Andy Davis: Are People Without Christ Really Lost? #TGC13

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


At the center of the passion that drove Hudson Taylor [in his mission] is the one that stands before us today: Are those without Christ really lost? And are those who die without hearing of Christ without hope?

We have almost 17,000 unreached people groups, with perhaps 2.78 billion people living within those people groups… how are we to understand the character of God in all this? How are we to understand and embrace our role in all of this?

I come to you from the position of exclusivism—that which says that only those who possess conscious faith in the Jesus of the Bible. This stands in contrast to universalism, pluralism, inclusivism, accessiblism… We are accused of arrogance by the universalists and pluralists. Others argue that there are “secret” or unknowing converts—Hindus or Muslims who may die and find out they really find out they were Christians after all. Others bring up Melchizedek and OT examples… others ask questions about those who die as infants… Some suggest there’s an idea of a “second hearing” after death… There are some who are theological allies of ours who would suggest we hold to an agnosticism on this.

I think Scripture is sufficient to answer all these questions and if you get nothing else from this message, it’s this:

Those who are without Christ are lost, and we need to tell them.

1. Those without Christ are lost.

Scripture gives clear testimony to the fact that those who are without Christ are lost (Rom. 1:18-25). Everywhere God has given clear evidence of his existence, and so all are without excuse. All have sinned by not acknowledging Him… All are condemned, both Jew and Gentile says Paul (Rom. 3:10-14). As soon as men and women become aware of God, they turn away from Him and they need a Savior.

2. There is no way for sinners to be saved apart from the shed blood of Christ.

In the cultural air we breathe… people come from all over the world and see the generosity and selflessness and hospitality of people from other religions and some Christians want to back away from the exclusivity of Christ. But Scripture is a two-edged sword and it cuts clearly through this issue—there is no way for sinners to be saved apart from the shed blood of Christ.

For some of us, we may have an academic interest in this, or an apologetic one or a missiological one… there is no one else who asked this question with greater intensity than Jesus in the garden on the eve of the crucifixion. He prays, and I can scarcely imagine the anguish, when he asks, “Is there any other way? May this cup pass from me if it be your will?”

The strongest exclusivist verse in the Bible is Acts 4:10-12: … by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Paul says that if righteousness could be had by the law, Christ died for nothing. But there is no other name given by which we must be saved.

3. There is no salvation apart from conscious salvation in Christ

Just as the blood of the lamb had to be applied to the door posts in the passover, so the work of Christ must be applied by the Holy Spirit. God presented Jesus as a propitiation, a sacrifice turning away the wrath of God, applied by faith in Christ. Gal. 2, when Paul rebukes Peter, Paul says, “a man is not justified by the law, but by faith in Christ…we seek to be justified in Christ.” Four times in Gal 2 he tells us we must justified by faith in Jesus Christ. The idea of an unwitting convert is unbiblical.

How what of the OT saints? All we can say is that whatever that era entailed, that era is over. With Christ having entered redemptive history, that old era is over.

4. The gospel must be proclaimed to the ends of the earth

Here we come to the logic of Romans 10:13-15. Paul’s rhetorical questions all assume the answer of no. His assumption here is that it is impossible for anyone to be saved without faith in Christ. And he assumes that no one can come to faith without believing. And no one can believe without hearing. And it is impossible for anyone to hear the message of Christ without someone being sent. And so sunrises and sunsets and newborn babies, however marvelously they testify of our creator God, they do not proclaim the crucified and risen Lord Christ.

5. We believers are responsible for that proclamation of the gospel.

It has been committed to us. At the end of each gospel there is a version of the great commission. Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20… Acts 1:8 promises it again saying God will give us power to do the task.

How should we respond to this responsibility? We should respond with passion for the lost. We should respond with prayer—we should pray that people would hear and believe. We should respond with planning. We should use means to reach the unconverted. And then comes the hard part, we need to be willing to lay down our lives and sacrifice ourselves in suffering to see this happen. It’s easy to talk about this in a hotel in Orlando, but it’s true. It’s going to take suffering to make it happen.

Are you passionate about this? Are you praying for the lost, for unreached people groups? Are you making plans, involved in strategizing to reach them? Are you in the process of laying down your life, sacrificially living of your time, of your body, of your money, to see the lost reached? Are you willing to suffer and make sacrifices?

We cannot count on angels to do it—they’d do a bang up job, wouldn’t they? They wouldn’t need to look like angels… they announced the birth of Christ and the resurrection of Christ, but I’m given pause to wonder whether or not angels are permitted to preach the gospel. In Acts, we see an angel tell Phillip to preach to the Ethiopian, and we see an angel appear to Cornelius, telling him he needed to hear the gospel from Peter… we cannot count on angels to tell the good news. It is our responsibility.

6. God is sovereign over the entire missionary enterprise, guaranteeing its success.

The appeal surrounding those vast numbers who die every day, I want to put that appeal on a solid foundation. Remember Romans 8, those who predestined, he also called. Every single predestined person receives the call, Paul says.

So the missionary enterprise is really a hunt for the elect. The promise is we don’t know who they are. They don’t walk around with an E on their forehead. The only way we can know who the elect are is by their response to the gospel.

God is sovereign over the response to the gospel—He doesn’t owe the gospel to anyone—and he is also sovereign over getting the gospel to the nations. God is able to get the gospel anywhere anytime he wants. He doesn’t need angels. He has human messengers and he is able to keep the elect alive until they get there.

And God is also sovereign over the raising up of laborers to go and do the work, compelled to preach the gospel. There’s a constraining force on the heart of those who desire to reach the lost—it accuses and convicts. And God also tells where to go. Paul and Silas are blocked from Asia, and were sent instead to Macedonia. God is working on both sides of the equation (Cornelius and Peter). God is preparing people to hear you right now, and God will keep them alive until you get there. God is sovereign over the gospel reaching every single elect person to keep them alive until they hear it.

Not a single elect person will be lost. 

So how about it? How about having the kind of confidence we see in Scripture? We’re on the winning side—we know we’re going to win! If you go out as a missionary and even if you are martyred, you will give God all the glory. This gospel will be preached to all the nations and then the end will come.

So what about those who haven’t heard the gospel now? They are lost right now. And the plight of the lost should move the church to prayer and planning and sacrificial service to bring the gospel to them.

Don Carson: The Biblical Basis for Missions #TGC13

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My notes from Don Carson’s opening session of TGC13’s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


What is the biblical basis for mission? How might we go about answering the question. We might do so by teasing out the story of redemption from the beginning of Scripture…  we could assert the biblical basis for missions is anchored in the entire Bible with God graciously and continually going after sinners for his glory. Or we could consider Jesus Himself—we could think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, or the obedience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemene, or His actions… but another way of getting to the biblical basis of missions is by focusing on a particular passage. And we will do so today by focusing on 2 Cor 4:1-12.

So how does this passage contribute to our grasp of the biblical basis of mission?

These verses do not so much define mission so much as describe it.

Gospel ministry demands unqualified integrity. (1-2)

Verses one through three begin with the clause “therefore.” And this “therefore” connects our text with the previous three chapters. There, Paul is telling us that apostolic ministry has many superior privileges to the ministry of Moses. Or to put it another way, the new covenant covered sealed by the blood of Christ is superior to the old covenant (see 2 Cor. 3:1-3, 7-11, 18)

Do these references to “this ministry” refer only to apostolic ministry? If so, then we must be careful in how we apply them today. Although 2 Cor. 3 describes the superiority of apostolic ministry, his use of “we all” reminds us this is for all of us.

What is the nature of Paul’s misery? Many are uncomfortable with the plain teaching of Scripture (2 Cor 4:2). Why would you use shady language? Because the language of Scripture isn’t too popular. Further, others are going to be blinded to it. Devout muslims may understand what you’re saying, but not why it matters. Secular hedonists may not see its relevance. There’s even a new tolerance that isn’t tolerant at all, which says that proclaiming an exclusive Jesus makes you a bigot.

The “god” of this age has blinded them to the truth.

In other words, sometimes it is the truth itself that is offensive. Jesus knew this Himself, as he told some onlookers in his day, “Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe.” It would be bad enough if he said “although…” But he uses a causal—”because.” So what do you do? Tell untruths? But then what are they believing? Something that isn’t true.

If you read the pagan literature of the first three centuries, the most common complaint about Christianity is it’s too narrow. Sound familiar?

So it’s easy to be disheartened. But because this ministry comes from God, we do not lose heart. We use clear words, we do not use cunning and underhanded ways… and “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.”

There are ways to change the message to increase income. There are some who change the message looking for a “strong” man who will tell them where to step off. What is required of us, though? Backbone. Gospel ministry demands unqualified integrity.

The gospel itself displays the glory of Christ (v. 3-6).

Our task is to herald the gospel even to those who can’t see it’s light. I knew a graduate student at the university of Cambridge who was given John Stott’s Basic Christianity. She read through the book, even looked up the references… and when she was done, she said, “I’ve decided Christianity is for good people like you and Carol [her Christian roommate], but not for me.” How does a graduate student at Cambridge decide this through John Stott’s limpid prose? Because she couldn’t see it. She was blind to the truth.

Now, if you want to see how do we see the glory of Christ? By looking at Jesus Himself. Jesus isn’t a cypher for the glory of God. His Lordship is predicated upon His death and resurrection on the cross. This is the news we proclaim.

We can’t forget that the gospel is news—it’s new about Jesus, who He is and what He has done to purchase men and women from every tongue and tribe and every nation, until the Kingdom comes in the new creation.

The good news is not “believe.”

The good news is not “turn over a new leaf.”

What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.

If we have come to see the light of the gospel, it is because God has shone that light in our hearts. It is not because we’re brighter, or because we are Western, but because God has somehow illuminated our hearts—the language is specifically evocative of creation. God said “let there be light” and there was light, and John’s gospel says that the darkness couldn’t stop it.

Until God says let there be light, darkness abides.

And so my confidence is not in myself, but in the God who says “let there be light.” The gospel itself displays the glory of Christ.

Gospel ministry is characterized by paradoxical death to self and overflowing life in Christ. (7-12)

We have this treasure—this treasure of Christ, of the gospel—in jars of clay so that this all surpassing power is known to be from God and not ourselves. If you read on in the book, you’ll see that he’s been shipwrecked three times already, he’d been beaten multiple times, whipped five times—and they kept going until you died or they got tired—on top of dangers on every side… perplexed, but not despairing. I wonder if this isn’t Paul’s articulation of Christ’s command to take up our cross and follow. Paul has faced so many occasions he wouldn’t have chosen on his own—and then he says “so that.” The “so that” is the power of the gospel at work in us…

When I was a boy, there was a lot of emphasis in missionary meetings, there was a large emphasis on sacrifice. Lord knows we need to be reminded of this nowadays. Although Paul says he’s been crushed and persecuted and struck down, he also says His life will be manifested in our bodies… these two emphases necessarily hang together. We are crucified with Him. We see glory with Him. We die to self and we experience more of His life. You can’t have one without the other. They hang together. God is no one’s debtor. But as Christ picked up His cross and went to calvary, so we pick up ours and follow Him. Gospel ministry is characterized by paradoxical death to self and overflowing life in Christ.

Make meaningful connections at your conferences

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It’s late-February and it can mean one of many things—and in this case, it’s that conference season is upon us once again!

One of the great blessings I had in 2012 was being able to attend a number of excellent conferences including the Truth Xchange Think Tank in Escondido, California, Together for the Gospel in Louisville, Kentucky, The Gospel Coalition in Cambridge, Ontario, Story in Chicago and the Bold Church Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska.

All in about seven months. (And yes, it was exactly about as exhausting as it sounds.)

Each of these featured fantastic speakers and terrific opportunities to engage with like-minded (and not-so-like-minded) believers who you might not otherwise meet this side of eternity, whether singing alongside several thousand other men, praying for the North American church with a group of 40—or seeing Christian creatives act like they think creative-types are supposed to act (which is funny since creative-types tend to be introverts).

But among all the events I went to in 2012, the ones that I found in some ways to be the most special were the regional ones. When I was at the Bold Conference in Lincoln (which is funny since I’m a Canadian), it was amazing to see church leaders from the area come together and start talking through contextual issues and how to apply the teaching they’d received. The same happened during the lunch breaks at The Gospel Coalition in Cambridge, when a number of us began discussing what ministry looks like in our contexts.

This is so exciting for me to see—especially since it can happen at an event of any size and in any location. Our city has a wonderful theology breakfast that I attend (and occasionally speak at) facilitated by Jude St. John, and it’s been really cool to see the guys get to know one another and engage on some very important topics. A good friend met another brother in ministry who’s become a friend to both of us while in Louisville—and he happens to live about 40 minutes away from our city.

The point is this—wherever you go, whether something big like The Gospel Coalition in April or something a little closer to home, use your time well to make meaningful ministry connections, especially if someone lives in your region (and I say this as an introvert). For many, it makes a world of difference knowing that there are like-minded brothers and/or sisters dealing with similar situations (it’s nice to know you’re not on crazy pills, after all)—and it offers a way for us to come alongside one another and bear one another’s burdens as the larger body of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

Rick Holland: Nine Characteristics of a Healthy Church #BoldCon

Dr. Rick Holland is Senior Pastor of Mission Road Bible Church and the author of Uneclipsing the Son. The following are my notes from Dr. Holland’s final session at the BOLD Church Conference on October 2, 2012 (paraphrased).


We need to understand how the Church should sound when it’s healthy and when it’s unhealthy. Are we Ecclesiologists who can diagnose what’s wrong and what’s right in the church?

In Titus 1, Paul instructs Titus on how to set up healthy parameters in the church, how to create healthy self-diagnostics, how to recognize what sounds indicate something wrong and what sounds indicate what’s right.

Self-diagnosis is almost unheard of in the church today. When there’s trouble, people typically leave.

How do you self-diagnose in the church? That’s what Paul’s writing to Titus in this letter. What I want to do is look at this entire epistle at a lightning fast pace—so we can get our marching orders for having a healthy church.

I’ve been able to find nine characteristics of a healthy church: [Read more...]

Albert Mohler: Defending the Gospel #BoldCon

Albert Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the author of numerous books, including Atheism Remix and He is Not Silent. The following are my notes from Dr. Mohler’s final session at the BOLD Church Conference in Columbus, Nebraska on October 2, 2012 (paraphrased).


Our calling [as pastors] is actually very easy to understand—it is to read the word of God, to explain the word of God and then to go home and do it all again. It takes a lot of confusion to mess up a calling that clear—not simple, but clear.

Over the last few days, we’ve looked at the need for Christians to defend the Christian worldview and specifically marriage and then the need for us to defend life and the dignity of mankind, and now we’re looking at the defense of the gospel. And we’ll be looking at a lengthy text, John 6:22-71.

When you look at this passage, it’s important to recognize patterns. When you look at the beginning chapter six, we have the feeding of the 5,000. And if you’re a [theological] liberal, you’ve got a problem. Some will just say it shouldn’t be there. Others [more creatively] say that this is a demonstrating of Jesus’ ability to melt the human heart—that the people had food but weren’t sharing. But the Word of God says that Jesus took five loaves and two fishes and multiplied them miraculously. There were no skeptics there on that day. There were those who were hungry and then those who were fed.

But we also see a perfect example of the “what have you done for me lately” crowd. These people pay careful attention to the boats and where Jesus is going and “just happen” to show up where he is, saying “Oh, Jesus, nice to see you here…”

And Jesus, with his perfectly omniscient nonsense detector, calls them out on their sin. He calls them out and tells them “Yesterday was about the bread that perishes; today is about the bread of life.”

You’d think that they’d have shrunk away from this rebuke, but they didn’t. Instead, they stay and keep asking questions.

They ask, “What must we do to be doing the work of God?”

This is a dangerous question in ministry because no one does the works of God. And Jesus tells them they must believe in Him—that is the work of God. And yet, they continue to press, and ask for a sign—even going so far as to suggest the sign: Bread from heaven.

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6:32-34 ESV)

And Jesus responds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 ESV) He tells them that he came to give them the bread of life, not to feed from Him, but to feed of Him.

Jesus uses the words “I am.” Some scholars will tell you that Jesus never made the claim of divinity, but there’s no doubt that his hearers would have understood him to be doing exactly that in this moment—“I AM the bread of life, I AM the one who spoke from the burning bush…”

This is not a seeker sensitive message.

There are two bookends in John 6 that should assist us in our understanding of the gospel; both are necessary for us to hang our theology upon.

The first is verse 37:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37 ESV)

This tells us that Jesus’ atonement is complete and perfect. It’s so complete and perfect that even before His death He can say that all whom the Father gives them will come and will never be cast out.

We are secure in Christ, we are assured in our salvation in Christ. He did not come to offer a hypothetical, possible, tentative forgiveness of our sins. He came to give us an absolute promise. [Read more...]

Rick Holland: Living as Light in the Encroaching Darkness #BoldCon

Dr. Rick Holland is Senior Pastor of Mission Road Bible Church and the author of Uneclipsing the Son. The following are my notes from Dr. Holland’s second session at the BOLD Church Conference on October 1, 2012 (paraphrased).


In the first session I was able to share with you about how the gospel puts us in critical involvement with others in the church… and now I want to go a little bit higher and look at leaders in the Church. I want us to know what we are to expect from our leaders:

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

The Apostle Paul was perhaps the bravest Christian who ever lived. In Acts, he was told that everywhere he goes will include beatings, trial and persecution. He debated in the Areopagus, he stood against the council that killed Jesus… His fearlessness cost him, as we see beginning in v. 23:

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 ESV)

This was a man’s man, this was a masculine Christian. This was a fearless Christian. When the Roman Empire faced Paul it was steeped in hedonism. And when he died, it was shaken by the Christian faith. And yet we see in verse three that Paul says, “I am afraid.”

How can this be? What was he afraid of? He was afraid the Corinthians would defect from the most important person—Jesus. Paul believed in apostasy. The church had been infiltrated by false teachers… There were people all over who were professing to be believers but were false. And Paul comes to them and says, “Men, women I’m afraid.”

So I want to give you three theological commitments of healthy church leadership: [Read more...]

Rick Holland: What in the World is the Church Supposed To Be? #BoldCon

Dr. Rick Holland is Senior Pastor of Mission Road Bible Church and the author of Uneclipsing the Son. The following are my notes from Dr. Holland’s first session at the BOLD Church Conference on October 1, 2012 (paraphrased).


Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25)

The overwhelming responsibility of telling a man—everything you need to know you can find at this address—does this describe our churches?

Every Christian should be an ecclesiologist. Every Christian should know what the Bible says about what the Church is. Everyone should be able to answer questions about what the church is and what the church isn’t.

If the church is the bride of Christ, I wonder if sometimes Jesus is offended by how some people treat the Church as we would be if some men came up to our wives and slapped them across the face?

Some people wrongly equate the gospel with the church. You ask someone if they know the gospel and they’ll say, “Well, I don’t go to church.” This isn’t necessarily a bad connection, but going to a church and sitting in a seat doesn’t make you a Christian.

Where does our authority for the way we think about the Church come from?

You know these museum churches—I call them this because the church is really supposed to be a hospital for the soul—where we treat the building as something God’s supposed to be impressed with? There’s more about the covenant people of God in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament coming together in worship that goes way beyond a building.

Hebrews is fundamentally a book of comparison. Jesus is compared to everything the people thought was important—angels, the Law, prophets… Compare Jesus to anything and He’ll always be found to be better and more fulfilling. And this builds and builds to chapter 10, which is the beginning of the “so-what”.  And the write shows how all these things, how Jesus is the once-for-all sacrifice, the High Priest, etc., fuel the Christians involvement in church. [Read more...]

Albert Mohler: Defending the Helpless #BoldCon

Albert Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the author of numerous books, including Atheism Remix and He is Not Silent. The following are my notes from Dr. Mohler’s second session at the BOLD Church Conference in Columbus, Nebraska on October 1, 2012 (paraphrased).


[Just as a baby comes out of his mother’s womb with a robust package of medical immunizations, culturally,] we received as a birthright an enormous set of immunization—an immune system that by our birthright was healthy. And instead of passing strength, we’re passing along one that became weaker and weaker.

What caused this? Sociologically speaking, it’s secularization. That gradually over time the belief in God will push further and further into the background. . . . My program Thinking in Public deals with these kinds of questions and a couple seasons ago, I was able to speak with Peter Berger, one of the leading figures in the secularization movement. And he’s lived long enough to retract it, although not completely.

He wrote an article explaining how the theory is exactly wrong—that while the secularization pattern is exactly right for Europe and the American university, but there’s been a resurgence of belief in God. . . . But Peter Berger had an amazing insight that’s amazing to me as a Christian about what happened in America, and it’s pluralization. It’s not the abandonment of belief, but the creation of a God who is more palatable.

The exchange of the God of the Bible for a “in case of emergency break glass” kind of God.

There’s been a massive moral and cultural shift in America, but before that happened there had to have been a massive theological shift—because these shifts would be impossible if you believe in the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is not the God that most Americans believe in when 90 percent say they believe in God.

It’s theologically incorrect to overstate how “Christian” America is. It’s not that our founding fathers were all Christians—many were not—but they inherited a Christian worldview that made sense. Their basic ideas of truth and morality… the liberties we enjoy—all were informed by this worldview.

When I was a boy in 1972, we lived in a world where it made sense that a 13-year-old boy would not know the term “homosexual” and to not get an answer. But today, we’ve got 5-year-olds learning about how Sally’s got two moms… we’re reaping the eclipse of the Christian worldview.

But as Christians, our job is not to convince others of the Christian worldview. That’s not evangelism. There are many people who are going to be in Hell who hold to a “Christian worldview”… But this eclipse is like the weakening of the immune system, where it’s just becoming weaker and weaker and weaker.

This morning, we’re looking at the defense of life. And this is just an amazing thing, where in the beginning of the great American experiment, there was this great value placed upon life, the individual… And yet today, we’re not even sure what “life” means.

We need a biblical framework for answering this question. To do that, we’ll look at Psalm 139.

You come to the 139th Psalm, and you find this symphonic declaration of God’s omnipresence. David begins with the personal knowledge of God – “you have searched me and known me.” And the internal knowledge —“you discern my thoughts from afar.” And David declares that there’s nowhere where God is not there.

We now live in a surveillance society. If you live in London (UK), you’re under constant surveillance if you’re outside of a private residence. . . . It’s harder and harder to get away with something, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But David knew this thousands of years ago. [Read more...]

Albert Mohler: Defending God’s Design for Marriage #BoldCon

Albert Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the author of numerous books, including Atheism Remix and He is Not Silent. The following are my notes from Dr. Mohler’s opening session at the Bold Church Conference in Columbus, Nebraska on September 30, 2012 (paraphrased).


I want to set forth a few things for us to think about because this conference isn’t just about boldness in ministry, but boldness in ministry about a few key subjects.

Everyone in his or her own sphere has a responsibility to be faithful on these issues… but at times boldness falters because we haven’t thought deeply enough, biblically enough, so we don’t know what to say.

The three big issues I want to speak on are:

  1. The defense of marriage and family
  2. The defense of life
  3. The defense of the gospel itself

There’s sufficient data to show us that younger evangelicals pay greater social capital in holding to these three areas… But tonight we’re going to be focusing on the defense of marriage and family. And one of the things we’ll see is that we’re ready to give an answer… the only problem is that we’re just not ready to give enough of an answer.

We’re expected to justify, to defend, everything. And the Christian preacher today is standing up and saying something that’s completely unheard of today. But, meekness matched with courage [boldness] is what we need today.

The world right now is talking about the legalization of same sex marriage. And it’s going to be a controversy for the rest of our lives—legalizing it isn’t going to change anything, anymore than Roe v. Wade changed anything in 1973.

In virtually any arena today, this issue is either being discussed or should be. I want us to kind of go backwards just a bit and consider how we’re to put together a framework for how we’re supposed to think about these kinds of things.

So how are we supposed to do that?  The best place to start is with Genesis.

One of the first things we need to recognize as we study this text, is that we are no smarter than the world. We didn’t come up with this. But by grace, the one true and living God has spoken and we know what we otherwise wouldn’t know.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)

If God created the world, then the entirety of the world is his responsibility. If God created the world, then the entirety of the world is part of his plan.

So when we look at a question like this, we need to go back and look at what God intended.

In Gen. 2, we come to a crucial passage that tells us Adam had the responsibility to name all the creatures of the earth. “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18 ESV). Notice that this isn’t followed by the creation of the woman, but Adam fulfilling his responsibility of naming the creatures of the earth.

Note that Adam didn’t note his own need—his Creator did. Adam didn’t know his own need yet. How does Adam find that out? First, through the act of dominion. He, the only one made in God’s image, names all the critters—they don’t name him.

God made one creature and one creature alone in His image, and that means to rule and we have the capacity to consciously know Him. The tiger, the giraffe, have the capacity to glorify Him, but not consciously. And God exercises this responsibility.

The Lord God had said, it’s not good for man to be alone. But what does he note? That there was not a helper fit for him [Adam]. [Read more...]

Art as Idolatry

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I have a love-hate relationship with the “creative” world. On the one hand, human creativity, in whatever expression it manifests itself, is a wonderful gift from the Lord. Because God is THE Creator, we imitate Him in our small-c creativity. On the other hand, I really hate the “culture” of creativity. While attending the 2012 Story Conference in Chicago, the impression I got of what the creative ideal could be summed up something like this: A true creative is a non-linear thinker; someone who doesn’t like rules (or in some cases logic), and is driven by a passion to just “create.” They want their work to matter—and in many ways, they themselves want to matter.

One of the things I noticed most throughout the event was a trend toward that sort of thinking—the kind that really wants to affirm the specialness of the creative mind. And to be sure, creatives (just like the rest of humanity) are a unique bunch, I wonder if identifying creatives as a “class” of people does them more harm than good.

Here’s what I mean:

Unnecessary Divisions

People have a tendency to say, “oh, I’m not creative” if they don’t make music, pictures or books. Which is bunk. Creativity manifests itself in so many different ways that setting it into its own class of people devalues any form that doesn’t fit neatly into that category.

The Seedbed of Idolatry

This same line of thinking can also lead to the creative class turning their art into their idol. Kyle Idleman addressed this concern well at Story in one of the events two highlight moments (the other being Phil Vischer).

During his session, Idleman warned that, “We need to be most aware that our creations can replace our creator. Creativity can define who we are and replace God himself.”

This is important because, as he notes, there are more than 1000 verses speaking directly to idolatry, including the first two of the Ten Commandments. While the Bible primarily depicts idols in the form of graven images, it also draws implicit connections to our affections—that an idol can be anything, even a good thing like art. Whatever we try to use as a cheap substitute for God in our affections, that is our idol.

4 Questions For the Creative’s Heart

As a heart check for the Christian creative, Idleman offered four questions intended to help them discern where their art sat in their affections:

Is my art the means or the end?

The end is the glory of God. The question is: Does what I create point to the glory of Gd? The danger for us is that what we create becomes the end. We measure to effectiveness by the response to the thing we’ve created.

Does the text win?

If I’ve got this great idea and this Bible passage, and they’re not quite meshing, which wins? The text always has to win. Our creativity is to be inspired by the Word of God, not be the inspiration itself.

Do I have an audience of one or many?

The question is who am I doing this for? The importance of art, creativity, being that no one going to see but God, and just doing it? It is an audience of one, not many.

Is it what I do or is it who I am?

Many of us would define ourselves as artist or creative, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but is it possible that we are deriving our identity from that? When that happens the gift dries up. God will not bless our efforts in an area that is replacing Him. He will not bless anything that takes away from Him.

We all want god to bless what we do but don’t expect Him to bless His competition.

Creativity is a wonderful gift, but a cruel master. Art must never become idolatry.

Bold BIblical Fidelity

 

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From September 30-October 2, I’ll be at the BOLD Church Conference in Columbus, Nebraska, where Dr. Albert Mohler and Rick Holland will be speaking on a number of central—and contentious—issues challenging Christians in their public witness.

Recently, Pastor Justin Erickson, founder of the BOLD Conference and senior pastor of Highland Park Church, about this important event. In part two of our conversation, we discuss what excites Justin about BOLD and what he hopes attendees will take away from the conference:

[tentblogger-youtube Az4IaybTwVw]

There’s still time to register for this event if you’re in the area. You’ll also be able to follow along with the conference right here with updates after every session.

Bold Christianity in the Public Sphere

 

bold-logo

From September 30-October 2, I’ll be at the BOLD Church Conference in Columbus, Nebraska, where Dr. Albert Mohler and Rick Holland will be speaking on a number of central—and contentious—issues challenging Christians in their public witness.

Recently, Pastor Justin Erickson, founder of the BOLD Conference and senior pastor of Highland Park Church, about this important event. In part one of our conversation, we discuss the need for BOLD and why it matters:

[tentblogger-youtube Dvevwj0oEQc]

There’s still time to register for this event if you’re in the area. You’ll also be able to follow along with the conference right here with updates after every session.

Six Resolutions For Living in Light of the Gospel

Don Carson, during his final session at The Gospel Coalition’s 2012 Ontario Regional Conference, offered an exhortation to the attendees as he concluded the conference’s message preaching from Philippians 4:4-20. In this message, he offered six resolutions for living in light of the gospel–for working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, even as it is God at work within us. His six resolutions follow, along with my paraphrased notes of Dr. Carson’s commentary:

1. Resolve to rejoice always in the Lord (Phil 4:4)

Surely we should want to do this–we are given redemption; the promise of the holy spirit, the hope of future glory… That we should even need to be told to rejoice in light of all that God has done is indicative of our sorry state. The text insists that we rejoice in the Lord. Tim Keller likes to say, “For the Christian, optimism is naive, but pessimism is atheistic.” This is because we see things through different lenses. We rejoice in the Lord. And for how long? Always. One who rejoices in the Lord consistently cannot be haughty, a back biter, a gossip, unprayerful, a complainer, a whiner… because rejoicing in the Lord is a salve against such things.

2. Resolve to be known for gentleness (Phil 4:5)

This word gentleness is hard to get right. Some translate it as reasonableness or selflessness. Which is ironic—to be known for your selflessness. Its the type A personality who wants to be known. And yet, this is what the text says. There are some Christian virtues that should be practiced in private, but gentleness is one we are to be known for by all. The self-sins are tricky things. They are damnably treacherous.

Quoting A.W. Tozer:

To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the Church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.

Carson continued:

One of the entailments of the gospel is to resolve to live selflessly. But Paul also gives the reason for gentleness—”for the Lord is near.” The Lord’s return is impending. Salvation does not end in three score years and ten. We will stand before him in the end. And that means that we need to pay attention to the repeated commands to be ready for his return. For the Lord is near.

3. Resolve not to be anxious about anything (Phil 4:6-7)

[Read more...]

Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy #T4G12

My notes on John Piper’s message on Jude 24–25 (paraphrased)

My message has two parts. In the first part, I will try to draw you into my amazement that I am still a Christian and perhaps you will find yourself amazed that you are still as well. In the second part, I would like to draw you into an analysis of how that came about as we look at the book of Jude, and in particular the last two verses:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

My amazement that I am still a Christian.

I still love the ministry of God’s Word, still love my calling as a husband and a father. I complete this year 60 years of being a Christian, 32 of being in the ministry… And this is a monumentous year for this will be the last year I’m at T4G as a pastor.

When I think about finishing these laps of my race, I’m amazed that I’m still a Christian. There were days when my marriage was under attack, days when my spirit was so dull that I doubted my faith… so I’m amazed!

If the decisiveness of my faith must come from me, it will not come at all because it is not there. I am amazed that I am a Christian, and still love the ministry. And I have this sense of wonder, that may be close to what Jude felt when he personalized it and said, “Now to him who is able to keep ME from stumbling and present ME blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…” I think he was amazed at that, at the keeping of God.

That’s what it took to keep me. It took glory, and majesty and power and authority, working before the beginning of time, until the end of time and working even now—and that’s what it took to keep me in the ministry.

This is how doxologies work: They ascribe attributes to God that account for the things we’re so excited about. They exude passion. That’s the way they work. The attributes account for the actions that we’re so amazed at.

There are three of them:

  1. He is able to keep you from stumbling
  2. He presents us before the glory of God blameless
  3. He presents us before the glory of God with great joy

Those three things he has done. What accounts for that is a Savior, the glorious God, the Lord Jesus Christ, working on it before time, working on it every minute, working on it til the end of time—that’s what he’s amazed at. That’s what it takes to be keep us a Christian.

Do you have any idea of the degree of the glory to get you alive and keep you alive until the moment you see Jesus? How would you talk about that? How would you explain it? Do we know the degree of glory and power and majesty that it took? No we don’t. We have no terms for measuring such things. How do we quantify the power or the force an eternal Spirit with no physical dimensions at all moving a created spirit into being and keeping it there?

Is it like pounds? Kilowatts?

God creates spiritual life when we are dead. We know that. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Once I had no spiritual life. Then God the Spirit acted and my spirit came into being, or spiritual life came into being. I am spirit born of the Spirit. This is not like a demon. This is Holy Spirit, God-sanctified spirit, brought into being by the new birth.

It’s not the kind of life you’d have if the Holy Spirit left. If the Holy Spirit left and you disunited with Christ, you wouldn’t be. There would be no life. Therefore, the life we’re talking about is having the Holy Spirit and being united with Christ (which are interrelated terms) . . . If he’s not there, I have no life.

So he creates that and then for 60 years, having begun before eternity and having been at work every second of my life and pledging to do so until eternity, he is keeping me a Christian. And if he didn’t, I wouldn’t be a Christian.

It is all a work of God. Which is why I said that if the decisive cause were to come from me, it would not come because it is not there. I bring nothing decisive to my creation. No more than the universe created itself, nor is it kept by itself, it is kept by Christ Jesus.

No Jude is clearly amazed by this—and he must sense what it takes. And it must be very great. So, how are you going to measure that, so you can join him in the amazement?

I can only think of two ways for you to measure that:

1. To think about the fact that creating and sustaining spiritual life is something we cannot do, but something God does. The difference between the nothing I bring and his action is infinite. The difference between nothing and something is an infinite difference. It is immeasurably great.

2. If all that just sounded confusing, then just read it in the text. What did it take to keep you a Christian? It takes glory and majesty and power and authority. And I assume Jude chooses those words to tell us that it takes just about all he’s got to keep us.  Though we can’t measure the kind of force, this text is saying it takes glory and majesty and power and authority from beginning to end to keep you a Christian. You should be absolutely stunned that you are a Christian.

How does he do it?

Now I want to draw you into an analysis of how that happens. How did God do that? How does God keep me from making shipwreck of my Christian life? How does he keep me when Paul’s strategies in 2 Cor 4-6 seem so far off? How does he keep me when I’m not depressed because there are false converts in my church but I fear I may be one? How does he keep me when he holds out a treasure to me that I want almost as much as anything and says, “You can’t have it”? How does he keep me alive, how does he keep you alive, being, loving, serving, fathering?

Notice that the book in verse one and ends (24-25) with a strong statement that God is decisively capable of keeping you.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ…(Jude 1:1 ESV)

We are called, beloved, kept. Where a person is called, they are kept. He will sustain you to the end, guiltless… when he calls, it means you will be kept.

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30 ESV)

This is the framework of the book—it is a book about being called and kept by Christ.

Now, sandwiched in there is this warning. Though he wanted to write about the glory of the gospel, he was urged to warn against those in the church—professing Christians who are not called and not kept, who crave physical sensation and not Christ. They don’t prize the God of grace, they prostitute the grace of God. He’s warning them about this people, this kind of error.

Then, after all these warnings, Jude tells us what we must do and what we should do not only for ourselves to be kept (v .20-21), but also what we must do for others to be kept (v. 22-23).

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God… (Jude 1:20-21 ESV)

“Keep yourselves…” Whoa. There goes your message. Or. Not.

“…keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

This message is all over the Bible. Keep yourselves in the love of God because GOD keeps you in the love of God. This is the mystery of not only sanctification but preservation.

Keep yourselves in God’s commitment to keep you!

How do we do this?

There are three verbs: Faith, prayer and waiting. Faith is the main one–trust more, be more reliant on God’s ability to keep you. The next is prayer. The last is that you wait. You’ve prayed and now you wait.

God has committed to keep you. Keep yourself in his commitment to keep you. Trust that he will keep you. Pray that he will keep you and wait for God.

This is so simple. I suppose as I’ve bent over the prayer bench in my prayer nook, I suppose the most common prayer has been “Keep me from temptation . . . help me!” You know what’s happening there? God is keeping me. . . . and I am amazed. How many days there have been where I’ve felt “I can’t do it, I can’t preach the sermon, I don’t know how it’s going to do!” But here I am and I look back and it’s God.

My praying and my trusting doesn’t rob him of any of his power and majesty and authority and glory—because it’s by the Spirit. My praying is a gift, my faith is a gift.

I keep myself by being kept. God keeps my by enabling me to do self-keeping things. And I must do these things—and sometimes they take effort. And in that effort, you say, “It’s of you!”

There’s a way to do effort by faith.

The glory and the majesty I think consist very much in the power and authority of God to keep you that way. What’s glorious and majesterial in God’s keeping you in praying and trusting? And his answer is his power and authority!

You don’t need to get this all sorted out in your head. You need to say, he’s got the power and authority to do it—to keep you.

One more observation: When he acts on you this way to keep you and to stir you up from within so you do the self-keeping work, he is fulfilling the New Covenant.

I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. (Jeremiah 32:40 ESV)

That’s the keeping of the New Covenant. The terms of the New Covenant are that I have a people, I am going to keep them, put a new heart of flesh in them and keep them so they will not turn away.

We know the New Covenant was bought by the blood of Jesus. We see that in the Last supper. And when he shed his blood for his sheep, he paid for all of them. That’s what he’s achieved. So when you read verse 25, that’s what you should see when you read, “to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.”

When the glory and the majesty, and the power and authority, are moving in to rescue my wavering heart, it’s coming through the blood of Jesus Christ—and when I am granted to awaken from my stupidity and allowed to see the glory and majesty and dominion and authority of Jesus, it’s through his blood.

Don’t underestimate the power of the gospel to keep you. He will not let your foot be moved. He keeps, he will not slumber. The Lord is your keeper, your shade upon your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep your life from this moment and forevermore because it has been bought for you by the blood of Christ.

Therefore, keep yourselves in the love of God.