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reading notes

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. ... Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:13, 16 ESV)

On the danger of not preaching the gospel to church members we assume are truly converted, Mark Dever writes:

"...assumption on our part too often leads to presumption on theirs. That is, when we assume the Gospel instead of clarifying it, people who profess Christianity but don't understand or obey the Gospel are cordially allowed to presume their own conversion without examining themselves for evidence of it-- which may amount to nothing more than blissful damnation. Our ministries are ultimately about 'ensuring salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.'" (The Deliberate Church, p. 42)

Sometimes in pastoral counseling I will ask the counselee(s), "tell me why you think you are a Christian." The looks I get from that question! But it is so easy to live in a Christian culture, or from a Christian upbringing, or to know the lingo and to like the music... people can be self-deceived.

On the topic of "what is an evangelical" -- and perhaps the word has come to be emptied of meaning in the 21st century -- John Hannah summarizes the four characteristics of evangelicalism, along with a fifth characteristic added by Mark Noll...

"Evangelicalism", at least in its 20th century American form, is characterized by...
1) centrality and high view of the Scriptures
2) centrality and importance of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
3) the importance of personal conversion.
4) the imperative to proclaim the gospel to all.
5) the importance of fellowship and community for spiritual growth.

This is certainly the air I breathed as a young Christian in the 1970s, and I hold to these as vital characteristics for Christians today. I know this is a generalization, and take it as such: I see #1 being attacked by the modern prophetic movement, #2 and #3 marginalized by the emergent movement, and #4 eroded by relativism in general. #5 still seems to be important -- everybody likes community and spiritual growth -- but it is not gospel-centered without #1 through #4.

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