The Power of the Articulated Gospel #T4G12

My notes on Albert Mohler’s message on Romans 10 (all notes are paraphrased):

I don’t know what it would be like to do this ministry without friends. I know there are some men who are called to preach and teach alone, I don’t know how you do it, but God bless you. But in ministry we desperately need friends who are with us for the long haul.

The theme of our meeting is the Underestimated Gospel. We want to be together for the gospel, but we do not want to underestimate it—or to use a term coined by our George W. Bush—we don’t to misunderestimate it. We need to stand together for the gospel. Compromise on the gospel has led to false teaching, the corruption of movements… And this means at times that we need to be painfully candid about what the gospel is not. We’re surrounded by false gospels, misunderstandings of the gospel and understandings of the gospel that just fall short.

The gospel has enemies, but it is sometimes underestimated even by its friends. In Romans, Paul writes that “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation…” We want to be gospel people in a gospel movement, we want to live gospel lives and bear gospel fruit and send gospel people out on gospel mission, but we might still underestimate it.

Carl Henry wrote a book called A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration. This is good and right and necessary. But first it must be articulated. It must be heard.

Paul’s great apostolic concern in Romans 10 is about the need to hear the gospel in order to be saved. All throughout the book of Romans, Paul shows us our need and the centrality of the gospel. And what we find here in chapter 10 is the whole machinery of salvation. Several things we should see:

The word is brought near.

The Word of God came near to us in Christ and now in the preaching of the gospel, the Word is brought near to us. The Word has to be brought near to us. It was brought near to Israel, a reference to the closing words in the book of  Deuteronomy, where God reminds them that they did not seek God, but he drew near to them. He’s writing to Gentiles, who are saved because the Word was brought near to them. That’s one of the great privileges of ministry—that as we are brought near, we preach so that the Word might be brought near to those who are perishing. If the one who knows the gospel is close to one who does not know Christ but does not proclaim the gospel, there is no salvation. Articulation is necessary so that the one who hears may believe and may confess and in doing so may be saved.

The apostle Paul in his ministry was all about bringing the Word near—the saving Word of the gospel.

The power of the gospel to save.

This is where we rightly refer to the well-meant offer of the gospel. We are to preach the gospel to all people everywhere in the firm, unshakeable belief that if they hear and respond, they will be saved. Romans 10:13 there is no asterisk, there is no footnote—if sinners believe and confess, they will be saved. We don’t present the gospel with one hand behind our backs; we don’t hide behind the sovereignty of God to say, “well they might believe, they might not.” We live this, we teach this, that if we preach the Word, sinners will be saved. We are to be indiscriminate in our preaching of the gospel. We are to be like the sower who indiscriminately sows the seed of the Word and the Lord brings the harvest.

In verse 12, Paul makes it clear that there is no distinction in terms of our need for a Savior and the provision. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, first to the Jew and then to the gentile.” And so there is no distinction.

The necessity of articulating the gospel.

It is not brought near without words. Our ministry is multi-phasic, but it is most essentially verbal. The gospel requires words in order to be heard, in order to be received. It even requires words in order to be rejected!

These days it’s increasingly popular to quote Francis of Assisi, as saying “Preach the gospel always if necessary use words.” While this didn’t emerge until 200 years after him and this sounds like Francis, it sounds like those who think that we can bring the gospel near just by being there, or by being kind or nice or loving. And while we are called to do those things, we must articulate the gospel. We much use words. We must speak.

We certainly don’t want to expect that Christians should preach the gospel but not live without evidence to back it up. We really can’t do much of importance without words. Most of what we do requires words. Just imagine any formative experience in your life and think about how you can communicate this without words? We are made in the image of God and we have a speaking God. And because God speaks, we must speak also.

Even the formation of language begins with words. Even before the written word exists, we begin with spoken words. Linguists speak about how humans are the only creatures that make gestures, but they’re also aware of the limits of gestures. Even the gestures for “yes” and “no” may not be as clear as they need to be.

Here is the indictment: We are dead in our trespasses and sin so [gestures] we are lost without words. We are lost without words. We have in our midst who are hearing this message by means of American sign language. It is not mere gesture. It is the communication of words. We use the only words that we have available to us, human words, but when those words are used to articulate the gospel, they are more than words—they convey the power to save those who are perishing.

Without preaching, there is no believing. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. We’re not just talking about the auditory experience, but we’re talking about the internal calling, the effectual calling, but we know that the effectual call is part of our call to preach.

God has chosen in his sovereignty that the whole machinery of salvation requires the articulation of the gospel—God has not been frustrated by the fact that the gospel is communicated by words, he has chosen this means.

We are, then, to preach and teach, to contend, but also to persuade.  How will they believe if they never hear? As evangelicals, we believe in the power of the gospel, we believe in the articulation of the gospel—it’s only in recent years that we’re hearing “stop talking and show me the gospel.” We need to show people the fruit of the gospel, but we must articulate the gospel.

Before you can demonstrate the power of the gospel, you must first articulate the power of the gospel. We cannot articulate the gospel without words. The only means of reaching those who are perishing is by articulating the gospel through words.

We cannot preach or teach or tell the gospel without words. A pattern of right words reminds us of our responsibility to get the gospel right. We are here because we want to live the gospel and we do not want to underestimate its power. We never want to underestimate the power of the articulated gospel.

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is Lord.

When a Pastor Loses Heart #T4G12

CJ Mahaney’s opening session on 2 Corinthians 4 (all notes are paraphrased):

Because this conference exists to serve pastors, each of us who have the priveliege to address you have to choose what we believe will bless you . . . and I pray that this would be helpful to you.

Through his profound letter, we come to know Paul in a profound way . . . so let us consider what we can learn from a portion, found in 2 Cor. 4:1-18.

There is much for the Pastor in 2 Corinthians, but in the fourth chapter in particular, Paul shows us the temptation to lose heart and Paul’s resolve to not lose heart. Paul was a man who was familiar with the temptation to lose heart . . . but in this chapter we’re not just reminded of the temptation to lose heart, but of Paul’s resolve to not lose heart.

But what informed Paul’s resolve and what can we learn to inform our resolve?

This is a predictable temptation for pastors—it’s one that you can predict every Monday. We’re evaluating our Sunday service and our Sunday sermon and that evaluation tends to be unfavorable and it’s often aided by well-meaning or not-so-well-meaning church members who offer their own unfavorable evaluations.

The temptation to lose heart is a common one, and one in particular for pastors. There’s no pastor who is exempt from this temptation—and I can’t help but wonder how many here feel this temptation or the effects of this temptation. You may continue to appear fruitful and skillful, but you’re no longer joyful.

If this is you, I believe this conference is a gift from God for you. . . . I pray that this will minster to you and you will feel God draw near to you and you could come home discernibly different.

Let’s not waste this conference—it is a gift from God and I do not want anyone to waste it. Listen humbly to each and every message. Listen humbly and not critically. Use the time in meals to review what you found particularly helpful in each message. Begin by identifying evidences of grace in each and every message and communicate to others how each message was helpful to your soul. Let’s not gather together to simply critique one another. No, we come as those who are aware of the temptation to lose heart. We need the grace of God, to respond to it . . . If it is not well with your soul, then communicate it to the appropriate individual at the appropriate time. Acknowledge that. For some of you, grace is just a humbling acknowledgement away.

So what does a pastor do when he is tempted to lose heart? In chapter four, Paul contemplates three ways he resolves to never lose heart:

The call to Christian ministry (v. 1-6)

Paul’s awareness of his call strengthened his call and his resolve to not lose heart. His ministry was to preach the gospel . . . and this helped him in his resolve to not lose heart when faced with opposition. Though Paul’s call was certainly unique, we too have been called to proclaim the gospel, where the glory of God has been uniquely displayed. We have been called to proclaim the gospel to those who have been blinded by the god of this world, the same god who dispelled darkness in creation, will dispel the darkness from their heart. He will give sight to the blind.

Pastoral ministry is about an ongoing confrontation with the god of this world, with hardness of heart, with blindness, but we do not lose heart because we have this ministry, we have this message that brings light, that transforms heart, that changes lives. And we must resist any temptation to tamper with this message. Those who tamper with this message underestimate this message. We are not innovators, we are proclaimers.

Paul was amazed by the message of the gospel. He lived in constant awareness of his fitness for the task. Are you aware of the mercy of God? Have you grown acclimated to it? Are you amazed by this message?

Also keep in view your congregation. Too easily pastors become preoccupied with the besetting sins of the congregation and to forget their conversion. To not keep in view this creative act of God where they turned from their sins and toward Christ. Brothers, may we never lose a sense of wonder that you, me, we have been called to pastoral ministry. May we never lose a sense of wonder and marvel at the fruit of wonder. If you keep this ministry in view you won’t lose heart.

The context and conditions of Christian Ministry (v. 7-12)

Paul was under no illusions about the context of his ministry. He understood that his call was not only to proclaim but to suffer and to serve. He references personal weakness in v. 7, and references some of the personal examples of suffering in v. 8-9. In a fallen world, this glorious ministry by definition involves trials and suffering and persecution. These categories apply to us as well. This is what you have to look forward to. Too often, pastors begin ministry confident in the gospel, but unprepared for verses seven through 12. You need a theology of suffering in place before you hit verses 8 and 9. Younger pastors, when you speak with older pastors, let these categories inform your questions. Let them inform your study of other pastors. Ask how have you experienced trials, with affliction, with being bewildered? Every pastor is familiar in varying degrees with these things.

But perhaps the one we’re most familiar with—being struck down. Maybe a friend from your pre-conversion days, or a staff member who misrepresents you. You are struck down. But perhaps the most common form is depression. Lectures to My Students should be required reading for all pastors—so get it and turn to the section on the “fainting fits” of the preacher.

Listen, when you’re in pastoral ministry, you’re going to encounter these—and you’re most likely going to encounter them all at the same time. These harsh realities have a divine design. They are all purposeful. They are all an opportunity for God to display his power and glorify himself in our weakness. In the midst of affliction and persecution and bewilderness and being struck down, we discover that he is wonderfully at work—and our congregation does as well! Your congregations are studying you, they are studying your life and they are seeing how you endure suffering and to see that you do not lose heart.

But the accent in these verses is not on these verses, it is on the grace of God. “…perplexed but not…” Paul is certainly acknowledging the harsh realities but he is celebrating the grace of God that sustains us in the midst of these harsh realities and this should bring great joy to our souls. Ultimately, it’s not about Paul, it’s about God. It’s not that Paul was unusually strong in his constitution, it’s about the power of God in him that sustained him. Every pastor has “but not” written over his life.

His heart was strengthened by the hope of Christian ministry (16-18)

In ministry, enduring is rooted in an eternal perspective. The absence of an eternal perspective results in losing heart. Paul had this eternal perspective. He studied the unseen, paid careful attention to the future and found this work of renewal . . . but was also aware that he was wasting away. Here’s the difference the eternal perspective makes: Paul concludes that there’s no comparison. He is experiencing present suffering, he is wasting away, but as he peers into the future, he finds there is no comparison with future glory. If you make the comparison of your local quarry with the Grand Canyon, there is no comparison.

This isn’t my impulse. My normal comparison is, “Well, your situation could be worse…” And I hope that comparison will be helpful, but Paul didn’t work with that kind of comparison. He didn’t work with that approach. The approach he worked with changed his comparison. How’d you like to spend time with him? It just seems that there’d be no whining allowed. We don’t have anything that could compare. If what he experienced he calls, “light and momentary,” what is yours?

Where’d he get this perspective? Verse 18: As he looked, he kept the glories of the unseen in front of him. The older you get, the more you need to get this. We need to look more to the unseen than to the seen. To become more aware of the sustaining power of God in our lives and that our momentary afflictions cannot be compared with the glories that await us—and then you are prepared to preach, to counsel, even in the midst of trial, affliction—and you don’t lose heart.

Hopes and Concerns About the Gospel-Centered Movement #T4G2012

#T4G pre-event begins w/ @harrisjosh @drmoore @jeffbethke @jdgreear Matt Pinson & Carl Trueman

A photo posted by Aaron Armstrong (@aaronstrongarm) on

Monday night, Russell Moore hosted a panel discussion featuring JD Greear, Carl Trueman, Josh Harris, Jefferson Bethke, and Matt Pinson to discussion Christ-centered theology and ministry. One of the most helpful portions for me was listening to their hopes and concerns about the YRR/gospel-centered movement. Below are my notes from each speaker on this subject (paraphrased, of course):

Matt Pinson

What’s hopeful to me is an interest in the Bible for starters. A real interest in the authority of Scripture for the life of the church. A real interest in the community of saints over time and space . . . and a lack of patience for a consumerist religion that is found in much of evangelical Christianity. That’s what’s most hopeful to me. That depth and substance and reading books of substance…

When I first learned about Al Mohler, Lig Duncan and these guys, there was something that resonated with me, but sometimes I wonder if the more success the YRR experiences if there’s not more of a drive to be more accepted by the culture. That would be a concern I’d have.

JD Greear

The return to the centrality of the gospel . . .  It’s led to some unity across denominations that’s really encouraging. The things that are concerning: The human heart’s tendency to create barriers and structures. Our ability to be legalistic about gospel centrality is astounding. Sometimes there’s greater vigor in defending gospel-centeredness than reaching people for Christ. And these ought to be the same thing, but you see the energy that goes into these critiques of certain things—which certainly has its place—but we’re called to seek and save the lost.

Josh Harris asking great questions @ #t4g pre-event

A photo posted by Aaron Armstrong (@aaronstrongarm) on

Josh Harris

I remember some of the first people I encountered who were talking about the doctrines of grace seemed to completely lack grace. It wasn’t until I heard preachers like Piper who had such a zeal for the glory of God. And this is something that seems to happen in every generation. The leaders have the heart for the gospel, but their followers are lacking it, they’re just trying to fall in line.

Jefferson Bethke

The older generation needs to stop shooting the younger generation; take them under your wing, disciple them, but don’t shoot them.

JD Greear & Matt Pinson discussing multi-site

A photo posted by Aaron Armstrong (@aaronstrongarm) on

Carl Trueman

I’d affirm the positives that have been said, but there are two big negatives that could damage the movement: The first is shifting identities from denominations to para-church organizations and personalities. What happens when they die out? The second is that the gospel-centered movement is very procural but ultimately baptism is relativized. The gospel-centered movement seems to be very hard on the complementarian issue, but we can agree to disagree on baptism. But baptism isn’t something we can afford to not have a position on.


5 Things Everyone Needs When Going to a Conference


I’m on the road for yet another conference, one where I’m very much looking forward to hearing the speakers, learning lots and spending time with a number of friends, old and new, who will be there. As I’ve become more of a regular attendee at these sorts of things, I’ve found that there are a few things that every person should really have on hand at a conference:

An eReader of some sort

This just makes the travel-time go so much more quickly. I bring my iPad pretty much everywhere with me and it’s so worth it, in part because it keeps my bags light (I like to have options when reading). Also, you’re probably going to be coming home with a whole whack of books (either from giveaways or purchases), so you’re going to need the room in your luggage. Which brings me to my next point…

Appropriate luggage

You’re almost certainly going to come home with more than you planned. Pack light and bring roomy luggage (this goes double for those flying).

A contact card (optional)

It’s a bit old-school, but a contact card (read: business card) is super helpful to have handy when you know you’re going to meet a bunch of people with whom you’ll want to keep in touch.

Comfortable shoes

Because you’re going to be on your feet a fair amount of the time, it’s wise to wear comfortable shoes. Even the best business casual slip-on gets unpleasant after a long day.

Oral B brush ups (and/or mints and gum)

Roaming around a conference for 10+ hours, drinking coffee… yeah. Take care to protect your breath.

Anything else you’d add to the list?

This post has been updated twice since it was first published in April, 2012.

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

Notes from #TheGospelProject Webcast

Today saw the official launch of The Gospel Project, the new curriculum from Lifeway Christian Resources. To kick off the curriculum, Trevin Wax, Matt Chandler, JD Greear and Ed Stetzer spoke on the purpose and need of the curriculum. Below are my notes, much of which is paraphrased:

Introduction—Trevin Wax: The purpose of the Gospel Project

For many years now, churches have been asking Lifeway to produce an in-depth curriculum. But the problem is what does in depth mean? For some it means information? So let me go into a small group and come out with new information. Of course information is necessary, but it’s not all there is. The last thing we want to do

For others, going deep means immediate application—just give me something to do. We should seek transformation, or we’re like those James warned about. The Bible is not a self-help book.

Not information, not immediate application but gospel-centrality. So there is information, but it’s connected to the big story of the Bible. There is application, but it’s grounded in the gospel. Going deep is immersing ourselves in the truth of God’s redemptive work in Jesus Christ.

Session 1—Matt Chandler: The Explicit Gospel

The providence of God is a pretty spectacular thing… A number of years back, during a baptism service, I heard a number of testimonies that went like this: “I went to church, I went to sunday school, I went to VBS… and I’m here to say that I’ve never heard the gospel and now I want to be baptized.”

The first time you hear that, it doesn’t really unsettle you, but when you hear it a bunch of times… hearing people say, I grew up in church but never heard the gospel, it hits your heart in a really heavy way. And because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let go of me on this, I settled it by going back to these people and asking them to go through their journals and finding out whether or not they really ever heard the gospel. Some came back and said, “yeah, I did hear it but didn’t understand it,” but more came back and said that what they found was a checklist of dos and don’ts—of moralistic therapeutic deism. And so it exploded in my heart that I couldn’t assume that people in the church have heard the gospel.

In Paul’s letters, you see him in nearly every letter, preaching the gospel to people who know the gospel (Rom. 1:8-15, 1 Cor. 15:1-5, Gal. 1:6-9).

So what we need to do is to remember that we need to bring this back into life off the stage—we need to help take the lenses off and see how the Bible is gospel-centric. We need to help our people become attached to the Word of God and see how it’s about Christ. So there’s a right way and a wrong way to read the Scriptures and we need to connect everything to Christ—to the big story of what God’s doing in reconciling all things to himself in Christ. We can do this with typology—we can look at David, Joseph… and the Spirit shows us the typology and we can use these as illustrations. So we can see that Joseph is playing a role that is like Christ’s. David is playing a role like Christ’s. We can’t assume that people have understood the gospel and been transformed by it.

People understand rules—don’t do this, don’t do that. That’s easier than understanding that you’ve been bought by Christ’s life, death and resurrection and we never need to stray far off of that. You have to teach biblical morality within the framework of the gospel. We have to draw our people into the Scriptures and give them the lenses to see God’s reconciling work from Genesis to Revelation.

Q&A Highlights:

Good hermeneutics are: being faithful to the original author’s intent, the history behind it, the context behind it and working our way to Christ.

If we don’t draw our reading back to the gospel, there are a number of errors that can happen. Ultimately the stories become children’s stories and moralistic tales. “Noah doesn’t have anything to do to me,” “Be like David…” etc.

The connection between the gospel and holy living: What you want is something you can’t ultimately control. What regenerates hearts is not “here’s the rules, try to obey them.” What regenerates hearts is, “You’ve fallen short, but God’s made a way in Jesus Christ.” Regeneration gives you a new heart that frees you up to love the Law. We feel the weight of the Law because we don’t quite understand the gospel.

Session 2—JD Greear: Gospel Application

I want to talk to you about the need to ground our application in the gospel. the basic gist is this: The gospel is not the diving board that we jump off of to get into the pool of Christianity; we start there and move on. But if you look at the epistles, you see that the gospel is the pool itself. It’s not just the thing that brings us into the Christian life, it’s the thing that allows us to grow in the Christian life.

The great commandment has a dilemma in it: the dilemma is that love is not something that can be commanded. When you are commanded to love something that your heart resents, you begin to hate that thing. When we are commanded to love God with a fallen heart, it doesn’t produce the thing that God wants most. It’s like a heated metal bar—I can try to bend it and when I let go, it’ll snap back up into its original form, or it will break in half. And to be commanded to love God without the heart to do it is ike that. It may create resentment and even hatred, but not

It’s learning of God’s love for us that produces in us love for God says 1 John. And when our hearts change, our behavior changes—because we want to change. We want to pursue righteousness because we love righteousness, we pursue God because we desire God. It’s the expulsive power of the new affection—and any application that we want to last must be grounded in the new heart given in the gospel.

The girl in my church who has lost her virginity, the guy hooked on pornography… they need to hear about God’s love for them. If you want to produce generosity, you’ll hear different things—some traditions use greed, others use guilt. When Paul wants to motivate generosity, he doesn’t use either of those—he uses grace. 2 Cor 8-9. The gospel shows that God himself is of more value than money. He’s a greater treasure… When we boast, we ask, why do we boast? Because we want people think well of us? And why do we want people to think well of us? Because we care more about their opinions than God’s. But if we understand that we have God’s approval, then we don’t need to worry as much about the approval of others.

We are idolators and the only way to correct our problems is to change the heart that desires idols. We worshipped our way into sin, we need to worship our way out. So how do we do that? How do we correct the idolatrous heart? It’s what 1 John says: We love God not because we are commanded to, but because he first loved us. That’s why in our preaching and teaching, we must always be pointing to who God is. It’s why Paul keeps praying in his letters that our eyes would be opened to see the goodness and glory of Christ.

Q&A Highlights:

On frustrations with children’s curriculum: More often than not, my kids would come home with to-do lists—”I need to love people more, stop lying, etc”. We need curriculums that help children understand that there are these stories and characters, but that ultimately this is about worship and grace and that it’s about what God has done for us, not what we do. We can learn from the characters, but we need to point to what they teach us about Jesus, too.

On being gospel-centered: Don’t try to be more gospel-centered than the Bible. Don’t try to be more gospel-centered than Jesus. He’s got it down, so follow his example and you’ll be fine. Being gospel centered means not just that the gospel is important to you, but that you see that the gospel is more than the entry into the Christian life, but the means by which we grow in the Christian life.

Session 3—Ed Stetzer: Gospel, Theology and Mission

Gospel, theology and mission matter because they’re things that we need to focus on in our churches. Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” This is captured by Paul in 2 Cor 5, when he shares how God has reconciled us by the gospel and we are sent out, just as Christ was. Theology deeply matters and the desire to engage with biblical truths—how we get into this grand story and with the gospel proclamation. But Satan is not frightened and the world is not upset by people who learn how to understand theology but don’t do anything—theology consumers who are not missional co-laborers.

As a pastor, I never want to preach a message that would still be true if Jesus had never died on the cross or else I’m just giving advise. I recently wrote an article explaining how we do that in the Gospel Project, and offered some questions:

1. What is distinctively Christian about this passage that drives people to the gospel?

2. Is there anything here that a faithful Jew would be uncomfortable with? Why—because I want to drive people to the gospel.

3. Is there anything that a non-Christian would be uncomfortable with? Why—because I want to drive people to the gospel.

We don’t want to find info junkies, but missional co-laborers. And one of the reason I’m excited about this curriculum is that we’re pushing people to join Jesus on his mission. In going deep, we don’t want to confuse minutia for meat. Your church and mine, in pointing people to Christ, will help people to share Christ. If we’re raising up well informed people who aren’t sharing the gospel and caring for hurting people, we’ve failed.

Sometimes those who speak much about theology, are less engaged in sharing the gospel with others. We don’t want to help you just go deep, but help you go out. In pointing people to Christ, ti will help people to share Christ.

In pointing people to Christ, it helps us join Christ in his mission. In Luke 19:10, Jesus says he came to seek and save the lost. And so we join him in this as he saves people from all nations. And he came to serve the hurting (cf. Luke 4:18 and following). So we join him in gospel proclamation—and this must be important above all—but we also join him in gospel demonstration, caring for widows and orphans as James says.

The church must constantly evangelize as well seek the welfare of the city by living out the implications of the gospel so that we might offer a verbal defense and visual demonstration of its power.

An important part of this is community. When people come together in community and study this, to as Hebrews says, spur one another on in love and good works (Heb. 10:24), it changes everything. It allows us to grow together and become agents of God’s mission together. We want people to know theology, to understand the gospel, and then be able to live as agents of God’s mission. Ultimately, we will help people to be gospel-centered, theologically informed and missionally driven.

Q&A Highlights:

Why it’s so important to be missionally-driven: I think that one of the things we’ve under-emphasized is the fact that we’ve been sent as ambassadors. We join Jesus in his mission and I don’t want is for us to help people go deep and not go out. We can’t miss this theme throughout the Scriptures; I wish people would act less like they’ve arrived and more like God has sent them.

On going deep but being accessible to the non-Christian: We don’t have to avoid depth with new or non-Christians, but we do have to explain our terms. People are not afraid of depth, we just have to make sure that they understand what we’re talking about.

Session 4—Panel Discussion

For this session, I’ve chosen to share a few of my favorite quotes from the discussion.

JD Greear: If we’re not going deep, we’re not relevant.

Ed Stetzer: The point of The Gospel Project is not just to produce learners but also teachers & leaders.

Matt Chandler: I think the peril for this [the gospel-centered movement] is that a lot of the people are using the word “gospel” are not finding their identity in the gospel… We need the Holy Spirit to do shop on some people who know their Bibles well but want to argue and divide over nuance.

Dannah Gresh: Two-ism & Sexuality #ThinkTank

Dannah Gresh, a best-selling author and sought-after speaker. Her best-selling titles include And the Bride Wore White and 2010’s best-selling CBA youth book, Lies Young Women Believe co-authored with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She says the most important book she has or will ever write is What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex, which traces the Hebrew language of sexuality from Genesis to Revelation answering every question a heart could ask. She has long been at the forefront of the movement to encourage tweens and teens to be modest and to pursue purity and is the founder of Secret Keeper Girl a live tour event for tween girls and their moms.

Everything from our sexual ethic to our view of male and female is really messed up. Katy Perry… she’s ours. She’s our fruit. I don’t want to talk a lot about the sensationalism that’s out there, but I want to talk about what One-ism looks like in the church.

Here’s how I think One-ism affects our daughters. One-ism invites us to worship celebrities. This celebrity culture destroyed Marilyn Monroe and I believe it will destroy our daughters, as well. Marilyn was 30 when she was at the top of her popularity and she appealed to the 20 year olds. But marketers decided to broaden their audience and their bottom line and so in the 1980s we had Brooke Shields (“Nothing gets between me and my Calvins”). And today, we have the Tween market, something that didn’t exist a few years ago. Today, they’re marketing to seven year olds. We have Miley Cyrus—also raised in a Christian home—and products from Abercrombie & Fitch designed to sexualize girls ages seven to fourteen.

The American Psychological Association went on a rampage a few years ago, talking about dolls looking sexy and street smart. The Bratz dolls (fishnets, etc);Barbie’s gone a little bit crazy lately (the “Black Canary” comic book character Barbie). Playing with dolls creates self-control in little girls. So when they play seduce the boy, they’re just being set up for future behavior. Today, the top rated show among 8-12 year olds is Desperate Housewives, where in the 1980s it was the Care Bears. The APA says about this that when they want to buy the products, practicing seduce the boy, they’re most at risk for eating disorders, early sexual debuts, etc. By the time they’re married, they’re so broken by unhealthy body images and behaviors that they cannot function in healthy sexual relationships.

As for the boys, One-ism feeds our self-centeredness. Have you noticed that our boys are not called to be leaders—and what we have now are boys who are growing up into “adultescents,” they’re not maturing, they’re not taking responsibility.

The average age of exposure to pornography is age 11. Androgyny doesn’t just look like boys being put into Girl Scouts; it might be through emasculation, through belittling them.

So maybe in the church we need to stop focusing on counterfeits and need to focus on the truth—and I don’t think we have a great understanding of the truth in the Church. The counterfeits are everywhere and we’re not talking about the real thing. One of the worst kept secrets in the church is God’s language about sexuality, and I want to introduce you to the language of sexuality that God uses, which is found in Genesis. Reading Genesis 4, I read, “Adam knew with his wife and she became pregnant” and the Hebrew word there is yada. It means to know, to be known, to be deeply respected. Not one mention of the physical. It moves past the physical and perhaps into the spiritual. And this word shows us the two deepest needs of men and women. It shows the woman’s need, her desire, to be known. Men need to study their wives—know them, study them, understand them. Men need to be respected. And God forbid we should teach true sexuality and not live it.

There’s another word used in Scripture: Sakab—to exchange body fluids. It’s purely physical. This is what the world sells every day. Why is a different partner every night not satisfying, why is pornography not satisfying?

This is what I believe about yada and Two-ism: this word gives us a biblical foundation for what sexuality is meant to be and a grounding for the church to explain it. This word is used many times to describe the intimacy between husband and wife, but it’s used more to describe the relationship—the nearness—between God and man. (Psalm 46:10)

Yada declares God to be distinct and unknown by us, but it also draws us up to be known by him. Piper: The ultimate reason we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable.

What’s wrong with having “friends with benefits”?

“Friends with benefits” seeks to scratch an itch without the emotional benefits. Sex releases dopamine—and what its purpose is to drive you back to the source of pleasure. “Friends with benefits” is oxymoronic. You cannot have sex with someone without it getting emotional, and when it ends, you get hurt. Oxytocin is also released during climax is sex—the purpose of oxytocin is a bonding chemical. A chemical bond is created, telling us, “You are one.”

“The desire to connect is not just an emotional feeling. Bonding is real and almost like the adhesive effect of glue—a powerful connection that cannot be undone without great emotional pain.”

Gen. 2:25; Eph. 5:13; 1 Cor. 6:16: “The two will become one flesh”

Is homosexuality a sin?

Bypassing the inflammatory passages, we need to really turn back to Genesis. One-ism declares that there is no difference between men and women, the result is androgyny. We need to get back to the image of God, helping those who struggle with same sex attraction to see that they are made a little like him.

What’s so wrong with porn?

You cannot know or be known by the pixels on a computer screen. And when the chemicals of sexual released during climax, they were bonding with their screens. When researchers asked men in NYC to fast from porn for a while to see what would happen, the result was they had sexual desire for their wives. The same happened with women.

When the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1941, those who were entrusted to protect it did nothing, assuming that it was taken out to be photographed. The greatest picture of the gospel is one man and one woman, where the husband tells his wife that she’s electrifying and she remembers to stop nagging and start respecting him. How many pictures like that do you see in your church? I’m not saying we’re not doing anything, but we seem to be asleep. Find the [girls with views like Rachel Held Evans] in your church and don’t condemn her, but love her. Build an emotional bank account in her heart so that one day she might ask you what submission looks like in your heart. Teach your daughters about what it means to be made in the image of God and turn her away from celebrity culture. Teach your sons to turn off Call of Duty on the Xbox and take up their call of duty in the Kingdom of God. That’s what we need to do. What we do in our private lives really matters.

David Fandey: Two-ism and the Missional Life #ThinkTank

David Fandey is the founding pastor of The Fields, an Acts 29 church plant in Carlsbad, CA. Before planting The Fields, David served 9 years at Riverview Church located in North County, San Diego. He has been serving as an adjunct professor at Biola University for over ten years. David is also the Australia area director for Acts29 International. David and his wife Wilma have been married 19 years have six children.

When we talk about the missional life, we are going to have to udnerstand that mission is always cross cultural. All of us have a culture that we come from. Culture is not inherently amoral. Every culture has elements that are inherently bad and all have elements that are altogether good. But no culture is amoral. Mission is cross cultural by its very nature. Missional living means understanding the horizontal implications of the gospel in the context of the culture we’re trying to reach. To use Dr. Jones’ language, we’re bringing a Two-ist gospel and applying it into a One-ist culture.

We need to figure out what it means to live missionally in the culture in which God has placed us. To be on mission, we need to understand the culture. Sometimes we call this process exegeting the culture, attempting to understand what drives the locals—people’s priorities, motivations, the idols of their hearts… We need to ask these things and we’ll find that there are some things that we absolutely cannot stand. But we need to understand what drives the locals if we are to reach them.

We also need to examine our own culture. Are we carrying a biblical message across these bridges of culture or are we carrying an unbiblical one? As we learn to be more and more on mission, we’ll find more areas about which we need to repent and our views will be stretched. So early on in our church plant, I kept hearing “God is not a Republican!”—but I grew up thinking that he was. And so I want to shout back, “He’s not a Democrat either!” Because God’s above all that. What’s important is not [necessarily] a political position, but the gospel. I hope we can take this beautiful gospel message to this one-ist world and will begin to see the beauty of the two-ist worldview.

One of the things that I’ve so appreciated about this conference is the call to stand upon the Word of God—to allow the Word of God to be in authority over all of our cultural ideas. In John 4:1-45, we read of Jesus doing this very thing.

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.

Now Jesus didn’t have to pass through Samaria, there were other ways to get through. The Samaritans were despised people, “half-breeds” and “quarter breeds” because of the Syrian conquest, and although they traced their origins back to Joseph through Ephraim, the Jews rejected them. But Jesus did have to pass through—as though he had a divine appointment.

So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

This is a huge deal—a huge cultural no-no. He was breaking a huge cultural norm in asking her for a drink. But he not only asks her for a drink—a Samaritan and a woman—that was defilement. It’s huge that he says any of these, crossing any barrier possible to engage her with the gospel. And this is a question that we have to ask—what barriers are we willing to cross in order to engage with the One-ist culture for the purposes of sharing the gospel.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

The woman knows this is completely outside of the norm and she’s intrigued. After all, he has no container; so she responds from within her culture. She appeals to Jacob—but Jesus responds by going beyond the culture. Jesus says “everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again”—the water of One-ism will only leave them thirsty. The things of this life with which we attempt to satisfy our thirsty souls always fail us. They never work.

And this woman gets this, and she responds, “Sir, give me this water.” She wants it, she knows that what she’s after will fail to satisfy. The only thing that will bring life—eternal life—is the “water” Jesus offers our thirsty souls. Then Jesus goes on a zig-zag:

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

This just comes out of nowhere; but Jesus knows everything you’ve ever done—everything any of us have done. And so she hides, she knows what she’s done and wants to escape condemnation. But Jesus responds, stating the fact, but he doesn’t condemn. She knows she’s already condemned. And part of what we have to do is not condemn the world, but to help the world see that they’re already condemned—so they can process through the implications, like the woman:

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Basically, it doesn’t matter where, the point is worshipping in spirit and truth. People have exchanged the truth for a lie, but God is seeking people who will worship in truth.

And the woman starts jumping and says, “I know that Messiah is coming… When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Her witness is incredible—the woman takes off and goes to the people of her town and said, “Come see a man who told me all I ever did.”

Then there’s this conversation that’s going on in verses 31-38; the disciples are asking God what’s going on. Jesus tells them that he has had food they do not know about. And they’re like what? And Jesus says that his food is to do the will of “him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” This is our work as well—we are here to live on mission for God’s glory; that is the will of the Father. Look at what Jesus says:

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

I want to close with a few points of application:

1. We must engage the culture and not retreat from it. Missional living is necessarily cross-cultural living. As Christians, we are living in a culture that is different from the biblical worldview. As Christians we live in the biblical worldview of Two-ism. But that is not the view of the surrounding culture. We must be humble, walk circumspectly about our own cultural biases, showing love and compassion.

2. We are to love and not hate. The culture does not like us. In fact, the culture hates us. They would like to eradicate my “tribe.” When I hear what the surrounding culture says about us, I want to fight back; it bums my spirit when I see One-ism make in-roads. But I have to ask myself [when this happens], am I upset because of my love for people or because my team isn’t winning? A really good question to ask ourselves is do we really love the unsaved or do they just annoy the heck out of us?

3. Hold to the truth. We decided early on in our church that we would not pull any punches—we’d say what the Bible says.

4. It will necessarily cost us to live missionally. It takes time, it will drain us emotionally because lives are so messy. It will cost us because we will have to interact with sinners in order to see them saved. And if you choose to live missionally, you’ll be hit from both sides. The sinners will hate you because you’re telling them to repent and the religious will hate you because you’re a friend of sinners.

5. It will take time to see the results. In my cultural context, it’s the long-haul. It’s the long-haul view.

6. We need to live authentically. The people out there need the gospel, but I need it too.

7. Be in prayer. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

People are perishing. They need the gospel—will we repent where we need to? Will we reach out with love and truth?

Ardel Caneday: Two-ism and the Doctrine of Scripture #ThinkTank

Ardel Caneday (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is Professor of New Testament Studies and Biblical Studies at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has served churches in various pastoral roles, including senior pastor. He has authored numerous journal articles, many essays in books, and has co-authored with Thomas Schreiner the book The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance (Inter-Varsity, 2001).

It is entirely fitting that we should ponder the beauty of two and the doctrine of Scripture after Dr. Jones’ presentation on the doctrine of God and Dr. Johnson’s presentation on the incarnation. The preincarnate Word spoke the word that brought the world into existence. The Word spoke the word that gave form to the formless. Thus the Word, Jesus, is the original. Romans shows us that God reveals himself not only in creation but to creation.

Belief in the incarnate Word of God is ours only as we believe the testimony of the Word concerning him. In their published effort to diminish the lofty view of Scripture that we evangelicals have received from the church fathers and reformers, replacing Sola Scriptura with Sola Experientia. As we probe the Creator/creation distinction that presupposes the formation of all Christian doctrine, we have to see how the Creator condescends to make himself known:

1. The Creator’s condescension to reveal himself. He does this by taking on our likeness by taking on our form, our likeness and our emotions—when in fact, we bear his likeness, his image. Because the entire universe is his creation, it is also the canvas of his entire revelation. (Psalm 19). Grand as the expanse of God’s creation is, more foundation to our understanding is that God formed Adam in his own likeness. The image is the nexus, the link, that gives humans inherent knowledge of God. He implanted in us an inherent awareness of the existence of God and our need for a deity. This is why Calvin says, “Without knowledge of ourselves, we have no knowledge of God and without knowledge of God we have no true knowledge of ourselves.” If we are going to be faithful to the Creator/creation distinction, we have to be aware that we are like God but also not like God. We gravely compromise the distinction when we advocate his similarity at the expense of his dissimilarity and likewise when we advocate his dissimilarity at the expense of his similarity.
Rom. 1:18-20.

Paul paints all people as being equally condemned, substituting created things for the image of God. Since the time of the so-called Enlightenment with its devotion to “rationalism,” we have come to think that humans have come to think that we have the ability to know God by our own intellectual powers. Philosophers and theologians have come to despise the image of God taking the form of a potter to shape the first man. They despise the image of God stooping to breathe life into the man’s lungs… But because God has made humans analogous to himself, he exploits this analogy to reveal himself to us. Consequently our knowledge of God and our covenantal relationship with God are derived from the fact that God has made us in his image. Consequently, we must never unduly degrade humanity as being evolved from a lower being. Equally, we must never unduly degrade humanity by confusing the Creator and creation.

2. The Creator’s condescension to give his word through human writers. The distinction between creator and creation is a foundational presupposition of our confidence in the inerrancy of the Scripture. Kant’s relegating God’s revelation to matters of religion, theologians and Christians today believe Scripture’s claims about religious beliefs as inerrant, but on matters of nature to be errant. Further, Kenton Sparks argues that because Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, he must have made errors in estimating and not done everything perfectly.

Sparks: “If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, [and/or] John wrote Scripture without error.”

Sparks and those following him thus diminish the distinction between Creator and creation… leading to a view that we cannot truly know God. But Calvin says that we can truly know God, even if we cannot fully and exhaustively know him.

What Calvin affirms is that the church fathers proclaimed long ago. These church fathers understood the Creator/creation distinction that allows us to understand the inerrancy of Scripture. We are wrong to follow Sparks and those like him into believing that God has spoken only authoritatively in certain realms. They fall into the same error as that of open theism. But God’s word is condescending, it’s accommodating, analogical. Even though God makes himself known analogically, his Word is not errant, but pure and true and trustworthy.

3. Creation’s condescension to incarnate his eternal Word as the fullness of divine revelation to humanity. Because of the gulf between creator and creation, the Creator condescended to send the incarnate Word. Far more glorious [than even the glories shown to the OT prophets] is the revelation of Christ, who is the exact image of God, the exact imprint of his nature. The Lord’s self-revelation in anthropomorphisms through the pages of the Old Testament now reveals himself in the flesh in Christ. “The one who looks upon me, looks upon the one who sent me,” says Jesus. To see him is to see as much of the invisible God as the pure in heart are able to see. He has made himself visible in the incarnate Son in whom the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. Concerning the Son, the Apostle John assures us that, “” (1 John 5:20).

Many evangelicals think they are above Nicodemus, in thinking they are above earthly things. Because Scripture does not fill their ears with lofty words, they try to improve on God’s revelation. As Calvin says [commenting on John 3:2]:

Many hold the Gospel in less estimation because they do not find in it highsounding words to fill their ears, and on this account do not deign to bestow their attention on a doctrine so low and mean. But it shows an extraordinary degree of wickedness that we yield less reverence to God speaking to us, because he condescends to our ignorance; and, therefore, when God prattles to us in Scripture in a rough and popular style, let us know that this is done on account of the love which he bears to us.

Dennis Johnson: Two-ism and the Incarnation #ThinkTank

Dennis E. Johnson (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church. He is also the author of numerous books, including Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,3,14)

Three simple sentences, verses 1,3 and 14 from the opening of John’s Gospel. Together they make some of the most extraordinary truth claims in all of history. Peter Jones wrote that the incarnation is a profound mystery and a stupendous miracle—this is the only place where the Creator and creation are joined in a way without confusion…

On page after page, God’s word demands that we must never confuse God with his creation. The bible is unmistakably Two-ist—always distinguishing God from his finite creation. So the incarnation should slap us awake. But it doesn’t cause much reaction for the One-ist; it’s merely the way that all things work at all times.

Strauss: “Incarnation, good idea, but not scandalous… after all, aren’t we all God incarnate?”

To grasp the claim that John 1:14 makes in all of its full force about one specific human being, about Jesus of Nazareth, we have to hear those claims against the backdrop of Scripture that the God who speaks and acts in creation is distinct from his creation. That’s what makes the incarnation so transcendentally beautiful.

The Infinite Divide of the Creator from His Creation

We want to think about five aspects of that divide:

1. He is infinitely immutable and unchangeable where all that he has created is subject to time and change. Psalm 102—“…they will perish, but you will remain.” Earth and the heavens seem pretty permanent in comparison to roses and trees and humans and even civilizations. But the psalmist says

2. Infinite in his energy where creatures are finite in theirs. “To whom will you liken God—or what likeness will you compare?” The Lord is the everlasting God; he does not grow faint or weary. Young men get tired and stumble but not the Lord.

3. His irresistible power over the powers of nature. Psalm 107:23-30;

4. The only source of salvation for his vulnerable creatures. “I, I am the Lord… and besides me, there is no other.” Isa. 45, God summons the pagan nations and orders them to testify that their idols have ever done anything for them. The Lord then offers an open infinite invitation for salvation—“Turn to me . . . To me, every knee will bow…” Only the Lord can save. And just as foolish as turning to idols is turning to finite human beings. (Psalm 136) Only the Creator can save—“Salvation belongs to the Lord,” said Jonah.

5. Only the Creator is worthy of worship. Worship is our response to whatever or whomever we ascribe the most value and honor. This is the point that Moses made in preparing the people as they prepared to enter the land. And in the New Testament, in Rev. 4:4-5, we see an expanding choir extolling God because He is holy and almighty and sovereign and the Savior of all things. Full of Worship of the true and living God. By contrast we see the dragon and the serpent demanding that people worship them. Then there’s that them toward the end of Revelation where you see the appropriate humility of God’s messengers. John falls down at the feet of God’s messengers—and both times the angels sharply rebuke him, telling him you must not do that.

So that’s the backdrop, do not confuse the Creator with his Creation.

The Scandal of the Incarnation

We confess Jesus’ incarnation so much that we fail to empathize with those who struggled with Jesus’ claims about himself as seen in the New Testament. The incarnation was scandalous because Jesus was so obviously human—he had a birthday. He grew physically but also mentally. He grew in wisdom and stature. He did not know everything; he got so exhausted that he fell asleep during a storm at sea. Jesus was so elegantly human that he wept and was angered by sin and death. He needed strength. Finally, he bled and he died.

Obviously human, plainly human—and yet he plainly claimed to be God. Calling God his Father, his hearers drew the right conclusions, and this is why they sought to kill him all the more. In John 8, they wanted to stone Jesus not because he claimed to have seen Abraham, but because he did it in a way that called to mind the language of God’s appearance to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus’ listeners were troubled by his claim to be impossibly old, but moreso because of his use of the term “I AM.”

In John 10, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” And the Jews picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy. And what we see in all of these accounts is that Jesus doesn’t correct people, he doesn’t back peddle and say, “Oh, no no, no, you misunderstand…” He knew they grasped his daring claim, even if they couldn’t accept it.

Jesus took the authority of God in forgiving sins, something that only God can do. But Jesus also took authority in other actions as well, such as stilling the storm. Jesus acted as God in commissioning his own witnesses as well (Acts 1), calling back to Isaiah’s proclaiming that God would send his Spirit and he would send out his witnesses. Witnesses to what? If we fill in the blanks from Isaiah, to the identity of Jesus. By the fourth chapter of Acts, we find Peter standing in front of the leaders who condemned Jesus to death, proclaiming that there is salvation in no one else. And so it’s no wonder that other NT books draw the conclusion that Jesus who was so eminently human is also God.

The book of Hebrews connects Jesus to the Lord in Psalm 102 and Revelation, which boldly proclaims that the Lord alone is to be worshipped, openly, joyfully gives that worship to Jesus. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain…”

The NT presents to us the man who was Jesus, who was born and ate and slept and wept and grew up and died—who claimed to be God.

The Mystery of the Incarnation

How can we wrap our minds around this mystery? We want explanations, we want to understand how this can be. One of the great challenges of the early church was answering the question, “who is this man?” Finally, in 451 at Chalcedon, the Church affirmed the following definition which has stood the test of time:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable (rational) soul and body; consubstantial (coessential) with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather of the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning (have declared) concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

This complicated sentence shows Jesus to be human, as the NT shows him to be. And it shows him to be God, which the NT shows him to be. It doesn’t dispel the mystery.

It’s actually a good thing that we cannot dispel the mystery of how because they NT is far more concerned with declaring the why of the incarnation.

The Beautiful Purposes of the Incarnation

Anselm wrote one of the classic benchmarks of theology, “Why the God-man?” And I see two answers in the Bible—revelation and redemption. Remember John 1—“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw…” “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Through Jesus, we see the Father—he is the exclusive gateway to knowledge of the Father. It makes perfect sense for the author to the Hebrews to focus our attention on God’s speech:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Heb 1-3)

In his little book, J.B. Phillips, dismantles the stereotypes that we have surrounding God and then begins to construct the idea that perhaps God is far more bigger than we can imagine, who wills to be known by his creation.

But Anselm’s answer to the question that knowing our Creator intimately and personally would not be a good thing without redemption—without the cleansing and purifying from sins.

Hebrews, even in the prologue, brings that purpose. In verse three, we’re plunged into the messiness of the human problem and the rest of the epistle explains what Christ had to do to accomplish redemption. On the issue of the identity of Jesus of Nazareth rests nothing less than the fate of the human race, the redemption of human beings from all nations in all times.

Peter Jones: Two-ism and the Doctrine of God #ThinkTank

Dr. Peter Jones is the founder of truthXchange, a ministry that equips the Christian community in general and its leaders in particular to recognize and effectively respond to the rising tide of neopaganism. Dr. Jones is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and  serves on the executive committee of the World Reformed Fellowship.

My subject is two-ism and the doctrine of God and I’ll have much to say, but I want to put our subject in the larger context. Why this conference on the subject of the beauty of two?

The message of one-ism and two-ism, a simple and some say simplistic, is an attempt to understand Romans 1:25, which gives you two possibilities, either you worship the Creator or you worship creation. But at the same time as we’re trying to talk this way, some on a “progressive” track are also using this language of one and two, but in the exact opposite way.

They talk about the hermeneutic of one—this brilliant way of thinking that solves all our problems if all is one. On the other hand, two is a false doctrine that must be deconstructed—we must get to this unity of one-ism. So we have this face-off, using the same language, that are totally opposed—one calls white black, and black white—using the same terminology. IF those who are opposing Christianity are using this terminology in the totally opposite way, then I believe we are absolutely right to use this language in a correct manner.

Our subject this week is totally subversive to our culture. We’re not engaged in a culture ware, we’re involved in a spiritual war… and I believe not since the days of the early church when the believers had to hide in the catacombs has Two-ism been under so great an attack. At all levels of human existence, this idea of the binary is under attack. There’s a great commitment to the destruction of the binary. Philip Goldberg’s book, American Veda, seeks to prove that America has become Hindu. He compares the change in the way we think about spirituality and calls it the latest great awakening—comparable to the great awakening of the 18th century. The spirituality of the day is that of Advaita—”not two.” You see this in much of the spirituality of the day, including the spirituality in some of Christianity. We (the church) try not to understand the culture not through this understanding of one-ism and two-ism, but seeing the culture as a positive; the one-ist culture for some is giving the agenda to the church. But this is totally confused—you’re either with Jesus or against him. You either worship the Creator or the creation.

As I’ve been writing on this idea of One-ism and Two-ism, and seeing how this language is being picked up by those opposing us, it seems that what we’re doing this week is really important.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9)

That Psalm in repeating that structure at the beginning and the end leaves little to the imagination. If you want a simple way of understanding how to carry the doctrine of God with you, remember these two simple prepositions—”in” and “above”. If you can capture that, you have the biblical doctrine of God. In those two prepositions, you see that God’s name is written into the creation and the history of his people and yet his glory is above all the heavens.

This notion of above is absolutely essential to our understanding of God’s nature—what can we say about God who is above, and what can we say about the God who is in?

1. I take above to mean radical transcendence. God is transcendent above the heavens as Creator. Genesis 1:1 presents God as before all, so that everything that exists after is created. It’s such a wonderfully satisfying truth to understand that our understanding of God makes so much sense when we talk about God in that transcendent way. This notion of God tells us that there are two very different kinds of being and it will always be that way. So this notion that we will become gods doesn’t work–it depends on not having a beginning. We won’t discover that we are divine beings, because we continue to be created. We won’t be slapping ourselves on the back and congratulating you for all that you do. God is the transcendent Creator.

We need to recapture this way of talking about God among ourselves; in our desire to be cool we’ve reduced God to our level. And we’ve lost the majesty of the God who is transcendentally other than what we are and like whom we can never be. Doesn’t this view of God take your breath away? The God who is so above all matter? This statement about God reveals a God who is life-giving. It makes us realize that from him alone comes life.

In the phrase, “God above,” God is revealed as unique. Pantheism and polytheism could not create the coherent work of the cosmos. They say the camel is a horse produced by a committee. The idea that these many gods could produce the created order boggles the mind. Thus the Lord presents himself as unique. “I am the Lord and there is none other.” If God is unique, God is unique relative to all others—that’s why we’re obliged to speak about God’s incommunicable attributes. And all this means is that there are some things about God you don’t have—and you can’t have because you’re not God.

In speaking of this idea of transcendence, we have to speak of Islam, which appears to present a radical transcendence. But I believe in spite of the appearances, that this is a false transcendence, which draws Islam toward pagan one-ism. Of course, in the classic pagan one-ism of Hinduism, there is no transcendence. In One-ist paganism, there is no need for a transcendent creator because we are all creators. But this is a constant theme that there is no transcendence. But this is not the biblical view. The biblical view is radical distinction—that God created ex nihilo (from nothing).

2. Psalm 8 also has us think about God not simply as transcendent, but also immanent. He has revealed his glory, his name is majestic IN all the earth. So we have to see God as both transcendent and immanent. And that’s the amazing thing about the biblical doctrine of God that you won’t find in any other religion; it’s not one or the other, it’s both. And as humans, we need both. We need a God who is above and beyond us, but we also need one who is not far from us. We see the glory of God in the things that have been made—including human beings made in his image. God reveals himself in the things he’s made. His name tag on creation reveals his wonder.

We know that it’s not good for man to be alone , but it’s also not good for God to be alone. And this is the problem that Islam faces—where God is seen as a singularity. This is where the doctrine of the Trinity is so important. The problem in Islam is that there is no point of contact between God and man. How do you know God if there’s no point of contact? Allah cannot be known in any meaningful way… I’m not a great scholar of Islam, but it seems to me that the doctrine of God creates massive problems. In the Hadith Kuzi, which Muslims declare to be the word of God, he essentially admits to needing humans. Islam is trapped between deism and pantheism. Sufis realize the problem and have denied that the creation has any true existence and any sense of transcendence is lost.

Finally, because this God’s name is “in” this creation, we can describe him as “love.” This is again where the doctrine of the Trinity is important. An impersonal, solitary God cannot love. If God is dependent upon his creatures to love, then he is not God. But love is about the Trinity first. This is not just theory. All evangelicals are Trinitarian because they’ve put their faith in the gospel and (citing Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God) “the Trinity is at the heart of the gospel.”

This biblical message is a jewel worth dying for. There’s nothing like it in history. Not culture war, but spirit war. Proclaiming, honoring the truth of the Trinitarian transcendent Lord—that is what I challenge you with. We find a new way of speaking in an old way of this jewel that we find nowhere else in history. In closing, let us declare together and echo the words of the psalmist: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”

For another take, see Chris Poblete’s notes on this session at

D.A. Carson: Getting Excited about Melchizedek #TGC11

In the final plenary session of The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference, D.A. Carson expounds on Psalm 110, the psalm most quoted in all the New Testament.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:


My notes follow:

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses, he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head. (Psalm 110 ESV)

Most of the controlling themes in the Bible don’t resonate well with the dominate culture in the west. Think of the categories:

Covenant. Priests. Sacrifice. Blood Offering. King. Passover. Day of Atonement. Year of Jubilee.

King. We speak of King Jesus. When Jesus announced His coming, He did not announce the coming of the republic of God. The king of the Bible is not a constitutional monarch. King has very different references.

We’re not thinking in these terms alone.

Yet Melchizedek turns out to be one of the most instructive figures in the whole Bible for helping us put together our Bible and seeing who Jesus is. God has put things together in the Bible in this way for our good.

Melchizedek only shows up in the OT in two places, once in Genesis and once here. And he shows up only once in the NT and that’s it. Yet he is absolutely revolutionary in our understanding of the Bible.

So we begin with Psalm 110. [Read more…]

Matt Chandler: Youth #TGC11

Matt Chandler is the senior pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX. He is expounding on Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:


My notes below:

I pastor a church where there’s a lot of young people. In nine years, I’ve done one funeral for a person over 30, but I’ve done dozens of for people under the age of 30, and many under 10.

I wanted to be faithful to the Lord and the people He’s given me to shepherd to prepare them for this suffering, and one of His great mercies on Him was that as I was preparing them, He was preparing me.

When I read this text, I feel it, because here’s what I know that you don’t:

Some of us who are here aren’t going to be here when we do this again. Nobody thinks it’s coming for them. So when I read this text, the weight of it, the pain of it, it’s honestly a beautiful thing.

Ecclesiastes 11, beginning at verse 9:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. (Eccl 11:9-12:8)

There are a lot of imperatives in this text: [Read more…]

James MacDonald: Not According to Our Sins #TGC11

James MacDonald is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel here in Chicago. His message comes from Psalm 25.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

My notes follow.

Not sure if this was a gift or Carson throwing down the gauntlet—“let’s see you preach Christ out of this text, yo!”

Before we can preach Christ, we first need to preach. Many are not actually heralding the Word that has been given to them. We need to preach Christ from all the Word.

4 things by way of background on Psalm 25:

  1. It’s a psalm. They’re the most quoted books of the OT in the NT. They’re quoted over 400 times in the NT. The psalms are the songbook of Jesus.
  2. It’s a poem. Ancient Hebrew poetry with two main artistic structure. It’s an acrostic and the truths come in couplets, synonymous parallelism.
  3. It’s a pattern. Prayer, creed, prayer. It’s David in pursuit of total trust in God. That’s why I’ve called this message “When You Don’t Know What To Do.” Some of it’s about learning, some is about leaning, but it’s all about building trust.
  4. It’s the plea of a broken-hearted man. Don’t ever let your study cause paralysis in remembering that this is a real life. A psalm like this can only come from someone who understood what it was like to be crushed. Many debate when this took place in David’s life, but most agree that this has to do with Absalom (see 2 Sam 3-15).

Psalm 25:1-2a: Trust God. The whole theme of the psalm. The word for “soul” means the center of the desires, but can include the whole body.

Psalm 25:2b-3: No Shame. Can his prayer be anymore clear? “Let me not be put to shame.” It may look really bad today, your heart might be in the vice of some crushing reality, but it’s not over. What we have to learn is that there is no shame. Not in the end, not when God’s done. Is there ever an excuse or reason to be betrayed? Pastors, parents, children, people don’t deserve that. [Read more…]

Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor

On Tuesday, February 1, Dr. Joel Beeke spoke at the Desiring God 2011 Pastor’s Conference, “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor.” His topic: Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor. Though many visiting this site are not pastors, I hope you’ll find Dr. Beeke’s message beneficial to cultivating your own prayer life.


Audio: : (Download to listen later)

Below are the notes taken during Dr. Beeke’s session (courtesy of Desiring God):

It is always convicting to receive the assignment to speak on prayer to other pastors. And as I was writing the book that Dr. Piper referenced on prayer, I became increasingly convicted by the Puritans about how little I pray. So tonight, I am preaching first of all to myself. This topic is at the heart of revival of the church of Jesus Christ. My father told me when I was a teenager that the greatest problem of the church today is prayerless praying.

The sermons of the Reformers and Puritans are not that different than ours. We’re saying essentially the same thing. What was so different was their prayer lives. My aim is that we would truly pray in our prayers. So turn with me to Isaiah 64:6-9 and James 5:13-18.

True prayer is putting ourselves into our petitions, crying out to God Almighty and praying in our prayers. The problem is not that we don’t pray, but rather that seldom we truly prayerfully pray in our prayers. What is this praying? The primary exercise of faith. Private prayerful praying is the work of the triune God. It has more to do with God than with us. It is Heaven’s greatest weapon that we have at our disposal as a minister of the gospel. This kind of praying is supposed to be half of our vocation—giving ourselves to the Word and to prayer. [Read more…]