This week I finished reading Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living, and Speaking the Gospel by J. Mack Stiles (IVP, 2010). It is one of the many books I received at Together for the Gospel 2010, and I thought it was very good. Weaving together personal experience and scripture, J. Mack Stiles examines the gospel, true evangelism and what they entail to Christian life.
The following is not going to be a book review proper, or an outline of the book’s main points. Instead I’m going to share points that I found particularly thought-provoking or encouraging.
While I enjoyed the entire book, I particularly enjoyed the final four chapters.
In chapter 7, which focuses on boldness in sharing the gospel, Stiles points to the prayer requests of Paul. The gospel was central to the prayer requests of Paul. Not only that, several of Paul’s prayer requests also concerned boldness, that he should be fearless in proclaiming the Gospel. (Ephesians 6:19-20) If Paul was asking that others pray he would be fearless, how much more should we? I love that point!
Chapter 8 examines how the world’s view of love has shaped how Christians look at God. I thought the following example was very appropriate:
“Me-centered love easily bleeds into Christian thinking about God’s love. We start treating God as a celestial butler, and singing songs that make it hard to tell if Jesus is a savior or a boyfriend. Take this refrain [referring to the crucifixion] for instance. ‘Like a rose, trampled on the ground, / You took the fall and thought of me; / Above all.’ ”
After quoting this, Stiles turns to scripture and points out that as Jesus prepared to go to the cross, he wasn’t thinking about us, he was thinking about doing his father’s will. (John 12:27-28) He concludes, “. . . Christians by the thousands sing this song and never realize its message is more culture than Bible.” I’m thankful for the reminder and even more thankful for how intentional the worship is at my local church.
Stiles recognizes the influence of the local church, and in his second-to-last chapter emphasizes the importance of the local church in evangelism. (This guy is friends with Mark Dever, so this is hardly a surprise!) I thought that for one chapter he did an excellent job of covering a number of important points.
The concluding chapter is a manifesto, summing up the book. Several points in the concluding chapters reminded me of Radical by David Platt, which would build on Marks of the Messenger nicely.
In conclusion, I’m going to share some passages that I highlighted while reading Marks of the Messenger:
“To paraphrase G. K. Chesteron, I can’t see why people have such problems with original sin; it’s the one doctrine for which we have empirical data. Just look at the last 3,500 years of human history.” (pg. 30)
“God’s love is his most magnificent characteristic. This is so assumed in Western culture it’s practically lost all meaning, but one thing that distinguishes God’s love is how his love, his perfect, tender, self-sacrificing love, holds back his red-hot, scorching wrath.” (pg. 32)
Don’t assume the Gospel:
“The implications of the gospel are critical to becoming who we are meant to be as healthy evangelists.” (pg. 53)
The gospel lived out:
“Our lives need to be lined up with, in accord with the gospel . As we’ve seen before, the gospel is not only about salvation. The gospel is how we live every day.” (pg. 56)
“Caring for others represents the gospel, it upholds the gospel, it points to the gospel, it’s an implication of the gospel, but it is not the gospel, and it is not equal to the gospel.” (pg. 69)
“Boldness is not a lack of fear. It is faith in something bigger than our fears so that we appear fearless. Confidence in something bigger than our fears gives us the strength to do the right thing in spite of opposition or persecution.” (pg. 82)
Have you read Marks of the Messenger? If so, what did you think? Please feel free to join the conversation!