A key point we miss in defending the faith

be-weird

One of the classic texts for apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15, where we read that we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Certainly this is true, but we’re missing something kind of important. I was reminded of this afresh as we studied this text together at church on Sunday, and our local missions pastor made an important point:

The primary action in this text is not to make a defense, but to honor Christ in our hearts. Remember, the verse in full reads, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (emphasis added).

The heart, as many Christians have been told time and again, does not refer to the physical organ, but the seat of the will, or the central being of the person. It’s what makes you, you. When Peter commanded us to honor Christ in our hearts as holy, he was saying this is something we do with the entirety of our being. Our words, our lives, our all is to be committed to honoring Christ are the foundation of apologetics (and arguably our greatest apologetic).1

This is where I see so many “discernment ministries” go awry. They seek to defend the faith, but with their words tear it down. They often lack gentleness and respect,2 and so fail to honor Christ as holy. And in some cases, their “defense” puts them to shame as in their apparent zeal for the truth, they misrepresent those they are supposedly defending against.

But this is not a problem for “those guys.” It’s a problem for all of us. It is a struggle for every one of us to honor Christ as holy in the every day. When we’re at work, we want to be liked by our co-workers, and not seen as the weird Christian guy or gal. We don’t particularly want to ruffle feathers. We just want to live at peace with everyone in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Sometimes, though, we’re called to step out and be weird. For example, when Abigail was still in public school, we had to have conversations about yoga with two of her three teachers. The first was her junior kindergarten one, to whom I simply explained that because of religious convictions as Christians, we didn’t believe it was appropriate for Abigail to participate. The teacher (who was great) was totally cool and respectful and agreed. Problem solved. A couple years later in grade one, we had the same conversation with a different teacher. This one was less agreeable, instead saying, “Well, I’ll just call it stretching then.” (Never mind the chanting at the beginning of class about being loved and at peace with everyone.) She wasn’t belligerent; she just didn’t get where we were coming from. And so we seemed a bit weird to her, which is par for the course when it comes to the Christian life.

But no one said the Christian life was easy. The Christian life is one where we’re going to constantly be seen as out of step, on the wrong side of history, backwards, archaic or simply weird. But this is what will happen when we choose to honor Christ above all, even as we choose to be gentle and respectful. Defending the faith starts with living holy lives, pleasing and acceptable to God. It means using our words, correctly. It means living in step with the commands of God. And sometimes it means seeming kind of weird. So onward Christian soldier—go forth and be weird to the glory of God.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s got a few books on marriage on sale this week:

Does the Bible say anything about sleep habits?

David Roach:

Americans aren’t getting enough shut-eye. That’s the conclusion of a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that nearly nine million Americans take prescription sleeping pills and such prescriptions have tripled for people between 18 and 24. Of course, occasional sleepless nights are normal for nearly everyone and sometimes insomnia is caused by uncontrollable factors like physical pain or nightmares. But can a lack of sleep indicate a spiritual problem? Does the Bible say anything to guide us in our sleep patterns? You might be surprised to learn that the answer is yes to both questions.

How Do You Define Joy?

John Piper starts a new six-part study series on Philippians:

3 Ways to Grow in Faith

Mike Leake:

Just as in any relationship our communion is often in direct proportion to our faith and love. If I sin against you our relationship is going to be harmed. Likewise, if I feel slighted by you then it will impact the way we relate to one another. How much worse does a human relationship get if one person loses trust in the other one? In the same way—our lively experience of the Lord is often in proportion to our faith.

So how do we grow in our faith?

Creating a New Wrong Way when the Right Way seems to be a Wrong Way

JD Payne offers an interesting perspective on Mark 1:44-45.

How We Became Too Busy For Friends

Pam Lau:

Too many of today’s friendships—both inside and outside of the church—suffer from fragmentation and superficiality. That is, we are too scattered to commit knowing and caring for a person deeply. Instead, we settle for friends who are merely familiar faces for extended small talk. Perhaps it’s because we are afraid of the intimacy or have been burned by bad relationships in the past. Or perhaps it’s because this is the kind of relationship we see modeled and expected in our neighborhoods, schools, and small groups. Dr. Daniel J Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, advises that little bit of empathy goes a long way. He believes in what he calls mindsight—a new approach to relationships that teaches the skills of reflection, relationships, and resilience.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

No Kindle deals for you today, but I do have a couple of notable books (and Bibles) worth considering:

Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice a new book edited by Owen Strachan and Jonathan Parnell will be released at the end of the month. It features chapters by Denny Burk, Brandon Smith, Joe Rigney, Trillia Newbell, Gloria Furman and a whole bunch of others. The paperback edition doesn’t release until the end of the month, but you can get the Kindle edition right now.

Also worth checking out is Westminster Bookstore’s sale on the Psalms in the ESV translation.

Will Millennials Be the Generation to Ban Abortion?

Chris Martin:

The turning-a-blind-eye approach to abortion that has persisted for decades, and there is real reason to think that will only continue among Millennials. The idea that individuals are not allowed to impose their religious, ethical, or otherwise convictional opinions upon others has never been stronger. Science may advance, minds may change, but Millennials continue to compel each other to keep their convictions to themselves.

 

Is Your Faith the Right Kind of Simple?

Mike Leake:

Sometimes I wonder if Skynrd’s mama hasn’t counseled many within the church. After all how many times have you heard something like this: “I don’t need none of that fancy book learnin’, just give me a simple faith.” What we mean by that is that we want a faith that we can understand—that we can wrap our minds around. We want just a plan and simple type of faith.

A Both-And Woman and Her Bible

Allison Burr:

I have sat alongside many puzzled Christians in Bible studies over the years, and I used to be the first among them. These struggles often center around the hard providences of God — how God wields his power and authority — either in the Scriptures or in the difficult corners of our lives. We begin by asking, “Well, if [insert painful, confusing, awful, inconvenient reality] is true, then how could God . . . ” The ellipses are replaced with “be good” or “allow this to happen” or “also declare this other seemingly contradictory reality to be true.”

This setting is where a both-and hermeneutic brings clarity and comfort — and not just to our minds, but into virtually every situation in life.

 

The evolution of Chuck Jones

How Should Christians Respond to Attacks and Insults?

R.C. Sproul:

Years ago, I received a letter from a friend who is a pastor at a church in California. In it, the pastor included a copy of an article that had appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Although the article included a photo of him standing in his church and holding his Bible, it was basically a vicious personal attack against him.

When I saw that picture and read that article, I felt a great deal of empathy for my friend because I had recently had a similar experience. A person I believed was my friend made some very unkind statements about me publicly, and word had gotten back to me. My feelings basically vacillated between despondency and anger, even though I knew I needed to respond with joy (Matt. 5:11–12).

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Thin Line Between Faith and Foolishness

Michael Kelley:

At some point, when you are in a rhythm and cycle and you’re not satisfied with the results, you have to go back and look at the way you are doing something, or the assumptions you had in doing that thing to see what needs to be corrected.

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

Good questions from Kevin DeYoung.

Remember The Pit

David Murray:

“Remember the hole of the pit from which you were dug” said Isaiah the prophet. It’s a spiritual exercise that the Psalmist models for us in Psalm 40:1-3. Although the exact nature of the pit is not specified – it could be the pit of affliction, of persecution, of mental distress, or of family trouble – it’s most likely it was the pit of sin and guilt.

Smoke on the Martyrs

David Parks:

We are in the midst of a global upsurge in attacks on Christians. Over the last year we’ve seen major atrocities in Kenya, Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, and many other places. Make no mistake: Radical Islam is responsible for much of this. And even though the majority of Muslims are not violent, astonishingly high percentages are sympathetic to extremist violence.

In the midst of this, we see almost no concern from the leadership of the United States. While Christians are beheaded in dramatically produced videos designed to recruit more extremists and to incite fear, the White House has responded to the targeting of Christians in underwhelming fashion. Their condemnation has been disappointing.

And at a time when we need clear, consistent, and accurate voices, Christians in the West blow a cloud of smoke onto the issue by hanging their hats on a discredited and debunked statistic: There are simply not 100,000 Christian martyrs every year.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: The Role of Tradition in Interpretation

Bill Kynes:

It’s true, human tradition can be a hindrance to divine truth. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for breaking God’s commands for the sake of their own traditions (Matt. 15:3). And the 16th-century Reformers rejected the magisterial authority of tradition espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. Shouldn’t we seek to emulate Restorationist leader Alexander Campbell, who counseled his followers to “open the New Testament as if mortal man had never seen it before,” no longer bound by the prejudices of the past? Why should tradition be important in seeking to understand the teaching of the Bible? Let me offer two lines of argument—one philosophical, the other theological.

The limits of love

heart

One of the greatest lies we tell children is a nursery rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I remember repeating this to myself as a little boy, over and over again, with tears running down my face, as the terrible things other kids said about me kept repeating in my head. I was desperate for it to be true.

It never was.

So I get how so many Christians feel living in a thoroughly post- or anti-Christian culture, as many of us do in the West. Recent political decisions only officially made legal what was already approved culturally. Those who hold to the traditional or biblical definition marriage have long been called intolerant, bigots, homophobes, and numerous other pejoratives. One website ran an entire article that existed only to direct the F-word (and I don’t mean “fundamentalist”) at us, and particularly politicians and political figures who voiced concerns about or opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

The intolerance of tolerance is at work.

The hurtful words are terribly discouraging. No one wants to be called a bigot, or a hate monger—no one. And yet, this is what is happening and will continue to happen until the West falls or Jesus returns, because we have to understand that love has its limits. There are places that, because we love people, we cannot go and ideas we cannot embrace or endorse.

I was reminded of this again by Sam Storms in his devotional, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3. In writing of Jesus’ commendation of the Ephesians, Storms describes them as a church that had “20/20 discernment.”

They hated evil—period. No ifs, ands, or buts. Whatever form evil took, whether ethical or theological, they stood resolute in their opposition. No compromise. No cutting of corners. Their love was revealed in their intolerance.… This was their most stellar achievement. No heretical concept could ever raise its ugly head in Ephesus without being decapitated by the swift stroke of biblical truth. (41)

The Ephesians understood that Christian charity could not give room to false teaching within the church. Whatever else was going on in the culture, whatever trials they would face, whatever persecution they would be forced to endure, they would; but they could not suffer the usurping or perversion of biblical truth. And, again, Jesus commended them for this. Why? Because, as Storms writes, Jesus hates moral and theological compromise.

Any appeal to grace to justify sin is repugnant to our Lord. Any attempt to rationalize immorality by citing the “liberty” we have in Christ is abhorrent to him and must be to us. True Christian love is never expressed by the tolerance of wickedness, whether it be a matter of what one believes or how one behaves. (43)

This is the position we find ourselves in today. The culture has spoken and, while we can (and I believe should) disagree with the outcome, we should at least acknowledge the reality. This means the hateful and hurtful words are going to keep coming, with a promise they’ll stop as soon as we are willing to stop believing what we believe. If we can just embrace same-sex marriage, and then polyamorous relationships, we can all get along. But is that the best way to demonstrate love to our unbelieving neighbors and our fellow believers?

No. Instead, we need to be willing to affirm that love has its limits. And just as the Ephesians were forced to in the face of the Nicolaitian heresy, we must ask what we must say no to for the sake of our devotion to Christ—and in order to demonstrate the love of Christ to all.

Christianity is costly (if you’re doing it right)

heart

One of the things that’s most interesting in all the doom and gloom reporting around denominational decline, the rise of the nones and the seeming collapse of Christianity in America is the fact that, as some commentators have said previously, what we’re really seeing is the rise of honesty among Americans.

It is no longer socially advantageous to be considered a Christian, at least not in any meaningful sense. So people who considered themselves Christians (even if in name only) are no longer identifying themselves as such. This is a very good thing for us overall, because it means, as Tim Keller once said, the mushy middle is falling out of evangelicalism, and what we’ll be left with is a stronger visible church as a result. A church that knows that, as J.C. Ryle once said, “it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standards of the Bible.” He continues:

There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.” (as published in J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 174)

Jesus told the crowds, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” He warned them against making a hasty decision to follow him. He wanted people to know that being a Christian would not bring about a life of ease and comfort. And this is what we need to remind ourselves of today, even as we continue to go forward in our mission to make disciples of all nations.

We need to be uncompromisingly honest on this point: Christianity is costly.

At least, if we’re doing it right.

That doesn’t mean we “sell” people a life of doom and gloom, though. Our song probably shouldn’t be a dirge or a fashionably sad pop song from the early 90s.1 But it does mean we embrace the reality of Christianity not being easy. It costs much to win the victory—and we should never be afraid to say so.

Get grounded! (For the Church)

read-bible

My new series at For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer,” continues. The first post addressed the dangers of rushing into leadership roles. The second takes a step back and addresses a foundational issue: getting grounded in the Bible:

When my wife and I first became Christians, we had a lot to figure out. Up until that point, we’d been more or less your typical non-Christian couple: we met in college, moved in together halfway through, got engaged (but didn’t set a date for several years), eventually bought a house… and then we met Jesus.

And it was exactly as awkward as you’re imagining. (But we’ll get to that another time.)

During that time, though, God was very kind to us as we started figuring out what the “now what” of our conversion. We were connected to a local church where there were a lot of very kind people. The pastor worked with us to make the mess of our lives make sense as Christians, though he was kind of flying by the seat of his pants with some of it. But as much as we saw God pouring out grace upon us in this time, we were in danger. I was in danger.

…I read books like Velvet Elvis, Searching for God Knows What, and Blue Like Jazz, many of which were well written but had deep theological problems that I couldn’t recognize. I read memoirs by celebrity pastors that had no business writing memoirs, and did nothing to help me get a clear picture of Christian character. Our friends sat up discussing NOOMA videos, but never saw the hopelessness of their messages. Many young men in our church talked about what it meant to be Christian men, which somehow meant going on spirit quests to kill dragons while building sheds with nothing but duct tape and our own tenacity. We listened to lectures on how we needed to be less concerned with building programs and evangelistic rallies, and more concerned with making sure people had clean water to drink.

But you know what few of us were doing during all that? We weren’t grounding ourselves in the faith. We weren’t reading our Bibles, at least to the degree we ought to have been.

Keep reading at For the Church.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals:

Also, be sure to get PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones for $1.99 today.

Finally, Westminster Bookstore’s spring overstock sale is on now. There are tons of great books to choose from, including Dangerous Calling, Crazy Busy, and Learning Evangelism from Jesus.

5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years

This is really interesting.

Owen Wilson says “Wow”

Just because:

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood

Ray Ortlund:

In public, my dad was one of the great pastors of his generation. He served most notably for twenty fruitful years at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, where John and Noel Piper worshiped during their Fuller Seminary days. Dad and John were dear friends.

In private, my dad was the same man. There was only one Ray Ortlund, Sr. — an authentic Christian man. The distance between what I saw in the New Testament and what I saw in my dad was slight. He was the most Christlike man I’ve ever known, the kind of man, the kind of father, I long to be.

5 Ways Christian College Didn’t Prepare Me For the Real World

Chris Martin:

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at a Christian college, and I’ll do everything I can to convince the bank to give me a loan for my kids to do the same if they would like. Taylor University equipped me for the real world in numerous ways (that’s another post for another time). I’ll sing my kids to sleep with “How Firm a Foundation” if that’s what it takes to get them to go to school there. I love that place.

I’m so excited to visit my friends in good ol’ Upland soon, and I thought it’d be fun to reflect on the few things attending a Christian college didn’t teach me as it pertains to the real world.

So, here are five ways Christian college didn’t prepare me for the real world.

Blessed are Those Not Offended by Christ

Jason Garwood:

Many are so offended and embarrassed they angrily persist in an unrepentant, unregenerate state. They find the claims of Christ to be a stumbling block and a waste of time. They are put off by Jesus’ followers, message, and truth. Ultimately they will never take up their cross and follow Him because to them there is no holy and righteous God and, because of that, his atonement is irrelevant. Who needs a savior if there is nothing to be saved from?

Helping Deaf Students to Flourish

Jen Pollock Michel interviews Betty McPhee is a teacher at Northern Secondary School in Toronto, Ontario.

Links I like

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Hyper-Headship and the Scandal of Domestic Abuse in the Church

Justin Taylor gives a summary of a much-needed sermon from Jason Meyer.

TGC15 resources are now available

If you weren’t able to attend the Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, or you missed a session here and there, TGC has made the media from every plenary session and all the workshops available online (and it’s free).

Beware Gluten-Free Preaching

Philip Bethancourt:

In Christian preaching, it’s not gluten that is dangerous, but gluten-free. For Spurgeon, just as it would be absurd to make bread without flour, it is unthinkable to preach a sermon without Christ.

The gluten of the gospel must be kneaded into every Christian sermon, despite the many ways pastors are drawn to preach gluten-free today. Here are three of them to beware. If we bypass Christ in any of these aspects of the sermon, we are removing the gluten of the gospel from our text.

Four signs your ministry is all about you

JD Greear:

Sadly, most of us can all too easily recount stories of pastors who betrayed their congregations, who hurt the very people God had called them to love, who—in short—made their ministry all about them.

Some of these pastors may have had their own inflated sense of grandeur from day one. But more often than not, these are the same guys who entered the ministry legitimately wanting to serve others, not angling to build an empire. And yet somewhere along the way, they got a taste for glory. And instead of being the shepherds of God’s people, teaching them to have faith in God, they become stumbling blocks, impediments keeping people from considering God at all.

Five Words that Measure the Boldness of Faith

Michael Kelley asks, “how do you measure faith?”

Well, one option would be to look at results. Jesus was the One who said that even with a small amount of faith, faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell a mountain to get up and move and it would (Lk. 17:6). In our minds, this looks like a focus on results. That the one with faith will be able to believe that a certain thing should be, and it will be. That’s how we know how big our faith is – it’s based on whether or not that which we can conceive actually becomes reality. But I want to propose a different measure of faith, one not based on results but instead based on something bigger and better than those results.

And you can describe this kind of boldness of faith in five words:

“Even. If. He. Does. Not.”

Those Who Think Read

JD Payne:

Whenever I go a while without extensive reading and thought, I can feel it. It is like the feeling that comes to people who have longstanding exercise routines interrupted for some extended period. They begin to have a strange internal omission, a stressor they are unable to put their fingers on until they hit their treadmills. Once they hit them, they feel an immediate relief and satisfaction. An ahhh moment.

If we are too busy to think, then we are too busy. And if we are too busy to read, then we are too busy.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

They will know you by your… porn?

This piece by Jared Wilson hurts, but it’s necessary to read:

We may flood to the area hotels next month and outwardly demonstrate a solid witness for the gospel, and then put a black eye on the church, thinking viewing pornography in our hotel room is easy, confidential, and inconsequential. Will the church stun the managers of the Rosen Shingle Creek with its porn consumption next month?

Sex, God, and a Generation That Can’t Tell the Difference

Chris Martin:

Grossman quotes Robert Jones, the CEO of PRRI as saying, “Millennials seem reluctant to make blanket black-and-white moral pronouncements about issues they see as complex.” That’s where this idea of the “don’t judge generation” comes from. It’s true, Millennials seem reluctant to make blanket black-and-white moral pronouncements about complex issues, and that’s exactly how they are judgmental. Millennials don’t just keep from making black-and-white statement themselves, they think that it is morally reprehensible and “discriminatory” for anyone to make black-and-white moral pronouncements about these issues.

The only thing Millennials are black-and-white on when it comes to matters of sexual morality is that you aren’t allowed to be black-and-white on sexual morality.

Tools for Making War Against Spiritual Warfare

Jason Garwood:

If we are going to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ then we must equip our soldiers with appropriate tools to do battle. Soldiers who are unequipped or even ill-equipped with no tools, or faulty tools, will do great harm to themselves and others. If we as disciples who make other disciples (this is, after all, our commission) are going to win the battle against the flesh and the enemy, we must make war.

A Good Assistant Pastor Is Hard to Find

Jason Helopoulos:

A good assistant pastor must be marked by the same things as any other pastor. He must possess a love for God, his Word, and his people. He needs to be strong and winsome, a teacher yet teachable, a man of prayer and action. Yet, he also must possess additional qualities. He is not only called to serve the congregation, but also the senior pastor. Whatever his “job description” may be, he must understand that he is assisting. This is essential. Here are some things a good assistant pastor is marked by, traits that, Lord willing, I will strive to acquire more and more of in my life and ministry.

If Pixar made a Star Wars movie…

…would it be something like this?

HT: Stephen Altrogge

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 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

Justification by reading doesn’t work either

justification-books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

#BaptistValentineCard

Because if you can’t laugh at yourself…

Enjoy:

Truth-Telling and the News Media

Lee Webb:

I’ve taken more than a passing interest in the story since I share a couple of things in common with Mr. Williams. First, before coming to Ligonier Ministries, I spent nineteen years in a position similar to his, as the lead news anchor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Second, during an earlier stint as a news anchor for a local station in Jacksonville, Florida, I was suspended without pay. Station management didn’t take kindly to me telling a group of politically active Christians that I believed the news media had a bias against them. So, I can relate to Brian when he admits, “I am presently too much a part of the news.” Some observations regarding the current controversy.

Lee Strobel’s Crisis of Faith

Dan Darling’s interview with Lee Strobel is really great.

Is It Right For Christians To Call Our Enemies “Savages”?

Derek Rishmawy:

“Savage” is the term that some Christians, or simply Westerners, used to justify their colonial conquest of indigenous peoples who didn’t have the proper sort of cultures, forms of dress, or skin colors. Without sitting on too high of a horse as we look back on our forebears, we have to remember that some considered it part of the White Man’s Burden to conquer the savages, educate them, and give them the Truth of Western culture so that they might not have to dwell in the darkness of their former bestiality. If some had to be killed, enslaved, or tortured in order for that to happen, well, so be it. Cultural heroism required bearing a heavy load and doing what is necessary to ennoble humanity as a whole.

How Hardcore Of A New Calvinist Are You?

A quiz by Stephen Altrogge.

W-ORD Channel 7 News

This is just fun:

10 Questions on Dating with Matt Chandler

Interesting stuff.