Bold Christianity in the Public Sphere

 

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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 one of our conversation, we discuss the need for BOLD and why it matters:

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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.

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Praying for Your Pastor

Joe Thorn:

One of the great encouragements in my ministry is knowing that many at Redeemerregularly and frequently pray for me. There are a number of ways we should be praying for our leaders in the church, but as we approach Sunday I want to encourage you to pray for your pastors and their preaching in 4 specific ways.

The Christian Celebrity

Tim Challies:

The fact that we esteem some people is not necessarily wrong. The Lord has gifted certain people to such an extent that we admire them for who they are and what they have contributed to the church, usually through the written word or the spoken word. There are others who may have less natural gifting or talent, but who have been consistently faithful with the remarkable opportunities they have been given and we admire these people for what they have contributed through words or through example. As we honor them, we honor God who has so gifted them. Well and good.

So where do we cross a line into some kind of celebrity culture?

How to leave well

Sutton Turner:

Years ago, after a season of dedicated service, I sensed the beginning of the end of my employment. If I had been working in the business world, my game plan would have been quite simple: Step one, turn in my letter of resignation. Step two, leave. Ministry, however, is not that simple.

Worship as “Play”

Jared Wilson:

The best preaching exults in the Scriptures so that hearers will know that worship is the only proper response to who God is and what he’s done. Preachers are laboring for the joy of the hearer, after all (2 Cor. 1:24). Exultational preaching is an act of worship itself, the proclaimer faithfully expositing the Bible while enjoying it at the same time, speaking its God-breathed words as if they were delicious, reflecting on them and reacting to them as if no words were ever more impressive, staggering, powerful. Because none are.

Holy Above All

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The God of the Bible, the eternal, transcendent God who is the creator of all that was and is and ever will be—he is the sovereign one, the supreme authority in the universe. No creature holds authority over him and “whatever [He] pleases, he does” (Psa. 135:6; Isa. 46:10). None can direct him or give him counsel (Isa 40:13), nor can anyone say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:34-35)

This picture of God should rightly cause us to tremble in unholy fear—if that’s all we know about him. But because God has revealed his character to us, we can rejoice! Why? Consider the ways the Bible speaks of God. He is called “love” (1 John 4:8), “jealous” (Ex. 30:14), “wrathful” (Nahum 1:2), and “merciful…” (Ex. 34:6) But there is one characteristic that undergirds them all: holiness. “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts,” the Seraphim sang in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, “the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3; see also Rev. 4:8)

God’s holiness again calls to mind his being distinct from the world he has made, but more than that, “the word holy calls attention to all that God is,” writes R.C. Sproul, “It reminds us that His love is holy love, His justice is holy justice, His mercy is holy mercy, His knowledge is holy knowledge, His spirit is holy spirit.”1

It’s the holiness of God that reminds us that he is not the “petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” Richard Dawkins would like him to be.2 Nor is he, as Roger Olson suggests in his critique of Calvinist theology, a “moral monster,” if he indeed rules and reigns to the degree that the Scriptures proclaim.3 His holiness is instead a reminder that all he says and does, everything about him, is perfect, right and good—even when it’s hard for us to understand.

—from Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World

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Send Me Your Short-Term Missionaries

Mike Pettengill:

Since the summer of 2008 our full-time mission team in Honduras has hosted 50 short-term teams consisting of 500 short-term missionaries. Many people ask, “Wouldn’t it just be better if all those people sent you money instead of wasting their resources and your time?” Our answer is an emphatic no. Money cannot hug a fatherless child or enjoy fellowship with Christian brothers. Money cannot play soccer with drug dealers or wipe the tears from a hungry child. We Christians are called to serve the poor, sick, widows, and orphans. Money can buy food for the poor and build houses for the homeless, but just as Christ touched the leper (Matt 8:3), the poor also desire the touch of a loving and merciful hand.

Shopping and False Intimacy

Chad Hall:

Ministry leaders are wise to consider the place (and misplace) of intimacy with those they shepherd. Frequently, there is a dynamic of “knowing but being unknown” that occurs between pastors and church members. Each party knows certain things about the other, but there is not a real relationship; there is not an identity-forming intimacy.

The Practicality of Mission

Brandon Smith:

It is the role and responsibility of the local church to reach its community. If the church fails, society fails. The world will find a place or community to have their needs me and we must – for lack of a better phrase – compete for their attention. The natural inclination of the world is to chase the world. We must find a way to adapt to the demographic that we are in while not compromising Scripture. It would be great if you could even be multi-ethnic and flourishing from ages 15 all the way to 75, but let’s start with our community context. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a certain school or business (though it could be), but a starting point is to intentionally get to know those within a relatively close radius of your people.

I’d Rather Err with the Baptists

David Murray:

I don’t see too much difference between baptismal presumption and parenting presumption. Both presume that the baptized children of Christian parents are born again. They only differ in when. In the former it’s identified with a point in time; in the latter, it’s usually more vague. In the former it’s associated with water; in the latter it’s associated with parenting.

Book Review: The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul

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When Christians think of the work of Christ, we typically think of His work on the cross—His atoning death on the cross for our sins and rising again in victory over death. This is a central truth of the Christian faith, one upon which it stands or falls.

But it’s only part of Jesus’ work.

“If Jesus had only paid for our sins, He would have succeeded only in taking us back to square one,” writes R.C. Sproul in The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus’ Life Mean for You. “It is important that we not minimize the work of Christ throughout His life by focusing too narrowly on the work of Christ in His death.”

That may seem like a shocking statement, but it’s an important one. The totality of the events of Jesus’ life comprise His complete work—from His incarnation to His promised return. Yet we too quickly forget this, particularly as we work out our various evangelistic methods and formulas, and even in the day-to-day practical living of the Christian life.

This must not be. If Christ is our righteousness, then we need to understand the impact of the other aspects of His life for us beyond His death.

This is why Sproul’s written The Work of Christ, where he briefly examines 12 essential events in the life of Jesus: [Read more…]

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Too Tough on the Guys Who Are Trying?

Joshua Harris:

I got some great feedback from a young man in our church after two of my recent sermons from Matthew 5, both of which touched on aspects of marriage (the messages were “Jesus on Lust” and “Don’t Break Your Marriage or Your Word.”) In his mid-twenties, he kindly expressed appreciation for both messages and then went on to voice concern about how I challenged single men to “put down the X-box, grow up, pursue a wife, and glorify God in that relationship” (or words to that effect).

Because We All Sometimes Have Days Like This

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The Unique Struggle of Same-Sex Attraction

Haydn Sennitt:

Not long ago, someone asked me how long I’ve been dealing with same-sex attractions. I was surprised to find a big, round number before me: 20 years. Of those 20 years, five and a half have been as a married man and as a father. I’m not gay: I’m a new creation in Christ. I am a Christian struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA). I am a pastoral worker and a Bible college student, and homosexuality has been a prominent part of my journey as a Christian. I wish that it were not so, though part of me knows that God has been using this struggle powerfully to bring me to himself.

Gospel Centered Religion

Jason Seville:

Pitting the gospel against religion stems from two very real and very dangerous problems: self-righteousness and an attempt to please God by good works or good merit. These problems are certainly anti-biblical and need to be called out wherever we notice them.

Fasting and the Fruit of the Spirit

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The great danger Paul saw in self-made and self-exalting fasting does not nullify Christian fasting. Paul warns that there is a fasting that is a “self-made religion and [a] self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, [but has] no value against fleshly indulgence” (Colossians 2:23). In other words, this fasting is a “willpower religion” that actually stirs up the spiritual pride of the flesh even while mastering its physical appetites.

But this is the exact opposite of Christian fasting. Christian fasting moves from broken and contrite poverty of spirit to sweet satisfaction in the free mercy of Christ to ever greater desires and enjoyments of God’s inexhaustible grace. Christian fasting does not bolster pride, because it rests with childlike contentment in the firmly accomplished justification of God in Christ, even while longing for all the fullness of God possible in this life. Christian fasting is the effect of what Christ has already done for us and in us. It is not our feat, but the Spirit’s fruit. Recall that the last-mentioned fruit of the Spirit is “self-control” (Galatians 5:23).

John Piper, Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, p. 45

There is Nothing Arbitrary About a Miracle

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Science, it is said, is founded upon the regularity of sequences; it asumes that if certain conditions within the course of nature are given, certain other conditions will always follow. But if there is to be any intrusion of events which by their very definition are independent of all previous conditions, then, it is said, the regularity of nature upon which science bases itself is broken up. Miracle, in other words, seems to introduce an element of arbitrariness and unaccountability into the course of the world. The objection ignores what is really fundamental the Christian conception of miracle.

According to the Christian conception, a miracle is wrought by the immediate power of God. It is not wrought by an arbitrary and fantastic despot, but by the very God to whom the regularity of nature itself is due–by the God, moreover, whose character is known through the Bible. Such a God, we may be sure, will not do despite to the reason that He has given to His creatures; His interposition will introduce no disorder into the world that He has made. There is nothing arbitrary about a miracle, according to the Christian conception. It is not an uncaused event, but an event that is caused by the very source of all the order that is in the world. It is dependent altogether upon the least arbitrary and the most firmly fixed of all the things that are–namely upon the character of God.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

“A Book the Church Desperately Needs”

Contend-Final

My next book, Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World, is going to be out in a matter of weeks! This book truly has been a labor of love and an insane amount of work, both on my part and my editor’s. At this point, we’re starting to release the endorsements for the book and I’m so thankful for the first one we received from Daniel Darling. Check it out:

Some church leaders like myself get a queasy stomach when faced with theological conflicts. Others relish the fights and want to convene a church council over the number of Adam’s hairs. Aaron presents a third way between avoidance and division: the biblical model of earnest, charitable contending for the faith. This is a book the Church desperately needs, for it matters not merely that we contend, but also how we contend and that we contend for the right cause: namely the name of Christ. Contend not only calls to defend orthodoxy, but gives us a biblical blueprint for doing it. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to pastors, seminarians, bloggers, and teachers.

Daniel Darling, Senior Pastor, Gages Lake Bible Church; Author, Real: Owning Your Christian Faith

Contend will be available in October from Cruciform Press. I hope you’ll pre-order your copy today.

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$5 Friday and Other Great Deals from Ligonier

Today is $5 Friday at Ligonier.org. This week’s offerings include:

  • The Cross and the Crescent (Audio Download)
  • Kingdom Feast (Audio & Video Download)
  • Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson is also available in ePub format for only 99¢ (it’s also available for the Kindle).

It’s Time To Stop Being Authentic Christians

Stephen Altrogge:

It’s good to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. Plus, if there’s one thing the world hates, it’s hypocrites. So, in an effort to obey scripture and be “authentic”, we confess our struggles. And we drink fair trade coffee, listen to Bon Iver, and wear faded jeans.

But I think in general, we as Christians need to be less authentic.

The Pastor as Peacemaker

God is not looking for more hot-headed, pugnacious gunslingers who specialize in shooting first and asking questions later. If God wanted us to fly off the handle all the time he would have given us wings. Scripture doesn’t ask pastors to kick butt and take names, but it does require the Lord’s servant to be kind to everyone and able to teach with patience and gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

The Race-Transcending Gospel

Trillia Newbell:

It was the summer of 1998. I was leading a private camp and awaiting the arrival of my assistant. She arrived with her blonde ponytail, blue eyes, and bubbly spirit. She was a few years younger than I — and seemed it. Not that she was immature, she wasn’t, but there was innocence about her that poured out as she spoke and interacted with the campers. Our first meeting would be God’s way of changing the whole course of my life.

The Cause of Your Restless, Unquiet Heart

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I suppose that in many ways it can truthfully be said that the greatest need of men and women in this world is the need of what is called a quiet heart, a heart at leisure from itself.

Is that not, in the last analysis, the thing for which we are all looking? You can if you like call it peace; that means exactly the same thing, peace of mind and peace of heart, tranquillity. We are all restless; we are all disturbed. There is unhappiness in us, and it is produced by many different causes.

One thing that causes all our hearts to be restless and disturbed, one thing that robs everybody of peace, is the thought of death. This is a great and certain fact; in the words of the woman of Tekoah, “For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Samuel 14:14). That is a most disturbing, a most troubling thought. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that until we become Christians, we are all in lifelong “bondage . . . through fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15). Shakespeare, who knew the human heart, gives these words to Hamlet: “The dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.”

“Conscience,” he adds, “doth make cowards of us all.” Yes, we do this and that, but thought of that “undiscovered country” upsets everything. That is the trouble and that is the cause of the restless, unquiet heart.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Kindle Edition)

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Change is Always Good! Right?

Michael Krahn:

The culture surrounding my generation and the world around us was in a lot of trouble and we felt responsible to do something about it. And so we began to think of ways to make an impact. And not only did we think, we started to act! But when I look back now, I can see that I too often fell prey to a spirit of pragmatism. As pragmatism often is, mine was fueled by very good desires – to see more people meet Jesus, to see the church make a bigger impact, to tackle the many injustices in the world.

Cheap eBooks

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson – 99¢

Basic Christianity by John Stott – $3.84

Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott – $5.12

Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer – $4.67

George Whitefield Resources

Steve McCoy’s put together a great page on his blog featuring all TONS of resources on George Whitefield—biographies, sermons, journals, letters and more. He also noticed The Sermons of George Whitefield by Lee Gatiss for $9.99 (which is a steal considering how massive this book is!).

“Jesus” must be defined

Ray Ortlund:

In this part of the world, the American South, many people don’t mind God-talk.  They don’t even mind Jesus-talk.  But “Jesus” must be defined, or we might be defrauded.

Holiness Comes With a Cost

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So often we hear in sermons or read in books about how if we do [blank] as Christians—paper-products ministries for low-income families, after school programs… you name it— then the world would be less hostile to the Church.

While it’s true that Christians ought to be known by their love for one another—a radical, self-sacrificing love—I’m not sure that the expression of that love is going to actually make people who hate Jesus want to love Him, at least not in the way that many advocates of these activities seem to suggest.

I’ve touched on the subject before, but it’s one that, after reading The Hole in our Holiness (reviewed here), I couldn’t help coming back to… or more correctly, sharing the very helpful way that Kevin DeYoung articulates the issue:

Many Christians have the mistaken notion that if only we were better Christians, everyone would appreciate us. They don’t realize that holiness comes with a cost. Sure, you can focus on the virtues the world likes. But if you pursue true religion that cares for orphans and promotes purity (James 1:27), you’ll lose some of the friends you were so desperate to make. Becoming a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, requires you to resist the world which wants to press you into its mold (Rom. 12:1–2). Saving yourself for marriage, staying sober on Friday night, turning down a promotion to stay at your church, refusing to say the f-word, turning off the television—these are the kinds of things the world doesn’t understand. Don’t expect them to. The world provides no cheerleaders on the pathway to godliness.

Let that sink in. It’s not that orphan care or working with inner-city youth are bad things, but if holiness is our pursuit, even when we do things the world would see as “good,” they’re going to have a problem with the way we do them.

And it really comes down to who we represent.

Because the world hates Jesus, they’re going to hate those who desire to be like Him. Because the world despises Jesus, it’s going to do the same to those who come in His name, no matter what good deeds they strive to perform.

Don’t expect them to cheer you on in your pursuit of holiness. But don’t let the lack of support stop you.

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4 Things Every Intellectually-Minded Person Should Remember

Trevin Wax:

A sense of trepidation accompanies me at the beginning of my Ph.D. studies. One look at the syllabi for my first week of seminars, and I am overwhelmed by the pages to be read, papers to be written, ideas to be considered, and arguments to be made.

What Does it Mean to Make a Brother Stumble?

Seth McBee:

One of the things that always comes up when you speak of tattoos, smoking, drinking, et al. is the issue of making a brother stumble to show why one should abstain from doing those things at all. When one proof texts and reads current culture into the passages, they seem to have a great point and one that kept me under a heavy yoke for some time. What actually ended up happening is that this so called “weaker brother” kept me under his yoke of conscience instead of me being able to seek out Christ and his easy yoke and burden that is light. I kept trying to refrain from certain things because I was always worried that I would make a brother stumble and was so consumed by this, my life was more about the weaker brother and his issues than the glorifying of God in my actions and actually loving the weaker brother.

Christian Values Cannot Save Anyone

Albert Mohler:

A recent letter to columnist Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post seemed straightforward enough. “I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with,” the woman writes. “Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, ‘Emily,’ suddenly announced she had ‘given up believing in God’ and decided to ‘come out’ as an atheist.”

Is there something wrong with our love?

Dan Darling:

I’ve been preaching through the book of 1 Peter for our Exiles series at church on Sunday mornings. It’s a powerful book. Just this Sunday I preached on 1 Peter 1:22-25 where Peter calls the church to a deep kind of love. What struck me most about this chapter is a simple, seemingly throwaway line, in the middle of verse 22. Peter says simply that the object of our love is to be “the brethren.” In other words, the gospel in us, the new life of Christ, should make us burst with love for fellow Christians. And this is not the first time this is mentioned in the New Testament. Over and over and over again we are told that Christians should have a special love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In Peter’s letter, he says this should be a “fervent” love. This implies a stretching, at-all-costs-exhaustive love from the heart.