How to pray for TruthXchange 2015


This evening, TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank kicks off, and after a long (loooooong) day of travel, I’ve finally made it to the promised land. Or at least, a land without ice and snow (I’m easy to please).

With the fun getting started this evening (if you’re attending, be sure to say hello), I wanted to suggest a few ways you can be praying for us over the next few days:

Wisdom for the speakers. The conference theme, Generational Lies and Timeless Truths, is an important one. There is so much confusion out there among Christians in particular on a host of issues, from sexuality to social justice, and we want our messages to be as helpful as possible to our hearers.

The wellbeing of everyone working behind the scenes. TruthXchange’s staff and volunteers have been working tremendously hard to make this event great. Please be praying for the health and wellbeing of all those people, that they would be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors and they’d have the bandwidth to handle any unexpected surprises (my delay last night was definitely one of those).

The practicality of the messages. We want people to actually be able to do something with what they learn at this event—specifically to be stronger witnesses for the Lord in their every day lives (and I want this as a speaker, too).

The centrality of the gospel. Because of the very nature of the subject matter, it’s easy to skew negative and treat the topics as though everything is going to hell in a handbasket. And while there are many things to be concerned about, we want to focus on the good news, and why the Christian worldview—and more specifically, as a faithful follower of Jesus—is so much better than the alternatives being offered in the culture today. Please pray that each speaker would keep focused on the main thing: Jesus Christ.

Why you—yes, YOU!—need to come to TruthXchange 2015


There are a lot—a LOT—of conferences you could go to every year. In all honesty, probably too many. But with all the options out there, how do you decide where to go?

One of my favorites to attend is the TruthXchange Think Tank, a conference I’ve been a part of as an attendee and now as a speaker for several years. Here are three reasons why I think you should come to this year’s Think Tank (that have nothing to do with beautiful southern California weather):

1. Its celebrity-free culture. I first learned of the ministry in 2010, when I attended a Resurgence conference in San Diego, and met its founder and executive director, Dr. Peter Jones. During the event, I was impressed that Dr. Jones didn’t do the thing you so often see with speakers: rather than being off hanging out with his fellow speakers, he was out in the foyer at the TruthXchange booth, interacting with the attendees.

When I attended my first Think Tank in 20111, I was impressed to learn this wasn’t just Dr. Jones’ personality, it was something he and the team have built into the culture of the ministry and these events. There isn’t that kind of strange celebrity vibe that you get at a lot of other events—the one that seems to create a peculiar division between the attendees and speakers (which, in many cases, I genuinely believe is unintentional). Instead, and perhaps it’s because it is a smaller group, or perhaps because the speakers really are just like the rest of us, everyone interacts with one another quite heavily, and it’s just really cool to see.

And if you don’t believe me, just remember: I am speaking at this year. Point proven.

2. It’s about the message. Related to the the previous point, one of the things I often see people lament about some conferences is the “I’m really looking forward to hearing [insert name here] speak” attitude that comes up. You see it everywhere—people go to T4G because they want to hear Mohler, Dever, or Piper. They go to TGC because they want to hear Keller, Carson, or Piper. People go to the Shepherd’s Conference because they want to hear MacArthur, DeYoung, or Piper.

And it’s not that these guys don’t care about their message (far from it!), nor is it wrong to appreciate them and their teaching. But at an event like this, the attendees aren’t there because they’re hoping to get a selfie with Chris Poblete and me. They’re coming because of the message.

3. The message really does change lives. Built upon the foundation of Romans 1:18-25, the fundamental message of TruthXchange’s ministry is helping Christians see the beauty of Two—to see, understand and celebrate the Creator-creation distinction, and how it makes the world make sense.

Does it get a bit heady sometimes? Sure. But when you begin to wrap your mind around the simple-yet-not concept that there are only two religions—Oneism (all is One) and Twoism (all is Two, or the biblical worldview)—when you begin to recognize how the failure to acknowledge God as God is playing out in our world, it helps you understand how to better engage the lost in our communities. And it also helps us to see the dangers within our own local churches, and encourage our fellow believers as we minister to others.

And that’s the important thing to grasp: this isn’t a message that’s for you—it’s for you to use to equip others. What I learned at TruthXchange was the foundation of what I was able to teach the teens in our homeschool co-op. And the great thing is the kids got it. And this was such a great blessing to me, not because it meant I did a sufficient job teaching, but because it means there’s a good chance they’re going to be able to use it in their own lives going forward.

And if those reasons aren’t good enough, remember: It’s California in February. If your backyard more closely resembles Hoth than anywhere hospitable for human life, that’s a pretty compelling reason right there.

This may or may not be my backyard right now.

This may or may not be my backyard right now.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself registered now!

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

I never gave God much thought before becoming a Christian, unless it was to make fun of Christians. But what I did know didn’t really make sense when confronted by God’s character as revealed by God.

I was not alone in this. When you talk to people around us—both outside the church and within it—you quickly see that many have some strange ideas about God:

  • We treat Him like a divine butler whose existence is centered around making us happy.
  • We act as though God doesn’t matter or exist at all, until a loved one dies unexpectedly; then we ask how God could have let this happen.
  • We imagine God as being solely about love, and forgiving us is His job.

As we all become increasingly confused about who God is, and what He demands of us, it’s more necessary than ever for us to be able to understand what lies beneath the lies we believe and be ready to respond lovingly and clearly.

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

That’s why I’m excited to be a part of TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank, “Generational Lies; Timeless Truths.” During this event, the speakers and participants will be discussing the lies we’ve passed on for generations, and respond with the unchanging and life-giving truth of Scripture. Speaking at the Think Tank are Peter Jones, Calvin Beisner, Joe Boot, Ted Hamilton, Rebecca Jones, Jeffrey Ventrella, Thaddeus Williams… and me.


(And yes, Canadian friends, the idea of being on the same roster as Joe Boot is just as terrifying as you’d imagine.)

What will I be speaking on?

I’m speaking on a subject close to my heart: social justice. I love that there are so many young people—both Christian and non—who are fired up about helping those in need and making a difference in society. But that zeal needs to be built upon a solid foundation. So, in my session, I’ll be digging into the roots of the “deeds, not creeds” mindset and offering a look at how the gospel informs and transforms our desire to act on behalf of those in need.

When is it happening?

The Think Tank will be held February 3-5, 2015 in Escondido, CA at New Life Presbyterian Church. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll make it out for what is sure to be a challenging and edifying few days. Register now at

My top 5 highlights from #T4G


Last week, I travelled down to Louisville, Kentucky, for Together for the Gospel 2014, three days of heavy duty teaching, singing, and visiting with friends from around the continent who you only see at events such as these.

This was my second time at T4G, and it was a very different experience for me this time around.

I didn’t live-blog (sorry folks who were looking forward to it!). I didn’t take copious notes. I even missed a few sessions due to some other commitments (I’m catching up on those now!).

But, y’know something? It was probably the best conference experience I’ve ever had. Here are my top five moments:

1. People who are more than profile pics! These conferences are always a double-edged sword for introverts like me. I have to work really, really hard to be social as it’s tempting to curl up in a corner with a book and hide. But over the three days I was in Louisville, I got to see many older friends (Alex Leung, Chris Poblete, Pat Aldridge, Dave Jenkins, Derek Rishmawy, Dan Darling, Matt Capps, and Jonathan Howe among them) while meeting several folks for the first time who I’ve really enjoyed interacting with via Twitter like Matt Sims and (all-too-briefly) Mike Leake.

2. DeYoung brought it. Of the messages I was present for, Kevin DeYoung’s may well have been the standout moment of the entire conference. He offered a powerful exposition of Jesus’ view of the Bible—a defence of inerrancy that wasn’t intended to encourage mental assent, but delighted and devoted confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.

A few standout quotes:

  • “Is your chastened epistemology a sign of humility or that you’re hard of hearing?”
  • “If quoting Deuteronomy to the devil was enough for Jesus, it should be enough for us.”
  • “When we become proud of our doubts, we are guilty of the sin of unbelief.”

John MacArthur, a man not known for positive hyperbole, had this to say: “Not only is this one of the finest talks you’ve heard, it’s one of the finest you will ever hear.” Listen at

3. Listening to 7000+ (mostly) men sing. Loudly. Once again, Bob Kauflin led us all in singing praise to the Lord, and once again, it was the one of the best and most genuine times of singing I’ve been a part of. There was nothing showy, no lasers or smoke machines, just Kauflin and a piano. The attendees sang—and more importantly, they sang like they meant it.

(Worship leaders, there might be a lesson here…)

4. The gospel by Numbers. In what I’d definitely call as the close-second to DeYoung’s inerrancy message, Ligon Duncan showed us the gospel in a passage you wouldn’t have expected: Numbers 5:1-4. These verses, the defilement laws, “show that those who are unclean make everything they touch unclean,” but they also have a massive gap: there’s no way to be made clean in them. In the gap, they serve an essential purpose: to point us to the One who makes all things clean!

“Jesus is the One who makes all things unclean clean… All this he does so you can say when sharing the gospel, there’s nothing he cannot touch, nothing he cannot make clean…. so that we might become the righteousness of God.”

Isn’t that the kind of Jesus we want to tell people about?

5. The freedom to rest. Wednesday night I was completely bagged. I had a lot to do that day and was pretty wiped by the time 7:30 rolled around. So, rather than walking over to the Yum Center and catching Matt Chandler’s message, I did something new for me: I went to my room, wrote for a bit and relaxed for a couple of hours. Feeling the freedom to actually go and rest is new for me, and it’s something I’m really grateful for.

So those are probably my favorite moments of T4G 2014. Now, to get back to the normal routine and figure out where to put this big stack of books that came home with me!

Were you at T4G or did you listen online? What was a highlight moment for you?

Why I may (not) be live-blogging #T4G14


Over the last few years of attending conferences, I’ve tended to live-blog them, taking copious notes and sharing them here in real-time or something close to it. This year, although I have no doubt I’ll be taking lots of notes, I’m not sure if I will be live-blogging at T4G. It’s hard work and fun work… but man, it’s a lot of work.

So here are a few reasons why I may or may not do it this time:

1. My notes tend to be more like on-the-fly, loosely paraphrased transcripts. I don’t catch everything, but I do manage to get about 80 percent of what’s said in a pretty faithful form. This is tricky to do, but I know a lot of people find them helpful.

2. I don’t want my note-taking to be distracting to other attendees. Conference venues like the Yum Center tend to not be set up to handle live-blogging well. And because my tendency is to not be a gentle typer, I am concerned about my clickety-clacking distracting the other attendees.

3. Not live-blogging gives a little more flexibility to my schedule. I don’t “have” to be there on time or at all, if something requires my attention elsewhere (I’m thinking a work or family-related emergency).

4. Sometimes it’s fun just to sit and watch. I’ve never really just sat back and watched at one of these. This might be a good thing to try.

5. Sometimes sharing the material online is fun, too. I’ve received a number of emails from folks saying they’ve found my notes helpful in the past, and I do appreciate having the opportunity to help others when possible.

6. There’s a livestream. The livestream is really handy and allows people to listen in as they go about their day.

So what say you all? Live-blog or not live-blog?

God’s Love Compels Us: a free #TGC13 eBook

On April 6-7, 2013, The Gospel Coalition held their 2013 World Missions pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” With permission from the kind folks at TGC, I’ve put together my notes from the conference into a free eBook (.pdf format), which is now available for download.


Here’s what’s included:

  1. Don Carson: The Biblical Basis for Missions
  2. Andy Davis: Are People Without Christ Really Lost?
  3. David Platt: Why the Great Commission is Great
  4. John Piper: The heart of God in the call to proclaim
  5. Michael Oh: the individual’s suffering & the salvation of the world
  6. Stephen Um: Jesus and Justice
  7. Mack Stiles: The Ministry of Reconciliation

The conference was a tremendous blessing to attend and I trust you’ll be both encouraged and challenged by the messages included in the book. Enjoy!


Gary Millar: Jesus Betrayed and Crucified #TGC


My notes from Gary Millar’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

If you’ve ever flown into Ireland—north or south—you can’t help but notice it’s remarkably green. And the tourist board fails to tell you the obvious reason why: It rains a lot. After 45 years in Ireland, God mercifully uprooted our family to Australia, where the tourist line is “beautiful today, perfect the next.”

We don’t easily take the weather for granted, but we do all too easily with people. And though the consequences of taking people for granted is toxic for our relationships, it’s even more toxic to take our relationship with God for granted. It’s possible that even some of us here are taking the Lord Jesus Christ for granted right now.

Are we more drawn to ideas than to Jesus? To success than Jesus? Is it possible our hearts are here but elsewhere?

We’re all more than capable of taking Jesus for granted. We may love theology, strategizing, theology, exegesis, preaching… but the prior question is: Do we love Jesus Christ?

If not, then we need to read the gospels. Because hte gospels give us a person. The gospels are dripping with theology, but the theology is embodied in the person of Jesus. And we must not miss how Jesus stands out in this long passage (Luke 22:39-23:49).

Jesus stands out as the one who keeps his head while everyone else is looking theirs.

Jesus leads the way to the Mount of Olives. He’s the one who meets Judas. He’s the one who stops the disciples rebellion the moment it begins. He is the one who is making things happen; he is the one in control.

The contrast between Peter and Jesus couldn’t be more stark. Where Jesus is calm, Peter is panicked. Where Jesus speaks calmly, Peter blurts out lies.

There’s even a sense that the one who is on trial is the one who orchestrates the trial.

His silence with Pilate is telling. His silence in verse 23 is not despair; he stays silent to move things forward to his ultimate goal. Jesus hasn’t given up, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He won’t break his silence to defend himself in a sham trial.

He knows what he is doing. He is in perfect control.

When he does speak, it shows his mind is in perfect control, as we see when he speaks to a group of grieving women. Even there, he is concerned for others more than himself. He knows that things will get worse for them according to verse 31. But he is completely collected.

Even when Jesus is hoisted up between two thieves, he is in perfect control. He is mocked for not saving himself, but what does he do? He prays, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

He is the judge of all creation, the one who rules over all things. And he is in perfect control.

He is calm under extreme pressure. He’s under unimaginable stress—sweating drops of blood—but he remains calm. This is where he leaves everyone else behind. He’s not just in control of himself, he’s in control of the events themselves.

It’s not just that he knows how to respond to what he’ll find, he already knows what he’ll find. He is in control of the entire sweep of human history, and so he is in calm.

Yes, he is the lamb led to the slaughter, but we must also see Jesus as he is:

The sovereign God in action.

When we have control, we use it to make live better for ourselves. But not so with Jesus. When we say Jesus is Lord, we say he is in control of all things. And we see this perfectly in his walk to the cross, where he uses his control over all things.

Jesus is also perfectly innocent.

As he is interviewed over and over again, he is called innocent.

Jesus is praying, Judas comes with armed men. Jesus is silent in the kangaroo court, because his evidence is obvious. They rush him to Pilate who says he finds no fault in this man. Herod does the same implicitly. NOw that doesn’t stop them from treating him shamefully and harshly, and sending him back to PIlate.

Pilate should have let him go, but the people demanded Jesus’ death—and Pilate knew he was condemning an innocent man to death. If you needed any more evidence, you need only look at the ending verses of our passage. Certainly, this man is innocent.

This is the most stunning miscarriage in all of history. But Jesus isn’t just the wrong man, he’s the perfect man—and we killed him. He is the Son of God who walked the earth—and we condemned him.

Place him next to anyone else in the world and it serves only to illuminate his perfect innocence. Aren’t you so glad he came?

At last, here’s a man we can look up to. A hero worth having. A man with no secrets, no pride, nothing he’s keeping from us. A man so brimming with perfect innocence that he gives himself up for us.

Really, how could we take this innocent man fro granted?

Jesus stands out as the one who trusts God in the most horrific moment ever to happen to a human being.

Yes, he is the one in control of his emotions, yes he is orchestrating the events in a sense, but he is the one who trusts the Father perfectly. “…nevertheless not my will but yours be done.”

This again is voiced at the end, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Luke wanted us to get the fact that this man who is in complete control, he also trusts God flawlessly.

Have you ever thought about this: our situation is so hopeless—we actually need to trust God for us? Even the best of us can’t pull it off properly. Which is why it’s such a relief that Jesus trusts God perfectly for us.

My problem isn’t that I’m not trustworthy, it’s that I’m incapable of trusting God perfectly myself. And the same is true for you.

Jesus stands out because he’s in control even when everything is falling apart, even when he is innocent, even when others are determined to condemn him, because he trusts God perfectly.

Sometimes I think we take Jesus for granted because we don’t think about how awe-inspiring and trustworthy he actually is. He is not a cardboard cut-out. He is the one in whom power, beauty and majesty come together.

This is our Lord Jesus Christ—the sovereign God in the flesh. HOw can we fail to run ot him? How can we take him for granted?

How can Jesus not stand out here—not just because of who he is, but who he is surrounded with? Luke wants us to know about the people who stand by Jesus, bump into Jesus…

Jesus is surrounded by weak people. 

The disciples are falling apart. While Jesus is wrestling with having to die for us, but the disciples are so emotionally exhausted that they struggle to stay awake.

Peter is terribly weak. His actions display this–in his rush to attack the guard; his denial of Jesus… earlier he’d said he’d go to prison or death with Jesus. He couldn’t live up to his bold claim. When he was confronted by his weakness, he wept bitterly.

Jesus is surrounded by evil people 

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. The evil of the leaders and priests is displayed too—they could have taken him at any time, but they did so at night. The guards, the crowds, the thief on the cross… Jesus is surrounded by evil people who are consumed by self-interest.

Pilate released Barabbas instead of him because of political self-interest. Herod wanted a magic show and when he didn’t get it he joined the soldiers in mocking Jesus.

We are utterly self-centered, too.

Jesus is surrounded by oblivious people. 

They have no idea what’s going on—they have no clue. Simon of Cyrene. The people at the fire with Peter. The crowds and the soldiers who were looking to add a bit of dark humor to their job. They all had no idea of the significance of what was going on in front of them. People who maybe get a bit of it, but not all of it.

The women who recoiled at the injustice of everything going on. But Jesus’ response tells us they don’t quite get it. But he dies for them—and for you and me.

Why does Luke write this? Why doesn’t he write the theology of the events?

This is the theology. Here is one man dying for the ungodly—here is Jesus Christ.

This becomes clear in the case of Barabbas—a man called Son of the Father who was a murderer, who is replaced by the Father’s Son who had done no wrong.

In the Hunger Games series, the heroine, Katniss, takes the place of her sister in an utterly selfless act. But it’s an understandable one. It’s her little sister.

But Jesus’ sacrifice is different. We are the ones for whom Jesus is dying. We are the one for whom Jesus drinks the cup.

It’s clear that people don’t get who Jesus is throughout the gospel.

But then he is recognized by a thief, a terrorist.

A terrorist is the first to recognize Jesus for who he is. He is the first to receive the invitation to join Jesus at his banquet table. He somehow gets that Jesus is the King they’ve been waiting for even with all the clamoring around them. And he asks the only thing that makes sense—”Jesus, remember me in your kingdom.”

Then, as the world is recognizing the death of Jesus, its creator, the sky turns dark, the ground shakes. And a gentile soldier recognizes who Jesus is—the innocent one who died for weak, evil, guilty people.

Jesus dies for us, even though he is the perfect Son of the Father, and we are utterly unworthy.

Luke invites us to stand with these people. To see and savor this Jesus. To acknowledge this Jesus as the one who takes our guilt. The Lord of the universe who forgives us by bringing about his own death.

This is the heart of the gospel. How can we take this Jesus for granted?

Stephen Um: Jesus and Money #TGC13


My notes from Stephen Um’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

Jesus talked a lot of money. He talked about greed about ten times more than he did sexual sin. This is not to minimize sexual sin, but it helps us recognize the insidiousness of greed—the danger of the love of money.

When someone is committing adultery, no one needs to come alongside them and say, “Hey, you’re committing adultery.” But when it comes to greed, we’re not always sure. That’s why Jesus says, “take care, be aware, be on guard.”

There are no accountability groups for greed in the church. There’s no computer software. But we need to recognize the seductive power money can have in our hearts.

Before we start, we need to recognize three things: we need to disaffect our view of money because we often look at money and think it’s a dirty word. Obviously because we live in a fallen world, we’ve seen money used and abused—but God gives money to us as a gift. Secondly, we need to view money as a tool. It’s not any more inherently evil than any other thing God has created. Thirdly, we need to have an intentional theological understanding of money.

There are three truths I’d like us to understand from this passage:

The problem of money

What’s going on in our passage is Jesus is telling a story to his disciples, that there was a very rich man who told a manager to turn in his records, and then we was going to fire him. The loss of the position as manager in Roman culture meant the forfeiting of your social status.

1. The first danger of money is clearly seen here in that it can become your security. 

The manager had to make a fundamental choice about his allegiance. Money is morally neutral, but the heart isn’t neutral. He could have repented of his dishonest actions, he could have been like the younger son in Luke 15‘s parable, but we see he wasn’t repentant. The unjust steward instead looked to himself, asking “What shall I do?”

He turned to himself for the solution, instead of away. The danger of money is it can become our security.

This person is extremely anxious, he’s insecure. He’s afraid—he says, “What am I supposed to do?” His identity was wrapped up in his work. So what does he do? He comes up with a plan.

The problem is he went back to the problem for the solution. He didn’t look outside the problem for the solution. Why is this man in this situation? Because he wasted his master’s possessions. THe word “wasted” here is the same word used in Luke 15 for the younger son who “squandered” his property. It refers to reckless living—the manager misappropriated funds for his own purposes.

It’s a character issue, not a competence one. [Read more…]

Kevin DeYoung: Jesus and the Lost #TGC13


My notes from Kevin DeYoung’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

When I was first asked to speak on Luke 15, my first thought was, “Awesome, I know what’s in Luke 15.” My second thought was, “Ugh, everyone knows what’s in Luke 15!”

I want to tell you one thing you need to know to understand these three parables, two things about God and three things we need to do with it:

The context

There’s a deliberate pattern where some event or some question will prompt Jesus to give a teaching or tell a parable. Looking back in Luke 10, a Lawyer comes to Jesus and asks “what must I do to have eternal life?” And Jesus tells him, but the lawyer seeking to justify himself asks, “who is my neighbor?” And this prompts Jesus to tell the parable of the good Samaritan. Or the scribes and Pharisees who are clamoring for the seats of honor and it prompts Jesus to tell the parable of the wedding banquet… Luke is very helpful to us in that he gives an introductory statement to so many of Jesus’ parables, and he does so here in Luke 15. The sinners and tax collectors were drawing near to Jesus, and the scribes and Pharisees grumbled.

They didn’t like the company he was keeping.

Sinners and tax collectors.

“Sinner” is a pretty broad term—it could mean non-Pharisees, non-Jews, those who aren’t walking with God… in short, they’re people who sin. They’re not obeying the commands of God.

Tax collectors is a narrower term and it’s not a compliment. These were people who bid to Rome to collect taxes in Judea. The problem with the tax collectors is not that they collected taxes, but that they were cheating and swindling the people. They were almost always thieves and swindlers—they could do just about as they pleased.

The closest analogy might be the old city bosses or the mafia who had bought all the authorities and were virtually untouchable by the law.

In the Mishna, a Jewish document written about a century after Jesus, it mentions thieves, sinners and tax collectors in the same breath. The liberal and conservative wings of Judaism both agreed it was acceptable to lie to tax collectors.

But here’s Jesus—not just ministering to them, but receiving with them. Eating with them.

It would be like setting up to hand out literature at an abortion clinic and seeing your pastor walk about of the clinic saying, “See you at seven, okay?”

We all have our categories. we have “sinners,” and we have our “tax collectors.” You love the poor, but do you love the rich? [Read more…]

Don Carson: Jesus’ resolve to head toward Jerusalem #TGC13


My notes from Don Carson’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

Every gospel is organized a little differently; this is something that we sometimes miss in a “bitty” reading of Scripture. In Mark’s gospel, for example, gives us examples of Jesus’ miracles scattered throughout Scripture. Matthew meanwhile, picks up on these miracles and puts them all in chapters 8 and 9.

In our passage tonight, is another ordering that is unique to Luke. Luke is telling us in his ordering of his gospel that he is going to Jerusalem to die. Everything in Luke’s gospel that takes from Luke 9:51 onward is taking place of the looming shadow of the impending cross.

That’s what this structure means. It’s a hint how to read the book. So I’m going to run through this passage before us (Luke 9:18-56) and show you a couple of things that will help you to read this book in light of the cross.

I want to make two assertions that rise from reading the book of Luke carefully. The first is this:

In his own time, Jesus is the misunderstood Messiah. But the reader sees what his contemporaries did not see: Jesus is resolved to go to Jerusalem to die and rise again.

We’ll see how this works out in five sections of this chapter:

1. Jesus is God’s Messiah but this Messiah will suffer, die and rise again. 

In Caesar Philippi, Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is; Peter says he is God’s Messiah. What Peter is confessing is that Jesus is God’s Davidic King whom God promised. But Peter did not mean what we mean when he made that confession. Peter doesn’t have the category of a Messiah going to the cross to die.

What Peter meant is not all that the Bible teaches—what he says is the truth and he’s blessed by Jesus for speaking the truth; but it’s still not full Christian truth. And this is pointed out in verse 21 when Jesus strictly orders them to tell no one. And the reason for that is that what the crowds understood by Messiah is a cluttering up of expectation—of dominion, of kingship. That’s why he works to reorient their understanding of what Messiah means.

But there’s no way they understood this. How do we know? When Jesus is crucified, they are shattered. They still have no category for a crucified Messiah. They were probably looking at each other saying, “Deep, deep. Jesus says deep things you know.”

But they didn’t understand. [Read more…]

Colin Smith: Jesus Despised #TGC13


My notes from Colin Smith’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

The events of Luke 4:16-30 take place early on in Jesus’ ministry. Word of His ministry in Galilee had already spread through the area, and os this is taking place about a year in. This is a town where folks played with Jesus as a child, who maybe had a table mended by Jesus… And we’re told it was Jesus’ custom to worship here.

When someone becomes famous, it’s a big deal for a small town. And this great day comes, after all the stories have been circulated, Jesus is coming back to town, and no doubt word circulated so much so that there would have been a really big crowd.

We all know how dead religion can be—but this day was different. The pattern would have likely been the same as always, right up to the reading from the Prophets. And Jesus stood and chose to read from Isaiah 61, and this is what he read:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He rolls up the scroll and sits down. The people, with bated breath, turn wondering what he’s going to say and he says, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Four identifying characteristics of Jesus’ preaching: [Read more…]

John Piper: Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Mary #TGC13


My notes from John Piper’s opening session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

The only place in the entire book of Luke does the author write in the first person (Luke 1:1). The reason he does so is so that we may have certainty (Luke 1:4). The word “certainty”— asphaleia—means security (NT) or safety (OT). The idea seems to be that Luke is saying, “Theophilus, you’ve been taught many things, but I want you to know them differently—I want you to know them as locked down, secure unshakeable reality.

The reason I”m lingering over this is not only because Luke did, but because we live in a time when people don’t know these things in an asphaleia kind of way. THey have ideas in their heads and they know them like clouds and not mountains.

But when resistance comes, the old cloud goes away and a new cloud lodges in their minds–that’s the way a lot of people know doctrine. I want you to know the doctrine locked down, nailed down, immovable like a mountain, not a cloud, says Luke.

He doesn’t want you to know them any other way—he wants you to know the truth so it’s safe from being changed from the culture or ceasing to be what they are. They’re safe to be what they are forever!

This is the kind of knowing we want to have. The other kind of knowing—the kind that wrecks churches—is different. Luke knows what it means to be a most excellent Theophilus. He’s the one who wrote to us about most excellent Festus and Felix—how did they know? Felix had an excellent understanding of the Way, but hoping for a bribe sent Paul on his way. That’s the kind of knowing that wrecks churches, that brings reproach on churches.

Luke saw Paul’s back—he knew the scars he had—he knew the kind of knowledge that sustains obedience. And he wanted Theophilus to know it too.

When Paul preached to Festus, Festus told Paul, “Your learning is driving you out of your mind.” And Paul replied, “I am not out of my mind… I am speaking what is true and rational.”

You can’t buy truth with wealth. You can’t control truth with power, which is why rich and powerful people don’t like it. Truth doesn’t give them enough wiggle room. It locks them down and you either submit or perish.

How does Luke build the asphaleia in his head so they’re absolute unshakeable reality—mountains, not clouds?

In the first two chapters he does it by paralleling John the Baptist and Jesus. Remarkable that John the Baptist receives so much attention in the first two chapters of Luke.

So how do you preach on two chapters of the Bible? I’m going to show you how Luke shows Theophilus how to get the truth into his heart in an asphaleia kind of way. And he does it by showing Theolophilus the following: [Read more…]

Mack Stiles: The Ministry of Reconciliation #TGC13


My notes from Mack Stiles’ session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

I want to read tonight from 2 Cor 5:11-21. This passage is best known for it’s ambassadorship, but I’m amazed at how gospel-centered it is. I have five marks of the ambassador that I’d like to highlight as we look at the text:

1. Our motivation for ambassadorship.

Paul is saying here that when we understand what’s at stake, we fear God and therefore we persuade people. We understand what’s coming—and so we persuade people. We lay out facts, we answer questions, we teach.

Our motivation is different from what people may see—we’re not proud, and we’re not crazy, though it may look like both. And though we fear God, we have concluded something—that sin can be forgiven and that reconciliation with God is possible.

And that conclusion leads us to an understanding that we don’t live for ourselves—and this conviction makes us look crazy to unbelievers, even to some other believers.

You listened to David Platt last night—don’t you think he’s a little crazy? And it’s true. He’s filled with a tender-hearted crazy love for the lost.

Verses 14-15 are sometimes used as a prooftext for universalism, which is a heresy that you can’t defend with this passage—but our concerns about definite or universal atonement sometimes mask the point of these verses: They’re about our motivation. We’re motivated by our fear of the Lord, in confidence in the truth that moves us to speak the truth to others.

2. How we view people.

Once we’re motivated correctly we view people correctly. Our natural tendency is to view people through worldly eyes—people even do that to Jesus, seeing him as a good moral teacher. Paul’s point here is that if people did that to Jesus, how much more are they to do that to others.

C.S. Lewis reminds us that there’s no such thing as a mere mortal, so ambassadors check their hearts and slay a tendency to hate others in their heart.

But at the same time, we remember that people are also sinners. So we have a correct view that prevents us from glorifying people.

We also view the possibility of people—that they can become renewed, redeemed, restored new creations in Christ. And is there any more joy in ministry than that? To see people become new creations in Christ, to grow in Christ and see them begin to share with others…

Do you have people in your life who you don’t believe will come to Christ, who might be too sinful or too hard-hearted, who perhaps look like they have everything they need? You’re tempted to believe they don’t need God. Don’t believe that. People the world around need God—they need to become new creations.

3. How we view the world.

God is reconciling the world, it goes out to all the world—there’s a tendency to think the message is just for small parts of the world. Now many Muslims will honor Jesus more than much of the western world. But to deny the deity of Christ is to cut the heart out of the gospel.

But there are no barriers to God. This gospel is going out through the world. And it’s our hope you’ll see with joy how God is moving out among the people of the world. There are no barriers to God—take heart! Do you see people from other faith backgrounds and think you can’t get to them? Do you see people who seem to have it all together and think you can’t get to them? Don’t!

4. Our role as Christians in the world.

We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. That’s an amazing thought. He didn’t come up with this image by himself—he did to make sure we understand our role.

Ambassadors exist to deliver a message. That’s what they do. So when you are sitting down with a family member, or a friend or a neighbor and a spiritual topic comes up–when that happens, when you screw up your courage and engage, think about this brothers and sisters that there from the very throne of God stretches a cable that somehow comes to that person through you.

You represent the foreign power of the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t always feel that way, but it’s true. And we need to get the message right. We don’t change the message, we give it as taught.

Listen, we don’t leave the message undelivered and ambassadors don’t live at home, living as wanderers in the world. It means they don’t make the world their home. They’re always a bit uneasy living here. The message we shout out to the world: We implore you, on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

Now this isn’t something we only say, but it’s also what we do. We mostly say, but the gospel should come out in everything we do. We want to live and eat and breathe the gospel so that when it comes out it feels natural. The gospel is the in-and-out of life, it’s the hub of life. Whether it’s an elder’s meeting, or meeting with children in the neighborhood… it all should flow out of the gospel.

Listen—it needs to come out of us. Some of you here tonight may not know about this reconciliation with God. This is a message for you: You are divinely created, but cut off from God. The Bible says that because of your sin, you’re in rebellion to God. Understand your potential: You can be reconciled to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who died for your sins. What’s required of you is not to claw your way into good standing, but to accept what has been done for you.

That’s the message we shout.

5. Our understanding of God’s work in the message of the gospel.

Much ink has been spilled on 2 Cor 5:21. It contains two huge ideas: imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement in 24 words. Imputed righteousness means a righteousness that doesn’t come from inside you—it comes to you. It’s a God-given righteousness, who took our sin and put it on His Son, who “became” sin. Jesus wasn’t a sinner, but he took sin upon himself. And he clothes us in Jesus’ righteousness so we may stand before God.

Just as imputed righteousness is a righteousness that comes from outside of us, substitutionary atonement comes from outside of us too. Atonement means to pay for our sin, and most of the world thinks this is something we do. Substitutionary atonement means that God pays for your sin for you.

In our ministry, I love being able to show people the gospel in all of Scripture—the gospel in Jonah, who was a sacrifice for the sailors. The gospel in Joseph, who was sold by his brothers for a few pieces of silver and when they stand before him, he forgives them. And Abraham who sees the ram, who is the sacrifice in place of Isaac, which becomes so clear a picture of the gospel that John the Baptist could say on the sight of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Do you love the gospel? When I’m describing imputed righteousness or substitutionary atonement, are you like, “yes!” or “…dinner.” I suspect many of you do—I suspect many of you are giving your lives for the gospel. Are you willing to call others to die for the gospel?

Brothers, make sure your understanding of the gospel motivates you to give yourself up for the gospel—and call others to give themselves up for the gospel, too.

Remember five marks of Christ’s ambassadors: We’re motivated; we view people through God’s eyes. We understand his work is for all the world. We understand our role and we have a firm grasp on the message of the gospel. Amen.

Stephen Um: Jesus and Justice #TGC13


My notes from Stephen Um’s session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

I’ve been given this great topic on Jesus and justice and in some ways it is a topic we all need to consider very seriously. As C.S. Lewis has said, every human being has an innate sense for justice. We all have this innate sense of what is right and what is wrong.

On the right you have those who say that justice is a personal responsibility; on the left you have those who say it’s in the domain of the state. And within the Christian church, we have a number of attitudes toward justice and the church—some focus solely on preaching, while others focus almost on the gospel as demonstrated in acts of service. Churches can get divided, theologians are divided… although there’s controversy, we cannot avoid the discussion for two reasons:

Practially, there’s too much injustice going on in the world to do nothing. And secondly, more importantly, the Bible shows that justice is extremely close to the heart of God.

Justice defined

How does the BIble define justice? What do we see in Scripture?

Justice is grounded in God’s character. The community when it looks at the character of God, should have a desire to reflect the character of God. There are structural provisions throughout the Old Testament to respond to justice, to respond to the needs of the quartet of the marginalized.

DeYoung and Gilbert have noticed carefully that some things are different from OT times. We’re no longer an agrarian society, our land is not given directly by God, etc. But we also would be wise to note that although many of the outer trappings have changed, the call to reflect the character of God has not.

Jesus doesn’t rescind the OT commands of justice—He draws all the OT law under the great commandment, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and we are to love our neighbors like ourselves. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission ought not be in tension.

Justice is grace-fueled. Grace fuels a desire toward justice. If we are not those who are middle-class, but poor in spirit, then certainly the gospel will grab our hearts and move us toward meeting justice.

Justice is holistic. Jesus didn’t just meet spiritual needs—he fed people, he cared for them, he exercised demons…

Justice is radical. When you are engaged with the marginalized with one-way giving of your time, money and intent—then you know you’re connected God’s sense of justice.

Justice is universal. The concept of justice is expanded beyond our families and communities and churches, but even to our enemies who are in need.

Justice is eternally significant. Proclamation of the gospel is essential, but demonstrating the gospel is also essential. Demonstration is not the same as proclamation, but it is the evidence of salvation.

How justice is denied

We deny justice by focusing on the external instead of the internal. We focus on legalism, instead of grace. We perform acts appearing to be good on the outside.

In Matthew 7, Jesus describes two similar types of people—and both bear fruit, but one bears good fruit and the other bears bad fruit. He characterized people not by being good or bad, but humble or proud. One does his deeds to exalt himself, the other does his deeds to please God.

We deny justice by moving way from being radical to doable. We don’t recognize how radical the demands of the Law really are—we begin to think they’re doable. That we can actually do them ourselves.

In Matt. 5, Jesus says, “You have heard it said, ‘you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’” Now that second half isn’t anywhere in Scripture. He also says, “You have heard it said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’”—which is the opposite of what the Bible says elsewhere.

So why would anyone want to add to the Law? To make the radical command doable. And if you can make it doable, you can justify yourself. The Law was not given to show us these are doable, or manageable but to point us to a Savior? What’s easier to do—to tithe or to give sacrificially?

The impulse of the human heart is the narrow down the commands of God so we can justify ourselves.

We deny justice by moving away from the universal to the narrow. It’s all about self-absorption. We are to be concerned with the needs of others, to think of others more and think of ourselves less, as someone has said. When we become self-centered we think only of ourselves and our needs and our desires—and we are prevented from walking humbly and seeking justice before our God.

It’s deadly to deny justice in this way. Where do we get the hope to reflect God’s character and justice?

Justice delivered

Justice demands judgment. Let’s brake this down: Grace is getting we don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Justice is getting what we deserve either for punishment or protection. Because of our sins, we are accountable to a holy God and there needs to be punishment, there needs to be penal justice. But all those who are marginalized, those who are in need, need to receive protective justice. So this is going to lead to three things:

It’s going to lead to a change from focusing on the external to focusing on the internal. We deserve judgment, but he gives us justice in Jesus. When we come before judgment, we’re going to want to plead justice. And God won’t demand for a payment for something that’s already been paid. God doesn’t double-dip. We need to recognize that we’ve received grace. That we received mercy. We can pursue radical grace-fueled justice because we have received grace.

Secondly, we have the capital to be radically self-giving, rather than settling for what’s doable.

Lastly, we have the ability to be radically self-giving universally, instead of self-focused, on account of another. We have the ability to show generous justice to because what we’ve received in the gospel.

Friends, we have received the gospel, which says we’ve received love and compassion—counter-relational love that we don’t deserve. That we’ve received mercy that we don’t deserve because Jesus has absorbed the judgment that we did deserve. And this should move us to disadvantaged on account of the needy. We are called to respond not only to the great commission, but also the great commandment which calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.