Posts Tagged ‘chapter 0’

21st June
2010
written by Alden

While we’re waiting for the release date, I thought I’d share another little freebie, my introduction to the book. Enjoy!

Chapter 0: The Beginning

In the summer of 1991, Ken Blue delivered a series of twelve sermons on Galatians that is the essence of this book. My wife and I had recently started attending Ken’s church, having just moved to San Diego from Orange County that March. Our move was well-timed; Ken’s teaching on grace was exactly what we needed to hear.

I had been raised Lutheran and was well-versed in grace; however, in my twenties I began to encounter Christians who had been raised to see Christianity in terms of do’s and don’ts and who insisted there were things I had to do in order to become a “better” Christian. I saw the agony that people went through trying to follow rules, and the feelings of guilt they suffered because they were never quite good enough. Some tired of the agony and simply gave up.

A few years after my wife and I moved to Southern California, we were exposed to several Bible teachers who had some good things to say but whose teaching on holiness and works as a requirement for God’s blessings contradicted my understanding of grace. This constant tension between grace and legalism bothered me, and I decided it was time to study the issue until I finally understood it. It was at this point that we first heard Ken Blue speak.

Ken’s no-nonsense teaching of Paul’s no-nonsense letter to the Galatians clarified the issues of the Law and the Gospel for me like nothing else had. Over the years I listened to the series several times, discovering that I never tired of hearing Paul’s radical Good News preached.

I still love to hear the real Gospel preached. I believe that we need to hear and be reminded of the Good News. We are being bombarded from all sides with bad news. At the office we hear that we must “do more and try harder.” The people on TV and radio tell us that we’re not happy enough or sexy enough without whatever it is they are selling. Nowhere else do we hear that we are completely accepted and valued regardless of our performance. The Gospel is more than just “how to get saved,” preparing us for life after death. It really is the good news for our lives before death. This Good News—the truth—will indeed set us free, here and now.

Very early on I began to conceive of Ken’s sermon series as a book, initially as a mildly edited version of the sermons, and began to work off transcriptions of the sermon tapes. However, I kept thinking of things that I’d like to say, and finally I decided to write a completely new book around the sermon material, adding my own thoughts and ideas along the way. The result could perhaps be thought of as “Variations on a theme by Ken Blue.” Thankfully, Ken’s response to an early draft of the book was, “It is better than the original.”

Collaborative works, as this became, can sometimes be rather clumsy trying to balance the thoughts of two authors. As I have followed the general outline of Ken’s Freedom in Christ sermon series, I elected to write consistently in Ken’s voice (aside from this prologue and a short epilogue).  I have, therefore, used “I” rather than the shifting to the occasional “we,” taking the risk of sometimes putting words in Ken’s mouth. I have, however, attempted to identify who is speaking where it seemed necessary to do so.

While Ken and I come from different backgrounds and will disagree on various points of theology, we agree on the centrality of the Gospel to the whole of the Christian life and we are both passionate about this message. It causes me pain—and admittedly a fair amount of anger—to see people buried under religious burdens that they were never meant to carry. Some of the perpetrators of legalism are simply ignorant and possibly suffering under religious burdens themselves. Others are not so innocent, using religion as a means to control others. I have sympathy for the former, but not for the latter. Those who know me well can tell you that I have no tolerance whatsoever for legalism; whatever the motivation, the consequences are the same: abused, confused and damaged people, and a loss of the Gospel.

While this book contains a bit of theology, The Gospel Uncensored is primarily the retelling of stories. The main story is of a missionary writing to a young church that had been led astray and needed to better understand the Gospel. Within that story there are other stories: We read about a leader who failed but was set back on course, about the giving of laws to a very rebellious people, and about a promise God made to a man and his children. As we look at these stories, we discover that they are also stories about us, because things haven’t changed that much—at any point we can find ourselves in stories just like these. Paul’s words, we discover, are as pertinent today as they were in the first century.

It is my sincere hope that this book will bring freedom and peace to those who have struggled with legalism, that faith will be restored where it has been lost and new faith found where none existed.

Above all, be free. For it is truly for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Alden Swan
May, 2010

Copyright © 2010 Alden Swan, All rights reserved worldwide.