Jared Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Vermont. His sermons are available for download here. He is also the author of Your Jesus is Too Safe, Abide: Practicing Kingdom Rhythms in a Consumer Culture, and the forthcoming Gospel Wakefulness (expected October 31, 2011). He is currently working on a book tentatively titled Grace Upon Grace: The Many Glories of the One Gospel, and is assisting Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Texas, with a book tentatively titled The Explicit Gospel. In his spare time he blogs at Gospel Driven Church and does research for pastors around the nation through Docent Research Group–a group of which I also am a part. His life’s passion is “for the spread of gospel wakefulness in the evangelical church.” What follows is my interview with Jared which he graciously agreed to do:
What is gospel wakefulness?
Gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring him more sweetly, and it results from beholding Christ powerfully in the gospel in a moment of utmost brokenness. It is, simply put, being astonished by the gospel and then living with that astonishment enduring.
How do you cultivate gospel wakefulness in your personal life?
The only way to be astonished is to, in some way, see the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus. Many of us look at Jesus but don’t see this glory. (My friend Ray Ortlund says, “Stare at the glory of God until you see it.”) We can look without seeing, but we can’t see without looking, so the thing to do is to keep looking and don’t stop. We must fix our eyes on Christ. Some days in a variety of ways, brokenness will find us, and we want to be holding hands with Jesus when it does.
How do you cultivate gospel wakefulness in your marriage and family?
We have to keep our own eyes fixed on Christ and we have to help each other do that too. So as husbands, we want to love our wives like Christ loved the church — sacrificially, graciously, redemptively, with a heart to honor and sanctify her — so when her sins or failures or brokenness become manifest, she is seeing the gospel of Jesus in our love for her. Wives will submit joyfully to their husbands, so that husbands can see — if they have the eyes to do so — the sacrificial servanthood of Jesus in the face of their undeserving ways. As parents we want to keep pointing our children to the gospel when they disobey or make mistakes. We want to help them see Jesus in our words and actions. And in our discipleship of them, we want them to see him too, so gospel-centered family devotions or reading from The Jesus Storybook Bible are great things to do.
As a pastor, how do you cultivate gospel wakefulness in the church you shepherd?
By refusing to give them anything but the gospel. The gospel of Jesus will be the main point of every sermon, and it will be the theme of my counseling and discipleship. And we will measure everything we do, from music to programs and other ministry efforts, against how well it commends the gospel. We will be purpose-driven that way!
In your book Your Jesus is Too Safe, you talk about false Jesuses. What do you mean by that?
We are incredible at making Jesus in our own image. So we have all these caricatures of Jesus that we propose as “the real Jesus” when really they are just projections of our own personalities, platforms, or priorities. The Jesus of the Scriptures is big and multi-faceted. He’s a real Person! And really God. We have trouble finding the real Jesus conducive to our motives and desires, so we shave off the inconvenient parts and sculpt our own. We want Aslan to be a tame lion.
What are some false Jesuses you find in broader evangelicalism? How does the real Jesus deconstruct the false one?
There are all kinds. There is the ATM Jesus of the prosperity gospelists, who just wants you to be successful financially and in other ways, but you just have to learn the right buttons to push. There is the Hippie-Guru Jesus of the more emergent tribes. There is the Postcard Jesus of the superficially religious. There is the Motivational Speaker Jesus of the moral therapeutic deists.
The real Jesus deconstructs these caricatures when we see him in the composite picture of the entirety of the Scriptures. To get to the caricature you have to exaggerate or inflate some characteristics or sayings while ignoring or downplaying others. The real Jesus is much more complex, and if we could factor in the wholeness of Scripture — like good biblical theologians — the caricatures would start to dissipate. The caricature would start to look more like a portrait. And the portrait should start to look like a living, breathing person. (Of course, I assume even the best theologians will still only see him dimly until he comes again and we see him face to face.)
Any false Jesuses that the “new Calvinism” may be prone to? How does the real Jesus deconstruct the false one?
Goodness, yes. There are two big ones. The first might be called the Doctrinaire Jesus. He treats Calvinism like the gospel and inflates Jesus’ hard words to the downplay of his soft ones. I think the real Jesus deconstructs this false Jesus when we see how he responded to the chief doctrinaires of his day, the Pharisees. And in the bigness of Jesus, there is room for those covered in his righteousness, not just those carrying “The Institutes.”
The other false Jesus somewhat popular among “new Calvinism” is the one fairly common in my tribe. I call him Ultimate Fighter Jesus. We have got it in our heads that Jesus looked like The Rock or a Jewish Kimbo Slice. I understand the drive to do this, to rescue the strong Jesus from the clutches of the effeminate, chai latte-drinking Jesus. But I think we are in danger of the pendulum swing. We have zero evidence that Jesus was a quote-unquote “tough guy” in the sense we tend to favor culturally. What if he looked like Woody Allen? I think we ought to be careful we aren’t placing idolatrous demands on Jesus. “You must look like somebody who could beat me up or I won’t worship you.”