The Ax and the Ox
The Simple and Unbelievable Gospel Message
To Jude, Adah, and Geneva
You are wonderful blessings of God
I hope and pray that you and I will share this message
with millions of souls
What is this book about? It can be summarized in a sentence: This book is about defining what the gospel is, and what it isn’t. On top of this, I also have tried to answer some of the hard questions I have had over the years while learning to understand it. Through these pages I hope that people who read this will come to truly know the person of Jesus Christ, possibly for the first time, or that current Christians will come to know Him even better. Secondly, I hope Christians will be encouraged through this writing to share the gospel news with others.
Here is the kind of subject matter that is spread throughout the entire book.
- The Gospel Message: Though this can be stated in a variety of ways, here is the Good News: God is perfectly good and holy. God made mankind good and upright, but mankind committed crimes against a Holy God and has been rightly sentenced to an eternal death. God in his mercy supplied the only remedy by being born as the man Jesus Christ, laying down his life on a cross, and rising to eternal life, so that all who put their trust in Him alone would also live forever with Him.
- Personal Testimony: I believe personal testimony comes out as we share the gospel. The gospel message is old, and the people who share it are new. As we focus on sharing the same ancient gospel, each person will share it in ways that are unique and powerful. I hope this book will inspire people to write their own books, or songs, or make videos, or artwork – about the ancient gospel, as a sort of confession of faith (Revelation 12:11). Each person’s testimony is unique, so even if you tried to copy the structure of this book it would still have a different flavor. If you’re a Christian, why not let your light shine and share the old gospel with the world? God made us all the way He did for a reason. No one in history shares your perspective. The world benefits from believers sharing Christ. God has made us to imitate Him and to be who He made us to be, to write, to speak, and to do what we love in Christ. I hope this book helps Christians on that road: to freedom in knowing Christ and making Christ known in every way we can.
- The Gospel’s Power: We are not called to convince people that the gospel is true. Only God can do that. We are only called to share the gospel. That should take a giant weight off anyone wanting to share the good news. We’ve been given the command to share, and it’s a great privilege and joy. Only the Gospel message has power to save, and only God can convince people the gospel is true. This is because the Gospel is the power of God (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18, John 6:44)
- Logic and Reason: These things are not at odds with faith. God created logic. I believe He intends for us to be smart, to use our brains, and use them well. Understanding the meaning of sentences in the Bible, and everyday life, depends on logic. Faith in Christ is the foundation for a true use of logic.
So, all of the above is what this book is. As for why: Why write another book? The Bible itself warns, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). There seems to be too many books in the world sometimes. There are too many unread books on my bookshelf; a growing problem. Many people aren’t even reading books today. And the gospel is not something new… it’s “good news” but it’s kind of… old news, isn’t? I mean, it’s really old news. So there are a lot of excuses not to write this.
To answer those objections; here are some whys for this book:
- Obedience. As a follower of Christ, and from a thankful heart for what God has given, I want to be obedient to His instruction in Scripture (The Bible; His Word) to tell the world of His good news.
- Legacy. I have three children and I would love to leave them, my friends, and family with something meaningful and valuable. God in Christ is my treasure. I couldn’t give anything, or write about anything more valuable to me.
- Giftings. My friends and family have encouraged me to keep writing. If one person reads this and spends eternity in heaven because God saw fit to use it somehow, it’s all worth it.
- Widespread Non-Knowledge. (Non Knowledge is my way of trying to nicely say, “ignorance.”) As a Christian, the gospel is the most important thing to know! It is what Jesus has told us to share with the whole world (Mark 16:15). It’s how dead souls come to life, and the point of the entire Bible (Luke 24:27). Yet many so-called Christians couldn’t even tell you what the gospel is if you asked them on the street. For many years I might have said something like, “Umm… Jesus… came to the world?” That answer is just part of the picture.
If you’re a Christian and you put down this book right now and don’t read anything else I write, please remember this: 1) God, 2) Sin, 3) Christ and 4) Faith. These are words I’ve tried to teach my children to remember how to share the Gospel. And I hope, by the time you’ve finished this book, you have memorized these words. This book has eight chapters, which can be grouped into the four words above.
- Word – GOD
- Man – SIN
- Promise – CHRIST
- Church – FAITH
A Dumb Ox
There was a man named Thomas Aquinas who is sometimes considered the founder of “natural theology.” The word “theology” by itself simply means knowledge of, or study of, God. Everyone’s a “theologian” because everyone has thoughts about God. So everyone has some kind of theology, because everyone thinks.
“Natural theology” is typically the belief that you can know things about God based on logic alone. I want to be really clear: I don’t believe in natural theology. I believe God himself has to reveal godly truth to us. We can’t simply think our way to God. Correct thinking about God is a grace of God, or a gift from God, that He alone must reveal to us.
Natural theology does have some value, however, because it encourages us to use logic. God is the one who created our minds. We’re not to abandon logic when we come to the Bible. In it, God has written His Word to us using sentences that we read with our eyes, and understand with our minds, even if God must apply them to our hearts. If we abandon logic and reason, then the words and sentences and the Bible become impossible to understand. While I believe that God Himself needs to complete our understanding by enlightening our hearts, it is always wise for us to have clear and reasonable thinking.
In the New Testament book of Romans, chapter 12, verse 1, this is written: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” That word translated “spiritual” there is the Greek word λογικὴν, pronounced logiken, from which we get the word logic. This is also part of the root for the word theology (meaning “Words about God” or “study of God”) For this reason, some have translated logiken as “reasonable.” In other words, we are to live our lives completely for God. This “reasonable worship” is actually a reasonable thing to do.
God’s Word in 1 Peter 3:15 says we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
In Isaiah 1:18 God Himself says, “Come now, let us reason together..”. This is such an amazing thing for God to say, since he doesn’t need to stoop to talk or reason with any of us. We’ll discuss this more.
Aquinas was also called a Dumb Ox: “Because Thomas was quiet and didn’t speak much, some of his fellow students thought he was slow. But Albertus prophetically exclaimed: “You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world.” I don’t believe many of the things Aquinas taught, but I remember his story because I often see myself as a quiet, slow, dumb ox. Yet, I hope I have something to contribute to the world in the area of theology. When you think about the “Dumb Ox” I’d just like you think of reason. Use your brain. Think.
A Blunt Ax
Another notable person in Christian history was Martin Luther. He was instrumental in the Protestant Reformation, which was the first major breaking away of the people of God from the Roman Catholic Church. One of the reasons Martin Luther was so influential was his simple communication style. Although he did have education later in life, he was originally from a family of peasants and farmers. He was not known for being very polite. He spoke in short simple sentences, often offending people. Martin Luther once said, comparing his writing to someone else, “He [Philip Melanchthon] cuts with the precision of a knife. I simply swing the ax.” Like Luther, I come from simply and humble roots. I’ve often come across as being rude, not usually intentionally, but honestly, because I don’t know other ways of forming sentences. I’ve always been less concerned with minutiae than I am with the heart of the matter. I want to get straight to the point, and that’s not always the best or nicest way. Yet time, and God’s Word, have been teaching me to be more patient and kind. I am a work in progress. When you read this and remember Martin Luther the “Blunt Ax”, I hope you remember simple truth. This book has some simple talk from a simple, though passionate, person who wants to share the truth.
Speaking of Simple
There isn’t a lot of theology written for young men and women in middle school to high school, yet this is precisely when I began searching for answers regarding God. I was ten years old when I began investigating deep spiritual things for myself. I had so many questions, doubts, and angry thoughts about life, religion, God and the Bible. As the Holy Spirit has guided my search, the important questions have all been answered for me in genuine and life-changing ways.
Most of the 12 disciples were also likely teenagers when Christ called them to follow him. We have a tendency to picture them as older adults today because we can’t fathom maturity at such a young age. I believe that’s mostly because our culture just expects less from children. It’s good not to overburden children as previous generations have, but children are far more smart and capable than we sometimes imagine. Anyway, I’m not just writing this for simple people like me, or my children. I write for all young people, and all adults who might have a hard time reading systematic theology, but are still thinking deeply about spiritual things.
I’ve found that a lot of theological writing is either so dry, or so professionally written, that the average reader will never read more than a paragraph before deciding to check their Instagram account instead. My desire is that this book will be accessible and interesting to anyone with an 8th grade reading level and above.
In my homiletics classes, (the study of preaching) I was trained to always answer the question “so what?” when speaking about the Bible, and I like to apply that to writing. I can give you a lot of facts and information, but we are all asking ourselves, “so what?” and “who cares?” Most of the people I know are not interested in the kind of theology books I read. Instead of abandoning hope that they will ever sit still and ponder some great concepts, I hope that this writing may help bridge the gap.
The Word of God
Finally, and most importantly, the Bible is so much better than this book, and if you haven’t read the Bible today, I plead with you to put this down and read a few chapters of it before continuing.
In my office I once had a large metal sword hanging on my wall. Above it were the words of Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The Bible, or Holy Scripture, is unlike any book in the world in that it is “living.” The best defense of the faith is reading the Bible itself, because it’s alive, and reading it proves itself. You can’t know what this means until you see it for yourself. It happens in quiet moments when you are reading it alone, comparing verses with other verses. Some have said it is “self-authenticating.” In other words, if you need help believing the Bible is true, begin an honest reading of it. The whole Bible. I dare you to read it. Then do it again.
All of my words here are a waste of time unless God performs a miracle and creates faith in the heart and understanding in the mind. I believe God created me with a desire to write these things because He knew exactly who needed to hear them in the way I will write them. So I hope those who read these words won’t see it as an accident but as if an all-knowing God planned this very moment (because He did).
Kings often utilized scribes who researched and wrote books for them. In the same way, I believe God has stirred my heart to write these pages for Him, specifically with you in mind., As I don’t believe there are any true coincidences, I believe that is exactly the kind of thing God does through willing writers.
At the same time I believe my writing is complete trash if it does not align perfectly with what the Bible clearly teaches. I hope you will test my words against His words. The Word of God is the ultimate authority. In order to wrap up this long introduction, let me say: I’ve found such a treasure in the pages of Scripture over the course of the last 25 years that I can’t help but share this. I hope you find the treasure too. My goal is that you will be drawn more deeply to the Word of God. May it be so!