Here’s a look at some on mine:
Here’s a look at some on mine:
Christians sometimes have an odd relationship with the Old Testament. Some simply avoid it, due to its particularly nasty depiction of humanity (well deserved at that). Others moralize it, treating everything as an object lesson. “David overcame his giant, what’s yours,” and that sort of thing. And still others seek to discover where the Old Testament bears witness to Christ. as He Himself said it did (cf. John 5:39; Luke 24:13-35). From the first word of Genesis to the last word of Malachi, it’s all about Jesus.
That includes the exodus. This momentous event in the history of the Jewish people became the archetype of God’s saving work as the writers of Scripture in both Testaments referenced it again and again. Indeed, Pastor Mike Wilkerson writes, “When it comes to understanding redemption, the key back story in the Bible is the exodus” (p. 33). But what does the Exodus tell us about Jesus—and how does reading it help me, practically? In Redemption, Wilkerson offers thoughtful answers as he examines the exodus account and shows us how through it Jesus frees us from the shame of sin and the futility of idolatry.
The challenge with many books of this nature is that it’s very easy for solid, biblical answers to some of life’s toughest questions to ring hollow.
“If God is really good, why did this happen to me?”
“Why does God feel so far away?”
“I thought this addiction was behind me—why does it keep coming back?”
“Do I really have to forgive him?”
“Am I destined to be alone for the rest of my life?”
Our anger at others, our anger at God, our frustration over besetting sin… these are not subjects handled lightly. It’s easy to say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” but what do you do when you have a stepfather who treated you as something less than human (see Sarah’s story, pp. 41-53)? In a situation like that, it’s difficult to see God’s love, despite the reality that “whether our misery is big or small, we all find ourselves under the fountain of God’s mercy” (p. 43). Continue Reading…
Emily and I took a few minutes last night to chat about the first day of The Gospel Coalition’s national conference. Sufficed to say, we had an awesome time. But for a few details on why we felt this way, as well as some info on a book giveaway that starts today, watch the video:
The winners have now been selected and notified via email. Thanks for entering!
Here are a few of the books we’ve been given so far at The Gospel Coalition:
Which ones do you want to see reviewed? Which do you would you want me to give away?
Today it seems as though anyone can be called an evangelical, from the pastor who takes a hard stand on the Bible’s inspiration to the author who doubts whether or not we can take Jesus at his word about, well, anything.
Perhaps Carl Trueman is right in saying that the real “scandal of the evangelical mind” is not that there is no evangelical mind, but that there is no evangelical.
But perhaps not. While the movement seems to have been diluted nearly to the point of meaninglessness, some are seeking to breathe life back into it.
That’s the point of Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. With contributions from Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, Russell Moore, Thabiti Anyabwile and a host of others, this book offers readers a glimpse into what it means to be an evangelical, historically, doctrinally and practically.
Don’t Call It a Comeback was a treat for me to read. Every contribution was extremely articulate and thoughtful; most importantly, they were genuinely helpful. While space prevents me from discussing every topic covered in this book, I’ll be hitting a few of the highlights from my perspective.
The book starts off on exactly the right foot with Kevin DeYoung’s “The Secret to Reaching the Next Generation.” Church growth is a big issue, and everyone seems to be asking, “What’s the secret? How do you get young people to come to church?” A whole industry has cropped up around this, with books, conferences, and experts all devoted to figuring out the secret. So what is it, according to DeYoung?
“You just have to be like Jesus. That’s it. So the easy part is you don’t have to be with it. The hard part is you have to be with him. If you walk with God and walk with people, you’ll reach the next generation.” (p. 22)
In other words, if you’re going to reach people for Christ, you have to be faithful. It doesn’t matter if your shirt is tucked in or if you’ve got tattoos on your neck, if you’re not faithful, it doesn’t matter. You have to amaze people with God, and the best way to do that is not with cleverness, but with faithfulness in life and practice. “Reaching the next generation for God by showing them more of God. That’s just crazy enough to work.” (p. 31) Continue Reading…
Matthew Barrett offers some helpful insights from the testimonies of Tyndale, Rogers, Latimer, and Ridley:
If these men were willing to die for such truths how much more should I be willing to stand for them today? Many examples come to mind. If you are a pastor, ministering in a difficult church, do not waver in your commitment to the truth even when those in your congregation criticize the doctrines you are proclaiming. Or perhaps you are a teacher at a school where you are surrounded by more liberal colleagues. Be resolved and steadfast in affirming sound doctrine, even if it be at the expense of your own career. Maybe you are a student being criticized because you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Remain determined and immutable in your affirmation of God’s Word. You might be a Christian who is tempted to reject the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment or the exclusivity of the gospel. Be on guard, less you also fall prey to false doctrine and fail to heed Paul’s admonishment and warning to only agree with sound words (1 Tim 6:3-4; cf. 1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1).
Also Worth Reading
TGC: Emily and I are at The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference this week. We’ll be part of the vast Canadian contingent. How will you recognize us? Just listen for the folks who say“Aboat.” Seriously, though, if you’re around and want to connect, shoot me a message via Twitter (@AaronStrongarm). Look for regular updates throughout each day.
Books: Check out the list for the 2011 BoB Book Giveaways. I’m going to this and am pretty excited! (I also have a few of these books, so expect a giveaway or two in the coming weeks!)
Funny: Are you a child of the 90s? If so, you’ll find this funny.
The Number One Reason To Buy The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence
In Case You Missed It
Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:
In the Middle Ages, Christians built grand cathedrals in which to worship. “Everything about the way a cathedral was built . . . was designed to help folks discern, delight in, and declare the great, biblical doctrines concerning God and the gospel,” explains author Jimmy Davis (p. 7). They were works of art designed to communicate the message of the cross.
We need more cruciform churches today, says Davis. “Not lavish cathedrals but living communities of disciples being shaped by the cross into the shape of the cross for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors, the nations, and the next generation” (p. 8). That’s why he’s written Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life.
Many of us, particularly if we’ve come to faith as adults, struggle to clearly and practically define the Christian life. What does it look like? Is it a list of things we do or don’t do or is there more to it than that? But the underlying question—the question behind the question as it were—is not simply what does it look like, but why do we exist in the first place? Davis offers a very insightful answer: “We exist to exalt the glory of God and to help other people and all of creation do the same” (p. 15).
This understanding is essential for all who seek to live a cross-shaped life. If we do not understand why we have been created and for what purpose we have been redeemed by faith in Christ, we will flounder rather than flourish.
So what do cruciform disciples? Davis sums it up in two key points:
Cruciform disciples (imperfectly) resemble Jesus the Son. “The more we become like Jesus, the Beloved Son, the more we will fill up by faith on the love of the Father through the gospel as his beloved sons” (p. 37).
Cruciform disciples (imperfectly) resemble Jesus the Servant. “As we fill up by faith on the love of the Father as it is offered in the good news about Jesus and poured out by the Spirit, we overflow with love back to God and out to others, using the resources he has provided in the place he has put us. Our lives will take the form of a cross-shaped servant” (ibid).
These twin realities—that when we are redeemed God has adopted all of us as His sons (cf. Gal. 3:26-29) and out of our sonship, we respond in service—are at the heart of the Christian life. In the author’s words, we are embraced as sons and empowered and employed as servants. “Our service must also flow from sonship, for unless and until we are sons we can’t serve, won’t serve, and don’t want to serve. Without divine sonship, we are like the two lost sons in Luke 15:11-32 . . . [rejecting] the fellowship freely offered to us by the Father and instead embraced either pleasure (trying to escape God’s righteousness) or performance (trying to earn it)” (p. 54). Continue Reading…
Dr. David Murray is releasing a new DVD teaching series looking at Christ in the Old Testament, not only the predictions and typologies, but also His appearances as the Angel of the Lord. Dr. Murray explains in this trailer for the series:
The Winners of the Counterfeit Gospels Giveaway
Over 80 people entered to win a copy of Trevin Wax’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels—and the following three people will be receiving a copy courtesy of Moody Publishers:
Thanks to all who entered. I wish I had had more copies to give away, but I’d highly encourage you all to order a copy today.
Also Worth Reading
Prayer Request from Tullian: Pastor Tullian Tchividjian is almost finished his next book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Crossway 2011) and he could use your prayers.
Free Audio: This month’s free download at ChristianAudio.com is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
Bible: “If . . Then” in 1 John
Conference Messages: The 2011 Ligonier National Conference messages are now online.
The Elephant Room: Chris Vacher live blogged this past Thursday’s big event featuring Pastors Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Perry Noble, James MacDonald, David Platt and Steven Furtick. James MacDonald also posted a number of his own reflections. Video from the event will be released over the next few weeks.
In Case You Missed It:
A personal testimony does not replace a biblical proclamation about Jesus, but it is an important complement. And it requires that we have a close relationship with the Lord. If we are not excited about God’s Word, if we are not warmed by close fellowship with God, and if we are not humbled by Christ’s suffering on the cross for our sins, we will not be very effective witnesses. Yet it is essential that we be able to give such a witness. MacArthur is right when he says:
Most people do not come to Christ as an immediate response to a sermon they hear in a crowded setting. They come to Christ because of the influence of an individual…. In the overwhelming majority of [new believers' testimonies], they tell us they came to Christ primarily because of the testimony of a coworker, a neighbor, a relative, or a friend…. There’s no question that the most effective means for bringing people to Christ is one at a time, on an individual basis.
Between [Peter and Andrew] we see the two main kinds of witnesses God provides in the church: the public preaching of the Word and the personal testimony of individual Christians. Every church needs a Peter who will preach the gospel publicly, and God greatly uses faithful preaching. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, when three thousand people believed on Christ, is one such example. But as important as preaching is, it is at least as necessary that a church have a legion of Andrews: those who bring people to Jesus one by one through their heartfelt testimonies.
Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition, location 573)
Trevin Wax is a pastor, editor at Lifeway, blogger at Kingdom People, and the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and the soon to be released, Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011). Yesterday, I posted my review of the book, and today, Trevin has kindly agreed to answer a few questions related to it and what he hopes readers will learn from it.
What made you decide to write Counterfeit Gospels?
About a year after I wrote Holy Subversion, I began work on a second book proposal that highlights the fact that truth is beautiful precisely because it’s true. The editors at Moody were intrigued by the “beautiful truth” proposal, but they encouraged me to apply that idea to the gospel specifically rather than just the beauty of Christian teaching in general.
As I got to work on Counterfeit Gospels, I had two goals in mind:
How do these counterfeits get started?
It depends on the counterfeit.
Some counterfeits get started because we are uneasy with the idea of not fitting in culturally. So downplaying the notion of judgment (“the judgmentless gospel”) or uniting around social causes (“the activist gospel”) enable us to maintain bits and pieces of Christian ethics while drifting from the offense of a bloody cross at the heart of our faith. Continue Reading…
What is the gospel?
It seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it? Yet, if you ask 10 different people, you might get 12 different answers.
Why is that? Why is it that there seems to be so much confusion over what all who profess faith in Christ believe is the greatest news of all?
Why have we traded something so glorious for a pale substitute—a counterfeit? That’s the question at the heart of Trevin Wax’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.
So why do we fall for counterfeits in the first place? Why are they so alluring? The reality, according to Wax, is that they’re just easier than the real gospel. Counterfeits don’t cost us anything, and indeed, they can make us quite popular in the eyes of non believers.
Yet a counterfeit gospel will always leave our souls impoverished at just the point we should be enriched. Counterfeits leave our hearts and affections for God depleted at just the time we should be overflowing with passion to share the good news with others. (p. 13)
Our acceptance of counterfeits has led to a threefold crisis within the Church. Where we should have clarity of the gospel story, we have confusion. Where we should have bold proclamation, we lack conviction. Where we should have vibrant gospel community, we instead retreat from society or become exactly like it.
I greatly appreciated reading Wax’s succinct identification of the crisis within Evangelicalism; indeed it was something of an “aha” moment for me as it described many of the frustrations I have had when speaking with fellow believers in my community. This is in no way meant to malign anyone in our city, but when churches see themselves as “homeless” because they’re between buildings or believers don’t feel like they can share their faith with someone because they don’t have any answers to hard questions that might arise, there is something wrong.
Wax quickly moves from identifying the problem to the solution, tackling each aspect of what he describes as the three-legged stool of the gospel, first by unpacking the genuine article followed an examination of the counterfeits. Continue Reading…
Before October, 2009, no one had ever heard of Abby Johnson. She was a happily married mom who happened to work as the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic. In September of that year, when she was asked to help in the exam room, life as she knew it came to an end. That day, she assisted in an ultrasound-guided abortion and was horrified by what she saw on the screen. Expecting to see non-reactive fetal tissue, as the cannulae came toward it, she instead saw the baby begin to kick “as if trying to move away from the probing invader.” (p. 5)
Witnessing this—and being a part of it—was too much for Johnson and was the end of her career at Planned Parenthood.
When the news broke a few weeks later, it wasn’t because she had left the organization—it was because she had crossed the line and joined the Coalition for Life, the pro-life group that prayed daily behind the fence at Johnson’s clinic.
Since then, Johnson has been at the center of a major court case, having been sued by her former employers, and become a sought-after speaker on the realities of abortion throughout America. In Unplanned, she shares her story of how she moved from advocate to opponent of Planned Parenthood, and in the process was confronted by the reality of God.
Recently my wife and I sat down to chat about her impressions of the book. Here’s our chat in all its YouTube-y glory:
(Feed readers, sorry, you’ll have to click-through to watch—and please forgive the awful screen cap!)
One of the things you might not expect in reading a book like this is just how even-handed Johnson is when describing the realities of life at Planned Parenthood. She tries hard to avoid sensationalism and is very careful not to demonize any of the people working there, as if they wake up in the morning, stretch and say, “Gosh, I can’t wait to abort some babies!” Because the truth is, they don’t. Many, like Johnson herself, became involved because they believed what they were told about the organization’s desire to protect and care for women’s reproductive health. But it’s interesting how even the most noble desires—including Johnson’s, which was to reduce the number of abortions being performed—can be lost or twisted into something else. Continue Reading…
[T]here were many who saw Jesus and did not see the glory of God. They saw a glutton and a drunkard (Matt. 11:19). They saw Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Matt. 10:25; 12:24). They saw an impostor (Matt. 27:63). “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear” (Matt. 13:13). The glory of God in the life and ministry of Jesus was not the blinding glory that we will see when he comes the second time with “his face . . . like the sun shining in full strength” (Rev. 1:16; cf. Luke 9:29). His glory, in his first coming, was the incomparably exquisite array of spiritual, moral, intellectual, verbal, and practical perfections that manifest themselves in a kind of meek miracle-working and unanswerable teaching and humble action that set Jesus apart from all men.
What I am trying to express here is that the glory of Christ, as he appeared among us, consisted not in one attribute or another, and not in one act or another, but in what Jonathan Edwards called “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies…” These excellencies are so diverse that they “would have seemed to us utterly incompatible in the same subject.” In other words,
The list could go on and on. But this is enough to illustrate that beauty and excellency in Christ is not a simple thing. It is complex. It is a coming together in one person of the perfect balance and proportion of extremely diverse qualities. And that’s what makes Jesus Christ uniquely glorious, excellent, and admirable. The human heart was made to stand in awe of such ultimate excellence. We were made to admire Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, pp. 51-53
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to our usefulness is the false belief that our witness does not matter. This is especially a danger if we think a previous witness has been ineffective. I suppose even John might have thought that. After all, few people went to follow Jesus after John pointed him out. But there is a detail later in John’s Gospel that helps us to understand better. John 1:28 says, “These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” In John 10, we learn that Jesus at one time took His disciples back to that place: “He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there” (John 10:40-42). Despite his apparent failure, John the Baptist’s witness was not wasted; in God’s timing, it led many to be saved.
One person who might think poorly of her witness is a woman whose words were instrumental in my own salvation. I do not know her name and doubt that I could recognize her. One day, as I moved into an apartment, she was moving out next door. I carried one box of books to her car. After thanking me, she asked whether I was looking for a church to attend. My body language made it clear that I did not appreciate the question. So she quickly stammered, “If you are ever looking for a church, I would recommend this particular church a few blocks away.” With that, she drove off and I never saw her again. I have often imagined her kicking herself for her weak attempt to witness. But a few months later, when the Holy Spirit had prepared a way for the Lord into my heart, I remembered her words, went to that church, and, hearing the gospel there, I believed and was saved.
You may think you are just one “voice” and that your witness doesn’t matter. But if Jesus is the Word your voice brings-and if He is living in you and you know Him-then your witness is mighty to cast down strongholds and lead dying sinners to salvation.
Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition—location 343)