Links I like

It multiplied

Ray Ortlund:

I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one.

What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking About Q Nashville

Hunter Baker:

When I look at Q, its hosts, and the young people participating in it, I suspect I am seeing the cultural stance of those who have grown up in pervasively Christian subcultures. For them, rebelling means rebelling against Massive Baptist Church or Church Related University or Clearly Wealthy Famous Preacherman. Those are the holders of power in their world. It is little wonder to them that the dominant culture dislikes us. We are hypocrites. We don’t measure up to our own standards. And we are judgmental while the secular world is more understanding. Or so it seems to them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway has a number of wonderful books by J.I. Packer on sale this week:

Also on sale:

Finally, a few books by Stephen Altrogge are on for 99¢ each:

Celebrities Are Not Commodities

Richard Clark:

Between movies, television shows, pop music, websites, and podcasts, our lives are full of background noise created by and in service to celebrities. Even if you’re not obsessed with Hollywood and tabloid culture, you’ve no doubt been a little too excited about being in the same room with your favorite pastor, writer, or theologian.

The reality of celebrity throws a wrench into our well-oiled mastery of relationships. We may have learned to restrain our judgment of those closest to us, to give those around us the benefit of the doubt, and to show grace to those who sin against us. We might have learned not to keep a record of wrongs. We might have learned to forgive our friends 777 times. We allow ourselves to continue in friendships that inconvenience and disturb us, because that’s what Jesus would have done. But all of this is exhausting. We need a break.

10 Ingredients Of A Happy Home

David Murray:

One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the cultivation of a happy home. I say “cultivation” because it doesn’t happen automatically; it requires conscious, determined, deliberate effort. From my own experience and from observing others, here are ten ways to cultivate a happy home.

The Church Needs More Tattoos

Russell Moore:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) often tells audiences, “Republican Party events need more people with tattoos.” It struck me, as I heard him say this, that this is kind of what evangelical Christians ought to be saying about our churches. It struck me further when I read this tribute my former student Spencer Harmon wrote about his new wife and her past that this is precisely the issue facing the next generation of the Bride of Christ, the church.

What Paul (the senator, not the Apostle) means, it seems, is that his party, if it is to have a future, shouldn’t count on just doing the same thing it’s always done, and it can’t rely on people who look like what people think Republicans ought to look like. The party must expand out to people whose pictures don’t currently show up in a Google image search for “Republican.” There are people, Paul says, who agree with the Republican message, in theory, but who pay no attention to it because they assume they aren’t the kind of people the party wants to talk to.

Authority in Christianity belongs to God

holding-bible-lr

The Christian principle of biblical authority means, on the one hand, that God purposes to direct the belief and behavior of his people through the revealed truth set forth in Holy Scripture; on the other hand it means that all our ideas about God should be measured, tested, and where necessary corrected and enlarged, by reference to biblical teaching. Authority as such is the right, claim, fitness, and by extension power, to control. Authority in Christianity belongs to God the Creator, who made us to know, love, and serve him, and his way of exercising his authority over us is by means of the truth and wisdom of his written Word. As from the human standpoint each biblical book was written to induce more consistent and wholehearted service of God, so from the divine standpoint the entire Bible has this purpose. And since the Father has now given the Son executive authority to rule the cosmos on his behalf (Matt. 28:18), Scripture now functions precisely as the instrument of Christ’s lordship over his followers. All Scripture is like Christ’s letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2–3) in this regard.

J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

evangelism sovereignty packer

The mysterious “they” say the greatest fear of many people—even more than death!—is public speaking. Standing before an audience, whether it’s a group of three or three hundred, is absolutely terrifying for some. But you know something? I think there’s something else that’s far more terrifying, especially for Christians:

Evangelism.

So many of us seem to be terrified of the idea of sharing our faith—we don’t know how to do it, we don’t want to do it “wrong.” But for some of us, our questions about evangelism aren’t simply of the “how-to” variety—they’re all about the “why”:

If God is truly sovereign over all of creation, why do we need to evangelize at all?

Does active evangelism suggest God isn’t really as sovereign as we think?

All of us at one time or another ask these questions, even if it’s only to ourselves. Many of us struggle to see how an all-sovereign God could require human beings to be involved in the work of salvation. At our worst, some fall prey to the notion that we have no need to evangelize at all, while others find themselves without any confidence that God will indeed save some.

J.I. Packer’s classic book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, is a sharp corrective to both of these errors. God’s sovereignty is not a barrier to evangelism, Packer argues. Instead, “faith in the sovereignty of God’s government and grace is the only thing that can sustain it, for it is the only thing that can give us the resilience that we need if we are to evangelize boldly and persistently, and not be daunted by temporary setbacks” (10). [Read more…]

Links I like

When theology wasn’t dull

John G. Stackhouse Jr:

In my first sermon, I wanted to aim high. So I plagiarized from Knowing God, by J. I. Packer.

I was to preach for the first time to my home church in northern Ontario, having returned from a year of Bible school. I wanted to make good in the eyes of those who had discipled me, so I drew on the best book of theology I had ever read—which, of course, meant the best of about a dozen.

Nelson Mandela and the Ironies of History

Albert Mohler:

When it comes to human rights and human dignity, Nelson Mandela has to be put on the side of the heroes, not only of the 20th century, but of any recent century. He is, as an ironic view of history would remind us, one of those necessary men. A necessary man who nonetheless is a man whose feet were made of clay, as his biography reveals very clearly.

New eBook deals from Crossway

Also on sale:

A Call to Complementarians

Tyler Braun:

Complementarianism at its core believes that men and women were created to have complementary (read: “different roles and responsibilities within marriage, family life, religious leadership to enhance the qualities of the whole) roles. Many complementarians take this then to believe men were created to teach, lead, etc, while women were created to nurture, support, etc. The over-riding perspective as it comes to church leadership is that complementarians see male-headship as the prescriptive model based on Scripture.

Many complementarians would choose to just ignore other perspectives, declaring them unbiblical, possibly even heretical. However, many godly men and women have come to opposing viewpoints, it only harms the body of Christ when we choose to take uncharitable perspectives toward others within the body.

The Questions of Gay Marriage: How serious a concern is homosexuality?

Matthew Lee Anderson:

How important does Scripture seem to think homosexuality is?  It’s common these days to minimize the concern about this particular question before addressing it on grounds that Scripture says very little that is explicit about the subject, even if the now infamous six explicit verses are all negative.

That’s the claim that Richard Hays makes in his massively influential Moral Vision of the New Testament, at any rate.  He suggests there that “In terms of emphasis, [homosexual behavior] is a minor concern—in contrast, for example, to economic injustice.”

Evangelism is the enterprise of love

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

I remember some time ago, my wife and I were watching a documentary that featured some pretty unusual ideas about evangelism. A so-called evangelist was interviewed and boldly proclaimed that she could get anyone to come to Christ “like that.” Her attitude was smug and self-serving—she seemed far more concerned about getting notches on her belt than properly proclaiming the gospel.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but sadly it’s anything but. I remember sitting in a worship gathering and being told quite emphatically that if we, the congregation members, weren’t each leading five people to Christ every year, we were failing in our duties as a Christian. The mindset was all about numbers, and honestly, made it even harder for me to actually share my faith with anyone.

What if I did it wrong? What if people didn’t respond? What if what if what if…

Looking back, I realize that the issue surrounding much of this mindset stems from having the wrong motivation. It’s not bad to want to see lots of people come to Christ through your personal ministry, but if we’re fixated on counting exactly how many, we’ll be disappointed. Evangelism becomes about me, and not about others. And this is why I so appreciate what J.I. Packer says in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God:

It must never be forgotten that the enterprise required of us in evangelism is the enterprise of love: an enterprise that springs from a genuine interest in those whom we seek to win, and a genuine care for their well-being, and expresses itself in a genuine respect for them and a genuine friendliness toward them. One sometimes meets a scalp-hunting zeal in evangelism, both in the pulpit and on the personal level, which is both discreditable and alarming. It is discreditable, because it reflects, not love and care nor the desire to be of help, but arrogance and conceit and pleasure in having power over the lives of others. It is alarming, because it finds expression in a ferocious psychological pummeling of the poor victim, which may do great damage to sensitive and impressionable souls. But if love prompts and rules our evangelistic work, we shall approach other people in a different spirit. If we truly care for them, and if our hearts truly love and fear God, then we shall seek to present Christ to them in a way that is both honoring to God and respectful to them. We shall not try to violate their personalities, or exploit their weaknesses, or ride roughshod over their feelings. What we shall be trying to do, rather, is to show them the reality of our friendship and concern by sharing with them our most valuable possession. And this spirit of friendship and concern will shine through all that we say to them, whether in the pulpit or in private, however drastic and shattering the truths that we tell them may be.

The enterprise of evangelism is the enterprise of love. Our motivation isn’t numbers or acclaim from within our own circles, but to express our love for Jesus by telling the lost about Jesus. We speak in a way that is honoring to Jesus, is respectful to our hearers, and we leave the results in God’s hands.

All Who He Has Saved Are His Brothers

The second connection in which the New Testament speaks of God as Father has to do wiht the believing sinner’s adoption into the life of God’s family. This is a supernatural gift of grace, linked with justification and new birth, given freely by God and received humbly by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. “To all who received him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born . . . of God . . .” (John 1:12ff). The message Jesus sent to his disciples on rising from the dead was: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). As disciples, they belonged to the family; indeed, in that very sentence Jesus called them “my brethren.” All whom he has saved are his brothers.

When the Christian says the first clause of the [Apostles’] Creed, he will put all this together and confess his Creator as both the Father of his Savior and his own Father through Christ—a Father who now loves him no less than he loves his only begotten Son. That is a marvelous confession to be able to make.

J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ, p. 29

All Whom He has Saved are His Brothers

The second connection in which the New Testament speaks of God as Father has to do with the believing sinner’s adoption into the life of God’s family. This is a supernatural gift of grace, linked with justification and new birth, given freely by God and received humbly by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. “To all who received him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God who were born . . . of God . . .” (John 1:12ff). The message Jesus sent to his disciples on rising from the dead was: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). As disciples, they belonged to the family; indeed, in that very sentence Jesus called them “my brethren.” All whom he has saved are his brothers.

When the Christian says the first clause of the [Apostles’] Creed, he will put all this together and confess his Creator as both the Father of his Savior and his own Father through Christ—a Father who now loves him no less than he loves his only begotten Son. That is a marvellous confession to be able to make.

J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ, p. 29

Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett

Title: Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way
Authors: J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett
Publisher: Baker Books (2010)

In Jr. High, I had a friend name Charlie. He was a pretty good guy and had great parents. He also had a Nintendo, which was a pretty big deal even as far back as 1991. Anyway, I remember asking him one day what he was doing after school, and he said, “Ugh, I’ve got to go to catechism.” His family was Catholic (I think), so he had to do this catechism thing until his confirmation (which I’d also never heard of).

Whatever catechism was, it sounded positively dreadful (after all, think of all the Nintendo he was missing out on…)

Likewise, in modern evangelical circles, the idea of catechism is shunned. It’s too Catholic, too dry, too dull. Instead, we rely primarily on self-learning, children’s church and sparsly-attended adult Sunday School classes for our doctrinal formation.

J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett want to change that. In Grounded in the Gospel, the authors strive to illustrate the biblical foundations of catechism and provide helpful outlines for how we can integrate it into our churches’ ministries. As they work they build their case, the picture of catechism they describe is anything but dreadful—for one who desires to know more about the Christian faith, it can be downright exhilarating.

I greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness and thoroughness the authors applied to the subject, particularly as they wrestled first with the historical and biblical foundations of catechism. Because in many evangelical circles, there is a discomfort about the idea of doing things because of historical tradition, it is essential to understand that the idea of catechism finds its roots in Scripture. The authors explain that the our word “catechesis” is derived from the New Testament word for “teaching,” katēcheō. Jesus, according to the authors, was and is the model catechist. And to catechize is to not only follow His example, but to obey His command (p. 49, c.f. Matt. 28:20).

After establishing the foundation, Packer and Parrett move to the content. If catechism is a biblical idea, what then, should its content be? Again, their breakdown of content in both the macro and micro is extremely helpful. [Read more…]

Around the Interweb (09/26)

More than a view of Scripture

When you encounter a present-day view of Holy Scripture, you encounter more than a view of Scripture.  What you meet is a total view of God and the world, that is, a total theology, which is both an ontology, declaring what there is, and an epistemology, stating how we know what there is.  This is necessarily so, for a theology is a seamless robe, a circle within which everything links up with everything else through its common grounding in God.  Every view of Scripture, in particular, proves on analysis to be bound up with an overall view of God and man.

J. I. Packer, The Foundation of Biblical Authority, p. 61.

HT: Ray Ortlund

In Other News

Theology: Ben Reed offers a list of what God owes you

Books: Enjoy a preview of John Piper’s latest, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. (HT: JT)

Bible: Who’s afraid of Inerrancy?

In Case You Missed It

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

Matt Chandler talks about an epic beatdown

A review of Bryant Wright’s Seeds of Turmoil

Always get to the gospel

I didn’t want to go to church anymore (but I was wrong)

Around the Interweb (05/09)

Albert Mohler on Franklin Graham being Disinvited from the Pentagon

May 6th marked the United States’ National Day of Prayer—with Franklin Graham leading prayer at the Pentagon.

Outside, after being disinvited two weeks previously due to his commitment to biblical Christianity.

Albert Mohler provided some thoughtful commentary regarding the situation on his website:

Evangelical Christians in the United States had better see a big challenge staring us in the face. Franklin Graham was disinvited by the Pentagon for making statements that are required by faithfulness to the gospel of Christ. As reports make clear, it is not just his statements about Islam being prone to violence that cause offense, it is his statements that Islam is wicked because it does not lead to salvation in Christ that cause the greatest offense.

The Pentagon failed its test, but many more tests will follow. Faithful witness to Christ requires an honest statement about what any false system of belief represents — a form of idolatry and false teaching that leads to eternal damnation. There may be more and less offensive ways of saying that, but there is no way to remove the basic offense to the current cultural mind.

In reality, every evangelical preacher and every individual Christian will face this question — and probably sooner rather than later.

Read the rest.

HT: Z

In Other News

Mohler & Dever: How Expositional Preaching Protects Pastors

Justin Taylor interviews Mark Driscoll about his new book, Doctrine

BloodMoney – the provocative trailer for a new documentary on abortion:

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Pete Wilson’s new book, Plan B

Fear, complacency and the evangelical middle road

Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who were not sinned against?

When “finishing well” isn’t finished well

J.I. Packer: “What makes a man of God is first and foremost his vision of God. . . . So what did Nehemiah believe about the one whom ten times over, six times in transcribed prayers, he calls ‘my God’?”

J.I. Packer: Nehemiah's God

 

What makes a man of God is first and foremost his vision of God, and it will help us to know Nehemiah better if at this point we look at his beliefs about God, as his book reveals them. . . . So what did Nehemiah believe about the one whom ten times over, six times in transcribed prayers, he calls “my God”? 

[T]he God of Nehemiah is the transcendent Creator, the God “of heaven” ([Nehemiah] 1:4-5; 2:4, 20), self-sustaining, self-energizing, and eternal (“from everlasting to everlasting,” 9:5). . . . God was to Nehemiah the sublimest, most permanent, most pervasive, most intimate, most humbling, exalting and commanding of all realities. 

[T]he God of Nehemiah is Yahweh, “the LORD,” the covenant making, covenant-keeping, promise-fulfilling, faithful God of Israel (9:8, 32, 33). . . . The prayerful dependence on God that sustained Nehemiah throughout his leadership career, and that he so often verbalizes as his book goes along, was an expression in his faith in God’s covenantal commitment to him and to those he led, just as was his declaration as he arranged Jerusalem’s defenses, “Our God will fight for us!” (4:20). Nor was his faith in God’s faithfulness disappointed. Nehemiah’s God showed himself to be a faithful covenanter who did not let his servant down. 

[T]he God of Nehemiah is a God whose words of revelation are true and trustworthy. . . . God had told his people who he was, what he wanted from them, how he would react should they rebel, and what he would do should they come to their senses and repent after rebelling. 

“Remember,” prayed Nehemiah, “the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name” (1:8, alluding to Lev. 26, especially verse 33; Dt. 28:64 and 30:1-10, especially verse 4). . . . 

The Law that God gave his covenant people to show them how to please him was, for Nehemiah, the unchanging standard of righteousness, just as God’s promises were, for him, the unchanging basis of future hope and present confidence. 

These three convictions about God were most certainly the making of Nehemiah. Without them, he would never have cared enough about God’s honor in Jerusalem to pray that the city be restored, nor would he have sought the taxing and terrifying role of being the leader in that restoration, nor would he have had what it took to keep going in the face of all the apathy and animosity that his leadership encountered.

J. I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, pp. 37, 39-42 (emphasis mine) 

J.I. Packer: Without the Resurrection, the Bottom Drops Out of Christianity

The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas' betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

Suppose that Jesus, having died on the cross, had stayed dead. Suppose that, like Socrates or Confucius, he was now no more than a beautiful memory. Would it matter? We should still have his example and teaching; wouldn’t that be enough?

Enough for what?

Not for Christianity.

Had Jesus not risen, but stayed dead, the bottom would drop out of Christianity, for four things would then be true.

First, to quote Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:17: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Second, there is then no hope for our rising either; we must expect to stay dead too.

Third, if Jesus Christ is not risen, then he is not reigning and will not return and every single item in the [Apostles’] Creed after “suffered and was buried” will have to be struck out.

Fourth, Christianity cannot be what the first Christians thought it was—fellowship with a living Lord who is identical with the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus of the Gospels can still be your hero, but he cannot be your Savior. . . .

[Jesus’ resurrection] marked Jesus out as Son of God (Romans 1:4); it vindicated his righteousness (John 16:10); it demonstrated victory over death (Acts 2:24); it guaranteed the believer’s forgiveness and justification (1 Corinthians 15:17; Romans 4:25), and it brings him into the reality of resurrection life now (Romans 6:4).

Marvelous!

You could speak of Jesus’ rising as the most hopeful—hope-full—thing that has ever happened—and you would be right!

J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ, pp 59, 61 (paragraph breaks and emphasis mine)

Looking Back: My Favorite Books of 2009, part two

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are the second five books I’ve found to be the most helpful, meaningful and enjoyable, in no particular order (probably):

Agape Leadership
by Robert L. Peterson and Alexander Strauch

R.C. Chapman is relatively unknown today but a man all believers would do well to see a role model in our pursuit of holiness. In Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership from the Life of R.C. Chapman, authors Robert L. Peterson and Alexander Strauch introduce us to Chapman and his commitment to not only preaching Christ, but living Christ. And live Christ he did. This short and convicting read is a must for all who wish to grow in Christlike leadership.

Read the review | Order a copy

“Fundamentalism” and the Word of God
by J.I. Packer

“Fundamentalism” and the Word of God was first published 51 years in the midst of the British ”Fundamentalism” controversy of the 1950s—a controversy centering around the authority of Scripture. In this work, Packer offers rebuttal and sharp rebuke to those who would unwisely seek to sit in judgement of Scripture, who have fallen prey to perennial error of subjectivism, and reminds readers that as Christians, we are not to stop thinking, but to stop thinking sinfully.

Read the review | Order a copy

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment
by Tim Challies

We live in a culture where “anything goes” is the epitome of all wisdom, even in the church. That’s why author and blogger Tim Challies wrote The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment—a book for those who look at all that is said and done and ask the hard question, “how can this be right?”; for all who (rightly) believe it is “the duty of every Christian to think biblically about all areas of life so that they might act biblically in all areas of life.”

Read the review | Order a copy

Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions
by Mark Driscoll

Inspired by 1 Corinthians, Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle began the “Ask Anything” campaign on their website. 893 questions and 343,203 votes later, the top nine questions were selected for the sermon series, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, which was then reformatted and expanded into this book. Driscoll handles an extremely diverse and difficult series of subjects, including dating, sexual sin, grace, predestination, the emerging church and humor, all the while trying to point readers to the risen, exalted Christ. The result is a book that ended up being his most mature to date and one that I believe most anyone would benefit from.

Read the review in five parts: intro, parts one, twothree, and conclusion| Order a copy

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor
by D.A. Carson

I first read Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor in February, 2009, and I was amazed by the story of this “ordinary” pastor who is truly anything but. Learning about this man who, ultimately, never realized how far his influence reached (and I suspect wouldn’t really care)… He is a true hero of mine. Without question, this book is my favorite of 2009 and I’m grateful that D.A. Carson chose to honor his father with this memoir.

Read the review | Order a copy

And that wraps up my top ten of 2009 and there were other books that might have made the list if I did it again. Heck, I’ll probably think of one or two that should switch out tomorrow.

But what about you? What were your favorite reads of this past year?

Around the Interweb (12/06)

Elliot Grudem: Learning to Advent Together

Elliot Grudem completed a three-part series on why it’s actually helpful to celebrate Advent. Grudem readily admits that Scripture doesn’t require us to do anything different around Advent and celebrating it doesn’t make us more spiritual, but it does have some benefits:

Celebrating Advent helps us cut through all the distractions of the Christmas season and focus our attention on Jesus Christ’s birth and ministry as well as his promised return. Since we can’t anticipate the day or the hour of Christ’s return, we are filled with both a sense of joyful expectation and humble reverence, with our spiritual focus being on lives of prayer and preparation.

Throughout the season we are constantly reminded that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and Savior of the World.

The series is available at The Resurgence.


In Other News…

Kevin DeYoung asks the question, “Why did they kill Jesus?” and examines “The Gospel Old and New.”

Russell Moore says, “Jesus has AIDS.”

World Magazine interviews Evangelical scholar J.I. Packer who says he’s considering writing a systematic theology.


In Case You Missed It…

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

A review of Millard Erickson’s Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions

The final part of George Whitefield’s The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent

A couple of ideas for something to do instead of boycotting a business for Christmas