Links I like

Christians, We Are Repenters

Trevin Wax:

When I was living in Romania and learning the language, one of the first words I encountered was pocăit. Roughly translated, it means “repenter.” It was a derogatory label given to evangelical believers last century. There were cultural “Christians,” and then there were pocăiții - “repenters” who believed an ongoing life of repentance was essential to the Christian life.

As a Baptist, I was one of the repenters. What separated our church from cultural Christianity we came into contact with was our insistence on repentance in response to God’s unmerited favor. In light of God’s grace, we called people to repent of their sins, their self-justification, and devote themselves wholly to Christ.

Idolatry in corporate worship

Bob Kauflin:

What’s your greatest hindrance to worshiping God as you gather with the church for corporate worship?

I can think of a number of possible answers: Our song leader isn’t very experienced. The liturgy is too stifling. The band sounds bad. The preacher is uninspiring. Our church is too small. Or, Our church is too big.

While I don’t want to minimize the importance of faithful planning, musical skill, and wise leadership, our greatest problem when it comes to worshiping God doesn’t lie outside us, but within our own hearts. It’s the problem of idolatry.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Yesterday I shared a great big list of books. Here are a few new deals:

The Fate of Richard Dawkins

Brendan O’Neill:

Dawkins is forever landing himself in hot water over his tweets. He’s tweeted about how few Nobel Prizes Muslims have won, followed by a barb disguised as a compliment: “They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” He’s tweeted his bamboozlement as to why the New Statesman employed a practising Muslim as its political editor. His tweets are generously peppered with exclamation marks and CAPITAL LETTERS and hectoring phraseology, making it pretty clear that we are getting a glimpse into his unedited thoughts, into the inner recesses of his mind, into that part of the human brain that has always existed – the bovine, often prejudiced bit – but which until recent times was not given public expression. We are seeing how Dawkins’s mind works prior to his exercise of thought and self-editing, and it isn’t pretty.

Is God a Pluralist?

Derek Rishmawy:

It was in my freshman composition class at the University of California, Irvine, that I first heard a professor say, “Well, you know, most of the differences in religion don’t matter. The main point is that God just wants all is just to love each other, right?” It’s a claim that’s become increasingly familiar to me ever since.

But is it true? Is God indifferent to religion? Does he care how he’s worshiped? In other words, is God a pluralist?

Links I like

Re: Mark Driscoll

Jared Wilson:

Pastor Mark, if you’re reading this — you are losing us. Forget about the “haters.” We ain’t them. We are the ones who love you, who want to see you succeed and prevail. And we won’t stop, no matter what tribe you’re in or which conference stage you take. But we want you to take responsibility for your actions and your attitude. It does not commend grace. We want you to walk in repentance. We want you to seek the way of Christ in more humility, to drop the image and the posturing, and remind us of what drew us to you in the first place: the fame of Christ’s name, not the protection of your own. What would the truth of the gospel have you do? What would adorn the gospel? What would make Jesus look big? I believe it would be a reversal of the trajectory of pride you have been on. I’m asking you to turn around and show us why we were so drawn to you in the beginning. I’m asking you to show us Jesus. He has become lost in your shadow.

The Gossip Rag of the Reformed World

Tim Challies:

I had an idea! What if I rebrand this site Reformed People and make it the gossip rag, the tabloid, of the Reformed world? This much is true: I would never run out of people to discuss and evaluate. Just last week I received emails or phone calls concerning at least five open and active people issues, celebrity issues, that I could write about. And those are only the ones I can remember a week later. I won’t rebrand, of course, but the point is, there could be a site dedicated only to gossip and people news that concerns our little corner of the Christian world. Worst of all, I think people might actually read it.

What Must You Leave Behind?

Kevin DeYoung:

What must we leave behind if we are to follow Christ?

The simplest answer is that we must leave behind idolatry. That’s the very first commandment—you shall have no other gods before me. They don’t have to be obvious representations of the divine; they don’t have to be stone or wood or marble. There are all sorts of gods: education, athletics, marriage, choice, power, self-expression, beauty, achievement. Whatever you give your whole life for, there’s your idol.

What If Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter?

Mike Leake:

“Everybody’s opinion is valid,” said the teacher as she parroted the curriculum. It was one of those happy-feely Monday’s where the school was trying to help us love one another, accept differences, and play nice. We likely would have sang Kumbaya if it wasn’t so offensive to the atheists.

One of my wise-cracking friends asked what I thought was a pretty solid question. “What if my opinion is that no other opinion is valid?”

I don’t remember her answer. And I didn’t really care, nor did the kid asking the question. We just wanted to laugh. But I actually think that he had a good point. What if everybody’s opinion really isn’t valid?

What makes a person divisive?

It doesn’t take an in-depth understanding of the New Testament to see an important truth:

God really isn’t pleased with divisive people.

A totally unexpected and mind-blowing truth, I know. In Paul’s day, there were many who were stirring up division and dissension; the super-apostles in Corinth, the Judaizers in Galatia, former ministry colleagues throughout the land who’d abandoned the gospel…

These are some of the examples of overtly divisive people—but you don’t have to be someone who’s openly defying the Lord and proclaiming a false gospel while seeking to destroy God’s people to be divisive.

Being divisive is a lot easier than you think. In fact, you might be a divisive person and not even realize it.

All it takes is a little bit of pride.

My wife and I both love to be right. And it’s usually over the most trivial matters. In our efforts to help ourselves recognize our behavior, we’ve given it a title: being the rightest person in the room. It’s a silly term, but it helps snap us back to reality when we’re getting ridiculous.

Imagine, though, if we didn’t do this. Our meaningless debates would escalate into a serious conflict eventually. We’d dig our heels in, refuse to give ground and, sooner or later, say something we’d regret.

That’s why we need safety measures in our lives. We need silly names to defuse our own goofiness. We need people who can call us on our guff and tell us to chill out.

This is what I’ve seen people desperately needing in the recent Driscoll ballyhoo, on both sides. The folks who are looking to lynch him need to look at themselves for a second. It’s not that the idolatry of celebrity isn’t a crucial issue (it is), but what does the response of many say about the state of their own hearts?

Remember the behavior Paul charged Titus to teach: “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). Does the delight some seem to take in thrashing this particular person online reflect this kind of attitude? Worse, do they think it’s really going to help him be responsive to legitimate concern and attempts at correction?

When you look at a guy like Driscoll, it’s not hard to make a case that he’s a divisive figure—but are the rest of us any better? There’s a certain extent to which we’re all that guy. The difference is, we just don’t get as much airtime, and it’s but by the grace of God that we are not also being torn apart by people who, arguably, care little to nothing for us as people. Who don’t necessarily want us to get better, but just don’t want us to have a voice anymore.

But we ought to remember that, as Paul says, all of God’s people “were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). This is what God rescues us from. Why sink back into that kind of divisiveness?

The Greatest Gifts Can Become Deadly Substitutes for God

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18–20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, 14-15.

HT: Adrian Warnock

Ministry Idolatry

A great excerpt from Mark Driscoll’s message from the Advance09 conference:

The full length video is available below & is well worth spending an hour or so watching. In it, Driscoll asks 11 questions about ministry idolatry:

  1. Attendance idolatry: Does your joy change when your attendance does?
  2. Gift idolatry: Do you feel that God needs you and uses you because you are so skilled?
  3. Truth idolatry: Do you consider yourself more righteous than more simple Christians?
  4. Fruit idolatry: Do you point to your success as evidence of God’s approval of you?
  5. Method idolatry: Do you worship your method as your mediator?
  6. Tradition idolatry: What traditions are you upholding that are thwarting the forward progress of the gospel?
  7. Office idolatry: Are you motivated primarily by God’s glory or your title?
  8. Success idolatry: Is winning what motivates you at the deepest level?
  9. Ministry idolatry: Do you use the pressure of ministry to make you walk with God?
  10. Innovative idolatry: Does it matter to you that your ministry be considered unique?
  11. Leader idolatry: Who, other than Christ, are you imaging?

Sermon Audio: True and False Worship

On Sunday, July 11th, I once again had the opportunity to preach at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. The message is from Romans 1:18-25, True and False Worship.

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The abbreviated transcript follows for those who need/prefer:

The last time I was here, I spoke on obedience and how obedience—to God’s Word, for His Glory—is the evidence of the Christian life. That message has weighed heavily on me since I was last here and as I’ve examined my own life in light of it, I’ve been left with a question: If obedience is the evidence of what we worship, who or what am I worshipping? Is it God or something else?

What we’re going to discover together is this:

Because God is the only One worthy of our praise, we must examine our lives and discover who or what we truly worship. [Read more...]

Truth and Lies: Mark Driscoll – Pastoral Care and One-ism

Mark Driscoll’s final session focused on how One-ism and idolatry’s effect on pastoral care. In this session, Driscoll offered five steps to pastoral care.

1. Uncover the Enslaving Idol

“Traditional counseling starts and stops at the level of behavior. [It’s] behavior modification instead of transformation,” says Driscoll.

Under all sin is idolatry, according to 2 Pet. 2:19. There is no freedom in sin. “Sin is simply choosing you master, but it’s not freedom.”

Addiction is the secular language for the biblical language of slavery. Those who commit adultery worship and are slaves to sex. Sluggards worship and are enslaved to comfort. Those who are proud worship and are enslaved to themselves. Gamblers worship and are enslaved to luck, which is the name of an ancient Greek god…

“We worship our way into idolatry and must worship our way out,” says Driscoll. “Martin Luther said, ‘If your heart cleaves to anything else… you have another God.’ You can have ‘a state of God’ rather than a real God. And when you face adversity, it’s where you go.”

2. Find the Demonic Lie

Jesus says that Satan is a liar and he is the father of lies. “Idols promise good, but they deceive,” says Driscoll.

[Your job says] ‘If you worship me, I’ll make you successful.’ So you worship your job. [Your hobbies and shopping say] ‘If you worship me I’ll make you happy.’ So you pour yourself into the recreational activity, buy the shoes, buy the car.

The lie says it will bring you closer to God. “If you sing these songs; go to this school; go to this church; read these books…  All these can become false saviors.”

Another is, “You need to be true to yourself.”  Driscoll comments, “While we should be authentic, sometimes we need to repent of being true to ourselves and be true to Jesus.”

You need to love yourself is another lie. But this, says Driscoll, is simply the cult of self-esteem. [Read more...]

Truth and Lies: Mark Driscoll – One-ism in Culture

In his first lecture, Mark Driscoll addressed how we are created to reflect, mirror and image God, but through our sin, we have a proclivity to, rather than reflect God, fall into one of two idolatrous options.

The first is that we worship ourselves. “This is, perhaps best evidenced by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In his hierarchy, Maslow says that our greatest need is self-actualization,” says Driscoll.

Our second option is to we worship other people. This accounts for rise of celebrity culture.

Radio personality Dr. Drew Pinsky has come across this condition that people are suffering from the effects of mirroring other people. We no longer have role models, we have celebrities.

What we need, Driscoll argues, are role models. People would live an exemplary life, a model life, and we would imitate them (cf. Hebrews 13). You don’t worship them, but you learn from them how to be a better mirror. (As an aside, Driscoll is impressed that in God’s common grace and general revelation, the non-Christian radio host can identify the same problem that Scripture reveals, even if his solutions are different.)

“Today we have celebrities. They’re not role models. They’re infamous for bad behavior. But they haven’t done anything,” says Driscoll. “‘The only way to become a celebrity is to do something extreme,’ says Dr. Drew in The Mirror Effect. There’s a cultural appetite for more extreme examples.” [Read more...]

Truth and Lies: Mark Driscoll – One-ism vs Two-ism

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church is borderline infamous. His blunt and sometimes brash style of expository preaching has made his sermon feeds one of the top of the iTunes charts—and made him the internet’s piñata.

As the co-host of The Exchange, Driscoll covered the topic of one-ism vs. two-ism, primarily focusing on the realm of popular culture over two sessions, with his third session devoted how one-ism affects pastoral care. This post relates the big ideas of the first session (although I unfortunately missed the first half of session one due to a meeting).

Driscoll focused primarily on what it means to be a worshipper, and simply that we are all worshippers all the time. It’s what we’re created for—and also what we were created as.

We were created to reflect, mirror, image God in creation, says Driscoll. However, through sin, we have a proclivity to worship created things rather than our Creator God.

This is most apparent today in our “sacred culture,” the marks of which are:

  1. The myths that define life
  2. Community
  3. Sacred ritual

These aspects show up in most every area of our lives.

Music. We follow our favorite bands; we sing their songs, we buy all their records. When they make a bad one, we’re in music hell. Concerts are worship events.

Sports. We worship teams, dress up like our favorite athletes by wearing the same jersey and number. Our worship activities start up a few blocks away as we walk to the stadium and talk about what’s going to happen. “People won’t even drive to your church, but they’ll walk to the ball park,” says Driscoll. There are sacred spaces, such as “the hallowed ground of old Yankee Stadium.” If your team is winning, you’re in heaven. If it’s losing, you’re in hell. [Read more...]

The Default Mode of the Human Heart

A thought-provoking clip from Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon Jesus the Sabbath Lord:

At Mars Hill, I wrote this down, I think the campuses that are most susceptible to religion and to legalism are the Federal Way Campus, the Olympia Campus, the West Seattle Campus, the Bellevue Campus, the Lake City Campus, the Shoreline Campus, and the Albuquerque Campus ‘cause it’s steeped, that whole city is, in Catholicism. I’ll go on record and say it. Legalism and religion are real threats to the health and well-being of those campuses.

Now for Ballard, Downtown, and the UW Campuses, the real threat and risk is reverse legalism. “Oh, they don’t drink? We’re gonna drink. Oh, they don’t smoke? We’ll smoke a pack a day to show our freedom in Christ.” Right? “Oh, they tithe, we’re not gonna tithe. That’s how free in Christ we are. Oh, they serve, well, we’re not any of that kind of works theology, we have a nap theology. We sleep like Calvinists. We don’t do anything, Jesus said, ‘It’s finished.’ So we’re done. Oh, they read their Bible every day, oh, that’s a lot.

Yeah, we don’t have a list like that, yeah, we’re not legalists. We don’t read the Bible at all. Don’t want to get all religious, read a book or pray or serve or care or give. We’re free in Christ. Anybody see my pants? I go to the Ballard campus,” right? We can be total reverse legalists. “Oh, that church doesn’t use instruments, we got a punk band, yee-haw, thank you, Jesus,” right?

And we can just be reverse legalists, and we could appoint ourselves as judges. We could judge all the religious people, and we could condemn them, and we could feel holier than they are because they’re trying so hard, and we don’t do anything. [Read more...]

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

Title: Counterfeit Gods
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton

In recent years Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, has become quite a prolific author. And his latest offering may be his most important book yet.

Counterfeit Gods explores the empty promises by the idols found in the human heart—sex, money, power, pride—and our only hope of experiencing true satisfaction and fulfillment in the gospel.

Making Gods

“[An idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give,” writes Keller (p. xvii). It’s a broad definition, but fitting. As Keller rightly says, “Anything in life can serve as an idol, a God-alternative, a counterfeit god” (p. xvi).

It’s easy for us to think about idols as being statues in a temple somewhere “over there” (wherever that is). But if it’s true that anything can be an idol, it’s not nearly so simple. “The biblical concept of idolatry is an extremely sophisticated idea, integrating intellectual, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual categories.” (p. xix). Romantic love, sex, physical beauty, moral virtue, intellectual ideologies, profit, self-expression… “There are idols everywhere” (p. xxi).

They are the things we love, trust and obey, even at the expense of our relationship with Jesus. “Idols dominate our lives,” says Keller.

Throughout the book, Keller illustrates the insidiousness of idolatry through the biblical accounts of Abraham, Jacob, Zacchaeus, Naaman, Nebudchadnezzar and Jonah. The lives of each show us a pattern of idolatry: For Abraham, his son Isaac had the potential to be a powerful idol; for Jacob, his grandson, it was love as illustrated by his obsession with Rachel and behavior reminiscent of an addict. For Zacchaeus, it was money. For Naaman, success; Nebudchadnezzar, glory & power. And Jonah—well, his idols were perhaps the most complex of all. [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (03/07)

Blaspheme Your Idols

Jared Wilson shares an excerpt from his next book, currently in progress:

A bride joined to her groom forsakes all others. She writes the spiritual equivalent of Dear John letters to her idols. When God’s love captivates you, you go around spurning all your other lovers. I call this “blaspheming” your idols.

Blaspheme them. Tell them they have no appeal to you any more. Tell them you don’t need their damage, their pain, their anti-glories. Tell them you have no desires to use and abuse them any more. Tell them your heart, mind, soul, and strength belong wholly to God now. And then don’t speak as a lover to them ever again. Sinful relationships must end.

Read the whole thing. It’s well worth it.

In other news

TWO free audiobooks this month at ChristianAudio.comThe Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (code: MAR2010) and Fifty Reasons why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper (code: MAR2010B). Enjoy!

The New Possibilities in Book Publishing and the Implications of New Media

Would you “Friend” the Apostle Paul?

2010 Band of Bloggers: Internet Idolatry & Gospel Fidelity

Timmy Brister has announced the details of the 4th Band of Bloggers fellowship that will take place in conjunction with the 2010 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

The theme for this year’s meeting is “Internet Idolatry and Gospel Fidelity.” With the advent of new media and the increasing influence of technology on our lives, it is important to address the relationship of the gospel to technology, especially the areas where we are tempted with idolatrous desire (power, identity, influence, acceptance, control, etc.).  While the internet, with all of its platforms (such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be a powerful tool to leverage our lives for the gospel impact, we want to examine our hearts to bring to light the various ways in which the idol factory of our hearts challenges and subverts the very gospel which we long to embrace.

Go to the Band of Bloggers website for more info and to register.

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Tass Saada’s Once an Arafat Man

Jude: Contending for our Common Salvation

How to Build a God

Spurgeon on the fruit of humility

B.B. Warfield reminds us that we can’t move beyond the gospel

How to Build a God

All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Remember these things, O Jacob,
     and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
     O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
     and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

— Isaiah 44:9-22

HT: The Resurgence

My Bible, My Idol?

Bible-Idol

The other day I was reading a pastor’s blog post about turning the Bible into an idol, specifically with regard to the Conservative Bible Project (while you won’t find the comments section all that helpful, the post itself raises a few good points).

Every once in a while I’ll see the accusation of “bibliolatry” thrown out in a book or a blog—often as a shot at those who would hold to an Evangelical understanding of Scripture (that it is the word of God, authoritative & free of error in all that it teaches). My pastor was once accused of bibliolatry, for example, simply because he preaches the text and believes we should obey the commands of God (cf 1 John 2:1-6).

Funny thing, that.

Anyway, as I’ve been thinking about bibliolatry, I’ve been wondering if what people who could be accused of this are not making an idol of the Bible, but rather making an idol out of a preference or position? [Read more...]