Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Discipleship in the “Age of Authenticity”

Trevin Wax:

Another good word for “authenticity” is non-conformity. The point of non-conformity is being true to yourself as opposed to whatever self others may want you to be true to. That’s why much of the drama in our culture of authenticity comes from the casting off of societal constraints. Note the four areas Taylor mentioned in his definition.

31 movies with one letter dropped from the title

This is awesome.

New Advent resource: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy

Desiring God has released a brand-new Advent devotional from John Piper. Get yours free at DesiringGod.org.

Being a Non-Conventional Intern

Joey Cochran:

Not for me. I’m a non-conventional intern. I graduated with my Th.M. from Dallas Seminary in 2009, then entered my first pastorate in Tulsa as a High School Pastor. After four years, I departed as an associate pastor and have been a church planting intern with Joe Thorn at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois for the past year.

I remember one of the first times I shared this story with another pastor. They asked: “Aren’t you taking a step back?” Well, yes, and at the same time, no.

The Missing Ingredient in Many Sermons

Erik Raymond:

Like cooking, preaching can become bland. It can fail to have that freshness worthy of the gospel table. There are many reasons why. One could identify a lack of preparation, lack of understanding, poor delivery, and shallowness. We would not disagree that under-cooking the homiletical meal is a problem. But there is something else that can make preaching bland: the deadly reality of not being personally wowed by the subject.

One more reason why Sunday evening services are disappearing

Winter-Church

Recently, Thom Rainer shared a few reasons for the possible demise of the Sunday evening service. Yesterday, Tim Challies chimed in from his perspective, suggesting that it could be linked to a diminished view of preaching, our amusement culture and the growth of amateur and professional sports, among others. But there’s one other reason I’d like to suggest:

A diminished view of discipleship and leadership development.

This has been a growing problem not only in the church but in the culture at large, despite it being one of the most oft-cited practices of good leaders (and all who’ve read a book on leadership said, “Amen”). Younger potential leaders need guidance from seasoned leaders—to learn from their experience (both positive and negative). And seasoned leaders do their most important work when they’re investing in those coming up behind them and ensuring that there are strong leaders to take the reins after they’ve retired or moved on to another opportunity.

Yet, despite the common knowledge that developing leaders is a good thing, this is missing in the cultures of many organizations—including churches.

This should never be. After all, we see a pretty strong emphasis on this kind of development in the New Testament. Although, you’re not going to find a verse saying, “older leaders, thou shalt raise up younger ones,” what you will find is Paul exhorting older men and women to invest in younger ones (Titus 2:1-6), Paul shepherding younger men like Timothy, whom he calls his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), appointing elders (Acts 14:23) and tasking his protégés to do likewise (Titus 1:5).

Going a little more broadly, this kind of investing in others is part and parcel with the great commission itself—we are to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. This necessarily requires the older (or more mature) to train and teach the younger.

Factoring all that in, rather than think of it as leadership development, maybe it’s more helpful to see it as discipleship.

Back to Sunday evening services for a moment: what both Rainer and Challies mentioned is that many pastors simply don’t have time to prepare two different sermons for each Sunday. This is very true. The responsibilities pastors carry are great, and one of the most important is their proclaiming and teaching of the Bible. But no one says senior pastors have to be the ones preaching on Sunday evening.

Sunday night services are a prime opportunity for the training of younger preachers—men who have shown some aptitude, but need experience to both identify their strengths and confirm whether or not a calling to pastoral ministry exists. It’s also a positive way to disciple the congregation as a whole. By having someone else preach, even someone who isn’t super-experienced (and may preach a lemon or ten), the congregation is protected from developing a cult of personality (you don’t need to have a big church for this to happen). They’re learning to be discerning, as well as being reminded that they’re trust is to be in the Word, not in the words of a messenger.

These are just some of the practical values a Sunday evening service brings. While I don’t attend a church that has one (we meet in a public high school and it’s not included in our lease agreement), I have been invited to preach at other churches for their evening services. And every time, it’s been a really positive learning experience and (thankfully) the congregation leaves encouraged. The more I do it, the more I am grateful for the churches that continue to hold these services.

Now, obviously, the solution to the leadership development and discipleship issue isn’t just “bring back Sunday night services;” that would be far too simplistic a thing to suggest. But what it should make all of us consider is how are we intentionally investing in and discipling younger potential leaders—and, honestly, whether or not we’re doing it at all.

Links I like

Introducing Citizen’s Press

Yesterday, Alyssa Poblete (wife of my friend and fellow Cruciform Press author Chris Poblete) announced the launch of a new theology blog for women, Citizen’s Press. Here’s the low-down:

Citizen’s Press is an online magazine for Christian women. We believe that theology is important—both practical and essential for all of life. As such, it is our desire to encourage women to love the study of God’s Word and to connect them to resources and articles that help women apply good theology to everyday life.

This would be a great blog to add to your feed reader.

The Future of Protestantism

Tune into the livestream of The Future of Protestantism, a discussion with Peter Leithart, Fred Sanders and Carl Trueman tonight at 7 pm PDT. Should be very interesting.

Destroy a Church in 4 Simple Steps

Tim Challies:

A short time ago I learned of a church building in our neighborhood that was for sale. For years now Grace Fellowship Church has been looking for a building of our own, so we thought we should go and give it a look. This had once been a thriving congregation. Faithful Christians had given sacrificially to construct that building. They had consecrated it to the Lord and had worshipped there for many years. Yet now that building was deserted, decaying, and up for sale.

What happened? How did that church go from thriving to dying? How did it slide from healthy to sick to dead? I think I know. I think Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy, the letter he wrote just days or weeks before his death. There, in chapter 4, he looks into the future, he sees a church being destroyed, and he warns us how it happens. It’s as straightforward as four simple steps.…Here are those four simple steps that lead to a church’s self-destruction.

Ian and Larissa: 2014 update

Three years ago we were introduced to Ian and Larissa Murray, a couple dealing with traumatic brain injury and how they processed that injury through their faith. Check out this update and news about their new book, Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up:

The Power Of Godly Example

Mark Altrogge:

Hypocrisy disillusions those who have listened to us and trusted us. Hypocrisy renders our words useless and empty. It makes our children cynical and undermines all we try to teach them. There’s nothing more empty than “Do what I say, not what I do.”

On the other hand, words backed by actions are powerful. Our actions can prove we really believe what we say and that others can believe us too. When we can say, “Do what I say AND what I do,” our words will have power and influence.

The Legacy I Want to Leave

John Piper:

This fall we plan to launch Look at the Book, a new online method of teaching the Bible. Look at the Book is an ongoing series of 5–8 minute video interactions with the Bible in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear my voice and watch my pen work its way into the meaning of the text. I’ll point and circle and underline in the passage, all the while talking through how I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

Our main aim will be to create habits of mind and ways of seeing the Bible that help you find the riches of Scripture for yourselves. We really believe that serious Christians can see more wonders in God’s word than they ever thought they could. Look at the Book is our effort to bring that belief to life for you.

With this new dream — this invitation to come with me into the kitchen — we are transitioning our Desiring God National Conference into an ongoing series of regional, church-based Look at the Book events.

Should We Speak of Gay Christians?

Owen Strachan:

We must not make the common mistake, in addition, of thinking that Christians who experience some level of same-sex attraction are somehow consumed by their sexual desires. They must fight sin of many other kinds: pride, laziness, foolishness, anger, and so on, just as every follower of Christ must. Not every person with SSA is on the brink of a Sodom-like situation. Sometimes we’re heard in those tones, and that’s not helpful.

Being present, as Christians, with lost people

Jeremy Writebol (@jwritebol) is the husband of Stephanie and daddy of Allison and Ethan. He lives and works in Wichita, KS as the Community Pastor at Journey the Way and the director of Porterbrook Kansas. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and The Resurgence Training Center. Catch up with him at jwritebol.net.


everPresent

For years in ministry I’ve struggled with how to get the gospel to the lost. I’ve wanted to be a good evangelist and share my faith. I’ve wanted to help people who don’t know Christ to see how great and gracious he is and come to faith in him. I’ve wanted to see new-birth, conversions, life-change, salvation or whatever you want to call it. The problem for me, however, was that I was paralyzed in living on mission. I was stuck trying to wade through the mountain of techniques, methods, and skills required to find, invest in, and hopefully convert a non-Christian to Jesus. I was frustrated with my lack of ability and felt disobedient to the call of Christ to “make disciples of every nation.” Theologically, I knew how it worked. God is the one who draws and saves at the declaration of the word of Christ. Practically, however, it was not happening.

As I spent time reflecting on my problems, I had to take a look at all the methods I was relying on to make me a better missionary. As I processed through the “how” of making disciples, the Holy Spirit brought into focus the real issue. I was lacking presence with unbelievers. I didn’t know any of them. And they didn’t know me.

Then I had a moment. A friend one day was pressing me on what it looked like practically to live on mission in the midst of unbelievers. We were discussing sports and how we can build relationships based around the common interest of sports. My friend challenged me to come up with practical ways that the sporting-life would transfer to Christianity. I had to admit, I was a bit stumped. The only thing I could come up with was the opportunity it created to be present with lost people. And that idea, of being present with lost people, became a watershed moment for me.

The watershed moment brought a further insight about the nature of God. He is a God who is present everywhere. Theologians have labeled this attribute God’s “omnipresence.” Wayne Grudem defines omnipresence: “God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.”1 As I reflected on this truth about God, I had to move the theology of God’s presence into the practice of my life. As image-bearers of God, we are called to reflect who he is to the world. This includes attributes like omnipresence. This is where the watershed moment was for me. How do I, as a limited, finite creature, reflect God’s omnipresence? By being present.

Understanding God’s presence throughout the Bible and our relationship to him as the ever-present God has transformed my understanding of missional living. Once I realized he is present everywhere, in and through his people, I discovered that the method for being on mission to the lost was really simple. I had overanalyzed it. The method is: be present, as a Christian, with lost people.

My goal in everPresent is to help you see how being present in the everyday places we inhabit is missional living. You don’t need amazing practices or innovative techniques to help you live on mission. If anything, I’ve already told you what the technique is. Be with lost people. Even that is difficult in today’s world. We are promised the ability to be everywhere through technologies that replace face time with Facebook. At a recent birthday party for one of the children in my daughter’s school, I observed several parents who were present, but they weren’t engaged. They were lost in their smartphones and Instagrams. Even though they are physically in the room, mentally they have left it altogether. As we consider the theology of God’s presence and place, that theological reflection should lead to practical application. My purpose in this book is to help you understand God more fully so you will live as his people more faithfully. I want to bring the technique of disciple-making down a few notches to show you how God equips everyday, ordinary people to be his “sent ones” as they live their lives in the presence of unbelievers.

I am eager for you to see God’s presence in your life so that we can go and be present in the lives of unbelievers for the sake of the gospel. When this happens, we will reflect an ever-present God by holding out an ever-present gospel.


Jeremy’s new book, everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present is now available at Amazon (paperback) and Gospel-Centered Discipleship (eBook).

15 signs your church is growing in the right way

old-church

Yesterday I commented on one of the big problems we have in church ministry—that we think growing numerically is entirely dependent upon the pastor’s preaching ability. But the problem, as I mentioned yesterday, is you can’t tell if a church is healthy simply by checking the attendance.

Instead, one of the surest signs of the health of a church is to look at the growth of its people. In his book, What Is a Healthy Church?, Mark Dever writes, “When you peer into the life of a church, the growth of its members can show up in all sorts of ways.” Here are fifteen examples Dever offers to show what “growth” means:1

  1. Growing numbers being called to missions—“I’ve enjoyed sharing the gospel with my neighbors from South America. I wonder if God is calling me to …”
  2. Older members getting a fresh sense of their responsibility in evangelism and in discipling younger members—“Why don’t you come over for dinner?”
  3. Younger members attending the funerals of older members out of love—“As a single man in my twenties, it was so good to be taken in by Mr. and Mrs.…”
  4. Increased praying in the church and more prayers centered on evangelism and ministry opportunities—“I’m starting an evangelistic Bible study at work and I’m a little nervous. Would the church pray that …”
  5. More members sharing the gospel with outsiders.
  6. Less reliance among members on the church’s programs and more spontaneous ministry activities arising from members—“Pastor, what would you think if Sally and I organized a Christmas tea for the ladies in the church as an evangelistic opportunity?”
  7. Informal gatherings among church members characterized by spiritual conversation, including an apparent willingness to confess sin while simultaneously pointing to the cross—“Hey brother, I’m really struggling with …”
  8. Increased and sacrificial giving—“Honey, how can we cut fifty dollars from our monthly budget in order to support…”
  9. Increased fruits of the Spirit.
  10. Members making career sacrifices so that they can serve the church—“Did you hear that Chris turned down a promotion three times so that he could continue devoting himself to being an elder?”
  11. Husbands leading their wives sacrificially—“Honey, what are several things I can do to make you feel more loved and understood?”
  12. Wives submitting to their husbands—“Sweetheart, what are some things I can do today that will make your life easier?”
  13. Parents discipling their children in the faith—“Tonight let’s pray for Christian workers in the country of …”
  14. A corporate willingness to discipline unrepentant and public sin.
  15. A corporate love for an unrepentant sinner shown in the pursuit of him or her before discipline is enacted—“Please! If you get this message, I would love to hear from you.”

These are only a few examples, obviously, and shouldn’t be seen as an exhaustive list. But do you get the picture? A church like this may well grow numerically—their witness to the gospel will be attractive—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it must.

Look again at the examples Dever provides. Notice these measures—all derived from Scripture—have a critical factor in common: they are qualitative, rather than quantitative.

I can make a nice graph showing attendance growth year over year, but I can’t do that for growth in godliness. It just doesn’t work that way. And honestly, I don’t think God would have it any other way.

Links I like

Create a Disciple-Making Plan for 2014

Tim Brister:

…I believe you and I need to have a disciple-making plan for our lives. Yes we need to pray. Yes we need to study and learn. But we also need a personal plan and process that we embrace in order to orient our lives around making, maturing, mobilizing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ. It simply cannot be tangential or accidental or on the periphery of your life. It cannot be relegated to a small compartment of your life or canned program. To make disciples, you need to be “all in.”

I Want to Turn Your Dreams Back On

Check out John Piper’s plenary session at Cross:

The transcript is also available at the link if you don’t feel like watching the entire hour.

Reject the Entre-Pastor

Jeff Medders:

I don’t know how much longer I can stomach the fake church.… The “church” that looks more like a cheap Vegas act than a gathering of sinners drinking from the fountain of grace that flows from Emmanuel’s veins. There is a style of Churchianty that is all about the tinsel and lights, it’s not about Him. A Church-centered Church is no biblical church. The Church doesn’t exist for herself, no more than a Bride exists to be a Bride for the sake of being a Bride. The Church is a Bride for the Groom—for Christ. Remember the movies where a woman tries on a wedding dress and does it for her own enjoyment? That’s exactly how many churches operate. They put on their shows, their decanted ghost-written sermons, and gawk at themselves in the reflections of their satellite campus cameras. “Lights, camera, actions…oh yeah, and Jesus too”. There will be a big judgment for these men. Jesus will handle these charlatans at the Eschaton.

But this should give us an awkward pause of reflection.

Pray For Your Daughter

Mike Leake is getting ready to launch a new 31-day prayer challenge on January 1—this time for our daughters. As a father of two little girls, I’m really looking forward to taking part in this one.

Which Christians actually evangelize?

Kate Tracy:

Despite worries that millennials have given up on Christianity, or that they’re too focused on social justice campaigns, young adults are sharing their faith the most frequently. By contrast, evangelism is fading fastest among the middle class.

Is it the method or the message?

Discipleship can be tricky business. You don’t always know what’s going to work with an individual, a small group or the larger congregation. Sometimes we think the solution to discipleship is giving people more books they won’t read. Sometimes we think it’s talking only about how we apply the truth to our lives (even if we don’t necessarily talk about how we arrive at said truth).

Gospel-Centered-Teaching

My friend Trevin Wax gets the frustration; more importantly, he’s voiced it in his new book, Gospel-Centered Teaching. What I really appreciate about what he’s written so far—and I’m only just a few pages in, so this isn’t a review by any stretch of the imagination—is he also get where the frustration stems from: it’s that we’re focused on the wrong thing. He writes:

I get the feeling that a lot of leaders are weary of running to the newest fad. Tired of trying to stir up enthusiasm for doing the same old thing. They realize it’s not enough to give the newest method.… I’m convinced that the method is not what matters most anyway; it’s the method. Get the message right, and God will work through a variety of methods. But miss the message, and the best methods in the world won’t bring about transformation. (Gospel-Centered Teaching7)

When we’re focused on methods, it’s easy for people to hide what’s really going on in their lives. It’s easy to hide your personal sin and struggles behind a video curriculum. It’s easy to ignore conviction when reading a how-to book.

It’s a lot harder when you’re being challenged to think in light of the gospel. Discipleship stems from the “therefores” of Scripture. “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1 (HCSB); but the message comes first. We can’t walk in light of what we don’t know. That’s what Trevin’s talking about, and that’s what we need more of in our thinking on discipleship, whatever method we employ.

When you’re gun-shy about discipling others

word-balloons

There’s this young guy I talk with most mornings at my daughter’s bus stop. He’s a really nice kid, not quite 25… but, man, is his life a mess (the details about which I won’t get into because, well, they’re none of your business). He’s also a professing Christian, and one who’s extremely young in his faith at that.

Both Emily and I have spoken with him regularly over the last several weeks. When I talk to him about things going on in his life, I tend to probe to find out how aware he is of what it means to follow Jesus, does he know what the Bible says on particular subjects, how aware he is of how his background affects his decision making.

He’s a really nice guy, and typically very forthcoming. For example, today Emily learned he plays Bible Roulette. Crack open the book, read wherever it falls. So she asked if I had a book I could give him on how to read the Bible.

But when she asked, I realized, reading a book on his own may not be the most helpful thing. What he needs is someone to actually work with him in learning how to read and study the Bible.

In other words, he needs someone to disciple him.

If I were doing this what would I work through with him? Francis Chan’s Multiply. As I said when I reviewed it at the beginning of the year, this isn’t really a book for individual reading—it’s a discipleship tool, and a really good one at that.

But can I be really honest? I’m terrified of even suggesting the idea to him. Why? Because discipleship is hard. There’s the time commitment, sure, but it’s the emotional investment… and the risk of failure. I’ve had mixed results in my efforts to disciple some other young men in the past (some of which I absolutely have to own), so it’s got me a bit nervous. What if I fail with this guy, too? What if he sees what the Bible says about any number of areas of life and says, “yeah, no”?

But maybe I’m overthinking it. And maybe this fear also brings to light something I need to remember myself: the results of any sort of discipleship relationship are not in my control. When I worry about “failing” this guy, what I’m really saying is I want to control the outcome. Or at a minimum, I want a guarantee that things will work out alright.

But God doesn’t give us those kinds of guarantees.

Nowhere does the Bible say that every relationship is going to result in good fruit. After all, the apostle Paul experienced this when men he considered his brothers in the faith and co-laborers abandoned him and turned against him—including Hymenaeus and Alexander whom he “handed over to Satan” so they might learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:20).

So why would I expect to have greater success than one of the authors of Scripture?

The thing I have to remember, again and again, is that I’m not responsible for the results of my efforts in this area. I can sow the seed, I can water, but only God is going to give growth. So that should probably be enough for me, shouldn’t it?

Links I like

10 Steps to Preach From Your iPad

Tim Challies:

About a year ago, or maybe a little more, Paul Martin (the Senior Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church) went away for a couple of weeks and left me to preach. Because I prepare my sermons digitally, I was finding it increasingly silly to convert them into the older medium of paper. They say that “while the cat’s away the mice will play,” so I took this as an opportunity to begin preaching from an iPad instead of a paper manuscript. I have been preaching from that iPad ever since.

There are many ways to go about it, but I will tell you about the system I have been using for the past year or so. I have found that it works very well. You need only two programs to do this: Pages and GoodReader (or Word and GoodReader if you use a PC). While I continue to use a full-size iPad, this system will work just as well with the Mini.

Note: this is more or less what I do, except I convert my notes to an ePub file and have my manuscript open in iBooks.

Zondervan’s perspective series on sale for the Kindle

Zondervan has put a number of their multi-view books on sale for $2.99:

Also on sale:

Is It Actually Hard to Be a Pastor?

Mike Niebauer:

As a pastor who often hears other ministers teach and preach, I am disturbed by the number of times pastors allude to their jobs as being particularly difficult. Yes, we face many challenges—ministry may involve times of high emotional and spiritual duress—but I don’t think these difficulties merit special recognition with regard to other vocations. After all, being a pastor involves almost no manual labor, which makes it physically easier than most other occupations in history. It doesn’t require a 60- to 80-hour work week, unless you somehow equate longer working hours with more of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And although the emotional and spiritual challenges faced are difficult, teachers and social workers—to take just two examples—face similar or greater obstacles.

New Research: Discipleship in Canada

Ed Stetzer:

Two-thirds (66 percent) of churchgoers surveyed agree with the statement, “I desire to please and honour Jesus in all I do.”

However, when asked how often they read the Bible outside of church, a third (34 percent) say rarely or never. Only 11 percent read the Bible daily. Just over a quarter (27 percent) read it at least a few times a week or once a month.

Only 3 percent say they do in-depth Bible study on a daily basis. More than half (53 percent) rarely or never study the Bible.

Most didn’t seem to feel bad about skipping the Bible reading.

Sixty-two percent disagree with the statement, “If I go several days without reading the Bible, I find myself unfulfilled.”

Get Blood Work in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Blood Work by Anthony Carter (ePub and MOBI) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory by Jeremiah Borroughs (paperback)
  • The God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde (hardcover)
  • Sola Scriptura (paperback)

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

Book Review: The Gospel Commission by Michael Horton

What is the mission of the Church? Depending on who you ask, you’re likely to hear answers that address various aspects of social and personal transformation. Some will say that we as Christians are to care for the poor, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be salt and light in the world.

And all of these are true. But what is the mission of the Church specifically?

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus provided the answer to this question when he said to His followers, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

The mission of the Church is to make disciples. But is it possible that we’ve gotten a bit off-track? Are we actually making disciples—or are we doing something else? In his new book, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples, Michael Horton offers a careful biblical and pastoral examination of the Great Commission, offering many helpful insights into how the Church can move forward in its role.

Two Promises

This book marks the culmination of a work that Horton began with Christless Christianity and The Gospel-Driven Life. Where those books necessarily spent a great deal of time dealing with the very serious errors that have crept into the Church, the vast majority of The Gospel Commission is decidedly more positive. Following the structure of Matt. 28:18-20, Horton bookends this work with the two great promises of this verse:

  1. Jesus’ absolute authority over all things in heaven and on earth given to Him through His death and resurrection; and
  2. Christ’s assurance that the Great Commission will not fail.

These two promises are essential to the Church fulfilling its mission. Without the assurance of Christ’s authority, we have no hope, nor any reason, for making disciples. “The early Christians were not fed to wild beasts or dipped in wax and set ablaze as lamps in Nero’s garden because they thought Jesus was a helpful life coach or role model but because they witnessed to him as the only Lord and Savior of the world.” (p. 33). His authority strips away ideas of private religion because He is not simply a “personal Lord and Savior,” He is the Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Redeemer and Judge of all the earth. In light of this, the call to make disciples is not a “nice to have,”—it’s an urgent imperative for all churches.

Additionally, because Christ is Lord—because He is decisively in authority over all things—disciples will be made. We cannot fail in the task to which He has appointed His Church. It also relieves us of a great deal of pressure. Horton explains:

Jesus is not waiting for us to fulfill the Great Commission before he returns in glory; rather, he is fulfilling the Great Commission by his Word and Spirit and will return on the day that the Father has set. This relieves us of an impossible burden, liberating us to participate in the missionary movement in which the Triune God has been engaged from the beginning of the world. (p. 294)

The return of Christ does not depend on you.

Disciple-making does not depend on you.

It all rests on the sufficiency of the gospel and His authority. Is that not good news for the weary believer? [Read more…]

Bid Them To Count the Cost

If we desire to do good, let us never be ashamed of walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Work hard if you will, and have the opportunity, for the souls of others. Press them to consider their ways. Compel them with holy violence to come in, to lay down their arms, and to yield themselves to God. Offer them salvation, ready, free, full, immediate salvation. Press Christ and all His benefits on their acceptance. But in all your work tell the truth, and the whole truth. Be ashamed to use the vulgar arts of a recruiting serjeant [sic]. Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay, and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armour, the watching, the marching, and the drill. Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back “the cross” of self-denial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men to repent and come to Christ; but bid them at the same time to “count the cost.”

J.C. Ryle, as published in J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 181

Watch Me

Photo by Jenny Erickson

In his latest (short) book, From The Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days, D.A. Carson shares a story from his youth on the necessity of one-to-one discipleship. I heard Dr. Carson share this story back in April and it’s stuck with me, so much so that I wanted to share it with you (which seems appropriate in light of yesterday’s post):

As a chemistry undergraduate at McGill University, with another chap I started a Bible study for unbelievers. That fellow was godly but very quiet and a bit withdrawn.

I had the mouth, I fear, so by default it fell on me to lead the study. The two of us did not want to be outnumbered, so initially we invited only three people, hoping that not more than two would come. Unfortunately, the first night all three showed up, so we were outnumbered from the beginning.

By week five we had sixteen people attending, and still only the initial two of us were Christians. I soon found myself out of my depth in trying to work through John’s Gospel with this nest of students. On many occasions the participants asked questions I had no idea how to answer.

But in the grace of God there was a graduate student on campus called Dave Ward. He had been converted quite spectacularly as a young man. He was, I suppose, what you might call a rough jewel. He was slapdash, in your face, with no tact and little polish, but he was aggressively evangelistic, powerful in his apologetics, and winningly bold. He allowed people like me to bring people to him every once in a while so that he could answer their questions. Get them there and Dave would sort them out!

So it was that one night I brought two from my Bible study down to Dave. He bulldozed his way around the room, as he always did. He gave us instant coffee then, turning to the first student, asked, ‘Why have you come?’ The student replied, ‘Well, you know, I think that university is a great time for finding out about different points of view, including different religions. So I’ve been reading some material on Buddhism, I’ve got a Hindu friend I want to question, and I should also study some Islam. When this Bible study started I thought I’d get to know a little more about Christianity—that’s why I’ve come.’

Dave looked at him for a few moments and then said, ‘Sorry, but I don’t have time for you.’ [Read more…]

Who Influences You?

Matt Chandler shares some of the story of his conversion and discusses some of the men who have shaped him:

There are certain people who have been a powerful influence on us, particularly in how we live out our faith.

I’ve spoken of some of them here before. My friends Adam & John have been major influences, particularly as we’ve been wrestling with theology together. Chris, a godly man who took me and a few other guys under his wing at a moment in my life when I desperately needed guidance and counsel. My Friday morning men’s group is increasingly becoming influential in my life as we try to work out .  

But what about you?

Who influences you?

Who has been an influence in the past and who continues to be to this day?

When Finishing Well isn't Finished Well

Photo by Jonathan Ruchti

 

A discussion that’s come up recently with some friends has been the idea of “finishing well.” 

When someone says, “I want to finish well,” I wonder how often they mean “I want to build a monument to my accomplishments”? This is probably because I’m naturally a bit pessimistic. 

I guess the question that’s been coming to mind is—is that really what we’re called to do? 

Do we want to “finish well” and try to protect our idea of what our legacy should be—and in the process see it crumble all around us? 

Do we hold so tightly to our ideas of what we think our place in history should be that we fail to see it slipping through our fingers? 

Do we spend so much time thinking of the perfect exit strategy that we don’t consider how we can prepare those coming after us? 

Is that what we want our legacy to be? 

Paul knew what it meant to finish well. He wrote to Timothy, 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. . . . [A]lways be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim 4:1-2,5-8) 

Undeniably Paul speaks here of finishing well. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” he writes. He persevered until the end. 

But how do we know that he’s done all this? [Read more…]