The Gospel in Three Directions

In his weekly installment, J. D. Greear reflects on the three directions of the gospel. Here’s an excerpt:

The gospel points UPWARD, redirecting our worship.


Sin problems don’t start as sin problems. They start as worship problems. At the root of all sin, as the Apostle Paul explains, is the colossal mistake of “giving the glory of God to created things” (Romans 1:23). The Hebrew word for glory (kabod) carried the connotation of “weight.” The Greek word for glory (doxa) hints at ideas of majesty and beauty. Put the two together and you get a good idea of the problem: we gave a weightiness and a beauty to things more than we gave to God. As Matt Papa says in Look and Live, sin is simply worship misdirected.


To change sin at the heart level, which is where God wants to change it, he has to change what we worship. As Paul Tripp puts it, “If we worship our way into sin, we have to worship our way out.” The gospel, and the gospel alone, does that, redirecting our worship and reigniting our passions. It points us upward to a God who is better and more glorious and more satisfying than any of our pathetic idols.

Read the full post here.

Interview with Matt Papa on his new album, “This Changes Everything”

album_coverLet me put it this way: Matt Papa’s new album “This Changes Everything” is for people who like their coffee strong. For those of our readership who do not know Matt Papa, he is a SEBTS student and a worship leader at The Summit Church here in Raleigh-Durham. I know him fairly well and would describe him as a theologically-driven worship leader who crafts songs and albums that speak prophetically to our cultural context. In particular, he sings about Christ’s Lordship and its implications. In the remainder of the post, I ask Matt four questions about himself and about the album.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your ministry.

I’m Matt. I love Jesus. I’m 28 years old. I’m happily married to Lauren Papa and have 2 beautiful little girls, Paisley and Stella. I serve on staff part-time at the Summit Church and also travel and sing and preach around the country. I like the Georgia Bulldogs and Mexican food.

I became a new creation when I was 12 and began doing ministry when I was a teenager. Since about 15 or so, I’ve been writing songs, singing them, and preaching the gospel. I studied music in college and once graduating, made my first album entitled “You Are Good.” Since then God has been so gracious to give us a wealth of opportunities to serve Him and make Him known.

2. Why did you write “This Changes Everything”?

This album is mostly, like my other albums, a collection of songs that comes out of my own personal wrestling with the Lord. This album, however, is a bit unique in the sense that there’s a story behind it.

I was in India about 3 years ago on a mission trip. We were on the train heading to our missions site for the day, and I met a young man on a train named Ajay. He was about 20 years old. I’ll never forget the conversation that followed:

Me: Have you ever heard of a guy named Jesus?

Ajay: I think so?

Me: Do you know anything about Him?

Ajay: No. Will you tell me?

Me: :)

So I shared the story with Him. I started from the beginning. God created, we sinned, Jesus came, and died for sin; told him the whole thing. And I’ll never forget what happened next:

Me: Ajay, Jesus DIED for you on the cross so you could be forgiven!

Ajay: Really?

Me: But Ajay, I’ve got some good news … after 3 days … He got back up.

Then, Ajay said two words I’ll never forget as long as I live:

Ajay: IT’S TRUE?

His eyes were full with wonder. He had never heard the gospel before. At that, I began to weep. I don’t know if God orchestrated this moment more for Ajay or for me because in that moment, I felt scales falling from my heart. In the moment, I thought about HOW MANY times I have heard the gospel growing up in church and responded with APATHY. I truly don’t know if I had EVER responded with such faith and reckless abandon as this kid on a train in India did that day.

It was as if, for Ajay, if Jesus really rose from the dead, then EVERYTHING was different. Ajay taught me something that day: that is it utterly foolish to become familiar with the gospel. It is jaw-dropping, or it is nothing. He’s either alive or He’s not. It’s either the reality that wrecks your life forever or it is nothing at all. C.S. Lewis said it best: Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it CANNOT BE is moderately important.

3. What is the primary theme of the album?

The Lordship of Christ. In my times with the Lord leading up to making this album, I would be reading and I might find a command in the Word that I had yet to submit to and the question that continued to confront me was NOT: What is the Greek / Hebrew of this verse? Or maybe how this applied to those people back then? No. The question that I had to wrestle with was: Is He God or not? Because if He’s God, I don’t have a choice whether I want to obey.

Jesus does not give us the option to make Him our homeboy. With the resurrection, Jesus drew a line in the sand of the universe. We will either love Him or hate Him. Follow Him or deny Him. Worship Him or Blaspheme Him. Kill Him or crown Him. There is no middle ground.

4. What, above all, do you wish for readers to know and/or do because of this CD?

This is absolutely it, a paragraph I wrote that is in the artwork of the album:

The year was 1514, and the earth was the center of it all. Until Nicolas Copernicus changed everything.

It’s called the “Copernican Revolution” for a reason. Everyone believed the sun, and everything else, revolved around the earth. Everyone was wrong. And as the Sun took it’s rightful place at the center of the great Milky Way, a greater fear and reverence swept over all mankind; as for the first time man doubted his centrality in the universe. For the first time, humanity came trembling to grips with the humbling and earth-shattering reality: we are small.

My prayer for you is that as these songs bring you into collision with the greatest, most central reality in the universe, namely the Gospel, that a Copernican revolution would be unleashed in your life. All of us come into this world bent on believing that we are at the center. But we’re not. There is, however, a Reality holding steady at the center of it all, beckoning us to open our eyes and see what we were made for. His name is Jesus. And He is the center. He will not be a part of your life, one of the many orbiting obligations around you. He will be your life; the star you revolve around or nothing at all. The tomb is empty and He is Lord. This changes everything.

Spend Your Weekend at SEBTS Feb 4-5: Come Hear Danny Akin, Al Mohler, Michael Green, J. Budziszewski, and Bruce Little

Conversing with the Culture (Feb 4-5, 2011)

We at Between the Times would like to invite you to this year’s 20/20 conference, “Conversing with the Culture,” on Southeastern’s campus Feb 4-5, 2011. This year’s conference centers on how to speak Christian truth to a culture that isn’t listening, and features plenary sessions by Danny Akin (SEBTS), Al Mohler (Southern Seminary), Michael Green (Oxford), J. Budziszewski (University of Texas-Austin), and Bruce Little (SEBTS), in addition to 24 breakout sessions. Matt Papa will be leading worship.

The annual 20/20 conference is designed for undergrad and grad students around the country, many of whom sit in classrooms where their professors are militantly opposed to the Christian faith and teach their courses in a manner reflective of that opposition. For many of these students, the brightest and most persuasive people they know are professors (literature, philosophy, biology, etc.) who are militantly opposed to the Christian faith and teach their courses in a manner reflective of that opposition. For this reason, the 20/20 conference seeks to expose university students (as well as exceptional high school students) to intelligent men and women who will speak about the important matters of life, and will do so from within an explicitly Christian framework.

This year’s 20/20 conference deals with a host of theological, ethical, cultural, and apologetic issues that arise for Christian students living in a 21st century American context. The breakout speakers who will address these issues include Bruce Ashford, Heath Thomas, John Hammett, Ken Keathley, Steve McKinion, Andy Davis, Nathan Finn, Micah Fries, Tim Brister, J. Budziszewski, Dennis Darville, Amber Lehman, Dan Heimbach, Scott Hildreth, Donnie McDaniel, Greg Welty, Ed Gravely, and Jeremy Evans.

The conference begins Friday evening and concludes late Saturday afternoon. In one 24-hour period, you will be exposed to hours of riveting discussion on important issues, coupled time to hang out with 1300 other students. The registration fee is a mere $35; please attend and bring a group! To register for the conference, click here.

Below is a sketch of the plenary and breakout sessions:

Plenary Speakers

Danny Akin (Fri night)

Al Mohler (Fri night)

J. Budziszewski (Sat morn)

Michael Green (Sat aft)

Bruce Little (Sat eve)

The Gospel: How to Understand, Speak, and Live the Gospel

What is the message of the whole Bible, in 45 minutes or less (Bruce Ashford)?

What is “the gospel” and how do I live a gospel-centered life (Heath Thomas)?

Why do I need to be immersed in the life off a gospel-centered church (John Hammett)?

What about those persons who have never heard the gospel (Ken Keathley)?

How do I read the Bible (OT and NT) in a Christ-centered and gospel-centered manner (Steve McKinion)?

How will Scripture memory transform my life, and how can I get started memorizing Scripture (Andy Davis)?

How do I discern God’s “calling” on my life (Nathan Finn)?

Conversing: How to Speak the Gospel into a Culture That Isn’t Listening

How can I answer skeptical questions in a way that is winsome and persuasive (Jamie Dew)?

How do I speak about reality and truth in a pluralistic society (Bruce Little)?

How do I tweet for Jesus? Using Twitter, Facebook, and blogs for the sake of the gospel (Micah Fries & Tim Brister)?

Culture: How to Understand and Speak to Important Issues in our Socio-Cultural Context

Q&A Session with J. Budziszewski

Does God care about human culture (arts, sciences, public square, etc.) (Dennis Darville)?

How can I use Scripture, science, and reason to speak to the issue of abortion (Amber Lehman)?

How do I answer questions about same sex marriage (Dan Heimbach)?

How should I think about modern warfare and torture (Dan Heimbach)?

Why follow Jesus rather than Muhammad (Scott Hildreth)?

Should Christians care about the environment (Donnie McDaniel)?

Reason: Using Sanctified Reason to Speak the Gospel

Why should I believe God exists and how can I demonstrate this to an unbeliever (Greg Welty)?

Why does God allow suffering in the world (Bruce Little)?

Why should I trust the Bible (Ed Gravely)?

What is the relationship of theology and science (Ken Keathley)?

Why should I believe that Christianity is true (or that anything at all is true) (Jeremy Evans)?