David Mathis: Thank you for joining us on desiringGod Live. I’m David Mathis, and we are privileged to have with us here this afternoon Jared Wilson. Jared, thank you for joining us.
Jared Wilson: Thank you for having me.
David Mathis: Jared is the author of the book Gospel Wakefulness. He’s also the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. And he is joining us here in the Twin Cities for the first time. Is that right?
Jared Wilson: It is, yeah. I’m excited about the Monday night football game tonight. I’ll be rooting for the Vikings, just for your sake.
David Mathis: Thank you very much. Very wise decision. But we want to dive in and talk about the book he’s written called Gospel Wakefulness. Jared begins the book by talking about a kind of gospel renaissance. Actually, in the foreword, Ray Ortlund writes about the gospel renaissance, and some are saying there’s a gospel renewal or resurgence or awakening that seems to be happening in our day. You seem to sense that as well. If so, what makes you think that this is the case?
Jared Wilson: Well, I think we have a lot of good evidence to believe that that’s the case. I certainly hope that’s the case. Beginning with some of the social research or sociological studies done to tap into that young restless and reform movement. I think Collin Hansen pinpointed in a Christianity Today article, which was five or six years ago, I think. But just to look at the resurgence in not just gospel talk or this interest in what the gospel is and the gospel-centered movement but a return among, especially a younger generation, but a return to expository preaching, a return to an interest in a more robust theology and that sort of thing.
And even the more visible or the higher emphasis that we’re seeing in missional efforts and world missions. I see it even in the newer emphasis on the adoption movement and all of that sort of thing. It just seems to be these various streams coalescing to show that God is doing something fresh and not new in the sense of something he’s never done before, but just a renewal or, as Ray would say, a renaissance among evangelical churches.
David Mathis: Well, the book, in particular, isn’t about the renaissance at large but about personal gospel wakefulness. Would you situate the book for us as it relates to that broader context?
Jared Wilson: Sure. Well, just from my own walk with the Lord and anecdotally hearing stories from people throughout the church who seem to have this similar story, I just keep hearing the same personal history repeated over and over again. And for me, it’s having grown up in the church, grown up evangelical, been exposed to a steady diet of biblical teaching and knowing the gospel, but in some way, the gospel being an implication or being implied and not an explicit or the centerpiece of Christian life.
And so what I’m hearing and what I have experienced as well is there seems to be this thing that occurs for people in these positions where there’s a moment in time where the gospel becomes so real unavoidably, undeniably real and imminent in their lives to where it’s like if they weren’t saved before they are now thing.
Some people may describe it as this is when I was saved. Others say, as C.S. Lewis said to his friend in a letter, you always think you believe what you believe, but you find out you just believe that you believed. And now it’s something that has become so real. Lewis said a great joy had befallen him, and it’s that sense like someone’s pressed the fast-forward button in sanctification and suddenly there’s a warp speed jump to the gospel becoming more urgent in our lives.
David Mathis: I want to come back and define gospel wakefulness, but first, I want to define gospel. You say in the book, at least twice if not more, that an implied gospel is a gospel fail.
Jared Wilson: That’s right.
David Mathis: Let’s not fail here. Let’s not imply the gospel, but what is the gospel?
Jared Wilson: I think you’re right. I think as we throw the gospel out in some way, in some appropriate ways, sometimes it becomes a word of utility, especially when we begin adding it to centered and driven and that sort of thing. Or we begin to talk about gospel marriages and that kind of thing. We can be throwing the word out without ever defining our terms. I think there’s a lot of different ways to define the gospel, but the gospel is essentially, it is the announcement, it’s news. It’s the story of what Christ has done, so it’s not advice, it’s not instruction, it’s not steps or tips. I think Packer’s definition is that the gospel is that God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And you see that fairly well reflected or you see the basis of that in 1 Corinthians 15, the opening verses. Paul’s just laying out history. He’s got the implications later in the chapter and as he surveys the resurrection and the fallout, the beautiful fallout of the resurrection. But when he says, “I want to remind you of this gospel that I preached to you, it’s of first importance.” He’s essentially saying, this is something that happened literally in history that Jesus did. He lived a sinless life. He died a sacrificial substitutionary death and rose again on the third day bodily glorified. And that historical announcement is the gospel.
David Mathis: And so then you talk about gospel wakefulness, this the topic of the book, what do you mean by this term gospel wakefulness?
Jared Wilson: There’s a variety of ways to talk about it. It’s astonishment. I have found for some folks a helpful way to compare it to parallel is to say it’s like revival or renewal, but on a personal scale. Some people have, they have some sort of framework for thinking about when revival comes to a church, all came down to a church.
Well, it’s like that, but on a personal level. I describe it in the book as this leap ahead that the Spirit works in our life, in our sanctification where in the midst of profound brokenness, which I think is necessary for the wakefulness to happen, all of their idols, all of their means of satisfaction, supported not by our choice, but by circumstances in the sovereignty of God, are taken away from us, and suddenly God is our only hope.
And when he’s our only hope, then his becomes our only hope. And in that moment, there is a great joy that happens. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul writes to the church and he said, “You received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” And that’s what instilled in them or was the catalyst for the church becoming imitators of him and of the Lord is that receiving when the intersection of the gospel with brokenness occurs, that’s where wakefulness can happen.
David Mathis: Here was, I think, a helpful summary. This is near the end of page 214. You said, “Gospel wakefulness is simply this astonishment over the fact that God has forgiven our sin and reconciled us eternally to him through the life, death, and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ.” As you say throughout the book, often — maybe you’d go with that word often — we come into an initial understanding, embrace, belief, saving belief in the gospel. And then at some later point, you say sometimes it’s gradual or sometimes it’s later point where we’re astonished by the gospel in a way we never have been. How about those categories of when is gospel wakefulness conversion? It’s just a new birth, and you said sometimes it happens gradually and then for others it’s a moment in time. Could you put those three into perspective?
Jared Wilson: I don’t equate gospel wakefulness. I say it’s not synonymous with conversion, but for me, it’s simultaneous. And throughout the book, in most chapters, there’s a personal story — somebody’s story of gospel wakefulness in their own words. And for some of them, that moment came for them, that astonishment, that leap ahead of a fresh, enduring dazzling of them by what Christ has done occurred later in their Christian life.
They had had some sort of conversion experience; they had experienced or had good evidence of regeneration, conversion in their life. But this reviving experience, this enduring wakefulness didn’t occur till later. But for some, that starkness began the moment that they were converted. And what I have found, this is just anecdotal as well, is I think those for whom gospel wakefulness is simultaneous with conversion tend not to have grown up in the church. There’s a greater starkness to the repentance that takes place when they’re exercising saving faith. They know specifically what they’ve left behind. And so it’s not for someone like me or others who might’ve grown up, quote-unquote, “good” unsaved, but in a good Christian family going to church doing good things.
The difference between that and those first baby steps of saving faith may not be as stark as for those who know exactly what they’re converting from and what they’re turning away from. I don’t say that they’re synonymous. Sometimes they’re simultaneous. And I just know one of the examples in the book is Keith Green, who repented, was saved, began a ministry, was married, he repented from drugs, he repented from living with his wife before he was married to her. He repented of this new age Eastern spirituality, began his ministry. It was fruitful, and people were coming to Christ through him. And then there’s this one moment where he got away for prayer and solitude with the word of God. And the next morning he says, he announces, “I got saved last night.”
And as his widow says in the biography, she goes, “Well, if he was saved last night, what was he before?” And I don’t want to argue with a dead guy because he knows his story better than I do, but I look at that and say, I think there’s good evidence to see that he was regenerate before that, but this could be his wakefulness moment where the astonishment really settled in for him.
David Mathis: And so for the viewer, for the reader, do you think it’s helpful that we have this category given that often as we describe our experience, our story, our journey, there seems to be a conversion point and a later place where we’re awakened with freshness? And you give some biblical texts, but it seems maybe you’re building your case in particular with here’s a helpful category for a phenomenon that is occurring and being described. How would you describe that?
Jared Wilson: Well, hearing from people who read the book or who have encountered me using this phraseology on my blog or elsewhere, it has appeared helpful to them because what they’re saying is, “This happened to me, and I didn’t have words for it. I didn’t have a label for this.”
And as they are trying to tease out, was I not saved beforehand and am I saved by this, I think it’s ultimately helpful and adorns the gospel more to separate those concepts out so that we don’t equate a feeling or a certain spiritual experience or a moment of awe with salvation so that we can always say salvation is based on the finished work of Christ and Christ’s work is sufficient, and it’s so sufficient that it even covers when we’re grumpy and when we’re experiencing the shoddy Christian life, I suppose.
It’s not to say that someone could not have been saved before awe or before this moment. People who are saved are changed, their heart is changed, but to separate the concepts out or to create these two categories I think can be helpful.
Firstly, to give voice to how people are experiencing their Christian walk, but also to make sure that we maintain the distinction about what causes salvation. It’s not a walking the aisle or praying in a certain prayer or a moment of wakefulness. What causes salvation is what Christ has done and how the Spirit applies that work to our heart.
David Mathis: If you’re teaching systematic theology through the ordo salutis, order of salvation, will you describe the effectual call, and you’ll talk about the new birth and faith and repentance, and then would you talk about gospel wakefulness before or after sanctification on the way to glorification?
Jared Wilson: No, I probably would not do that.
David Mathis: That’s helpful.
Jared Wilson: Okay.
David Mathis: I think it would be helpful for us now to hear some of your story of gospel wakefulness. You refer to it several times throughout the book, and this is not something you’re merely writing about, but something you have experienced. It’s essential that this be experienced personally. Would you walk us through that story of how God brought you to the point of despairing of self and into gospel wakefulness?
Jared Wilson: Well, it was a beautiful convergence of testimony of how God can turn evil to good or how he uses evil for good. I grew up in the church, I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and was a good kid, quote unquote, “good” all my life. I believe I was called in a ministry when I was in middle school. Always had designs on following God, wanting to be a pastor when I grew up and that sort of thing.
But never, the gospel for me and for the churches that I grew up in, was always either implied or it was tacked on to the end of a moralistic message, that sort of thing. The gospel, it was communicated in so many words, the gospel’s for unsaved people, it is only for lost people. Once you become a Christian, you’ve graduated onto something else, you’ve moved onto something else.
I didn’t have that established in my heart, the sense of awe over what Christ had done for me. It was like that’s an entry ticket, and now I’m awed by all these assortments of other things, different aspects of theology like end times or what have you, Calvinism and Arminianism, and that sort of deal. And what happened for me growing up in the church, got married and spent really about nine years crushing my wife’s heart through inattentiveness and a lack of gentleness.
And there was secret sin for me going on that time I was unrepentant, indulging in pornography, and there’s no way that can’t affect a marriage and almost every other relationship that someone is in. It was a combination of that unrepentant sin, the failure, the mess that I was making of my relationship with my wife. Also, just the other sorts of things that I wanted to do with my life didn’t seem to be panning out.
I wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t working. I knew I wanted to be in ministry. I didn’t understand at the time that God was, I believe keeping me out because I was unqualified. I wasn’t qualified for ministry. At the center of the mess or the ruin of my life, the failure that I felt I was, was then my wife basically saying, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore. I don’t love you anymore. This is not what I wanted, and I don’t believe you’re going to change, and I’m not going to change to love you any more through this.” My marriage was dead, and my marriage was an idol for me, which sounds really odd to people who hear the story because you think if you worship your wife or you have your marriage as an idol, you take care of it, or you’re nice to it, or you praise it and that sort of thing.
But anything that we create an idol of, we abuse, we’re misusing it. If you put the weight of God on something that’s not God, not only are you going to crush your spirit, but you crush that thing, you’re not using it the way it’s designed to use. I had made a mess in my life. There’s a period of depression that I had entered into, and it was in those moments where everything was taken away from me. The thing that I said was most important to me, that I believe was most important to me, that sinfully I had placed in the place of God was now taken away, and I had nothing. I had periods of feeling suicidal and the ups and downs of depression where you’re numb for long periods of time, you don’t feel anything to then just profound sadness and brokenness and not wanting to even exist.
And then thinking pridefully, admirably, “Well, I’ll make their life better by taking myself out since I’ve caused all this pain. The way that I can save them from this pain is to take myself out of this life and that sort of thing.” And I still was not receiving the gospel from the church that we were attending, but I was finding these streams of gospel-drenched teaching mainly through the internet. I was podcasting and was hearing the gospel that way, praying my guts out. I was living in the guest bedroom at the time, wasn’t sleeping in the bed with my wife, and most nights I just was flat on the floor with my face in the carpet. And those are some of the most real prayers that somebody ever prays sometimes. There’s not even words; it’s just like the word please over and over again and that sort of thing.
And I distinctly remember not an audible voice, but just I could hear these specific words that the Spirit said in my heart, and they were, “I approve of you.” And it was like the most vivid light bulb had gone on for me. I knew that what I was hearing was not that God approved of what I had been doing or my life previous, but that in Christ he approved of me. And so at the moment that I had the most vivid realization of my sin, I think it’s Thomas Watson who says, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” And it was like that. I had come to the end of myself, and suddenly here was God saying, “You don’t have anything else but Me and am I all that you want? And like the disciples, I was just, “Well, where else can I go?”
Only you have the words of life. And that was my moment of wakefulness there. I began to walk in repentance for that. It was probably a year or more, a little over a year of being a changed, awakened, repentant person. Not perfect by any stretch, but the previous sins, I had completely lost taste for those things. I had no interest in those things. I began to pursue my wife’s heart even as she was not ready to give it to me.
And so, one of the ways I was evidencing my repentance, and it’s one of the things I talk about in the book is a truly repentant person owns the consequences of their sin. And so, one of the ways I was going to be repentant was I was going to love my wife, whether she loved me back or not. I always loved her before in a legalistic way as a leveraging, waiting for her response, wanting something from her, treating her like a vending machine, using her.
And this time around she’d made it clear, “I don’t even want to live in the same house with you.” And so through the power of the gospel I was able to love my wife. And by God’s grace, he was doing a work in her heart as well where she was able to come to a wakefulness of her own and forgive me and be reconciled to me. For us, the theme of our life is that moment we’ve lost.
Even as God began to restore things to me, I can write now, I can minister now, I’m released into ministry and I have my marriage back. And as God began to put all these things together, not that the temptations to idolatry is always there because I’m a simple person, but I’ve seen in such a vivid way the glory of God in Jesus Christ, the finished work of Christ as all satisfying and beautiful. The other things take perspective now. I look at these idols and say, “Why would I go to that now when I know it doesn’t satisfy? Only Christ has the words of life.”
David Mathis: There’s a chapter in the book — I think it’s chapter 8 — just called “Depression.” And I would love to send all of our viewers to chapter 8, to the book in its entirety, and to chapter 8. Is there anything you’d want to say to those who are watching, who maybe are in a season of depression right now or who’ve battled with depression as a foretaste that would maybe draw them to that chapter eight for the more extended treatment?
Jared Wilson: Well, I think there’s an encouragement. It’s an ironic encouragement to those who are in depression because for many, depression is not something you ask for. It’s not something that is necessarily precipitated by a particular set of events or choices. There are people who are suffering from depression, and it’s like it has happened to them — this profound sadness or a darkness that has come upon somebody.
And when that happens, it’s very easy to think no one has ever felt like this ever in the history of the earth. I’m the only one who knows what this feels like because when you’re depressed and people are trying to cheer you up, because I think that’s what you need. It’s something deeper than that. They can seem annoying or they don’t seem like they understand.
But if you look through the pages of Scripture, and that chapter goes through Psalm 42 and sees the cry of the psalmist there to cry out to God. I see the words of depression on those words that, as Matt Janner would say, we put this on a coffee cup. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you” (Psalm 42:1). And we think that’s so sweet. But I see the words of depression there. It’s like, “I’m thirsty and I’m dying. I’m in a desert and I need water and God, that’s how I need you. I need you that desperately.” And then as you go on and begin to see how the song was talking about. “All Your breakers and waves have rolled over me” (Psalm 42:7) and “my tears have been my food” (Psalm 42:3). The Bible gives a voice to the depressed that should at the very least help us. I think it’s Richard Sibbes who talks about when you’re in the darkness, do as sailors do and cast an anchor out into the dark.
You don’t know where it’s going to go. You don’t know where you are; you can’t see the horizon. Things look hopeless. But the Scriptures help us to cast an anchor out and see. “Okay, the Spirit is here, the Spirit is working. And even if I can’t feel that, even if I don’t somehow see that I can cast an anchor in the dark and trust that it’s there.”
But one of the reasons why I put the chapter in the book as it relates to gospel wakefulness is because one of the questions I always get is, “Isn’t this just about feelings?” What you’re talking about is this experience of an emotional type thing. And my response is, yeah, it is like that. I believe the Lord is the Lord of our feelings as well. But what I don’t want to do is not make an account for the different way God wires people up, the different things that people experience through no choice or sometimes fault of their own like depression or grief, which is natural and healthy and that sort of thing.
And to say that the affections of our heart, wherever we top out, everyone tops out differently. I’m in Vermont and I brought my beautiful southern wife up to Vermont, and my wife is very effusive, and she says things like, “Shut up.” And she doesn’t mean “shut up.” She means “you don’t say,” but she doesn’t express it that way because that’s who she is. And I’m not quite there, but I’m a little more effusive than, for instance, the dairy farmer who comes to my church or the carpenter with the Norwegian background and that sort of thing. Everyone’s wired differently to top out at a different place emotionally or in their affections. Everyone has that top line. It may be different.
All I’m trying to say is the gospel should be the place where we top out. Joy may look different for each person, but your ultimate joy should be in Christ, wherever that is. And so for the depressed person, joy may not be easy to come by or certainly happiness is not easy to come by, but there’s a satisfaction to be found in Christ. Even if it just means clinging to the hem of his garment, like the bleeding woman in desperation saying, “This is where I’m going to place my hope right now.”
David Mathis: You say in the book that the gospel is the antidote for everything.
Jared Wilson: Yeah.
David Mathis: And we need to apply that to depression. We say yes in a sense and no in a sense. Let me pair up a couple of quotes for you and you explain through the tension what the threat of coherence is. I don’t think it’s a contradiction. I don’t think you do either. I think maybe some of our viewers would be helped. You say on page 72, talk about the gospel fixes everything, “We all exhibit a multitude of symptoms for our conditions, running the gamut from self-indulgent immorality to self-satisfying morality. Our sin extends to the opposite ends of the spectrum and lands everywhere in between. But whatever your symptoms, the gospel is the answer. There is no problem, pain, or perniciousness outside the universe-spanning scope of the gospel. The gospel is the antidote to everything.” That’s page 72.
Then on page 151, in the depression chapter, you say, disapprovingly, that many Christians have adopted the unfortunate posture of Job’s friends, adding more discouragement to those discouraged by depression by urging them not to seek extra help via spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study. Did I say that right? Urging them not to seek help except via spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study.
Jared Wilson: Right.
David Mathis: What is the threat of coherence there? How would you put together that yes, the gospel is the antidote to everything, but maybe not in the way some may want to take that related to depression and other things?
Jared Wilson: Well, to expand on the quote about extra help, I think that section comes out of applying the common encouraging or taking the weight off of those who would be told that to avail themselves with common graces like medicine or seeing a counselor, that sort of thing would be not trusting God. And I equate that to saying, if you have a headache and someone takes aspirin, “Do you say you’re not trusting God for the headache?” God in his great wisdom and goodness has given us these common graces.
No, it’s not an either-or situation for me. I think the coherence there, and I understand the question about the tension there, is seen in the first passage where I talk about the universe-spanning nature of the gospel. And so believing in the gospel, it may not be the antidote in the sense of that it fixes; it takes the depression away this lifetime. But the gospel isn’t scaled to this lifetime. The gospel is scaled to eternity.
The depressed person, if that depression lasts their entire life, can believe they can know that God is sovereign over what is happening to them. And more than that, an eternal glory, a bliss with him, fellowship with the Savior awaits where that depression has gone. And so in the light of eternity, even a lifelong depression is a blip on the radar. And so what you see in Psalm 42 is how the psalmist begins to talk to his own soul, and he’s preaching the gospel to himself. “Why are you so downcast? Put your hope in God.”
And it’s just a constant repetitious practice that we have to go through. Everyone alike, not just depressed persons, but as Luther says, we have to know the gospel and we have to beat it into our heads continually because we just wake up forgetful. And so we have to constantly remind ourselves of that. And so that’s what I would say: the gospel is the antidote to depression, but because the gospel is scaled to eternity, that the fixing of that depression will come when we cast off mortality and put on the immortal self.
David Mathis: Thank you. We’re talking with Jared Wilson about the new book Gospel Wakefulness. We’re going to take a short five-minute break and be back in a few minutes. One of the topics we’ll hope to get in the next section is about gospel-driven sanctification. Hope you’ll be back to join us.
David Mathis: We are back on desiringGod live. We’re talking with Jared Wilson about his book Gospel Wakefulness. Jared, I told you we’d start off this second segment by talking about the relationship between the gospel and God, the concept or message of the gospel and the person being of God.
I wanted to toss out this quote from page 148. You said, “What gospel wakefulness presupposes is that wherever a person tops out emotionally, they do so at the gospel.” My question is, in what way would it be the same or different if we said that they top out in God? In other words, you say that though they top out at the gospel, how it would be different if we changed at the gospel to in God?
Jared Wilson: Well, in the context of that statement, it wouldn’t be different at all. It is to say that to top out in your affections for the gospel is to top out in the sense of enjoying God and worship of God, that your greatest affection, what stirs you the most or the stirring of you that orients all your other strengths is that response to what God has done and to God himself to enjoying God himself.
But I think the distinction can be helpful, replacing gospel with God, that it can be helpful because I think many times, or one of the pitfalls, one of the ditches, this sort of gospel-centered movement or the gospel renaissance can run into is when we begin to look at gospel as this word of utility, and the jargon is real big. I’m a big fan of gospel tweets and gospelicious things that sort of deal.
I don’t believe we can wear out the real gospel through talking about it a lot, but I won’t deny the danger that for some their affection is not the gospel that is God or God’s gospel, but talk of the gospel or gospel jargon or just being a part of this tribe and the thing that’s hip right now. But I’m trusting that because the gospel is power, that somehow in this God is sustaining this movement, that this is a work of God that He’s doing and that the gospel will work almost in spite of that. The word doesn’t return void in that way.
David Mathis: When you say the gospel working or the gospel transforming, the gospel is the subject of that active verb. I think you mean behind that God working, and then by saying gospel, you’re saying this is the God of the gospel. This is a certain God. This is not the God of Islam. This is not the God of Judaism apart from Jesus. This is the Christian God who works in that way. Is that the correct way?
Jared Wilson: Yeah, it is. And I think there’s a fair amount of synonymizing there that can take place because even in the New Testament where we see where Paul is talking about the gospel’s gone forth, it’s bearing fruit, it’s growing, that the gospel is the power of salvation. He’s not just saying this concept. He’s saying what Christ has done that in the content of the gospel applied through the Spirit. And so we know that when someone responds to the gospel, that’s not because there’s power to words. It’s a power to that reviving word because of the Spirit’s work in their life to soften their heart, to regenerate their heart, to receive that, to apply what Christ has done and what God has foreknown and foreordained to take place. That little word encompasses really the concert of Trinitarian work in the gospel.
David Mathis: That’s good. That’s really helpful. You say again and again, the gospel doesn’t get stale. It can stand for an eternity’s worth of exploration and re-articulating and trusting and being empowered by. At the beginning or shortly thereafter of your gospel wakefulness experience, did you think this is going to get old?
Jared Wilson: No, I didn’t, to be honest with you, because it felt so unreal and so fresh and so beautiful. And for me, when I look at it now, the endurance five, six years since that moment for me is still there. Now, I have to remind myself of the gospel constantly. If there’s a staleness, what I’ve come to understand, it’s not a staleness of the gospel; it’s a staleness in me or it’s a failure to orient myself. But it’s almost like having a taste for a particular food or for your favorite food. You may not eat that food every day, but when you remind yourself to eat it, you are reminded of this is the best food. And for me, it’s boiled crawfish. Okay.
David Mathis: Oh, wow.
Jared Wilson: I don’t get that often, but when I taste it, I’m thinking this is the most wonderful thing in the universe food-wise. And God has put it in this little gross little mug bug and almost like as a great trick on people to eat this thing. And it’s the same with the gospel. If I’m stale, it’s because I’m not really looking. I’m not really beholding. It’s not a failure of the gospel to do that. It’s my failure to behold.
David Mathis: Chapter 6 is called “Chief Spiritual Rhythms,” and you list Bible study and prayer as those two rhythms. Would you flush it out for us in this context of gospel wakefulness and the ongoing freshness of the gospel?
Jared Wilson: Rhythms can sound new agey; can it not? I think some people, their antenna goes up a little bit on that. And I did a Bible study that came out last year called “Abide,” where I look at the rhythms of the kingdom is what I talk about and how when there is a centeredness on the finished work of Christ, the spiritual work that takes place in sanctification, supernaturally or naturally, but which is to say supernaturally creates the outflow of the implications of the gospel.
And so these rhythms are things that almost naturally occur when we are centered on the gospel and the Spirit that work in that. And Bible study and prayer before, for me anyway, speaking personally before gospel wakefulness, there were things I had to do. It was like going against the grain, I suppose. And there were things that I wasn’t able to see the gospel in the text of Scriptures I didn’t understand about seeing Jesus in the text or Scriptures.
I’m looking at them from a moralistic self-help view. Or even if I’m not looking at it that way, it’s just purely informational. How do I get some more theology in my head kind of thing? Prayer, I never felt desperate in prayer. I think desperation is the key to prayer, to natural prayer. I want to say automatic prayer; desperation just leads to that.
But when I got to the point where everything was taken away from me, I had no other support structures. All I had was God. You couldn’t stop me from praying. It was all that I could do. And so since that moment, what I’ve learned is to be in awe of Christ. The response of worship almost naturally results in these rhythms of prayer and Bible study. My prayer life is completely different than it was before.
I still have to discipline myself. There’s still that intentional work of going into the spiritual disciplines, but driven by the grace that God has given me. The response, the way that I go in, the things that I’m looking for when I go in and just the spiritual posture that I have going in is completely different because of what I see that God has done for me and Christ.
David Mathis: Your rhythms’ chapter is on these two elements, Scripture, prayer. You probably suspect, which if I was looking for a third, what I’d be looking for, the role of other believers, the role of communities? How do you integrate that? Would you call that a kind of rhythm?
Jared Wilson: I do. And again, this will take me back to another book, not the one that you wanted to talk about, but by there are five chapters, and I list community as one of those rhythms. The others are fasting, generosity, and service is another. Yes, there’s multiple ones. That’s why I titled the chapter “Chief Spiritual Rhythms” because it’s looking at it from the personal scale. For the individual Christian following Christ, those are the two most prominent rhythms, but you can’t follow Christ apart from being wedded in some way to his body. It doesn’t make sense to do that.
I just was preaching from Ruth 1, the second half this past Sunday, and we have that beautiful vow that Ruth makes to Naomi, “Where you go, I’ll go. Your people will be my people.” And for Ruth, there’s no distinction. She didn’t say, “Okay, I’m going to convert. I’m going to turn my back on Chemosh and the Moabite panoply of Gods and become a worshiper of Yahweh, and I’m going to do that right here on my own.”
In her mind, there was no distinction between “I’m a convert to Yahweh, I’m going to follow the one true God, and that means I have to go where his people are and be among his people and be wedded to his people” in that sense. And so definitely the word shared in community, the word preached over community and within community to each other, we have to receive the gospel from each other.
Bonhoeffer has fantastic things to say about that in life together, about the need to hear from a brother, the gospel, and his need to hear it from me, but also just prayer life. One of the neatest things we do in our church, and even though we’re growing, we’re still at a size where it’s unwieldy but manageable in our church service.
We have a prayer and share time, and anyone can share a prayer request or something that God’s doing in their life. Right before you picked me up at the hotel, I was looking over the sheet. I write down the request from this past Sunday just to remind myself of what the prayer requests were. It was everything from a fellow whose friend had a brain hemorrhage and is in the hospital, hanging on to his life, to this little boy in the back who raised his hand.
His prayer request was that the dog would stop bringing ticks into the house. So you have a picture of the heart of a community, things that are big to each person but big or little on the scale of what God is doing. And you get a picture of a community. You get to see the heart of people when you’re praying together and sharing each other’s burdens in that way.
David Mathis: You’re the pastor and preacher. So, you speak the gospel into the life of the community on Sunday mornings, and I would think throughout the week. What counsel would you have for those preaching the gospel not only to themselves but preaching it to others, but not just from a pulpit?
Jared Wilson: Well, it’s that word encouragement. For the pastor, it often comes out in the counseling office, trying to key in on how people change. How do people really change? That’s what we’re looking at. When someone is complaining, whether it’s a friend or a counseling client, someone’s in your office, or you’re just sharing, what they want to know is how do I respond to this situation in my life?
How do I respond to what somebody did to me or what they said? Or how do I respond to this circumstance that I found myself in? How do I change and respond to this? And what we see in the Scriptures is the only way to change is through the power of the gospel. So, like in 2 Corinthians 3, the way that we are transformed from one degree of glory to another is by beholding with unveiled faith the glory of the Lord.
And so if we want to see people change, if we want to see people responding to each other and to their circumstances in ways that glorify God, we want to keep reminding them of what God did for us that glorified himself in a way that is special and for us and demonstrates his great and deep love for us. It comes out when a friend comes and says, “Gosh, I’m going through this difficult time in my life. My spouse and I are at wit’s end, or I’m out of work, or I don’t know how I’m going to feed my family or what have you.” To remind them, advice is great. Tips and steps are great, but to remind them enduringly, God loves you, he’s for you.
And when we look at the cross and the resurrection, we see that on the scale of eternity, he has your back. He’s for you relentlessly and has secured a place for you through his Spirit. His seal is on you. I find that one of the most practical things that we can say to someone in a life experience, there’s nothing more practical, I think, than the thing that keeps us alive and that keeps us alive eternally.
David Mathis: We’re moving from the spiritual rhythms toward discussion of sanctification. You, in that chapter right before talking about gospel-driven sanctification with this phrase about obeying the gospel. This was helpful. This is the end of the spiritual rhythms chapter. There are three texts in the New Testament that use that language of obeying the gospel: Romans 10:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 1 Peter 4:7.
Here’s a quote. This is page 129. You said, “The phrase ‘obey the gospel’ ought not necessarily make us rethink our concept of the gospel, but perhaps should cause us to rethink our concept of obedience. Indeed, I believe this understanding of obeying the gospel is the key to the sanctification of Christians unto holiness. Sanctification is wrought in us by the Spirit working through our obedience, but this is catalyzed in the Spirit’s approving of us as we return again and again to the gospel.” That’s how you set up the chapter on gospel-driven sanctification. What do you mean by that phrase, and why is that so important?
Jared Wilson: Well, I believe that the gospel produces its own implications. A shorthand way of saying that would be that being precedes doing or our doing flows from our being. Tullian Tchividjian talks about indicatives and imperatives, and we have to get the indicatives in the right place before the imperatives; otherwise, we become legalists or what have you. What I am looking at in those texts is, first of all, it doesn’t raise eyebrows. We begin to say the gospel is news; it’s not advice. The gospel is an announcement. It’s not instructions. And yet here in the text, we are seeing this is what happens to those who do not obey the gospel. Okay, so for me, I had to wrap my mind around what does it mean to obey the gospel? What is that like? And I think it’s a call to attention. I see it as like a ten hut.
You’re in the military, there’s ten hut. You stand attention, you’re focused on a particular thing. To obey the gospel is to, well, like in Titus 2, where we read that it is grace that trains us for godliness. It is grace that trains us, that helps us to turn our back on unrighteousness. And so right there is a great text of a great passage that reminds us that if we want to pursue righteousness, if we want to pursue holiness, we can’t do that apart from being oriented around the true source of righteousness and holiness.
The only perfectly righteous person and perfectly holy person from which our righteousness and holiness come is the imputed righteousness of Christ. And so to obey the gospel and to have that be how we look at sanctification is a theological concept. There’s a practical concept, although the theological is practical and the practical is theological as well. But I see it when Paul was saying, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” And if we stopped right there, we might say, “Okay,” and we would have fear and trembling about the exhortation itself.
But then, he so neatly and sweetly says, “It is God who is working in you to will and to work according to his good pleasure.” And so, it’s just seeing where the source of the power to obey comes from. If we would be changed, if we would be made holy, we have to park ourselves at the cross and dwell there. There’s no holiness that comes apart from Christ. There’s no righteousness that comes apart from Christ.
And so, our justification should be driving us in our pursuit of sanctification. We have to continually come back to the gospel because out of that is where the worship comes from. If we want our obedience to be worship and not just a dutiful obligation trying to check off a checklist, cross all the T’s, I don’t believe that’s what God wants. The Pharisees had that down. He wants worshipers who are worshiping him in Spirit and in truth. And so, we have to keep coming back to that source of awe, and it’s not us and our obedience. It’s Christ’s perfect obedience.
David Mathis: In chapter 7, you compare a couple of three-word phrases: “get to work” versus “it is finished.” Tell us about that.
Jared Wilson: Well, I think the danger some people sound when we make that distinction is if we take off the “get to work” or if we emphasize that “it is finished,” people won’t get to work. They’re just going to be lazy or they’re just going to be involved in, like Bonhoeffer talks about, cheap grace and the cost of discipleship. They’re just going to take for granted what Christ has done, and they’re not really going to obey; they’re not going to pursue holiness.
And that’s a question that I receive in my church sometimes when I say, we need to focus on this, we need to emphasize this, and trust that the obedience comes out of all over the gospel as the worshipful response is. People say, well, what about pursuing holiness? And it’s not to cut off the... The commands are in Scripture not to be ignored but to be obeyed.
But what’s the impetus? What’s the motivation? Where’s the power to do that? Where does that come from? And it comes from being awed by “it is finished.” Yes, people are going to hear “it is finished” and do nothing with it, but those who are true worshipers for God are going to hear “it is finished,” and their “get to work” is going to be joy. It’s going to be like what David talks about. He delights in the law. That’s what we want.
We want people to be able to delight in the law, to see the law as life, that it’s sweeter than honey. And the only way to see that is for them first to be astonished by the fact that Christ is the only one who’s perfectly accomplished the law. And not only that, he says, “My perfect accomplishment is now your perfect accomplishment.” There is such freedom in that that doesn’t make me lazy. It makes me obey in freedom and joy and gratitude when I’m focused on the right thing.
David Mathis: Would you say that one who gives lip service to believing the gospel and then cares nothing for holiness, what they need is not law, what they need is the real gospel?
Jared Wilson: There’s a little poem attributed to John Bunyan. Although I think Justin Taylor has recently helped us see, it might not have originated with Bunyan, but I’ve seen Jerry Bridges attribute to Bunyan. I attribute it in the book to Bunyan, “Run, John, run, the law commands, but gives us neither feet nor hands. A better news the gospel brings; it bids us fly and gives us wings.”
I like the illustration that Ray Ortlund has used about there’s a truck off the road in the ditch, and when we trust the law to satisfy its own obligations or to provide the power to meet its demands, it’s like if we tied a kitten to the truck and expected the kitten to pull it out. And then in Ortlund’s illustration, he says, “Well, we think to ourselves, well sure it’ll work. I’ll just crack a whip on the kitten and that’ll pull the truck out.”
It’s the same sort of thing. The law is good for what it does and how it’s designed to be. The law is not bad, and the law is not over. We’re not antinomians about this, but it cannot produce what it demands. Only the gospel can provide or satisfy what the law demands. And so you see it just in a practical way, in an average household.
Does nagging ever produce the result that’s intended? Sometimes it does, but not the Spirit of the result intended. And John Piper gives that great illustration about the husband saying to his wife, “Must I kiss you?” And she says, “You must, but not that kind of must.” It’s the same sort of concept. The gospel provides the real must for legal obedience.
David Mathis: And at the end of the chapter here, this is page 145, you say that: “The ultimate work of our sanctification is to look to Christ more and more for our sense of self as our treasure, as our hope even in our effort. Let our obedience first be to the gospel, don’t then pursue righteousness by pursuing righteousness per se, but by pursuing Christ; seek first his kingdom. It is the only way to get yours. While we must be intentional about our holiness, isn’t it good news that God is intentional about it first?”
And I say, “Amen.” And I see in that phrase the ultimate work of sanctification, that what you seem to mean is that the gospel is not the only work of sanctification. Believing our justification, again, again and again, doesn’t seem to be the only aspect of sanctification, but the source, the power, the wellspring. Is that what you’re saying?
Jared Wilson: And I think the Scriptures speak about sanctification in that almost double sense. There’s a sense of we were washed; you have been sanctified. There is at the cross the objective work that Christ has done, and the Spirit applies so that we are declared, we are reckoned clean. But then there’s that work of progressive sanctification that we participate in, but participate in through the Spirit’s outworking.
It’s again, the good works were created for us beforehand that we might walk in them or in Colossians where Paul talks about, “I’m working with all of his spiritual energy that’s inside of me.” It’s attributing the source of that power, even for our part in pursuing holiness. Carson has that great phrase in his devotional, people don’t drift into holiness. But then when he gives the outline of how people become holy, he says, “Apart from grace-driven sanctification, people don’t accidentally stumble into righteousness that way.” It always begins with the source of what God has done, where we find not just the cause of worship, but the power in order to obey.
David Mathis: An important thing here would be to explore some of what it looks like when grace is driving the vehicle. How does the psychological how of sanctification work when our justification is the source and the gospel is the wellspring? This is on page 142. You say, “The key to the imperative of daily repentance in pursuit of Christ’s righteousness is the indicative of daily beholding who we are in Christ.” I said, “Amen.”
And then I was put in the margin, “Okay, how psychologically, how does this work out?” Right after you quoted 2 Peter 1:3–4, and I thought, “Oh, he’s about to say what I think he might.” But you didn’t quite say it. I want to push on it and see what you think. Second Peter 1:3–4 says that his divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.
And here’s the key part: by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. What I’m after in this psychological how of gospel-driven sanctification is, let’s say in the moment of temptation, when sin is confronting you, or in a moment of the flip side of the coin, the need to perform some act of love toward a family member. How does it work psychologically? Is it a retelling of the gospel to yourself in your own words? Is it a scriptural re-articulation of the gospel in God’s own words? What role would biblical promises play in how to motivate ourselves in gospel-based sanctification?
Jared Wilson: It comes up a lot in the context of relationships and relational conflicts. One of the phrases that I use as I walk through with our people, marriage, and family, that sort of topic is the phrase relational legalism, which is a way to look at someone else. We may treat them well; we are quote-unquote “loving them,” but it’s all towards an expectation of something in return, something that’s going to complete us, satisfy us, make us happy, some sort of response or result that we want.
And yet what we read in the Scripture is to bear with one another, forgive each other as God has forgiven you, so you must forgive one another. How the gospel can help in those situations is, I am supposed to love this person because of what God has done for me, not for some sort of response. There has to be, at some point, that mental recalibration or reorientation in the moment. The same thing that might drive somebody to donate money to charity or give to a poor person without telling anybody.
There are some who do that, and it’s a nice thing, and then they want you to know that they did that. And they don’t think that they’re glorying in what they’ve done or bragging about what they’ve done or singing pride, but begin to wonder, could you have done that without telling anybody? Would that have been satisfaction enough?
There’s a lack of confidence in Christ’s approval or God’s approval of us in Christ that then makes us want some sort of credit, want some sort of response, want some sort of, as if we’re pushing buttons on a vending machine when we love someone or when we have to forgive someone, to want something in a response. And the gospel helps us, trains us to begin to even repent of those things so that we can genuinely love people out of the love of God and not out of a love of self.
David Mathis: What role do you think the future might play in terms of a gospel-driven sanctification? In the passage, 2 Peter talks about becoming partakers of the divine nature through his promises. I’m trying to think, is it helpful to think about the cross as the past, or, in particular, what role might the future have to play in power for the present moment and how that relates to the gospel?
Jared Wilson: Sure, we could talk about future grace if that’s what we want to do. Well, as I said before, the gospel is scaled to eternity, and there is that sense that beatific vision that the Bible holds out for us, whether you look at it as your reward or the partaking in the glory that is to come. Peter says, “I was a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and I am a partaker now in the glory that is to be revealed.”
There’s some sense in which now that longing, that expectation, there is a satisfaction that happens now knowing that there’s something we don’t have yet. And one of the approaches of the gospel wakefulness I take is for some, it may not be this instantaneous moment like someone drawing the shades in a dark room to let the sun in for someone. It could be a gradual dawning over time.
Every Christian is going to be gospel awakened at some point. For some, it may be in their dying breath; it may be at that moment where they’re standing before the Lord. But that perfect astonishment, even the gospel wakefulness that we experienced this side is nothing compared to the wakefulness of the final having put on the imperishable at the moment of Christ’s return. To know that we’re going to get there, to know that it’s promised you’re going to get there, you’re going to be there can be such help when you feel like you’re just going nowhere.
When you look at how we might chart someone’s Christian life and spiritual progress, and if we looked at it as just an upward trajectory, there are days where I was better yesterday than I was today. I was better last year than I was this year. Am I not being sanctified? Am I not getting better?
And so, people will say to me, “Gosh, I’m really struggling now.” And then they lead to me, “Am I not saved? Am I not being sanctified? Am I not?” And I wonder if instead of charting it as just this upward thing where we are ascending, but it’s like you’re ascending a mountain, you’re circling the mountain, and you’re going up. But there are times where you got to go down into a low valley, and maybe there are switchbacks.
You’re ascending; you just don’t sense it yet. And there are ups and downs even to the ascent. But just knowing you’re going to get there because his promised you’re going to get there, it’s not because it’s something you’ve accomplished or you’ve done, but the end result is assured and is secured and it’s going to happen. I find that it can be great encouragement for the days when I just feel like I can’t even get this day to happen.
David Mathis: I think a place you put this together pretty good was in chapter 9. Chapter 9’s on “Gospel Confidence.” I think you talked about the end of Romans 8 there as a holy rant where the apostle Paul is talking about if God is for us, who can be against us. And so as we come to a difficulty, as we find anxiety flooding in on us about what’s going to happen tomorrow, to be able to say to ourselves because of Jesus, because of his work for us, because of the gospel and that he’s for me, no one can be successfully against me. He will uphold me with his righteous right hand. And so there’s that relationship between these specific biblical promises and the God of the gospel who has purchased them and has that inclination toward us because of his son.
You write with a lot of intensity, and I don’t think that anybody’s getting off the hook in terms of sanctification when they read through your chapter on gospel-driven sanctification. I don’t think a licentious person is going to like the chapter. It’s challenging, and you highlight freedom from hyper spirituality, you call it. You’ve got another side to it as well where you want to argue for the importance of margin in our lives and rest, and shocking as this may be to some of us here at desiringGod, you talk about playing golf in good conscience.
Jared Wilson: I don’t play golf, by the way, so I’ve never played around a golf in my life.
David Mathis: Let me read a section here. I believe this is your fifth chapter. I’m on page 111:
When Christ sets you free, he sets you free from a margin-less life. The tyranny of hyper-spirituality insists that man was made for the Sabbath, but the gospel declares that the Sabbath was made for man. Of all the things Christians enjoy becoming radical about Sabbath from work’s righteousness — which is an affront to God, by the way, not a tribute to him — rarely if ever is on the agenda. Nobody wants to be thought of as lazy. And there is a lot of laziness out there, including in the evangelical church.
Yes, people watch too much TV and play too many video games and spend too much time on the internet and what have you. Yes, apathy is endemic, but the proper response to laziness is not a rigorous attention to the explicitly spiritual in every margin of life. The older brother was no more holy than his prodigal sibling.
The gospel makes us Christians not aesthetes. Jesus Christ did not die and rise for you so that you would stress out about whether you’re being spiritual enough, so take a nap, go for a walk in the woods, play with your kids, eat some chocolate. Watch a good movie. Christian, you are free.
You posted something like this not terribly long ago and you got a lot of flack.
Jared Wilson: People hated it. They really hated it.
David Mathis: Tell me about that.
Jared Wilson: There’s something about hyper-spirituality or the tyranny of hyper-spirituality that I call in the chapter that creates this mental defect where we just block out things that are said to read other things that are said, as if the other things aren’t said. In the context of whatever, when I said, “I said people watch too much TV,” I said, “People are lazy.”
And the excerpt that was posted online in advance of the book was literally probably ten sentences long. It wasn’t even as long as the thing that you just read there, but it said, “People are lazy. People watch too much TV.” And then I talk about the freedom that we have in Christ, and I was accused of saying we should watch more television and that we should be lazy. Now, I didn’t know what to do with that. It was very difficult, and I tried to respond as best I could. But the way that I look at it, I think the language of idolatry is very helpful here in terms of diagnosing what’s taking place.
It can be just as idolatrous to pursue these good works and trust those good works as it is to do no good works whatsoever. A workaholic is just as idolatrous as a lazy person. They have two different idols. But ultimately, when you get down to it, the idols still themselves. One person is indulging themselves; one person is finding satisfaction or glory in themselves that way. But one of the illustrations that I use in the chapter that I think is helpful is, so the Scriptures say, “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” Well, what does that mean? Does it glorify God to play a round of golf? Because you’re not praying. You could have spent that time evangelizing; you could have spent that time reading your Bible, and instead, you’re golfing. And sometimes when you’re playing golf, you don’t even think about God. He doesn’t even come to your mind. Does that glorify him? And I’m thinking about when I give something that’s not a sin.
Okay, so let’s think of gifts, think of good gifts that God gives us, the things that he gives in this world, things that of themselves are not sins. They can be used sinfully, but they’re just good gifts. When I give my daughters a present and in the chapter, I use a dollhouse, I give them this. I try to find the best dollhouse that I can, that I think they’re really going to enjoy and have fun with. And I give them this dollhouse, my little girls, and it’s their Christmas present, and I give them the dollhouse.
Do I want them to not play with it, but to stand in front of me and just keep saying, “Thank you for the dollhouse, thank you for the dollhouse, thank you for the dollhouse, thank you for the dollhouse?” That’s great. And I want them to be thankful. But if their means of thanking me is never to play with the dollhouse, but just to stand there explicitly thanking me, that wasn’t the purpose of the gift.
And in fact, when they become in some way oblivious to me and begin to play with the dollhouse and get caught up with the fun and the joy and where we’re going to put the couch and where’s mom and dad going to be in the dollhouse? And they might not even know I’m in the room, but they’re playing with the dollhouse and they’re finding this joy. What kind of dad would I be to see that and go, “These ungrateful little brats. They’re playing with the thing that I gave them.” But instead I give it to them for their joy and to play. I’m glad that they were thankful to me, but I also enjoy and am in some sense glorified. I find pleasure in them enjoying one of the good gifts that I’ve given them.
And so God hasn’t just given us rest. He’s commanded it as well. And so to disobey that command is not to glorify God in any sense, but he’s given us great things, good things, good gifts, food and sports and games and the creative arts and different things. And if we’re not engaging in them in a sinful way to enjoy the good gifts that he’s given us, glorify him because he’s given us these gifts to enjoy. And so that’s the approach that I try to take in that chapter.
David Mathis: Interesting to speak about the importance of a life with rhythms, to use that kind of language again. Let me pick up something quickly here from chapter 10, “The Gospel-Wakened Church.” There you give four basic arguments for the imperative of gospel centrality in the church.
The first one, we are forgetful. Second, the gospel alone has the power to save. Third, the gospel is of first importance. And then I want to focus here just briefly on the last one. Last one is, the gospel most glorifies God. At desiringGod, we care a lot about the glory of God and a lot about the gospel. Put those two together for us. How is it that the gospel most glorifies God?
Jared Wilson: Well, because the gospel is not advice or instructions, the gospel is news of something that God has done. When we focus on what God has done and even in the application of salvation, we are saved by God’s grace through faith, which in the biblical context is itself a gift from God. He’s given us the faith to be able to receive the grace that he’s given us.
When we look at it that way, to focus on the gospel, to center on the gospel, most glorified God, because it takes our work, it takes our glory, it takes our contribution completely out of the equation and just puts in the center something that God did that we could not do and could never do and didn’t want to do, but something that God didn’t have to do except that he wanted to.
Something that we didn’t deserve but that God wanted to give us for his own glory. And so when we put Christ’s finished work at the center and take our works out to the periphery, that most glorifies God. Whereas if we tried to say, “Well, the gospel and something else,” or “Let’s emphasize the gospel, but let’s also emphasize these other things that the church does,” it’s almost like we’re coming in trying to say, “Well, God’s glory isn’t enough. It needs some help, it needs some augmentation.” But instead, the gospel, because it’s something only God can do and only God did, that’s what glorifies God the most.
David Mathis: Well, the book has been out now since Reformation Day, so less than a month. As the author, what do you hope this will do in people’s lives as they get copies here in the next few months, next years and read this? What’s your hope for effect?
Jared Wilson: Well, immediately I hope that it would give some sort of credence, some sort of encouragement, perhaps some sort of words to what a lot of people experience, but they don’t have a frame of reference for or context to. Perhaps they’ve had an experience after some sort of conversion experience that now they’re wondering, “Was I saved before? Have I not been a Christian all along?”
And because my aim in the book is to keep pointing us to Christ and what Christ has done as the assurance of our salvation. I hope it might be an encouragement that way, but the book is aimed generally at the layperson. I didn’t want to write just for pastors or professional ministers or something like that. I wanted to write to the Christian, and one of the aims of the book and one of the first rejections I got from a publisher, his complaint was there wasn’t anything to do.
I wasn’t telling people what to do, I just was saying things. And that’s intentional. What I want to do in this book, what I hope to do in everything I write is to hold up Christ and just say, “Let’s look at him. Look how beautiful he is. Look how precious he is. Look how wonderful what God has done in him is, and let’s revel in that. Let’s taste that. Let’s wonder at that.” What I hope people see in the book is just a sense of worship or a sense of awe. And I hope ultimately what they see in the book is Christ, is the purpose of the last chapter especially. But I want people to read the book and see Jesus in a new, fresh or exciting way.
David Mathis: Last thing, for those who’ve been watching here today and may say, “Jared, it sounds great, but I haven’t experienced this. This gospel wakefulness doesn’t resonate with my experience.” What would you say to them? What should they do?
Jared Wilson: Well, I would give the exhortation that I like to give in response to the question is to keep looking at Jesus. One of my favorite quotes comes from Ray Ortlund. He says, “Stare at the glory of God until you see it.”
Now, we can look and not see, but we can’t see if we’re not looking. And so if it hasn’t happened yet, we have to, as the author of Hebrews says fix our eyes on Christ. He’s the author and perfecter of our faith. It won’t happen apart from daily dwelling in the gospel. It won’t happen apart from looking to Jesus over and over and over again. And trusting that if your faith is in Christ, you’re saved, whether you feel awakened or not. The measure of our assurance is not our measure of wakefulness. Our measure of assurance is what Christ has done for us historically, factually.