The number one way to encourage rebellion

legalistic leadership

I’ll admit it: I’ve got a bit of a rebellious streak. It doesn’t come out often, but it’s there.

See, I like rules. Specifically, I like rules that make sense. I appreciate decisions that I understand (even if I don’t agree). I can’t stand when people take power trips (especially when they have no real power or authority anyway). I have no patience for those who act like arrogant so-and-sos. I really struggle with heavy-handed bureaucracy. I chafe whenever I’m told to “just do it,” no matter what “it” is…

This, naturally, puts me at odds at times with authorities. I don’t (usually) defy them, but I certainly don’t comply with joyful obedience. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. In fact, it’s almost a sure bet that some, maybe most, of you reading this have a similar kind of reaction.

Why do we do this though? Is it simply because we’re sinful people that always want their own autonomy? When we chafe under reasonable rules, and humble leaders, yep. But what about when it’s the leader who habitually leaves his or her decisions unexplained, who tends to power trip, or just wants what he or she wants? Then, I’d suggest it may be reacting to something else: legalism.

Legalism has a number of manifestations, obviously, but one of the chief ways it reveals itself is in arbitrary behavior. If you don’t think you need to explain your decisions or positions and people should just obey, you’re probably a legalist. If you demand your own way and use your authority (or emotional or spiritual manipulation) to make sure people comply, you’re probably a legalist. If the only “right” way to practice a particular spiritual discipline is the way you happen to be most comfortable, you’re probably a legalist. If you think “because I said so” is actually a good reason for someone to obey any and every command, you’re probably a legalist.

And guess what? This is the number one way you encourage people in their rebellion and to undermine your authority.

It’s worth repeating: not all of the blame for this lands on the shoulders of those we perceive as legalistic or domineering. We are, by nature, sinful people who desire complete and total self-rule, as mentioned above. But without removing the need to honestly evaluate ourselves, we ought to recognize that legalism certainly doesn’t help us become more holy, humble, coachable and compliant.

And here’s the rub: this isn’t a problem that can be solved with more rules. If you’re a pastor or a manager or a supervisor or anything else for that matter, you can’t have a meeting with those you lead and say, “There will be no more of X, Y, or Z,” any more than you can say, “We’re going to do even more of A, B, or C!” All either does is further undermine your authority and push people deeper into their resistance. Jerram Barrs explains this well:

Legalism fosters rebellion against parents, schools, and churches, and ultimately against God. Whenever we add to God’s Word we immediately increase the likelihood of resistance to our authority. … If we try to make worship obligatory, we will produce either spiritual arrogance or superficial observance and a resistant heart. (Learning Evangelism from Jesus, 174-175)

Though Barrs writes with church ministry in mind, we can all apply this regardless of our context. The more rules we heap upon people, the more they will resist. The more we demand a certain kind of posture, the more people will openly defy us or comply while hating you in their hearts.

So here’s what we need to ask ourselves:

First, if we primarily identify ourselves as leaders in whatever capacity we serve: Does our posture bring life or death? Are we overbearing? Are we domineering? Are we truly as patient as we think we are, and doing our best to explain our decisions? Or do we try to solve problems by making more policies and procedures?

Second, for those who sit under leaders we perceive as legalistic or domineering: Are we actually thinking rightly about those who lead us, or are we misinterpreting their behavior? If we are right in our thinking, what are we going to do about it? Just as more rules won’t solve rebellion, so too rebellion won’t eliminate legalism. So, how can we protect our hearts from hate? How can we prevent bitterness from taking root? And how can we extend love and grace to our legalistic leaders, who may not even realize how they appear?

There are no easy answers to these questions, on either side. But they are worth asking, if we ask in the right spirit, and with a desire to do something with what we learn.

 

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals highlight Kevin DeYoung:

Also worth checking out:

  • The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer—99¢
  • Lit! by Tony Reinke—$1.99
  • Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian—$1.99
  • Churchless edited by Barna and Kinnaman—$1.99 (should be interesting to see what the research they’re dealing with says)

Poor white people need Jesus and justice, too

Anthony Bradley:

While urban, justice-loving evangelicals easily shame white, suburban, conservative evangelicals for their racially homogenized lives, both communities seem to share a disdain for lower-class white people. “Rednecks,” “crackers,” “hoosiers,” and “white trash” are all derogatory terms used to describe a population of lower-class whites who have suffered centuries of injustice and social marginalization in America, especially from educated Christians.

What scares the new atheists

John Gray:

It’s impossible to read much contemporary polemic against religion without the impression that for the “new atheists” the world would be a better place if Jewish and Christian monotheism had never existed. If only the world wasn’t plagued by these troublesome God-botherers, they are always lamenting, liberal values would be so much more secure. Awkwardly for these atheists, Nietzsche understood that modern liberalism was a secular incarnation of these religious traditions. As a classical scholar, he recognised that a mystical Greek faith in reason had shaped the cultural matrix from which modern liberalism emerged. Some ancient Stoics defended the ideal of a cosmopolitan society; but this was based in the belief that humans share in the Logos, an immortal principle of rationality that was later absorbed into the conception of God with which we are familiar. Nietzsche was clear that the chief sources of liberalism were in Jewish and Christian theism: that is why he was so bitterly hostile to these religions. He was an atheist in large part because he rejected liberal values.

Delivering a bionic arm to a 7-year-old boy

This is a terrific ad:

Four Characteristics of Legalism

C. Michael Patton:

These characteristics of legalism that I am going to list here are not to mean that anyone who ever does any of these things is a legalist. Think of legalism as a sliding scale. Some of us practice legalistic tendencies here and there (I know I sure do). Some can find themselves practicing more of these on a regular basis and are more legalistic. Some can be full-blow legalists in all of these areas.

David Bazan, a Musical Counterfeit Detective

Kurt Armstrong:

What to do with Bazan? That’s more or less how it’s been with him all along, and probably how it ought to be. When he still called himself a Christian, Bazan only sang a handful of Jesus-y songs, but since his religious defection, he seems to find it hard to sing about anything else. “What to do with Bazan” has always been genuinely troubling, not so much because he’s a doubter, but because he’s such good artist. The older he gets, the more human folly he observes; the more folly, the more shiny idols there are to swing at. His work is usually pretty brutal, so poignant and unflinching that there are times it literally keeps me up at night, but it’s still worth my time, attention, and money because it remains so piercingly true.

Your Preaching is Not in Vain

Erik Raymond:

From my seat there is no other vocation that trumps pastoral ministry with the feeling of not making a difference. In addition to our knowledge of our own weakness there is the front-row view of many other people’s problems. The pastor sees people at their worst. Whether it is the horrific impact of sin on their lives or the activity of sin within the church. Furthermore, there is the overall burden to see every member presented complete or mature in Christ (Col. 1.28-29). Oh, and by the way, you, Mr Pastor, will give an account for the souls of your sheep (Heb. 13.17).

Every breath is a gift of immeasurable grace

every breath

It’s easy (and tempting at times) to look at the world and consider a “hunker down in the bunker” mentality. The world, after all,  is a pretty messed up place. Western nations seem to be racing back to the decadence and depravity of 1st century Rome. Terrorists are destroying cultural artifacts and murdering people throughout the Middle East. It’s no surprise that there are some who are fully expecting God to rain down fire any moment—and even more who are surprised that he hasn’t already!

But even as we watch the world seemingly go to hell in a hand basket (as some might flippantly put it), even as we see things get progressively worse from a certain point of view, we should remember that the very fact that we’re around at this moment is purely an act of God’s grace.

God could have destroyed the world immediately upon the first man and woman’s fall into sin. He could have ended it all right then and there, and possibly even have started afresh. Why he didn’t, we don’t know. But we do know, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it, “that God decided, in His own inscrutable and eternal will, not to do so.” Lloyd-Jones continued:

How can the world go on existing at all in sin? The answer is that it is kept in existence by this power that the Spirit puts into it. It is the Spirit who keeps the world going. Human life is prolonged both in general and in particular. ‘The goodness of God,’ says Paul in Romans 2:4, ‘leadeth thee to repentance.’ Peter says the same thing in his second epistle: ‘The Lord … is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish that all should come to repentance’ (2 Pet. 3:9). God is patient and long-suffering; to Him a thousand years are as one day and one day as a thousand years. He keeps the world going by the Holy Spirit instead of pronouncing final judgment. (God the Holy Spirit, 26–27)

That last line in particular is extremely important. God “keeps the world going by the Holy Spirit instead of pronouncing final judgment.” And this is why God has not yet deemed it time to pronounce his final judgment: he is pouring out his grace upon the world so that all who would turn to him, will. He is patient and long-suffering not because he needs to, but because he is good.

In other words, every breath is a gift of immeasurable grace. Thus, every one of us breathing right now—including every single one of us who acts as though God doesn’t exist or who worships some sort of false god—owes each breath to God. It is a gift of grace to all, just as it rains upon the just and unjust alike. This grace has a purpose, that it would ultimately lead you to give thanks to the one who gives it. But this grace has a limit. Someday, the time will come when his patience reaches its limit. He will pronounce his final judgment. Will we be ready?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Amazon’s Big Deal sale is now on, with tons of great eBooks on sale. Here are a few standouts:

Several volumes of the Holman Commentary series are also on sale for $1.99 each:

Today is also the last day to take advantage of this week’s eBook deals from Crossway:

 The Nine Types Of Christians You Meet On Facebook

Yep.

Cage-Stage Calvinism

R.C. Sproul:

Cage-stage Calvinists are identifiable by their insistence on turning every discussion into an argument for limited atonement or for making it their personal mission to ensure everyone they know hears—often quite loudly—the truths of divine election. Now, having a zeal for the truth is always commendable. But a zeal for the truth that manifests itself in obnoxiousness won’t convince anyone of the biblical truth of Reformed theology. As many of us can attest from personal experience, it will actually push them away.

A Good Mentor Points Out the Cliffs

Mike Leake:

This is why we need mentors. We need people who have felt the pull of the plummet. We need those who have tasted the lustrous fruit and found it empty—men and women who know where the edge of the cliff is to be found.

Why Can’t the Church Just Agree to Disagree on Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung:

All of these third ways regarding homosexuality end up the same way: a behavior the Bible does not accept is treated as acceptable. “Agree to disagree” sounds like a humble “meet you in the middle” com­promise, but it is a subtle way of telling conservative Christians that homosexuality is not a make-or-break issue and we are wrong to make it so. No one would think of proposing a third way if the sin were racism or human trafficking. To countenance such a move would be a sign of moral bankruptcy. Faithfulness to the Word of God compels us to view sexual immorality with the same seriousness. Living an ungodly life is contrary to the sound teaching that defines the Christian (1 Tim. 1:8-11; Titus 1:16). Darkness must not be confused with light. Grace must not be confused with license. Unchecked sin must not be con­fused with the good news of justification apart from works of the law. Far from treating sexual deviance as a lesser ethical issue, the New Testament sees it as a matter for excommuni­cation (1 Corinthians 5), separation (2 Cor. 6:12-20), and a temptation for perverse compromise (Jude 3-16).

Justification by reading doesn’t work either

justification-books

When it comes to reading, I like to plan ahead. I usually have a goal of about 100 books that I want to read (which is goofy, I know); it’s enough that it requires significant commitment, but not so much that it’s completely outside the realm of possibility. However, as 2015 has progressed so far (granted, we’re only 2.5. months in), I’ve noticed my reading has slowed down drastically compared to years past. Where I normally I would have read somewhere around 20+ books, I’m only at—gasp—18.

I’m about two weeks behind in my Bavinck reading (and have already adjusted accordingly). I’m not quite finished a book for school that I really should have completed a few days ago (because it’s an easy read and I’ve been lazy). Thus, I’m feeling a bit dumb. Why? Because I’m “behind.”

And, yes, I realize it’s dumb to say thats behind. According to Gallup, only 28 percent of Americans read more than 11 books in a year, and 23 percent don’t read even one book. That is terrifying. And yet, for book lovers, and particularly the Christian blogging crowd, we have this weird love affair with books, as though our value is determined by how many books we’ve read or reviewed this year.

Again, I know this is dumb. And yet so many of us seem to be guilty of it.

This is a reminder for me that pride and the desire for self-justification have no preferences. Whether something profound or trivial, wherever pride can get a hold, anywhere we can start to think we’re kind of a big deal, it will. But in the end, like other silly sources of comfort and joy, it always fails. Some dude is always going to be further ahead on his reading challenge on Goodreads. We’re going to get busy. We’re going to get bored.

And that’s fine. Just don’t beat yourself up over it.

God doesn’t love us more or less based on whether or not we get through all the books in our “want to read” list. Our righteousness before God is not based on how well read we are or are not.So don’t panic! Justification by works doesn’t work, this we know, for the Bible tells us so. And justification by reading doesn’t work either.

Links I like

Links

Resource deals for Christians

Westminster Bookstore is offering some fantastic deals on Crossway’s Gospel Transformation Bible. Get a case for 62 percent off the regular retail price, or individual copies for as low as 50 percent off.

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Doctrines of Grace in John teaching series by Steven Lawson (download)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

And one last item for Logos users: my friend Jacob’s book on Forgiveness: a Commentary on Philemon, is available for pre-order. At $9, this is a wonderful addition to your library. (Read more of my thoughts on the book here.)

The context of education

This is a really good lecture by Joe Boot.

How To Be Happy When Someone Leaves Your Church

Mark Altrogge:

Back then, if I heard a new church was starting in town I’d think, “What do we need another church for? We’re here. People should come here. We don’t need another church.” I viewed other churches as competitors. If people went to those churches, there’d be less people to come to our church. I’m so glad God rescued me from that ignorant, conceited mindset.

Shepherds’ Conference 2015

For those interested, the videos of Shepherds’ Conference are now online.

A Brief Defense of Infant Baptism

Kevin DeYoung:

It sounds like the beginning of a joke or a support group introduction, but it’s true: some of my best friends are Baptists. I speak at conferences with and to Baptists. I read books by Baptists (both the dead and the living). I love the Baptist brothers I know–near and far–who preach God’s word and minister faithfully in Christ’s church. I went to a Baptist church while in college and know that there are many folks of more credobaptist persuasion in my own church. I imagine the majority of my blog readers are Baptist. You get the picture. I have thousands of reasons to be thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not believe in baptizing infants.

And yet, I do. Gladly. Wholeheartedly. Because of what I see in Scripture.

Note: I still disagree, but I appreciate what DeYoung’s written here.

3 Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church

Chris Martin offers some good points worth considering here.

Fierce Convictions

fierce-convictions

For pretty much the entirety of my adult life, I’ve loved good biographies and memoirs. Whether a modern celebrity like Neal Patrick Harris, a tech guru like Steve Jobs, a war hero like Louis Zamperini, or a mathematician like John Nash, it’s fascinating to learn the stories behind well-known (and not so well known) individuals.

Before reading Fierce Convictions, I’d never actually heard of Hannah More. Unless you travel in very particular circles, it’s likely you have not either. After reading, I have only one thing to say: I really wish I’d known about her sooner. In this new biography, Karen Swallow Prior introduces readers to woman who was both an extremely gifted poet and playwright, and a person of deep conviction and compassion.

Social activism and orthodox convictions

One of the great accusations made against conservative evangelicals in our day is that we are “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” Our concerns over doctrine, evidently, take precedence over any and all social action. And as is often the case, when we attempt to correct this assumption, slavery is raised. At the western form of slavery’s height in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were numerous Christians who believed it was acceptable to own slaves, including Jonathan Edwards. Though he ended his days a staunch abolitionist, John Newton continued in the slave trade for ten years after his conversion to Christ.

And yet, when we look to Hannah More and her contemporaries (including her close friend, William Wilberforce) you get a different picture. More wasn’t an abolitionist in spite of her orthodox convictions—she was because of them. Throughout her life, this was one of her great passions, and her literary gifts were a valuable resource for the cause.

More’s abolitionist efforts over the decades were said to constitute “one of the earliest propaganda campaigns for social reform in English history.” Indeed, it could be said that More was the mastermind behind some of the abolitionist movement’s most effective campaigns to sway public opinions. Imaginative literature, such as More’s antislavery writings, and other arts were essential to the abolitionist movement because, as has been noted, the slave trade was so hidden from the eyes of the people. (133–134)1

This reminds us of the power of the arts. We cannot deny the power of art, literature, and drama to transform the thinking of our culture. Indeed, we would be utter fools if we tried. Why? Because you change people’s ideas by presenting them in a different way. (And if you have any doubt about this, consider the rapid acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in the west. It almost certainly couldn’t have happened without its normalization through popular media.) Abolition would likely not have succeeded without the efforts of an individual like More—someone who was able to bring the issue before the people, so it was no longer hidden from their eyes. Because once you see, you have to do something about it.

But her passion was not limited to abolition: she also desired that people know how to read. So More and her sisters started Sunday schools to teach the poor to read. And why did she do this? Not simply because she valued education (which she did), but because she believed the Scriptures were so important to the Christian life that people must be taught to read so they can read them for themselves (160).

We dare not get caught up in silly notions that orthodox Christianity doesn’t lead to social action. The truth is quite the opposite; consistent belief always leads to action. Or, to say it another way, what we do is the fruit of what we believe. And More is a helpful example in this regard.

Contemporary beliefs and biblical inconsistency

Nevertheless, even though More was greatly concerned with education, seeing learning as the next best thing to religion, she was hardly a revolutionary in her day (and certainly not in ours). Despite her strong desire to teach her nation to read, she would not teach poor children to write. This was an area in which her culture’s influence was stronger than More’s Christian convictions.

This is an important reminder for us: because we all exist within a specific cultural context, how we express our faith is going to be influenced by it. And undoubtedly, there will be some dreadful inconsistencies (as in the case of slavery in the west). Because of this, we need to approach how we express our faith and our values humbly. Perhaps we should be willing to extend grace to our brothers and sisters who wrongly advocated for the practice of slavery, or embraced classism and all that went along with it. Not excuse it, but acknowledge that just as we are troubled or appalled by these things, so too will our descendants by some of our own inconsistencies.

Conclusion

In Fierce ConvictionsKaren Swallow Prior has produced a wonderful treatment of one of the most important social reformers you’ve probably never heard of. It is superbly written, highly informative, and enjoyable to read. If you enjoy biographies, or if you’re concerned at all about the history of the abolition movement, you will be well served by this book.


Title: Fierce Convictions—The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
Author: Karen Swallow Prior
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here’s a great big list of offerings from Zondervan (all around 99¢):

And finally, six by Wayne Grudem:

The Fairytale of Friendship

Amber Van Schooneveld:

My pastor on Sunday shared about the word nostalgia. It comes from the Greek roots of nostos, or “homecoming,” and algos, or “ache.” Many of us (all?) have an ache for our homecoming, whatever we perceive that home to be. Nostalgia connotes backward looking, but I like to think of it as longing for how we think things ought to be.

For a long time, I’ve had a deep nostalgia for friendship.

You Can’t Arrest the Gospel

David Mathis:

Christians are not a dour people, even in the darkness of a dungeon. We don’t whine and bellyache as our society lines up against us and our convictions. We plead. We grieve. But beneath it all we have untouchable strongholds of joy. Even in the worst, most inconvenient, most lonely days, we rejoice. The suffering days are good days for gospel advance. We have great cause to be optimistic about our good news, to “joyfully accept” prison and the plundering of our possessions and even our freedoms.

How to talk on the phone (without sounding like an idiot)

Complementarians and Hypocrisy

Brandon Smith:

A professor once told me, “The problem with complementarianism is not exegetical–it’s practical. We all agree that the Bible teaches it, but we disagree on what it looks like.” This is true, and the compounded problem is two-fold: 1) some complementarians worship the doctrine above the gospel itself or above the implications of the doctrine for Christian living; 2) some non-complementarians are quick to equate it with patriarchy, domestic abuse, etc., leaving some disillusioned about what it actually means to be a complementarian.

Kanye West: Artist, Villain, Human

Cray Allred:

No one has to pay attention to Kanye West. Really, it’s fine to ignore what the producer/rapper/fashion designer (yes, he’s legitimately that) is up to. And lots of people are uninterested in Kanye– if you choose to believe their social media pronouncements. There’s definitely room for playfully dismissing a pop culture lightning rod, such as feeling overly inundated with the blue-black/white-gold dress, showing disinterest in the presidential race, or even light-heartedly boasting in your ignorance of the latest Kanye-related awards show controversy. But whenever people dismiss Mr. West, they typically express their disdain for the man, announcing that he’s in their mental waste bin because he’s their idea of trash. He’s an “idiot”, “spoiled”, a “punk that does not deserve any attention at all”, or worse. People don’t know that they believe in a caricature of Kanye West.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Every story casts his shadow

Love this new promo for the Gospel Project:

How Deep the Root of Racism?

Thabiti Anyabwile:

In the last couple of weeks we’ve gotten a good glimpse into the root system of racism. We thought we could stick the racists into the country’s past, next to a post marked “obsolete,” and gladly forget about it. But the roots of racism run deep. That’s why an entire police department and many others appear shot through with indications of that insidious root system. That’s why we’re now inundated with reports of municipal governments and court systems complying with police to raise revenue on the backs of African Americans. And that’s why we’re watching youtube videos of students on college campuses—both secular and Christian—engaging in acts that are at least stupid and insensitive and in some cases plainly racist.

A Good [Wo]man is Easy to Find

Lore Ferguson:

In my Christian life I have rarely been without a multitude of counselors to mentor and lend me wisdom. I know that is not the portion of every person and many men and women long for godly, older people to invest in and guide them. I do not take these gifts lightly. Here are few thoughts about mentoring that I’ve picked up along the way.

9 Marks of an Unhealthy Church

Kevin DeYoung:

In one sense the nine marks of an unhealthy church could simply be the opposite of all that makes for a healthy church, so that unhealthy churches ignore membership and discipline and expository preaching and all the rest. But the signs of church sickness are not always so obvious. It’s possible for your church to teach and understand all the right things and still be a terribly unhealthy place. No doubt, there are dozens of indicators that a church has become dysfunctional and diseased. But let’s limit ourselves to nine.

Making it Clearer

Jeremy Walker:

Let us not swallow the illusion of a scholarly objectivity when it comes to the truth of God. It is not gracious to call compromise “ecumenism.” It is cruel. It is misguided. It is not gracious to give error a free platform. It is dangerous. It is mistaken. Error needs to be exposed and denied. Truth needs to be explained and applied.

When should we use harsh language?

harsh-language

Yesterday, I shared a bit about how we can be more thoughtful literary evangelists. Toward the end, I made the comment that fiery rhetoric and angry polemics don’t win people, but genuine love and compassion just might. This is something I’ve increasingly been convicted about in recent years, particularly as I think back on ways I’ve spoken in the past that have been utterly foolish.

But this doesn’t mean there aren’t times to use harsh language. In fact, there are times when the only proper response is to be extremely harsh. (Granted these are rare, but they still exist.) So… how do we know when we should and when we shouldn’t? Here are three principles that I believe help us determine whether or not it is appropriate to use harsh language:

1. Is it about my sins and failings? This is something we see Paul in particular model well, as he directs many of his harshest comments toward his own attempts to attain righteousness apart from Christ, which he describes with a Greek word that could be translated as harshly as a word that will make some readers unsubscribe1 (Philippians 3:8). He describes himself as the least of the apostles, the least of all the saints, and even the chief of sinners. He doesn’t hesitate to look at himself very seriously, and doesn’t feel the need to make a compliment sandwich.

Likewise, it is important for us, even as we remind ourselves of God’s grace, that we not sugarcoat our own personal sin. Call it what it is. Don’t mess around with it. Don’t treat it as a pet. Name it and commit to destroying it.

2. Am I addressing sin within the body of believers? This, again, is a time when harsh language is appropriate, but we are wise to temper with grace. Paul’s epistles model this brilliantly, as do the writings of the prophets, particularly Jeremiah. In 1-2 Corinthians, for example, we see Paul chastise the Corinthian church for allowing heinous sin of all sorts, including participating in false worship and perverse sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-2; 10:14-22). But he also continually points them back to the source of their only hope, which is Christ.

This again, is a helpful reminder for us, whether we are involved in one-to-one discipleship, small groups, or pastoral ministry in some capacity. Though, again, we should be reluctant to do so, we should be very willing to call attention to habitual sin (whether personal or corporate) that is damaging to the entire group.

3. Am I confronting a false teacher who is leading Christians astray? Again, Paul is helpful here. Consider the way he writes to the Galatians about the errors they’ve let seep into the church. He makes it absolutely clear that any teaching that would distort the gospel is the most vile and damnable evil, for example, and that if they’re so intent on practicing the Mosaic Law as a means of attaining righteousness then they should emasculate themselves (Galatians 1:8-9; 5:12). Jesus likewise warns that anyone who would seek to lead his disciples astray would be better off tying a millstone to his neck and jump to his death than face what Jesus has waiting for him (Matthew 18:6). That’s some pretty serious business, isn’t it? (And don’t even get me going on his letters to the churches in Revelation…)

Here is where I think it’s fair to be the least apologetic about using our harshest language. There should be no quarter for heretical teaching whatsoever. If something is wrong, call it out as wrong, whether someone is saying every day is a Friday, your salvation depends on you, or God’s going to make it rain sweet moolah all over your house if you just send in a fat cheque “sow a seed”:

colbert-make-it-rain

*ahem*

But one should be careful in considering how to handle the teacher him- or herself. Without giving room for their teaching, we should remember that ad hominems have no place in the Christian life. Instead, we might be wiser to take the same stance Jude advocates when he reminds us that the archangel Michael didn’t directly rebuke Satan, but instead said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

4. Practice restraint. Jesus, Paul, the rest of the Apostles, the prophets… They all constantly confront the errors found among God’s people and those who think they’re God’s people. And in these instances, there are no caveats, no hesitations, no nothing. But rarely do they direct harsh language toward the lost. To these, they come with kindness, gentleness, and compassion, even as they challenge their way of thinking and their way of believing. So here’s my point: Harsh language, in general, is something that should be used rarely and with great reluctance. As a general rule, if you find yourself eager to do it, you probably shouldn’t, and it’s better to err on the side of turning aside wrath with a gentle word (Proverbs 15:1).

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Ulrich von Liechtenstein Gospel

Paul Dunk:

I think we can relate to William. We want to be the Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s of our families, careers and relationships. We want to be the Ulrich von Liechtenstein of physical, emotional and spiritual health. We want the Ulrich von Liechtenstein good life.  As a result of chasing the dream via self-help-everything to transform ourselves from lowly Williams into Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s, we’ve developed an Ulrich von Liechtenstein gospel.

You don’t have to go

Matt Emerson

As a younger Southern Baptist who is also drawn to liturgical worship forms, I have to ask – is this move necessary? Is the only option for SBCers who feel affinity with liturgy and principled ecumenism to leave, for Canterbury or Geneva or Wittenberg? I believe the answer is no. Younger Southern Baptists, if you are drawn to liturgical forms, if you find attractive the principled evangelical ecumenism of other manifestations of Christ’s body, you can have that in Nashville. You can stay in the SBC. You don’t have to go.

6 Reasons Why Sexual Predators Target Churches

Tim Challies shares six from On Guard by Deepak Reju.

4 Types of Sermons to Avoid

Derek Thomas reminds of a number of different kinds of sermons that fail to, in Alec Motyer’s words, “display what is there.”

The Dreadful Loneliness of Life Without Scripture

Peter Jones:

 On a recent Oprah Winfrey show, Kristen and Rob Bell make a lavish use of “values language,” in an attempt to justify same sex marriage. Kristen stated: “Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice.” Who does not want to see more love in the world, but do the terms like “love,” “commitment” and sacrifice” need a lot more definition? Do the millions watching Oprah deserve a better defense of biblical sexuality? Indeed, the “made-for-TV” superficiality of these arguments is staggering and is part of the trend in certain evangelical circles mentioned in my previous comment Evangelicalism in Crisis? to accept the homosexual agenda as perfectly in line with the true meaning of Christianity.

Four guidelines for literary evangelists

compassion-rhetoric

For my apologetics and outreach course, I’ve been reading Michael Green’s Evangelism in the Early Church, which is a wonderful study of the evangelistic practices of Christians during our first three centuries of existence (even if it’s got a couple of points I’d question). But in it, there is something deeply troubling. It’s not one of the author’s views; rather, it’s the author’s assessment of the work of the Apologists of the second century.

In the earlier generation, such what we find in the work of Luke, there is a deep desire to persuade people of the truth, and to do so in a way that is “loving, tactful,” and “subtle.” (352). However, Green notes a marked turn in the character of the Apologists. Where once Christian literary evangelism was in the spirit of Luke, something ugly had crept in. And though they desired their readers to come to know Christ, “the tone in which the writing had been couched would have effectively stood in the way of such an outcome” (351-352).

You understand why this is troubling, I hope.

Reading this hurt a little bit, not because I disagree, but because I can see it’s still a problem today. I’ve seen how easy it is to fall into this trap. In less than thoughtful moments, I’ve certainly been guilty of doing so. And I’m tired of that. I’m tired of Christians arrogantly running around as “jerks for Jesus”—being apparently so concerned for the faith, all the while failing to use words that reflect it. I’m tired of it, again, because I recognize how easily I can fall into this pattern of thinking and writing. But when we act in this fashion, it doesn’t win people to Christ—it pushes them away from the truth.

This has been weighing heavily as I consider how to respond to a very serious issue in my home province, one that’s got a lot of people riled up to the point that there’s nothing but angry rhetoric coming from either side. (And for that reason alone I’ve shied away from any public commentary at this point.) However, in watching it both sides have at it, it makes me consider how to best address any controversial issue. Here are a few guidelines that may help:

First, understand the issue firsthand, as best as you are able. Don’t rely on commentary from others.

Second, determine what issues are truly matters of first importance. We should always discuss secondary matters civilly, and likewise we should always affirm whatever is good and true in any circumstance (for if it is true, it belongs to God).

Third, pray for wisdom and clarity. More often than not, we put our feet in our mouths because we are rash with our words, or we overlook an important point in our opposition’s argument. However, God will not leave us in the lurch if we are faithful to ask for his help in communicating well.

Finally, seek to be truly evangelistic in my approach. I’m not interested in winning an argument (as much fun as that may be); I want to win the person reading. Fiery rhetoric and angry polemics won’t do this. Genuine love and compassion for the people involved in any given issue, however, just might.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Kindle deals from Crossway are focused on apologetics:

Get all of them, if you can.

Why Jerram Barrs read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows six times in six months

This is really interesting:

HT: Justin Taylor

A Good Prayer before Preaching

Erik Raymond:

Moses knew himself, a dying man preaching to dying men (to use Baxter’s phrase). As a result, he did not long for such temporal and base things like what the crowd would think of him, how they would remember him, or how he would feel saying what needed to be said. Instead, he pleaded the living word of the living God! And in his prayer he struck the flint for God to light up his people with an awareness of God’s awesomeness and sin’s repulsiveness. Oh, that more preachers would preach a deep awareness of their own mortality as well as God’s eternality!

On the word “porn”

Douglas Groothuis encourages us to only use this word for what it actually communicates.

Let’s Bring Conversation Back

Jonathan Parnell:

Conversation has fallen on hard times.

Let’s face it, most of us find talking to strangers to be a rarity. This is our new societal reality. The in-between moments of life — running errands and picking up carry-out — are now filled with checking our mobile devices. We’d rather scroll through our Twitter feed than venture out with the risky words of a bygone era, “Hi, what’s your name?” But more than that, when we actually make plans for conversation apart from business, it can sound more like a threat than an invitation.

The way Christians live

one-step

Don’t worry about the future. In fact, don’t worry at all. This is one of the most challenging things the Bible tells us—and consequently, one of the ways we most struggle to obey Christ. It’s so easy to become anxious. To worry. To play the what-if game.

Or is it just me?

So how do we get out of this pattern? What does it take to end the cycle of anxiety and worry? Of trying to predict all things before they happen? It takes a right perspective, one that comes only when our eyes are set upon the Lord. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains in his exposition of Psalm 16:8:

How do we feel as we look into the future? What is going to happen? I do not know; nobody knows. I shall not waste your time trying to predict what will happen or telling politicians and statesmen what they ought to do in order to govern the future. I am in no position to do that, and I know of nobody else who occupies a pulpit, whatever position he may hold as an ecclesiastic, who is in a position to do so. I have a much higher calling. My business is to prepare you for whatever may happen. We do not know what that may be. Look back over the past year and consider the things that have happened to you. How many of them did you predict? How many of them did you anticipate?

I thank God that as Christian people we do not need to know the future. Christians should never desire to do so. Christians live in this way: one step at a time. And this principle, if they put it into operation, will enable them to say, “Whatever happens to me, I know that all will be well, because ‘he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.’ ” Come what may, “I shall not be moved” because I am living in the light of this principle: “I have set the Lord always before me.” (Seeking the Face of God, 141)

“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken,” David wrote. And David knew of what he wrote. He suffered through tremendous difficulties and trials. He often ran for his life. He frequently made his bed in caves. But he could write “I shall not be shaken” because the Lord was with him.

And this is true of the Lord Jesus, as well. He suffered beyond anything we can imagine—being rejected by those he came to save, being sentenced to death, feeling the wrath of God poured out upon him… becoming sin, though in himself there was no sin. Yet, he was not shaken, for his Father was always before him.

This is the way Christians are to live. And because he was before Christ, and because we are in Christ, he is before us, as well. So do not worry about tomorrow. Take today one step at a time.