough negative connotations to use as a fair title for the category of works-righteousness. In the Old Testament the prophets are devastating in their criticism of empty ritual and religious observances designed to bribe and appease God rather then serving, trusting, and loving him. The word “religion” isn’t used for this approach, but it’s a good way to describe what the prophets are condemning.
Keller goes on to tease out this distinction with this helpful comparison list:
RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.
RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.
RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.
RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.
RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.
RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure
THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.
RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.
RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.
So let’s not lose sight of the fact that, as defined by these two brothers, there is an antithetical relationship between religion (the burden of achieving rescue and right standing with God) and the gospel (the blessing of receiving rescue and a right standing with God in Christ alone).

There does exist a Christless “form of godliness” that lacks power (2 Timothy 3:5)–an empty, behavioristic, ritualistic “version” of so-called Christianity that these men rightly refer to as “false religion.” Is defining “religion” as clearly as Tim and Jefferson do and then distinguishing it from the gospel really going to feed the fury of fascination with the licentious, individualistic, a-theological, church-dismissing, version of modern spirituality out there? I don’t think so.

One final thought: as I mentioned above, for a thousand different reasons people hear different things and draw different conclusions when they hear the same words (Cornelius Van Til). So, let’s not forget as missionaries that if the gospel is ever going to reach people in our day it’s going to have to be distinguished from religion (as described above) because “religion” is what most people outside the church think Christianity is all about—rules and standards and behavior and cleaning yourself up and politics and social causes and ascetic appeasement and self-salvation and climbing the “ladder”, and a whole host of other things that Jefferson rightly points out.
Soli Deo Gloria!