3 favorite teaching moments from #TGC15

tgc15

From April 13-15, 2015, around six thousand Christian men and women came together in Orlando, Florida, for The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, to consider the new heavens and the new earth. Yesterday, I shared three personal reflections on the conference, and today, I wanted to share a few of the standout moments from the plenary sessions:

1. John Piper on Christians as radical truth-tellers. As Piper applied his texts, Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 (the whole message was terrific), he declared that Jesus is “calling us to be people of radical truthfulness. To not make judgments on appearances, but on truth.… We are to be radically truth-driven Messiah people.”

His key example? Ghostwriting among Christian authors:

“If you write something, put your name on it! If you didn’t don’t put your name on it! If someone wrote it with you, put both names on it. We do not use the ways of the world to write a book or win a soul!”

2. Keller on what a circumcised heart is. “When the Bible talks about the heart it’s the control center of the whole being. Hearts put their trust in something. They face things. … The thing your heart looks to is what you think about when you don’t have anything to think about. What the heart wants, the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find desirable.”

And this is why God commands us to have circumcized hearts. This, external sign of being obedient to the law of God. Circumcision of the heart, he said, “means that the innermost will wants to do those things. Our pleasure and our duty are the same. What you ought to do and what you want to do are the same things.”

But it’s the illustration he gives about why God commands that particularly intimate part of the body be involved in physical circumcision that got me. It’s to remind us of the grossness, the vileness of sin.

3. Ligon Duncan on why the “not yet” matters right now. Most Christians are familiar with the idea of the already/not yet, or the now and not yet of reality. The gospel has present affects, but has future implications. And yet, so many people seem to think that if you pay too much attention to the “not yet” you’re good for nothing right now. As he preached on Romans 8:16-25, Duncan politely called bunk on this idea. “There are a lot of people who say if you care about the ‘not yet’, you won’t care about ‘now’, and you’ll be escapist in your view of the Christian life. But the Bible says that the ‘now’ matters forever, and ‘forever’ matters right now.

You must have your eye on that future hope. If you’re just hoping in the now, you’re not hoping as Paul is telling you to hope. The reformed doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone ended slavery in the British empire. We’ve been told our doctrine isn’t “social” enough. We need to modify it to make it more social. No.

It is the doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone that caused Wilberforce and his coworkers to expend their last breath to set captives free! You can’t live now unless your hope is in the not yet. The now is so overwhelming, if you really look at it, you can’t survive without the not yet.1

(Sadly there’s no clip of this available, but it was great.)

Were you at TGC15 or watching the livestream? What was a top moment for you?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian by Ron Gleason (paperback)
  • The Psychology of Atheism teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond (hardcover)
  • What Is Reformed Theology? teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

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

This. Is. The. Day.

Michael Kelley:

The statement is simple: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Despite its simplicity, the rejoicing of the day is contingent upon the weighty assumptions packed into the first section. It’s only by embracing what’s between the lines of part A that we can really get to part B. Here’s what it might look like.

How to become gluten intolerant

This is shared in good fun (note: the last 30 seconds or so are a bit gross):

The Seed of Divorce

Tim Challies:

I recently sat with a group of young adults, men and women in their late teens and early twenties, and we spoke about singleness, dating, and courtship. Eventually the conversation advanced to marriage and to both the joys and the difficulties of marriage. We realized together that as these young adults are considering relationships and begin to pursue marriage, they are wondering how they can divorce-proof their marriages. Many of them have grown up surrounded by divorce and its effects. Some are afraid of commitment because they are afraid they may not be able to keep that commitment.

The latest Star Wars trailer

Jesus, the Gentle Pastor

Jared Wilson:

These words of Christ really minister to me. The immediate context is this: Jesus has resurrected and he is issuing warnings and promises to his disciples. He is consoling them about his soon departure, saying he is going to send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. He’s going to keep speaking to them, only now through the Holy Spirit, primarily through the Spirit-inspired new covenant Scriptures.

Links I like

Links

Inerrancy Is Not a New Idea, Just Ask Irenaeus

Brandon Smith:

…the idea that Scripture is without error isn’t something fundamentalists cooked up in a lab a century ago. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, lays out a very explicit inerrancy-like view of Scripture when battling the Gnostics who taught the errancy of Scripture.

A Legacy Worth Leaving

Ray Ortlund:

The following is a letter my dad wrote several years before his death, which he left in his desk, where he knew we would find it.

2 Real Reasons People Don’t Go to Church

Aaron Earls:

People give all types of reasons for why they no longer attend church. Most of those given mask the real reasons someone becomes a former church member? It’s the same motivations for virtually every other human decision: pain and pleasure.

If you associate church with pain or church with interfering with your pleasure, you probably won’t go. Those are the real reasons why you don’t go to church, but they still shouldn’t be what keeps you out. Here’s why.

Our Preachers Still Need Our Prayers

Gary Millar:

In the book of Acts, it’s hard to miss the fact that the apostles gave their attention “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). But what does this actually mean? Up to this point in Acts, there hasn’t been that much praying (so, for example, it isn’t even completely clear whether 2:42 means ‘they prayed’ or ‘they kept going to the temple’). But in Acts 4:24-30 we see that when the church prays, it prays for the preaching of the apostles. And although I can’t prove it, I suspect that from this point on in Acts praying for the impact of the apostles’ preaching is considered a complete no-brainer.

Wreckages and Seeds and All the Difference in the World

Lore Ferguson:

The difference between wreckage and seeds though, is that one falls apart and produces nothing, and one falls apart and produces everything. And it is important to remember the difference and to keep on remembering it.

 

The primary (and peculiar) task of the Church

business-of-church

Why does the church exist? Is it to clothe the naked, feed the sick, liberate the oppressed? Is it wrong for churches to do this? Not at all; in fact, it is quite good and necessary to our Christian witness. But they’re not the main thing.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues in Preaching and Preachers, those things are good, but they are symptoms of a greater problem. A sin problem. The problem of being separated from God. And so, it falls upon the church to bring people into a right relationship with God. He explains:

It has come into the Church and it is influencing the thinking of many in the Church—this notion that the business of the Church is to make people happy, or to integrate their lives, or to relieve their circumstances and improve their conditions. My whole case it that to do that is just to palliate the symptoms, to give temporary ease, and that it does not get beyond that.

I am not saying that it is a bad thing to palliate symptoms; it is not, and it is obviously right and good to do so. But I am constrained to say this, that though to palliate symptoms, or to relieve them, is not bad in and of itself, it can be bad, it can have a bad influence, and a bad effect, from the standpoint of the biblical understanding of man and his needs. It can become harmful in this way, that by palliating the symptoms you can conceal the real disease. . . .

The business of the Church, and the business of preaching—and she alone can do this—is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner. This is specialist work, it is the peculiar task of the Church. The church is not one of a number of agencies, she is not in competition with the cults, she is not in competition with other religions, she is not in competition with the psychologists or any other agency, political or social or whatever it may chance to be.

The church is a special and a specialist institution and this is a work that she alone can perform. (30-32, formatting mine)

Links I like

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TGC 2015 Livestream

The 2015 TGC National Conference kicks off this afternoon in Orlando, Florida. If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to take advantage of the livestream throughout the event. And if you are here, come say hello if you see me around.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put eight books on sale this week, all focusing on the subject of suffering:

Be sure to also grab Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer today for $2.99.

The Secret Sessions At The Gospel Coalition Conference

This is worth reading simply because Stephen Altrogge enjoys being silly.

Introducing the new ESV Bible app

Hero 1

Today, Crossway’s completely redesigned ESV Bible app releases for iOS devices. Here’s a look at some of the new features:

  • Innovative layout options, including new Reader’s and Verse-by-Verse Modes
  • Integrated reading plans
  • Free access to the ESV Global Study Bible notes and resources
  • Personal notes, highlights, and bookmarks
  • An in-app store
  • Streaming audio
  • Beautiful book illustrations

Find out more at ESV.org/mobile.

Can You Love Jesus and Hate Jesus’ Followers?

Dan Darling:

My neighbor is not a theologian. I’m not even sure he is a follower of Christ. But those simple lines gave me some good insight into a phenomenon that unfortunately plagues the evangelical church.

We think it’s acceptable to love Jesus and hate His followers.

The Church Is Not Your Frat House

Ryan Shelton:

In college, I joined a club that sought to foster a sense of community through secrecy. We sought to build fraternity through exclusivity, private ritual experiences, and of course, password-handshakes. The idea was that relationships grow deeper by cutting others out and surrounding ourselves in mystery and darkness.

Sometimes we can treat Christian worship like an insider’s club. And who doesn’t want to be included in a family-like brotherhood and sisterhood? But the New Testament blueprint for worship gatherings has little room for secrecy. Rather, hospitality rises to the top of the values we want to characterize our Sunday morning services.

You can’t justify its existence

sin-exists

You have to wonder: why on earth are people so intent on proving Genesis 1-3 untrue? Why do so many want to cast doubt on these early chapters’ credibility as being true? Why do we want to dismiss them as mere fairy tales or mythology?

Because they reveal the truth of the human condition—and how sin came into our lives.

We don’t like these chapters because they leave us with little doubt about the chief problem of humanity. But we want to change that—we don’t want to say it is disobedience to our Creator, or that we chose to believe a lie over the truth. Instead, we convince ourselves that our real problem is ignorance.

But in doing so, we are lying to ourselves. But, as Herman Bavinck explains, lying about sin, trying to justify its existence, is always a losing proposition:

Sin started with lying (John 8:44); it is based on illusion, an untrue picture, an imagined good that was not good. In its origin, therefore, it was a folly and an absurdity. It does not have an origin in the true sense of the word, only a beginning. Satan has, therefore, not incorrectly been called an “irony of all logic.” The impossibility of explaining the origin of sin, therefore, must not be understood as an excuse, a refuge for ignorance. Rather, it should be said openly and clearly: we are here at the boundaries of our knowledge. Sin exists, but it will never be able to justify its existence. It is unlawful and irrational. (Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, 69–70)

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (hardcover)
  • Abortion by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Attributes of God Teaching Series by Steven Lawson (DVD)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

You can’t afford a stay-at-home mom

This is really great. Also, my wife is severely underpaid.

Why Homosexuality is an Issue of First Importance

Sam Allberry:

In Romans 14:1, he instructs his readers not to pass judgment on “disputable matters.” On such issues, Christians need to know their own mind and receive in fellowship those who differ. We might consider as examples of present day “disputable matters” issues like infant baptism or our understanding of the millennium. On such matters, Christians are free to differ. But on matters of first importance, we must remain in agreement if we are to be faithful to the gospel.

Here are five reasons why we must regard the issue of homosexuality as being of first importance.

ERLC Summit

The videos from the recent ERLC summit on the gospel and racial reconciliation are now available online.

The Most Important Thing My Parents Did

Tim Challies:

Why? I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are all five of my parents’ kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and his church. Though it is not universally true, it is generally true. Here’s the difference: I saw my parents living out their faith even when I wasn’t supposed to be watching.

Google Is Always Listening. Should I Be Concerned?

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve been told Google records every word I type and knows my every preference. Google is always listening. Hey Google, make me some coffee….you know…that kind I really like. (Let’s see what happens). Recently a speech recognition program developer Tal Ater, discovered “an exploit in (Google) Chrome’s speech recognition that enabled unscrupulous websites with speech recognition software to listen in when users aren’t expecting.” Well, maybe some of those unscrupulous website folks will hear me share the gospel and get saved.

Are our missionaries teaching that Muhammad was a prophet?

Mike Tisdell helps us understand the “Insider movement” and gives good guidance on exploring what the missionaries we consider supporting may or may not be teaching.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of new ones for today:

Also, be sure to grab a copy the audio edition of Radical by David Platt at ChristianAudio.com (this deal ends very soon). And finally, RJ Gruenwald has put together a really nice new eBook, Galatians: Selections from Martin Luther.

Naive Young Evangelicals and the Illiberal DNA of the Gay Rights Movement

It might take you a couple of sittings to get through it, but Matt Anderson’s piece here is well worth reading.

Strong Enough to Have Convictions

Brandon Smith:

A tightly-held belief is sometimes a dangerous thing, but it can also be a precious thing.

And this is where Evans and her story take a left turn. Being “pro-church, pro-ecumenical” sounds great on the surface (and, frankly, I’m more broad in what I consider “orthodox” than perhaps many or most of my friends), but deeply-held theological convictions aren’t always something to be shared. People have died for these beliefs. People have sacrificed everything to defend these beliefs. One might say, “Well, if we’d all get along, there would be no need to die!” Well, yes, but… no.

Our First Response is Usually Wrong

Aaron Earls:

If I’m honest, the first action I usually take after every significant global, national, local or personal event is mistaken.

It’s not that I lash out in misdirected anger or refuse to follow the facts of the case. Instead, my first response is always to say something to anyone except the One who can actually do something about it.

3 Attributes of God Millennials Misunderstand

Chris Martin:

I think Millennials misunderstand three key attributes of God: his love, his holiness, and his justice, and I think the misunderstandings of each one fuel the misunderstandings of the others.

The Happy Christian

happy-christian-review

It’s on coffee cups, greeting cards, and posters of cute little baby animals. It’s one of the most important words in the Bible, yet one of its least understood and unpracticed concepts: joy.

Christians, by and large, do not seem to be terribly happy people, at least if you give any serious thought to the stereotypes that exist about us. We’re mean, intolerant, hateful, spiteful… but not terribly happy (unless, it seems, we’re telling a particular group they’re going to hell). And while it’s important that we realize stereotypes do not equal reality, it’s still worth considering: why do non-believers have the impression that we lack joy—and just as importantly, how do I actually become a joyful Christian?

In The Happy Christian, David Murray wants to help readers recover a positive faith—to help us “return to the overall positive balance of biblical truth and the elevating experience of real Christianity” (xxi). To do this, he offers ten ways we can increase our joy:

Happy Facts: Facts > Feelings
Happy Media: Good News > Bad News
Happy Salvation: Done > Do
Happy Church: Christ > Christians
Happy Future: Future > Past
Happy World: Everywhere Grace > Everywhere Sin
Happy Praise: Praise > Criticism
Happy Giving: Giving > Getting
Happy Work: Work > Play
Happy Differences: Diversity > Uniformity

More than “positive thinking”

The Happy Christian by David Murray

If you’re unfamiliar with David Murray, you should know: he’s not on a mission to become the next Robert Schuller or Joel Osteen. The Happy Christian, therefore, is not a rehash of The Power of Positive Thinking, or my personal (fake) favorite, Get Happy, Stupid! What Murray offers is not an encouragement to think positively, but realistically:

The kind of thinking I’m advocating is not so much positive thinking but realistic thinking, thinking that faces the facts (even the most unpleasant and unwanted facts), deals with the facts, uses the facts, and reframes the facts to move thoughts and feelings into a more appropriate perspective, resulting in a more positive mood. It’s all about reasoning and persuading on the basis of evidence and truth. And its foundation is not faith in self, but faith in God. (21)

Consider how what Murray suggests here changes how we view recent events close to home, such as those faced by the owners of a pizza parlor in Indiana who were forced to close their restaurant due to threats as a result of a hit piece on the local news that exploded online. Many Christians look at what’s going on in America—to say nothing of the serious persecution of Christians in the Middle East and beyond—and lament.

While, obviously, there is cause for great concern (for the social and political left’s agenda logically ends in a form of fascism), we need to look at events like these in light of what Scripture says. We should not be surprised when these events happen, for the world hates those who are like Christ (in as much as we are genuinely like him, and not just being grade-a jerk stores). But we should also remember that Jesus promised hostility and persecution—and we would also be wise to remember that while our afflictions are real, they are temporary. The hope of Christians should not be a Christian America, or a Christian Canada or United Kingdom, for that matter. Instead, our hope is in Christ and in his kingdom. While it isn’t easy, when Christ is our hope, our joy increases, even as grieve what’s going on around us.

Challenging deficient anthropology through common grace wisdom

What I appreciate most about the book is Murray’s grasp of common grace wisdom. After all, “The Christian should see far more beauty in the world than the non-Christian” (119). The same is true with, well, truth. Therefore, readers will notice right away that, in addition to Scripture, he frequently refers to extra-biblical material in support of his conclusions—scientific studies and secular books, in particular. Here are a couple of ways this approach—seeing far more beauty and truth in the world—helps us:

1. It challenges our deficient anthropology. We are right to be skeptical about much of what we see in the world, for a good deal is suspect. However, we cannot forget that, though fallen and lost in sin, every single man, woman and child is still made in the image of God. However stained and marred the image is, we still get a glimpse of the reality, usually through the moral actions and right conclusions of non-believers. Thus, it challenges us to think better of those around us, even as we recognize their right knowledge condemns them (a la Romans 1:18-23).

2. It encourages us to see more of God’s grace in the world. Along the same lines, just as we need to embrace the reality that all humans—regardless of our standing before God—are still made in his image and likeness, we would be wise to remember that Gods grace is bestowed upon all. Remember, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” alike (Matthew 5:45). Thus, we should recognize all true things as true and receive what is true with thanks to God (which, incidentally, leads to greater joy…).

Joy moves and spreads

“A Christian pessimist is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms,” Murray writes (93). More than that, a Christian pessimist doesn’t move forward. It doesn’t spread beneficially. But Christian hope always looks forward. It doesn’t long for the past, or fear the end of the world, but longs for the beginning of eternity, even as we work to help those suffering in the present. After all,

Christians have a future hope … that should form a much larger part of our conscious thoughts than our present or our past. Our prevailing viewpoint is forward, onward, advance. (92)

If we want to see the gospel go forward, if we want to see true, lasting joy spread, we need to embrace that sense of joy for ourselves. Let’s recapture that viewpoint Murray describes. Let’s, as he puts it, beat non-Christians at the happiness game because we can. We have the greatest reason to hope in the entire universe! We need to remind ourselves of reality. A great way to start is by reading The Happy Christian and put the wisdom contained within its pages to work.


Title: The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World
Author: David Murray
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s big list comes from B&H, who have put a whole pile of great books on sale in anticipation of TGC’s National Conference (which starts on Monday):

And finally, from the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series ($2.99 each):

If Avengers: Age of Ultron came out in 1995

This is fantastic:

One Day He Appeared

Really enjoyed this piece by Betsy Childs.

The Formula for Endurance

Michael Kelley:

Endurance is more spiritually important than we sometimes think. In the book of Hebrews, for example, the writer exhorts the suffering and persecuted church over and over again to endure. Remain. Persevere. Stay in the fight until the end. But how do you do that? What’s the formula for endurance? It’s surprisingly simple.

Fatigue from the Culture War That Never Was

Jake Meador:

There is good reason, then, to be a bit more skeptical of these culture war fatigue narratives than we often are. They’re still popping up on a regular basis (see this Molly Worthen piece that alludes to fatigue published in 2012 and this more recent Ruth Graham piece) and yet for all the noise the classic culture war issues keep popping up–Chick-fil-a in 2012, Hobby Lobby in 2014, the Indiana religious freedom law this year.

That said, on an anecdotal level anyone who has spent much time amongst younger evangelicals probably understands where these continued reports of fatigue from the culture wars are coming from.

True Marriage with Ray and Jani Ortlund

A few week’s back, a number of Acts 29 churches in the Houston area hosted a marriage seminar with Ray and Jani Ortlund (who are lovely people). The videos of the sessions are now available, courtesy of Jeff Medders.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots (LOTS!) of Kindle deals today from Zondervan:

Be sure to also grab What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? by Edward T. Welch, which is free today.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung’s latest, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, officially releases today and Westminster Bookstore has a great sale on it for the next few days: $10 for a single copy; $8 each when buying five or more; $6 each when purchasing a case (60). Look for a review really soon!

Leading strong-willed people

As a strong-willed person (and the parent of a couple of strong-willed little people), this was really helpful.

Rolling Stone and the Culture of Lying

Russell Moore:

Rolling Stone magazine printed serious criminal accusations against a campus group, accusations the periodical now admits are completely false. Despite all of this, both the article’s author and the magazine editor will keep their jobs according to the publisher. This matters, and matters to far more people than just those on the campus of the University of Virginia or even to the target demographic of Rolling Stone. Behind this scandal is a larger point. In our society, it’s become acceptable to lie about people and ideas, as long as the crisis created is in line with a perceived social good.

Should We Give the Death Penalty to Adulterers?

Mike Leake:

We don’t burn witches anymore. And I imagine all of us celebrate this fact. But what is your justification for saying that the Old Testament no longer applies on these issues? This is an important question because how we answer this determines whether we’ll give muddy responses to contemporary issues related to morality.

10 Pointers for “Untrained” Preachers

As a mostly untrained preacher, I really appreciated reading these ten tips from Peter Mead.

Quiet the Fear, Do the Work

Jon Bloom:

Being strong and courageous was not some kind of self-confident swagger for Joshua. It was trusting God’s promises more than his own strength and acting on that trust. Courage meant faith-filled action in the face of fear.

Why aren’t unknown pastors headlining Christian conferences?

unknown-pastors

Christian conference season is in full swing once again, which means there’s inevitably going to be a flood of blog posts and tweets from various corners of the Interwebs about this or that event. Some folks will be live-blogging. Others will be live-tweeting. And some will be lamenting the fact that there aren’t any “ordinary” pastors headlining anything.

I’ve wondered about this for a while. We’re all equal in Christ, after all. Those who are more obscure in their ministry have as much to say (sometimes even more) than those who are extremely well known. So why do our conferences seem to focus primarily on the latter group? What’s the deal?

Why aren’t unknown pastors speaking at big events? The answer is actually pretty simple: it’s because you wouldn’t go if they did.

Now, before anyone thinks I’m accusing any groups of propping up the so-called “Christian celebrity industrial complex,” or that I’m telling people who complain about such things to knock it off, let me tell you a story:

A few years ago, I went to a three-day conference here in Ontario, which featured several speakers (and only one of whom was fairly well-known among theology nerds like me). The location was quite accessible, located just off the 401 highway (and had free parking, even!). The word spread, sponsors and volunteers signed up… However, maybe two hundred people showed up.

A year later, a big two-day men’s event was announced, again here in Ontario. Three of the four speakers were, without question, Christian celebrities (even if one of those three is anything but in his demeanor). The location was in a city’s downtown core (and therefore had some challenges with parking especially). Again, the word spread, sponsors and volunteers signed up… This time, about eight thousand men showed up.

Which was the more edifying event? Having attended both, the former, by far. But significantly more people went to the latter. Why? Because they wanted to hear the big name speakers.

And that’s a huge reason people go to big conferences—it’s not that the conference organizers are trying to perpetuate Christian celebrity-ism. It’s that people will only go if they make it worth their while. There has to be a draw.

For some people, it’s the topic. For example, TGC’s focus on the new creation in 2015 is really exciting to me. It’s a big part of why I’m going (social and personal ministry reasons aside). But some people are going, really, just because they want to hear John Piper or Tim Keller speak. And that’s cool, too, as long as they’re learning. If they’re going only to get selfies with them, though…

But think about it: A lot of the folks who bemoan certain groups for perpetuating celebrity-ism are just as guilty of it—they just have different celebrities. If you’ve asked John MacArthur to sign your Bible, guess what? You’re doing it because he’s Christian-famous. He is, for lack of a better term, a celebrity.

But just because MacArthur is well known doesn’t make the Shepherd’s Conference evil, any more than Tim Keller being well known makes TGC’s National Conference evil. Or Kevin DeYoung increasingly becoming well known makes T4G evil. Or… well, you get the point.

A few bad eggs1 aside, many of the Christian-famous Christians we know—whether MacArthur, Keller, Piper, or whomever—are not so because they’re trying to make a name for themselves. God has simply chosen to give them a larger platform. This doesn’t mean those of us with smaller platforms don’t have anything worth contributing—it’s just that God has chosen to do something different in our lives compared to these other people. And that’s okay.

Also, don’t ask people to sign your Bible. It’s just weird.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s deals of the week focus on the family:

Also on sale:

And several by C.S. Lewis:

Why the “third day”?

Mitchell Chase points us to “an overall pattern of incredible third-day events” in the Old Testament to better understand Jesus promise to rise on the third day.

The Most Neglected Part of Christ’s Saving Work

Nick Batzig:

In recent years, it has become more commonplace to hear certain theologians emphasize that the ascension and present reign of Christ are the most neglected aspects of His work of redemption; and, while there is great merit in highlighting the consequences of such a neglect of these precious truths, I have come to believe that the most neglected part of Christ’s saving work is actual what happened to Him in between His death and resurrection. The Apostle Paul put Jesus’ burial on par with His death and resurrection. When he spoke of the “Gospel” he did so by singling out the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. So what part does the burial of Jesus play in the work of redemption. Here are three significant features about His burial.

Say Goodbye to Lifeboat Theology

Tom Nelson:

In this theological perspective, God’s lifeboat plan of redemption is concerned only with the survival of his people. However noble and well-meaning our efforts to salvage God’s creation may be, at the end of the day, our work on this doomed earth only amounts to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

But God is deeply concerned with the crown of his fallen creation and has initiated a glorious plan of redemption through his Son Jesus. He has not abandoned this world.

Cancer Is a Parable About Sin

The Hymn of the Legalist

This is good (and smarts a bit).

The Story Behind The Song “I Stand In Awe”

Mark Altrogge:

Over the years, people have asked me how I wrote the song “I Stand in Awe.” I wish I had some jaw-dropping tale of how I was caught up to the third heaven and handed a scroll with the lyrics written in gold ink. Or at least that I was driving in my car and the song came into my mind in a flash of divine inspiration. No, my songwriting process is usually pretty pedestrian and mundane (slow and unimpressive).

The only reasonable thing to do

easter-2015

Jesus’ death and resurrection cause no end of consternation among those who either question or seek to disprove the Christian faith. Should Christians be all hung up on whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead? Does the evidence really prove itself out?

Here are the facts about the resurrection, as we have them:

  • The tomb was empty.
  • No one could produce a body.
  • For several weeks after his death, Jesus’ disciples kept meeting him—and rarely as individuals only, but almost exclusively in groups, some as large as 500 people!

His disciples’ insistence caused them no end of ridicule and scorn, yet they persisted in proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection. They event went so far as to say that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, their faith is in vain and their sins were still on them, and therefore they were utterly without hope (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

To prove them wrong, all one had to do was produce Jesus’ body. And yet, no one ever could. Why? Because there was no body to be found.

So what is the most reasonable thing to do? We can continue to make up alternative explanations all day long. We can attempt to say Jesus never really existed, or that if he did, he didn’t resemble the man who claimed to be God as described in the gospels.

Or, we can admit, as J.I. Packer encourages, that there is only one reasonable thing to do: believe. He writes:

A Christian in public debate accused his skeptical opponent of having more faith than he—“for,” he said, “in face of the evidence, I can’t believe that Jesus did not rise, and you can!” It really is harder to disbelieve the resurrection than to accept it, much harder. Have you yet seen it that way? To believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and living Savior, and to echo the words of ex-doubter Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” is certainly more than an exercise of reason, but in the face of the evidence it is the only reasonable thing a person can do.1