The gospel of Jesus Christ is more than a greeting at the door of the church. It is the bedrock truth that energizes, sustains, comforts, and motivates a Christian throughout his life.
Jeff Vanderstelt wrote his new book Gospel Fluency to help us see the gospel as a language we must learn to speak.
We need the gospel and we need to become gospel-fluent people. We need to know how to believe and speak the truths of the gospel—the good news of God—in and into the everyday stuff of life. In other words, we need to know how to address the struggles of life and the everyday activities we engage in with what is true of Jesus: the truths of what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection, and, as a result, what is true of us as we put our faith in him. The gospel has the power to affect everything in our lives. (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 223)
The Gospel is How We Change
This is a strong, helpful book. Jeff Vanderstelt fills his writing with stories, suggestions, and biblical truth.
My favorite chapter was Chapter 9 (Fruit to Root). In this chapter he writes about diagnosing our beliefs and how the gospel shapes our repentance.
A basic assumption in this chapter is that our behaviors are not the worst sin problem we have.
Part of our job in growing in gospel fluency is paying attention to the overflow of our hearts. What comes out in the form of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors finds its origin inside of us. Too often, we focus our attention on changing the external rather than addressing the internal. (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 1464)
At the bottom of our sinful behavior are usually lies we’re believing about God. Vanderstelt helps us see the bad fruit in our lives and trace it to the bad root. He uses four questions to uncover unbelief.
- What am I doing or experiencing right now?
- In light of what I am doing or experiencing, what do I believe about myself?
- What do I believe God is doing or has done?
- What do I believe God is like? (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 1477)
Vanderstelt uses a story about his wife to help explain how these questions are used in practice. When uncovering unbelief, ask the questions in this order. You’ll arrive at the lie(s) you’re believing about God, at which point it’s time to confess your sin.
So often, when people are led to confess their sins, they only confess their sinful behaviors. In other words, they confess the fruit. They say: “I’m sorry I lied. Please forgive me.” Or: “I looked at pornography. I know that’s wrong. Please forgive me.” The problem, however, is that they need to confess their sinful beliefs—the roots, the stuff below the surface that is motivating and producing their behaviors, the sin beneath the sins. All sin stems from wrong beliefs—lies we believe—and ultimately from our unbelief in Jesus. And because we generally don’t go beyond the fruit to the root, we end up aiming at behavior modification instead of gospel transformation. “I’m sorry, I promise I won’t do it again” or “I’m going to try harder in the future” are among our typical responses. (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 1535)
The gospel brings us to the truth about God. Vanderstelt then suggests working from “root to fruit” by asking those four questions in the reverse order. Our lives are changed as we confess our faith and see the grand implications of the gospel.
Chapter 9 is worth the price of the book, but wait, there’s more. His chapter on listening was excellent. He sets all of his application within the context of a local church, showing how learning to speak fluent gospel is a community project.
I’m grateful to Jeff Vanderstelt for writing this book. I recommend it!
Thanks to Crossway for an advance reader’s copy of this book.
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