Thursday, May 27, 2010

social justice continues

I love giving and I love giving generously - but I don't love some of the reasons people use as Biblical support of social justice. Kevin DeYoung continues in his series on Social Justice and does a fine job of analyzing what God really is and is not calling for. In his latest post, DeYoung looks at Micah 6.8 and rightly concludes:

So what does Micah, and the Lord through him, mean by “doing justice”? He means we should not steal, bribe, or cheat. Conversely, we should, when we are in the position to do so, render fair and impartial judgments. And at all times in whatever calling, we should do good, not evil.

DeYoung's full post is here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

kicking and screaming

RC Sproul in Chosen By God:

Calvinism does not teach and never has taught that God bring people kicking and screaming into the kingdom or has ever excluded anyone who wanted to be there. Remember that the cardinal point of the Reformed doctrine of predestination rests on the biblical teaching of man's spiritual death. Natural man does not want Christ. He will only want Christ if God plants a desire for Christ in his heart. Once that desire is planted, those who come to Christ do not come kicking and screaming against their wills. They come because they want to come. They now desire Jesus. They rush to the Saviour. The whole point of irresistible grace is that rebirth quickens someone to spiritual life in such a way that Jesus is now seen in his irresistible sweetness. Jesus is irresistible to those who have been made alive to the things of God. Every soul whose heart beats with the life of God within it longs for the living Christ. All whom the Father gives to Christ come to Christ (John 6:37).

christian socialism

I am not supportive of the new US health-care program. I do not like many government programs. Yet I'm not against all programs. In fact, part of me is open to some form of government health-care, just not the one that recently became law. But this isn't about that. This is about Christians claiming government programs are Christian. That I do not understand.

I recently had a short dialog with a friend who concluded "benevolence is benevolence." I don't agree and I look forward to grabbing some time with him to further explore his thinking (and vice-versa). To me, what some call benevolence I call socialism (among other things). John Aman writes on this topic.

Friedrich Engels [on] collectivism's clash with Christianity, "...if some few passages of the Bible may be favourable to Communism, the general spirit of its doctrines is, nevertheless, totally opposed to it ...."

Despite Engels and Marx (who dismissed religion as the "opium of the people"), ... many ... still manage to see socialism in the Bible. They point to the early church which, at first glance, seems like a model socialist community. The New Testament reports that these first believers "had all things in common" (Acts 4:32) and "all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need" (Acts 4:34-35).

But unlike socialism, the sharing was voluntary, not coerced, and the money was given not to the state, but the church. As Southern Baptist leader Richard Land puts it ..., "It's one thing for you to give out of compassion to someone who's less fortunate. It's an entirely different thing for the government to confiscate your property and give it to someone else." ...

While the Bible asserts property rights and the rights of inheritance, socialism assaults them. Marx and Engels put the "abolition of property" first in a ten-step program for implementing communism. That's not exactly a Christian thing to do. The eighth commandment, "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15) applies every bit as much to the men and women who hold the reins of political power as it does to everyone else.

So does the 10th commandment, "You shall not covet" (Exodus 20:17). Coveting, or envy, is a powerful driver of socialism, which is in a perpetual snit that some people have more than others. So when President Obama castigates "Fats Cats" on Wall Street, decries "economic inequality," and warns, as he did in his 2009 budget statement that a "disproportionate share of the nation's wealth has been accumulated by the very wealthy," he stokes a destructive impulse that is condemned by Scripture.

Socialism also runs afoul of the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). Socialist governments seek to play God — to take His place as the ultimate sovereign. Consider the veneration that Russians once gave to the embalmed remains of Lenin and Stalin, the Nazi-prescribed prayer to Hitler ("Thy Reich [kingdom] comes, thy will alone is law upon the earth"), and the personality cult surrounding North Korea's "Dear Leader," Kim Jong-il.

The sixth commandment, "You shall not murder," is also widely ignored by Marxist regimes. Marx and Engels proclaimed that their aims could be "attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." Their disciples, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and other communist henchmen, killed 100-million people, a "tragedy of planetary dimensions," as the French publisher of The Black Book of Communism put it.

Barack Obama may say that the Bible tells him to be his brother's keeper (his youngest half-brother reportedly lived in a shack in Kenya on $1 a day at the time he said this), but he ought to go back and reread what God's Word actually says. Engels was right. Socialism has nothing in common with Scripture.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

come and see to come and die

One of the catch phrases I love from Vineyard history is "come as you are." Rick Warren recently posted Discipleship: moving from ‘come and see’ to ‘come and die’ which I find consistent with that timeless Vineyard value. Warren writes:

Not too long after John the Baptist baptized Jesus, he saw the Lord walking by and said to a couple of his disciples, “There goes the lamb of God. You need to follow him.”
Andrew and John started following Jesus and they asked, “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus answered — “Come and see.”

You can’t ask for an easier commitment than that -- just come and see.

That’s where you and I need to start in our churches as we offer an open door to the people throughout our communities. That’s what you tell people about your weekend service – Check us out. Come and see. Listen to our music. Hear the message. You don’t have to sing anything, sign anything, or say anything. No significant commitment required.

We offer an open door for people to “come and see,” one that is easy to understand and participate in.

But we can’t leave them there at that simple commitment level. Jesus didn’t. Over three-and-a-half years, Jesus required more and more of his disciples.

He kept turning up the heat by defining what it means to follow him. He said you are his disciple if you:

• Obey his word (John 8:31)
• Love each other (John 13:31)
• Bear much fruit (John 15:8)

Finally, Jesus told his disciples that they must carry their cross—in other words they must be willing to die—to be true disciples (Luke 14:27). Jesus moved his followers from “come and see” to “come and die.” That’s the discipleship process of Jesus. That’s what we need to do, too.

We must focus our efforts on this Jesus model -- moving people from “come and see” to “come and die.” If you do not have a structure for doing this -- if you do not have a deliberate plan for moving visitors toward a commitment to Jesus and then into deeper discipleship with Jesus – you’ll find a lot of people stalled at the “come and see” stage.

Jason Clark has written The scandal of invitation into The Church in an effort as part of his re-imagining Vineyard values series. In this he claims the phrase we held was, "Come as you are, but don't stay as you are." I didn't learn it that way. I grew up in the Vineyard in the midwest and we said, "Come as you are, you'll be loved." At least that's what our bumper stickers claimed. Either way, I think we valued and intended both. We wanted people to come experience God among us. We didn't expect people to get "cleaned up" first or to have all of their theology right or whatever. And certainly we wanted to be known as a people reflecting the supernatural love of God to all of His creation. And then of course we wanted to be a people that were true to holiness and righteousness. We knew that to obey was to show our love of God and to spur each other on toward righteousness was to show our love toward each other.

Clark writes regarding the word come:

Christians are called to invite others into a new story, and new imagination for life, and to physically, emotionally, economically, and psychologically explore, resource and inhabit that way of life with others. So many other communities capture our imaginations and make demands with regular involvement and practices. Football, dance, a choir, an orchestra, a motorbike club, basketball, chess or knitting community. All involve a way of life with others. And they demand commitments, obligations and orientations of our time, resources and our diaries with no apology. They involve learning the grammar, traditions, and practices of those communities, and require re-enactment and the performance of those things with others.

... I believe the Church is a centripetal movement, a confession of Christ that is a movement out of all and any other community. To enter into the Church is to make a final decision, for the ultimate community. A community that doesn’t remove us from our other communities, but orders all other allegiances. Of course that presupposes a view of the church that is more than just a self interest group, club and society.

So for our vineyard church community, that invitation is something we intend to keep extending to others, in the belief that within it is something far great than any club and society, and hobby. ‘Come’ is the invitation of the people of God to all the world to enter into the ordering of a way of life together that will continue into eternity. The future age has a social presence, a community under the authority of Jesus Christ, that we are to invite people into now.

Then in regard to as you are:

The idea of acceptance, that the heart of the Gospel is that God welcomes us where and how we are, needs no updating. Anyone, in any location, in any situation is to be given the invitation, and told they are welcome to take part in the future age with God’s people now.

And yes so often church has become a place of exclusion, people whose life location and orientation means they aren’t welcome and accepted. Also the rampant individualism of consumer society means we are so quick to read all and any invitation as an act of exclusion. The consumer self finds it’s strongest orientation in alienation, and the desire to seek signs of exclusion and offense. Put those together and no wonder we have problems.

The above needs more words to avoid being a problem (at least for me) but Clark redeems any misunderstanding one might have with above with the following on the second half of the expression, but don’t stay as you are:

And perhaps the most scandalous part of this value. The call to change and transformation in christ with others. Again we are trained into isolation in western liberal consumer society. ‘It’s my life and I’ll dam well do what I want with it’. Who is any one to tell me that I need to change?

The church should be the place to confess our sins, that we are broken, and in need of transformation, all of us. A community to practice accountability around our decisions, and life investments. A community that would hold a mirror up to us, and help us see ourselves in Jesus better.

It’s too easy to read ‘don’t stay as you are’ as something other than acceptance. The post-modern self that claims, ‘here I am, I can be no other’. Yet the gospel and the invitation into the Church as the public of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Jesus, is the call to become like Jesus, something other than what we can make of ourselves.

Reality TV, and celebrity seems to so often set the agenda for who and what we should be like. To become what people need us to be so we can then try and find out who we are, a cycle of endless self creation and promotion.

Christianity is the scandal and loving reminder to others that we are not free to be who we want to be. That we will only find out who we are in Jesus, and that no human has ever found the ends of the depths of identity in Him.

Friday, May 21, 2010

gospel v. religion

Here's a simple chart contrasting religion and gospel. This is from Justin Buzzard as taken from Tim Keller's Gospel in Life curriculum. Buzzard has made a pdf available here.


plodding is good

"What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency." ~ Kevin DeYoung


Thursday, May 20, 2010


In The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes (emphasis mine):

We should confront wrongdoers - to wake them up to their real character, to move them to repair their relationships, or to at least constrain them and protect others from being harmed by them in the future. Notice, however, that all those reasons for confrontation are reasons of love. The best way to love them and the potential victims around them is to confront them in the hope that they will repent, change, and make things right. The desire for vengeance, however, is motivated not by goodwill but by ill will. ...

Only if you first seek inner forgiveness will your confrontation be temperate, wise, and gracious. Only when you have lost the need to see the other person hurt will you have any chance of actually bringing about change, reconciliation, and healing. You have to submit to the costly suffering and death of forgiveness if there is going to be any resurrection.

I like that Keller points out that it is the "you" that must submit not first the person requiring the confrontation. Keller then quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer from The Cost of Discipleship.

"My brother’s burden which I must bear is not only his outward lot [and circumstance], … but quite literally his sin. And the only way to bear that sin is by forgiving it in the power of the cross of Christ in which [we] now share. Thus the call to follow Christ always means a call to share [in] the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear."

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the essence of sin

The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We…put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God…puts himself where we deserve to be. - John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p.160

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

death of sola

I do not think we are on the verge of the death of sola Scriptura nor should we be. I'd like to tease out the following written by a prolific emerg* voice.

The end of Sola Scriptura actually means that we are coming to terms with our limitations to get it right. It means we’re realizing that we have to listen to community, science, imagination, history AND the Bible to create a more robust picture. Because as broken human beings we sometimes get it wrong.

Aside from misunderstanding what sola Scriptura is, the author makes some errors is simple logic and himself demonstrates fallenness. The emerg* feels enlightened because he realizes that our ability to reason is somehow limited. Of course in an effort to be cutting edge and new, it is missed that this is an old concept - even a key tenant of the dreaded Calvinism, i.e., Total Depravity or better said, Radical Depravity. Even our minds are affected by the fall. We didn't need the emerg* to teach us that. With that said, rather than turn more toward Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit, the emerg* author turns us toward "community, science, imagination, history" as equal. This is only possible in the emerg* mind because of the failure to understand the real problem with man, that is, sin. So it's interesting on one hand the emerg* sees a problem with our limited minds but on the other hand sees the answer in sources that do not deal with sin. In addition, if our mind is unable to see and conclude clearly, what is it that "community, science, imagination, history" has to offer that Scripture does not? How will we be better informed by considering these? The bottom line is that emerg* thinking itself exemplifies the problem of fallen man. They reason their way away from the God of the Bible.

Where does some of this errant thinking come from? It has recently been popularized by Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence. A different emerg* author writes proudly of her book:

The erosion of the authority of sola scriptura will have been in 4 stages: the end of slavery as a biblically justified practice, the acknowledgement of the reality of divorce and that those who suffer it might find total restitution in the eyes of God, the ascendancy of woman to ministry, and finally (and as yet incomplete), an acceptance of homosexuals into the Church. Added to this she includes the Pentecostal and Charismatic renewals (the Vineyard movement getting special mention) in which the Holy Spirit played an increased role in questions of Authority.

Speaking of muddled thinking! This paragraph makes no sense, it mixes apples with oranges with chairs ... and, because something (i.e., slavery) was wrongly defended using Scripture (and by the way, many were also against slavery because of Scripture) doesn't make everything one wants to list ok. On the contrary, this paragraph reads as the sad story of God giving one over to a depraved mind (Rom 1.18ff).

It also saddens me to see the tradition I'm proud to be as part of (The Vineyard) as misconstrued to involved in this fallen thinking. To set the record straight, we do not equate revelation by the Holy Spirit to individuals to be authoritative as Scripture is. Scripture are all the words of God that He has given for the entire human race and as such are sola Scriptura, i.e., our final authority.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the atonement of jesus christ

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

All the symbols, doctrine and examples of atonement in the Old Testament among the Hebrews find their counterpart, fulfillment and complete explanation in the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 12:24). By interpreting the inner spirit of the sacrificial system, by insisting on the unity and holiness of God, by passionate pleas for purity in the people, and especially by teaching the principle of vicarious suffering for sin, the Prophets laid the foundation in thought-forms and in religious atmosphere for such a doctrine of atonement as is presented in the life and teaching of Jesus and as is unfolded in the teaching of His apostles.

The personal, parabolic sufferings of Hosea, the remarkable elaboration of the redemption of spiritual Israel through a Suffering Servant of Yahweh and the extension of that redemption to all mankind as presented in Isaiah 40 through 66, and the same element in such psalms as Psalm 22, constitute a key to the understanding of the work of the Christ that unifies the entire revelation of God’s righteousness in passing over human sins (Romans 3:24 f). Yet it is remarkable that such a conception of the way of atonement was as far as possible from the general and average Jewish mind when Jesus came. In no sense can the New Testament doctrine of the Atonement be said to be the product of the thought and spirit of the times.

However much theologians may disagree as to the rationale of the Atonement, there is, as there can be, no question that Jesus and all His interpreters in the New Testament represent the Atonement between God and men as somehow accomplished through Jesus Christ. It is also an agreed fact in exegesis that Jesus and His apostles understood His death to be radically connected with this Atonement.

1. Jesus Himself teaches that He has come to reveal the Father (John 14:9), to recover the lost (Luke 19:10), to give life to men (John 6:33; 10:10), to disclose and establish the kingdom of heaven (or of God), gathering a few faithful followers through whom His work will be perpetuated (John 17:2 ff; Matthew 16:13 ff); that salvation, personal and social, is dependent upon His person (John 6:53 ff; 14:6). He cannot give full teaching concerning His death but He does clearly connect His sufferings with the salvation He seeks to give. He shows in Luke 4:16 ff and 22:37 that He understands Isaiah 52 through 53 as realized in Himself; He is giving Himself (and His blood) a ransom for men (Matthew 20:28; 26:26 ff; compare 1 Corinthians 11:23 ff). He was not a mere martyr but gave Himself up willingly, and voluntarily (John 10:17 f; Galatians 2:20), in accordance with the purpose of God (Acts 2:23), as the Redeemer of the world, and expected that by His lifting up all men would be drawn to Him (John 12:31-33). It is possible to explain the attention which the Evangelists give to the death of Jesus only by supposing that they are reflecting the importance which they recall Jesus Himself to have attached to His death.

2. All the New Testament writers agree in making Jesus the center of their idea of the way of salvation and that His death is an essential element in His saving power. This they do by combining Old Testament teaching with the facts of the life and death of the Lord, confirming their conclusion by appeal to the Resurrection. Paul represents himself as holding the common doctrine of Christianity at the time, and from the beginning, when in 1 Corinthians 15:3 f he sums up his teaching that salvation is secured through the death and re surrection of Jesus according to the Scriptures. Elsewhere (Ephesians 2:16, 18; 1 Timothy 2:5; compare Acts 4:12) in all his writings he emphasizes his belief that Jesus Christ is the one Mediator between God and man, by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:2), removing the sin barrier between God and men. Peter, during the life of Jesus so full of the current Jewish notion that God accepted the Jews de facto, in his later ministry makes Jesus in His death the one way to God (Acts 4:12; 1 Peter 1:2, 18, 19; 2:21, 24; 3:18).

John has this element so prominent in his Gospel that radical critical opinion questions its authorship partly on that account, while the epistles of John and the Revelation are, on the same ground, attributed to later Greek thought (compare 1 John 1:7; 2:2; 3:5; 4:10; Revelation 1:5; 5:9). The Epistle to the Hebrews finds in Jesus the fulfillment and extension of all the sacrificial system of Judaism and holds that the shedding of blood seems essential to the very idea of remission of sins (9:22; compare 2:17; 7:26 f; 9:24-28).

what shape to be saved

Often when I read NakePastor's cartoons I'm often left (1) unsure what his perspective is and (2) thinking. I suppose the former is not bad and the latter can be good. Today's offering was no exception.


From the perspective of the person trying to enter "heaven", they can often feel as though they are the wrong shape and can't get in. This feeling doesn't always come from external sources. Our fallen nature desires to keep us bound in guilt and a sense of unworthiness. On the other hand, from the perspective of those believing they have already entered, there may be some notion that all have to match their shape to get in. These create artificial barriers and become like the Pharisees.

So my take on the image is that inappropriate barriers are created on both sides of this issue. On the other hand, there are many today who would like to say that no shape at all is required - these would be wrong. Kevin DeYoung wrote a post today also on Confidence or Condemnation in which he explores signs that we can look for as assurance of salvation.

The first sign is theological. You should have confidence if you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God (5:11-13). John doesn’t want people to be doubting. God wants you to have assurance, to know that you have eternal life. And this is the first sign, that you believe in Jesus. You believe he is the Christ or the Messiah (2:22). You believe he is the Son of God (5:10). And you believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (4:2). So if you get your theology wrong about Jesus you will not have eternal life. But one of the signs that should give you confidence before God is that you believe in his only Son Jesus Christ our Lord (4:14-16; 5:1, 5).

The second sign is moral. You should have confidence if you live a righteous life (3:6-9). Those who practice wickedness, who plunge headlong into sin, who not only stumble, but habitually walk in wickedness–should not be confident. This is no different than what Paul tells us in Romans 6 that we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness and in Galatians 5 that those who walk in the flesh will not inherit the kingdom. This is no different than what Jesus tells us in John 15 that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. So if you live a morally righteous life you should have confidence (3:24). And lest this standard make you despair, keep in mind that part of living a righteous life is refusing to claim that you live without sin and coming to Christ for cleansing when you do sin (1:9-10).

The third sign is social. You should have confidence if you love other Christians (3:14). If you hate like Cain you do not have life. But if your heart and your wallet are open to your brothers and sisters eternal life abides in you. One necessary sign of true spiritual life is that we love one another (4:7-12, 21).

These are John’s three signposts to assure us that we are on the road that leads to eternal life: we believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God; we live a righteous life; and we love other Christians. Or we can put it this way: we know we have eternal life if we love Jesus, we love his commands, and we love his people. No one of the three is optional. All must be present for our assurance (see 2:4, 6; 4:20; 5:2). John belabors the same points again and again. Do you love God? Do you love his commands? Do you love his people? If you don’t, it’s a sign you have death. If you do, it’s sign that you have life. And that means confidence instead of condemnation.

So the bottom-line, it is not so much that a shape is needed, but one certainly results and that can be evaluated and used to build confidence.

small groups leaders are not ...

Sam O'Neal lists 4 things a small-group leader is not:
  • A teacher. We all understand that small-group leaders should not be lecturers who monopolize the group's time by spewing out facts and opinions. But I use the wordteacher here intentionally in order to highlight an important misconception: many group leaders believe that the focus of their group's study time should be the transfer of information. They feel that a study is successful if their group members have learned something. But that is not the case, as we will see later in the article.
  • Just another group member. This is the opposite of the "group leader as professor" approach, but it's just as harmful. Many churches like to teach that their group leaders are no different than group members because they want to communicate that group members are just as important and valuable as group leaders—which is true. But being equal in terms of worth and value does not mean that people have to adopt the same roles and functions. The reality is that a small group with no leader will rarely move forward.
  • A host. This has become a popular re-definition of what it means to be a small-group leader in recent years, primarily due to the influence of video curriculum. The idea is that a person or couple can host a small group in their home, pop in a DVD, and let a "professional" handle the task of leading the group into meaningful experiences with truth. But there is one major flaw inherent in this method of "leading" a small group: a DVD cannot respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit. What happens when a group members is convicted of sin during the discussion and begins weeping? Who calls the group to prayer when group members confess to being in danger of losing their house or their marriage? These situations require a leader who can take control and help the group follow the Spirit.
  • A facilitator. Many churches want their group leaders to think of themselves as facilitators, rather than leaders. This is done to combat the "small-group leader as professor" problem referred to earlier, but it creates several problems of its own. Just as viewing group leaders primarily as teachers elevates learning over transformation, viewing them as facilitators elevates discussion over transformation. A study session is deemed successful if the group had a good conversation and a high level of participation, rather than basing the criteria for success on interaction with the Holy Spirit and seeing lives changed.
O'Neal concludes, "I'm not saying that small-group leaders should not demonstrate these qualities. Quite the opposite—group leaders should be able to facilitate discussion, host a gathering, and teach when necessary. But I think that churches go wrong when they make any of these skills the primary focus of a group leader's role."


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

naturally supernatural

On being naturally supernatural, Steve Hamilton posts the following description of "brokenness, brokenness, brokenness" by Dr. Terry Wardle:
  • congenital brokenness (from the fall);
  • communal brokenness (we are wounded and broken and we all go about wounding others and breaking others – Al-Anon has a saying resonating with this: “Hurt people hurt people.”);
  • but the third one is sacramental brokenness: we minister healing from a posture and place of humility and weakness as Christ lives and heals and moves through us via His Spirit.
Hamilton sums up with the following:

This keeps me humble, and I think it seems to position all of us in a mutually transforming posture. It is not I who live, but Christ lives through me. It also seems to me that in a culture of self-promotion humility becomes a primary spiritual discipline and a naturally supernatural lifestyle of following Jesus while embracing all that it entails becomes utterly counter-cultural. ... Thus, in this way, I think our distinctive of ‘naturally supernatural’ can be embraced as non-hyped but significantly life-changing via Christ Jesus with unlimited possibility and hope as we humbly submit and surrender to His Reign impacting us, moving through and on to others. We’re merely broken vessels that leak, and in seizing the authenticity inherent in brokenness, and acting on the wisdom of AA – that ‘alcoholics need other alcoholics’, i.e., the broken need others who are broken - we need to always endeavour to be mature, humble ‘pray-ers’ and as those receiving ministry to give good feedback and communication so that we move together in mutuality. In this mutuality, we give ourselves over to Jesus to move and have His Being in and through us, trusting that the subsequent transparency and humility will affect mutual transformation and mysteriously – as Colossians 1:24 hints at – bring the sorrows and sufferings of Christ to wholeness.

I love it!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

leaky canon - not

Has God's revelation stopped? I think not - and I like how Wayne Grudem articulates that. Here is Wayne Grudem responding to Adrian Warnock's question on that topic.

Wayne Grudem on whether God's revelation has really stopped or not from Adrian Warnock on Vimeo.

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theology without a comma

I've been involved in the Vineyard since the late '80s. I am very thankful for the wonderful training and experiences this community has provided me over the years. Today I read a post, The Grammar of Equipping, by Steve Burnhope and it brought back some good memories. Burnhope's post was on Ephesians 4.11-14. Some versions have a comma in the middle of verse 12.

The KJV renders verse 12, "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

I'm no Greek scholar but us Vineyard types prefer other translations here. The ESV for example reads, "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ," the NIV has, "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" and the NKJV reads, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ".

Dropping that little comma changes the who is doing the work of the ministry. Without the comma, it's not necessarily the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers - it's God's people themselves. And it provides a special why. That is, these people are prepared so that they can do ministry and in them doing ministry the body of Christ is built up.

Bottom line, if you're a Vineyard guy (whatever that is), you don't like the comma.

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substitutionary atonement

4158Uwznr8L. Bo2,204,203,200 Pisitb-Sticker-Arrow-Click,Topright,35,-76 Aa300 Sh20 Ou01 "The substitutionary atonement is the heart of the gospel, and it is so because it gives the answer to the problem of guilt, bondage and alienation from God. The earlier this answer can be spelled out in the process of evangelism and nurture, the better. Persons come to Christ initially for a variety of reasons, some of which are eccentric to their principal need for redemption: loneliness, a sense of meaninglessness in the godless life, suffering, fear and so on. Only those are lastingly converted, however, whose eventual motivation is to turn from their sin to God and receive the answer to sin in the work of Jesus Christ: “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.” (Jn. 3:20-21). Spiritual life results from fellowship with God. But walking in light is essential to fellowship with the Father and the Son. Believers who are truly established in Christ have experienced the shattering of their spheres of of ignorance and darkness by a growing understanding of the nature of God, their sin and God’s provision of grace in Jesus Christ. This darkness can only be destroyed by the presentation of the preconditions of renewal and by the proclamation of the heart of the gospel in depth." ~ Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, quoted by Kevin DeYoung

Friday, May 14, 2010

grace is a threat

"Grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose." ~ Tim Keller, The Reason For God

On a related note, John Piper, in Reason #30 Why Jesus Came to Die:

But there is another sense in which we die precisely because Christ died in our place and for our sins. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die . . .” (1 Peter 2:24). He died that we might live; and he died that we might die. When Christ died, I, as a believer in Christ, died with him. The Bible is clear: “We have been united with him in a death like his” (Romans 6:5). “One has died for all, therefore all have died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

spiritual pride

Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God." ~ Jonathan Edwards as quoted in this post by Ray Ortlund.

walk with a limp

Years ago we would often say never trust a man who didn't walk with a limp. Steve Burnhope does a nice job unpacking the intended meaning of that. A leader who limps of course is a reference to Jacob's wrestling in Genesis 32.23-32. Burnhope concludes this is about "leaders whose character has been changed, who have utterly surrendered to God, letting go of self-reliance as their primary resource, and repenting of all scheming and manipulation in the work of the Kingdom." Burnhope continues:

It might be said that overall, scripture has far more to say about people’s character than their gifting. In the wilderness temptations of Jesus, one might say that the issues and choices he faced were to do with character (this would be unsurprising, given his humanity, and it is perhaps no coincidence that the story appears at the outset of his ministry).

This, then, is the message of Jacob and his wrestling with the angel of God, and it is a wrestling that each of us must go through, if we wish to contribute to God’s mission in God’s ways. The battleground is personal character. It is not a fight that God can win, though, not a victory he can impose on us, however long the fight goes on; it can only happen through our willing surrender.

Jason Clark adds how we might spot these limps.

1. Doubts: Leaders don’t have all the answers, and don’t act like they do. Leaders are learners, and learning takes questions and doubts.

2. Apologising: Man is this the rarest of limps. Leaders get so caught up in mission and their identity in that. In the face of mistakes they are unable to acknowledge those and apologise.

And more importantly they are unable to call some mistakes what they are, sin. I don’t mean just the obvious ones, of blowing your top, and bad decisions. I mean the more invidious issues of character.

3. Brokeness: How on earth did we equate leadership with success? A short read of the New Testament should reveal that even Paul was quick to place his brokeness before Jesus and need of others, front and centre. Those who inspire me the most live a life where their weaknesses are on their sleeves, and the need for Jesus close to their actions and life story.

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stoner on emergent

In spite of the risk I go overboard with Tim Stoner, I want to post part of an interesting interview I found between him and Travin Wax. I find it interesting since the interview is from 2008 and the problematic trajectory of the emergent church spotted then continues to prove true.

Timothy Stoner: “A God who Smokes” [in reference to his book by that title] speaks to me of both aspects of the character of God the Consuming Fire: His holy, passionate love and His anger. As the Psalmist says: "Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and mercy go before you." The column of smoke was grace in the wilderness—shade and direction. The smoke on Mt. Sinai was a mercy that protected the Israelites from the blinding brilliance of God’s glory.

We are told that when God is angry, fire comes from His mouth and smoke rises from His nostrils (Ps. 18:8) while Isaiah tells us that “The Name of the Lord comes from afar with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke.” Smoke in the book thus represents God’s goodness and severity.

Trevin Wax: You write about being “Emergent” before it was cool, but now that Emergent is cool, you no longer consider yourself “Emergent.” What aspects of the Emerging Church do you appreciate?

Timothy Stoner: I appreciate Emergent’s critique of a tendency within certain streams of fundamentalism and evangelicalism toward a divisive, narrow intolerance of those it considers enemies, and a mean-spirited, fear-based rejection of culture which it considers synonymous with “the world”.

I affirm its emphasis on wholistic and integral mission and its priority for justice and mercy.

I also believe its call to affirm the goodness of the creation, the value of listening to and respecting those who hold divergent opinions to be a very healthy and helpful corrective.

Trevin Wax: So why would you distance yourself from the movement today?

Timothy Stoner: I disagree with its equating authority with oppression, eliminating the element of wrath from God’s character, deconstructing the gospel so that it centers around politics (Jesus died to subvert a cruel, violent oppressive system) and ethics (the purpose of the cross was to give us an example to follow) rather than being essentially about man’s sin, God’s mercy, justice and glory in paying for man’s redemption and appeasing His wrath that rebels might be forgiven and restored. I also find no biblical warrant for its denial of an eternal hell for unrepentant sinners who persistently reject God’s love in Christ.

Most troubling is its universalist trajectory which denies the exclusivity of faith in Jesus and provides a back door to salvation for the sincere who do good. This is, of course, an utter denial of the necessity of the Cross.

Since my book is intended to provoke a dialogue about this theological movement, let me add the following critique which I think is quite ironic. Whereas Emergent promotes the virtues of tolerance and a generous inclusivity as its highest virtues, it seems to me to be surprisingly reactionary and polarizing. It majors in creating false antinomies: forcing choices between supposedly mutual exclusives. In other words, it is as divisive as the tradition it is most repelled by.

Trevin Wax: Can you give us some examples of these false choices?

Timothy Stoner: First off, there are the Emerging Church’s false antinomies (driving a wedge between concepts that only appear to be opposites):

1. The Gospel is about a person, not a message.
2. The Gospel is an event to be proclaimed, not a doctrine to be professed.
3. The message and its interpretation is fluid, not static and solid.
4. The Gospel is about behavior, not belief.
5. The Gospel is primal/elemental (ancient), not European/sacramental (antiquated).
6. The Bible is a human book, not an utterly unique, divinely inspired revelation from God.
7. The church is for the lost, not the found.
8. Life is about searching (pioneer), not finding (settler).
9. Evangelism is about saving the world, not individual souls.
10. The Bible is about stories (indicatives that describe), not prescriptions (imperatives that prescribe).
11. God cares about the boardroom, not the bedroom.
12. Jesus came to set an example, not appease the wrath of God.
13. God is a God of love, not judgment (because He loves He does not hate).
14. Those who teach or believe other “stories” need to be respected, not converted.
15. We are to love the “world”, not hate it.
16. Our posture toward culture is to affirm it, not critique it.

But then, as if to counter its imbalance, it careens off track by over-compensating, for it brings together things that are not the same.

Its false synonyms (equating concepts that only appear to be similar):

1. Anger with abuse.
2. Authority with authoritarian.
3. Confidence with smug.
4. Fundamentals with fundamentalism.
5. Judgment with judgmentalism.
6. Correction with criticism
7. Power with oppression.
8. Fervor with fanaticism.
9. Militancy with militarism.
10. Uncertainty (ambiguity, doubt) with humility.

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but not completely

Recent posts here have been about confronting error so to provide some balance, I referenced a great reminder from Michael Patton that we are no Apostle Pauls. Lest my friends become confused, I now post this one from the vaults of Tim Stoner reminding us that while we may no be Paul, we are also not completely unlike him. I Stoner's post, he compares and contrasts Paul of Mars Hill with Rob Bell of Mars Hill.

Stoner writes ...

Paul, when he shares the Gospel with pagans on Mars Hill, appropriates what is good in the Athenian belief system. He is not a committed cultural evacuator. He does not jettison all of paganism as evil. Nor does he contend that they must burn down the temples, the scrolls, the ancient writings, nor stop dancing, or enjoying the plays, or the feasts. He does not fulminate against what is truly good in culture for he recognizes that there is much truth embedded in it. So he affirms what he can. This is where Rob Bell and Paul can properly be compared, but, it is easy to miss this: Paul draws close strategically, so he can use the rhetorical stiletto with greatest effect. Rob, on the other hand, never draws the knife (or the sword, to use Jesus’ metaphor—Mt. 10:34). He is convinced it is an instrument of violence and oppression and has been “subverted” or done away with by Jesus.

Before I let Stoner continue, please don't misunderstand, I'm not a Rob Bell hater. He's said some good stuff. But mostly he says pointless stuff and even some erroneous stuff. The guy is a thought provoker but not a Bible teacher and personally, not a model for faithful communication. Back to Stoner ...

What distinguishes Paul’s and Rob’s use of culture as a starting point is that while Paul may choose to begin there, he does not end there. He affirms the good while boldly, and unapologetically (and, perhaps even more significantly, clearly) correcting the wrong. Nobody ever could leave a Pauline lecture wondering whether there were several other viable paths to the Father than by believing in, submitting to, and purposefully dedicating your life to Jesus as exclusive Lord and Christ. Paul is not embarrassed by exclusive, intolerant, absolutist claims. Were he at the Mars Hill today (in Greece or Grand Rapids), while he might start with cultural irony, ambiguity, mystery and inclusion he would do much more than mildly and diplomatically disagree. He would eventually shatter each one of those rhetorical and philosophical positions and postures. Before Paul begins his speech it is instructive to note his state of mind. Luke tells us that “the apostle’s whole soul was revolted” (paroxyno–Acts 17:16, JB). This intense provocation was due to the countless idols that dominate the city.

While Paul did appreciate elements of Athenian culture, this approval is overwhelmed by an internal paroxysm of dismay (in I Cor 13:5 paroxyno is translated as “angered”). So, the speaker who is taking the Mars Hill podium does not come to applaud or stroke the egos of these residents living in the epicenter of Greek culture. No, this man is in great emotional turmoil—probably even a little angry—at the city’s obsessive and ultimately sef-destructive idolatry.

For more on Paul's attitude here, see John Stott's The Message of Acts in which he writes, "So the pain or `paroxysm' which Paul felt for Athens was due  neither to bad temper, not to pity for the Athenians' ignorance, nor even to fear for their eternal salvation. It was due rather to his abhorrence of idolatry, which aroused within him deep stirrings of jealousy for the Name of God, as he saw human beings so depraved as to be giving idols the honour and glory which were due to the one, living and true God alone. `His whole soul was revolted at the sight of a city given over to idolatry' (JB)." Stoner continues ...

In Athens Paul recites the valid insights of their philosophers, speaks affirmatively of their spiritual hunger (“I see that in every way you are very religious”). He moves toward them by stressing that God gives life to everyone and is not far from anyone. (17:27). He also lowers their defenses by distancing himself from the elitism and religious exclusivism of his own culture (“God does not dwell in hand-made temples”—such as in Jerusalem). The apostle is seeking common ground with his audience by affirming their culture while also admitting where he finds weaknesses in his own.

Paul is aware that he is speaking to an overly-educated, rhetorically proficient gathering of polytheists. This is not the monthly meeting of militant Ivy League atheists. These are avowed theists who believe not in one God but many—perhaps thousands. And these are deities made with human hands out of solid materials and live in temples. So, we should not miss that when Paul distances himself from the Jews who believe God lives in the Jerusalem Temple, he is also rejecting the truth as the Athenians already understood it as well.

The apostle to the gentiles goes further. He unapologetically repudiates their belief system by declaring that their “unknown god” is the God who made every single thing in all of creation. This Supreme Being is the One who controls all of reality, weather, crops, child bearing, health, prosperity, sexual virility and death—everything their multiplicity of gods were supposed to have jurisdiction over. Further, this God (unlike theirs) does not need his acolytes to bring him food or money to appease His voracious appetite (17:24-26). Nor can this God be seen or touched. He is not crafted from matter, gilded with precious metal and affixed to marble bases (17:29).

What Paul is saying, gently but firmly, is that their polytheism is erroneous. There is one God who is sovereign over all for He is creator and sustainer of all that exists. Therefore, the Athenian devotion to a multiplicity of capricious gods with competing claims and demands is completely misplaced. Having entirely debunked their polytheistic system he then explains that the patience of this God above all gods has run out. Whereas in the past He overlooked this ignorant foolishness, He is now issuing an absolute demand on all people to change their wrong thinking– “repent” (17:29-31). The strong incentive Paul gives to repentance and complete surrender is this warning: “He has fixed a day in which all will be judged” (17:31). And the One who will sit in judgment is the man whom God raised from the dead, and the criterion of judgment will be perfect and implacable rectitude. The implication is that nobody is going to be acquitted when they must account for themselves in light of that daunting standard. It is not surprising that at that point the philosophers got upset and started launching ad homonyms.

There are those who make much of Paul’s failure to threaten the Athenians with “eternal hell.” They conclude that his evangelistic message (unlike those of conservatives today) avoided the topic. I think this conclusion misplaced since the absence of those words were quite probably unintentional, since Paul’s warning was drowned out, mid-sentence, by mocking laughter which prevented him from drawing his speech to a close. To conclude based on that omission that there was no place for Hell in Paul’s message to pagans (and imply that there should not be in ours) is mistaken. It can only be supported by dismissing clear texts where Paul does finish his thought and is explicit about the relationship between disobedient pagans and eternal torment.

To the Romans he warns unrepentant Gentiles and Jews: “you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath when His righteous judgment will be revealed. . . there will be wrath and anger. . . for every human being who does evil” (Rom. 2:5,9). Likewise, to the Thessalonians, Paul expresses his belief that Jesus will return in flaming fire to take vengeance on those who do not know God. “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” (II Th. 1:7-9).So, whatever the reason for the silence about Hell in Athens it was not due to Paul’s uncertainty about the final destination of rebel pagans.

Paul’s message at Mars Hill was essentially this: there is only one God, and God calls everyone to repent of their error in worshiping empty idols. Those who don’t repent will be judged by a man resurrected by God. Rob and other current teachers assert that the good news does not polarize. To the contrary, exclusive and corrective language is always divisive, regardless of the motive and delivery. That is the nature of language and human nature.The truth is, it stirred controversy at the Aeropagus as well. Some sneered, others wanted to discuss things later and others believed (Act 17:32-34). The same message resulted in a “great disturbance” in Ephesus. (Acts 19:23). This is not a surprise since at the beginning of his ministry Jesus warned Paul that the schism he would cause would be extreme (Acts 26:17). In this Paul was only following the example of His Master who declared that he came to bring not peace, “but division” (Lk. 12:51).

In his final summation to Agrippa, a Gentile king, Paul explains to him what motivated his speech at Mars Hill and all the other speeches as well. He says that Christ sent him to Jew and Gentile with explicit instructions to “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18).

When Paul set foot in Athens this apostolic imperative was not set aside. Far from believing that Athens did not need to be converted, he was heartsick at its rampant idolatry and at the sexual perversion that inevitably accompanied it. As he stood on Mars Hill the evangelistic strategy he summarized before Agrippa remained intact: to see as many Gentiles as possible freed from the power of Satan’s lies by which they were blinded and held captive.

Nowhere is the divergence between Paul and Rob more evident than in their motivation and conclusion. For Rob the task of the evangelist is to convince the audience to “accept the reality that you are forgiven.” However, nowhere in the New Testament is the Gospel presented as indiscriminate pronouncement of universal absolution. That is what universalists believe, but it is not what Jesus, or the apostles, or the early church fathers and mothers believed. It is certainly not what Paul did either.

Early in his apostolic mission Paul insists that only through Jesus is forgiveness of sins proclaimed. But, he is very careful to qualify the good news. This is not a pronouncement of a universal forgiveness, for only the one “who believes is justified” (Acts 13:38-39). Later Paul summarizes his exclusive evangelistic message to a pagan in ten words: “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (16:17). Thus, no belief, no salvation.

In the most extensive theological treatise in the Bible Paul declares that the righteousness God imparts comes “through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). He then states that God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement “through faith in His blood . . . so that God could be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:25-26). Those who are justified by faith in the blood of Jesus are saved from the wrath of God (Rom 5:9). Paul describes those who have not been saved through faith–the “disobedient” as those who “by nature are objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

The good news for Paul is not “you have been forgiven by Christ” but, “Christ has offered Himself as a sacrifice for your sin, come to Him in faith, repent of your sin and you will be forgiven.” Forgiveness is conditioned on faith. This is the same message that Jesus proclaimed: “God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). It is this vision and conviction of the Gospel as a matter of life and death that is absent in Rob’s speech. I think this is why he can engage with culture without exposing, correcting and rejecting its messianic lies.

Bottom line - we needs Pauls not Robs.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

on knapp and sin

I love this quote ...

"The problem is not that Jennifer Knapp struggles with a sin most of do not struggle with. The problem is that she stopped struggling with it and started defending it." ~ Dave Miller

ruined in two ways

In Why Jesus Came to Die, John Piper writes (emphasis mine):

Our sin ruins us in two ways. It makes us guilty before God, so that we are under his just condemnation; and it makes us ugly in our behavior, so that we disfigure the image of God we were meant to display. It damns us with guilt, and it enslaves us to lovelessness.

The blood of Jesus frees us from both miseries. It satisfies God’s righteousness so that our sins can be justly forgiven. And it defeats the power of sin to make us slaves to lovelessness.

He writes that Jesus is more than a powerful example and one who inspires us to free ourselves from selfishness. While he is certainly that, He is even more.

Sin is such a powerful influence in our lives that we must be liberated by God’s power, not by our willpower. But since we are sinners we must ask, is the power of God directed toward our liberation or our condemnation? That’s where the suffering of Christ comes in. When Christ died to remove our condemnation, he opened, as it were, the valve of heaven’s mighty mercy to flow on behalf of our liberation from the power of sin.

In other words, rescue from the guilt of sin and the wrath of God had to precede rescue from the power of sin by the mercy of God.

This is the distinction between justification and sanctification. The former precedes and secures the latter. The former is "an instantaneous declaration" while the latter is "an on-going transformation".

This is why the Bible can make the amazing promise: “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Being “under grace” secures the omnipotent power of God to destroy our lovelessness (not all at once, but progressively). We are not passive in the defeat of our selfishness, but neither do we provide the decisive power. It is God’s grace.

confronting like paul

I've been writing a lot lately about the need to confront sin. It seems to me that too many today are hiding behind the wheat and the tares parable and Jesus' admonition to not judge. At the same time, I should add that we can err in the opposite direction and this post from Michael Patton serves as a timely reminder to that end. For those of us that think we can/should confront just like Paul, wrong.

First, Paul was an apostle who carried the authority of an apostle. Being such, he had both divine authority and the divine ability to speak to a situation with infallible guidance. This is something that most of us we cannot claim. Can we?

Second, Paul primarily only spoke in such a way to those who were under his authority. He was their leader and had the right and obligation as their leader to engage them in a candid way. He was their pastor. Pastor’s can and sometimes should speak in such a manner to their flock.

Third, like Christ, Paul did not always engage people in such a way. In fact, he encouraged his people to be gracious, humble, and respectful in all their dealing with those with whom there is disagreement. In 1 Thess 2:7 he describes his own ministry as one of gentleness, comparing it to a mother caring for her children.

sexual sin

First Thessalonians 4 begins with the following:

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

I think of those I read who continue (1) to hold to an incorrect understanding of not judging others and (2) in an effort to avoid sounding "holier than thou" and/or to be empathetic makes statements such as, "I don't even know what normal is". Scripture is clear in both regard. We must stand for right and we must abstain from impurity - and this can be done in love (1 Thess 5.13-24).

Paul is not unclear, we are to keep away from those walking in idleness or breaking from the tradition received through the Word (2 Thess 3.6, 13-15). We must teach and urge truth and not give in to the depravity of this age (1 Tim 6.3-4, 11-16, 20-21).

John Freeman wrote this wise words:

Homosexuality has embraced our culture and our culture has embraced homosexuality. It’s part of the fallen nature of things, and fallen man has always been an expert at creating ingenuous ways to celebrate his brokenness.

Homosexuality is one of those topics that draws vibrant reactions. Complex issues of the heart usually do. Christians are in a sort of no-man’sland here. Suggesting that homosexuality is sinful can appear, to the world, as uneducated, rude, and stupid. On the other hand, suggesting that God loves and forgives sinners who struggle with homosexuality and that we should do the same may appear compromising and wishy-washy.

While we can oppose the advancement of this movement by vocalizing our concerns and participating in the political process, for the Christian a far deeper response to homosexuality and the gay community is needed. In such a heated debate, Christians have a responsibility to represent Christ to a fallen world in four ways.

Patiently Listen: “Let every person be quick to hear” (James 1:19). I don’t mean just to look for loopholes or a chance to criticize or find fault. We must listen so as to get to or gain the “heart thrust” of what a person is saying. This is hard work and an art — a skill to be learned. It’s not natural. It takes practice. Listen to what moves other people. Listen for where their passions lie, what they value, what their experience has been (especially with other Christians), and what they fear.
The more you understand a person’s point of view, the more you can profit from it. Why do they think that way? What events led up to their adopting that worldview? What’s been their experience of Christianity — of other Christians or the church? What wounds from their family of origin and from other people lie festering in the background? As adults, we’re usually a composite of all this.

Personally Repent: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans? … No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1–5). Only a redeemed sinner, knowing he stands condemned apart from Christ, can reach a sinner who doesn’t know he needs redeeming. What’s your motivation? Is it to reach lost people with the enduring love that has found you out — that has exposed you as a cut-throat and depraved sinner? Is it your own awareness that, at heart, you’re a sham, misfit, counterfeit, and phony? Or is it to make a nice, neat little package of this messy aspect of life? Are you concerned about making a complex world seem simple? Where are you walking in hypocrisy? Do you really care about homosexuals — or only want them to shut up and disappear? Luke 7:47 says that “he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Gently Instruct: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone … correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:22–25). Is the Holy Spirit instructing us as we seek to instruct others? Do we pray for Christlikeness as we seek to correct others? Are our unloving and impatient hearts a hindrance to the gospel message? It should always be the truths of Scripture, not our demeanor or presentation of it, that people reject.

Talking to those who are blind to the reality of their hearts but who live in a world that applauds their sin is both a privilege and a challenge. They are victims of their own sin and the lies and sin of others; therefore, they’re caught. But they’re also accountable before a holy God. We must represent both aspects of the truth as we share Christ.

Mercifully Pursue and Then Engage the Heart: “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22–23). God calls us to be neither reclusive nor rude, but to move boldly into confusing, high-stakes situations with the gospel of God’s mercy. We bring the gospel where it is most needed: to the vocally anti-Christian progay activist; to the mild-mannered clergy who says the love of Jesus means affirming homosexuality as God’s gift; to the quietly confused and scared teenager who fears he’s gay and there’s no other option. Showing mercy means practically caring for people. It means being patiently and persistently available to help those who live in a fallen world.

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expressing, restoring and maintaining

We assumed a unity of God and man that was breached. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on the means for expressing, restoring and maintaining unity (be patient, we will get to the atonement of Jesus Christ).

Numerous and various means were employed for expressing this essential unity of life, for restoring it since it was broken off in sin, and for maintaining it. These means were primarily spiritual and ethical but made extensive use of material substances, physical acts and symbolical ceremonials; and these tended always to obscure and supplant the spiritual and ethical qualities which it was their function to exhibit. The prophet came to the rescue of the spiritual and ethical and reached his highest insight and function in the doctrine of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh through whom God was to be united with a redeemed race (compare among many passages, Isaiah 49:1-7; 66:18 ff; Psalm 22:27 ff).

Atonement is conceived in both Old Testament and New Testament as partly personal and partly social, extending to the universal conception. The acts and attitudes by which it is procured, restored and maintained are partly those of the individual alone (Psalm 51), partly those in which the individual secures the assistance of the priest or the priestly body, and partly such as the priest performs for the whole people on his own account. This involves the distinction that in Israel atonement was both personal and social, as also were both sin and uncleanness. Atonement was made for the group by the priest without specific participation by the people although they were, originally at least, to take cognizance of the fact and at the time. At all the great feasts, especially upon the DAY OF ATONEMENT (which see) the whole group was receptively to take conscious part in the work of atonement (Numbers 29:7-11).

The various sacrifices and offerings by means of which atonement was effected in the life and worship of Israel will be found to be discussed under the proper words and are to be spoken of here only summarily. The series of offerings, guilt-offerings, burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, peace-offerings, reveal a sense of the breach with God, a conviction of the sin making the breach and an ethical appreciation of the holiness of God entirely unique among religions of ancient or modern times, and this fact must never be overlooked in interpreting the New Testament Christian doctrine of the Atonement. In the Old Testament there are sins and sinful circumstances for which no atonement is possible. Many passages, indeed, almost seem to provide against atonement for any voluntary wrongdoing (e.g. Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:14 ff). This is, no doubt, an extreme interpretation, out of harmony with the general spirit of the Old Testament, but it does show how seriously sin ought to be taken under the Old Testament regime. No atonement for murder could make possible the residence of the murderer again in that section of the land where the murder was done (Numbers 35:33), although the land was not by the murder rendered unfit for occupation by others. When Israel sinned in making the golden calf, God refused to accept any atonement (Exodus 32:20 ff) until there had been a great loss of life from among the sinners. No repentance could find atonement for the refusal to follow Yahweh’s lead at Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 14:20-25), and complete atonement was effected only when all the unbelieving generation had died in the wilderness (Numbers 26:65; 32:10 ff); i.e. no atonement was possible, but the people died in that sin, outside the Land of Promise, although the sin was not allowed to cut off finally from Yahweh (Numbers 14:29 f).

Permanent uncleanness or confirmed disease of an unclean sort caused permanent separation from the temple and the people of Yahweh (e.g. Leviticus 7:20 f), and every uncleanness must be properly removed (Leviticus 5:2b; 17:15; 22:2-8; Deuteronomy 23:10 f). A house in which an unclean disease was found must be cleansed — have atonement made for it (Leviticus 14:53), and in extreme cases must be utterly destroyed (Leviticus 14:43 ff).

After childbirth (Leviticus 12:7 f) and in all cases of hemorrhage (compare Leviticus 15:30) atonement must be effected by prescribed offerings, a loss, diminution, or pollution of blood, wherein is the life, having been suffered. All this elaborate application of the principle of atonement shows the comprehensiveness with which it was sought by the religious teachers to impress the people with the unity of all life in the perfectly holy and majestic God whom they were called upon to serve. Not only must the priests be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord (Isaiah 52:11), but all the people must be clean also from all defilement of flesh and spirit, seeking perfect holiness in the fear of their God (compare 2 Corinthians 7:1).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

a view of eschatology

I'm a Calvinist, I have problems with Brian McLaren's theology, I am an Amillennialist not a Preterist, I don't understand why someone would label themselves as an Emergent when the only distinctives I see in them are old fashioned liberalism, etc... But all of that aside (read that as I'm not interested in arguing any of the above), my internet friend Virgil Văduva makes a lot of good points and raises some good thoughts.

It will take just over 30 minutes and be prepared to hear the "E"-bomb ...

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

on pharisaism and grace

I love Tim Keller's words in The Reason for God in regard to the damage of pharisaism and the difference of grace.

If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model and helper but you are avoiding him as Saviour. You are trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus. ... It is possible to avoid Jesus as Saviour as much by keeping all the biblical rules as by breaking them.

We can fall into legalism whether we lean conservative or liberal.

Despite all their legal righteousness, then, Pharisees have lives that are, if anything, more driven by the despair of sin… Pharisees know deep down that they are not fully living up to those standards. ... The resulting internal anxiety, insecurity, and irritability will often be much greater than anything experienced by the irreligious.

The solution is grace.

Religion operates on the principle 'I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.' But the operating principle of the gospel is 'I am accepted by God through what Christ has done—therefore I obey'. ... The primary difference is that of motivation. In religion, we try to obey the divine standards out of fear. We believe that if we don’t obey we are going to lose God’s blessing in this world and the next. In the gospel, the motivation is one of gratitude for the blessing we have already received because of Christ. While the moralist is forced into obedience, motivated by fear of rejection, a Christian rushes into obedience, motivated by a desire to please and resemble the one who gave his life for us.

Another difference has to do with our identity and self-regard. In a religious framework, if you reel you are living up to your chosen religious standards, then you feel superior and disdainful toward those who are not following in the true path. This is true whether your religion is of a more liberal variety (in which case you will feel superior to bigots and narrow-minded people) or of a more conservative variety (in which case you will feel superior to the less moral and devout). If you are not living up to your chosen standards, then you will be filled with a loathing toward yourself. You will feel far more guilt than if you had stayed away from God and religion altogether.

This is so true. Both liberals and conservative too often view others with disdain. Separately (and this is very common these days), many who profess Christ but remain untransformed blame the church for their feelings of guilt when in fact they have not received grace and regeneration. Conservatives will tend to force regeneration upon them thereby amplifying the guilty feelings and liberals will tend to jump into blaming the church and accepting the sin thereby denying the need for regeneration and leaving the person ultimately left with guilt anyway.

Keller continues:

Postmodern thinkers understand that the self is formed and strengthened through the exclusion of the Other – those who do not have the values or traits on which I base my own significance. We define ourselves by pointing to those whom we are not. We bolster our sense of worth by devaluing those of other races, beliefs and traits. This gospel identity gives us a new basis for harmonious and just social arrangements. A Christians worth and value are not created by excluding anyone, but through the Lord who was excluded for me. His grace both humbles me more deeply than religion can (since I am too flawed to ever save myself through my own efforts), yet it also affirms me more powerfully than religion can (since I can be absolutely certain of God’s unconditional acceptance).

That means that I cannot despise those who do not believe as I do. Since I am not saved by my correct doctrine or practice, then this person before me, even with his or her wrong beliefs, might be morally superior to me in many ways. ... The gospel makes it possible for a person to escape oversensitivity, defensiveness, and the need to criticize others. The Christian's identity is not based not he need to be perceived as a good person, but on God's valuing of you in Christ.


marriage matters

Here's a recommended remedy to help bullet-proof your marriage. It will cost about 5 hours a week.

Partings: Don’t part in the morning without knowing one interesting thing that will happen in your partner’s day. Two minutes a day x five working days. Total 10 minutes.

Reunions: The stress-reducing conversation: each partner take 10 minutes to talk about your day. Partner does active listening. Give support. rule: understanding must precede advice. Twenty minutes a day x five days. Total 1 hour 40 minutes.

Admiration and appreciation: Find some way every day to genuinely communicate affection and appreciation for your partner. Five minutes a day x 7 days. Total 35 minutes.

Affection: Kiss, hold, grab, touch each other. Play is good. Make sure to kiss each other before going to sleep, and follow the admonition in Ephesians, “Do not let the sun set on your wrath.” Five minutes a day x 7 days. total 35 minutes.

Dates: Plan a great marital date. 2 hours once a week. Think of great questions to ask your spouse during this time to better understand what is going on in each of your lives.

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Even though we are guilty of sin, should we feel guilty? The Apostle Paul makes the amazing proclamation, "I am not aware of anything against myself" (1 Cor 4.4). Kevin DeYoung writes about why so many Christians feel guilty all of the time.

1. We don’t fully embrace the good news of the gospel. We forget that we have been made alive together with Christ. We have been raised with him. We have been saved through faith alone. And this is the gift of God, not a result of works (Eph. 2:4-8). We can be so scared of antinomianism, which is a legitimate danger, that we are afraid to speak too lavishly of God’s grace. But if we’ve never been charged with being antinomian, we probably haven’t presented the gospel in all it’s scandalous glory (Rom. 6:1).

2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace. Instead of urging our fellow believers to be who they are in Christ, we command them to do more forChrist (see Rom. 6:5-14 for the proper motivation). So we see Christlikeness as something we are royally screwing up, when we should it as something we already possess but need to grow into.

3. Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of “not doing enough.” Look at the list above. None one of the items are necessarily sinful. They all deal with possible infractions, perceptions, and ways in which we’d like to do more. These are the hardest areas to deal with because no Christian, for example, will ever confess to praying enough. So it is always easy to feel terrible about prayer (or evangelism or giving or any number of disciplines). We must be careful that we don’t insist on a certain standard of practice when the Bible merely insists on a general principle.

Let me give another example. Every Christian must give generously and contribute to the needs of the saints (2 Cor. 9:6-11; Rom. 12:13). This we can insist on with absolute certainty. But what this generosity looks like–how much we give, how much we retain–is not bound by any formula, nor can it be exacted by compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). So if we want people to be more generous we would do well to follow Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians and emphasize the blessings of generosity and the gospel rooted motivation for generosity as opposed to shaming those who don’t give us much.

4. When we are truly guilty of sin it is imperative we repent and receive God’s mercy. Paul had a clean conscience, not because he never sinned, but, I imagine, because he quickly went to the Lord when he knew he was wrong and rested in the “no condemnation” of the gospel (Rom. 8:1). If we confess our sins, John says, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We aren’t meant to feel borderline miserable all the time. We are meant to live in the joy of our salvation. So when we sin–and we’ll all sin (1 Kings 8:46; 1 John 1:8)–we confess it, get cleansed, and move on.

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the breach in unity

Unity is assumed but it has been breached. From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

In both Old Testament and New Testament the assumption of unity between God and man stands over against the contrasted fact that there is a radical breach in this unity. This breach is recognized in all God’s relations to men; and even when healed it is always subject to new failures which must be provided for, by the daily oblations in the Old Testament, by the continuous intercession of the Christ (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24) in the New Testament. Even when there is no conscious breach, man is taught to recognize that it may exist and he must avail himself of the appointed means for its healing, e.g. daily sacrifices. This breach is universally attributed to some behavior on man’s part. This may be moral or ceremonial uncleanness on man’s part. He may have broken with God fundamentally in character or conduct and so by committing sin have incurred guilt; or he may have neglected the fitting recognition that his life is in common with God and so by his disregard have incurred uncleanness. After the first breach between God and man it is always necessary that man shall approach God on the assumption that this breach needs healing, and so always come with an offering. In human nature the sin breach is rooted and universal (Romans 3:9-19; 5:12-14).

adrian and wayne

I love these guys. Here Adrian Warnock interviews Wayne Grudum.

Some key thoughts:

- penal substitution is not all there is to the gospel but it is certainly core to the gospel
- relationships come in many forms; friendship is not the same as cooperation in common causes which is not the same as leadership and teaching which is not the same as faith based fellowship which is ... etc ...

Monday, May 10, 2010

the assumption of unity

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

The basal conception for the Bible doctrine of atonement is the assumption that God and man are ideally one in life and interests, so far as man’s true life and interest may be conceived as corresponding with those of God. Hence, it is everywhere assumed that God and man should be in all respects in harmonious relations, “at-one.” Such is the ideal picture of Adam and Eve in Eden. Such is the assumption in the parable of the Prodigal Son; man ought to be at home with God, at peace in the Father’s house (Luke 15). Such also is the ideal of Jesus as seen especially in John 14 through 17; compare particularly 17:21ff; compare also Ephesians 2:11-22; 1 Corinthians 15:28. This is quite possibly the underlying idea of all those offerings in which the priests — God’s representatives-and the people joined in eating at a common meal parts of what had been presented to God. The prohibition of the use of blood in food or drink is grounded on the statement that the life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:10 f) or is the blood (Genesis 9:4; Deuteronomy 12:23). Blood was used in the consecration of tabernacle, temple, vessels, altars, priests; all things and persons set apart for Yahweh. Then blood was required in offerings made to atone for sin and uncleanness. The reason for all this is not easy to see; but if we seek an explanation that will account for all the facts on a single principle, shall we not find it in the idea that in the life-principle of the blood God’s own life was present? Through this life from God all living beings shared God’s life. The blood passing out of any living being must therefore return to God and not be consumed. In sprinkling blood, the life-element, or certainly the life-symbol, over persons and things set apart for God they were, so to say, visibly taken up into the life of God, and His life extending over them made them essentially of His own person. Finally the blood of sacrifices was the returning to God of the life of the man for whom the beasts stood. And this blood was not burned with the dead sacrifice but poured out beside the holy altar. The now dead sin offering was burned, but the blood, the life, returned to God. In peace-offerings of various sorts there was the common meal in which the common life was typified.

In the claim of the first-fruits of all crops, of all flocks and of all increase, God emphasized the common life in production; asserted His claim to the total life of His people and their products. God claimed the lives of all as belonging essentially to Himself and a man must recognize this by paying a ransom price (Exodus 30:12). This did not purchase for the man a right to his own life in separation from God, for it was in no sense an equivalent in value to the man’s time. It the rather committed the man to living the common life with God, without which recognition the man was not fit to live at all. And the use of this recognition-money by the priests in the temple was regarded as placing the man who paid his money in a sort of continuous worshipful service in the tabernacle (or temple) itself (Exodus 30:11-16).