Thursday, February 27, 2014

why grace

"Grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them." ~ Augustine

can he say that?

I'm guessing the following by Doug Wilson will upset people on both sides of the(se) issue(s). Me, I agree with the point.

Comes now the NFL, on the cusp of bringing in their first openly gay player, and they are also contemplating banning the n-word and the other eff-word at the same time.

The Left is currently attempting quite a hat trick — they are unleashing, simultaneously, their inner wowser, their inner totalitarian, and their inner lust monkey. The results are not pretty — it is a kind of warp spasm of irrational overreach.

This is classic overreach. It was just a matter of weeks ago that we were being told that an abandonment of the Defense of Marriage Act would leave states free to make their own decisions on the matter, yay federalism, and so what happened? Since lo, these many weeks ago, federal judges have now been striking down state laws, one after the other.

Some people might have thought — not me, incidentally — that homosexual activists were going to pursue their agenda with a modicum of judicial restraint, ascending the bench of public opinion in a black robe in order to issue carefully reasoned arguments that would cause thoughtful people everywhere to consider what they had to say. But ten minutes after their initial victories, all the restraint evaporated, by which I mean to say that it all went away. They are now pursuing their agenda by means of a metaphorical parade through the Castro District, wearing nothing but a thong and a sombrero with mangoes and grapes all over it.

They want this all to be part of the great March of Progress — Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall, and any other Sibilants they come up with — and they never tire of comparing what they are doing to the Civil Rights Movement, looking around for the Jackie Robinson of sodomy. Now other writers have done a good job pointing out the false comparison — God created black skin and God prohibited this particular vice. So I do not need to develop that thought further. It has been done well already. What I actually want to point out is the similarity in what is going on.

In the pre-civil rights era, segregation was imposed and enforced by the government making laws that prohibited private citizens from undertaking any free market integration on their own. When that folly came crashing down, as it should have, some thought it would be a good corrective to prohibit a private citizen running a public business from making such sinful choices on his own. But this was just the coercive hand of the state from the other direction, a heavy hand that is now being used on evangelical photographers and bakers.

Laws should be used to combat crime, not sin, and certainly not faux-sin. What the legislation in the civil rights era ought to have done was strike down every form of the government’s own discrimination against blacks, and its mandating of discrimination elsewhere, and left it there. If Bubba still wanted to exclude blacks from his ribs joint, then that was Bubba’s problem, and Bubba’s loss. Everybody’s money is the same color.

Bigotry is a real sin, but because the state pretended that it had the expertise to deal with real sin through law, we have now come to the pretty pass of them thinking that they can deal with faux-sin through a law. But all they can do is impose mischief with a law.

Businesses have a clear and obvious right to discriminate based on behavior. No shoes, no shirt, no service works because no shoes and no shirt is a behavior. So is ordering a cake with two grooms on it. So is requiring a black baker to bake a Confederate battle flag cake. So is requiring a graphic designer married to a compulsive gambler to design a billboard for the local casino. So when you, for arbitrary and capricious reasons, define someone’s personal vice as an essential part of their personal identity, and link it with iron bands to their constitutional rights, you are making a royal hash of everything.

It has gotten to risible levels. So now people who strap on pads and who run into each other at full speed for a living are going to be told that if they use particular prohibited words, words that will bruise the petals of the taunted linebacker in question, they will be fined. Got it. Today the linebackers of the NFL, tomorrow . . . the linebackers of the Internet, which I hope would include Mablog.

They will come to me and demand circumlocutions. They will want me to pretend that free speech is still operative, and yet they will insist on the passive voice, and oblique indirection. And so I will do my best and will say that if circumlocutions are required of me, at the end of the day, when all things are considered, in the course of any proffered argument that I might want to advance concerning certain persons who are individual practitioners of that class of actions historically understood as faggotré . . .
“That’s it, bub.” I find myself in court, looking at a $250 fine, and ten counseling sessions.

“How do you plead?”

“Your honor, I will be the first to admit that my French is not the best . . .”

“How do you plead?”

“Not guilty, your honor.”

“And yet you acknowledge that you used the word . . . the word spelled f-a-g-g-o-t-r-é?”

“Yes, your honor. I did use that word . . .”

“How was that not a violation of the ban on the eff-word? The Constitutional Amendment concerning this passed a entire year ago.”

“Your honor, I didn’t know that was the word. I thought the eff-word law was referring to fudgepacker.”
There was a loud clatter as the court reporter fell out of her chair, and some moments before things were all recombobulated.
“You can’t use that word either!”

“Well, which word is the law referring to?”

“You can’t use any eff-words.”

“I see that I can’t be too careful. Can I use fruit?”

The judge said no, but not without a hesitating and possibly illegal glance at the plaintiff. 

“I . . . I don’t think so. Look, that will all be covered in the counseling sessions, where you will almost certainly be going to for the next ten weekends.”

“What about free speech? Can I say free speech?”

“That’s the worst eff-word of all. No, you can’t that. Not any more. All done with that.”
Sorry, judge, but I was not quite done.

I have had to explain this before, but let me conclude by saying it again. It is our duty to be transgressive. Prior to the rise of homosexual activism, I had never once in my life taunted a homosexual because of his vice, whether with word, gesture, or epithet. I was not brought up that way, and I simply wouldn’t do it. But the pretense — and that is what it is, pretense — that these speech codes are being designed to address that particular problem is simply bogus.

And since the rise of “gay pride,” I haven’t taunted victims of vice under these new circumstances either. Why would a preacher of grace taunt victims of sin? What kind of ministry goes around kicking sad people?

So what am I doing then? Consider the difference here:
“When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:10-11O).

“Such is the way of an adulterous woman; She eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness” (Prov. 30:20).
There is no difference in the one sin (adultery), but a huge difference in the other — which is contrition v. the sin of high-handed arrogance in the second example. The grace of God teaches us to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Those who are enslaved by the chains of vice should receive nothing but sympathy and grace from Christians. Nothing but.

But there is a category of sin that is scripturally outside this “no fly zone.” This would be the cluster of sins that can be grouped as pride, arrogance, malice, spite, insolence, blasphemy, haughtiness, and hearts that are fat like grease. Those who rattle their chains, declaring them to be wings, with which they will soar far above our tired old ethical categories, need to be treated like the wizened old Pharisees they are. This is something I am happy to do, and as a preacher of grace, I am required to do by Scripture. Rough treatment for Pharisees is something prescribed by Scripture, not proscribed by it.

So would I ever taunt a slave of a particular sexual sin with a word like faggot? Of course not. But when these Pharisees of Phootball are falling all over themselves to ban the ph-word — and all driven by an insolent spiritual pride that represents our current apostate elites very well — I am more than willing to have some phun over their phailures of imagination when it comes to fallic placement. It’s their pride that makes it so funny.

Some people might think I am just being bad, but I hope to assure them that I am just getting started. Comstockian sodomites are the worst, and when I am finally convicted of renegade free speechery, and ascend the scaffold to be hanged, and I survey the assembled crowd eager to see the First Amendment defended, I will try to make a point of saying so again.
“Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9:41).


Sinclair Ferugson in You Can Change:

Only when we turn away from looking at our sin to look at the face of God, to find his pardoning grace, do we begin to repent. Only by seeing that there is grace and forgiveness with him would we ever dare to repent and thus return to the fellowship and presence of the Father.… Only when grace appears on the horizon offering forgiveness will the sunshine of the love of God melt our hearts and draw us back to him. 

healthy disagreement

Arguing with a fool only proves there are two.

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

Unity - we must have it. The word does not mean uniformity yet it does imply boundaries - or at least an ideal target - and therefore, there must be some healthy way to disagree in a way that maintains and even promotes unity. David Rudd takes a stab at some:

1. Be Gentle, not harsh.

2. Listen well before you formulate your answer.

3. Weigh your answer, don’t immediately gush.

4. Give answers that reflect Scripture.

5. Don’t endlessly debate with a fool.

These guidelines came as the result of studying this topic in Proverbs. Below are some of the verses that helped inform these thoughts:

Proverbs 1:28 - “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.

Proverbs 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:28 - The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

Proverbs 18:13 - He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.

Proverbs 18:23 - A poor man pleads for mercy, but a rich man answers harshly.

Proverbs 21:13 - If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

Proverbs 22:21 - teaching you true and reliable words, so that you can give sound answers to him who sent you?

Proverbs 24:26 - An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

Proverbs 26:4 - Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

Proverbs 26:5 - Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:16 - The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.

Proverbs 27:11 - Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

small group myths

While there are many small group myths, Philip Nation summarizes 3 that would be toward the top of my list:
  1. Small groups are just for fellowship. Small groups must be an environment where people grow closer but not just for the sake of friendship. As believers, our fellowship deepens when it is centered on the truth. Fellowship is one of the functions of the church but it is not the ultimate reason for small groups. Transformation is. Small groups draw people together with a higher purpose than just hanging out in the name of Jesus. We want to draw people around His Word so they can be fed and then transformed by it.
  2. People in small groups should stay together indefinitely. In other words, breaking up a group is bad. The argument is made that “our healthy small group should not be separated.” But healthy group members will want to share with others what’s occurred in their lives. Conversely, it is also a myth that leaders just want to split every group for an underhanded reason; control, spitefulness, power-grabbing. In reality, we all know that healthy things grow and then multiply. As leaders, we also know that when things don’t grow, then they begin to drain energy from other parts of the body. Small groups are the same. Now, this is not to say that a small group that does not multiply is moldy, rotten, or cancerous. But it can be reveal an inward-facing spirit that runs counter to the mission of God. By engendering a spirit of multiplication, small groups will eventually reach more people for Christ and help more people mature in Christ.
  3. Anyone can lead a small group. I want to tread carefully in this one because it is so close to true. If the statement read, “Anyone can learn to lead a small group,” then we’ve got it. But, as it stands, it is a bit naïve. It comes back to purpose. If you buy into myth #1, then anyone can lead a small group. Just be there to host everyone for a good time and a quasi-spiritual conversation. But, if you want to lead people toward transformation, then as leaders, we need to produce leaders. Rather than just throw people into the situation of handling whatever comes up on their own, teach/train/prepare them to be a great small group leader.

is attraction sin?

David Kjos has argued that we must take care to delineate between temptation and attraction. The latter would be sin, the former not. I agree with the difference in terms and implication but I'm not sure there's a real difference in current usage. I think when most people say attraction, they mean temptation. But if not, then I apply his principle.

Denny Burk takes it from another angle. I read his primary point being delineation between orientation and behavior is not sufficient. Many say behavior is sin, orientation is not. As in Kjos' point above, how orientation is meant drives the answer. If an individual in Christ, redeemed with a new nature, tells me they are routinely tempted by X, I pray for their freedom but I don't think in terms of the individual sinning. If they tell me they have a new nature but are ensured by some sin/temptation or they identify as the sin-type, then I think they do not understand the nature of redemption. If they don't understand what they are saying, I counsel. If they understand and insist they are sin-type X; I think we have a disconnect.

It's helpful that Burk starts with a definition. Without refocusing myself on his definition as I read the article, I take issue with quite a bit of what he says. With it, I align (mostly) but think there's more to speak to.

Net, definition aside, I don't align with several points but I like what Burk is poking at.

Here is Burk's post:

In contemporary discussions of homosexuality, it is commonplace to distinguish homosexual orientation from homosexual behavior. Usually, the distinction goes something like this: Orientation refers to one’s inner disposition while behavior addresses one’s moral choices. John and Paul Feinberg state it this way:
Homosexuality as a sexual orientation means that a person has a strong and abiding preference for members of the same sex and desires to act on that sexual preference… Homosexual behavior refers to specific sex acts between members of the same sex.[1]
Some Christian ethicists take this observation a step further and argue that we must make a moral distinction between orientation and behavior. On this view, homosexual behavior is a choice and thus morally blameworthy. Homosexual orientation is not a choice and thus not morally blameworthy. This point of view has become routine even among some who identify themselves as evangelical. A couple examples to illustrate the point. Dennis Hollinger writes:
I would suggest that orientation is not the primary ethical issue. From a theological perspective, it is a result of the fallenness of our world… But orientation is not usually a result of a person’s willful, sinful choice. Hence, the ethical judgment on homosexuality is not about orientation or homoerotic impulses.[2]
Likewise, Joe Dallas and Nancy Heche write:
If a person’s primary sexual attractions are toward the same sex, the person’s orientation is homosexual… If a person’s sexual attractions are toward both sexes, the person’s orientation is bisexual… The Bible does not condemn homosexual or bisexual orientation as a deliberate sin, but any deliberate expression of homosexuality, through actions, sexual fantasy, or lust, is biblically prohibited.[3]
I do not dispute that there is a legitimate distinction to be made between orientation and behavior. I do question, however, whether the Bible supports the notion that only homosexual behavior is sinful while homosexual orientation is not. Evangelicals would generally agree with Hollinger that homosexual orientation in some way stems from the Fall. But in what way? Does homosexual orientation comprise a natural evil only? Or is it also a moral evil? Is it something that primarily requires healing (like cancer), or is it something that requires vigilant repentance (like pride)? How we answer these questions has enormous pastoral implications for those brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction. What follows is my attempt to answer these questions biblically and to suggest some pastoral implications.

Does the Bible address sexual orientation?

It is sometimes claimed that sexual orientation is a modern concept that would have been completely foreign to the writers of scripture.[4] But is that really true? It depends entirely on how one defines the term “orientation.” The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation in this way: “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes.”[5] Notice that orientation involves a person’s enduring sexual attractions and that sexual attraction is a virtual synonym for sexual desire.[6] Thus sexual orientation is one’s persistent pattern of sexual desire/attraction toward either or both sexes.

If that is the definition, then the term “orientation” does not somehow take us to a category that the Bible doesn’t address. The Bible says that our sexual desires/attractions have a moral component and that we are held accountable for them. Jesus’ remarks on the nature of heterosexual desire are a case in point:

Mathew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

The word that Jesus uses for “lust” is the exact same term used in the tenth commandment’s prohibition on coveting: “You shall not desire/covet your neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21 LXX). Thus both Jesus and the tenth commandment censure not merely adulterous behavior but also the desire that precedes the behavior. The locus of such desire is the “heart.” As Jesus confirms elsewhere, adultery and every other kind of sexual immorality proceed from the heart (Mark 7:21).

The married man who experiences an adulterous lust for another woman is a man who experiences unwholesome attractions. His attraction may indeed be spontaneous and uninvited. It may indeed reflect his sexual orientation to be attracted to the opposite sex. But that married man may not appeal to his heterosexual “orientation” to absolve him of having feelings that he ought not feel. Jesus says such feelings are adultery within the heart. Likewise, a man who experiences a sexual attraction to another man may be experiencing feelings that are spontaneous and uninvited. His attraction may well reflect what he perceives to be his natural “orientation.” But that does not absolve him of having sexual feelings he ought not feel. The Bible judges such attractions as sinful lust—as coveting someone sexually. Thus the scripture does in fact speak to one’s enduring pattern of sexual attractions.

Is there a difference between desire and lust?

Sometimes it is claimed that we must make a moral distinction between mere desireand active lust—the former being morally neutral and the latter being sinful. But this is not a particularly biblical distinction. The word Jesus uses for lust in Matthew 5:28 (epithumeō) is used elsewhere in neutral and even positive ways.[7] For example, Jesus says that “many prophets and righteous men desired (epithumeō) to see what you see, and did not see it” (Matthew 13:17). The word clearly means“desire,” and in this case the desire is a good thing. Whether the desire is good (as in Matt. 13:17) or evil (as in Matt. 5:28) depends entirely on what it is a person desires. That is why the same Greek term is rendered “desire” in some texts and “lust” in others. If you desire something good, then the desire itself is good. If you desire something evil, then the desire itself is evil. Same-sex attraction is clearly a desire that God forbids. How then can we possibly treat a persistent and enduring desire for the same-sex as morally neutral? Biblically, we cannot.

The apostle Paul also addresses the propriety of same-sex desires in Romans 1:26-27. To be sure, Paul says that homosexual behavior is sinful:

Romans 1:26-27 “Women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman… men with men committing indecent acts.”

But he also says that the desires themselves are equally morally blameworthy and stand as evidence of God’s wrath against sin: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions… and [they] burned in their desire toward one another” (Rom 1:26-27). Sexual desire that fixates on the same-sex is sinful, and that is why God’s judgment rightly falls on both desires and actions. Again, the issue is not merely sexual behavior but also one’s enduring pattern of sexual attraction.

Answering an Objection

A common objection to the foregoing goes like this: “If a person cannot control whether they have same-sex attraction, how can that attraction be considered sinful?” This objection bases moral accountability upon whether one has the ability to choose his proclivities. But this is not how the Bible speaks of sin and judgment. There are all manner of predispositions that we are born with that the Bible nevertheless characterizes as sin: pride, anger, anxiousness, just to name a few. Why would we put same-sex attraction in a different category than those other predispositions that we groan to be delivered from and that we are morally accountable for? As we mentioned above, Jesus says that all such sins proceed from the heart and that we are therefore morally accountable for them (Mark 7:21). And this assessment is in no way mitigated by the fact that we come by it naturally or were born that way. As Richard Hays writes,
The Bible’s sober anthropology rejects the apparently commonsense assumption that only freely chosen acts are morally culpable. Quite the reverse: the very nature of sin is that it is not freely chosen. That is what it means to live “in the flesh” in a fallen creation. We are in bondage to sin but still accountable to God’s righteous judgment of our actions. In light of this theological anthropology, it cannot be maintained that a homosexual orientation is morally neutral because it is involuntary.[8]

Pastoral Implications

My conclusion is that if sexual orientation is one’s enduring pattern of sexual attraction, then the Bible teaches both same-sex behavior and same-sex orientation to be sinful.[9] If this is true, there are numerous pastoral implications. I will mention just two:

1. This truth ought to inform how brothers and sisters in Christ wage war against same-sex attraction. Sin is not merely what we do. It is also who we are. As so many of our confessions have it, we are sinners by nature and by choice.[10] All of us are born with an orientation toward sin in all its varieties. Homosexual orientation is but one manifestation of our common experience of indwelling sin—indeed of the mind set on the flesh (Rom. 7:23; 8:7). For that reason, the Bible teaches us to war against both the root and the fruit of sin. In this case, homosexual orientation is the root, and homosexual behavior is the fruit. The Spirit of God aims to transform both (Rom. 8:13).

If same-sex attraction were morally benign, there would be no reason to repent of it. But the Bible never treats sexual attraction to the same sex as a morally neutral state. Jesus says all sexual immorality is fundamentally a matter of the heart. Thus it will not do simply to avoid same sex behavior. The ordinary means of grace must be aimed at the heart as well. Prayer, the preaching of the word, and the fellowship of the saints must all be aimed at the Holy Spirit’s renewal of the inner man (2 Cor. 4:16). It is to be a spiritual transformation that puts to death the deeds of the body by a daily renewal of the mind (Rom. 8:13; 12:2). As John Owen has famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”[11]

This is not to say that Christians who experience same-sex attraction will necessarily be freed from those desires completely in this life. Many such Christians report partial or complete changes in their orientation after conversion—sometimes all at once, but more often over a period of months and years. But those cases are not the norm. There are a great many who also report ongoing struggles with same-sex attraction.[12] But that does not lessen the responsibility for them to fight those desires as long as they persist, no matter how natural those desires may feel.

Wesley Hill is a Christian who experiences persistent same-sex attraction, and he describes his struggle in such terms. He writes,
For me and other gay people, even when we’re not willfully cultivating desire, we know that when attraction does come… it will be attraction to someone of the same sex. And in those moments, it feels as though there is no desire that isn’t lust, no attraction that isn’t illicit… Every attraction I experience, before I ever get to intentional, willful, indulgent desire, seems bent, broken, misshapen.[13]
Wesley goes on to describe his experience as a daily struggle against indwelling sin. His sexual orientation, therefore, is an occasion for vigilant repentance and renewal through the Holy Spirit:
My homosexuality, my exclusive attraction to other men, my grief over it and my repentance, my halting effort to live fittingly in the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit—gradually I am learning not to view all of these things as confirmations of my rank corruption and hypocrisy. I am instead, slowly but surely, learning to view that journey—of struggle, failure, repentance, restoration, renewal in joy, and persevering, agonized obedience—as what it looks like for the Holy Spirit to be transforming me on the basis of Christ’s cross and his Easter morning triumph over death.[14]
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit can bring about this kind of transformation in anyone—even if such progress is not experienced by everyone in precisely the same measure. As the apostle Paul writes, “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom 6:17).

2. This truth ought to strengthen our love and compassion for brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction. For many of them, same sex attraction is something they have experienced for as long as they can remember. There is no obvious pathology for their attractions. The attractions are what they are even though they may be quite unwelcome. It is naïve to think that these people are all outside of the church. No, they are among us. They are us. They have been baptized, have been attending the Lord’s Table with us, and have been fighting the good fight in what is sometimes a very lonely struggle. They believe what the Bible says about their sexuality, but their struggle is nevertheless difficult.

Is your church the kind of place that would be safe for these dear brothers and sisters to come forward to find friendship and community? Does your church have its arms wide open to them to come alongside them, to receive them, and to strengthen them? Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another (John 13:35). One of the ways that we show love for one another is by bearing one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Can you bear this burden with your brothers and sisters who are in this fight? Is your church ready to offer help and encouragement to these saints for whom Christ died? If not, then something is deeply amiss. For Jesus has loved us to the uttermost, and he calls us to do the same (John 13:34).

[1] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 364.

[2] Dennis P. Hollinger, The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 173.

[3] Joe Dallas, “Terms, Definitions, and Concepts,” in The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality: A Biblical and Compassionate Response to Same-Sex Attraction, ed. Joe Dallas and Nancy Heche (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2010), 98-99.

[4] E.g., John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 109, 117.

[5] “Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality,” American Psychological Association, 2008,

[6] In this essay, I will treat sexual attraction as a synonym for sexual desire. I believe this is justified by common usage of these terms in the literature. For example, Hollinger says that persons with homosexual orientation experience “ongoing affectional and sexual feelings toward persons of the same sex” (Hollinger, The Meaning of Sex, 172). Likewise, Grenz describes homosexual orientation as “the situation in which erotic feelings are nearly exclusively triggered by persons of one’s own sex” (Stanley J. Grenz, Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1997], 225). See also Jenell Williams Paris’ book in whichorientation, attraction, and desire are all three used as virtual synonyms (Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011], 99).

[7] BDAG confirms that the preponderance of this term’s use in the New Testament mean’s simply “desire,” not “lust.” See BDAG, s.v. “ἐπιθυμέω” 1: “to have a strong desire to do or secure someth., desire, long for.”

[8] Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 390.

[9] Feinberg and Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 385: “We stand firmly committed to the position that Scripture teaches that homosexual and lesbian orientation and behavior are contrary to the order for human sexuality God placed in creation. Hence they are sinful.” So also James B. DeYoung, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000), 293-94: “Homosexual orientation was known in the generations in which Scripture was written. Paul gives no indication that it does not fall under the general condemnations of homosexuality in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy.”

[10] E.g., The New Hampshire Baptist Confession, III: “All mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil.”

[11] John Owen, “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers,” in Temptation and Sin, The Works of John Owen 6 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1967), 9.

[12] Mark A. Yarhouse, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010), 93-95.

[13] Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 136-37.

[14] Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 145.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

rudd on generosity

You can always give without loving, but you can never love without giving.  ~ Amy Carmichael

1. God’s creation was GENEROUS. Instead of just creating a functional, mechanical world; He gave us an amazingly creative, colorful, complex yet simple world. The variety and beauty of creation is a constant reminder of God’s GENEROSITY.

2. The most beloved characters in the history of the world are those who were viewed as GENEROUS by their contemporaries.

3. The hero of every story is the one who GIVES AWAY for the good of others.

4. The best meal is one that is prepared by a GENEROUS chef (delicious is important, but useless if you only get two bites)

5. The single greatest act of all time was the GENEROUS gift of life, given to us by God through His Son, Jesus.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. - Proverbs 19:17

re-thinking church

Dr. James Emery White is re-thinking church, here, regarding an inconvenient truth:

You are a church that is not experiencing the growth you desire, particularly among the young and unchurched.

You have a solid constituency, but they are older and, most definitely, churched. They are good people, giving people, serving people, but they like the church the way it is. 

You know, as a leader, that times have changed. Culture has shifted dramatically. Unless you reach the next generation, the church will simply get older and smaller, year by year, until it is a shell of what it once was.

But if you attempt to implement some of the things you know could make a difference, you run the very real risk of alienating your current base of support. The people paying the bills, serving in the nursery, and leading your teams.

So you feel stuck. If you don’t change, you fear a slow death. If you do change, you fear a quick death. Either way, you die.

So you look for the silver bullet. You search for the solution that you can seamlessly weave into the life of the church that will solve all of your problems but keep everyone currently attending happy. 

There’s only one problem. 

It doesn’t exist.

It never has, and it never will.

The reality is that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been.

(That might be worth re-reading.)

I’m sure you’ve heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. But countless churches reflect this exact mental illness. If you want things to be different, you’ll have to do different things.

And when you do, expect resistance from the people who liked things the way they were. But you won’t be able to leave things the same and do things differently.

As Jesus said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ” (Luke 5:37-39, NIV)

I’m sorry to say this, I really am. I know what lies before many of you as leaders as a result, but here’s the truth:

You must change or die.

If you change in the substantive ways you probably need to regarding style and strategy, you will lose people. And it may take some time for the results to pay off, ensuring a very difficult period in the life of your church, and your life as a leader.

But you must change, or die.

It’s an inconvenient truth.

But it is truth.

wilson's cessationism

Doug Wilson is my favorite cessationist. He has a brilliant mind (which is why I cower here rather than confront him directly) and yet he continues to make the case (contrary to his intent) for continuationism. Here he writes on 1 Cor 12.8-11 and without blinking or Scripture purports:
My understanding is that the gift of languages and interpretation together should be considered the equivalent to prophecy, which means that this gift is no longer extant. 
I believe that the gift of miracle-working has ceased, not that miracles have ceased. I believe that the gift of healing has ceased, not that healing has ceased. And so on.
I find that odd ... but that aside, here is his post:

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:8-11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Paul’s point here in this passage is to point out the fact that multiple workings are all proceeding from one source, which means that these multiple gifts are all meant to work toward one unified purpose or end. He does this by saying the Spirit does x, the same Spirit does y, and the same Spirit does z.

The first gift is the word of wisdom (v. 8), and the second mentioned gift is the word of knowledge (v. 8). A third gift is that of faith (v. 9), and a fourth is the gift of healing (v. 9). Another man can work miracles (v. 10), yet another can prophesy (v. 10), and another can discern spirits (v. 10). Someone else has the gift of various languages (v. 10), and someone else can interpret (v. 10). But the one source of the diverse gifts is the one Spirit, who exercises His sovereignty by dispensing these gifts as He sees fit.

We do not know precisely what the gifts of wisdom and knowledge were, but judging from the face value of the words, it would be something like a timely statement of what the people should do (wisdom) and what the people should know (knowledge). The gift of faith appears to be the gift of remarkable faith, out of the ordinary faith—because every Christian has faith. It would be the gift of believing for particular things, as George Mueller had.

The gift of healing is possessed by someone who can heal someone else, with power draining from him as it happens—as when the woman with the hemorrhaging touched the Lord and was healed. The gift of healing should be distinguished from answered prayer healing. The gift of healing is not possessed by anyone today, and neither is the gift of miracles (2 Cor. 12:12Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Prophecy proper is not possessed by anyone either, although elements of the prophetic office are still present in preaching. We do not have anyone today who can write new Scripture. But we do have men who can speak in the name of the Lord.

A person who can discern spirits would be necessary in a service when people were speaking prophetically in a service under the influence of a spirit—Paul himself gave guidance on discerning spirits at the beginning of this chapter (v. 3). My understanding is that the gift of languages and interpretation together should be considered the equivalent to prophecy, which means that this gift is no longer extant.

Now some will no doubt object to all the “cessationism,” and say that they themselves have spoken in tongues or have been in services where that has happened. What about that? It reminds me of Mark Twain’s response when asked if he believed in infant baptism. “Believe in it? I have seen it done!” My understanding of the gift of tongues is that it is the gift of languages—with a vocabulary, grammar, syntax, meaning, the whole deal. We are too easily impressed with or persuaded by what could be called Beach Boys glossolalia—ba ba ba ba ba ran.

Having offended one half of the church, let me proceed to offend the other. But I mean well.

The fact that I believe that this kind of gifted authority was vested in, or was resident in, particular saints prior to the close of the canon, and is not operative today in the same way, does not mean that I believe the Holy Spirit died, or that God does not answer prayers, or that He is not actively at work in the world in visible and remarkable ways. I believe that the gift of miracle-working has ceased, not that miracles have ceased. I believe that the gift of healing has ceased, not that healing has ceased. And so on. What I believe has been taken out of the picture is any genuine spiritual gift that would provide anyone with a cogent scriptural argument that would require us to believe that person to be an apostle.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

church signs

I hate much of the shallowness (and often error) propagated under the guise of trying to be pithy. On the other hand, I hate the haters of those making these attempts - especially when they are hating on fake church signs.

telling god

" ... the greatest sin of the evangelical church was telling God what He could not do." ~ Terry Virgo quoting Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

eating and fasting

For 7+ years I've been fortunate enough to be part of a christian community that practices the Lord's Supper weekly. Sam Storm's wrote the following post which encourages me to look at the other end of that spectrum.

There is a profoundly important connection between the spiritual discipline of fasting and our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a feasting that looks backward in time, whereas fasting is a feasting that looks forward in time. The breaking of bread and drinking the cup is done “in remembrance” of our Lord’s historic, and therefore past, act of sacrifice. Thus by eating and drinking we celebrate the finality and sufficiency of that atoning death and that glorious resurrection. We should never fast from the supper of the Lord, even when we are fasting from other ordinary “suppers”. On the other hand, as John Piper explains,
“by not eating—by fasting—we look to the future with an aching in our hearts saying: ‘Yes, he came. And yes, what he did for us is glorious. But precisely because of what we have seen and what we have tasted, we feel keenly his absence as well as his presence. . . . we can eat and even celebrate with feasting because he has come. But this we also know: he is not here the way he once was. . . . And his [physical] absence is painful. The sin and misery of the world is painful. . . . We long for him to come again and take up his throne and reign in our midst and vindicate his people and his truth and his glory” (A Hunger for God, 84).
When we sit at Christ’s table with other believers we gratefully, fearfully, joyfully feast upon that food and drink that remind us of what has happened. And when we, in a time of fasting, turn away from the table where otherwise daily meals are served we declare our deep yearning for what has not yet happened.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

church innovation

My friend and curator of Cerulean Sanctum wrote this great post; Church Innovation And The Father's Doings.

I’ve been reading more nonfiction books on Christian living and church practice. Without exception, they’ve been a little (or a lot) disappointing.

What bothers me most is how quickly man-made ways of doing things come to the fore in those books. You can almost always trace the author’s primary influences back to their sources, and far too many times those influences are NOT primarily from Scripture.

This is not to say that there is no biblical justification for what is written, but the tendency is to take a man-made idea, wrap it in Scripture, and then sell it as wisdom.

That cannot work. Anything of worth must start with Scripture and proceed from it, not the other way around.

Over at Outreach magazine, Larry Osborne wrote on innovation in the Church (“Real World Innovation: It’s a Lot Like Sausage”). Coincidentally, I have Pastor Osborne’s Sticky Church on order from my local library as the next Christian living and church practice book on my to-read list. So, I was eager to hear his insights on this topic.

For as long as that article was, it didn’t have much to say about how Jesus, who was clearly the exemplar of innovation, approached the subject. Instead, I kept feeling like I was reading something out of Forbes rather than from a Christian source.

Let’s cut to the chase. This is Jesus’ approach to innovation:
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” — John 6:28-29 ESV 
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. — John 5:19 ESV 
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. — John 16:13-15 ESV
You want to be an innovator in the Church? You want to be a genuine leader? A visionary? Then do two things:

Believe wholeheartedly in Jesus, and do only what the Holy Spirit shows you the Father is doing.

Do we not see the beauty in the Trinity at operation here? Is this not truth?

Then why are we so loathe to live this way? Why must we find some other kind of wisdom from some other source and try to position ourselves as some kind of Steve Jobs of Faith?

For all that Osborne wrote in his article, you know what I really would have liked to have read? How we Christians can better attune ourselves to understand what the Holy Spirit is showing us about what the Father is doing.

The sad part is that we seldom get that kind of answer, and I think it’s because too many of our contemporary Christian “leaders” simply do not know how to get it. They can recite content from an MBA course, Seth Godin, or Steven Covey, but they don’t know what the Spirit is telling them right now and right for them and their church.

It all comes down to this:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. —1 Corinthians 2:12-16 ESV
Spiritually discerned. Anything lasting, anything innovative, is spiritually discerned.

Church, it is long past time that we return to living by the Spirit. My prayer will be that God will raise up more leaders from among us who are better led by the Spirit and less by the wisdom of the world.

love and justice

John Stott The Cross of Christ:

The cross can be seen as proof of God’s love only when it is at the same time seen as a proof of his justice.


Friday, February 21, 2014

words of caution

In light of some recent cyber-noise around a popular mega-church leader, Walt Mueller provides some wise words of caution for all of us:
  • We can easily cross over into relying on the spirit of the times, rather than on the Holy Spirit when it comes to our communication of the Gospel. The spirit of the times is one that celebrates and relies on marketing technique. When we co-opt that into the church, we tend to trust in our methods rather than on our God. When that happens, we effectively lead people to technique and experience, rather than to Christ. The enemy has got to be loving this.
  • Our theology can easily morph into commandeering God, rather than faithfully following the God who leads us. When Steven Furtick counts to three. . . and when Steven Furtick then issues the imperative, "Do it God" . . . we should cringe. Perhaps there are aspects of our own practical theology that should be cringe-worthy as well?
  • Charismatic leaders can become bigger than life. . . in their own eyes and in the eyes of their followers. They can become so big, in fact, that they eclipse God. Never forget, our culture celebrates and encourages Narcissism. But doesn't the Gospel call us to something different? And isn't that something different actually the kind of fruit by which we will knowthem?
  • We need accountability. We need it ourselves. We need it in our systems. We need it in our churches. . . desperately. I hear lots of people criticize church government and denominationalism. But when those systems are working well, there is an accountability that keeps us all honest and out of trouble. Recently someone asked me why CPYU is a board-governed non-profit with a board that has full authority over me. There's good reason. I am a broken human being. I need to be held accountable, as does our organization. Sadly, I think that in the church we are quickly moving away from models that embrace and facilitate accountability, to something that looks and functions more like a dictatorship than the Body of Christ.
  • When we're part of a system or institution that gets called out, our tendency is to first become defensive, to then fire back with accusations of judgementalism, to justify and legitimize that which is critiqued by pointing to its effectiveness at getting results (even though those results may be questionable), and to further cloister one's self and one's institution from helpful critique and accountability. It's a kind of "How dare you! We're doing this in the name of Christ!" mentality. What this means is that those of us within the systems might be so blind that we should welcome "seeing-eye" brothers and sisters whose care and concern could rescue us from danger and doom.
  • We need to realize that just because something is being done in the name of Christ, doesn't mean that that something is bringing honor and glory to Christ. Yesterday I started reading my friend Steve Garber's new book, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. In the book's Introduction, Steve reminds us of what novelist Walker Percy once famously wrote: "Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition." In today's world, bad books almost always sell the best. . . . making them seem like good books. Well, the same could be said, I fear, of bad churches. . . they always lie. . . and one of the things they lie about the most is the human condition. Is it possible that a bad church could be one that sells the best? A good church will preach a deep and abiding sense of human brokenness. A good church will answer that brokenness with the Gospel. . . . communicated through carefully evaluated methodologies that never muddy the message, send the wrong message, or become ends in and of themselves. 
  • There's not one of us who isn't immune from sliding away from doing and being our best, into doing and being something much less than our best. Some of the best conversations of my life have been the most uncomfortable. They've occurred when I've been in the midst of doing what I believe are good things that others I trust somehow correctly see as things that maybe I shouldn't be doing. They will lovingly call me out with words like "That's not you at your best, Walt" or "That doesn't put you and God in the best light" or "Have you thought about what you're really doing and communicating here?" None of us are immune. That's another reason for accountability.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

christ with us

John Owen in Communion with God:

Any step that is taken in any way, by strength not immediately from Christ, is one step towards hell. He first takes us by the arm and teaches us to go, until he leads us on to perfection. He hath milk and strong meat to feed us; he strengthens us with all might, and is with us in our running the race that is set before us. 

why abortion and divorce are a big deal

Great video ... missing the message of the cross but I don't think it's trying to be comprehensive ... I like it!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Thanks to Amy Hall for summarizing a New York Times interview with Alvin Plantinga:

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga made a few quotable points in an interview posted by the New York Times on Sunday.

On the claim that lack of evidence for theism is evidence for atheism:
Lack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism. No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there are an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars. The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism. 
In the same way, the failure of the theistic arguments, if indeed they do fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism. Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence.
On whether or not the existence of imperfections in the world is evidence against God:
I suppose your thinking is that it is suffering and sin that make this world less than perfect. But then your question makes sense only if the best possible worlds contain no sin or suffering. And is that true? Maybe the best worlds contain free creatures some of whom sometimes do what is wrong. Indeed, maybe the best worlds contain a scenario very like the Christian story. 
Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures. 
I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering.
On the atheist argument that “we no longer need God to explain the world”:
Some atheists seem to think that a sufficient reason for atheism is the fact (as they say) that we no longer need God to explain natural phenomena — lightning and thunder for example. We now have science. 
As a justification of atheism, this is pretty lame. We no longer need the moon to explain or account for lunacy; it hardly follows that belief in the nonexistence of the moon (a-moonism?) is justified. A-moonism on this ground would be sensible only if the sole ground for belief in the existence of the moon was its explanatory power with respect to lunacy. (And even so, the justified attitude would be agnosticism with respect to the moon, not a-moonism.) The same thing goes with belief in God: Atheism on this sort of basis would be justified only if the explanatory power of theism were the only reason for belief in God. And even then, agnosticism would be the justified attitude, not atheism.
On the problem with believing in both materialism and evolution:
[I]f there are only material entities, then atheism certainly follows. But there is a really serious problem for materialism: It can’t be sensibly believed, at least if, like most materialists, you also believe that humans are the product of evolution…. The belief that both materialism and evolution are true…can’t rationally be held.
Read the rest of the interview to find out why.

Monday, February 10, 2014

knowledge and obedience

Knowledge subject to God's authority. In Scripture knowledge is very closely linked with righteousness and holiness (cf. Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). These "go together" (1 Cor. 8:1-3; 1 John 4:7f.). Knowledge of God, in the fullest sense, is inevitably an obedient knowledge. Let me sketch five important relations between knowledge and obedience.

1. Knowledge of God produces obedience (John 17:26; 2 Peter 1:3, 5; 2:18-20). God's friends necessarily seek to obey Him (John 14:15, 21; etc.), and the better they know Him, the more obedient they become. Such a relation to God is inevitably a sanctifying experience; being near Him transforms us, as the biblical pictures of God's glory being transferred to His people, of His Spirit descending on them, and of their being conformed to His image indicate.

2. Obedience to God leads to knowledge (John 7:17; Eph. 3:17-19; 2 Tim. 2:25f.; 1 John 3:16; cf. Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 15:33; Isa. 33:6). This is the converse of the previous point; there is a "circular" relation between knowledge and obedience in Scripture. Neither is unilaterally prior to the other, either temporally or causally. They are inseparable and simultaneous. Each enriches the other (cf. 2 Peter 1:5f.). In my view, some Reformed "intellectualists" (Gordon Clark has applied this label to himself) have failed to do justice to this circularity. Even in the writings of J. Gresham Machen, one often finds the slogan "life is built upon doctrine" used in a way that distorts the fact that in some senses the opposite is also true. It is certainly true that if you want to obey God more completely, you must get to know Him; but it is also true that if you want to know God better, you must seek to obey Him more perfectly." [The circle goes even farther: knowledge originates in God's grace and leads to more grace (Exod. 33:13), which leads to more knowledge. In this case, however, there is a "unilateral" beginning. Grace originates knowledge, not vice versa.]

This emphasis does not contradict our earlier point that knowledge is by grace. Knowledge and obedience are given to us simultaneously by God on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice. Once they are given, God continues to give them in greater and greater fullness. But He uses means; He uses our obedience as a means of giving us knowledge, and vice versa.

3. Obedience is knowledge, and knowledge is obedience. Very often in Scripture, obedience and knowledge are used as near synonyms, either by being set in apposition to one another (e.g., Hos. 6:6) or by being used to define one another (e.g., Jer. 22:16). Occasionally, too, knowledge appears as one term in a general list of distinctly ethical categories (e.g., Hos. 4:lf.) and so is presented as a form of obedience (cf. Jer. 31:31f.; John 8:55 [note the context, esp. vv. 19, 32, 41]; 1 Cor. 2:6 [cf. vv. 13-15; "mature" here is an ethical-religious quality]; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 3:8-11; 2 Thess. 1:8f.; 2 Peter 1:5; 2:20f.). In these passages, obedience is not merely a consequence of knowledge but a constitutive aspect of it. Without obedience there is no knowledge, and vice versa.

The point here is not that obedience and knowledge are synonymous terms, interchangeable in all contexts. They do differ. Knowledge designates the friendship between ourselves and God (see below), and obedience designates our activity within that relation. But these two ideas are so inseparable from one another that often they can legitimately be used as synonyms, each describing the other from a particular perspective.

4. Thus obedience is the criterion of knowledge. To determine if someone knows God, we do not merely give him a written exam; we examine his life. Atheism in Scripture is a practical, not merely a theoretical, position; denying God is seen in the corruption of one's life (Pss. 10:4ff.; 14:1-7; 53). Similarly, the test of Christian faith or knowledge is a holy life (Matt. 7:21ff.; Luke 8:21; John 8:47; 14:15, 21, 23f.; 15:7, 10, 14; 17:6, 17; 1 John 2:3-5; 4:7; 5:2f.; 2 John 6f.; Rev. 12:17; 14:12). The ultimate reason for that is that God is the real, living, and true God, not an abstraction concerning whom we can only theorize, but one who is profoundly involved with each of our lives. The very "I am" of Yahweh indicates His presence. As Francis Schaeffer says, He is "the God who is there." Thus our involvement with Him is a practical involvement, an involvement with Him not only in our theoretical activity but in all of life. To disobey is to be culpably ignorant of God's involvement in our lives. So disobedience involves ignorance and obedience involves knowledge.

5. Therefore it is clear that knowledge itself must be sought in an obedient way. There are commandments in Scripture that bear very directly on how we are to seek knowledge, that identify the differences between true and false knowledge. In this connection, we should meditate on 1 Corinthians 1-2; 3:18-23; 8:1-3; and James 3:13-18. When we seek to know God obediently, we assume the fundamental point that Christian knowledge is a knowledge under authority, that our quest for knowledge is not autonomous but subject to Scripture. And if that is true, it follows that the truth (and to some extent the content) of Scripture must be regarded as the most certain knowledge that we have. If this knowledge is to be the criterion for all other knowledge, if it is to govern our acceptance or rejection of other propositions, then there is no proposition that can call it into question. Thus when we know God, we know Him more certainly, more surely than we know anything else. When He speaks to us, our understanding of His Word must govern our understanding of everything else. This is a difficult point because, after all, our understanding of Scripture is fallible and may sometimes need to be corrected. But those corrections may be made only on the basis of a deeper understanding of Scripture, not on the basis of some other kind of knowledge.

the bible in 20 minutes

First Jason DeRouchie with the Old Testament in Ten Minutes:

The Old Testament in Ten Minutes from Desiring God.

Then Andy Nasilli does the New Testament in Ten Minutes:

The New Testament in Ten Minutes from Desiring God.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

spirit-formed community

From Trevin Wax:

The power of Pentecost makes for a fantastic story. Rushing wind, flaming tongues, and the proclamation of a fisherman turned evangelist calling people to repent and be baptized.

But don’t miss how Acts 2 ends. The power of the Spirit that flowed through the apostles’ proclamation is the power that gathers people into a new community.
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
Evangelicals in the West tend to think of the gospel as just a transaction between the individual and God. Just me and Jesus, thank you. Of course, salvation is indeed about an individual being reconciled to God. The Spirit ushers us into a restored relationship with the living God, an intimate knowledge and love of Him who loved us first.

But we mustn’t leave out the result of the gospel’s proclamation in Acts 2. The cross restores our relationship to God, and the result is restored relationship with others. Vertical reconciliation makes possible horizontal reconciliation, and the horizontal dimension then magnifies the vertical.

Here’s an example. Ephesians 1 is all about God’s magnificent plan of salvation. Ephesians 2:1-9 is all about God’s magnificent plan of saving individual sinners like you and me. But the rest of Ephesians 2 and 3 (and 4-6, for that matter!) is about how God’s magnificent plan results in the creation of a renewed people – bringing together former enemies, Jew and Gentile, into one family. Jesus is our peace.

The Holy Spirit not only gives us power, not only leads us to proclamation, and not only fulfills God’s promise. He forms a new people.

What Kind of People?
  • That’s where Acts 2 gets most interesting. The characteristics of this new people reflect the work of the Holy Spirit. What are they doing?
  • They are devoted to the apostles’ teaching. This is a Word-centered group of people, aren’t they? No surprise there. The Spirit inspired the apostle’s teaching.
  • They are devoted to fellowship. They love each other. No surprise there. The Spirit of love has been poured into their hearts.
  • They break bread together at the Communion table. No surprise there. Through the Spirit, Christ is present with us when we gather and proclaim His death through the Lord’s Supper.
  • They are devoted to praying together. No surprise there. The Spirit is the One who groans within us when our words run out.
  • They are marked by fear of the Lord. No surprise there. God has given us the Spirit of all wisdom, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
  • They are marked out by witnessing the signs and wonders of the apostles. No surprise there. We too have seen God’s wonders. We’ve seen Him rescue people from sin, we’ve seen Him heal people of sickness in answer to our prayers, we’ve seen Him soften the hardest heart.
  • They are willing to share their belongings and give to one another. No surprise. The Spirit of generosity has been poured out on God’s people.
  • They show hospitality, going from house to house. No surprise. This is the Spirit who welcomes us into the throne room of grace.
  • They are filled with gladness and simplicity. No surprise. This is the Spirit, the Comforter who brings us joy in God.
  • They praise God. No surprise. The Spirit lifts up Jesus, and whenever we proclaim Him as Lord, it’s through the work of the Spirit.
  • They find favor with all the people. No surprise. The Spirit fills us with love and self-giving devotion to others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.
The Gospel of the Promised Spirit

The Holy Spirit is part of the promise of the gospel.
He gives us power to fulfill Christ’s mission.
  • He leads us to proclamation of Christ’s gospel.
  • [my addition - He leads us to proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel of the Kingdom]
  • He fulfills God’s promise of regeneration.
  • And He forms a new people who know and love God, and overflow with love for others.