Your Cause Can’t Be More Important than Christ

Really appreciated this clip from a recent sermon in Mark Driscoll’s ongoing series on the gospel of Luke:

Transcript follows:

Now let me say this: the way you become religious is when you’re about your small-k kingdom instead of God’s capital-K Kingdom. That’s why Jesus brings it back to a theology of the kingdom. He looks and says, “Here’s how you get in trouble and become religious. Your kingdom, not mine. Your name, not mine. Your fame, not mine. Your glory, not mine.” It’s not about us, it’s all about Jesus. And what happens for those who are into their own kingdom, they replace Christ with cause. Okay, for the religious people here, they were into their kingdom, not Jesus’ kingdom. They were into their cause, not Christ. That’s the problem.

What’s your cause? What’s your thing? Some of you are single-issue voters. You really only care deeply about one thing. Some of you have causes that are more “Christian” in orientation. Children, midwives, homeschooling, Christian schooling, public schooling, school choice, conservative politics, pro-life. Certain kind of student ministry, youth ministry, family ministry. Certain kind of musical style. Certain theological system. Certain author. What’s your cause…? [Read more...]

Ministry Idolatry

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During the Advance conference several years ago, Mark Driscoll spoke on the issue of ministry idolatry. During his session, he asked the audience to consider eleven forms this idolatry can take:

  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?

Looking back on this message in light of how Driscoll’s ministry has unfolded, I can’t help but think they represent an irony: A good warning unheeded by its messenger. He knew the dangers that faced him, clearly. And yet, based on what we see taking place before us, he either lacked self-awareness or voices willing to lovingly warn him with his own words.

Now, whether he does (or has) truly heard and repented, only the Lord can say, and time will tell. But whatever happens, reflecting on these questions should remind us to not view any church leader who falls in a “Lord, thank you I am not like that guy,” sort of way. Instead, they should make us consider how each of us would respond if our friends or we were to fall prey to our own weakness.

If a friend falls, will we encourage people to pray for him and his family (which is right to do), as well as to pray for those he’s wronged (which is equally right and necessary, as Matt Redmond has reminded us)? This is hard in some ways, because it requires us to challenge the idol of our preconceived notions and also the idol of “credibility” (and the danger, again, as Redmond has pointed out, is when we fail to speak out about glaring abuses we actually lose that which we sought to keep).

But were we to fall, would we desperately cling to what we believed made us successful, pointing to the apparent fruit of our ministry, even as it all falls apart? Or would we let it go, repenting of our sin and looking to Jesus as something greater than any success we might have had?

For me, perhaps because I’ve not had much success from many perspectives—my books aren’t bestsellers, my blog doesn’t pull in hundreds of thousands of readers each month and I rarely  preach at a church with more than 50 people in attendance—it’s pretty easy to hold the idea of success loosely. At least right now. And even as I try to figure out what to say next, I keep coming back to this: I really have no idea how I would respond. I don’t know what I’m blind to about myself.

Are any of us any different?


Note: this post was fully re-written in September 2014.

Fear of Man vs. Fear of God

I really appreciated this reminder from Driscoll in his recent sermon, Jesus vs. Fear.

The transcript follows:

See, if we believe that God loves us, then we believe that even if what’s happening to us isn’t good and holy and just, it’ll be used by a good, holy, and just God to teach us more about Jesus and to make us more like him. So we overcome fear of man with the love of God. God loves me. One way or another, he’s going to get me through.

And then Jesus closes with sort of the culminating big idea, that you overcome fear of man with the fear of God.

Luke 12:8–12, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man,” that’s a title of himself from Daniel. He uses it about eighty times. It means God become a man. “Also will acknowledge before the angels of God,” who will serve as the witnesses, “but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities,” the bullies are going to get you, you’re going to suffer at some point.

“Do not be anxious,” fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.

“Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Here’s the big idea: fear of man or fear of God. Those are your options. There is no alternative.

Someone is the most important person. Someone is the biggest dominant personality in your life. Okay, if it’s someone other than Jesus, you have fear of man. You’re worshiping them. They’re your functional lord even if Jesus is your theological Lord.

Proverbs 29:25 again, “The fear of man is a trap or a snare.” It won’t work for them, it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work at all. The alternative is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Before you can get anything straight in your life, you have to get straight who the Lord is. Jesus is Lord. The shortest confession of Christian belief is, has always been, Jesus is Lord.

Becoming Balanced

A few weeks ago, Dustin Neeley sat down with Mark Driscoll to talk about what encourages and concerns him about young Christian leaders. Here’s the video:

(HT: The Resurgence)

In the video, Driscoll points out a couple of things he finds encouraging:

  1. A renewed desire for gospel-centered, Jesus-based, Bible saturated teaching
  2. A renewed heart for having a good gospel witness in urban centers
  3. A renewed interest in church planting

He also notes the following concerns, specifically in regard to what’s been called the Young, Restless & Reformed/New Calvinism:

  1. Good Reformed, complementarian theology unaccompanied by a strong sense of Spirit-filled mission will lead to fundamentalism
  2. New Calvinists being defined less by what they are for than what they’re against
  3. A lack of certainty about the role of the person of the Holy Spirit

Neeley asks viewers to consider the following questions in light of these encouragements and concerns:

“Where do I fall on the spectrum he describes?” and “What changes do I need to make to become more balanced?”

I don’t know about you, but here’s where I fall:

I absolutely love Jesus, the Church and the Bible and want to consistently be a better witness to Christ in my city (although I fail constantly). However, when I look at those concerns listed above, there are a number of things that caught my attention—not necessarily because I’m guilty of them (constantly), but the propensity is there.

It’s easy to develop convictions about what you’re against, for example, in the name of discernment. It’s a lot harder to develop strongly held convictions about what you’re for.

And it’s even harder to strongly hold to your convictions with humility.

This is where I’m learning that an increasing dependence on the Holy Spirit to work in and through me—both to make me more like Christ and (where necessary) speak words of correction—is so essential.

When I’m not actively depending on the Holy Spirit to guide my words, thoughts and actions, it usually goes bad. I’ll say the right thing the wrong way or I’ll say the wrong thing altogether.

Becoming balanced means being immersed in the Word.

Becoming balanced means cultivating a consistent prayer life.

Becoming balanced means becoming dependent on the Holy Spirit.

God, help me.

Humility and Notoriety: The Danger of Pastor as Rock Star

Mark Driscoll and Dustin Neeley sat down at the recent Acts 29 Boot Camp and discussed the need for humility as a church planter and pastor—and how difficult it is to cultivate when you’re considered a rock star.

Questions to consider:

  1. What level of scrutiny is appropriate when looking at “celebrity” pastors and leaders?
  2. Are you naturally more inclined to be critical or encouraging?
  3. Have you ever found yourself intentionally looking for things to criticize about a pastor or leader?
  4. In your own sphere of influence, are you open to hearing from your critics?

HT: Z

Always Get to the Gospel: Dever, Driscoll and MacDonald on the Pastor and Personal Evangelism

In the above video, Pastors Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever and James MacDonald speak of the challenge of engaging in personal evangelism as pastors who spend a great deal of time with Christians. The dialogue is quite intriguing and well worth spending a few minutes watching.

After you’ve watched the video, consider the following questions:

  1. Does the gospel need to be shared in the every sermon? If so, why? If not, why not?
  2. Are you, whether you’re in vocational ministry or not, being proactive in seeking out non-Christians for the purpose of evangelism?

HT: Colin Hansen

Francis Chan: "International Man of Fu Manchu Mystery"

Ever since he announced that he was leaving his pastorate at Cornerstone Church in Simi, California, it seems everyone’s been wondering, “What the heck is going on with Francis Chan?”

In a conversation with Francis Chan and Joshua Harris, Mark Driscoll asks, “Everybody thinks you’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. You’ve got a good church going on and you hit the eject button and now you’re an international man of Fu Manchu mystery. What is going on? What are you thinking? And what’s going to happen to your church?”

You see Chan’s response in the video below:

HT: The Gospel Coalition

Around the Interweb (08/22)

Christianity Today Interviews Anne Rice

Christianity today interviewed Anne Rice on following Christ without Christianity (there was a whole hubbub about it on the interwebs a few weeks back). A great quote from the interview:

Are there any other religious authors you read?

I read theology and biblical scholarship all the time. I love the biblical scholarship of D.A. Carson. I very much love Craig S. Keener. His books on Matthew and John are right here on my desk all the time. I go to Craig Keener for answers because his commentary on Scripture is so thorough. I still read N.T. Wright. I love the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner. I love his writing on Jesus Christ. It’s very beautiful to me, and I study a little bit of it every day. Of course, I love Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

You mentioned D.A. Carson, Craig Keener, and N.T. Wright. They are fairly conservative Protestants.

Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it’s been interpreted. I don’t go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It’s the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I’ve read over the years, it’s their work that I keep on my desk. They’re all non-Catholics, but they’re believers, they document their books well, they write well, they’re scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don’t have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, so there’s no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.

Read the rest of the interview here. (HT: Trevin Wax)

In Other News

Giving Back: August 21st was my 31st birthday; help me celebrate by donating $31 so 31 families can have clean water to drink.

The following video explains what charity: water is doing in the Central African Republic:

Tributes: Justin Taylor offers this thoughtful tribute to Clark Pinnock, who died on August 15th, 2010, at the age of 73.

Christian Culture: My co-worker Amber opens a can on sketchy applications of Jeremiah 29:11. (For a double shot of Jer. 29:11 commentary, here’s a post I wrote on it a while back.)

Housekeeping: This past week I enjoyed a great week off on Lake Nipissing. Many thanks to Nate Bingham and Will Adair for helping me out with some great content.

In Case You Missed It

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

The Gospel is Unbelievable by Nathan W. Bingham

Will Adair looks at the Lord’s Prayer and the part of the gospel he struggles with.

D. A. Carson offers insights into how we can know God exists and how He can be loving yet send people to hell.

Mark Driscoll describes the average evangelical… pagan.

Meet the Evangelical Pagan

At the Exchange Conference, Mark Driscoll spoke on Oneism vs. Twoism; how we by nature are idolators because we worship and serve created things rather than our Creator (you can read my notes from the sessions here). In this excerpt from his first lecture, Driscoll describes the Evangelical pagan.

"Just So You Know, Hell Doesn't Have Heroes!" Be Discerning About Your Books

Mark Driscoll discusses Twilight and examines a few of the books that are being promoted for young girls today.

Driscoll’s critique should be well considered. Too often we assume that just because it’s a movie, a book or a song that it’s fine (as if these things don’t have an agenda to promote). It’s why the Bible commands us all to be discerning. A great resource in developing discernment? Tim Challies’ book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (review here).

The transcript of the video follows:

…I do want you to be discerning when it comes to culture because I believe one of the ways that Satan works in our day, is he will take things out of the category of religion and spirituality, put them into the category of entertainment, and we completely fail to be discerning. We just think, “Oh, that’s not demonic. That’s a movie.” A movie is a sermon with pictures. “That’s not demonic, that’s a song.” Satan can write music. He can inspire story-telling and filmmaking, music. He sets ideology, and worldview, and he’s at work in the world.

I’ll back this up, give you an example. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter. My daughter, Ashley, recently turned thirteen. So now I am the proud daddy of a teenage girl. It’s awesome. I love her. Some people say, “Oh wait till she’s a teenager.” She’s there. It’s fantastic. It’s great. I adore her. She’s a voracious reader. She reads a lot, and she’s got a big library. She’s a discerning reader. She’s starting to write, and we’re getting ready to publish her blogs, which are recommended readings and critical book reviews for preteen and teenage girls so they don’t read garbage, which I think is awesome, and I really am excited about that. It was her idea. [Read more...]

Stop Chasing Mountaintop Experiences – Read Your Bible Instead

Really appreciated listening to this message from Mark Driscoll, reminding us that we have access to something greater than chasing mountaintop experiences: Our Bible.

The transcript follows:

It doesn’t matter what anyone else says about Jesus. What does God the Father say about Jesus Christ, the Son of God? He says, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased,” at the baptism. He says, “This is my Son, My Chosen. Listen to him,” on the Mount of Transfiguration. There can be no higher authority than the Creator God. There can be no higher authority than God the Father. There can be no more authoritative testimony of who Jesus is than God the Father. It doesn’t matter what the leaders say, what religious people say, what books are written, how people speculate, what the polls would indicate. God the Father says Jesus is God become man, and he, alone, possesses the glory of God because he is the God of glory. [Read more...]

Know Your Enemy

From Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon, Jesus Casts Out Demons. The transcript follows:

[W]hat Paul says to the Corinthians is if we know how our enemy works, then we can defend ourselves. But if we don’t know how he works, he’s going to defeat us. And there are many names given for Satan in the Bible, but I’ll share nine of them with you because they all refer to a particular aspect of Satan’s work.

1. Accuser (Revelation 12:10)

He is called, in Revelation 12:10, “the accuser of the children of God.” He accuses them day and night. Some of you will hear: “you are a failure, you are without hope, you are beyond the love of God, you are beyond the grace of God, what you have done can never be forgiven, God does not love you, you should die, you should kill yourself.” You will hear that negative self-talk, often “you, you, you.” And if there were someone next to you saying those things, you would rightly identify it as accusation from opposition. But because it’s from a spirit being who is unseen, you think you have low self-esteem, negative self-image, negative self-talk, but it’s accusation. It’s accusation. [Read more...]