When Grace No Longer Amazes

Cross in Winter

The false conflict between the two testaments may be seen in the most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture. It is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha.

The Cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath.

It was the most just and the most gracious act in history.

God would have been more than unjust, He would have been diabolical to punish Jesus if Jesus had not first willingly taken on Himself the sins of the world.

Once Christ had done that, once He volunteered to be the Lamb of God, laden with our sin, then He became the most grotesque and vile thing on this planet. With the concentrated load of sin He carried, He became utterly repugnant to the Father. God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing. God made Christ accursed for the sin He bore. Herein was God’s holy justice perfectly manifest. Yet it was done for us. He took what justice demanded from us.

This “for us” aspect of the Cross is what displays the majesty of its grace. At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy.

It is too astonishing to fathom.

We cringe at God’s justice because its expression is so unusual… God’s usual course of action is one of grace.

Grace no longer amazes us.

We have grown used to it; we take it for granted.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, pp. 121-122 (line breaks & emphasis added)

One of the Greatest Gifts a Man Can Give His Family…

…is modelling repentance.

A few weeks back, Mark Driscoll preached through Luke 11:5-13 and spoke well to this as he examined verse 13:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Here’s the transcript for the video:

Gentlemen, one of the most powerful things you can do is acknowledge your own evil to your wife and children. This is telling your wife and your children when you’ve sinned and it’s owning it and naming it. All right, Jesus says that earthly fathers are evil. So when we do or say or fail to do good and we act in a way that is evil, it is very helpful for our families to see us repent of sin. Some of you have never heard your dad say things like, “It’s my fault. I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” You’ve never heard that. Because even when your dad was wrong, he didn’t acknowledge it. He didn’t confess it. He didn’t agree with Jesus, “Yeah, that was evil.”

And so fathers, if you want to create a loving, nurturing, godly home, you model repentance by acknowledging your own evil. If you want to raise really stubborn, obstinate, rebellious, religious kids, tell them to repent of their sin but never repent of your sin. Tell them when they say or do evil, but do not acknowledge your own. You will then create a very religious culture with very discouraged children who will realize that they live under a father who is aware of their sin but ignorant of his own and that he is a cruel taskmaster and overbearing hypocrite.

So it’s important for us fathers to tell our children, “I want to be the best father I can be. God the Father is the perfect Father. You need him. I need him, too, because we’re both sinners that he’s working on and he’s dealing with our evil.”

Modelling repentance is not easy. Abigail looks at me like I’ve got two heads sometimes (she’s still in that age-range where Daddy apparently can do no wrong), but it’s slowly) helping her to understand that it’s okay to admit our sins and ask for forgiveness from those we’ve wronged.

I’m not sure if it will ever get easier, but I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit in her life.

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.

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.

Turn with me to Romans chapter 1; this is where we’re going to be spending the bulk of our time today.

Starting in verse eighteen:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

[Opening Prayer]

We are all Worshippers

At the end of June, I went to Honduras with Compassion Canada. We saw the projects at work, visited homes, played with kids, and it was amazing. While we were there, we also had the opportunity to visit the Copan Ruins and the remnants of the Mayan temples.

Our tour guide took us through the ruins, teaching us about the culture of the Mayans as we went. There were idols everywhere.

Images of iguanas symbolizing fertility; macaw birds representing their sun god… It was everywhere. But the thing that stood out to me the most was listening to him describe the after parties from a sports event.

Basically what would happen is that athletes would compete against each other, passing the ball around with the goal of hitting one of the six stone macaw heads on the sidelines of the court. And you had to do it without using your hands.

These games were a big deal—the religious leaders, the chieftains and all the people would fill the stadium. Now, after the game was won and a winner was proclaimed, there’d be a celebration in his honor.

Can you guess the prize for the winner? Sacrificed to the gods.

Doesn’t really make you want to win the game, does it?

Human sacrifice was all too common in this area of Honduras. People would throw themselves off the cliffs into the temple courts as a sacrifice, hoping to appease the gods.

As I learned about the culture, as impressive as the architecture is and as breathtaking as the ruins are, I was disgusted by the idolatry.

I started thinking about our own culture… is it really that different?

Sure, we don’t (normally) worship birds or practice human sacrifice as a reward for a game well-played; but as I’ve been looking around since I came home, one inescapable truth has become more apparent than ever:

We are all worshippers.

This is the way God has made us.

He’s not made us to worship, or to be worshippers; He’s made us worshipping.

Harold Best in his book Unceasing Worship describes it this way:

We were created continuously outpouring. Note that I did not say we were created to be continuous outpourers. Nor can I dare imply that we were created to worship. This would suggest that God is an incomplete person whose need for something outside himself (worship) completes his sense of himself. It might not even be safe to say that we were created for worship, because the inference can be drawn that worship is a capacity that can be separated out and eventually relegated to one of several categories of being. I believe it is strategically important, therefore, to say that we were created continuously outpouring—we were created in that condition, at that instant, imago Dei.

What Best is telling us is that our identity as worshippers is tied to God’s nature and our being created in His image.

Back in Genesis 1, we’re told that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of God hovered over the depths.

So in the beginning, there was God.

And that’s it.

Some will speculate that God created the world and humanity because He was lonely. He needed something to pour out His love upon. But that’s not what Scripture says. The Bible says that God lacks nothing. If he lacked, then He would cease to be God.

This is where the doctrine of the Trinity is so important. Because God is one God in three persons—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—He lives in perfect, eternal, joyful, community, unceasingly outpouring His love on Himself.

And we were created out of an overflow of this, not of need, but out of joy to share His glory with others. And because we were created in His image, we do likewise—unceasingly worshipping, intended to reflect His glory in all creation.

Paul understands this. That’s why he doesn’t say, “In the past, some of you didn’t worship anything at all.” He says, “All of you have worshipped created things instead of the Creator.”

We are all always worshipping something. And more often than not, it’s not our Creator.

Our Lives Show Us Who We Worship

We’re continuously worshipping, but there’s something else we need to understand:

Our lives show us who we worship.

The hard thing for all of us is discovering what it is we worship—why? Because we’re blind to it. We’re blind to it because we have, as Paul wrote, exchanged the truth about God for a lie.

We’ve made created things—sometimes good things—our god, worshipping them instead of our Creator.

Let me give you a couple of practical examples:

Every day, men and women across the country congregate in one of the dozens of temples that are on nearly every street corner in Canada to worship as we roll up a rim.

This past winter, we had the Olympics; do you remember the fervor that surrounded Men’s Hockey?

How about the last few weeks with the World Cup going on?

And what about all the silliness with Lebron James and Chris Bosch joining the Miami Heat?

I know a few people who were cussing out Bosch, but James… They were burning his jersey in Cleveland this week!

Why?

Because the god they worshipped had let them down.

He left to play for a different team.

And the idol was crushed.

We are all worshippers; we’re always worshipping something—and our lives will reveal who or what we worship.

Maybe there’s something coming to your mind right now—your job, your spouse, your kids, your car, your computer, candy…

We think that these things will make us happy. That they’ll satisfy and save us. But anything but God will always fail.

But we don’t believe it. We don’t believe it because we’ve exchanged the truth for a lie.

False Worship Suppresses the Truth

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” writes Paul in verse 18.

When we sin, when we behave in a manner contrary to God’s commands and His character, we “suppress the truth” about God.

False worship suppresses the truth.

When we put anything in place of God in our lives, we suppress the truth.

This is a damning indictment!

To suppress the truth about God—to deny His authority, His majesty, His power—is to commit an act of cosmic treason.

Why? Here’s what Paul says on this. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Do you realize that every day, the evidence of God’s existence and His power are manifest? What can be known about God is plain to us because God has shown it to us.

Where does He show it?

In all of creation.

This is what the theologians call general revelation. That is, that we can know that there is a God and we can know something of who He is through natural means.

Speaking to this point, Acts 14:17 says,

 

[H]e [God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

What we see here is that God gives us rain and allows our crops to grow, and our livestock to thrive, in a display of His power and character. He “satisfies our hearts with food and gladness.”

In short, a great steak can bear witness to God’s existence.

And in Acts 17:24-27 we read,

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him…”

Practically, this means for us that everything—science, art, music, nature… everything reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature to the degree that we cannot with integrity deny God’s existence.

We are, Paul says, without excuse in acknowledging Him.

But consistently we fail to do exactly that. Instead, we suppress the truth about God in our unrighteousness.

False worship makes us fools

Verse 21:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

What Paul says here is that we have failed to honor God, to acknowledge and worship Him. In our sin, we have suppressed the truth about God.

And because we’ve suppressed the truth, we have come futile in our thinking. “[Our] foolish hearts [are] darkened.”

This is idolatry’s second effect:

When we fail to honor God, we become fools bent on stealing His glory.

When we refuse to honor God or give thanks to Him, we become fools, says Paul. In other words: Idolatry is stupid.

The prophet Isaiah communicated this well when he wrote,

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!”

So basically, a man cuts down a tree—and one half he uses for firewood. The other he worships. We rob God of His glory… and give it to a piece of kindling.

Does that even make sense?

In our foolishness we start to think that God doesn’t really see what we’re doing. That because our false god doesn’t speak or think or see or hear, we’re in the clear.

But, Isaiah 47:10 says, God always knows:

You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.”

Paul writes that as those who suppressed the truth claimed to be wise, “they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Again, it comes back to the truth that we are without excuse for acknowledging our Creator.

It’s why the “new atheism” movement is so bizarre. The whole point of books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and several others is basically to say this:

There is no God… And I hate Him.

It’s intellectually dishonest. How can you hate someone you don’t believe exists?

If God doesn’t exist, shouldn’t you not care?

Instead, what do we see?

Dozens of books, documentaries and magazine articles attempting to debunk the idea of God… and in particular the God of the Bible.

Why? Why is so much energy spent debunking Christianity?

Why do we see more books trying to do this entering the bestseller lists every year?

Why is there such a need to find the gospel—that God the Son, Jesus Christ, became a man, lived the perfect life, died in our place for our sins and rose again to give us new life and reconcile us to God the Father—to be a sham?

Because deep down, we all know it’s true. We all know He’s real.

And it terrifies us.

Because we stand naked before Him—and without His intervention, we—have—no—hope.

Here’s the thing: Every other religion, every other belief system, in the end, revolves around the same thing—You.

It’s all about what you do, about how you must earn your way into God’s favor, how you must become one with the divine or with the universe. All is one. God is a part of the system or God doesn’t exist.

But if all is one, God is none.

It’s the lie that we’ve exchanged the truth for. It’s a foolish act meant to rob God of His glory.

It’s the serpent’s lie from Genesis three: “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Understand—Buddha, Krishna, Allah… There is no hope. There is no life. They have no power.

But Jesus Christ does.

That’s why the gospel is so offensive—it’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus HAS already done!

He saved us when we could not save ourselves! He took the punishment that we so richly deserved.

And we show ourselves to be fools when we deny His power, authority and majesty—when we rob Him of His glory and deny Him the worship that is His due.

And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

False Worship Reveals of the Wrath of God

Going back to verse eighteen, we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”

All of what we’ve just talked about—that we continually worshipping, that in our rebellion against God we’ve suppressed the truth and exchanged His glory for created things—Because of all these things, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.

When we talk about wrath, we have to understand that there are two basic kinds that we’re talking about.

The first is God’s active wrath.

Active wrath is a tangible demonstration of God’s judgment over sinners.

When we read of the conquest of the Promised Land and the command to kill ALL the Canaanites—that was the active wrath of God.

When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied about how much they were giving in Acts 5—THAT was the active wrath of God.

When we look toward the Day of the Lord when He will execute final judgment on all of creation—THAT is the active wrath of God…

God’s active wrath is offensive to so many people; it’s the cause of ideas about there being two different kinds of God depicted in the Bible—the hot-tempered God of the Old Testament and gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The reason for this is that we have difficulty understanding God’s perfect justice and holiness.

But there’s something even more terrifying than God’s active wrath, as we’re about to see. Listen to what Paul says in verse 24:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

What Paul describes here is the passive wrath of God.

What this means is that we’re so bent on our sin—we’re consumed with doing what we want, rather than obeying Him—God says, “Okay, go get’em tiger.”

He gives us over to a “debased” or depraved mind says in verse 28. Second Thessalonians 2:11 says that, “God sends a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”

And truth be told, there’s little more terrifying to me than this.

If God’s passive wrath is upon me, it means He’s letting me do what I want. It means my conscience has become so hard that I don’t want to respond.

Because I love my sin.

I want my idols.

And God says, “Have at it.”

Before God sent the flood in one of the most magnificent displays of His active wrath, He looked down at all of creation and “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Man was given over to a depraved mind. The passive wrath of God was upon Him.

And the active wrath was coming.

We Must Recover True Worship

Verse 25 says that we’ve exchanged the truth about God for a lie, worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator.

In order for us to be saved we must recover true worship.

Left to our own devices, we’re utterly incapable of doing this.

Fortunately, God has made a way for us.

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

That, friends, is the secret. That is how we are able to recover true worship:

We must apply the gospel to our worship.

Because of Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are paid for when we put our faith in Him. Elsewhere, Scripture says that we are made new creations in Christ—and because it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us, we are given new desires to serve Him and worship Him as He deserves.

We must apply the gospel to our worship. And that begins with repentance.

Why is repentance important?

Repentance is the heart of the Christian life. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which ultimately resulted in the explosion of the Protestant Reformation, says, “All of life is one of repentance.” Repentance is not a one and done action—it’s a lifestyle.

A Christian cannot live an unrepentant life. Dr. J.I. Packer, one of the most brilliant theologians of the last 100 years has been quoted as saying, “All you need to do to become a heretic is to stop repenting or fail to call others to repentance.” It’s become contentious to call anyone to repentance in our day, even on issues where Scripture is clear—be it sexuality, gossip, gluttony, slander, malice… but here’s the thing: whenever we come up against one of these issues, we have to remember what the real question is—it’s not, “can one be a homosexual, an adulterer, a liar, a gossip, and be a Christian?” The question is—Can one be unrepentant and be a Christian?

Repentance is a process. Repentance isn’t being sorry that we got caught, or feeling bad or even acknowledging our sins. It’s much deeper.

  • Repentance begins with conviction from the Holy Spirit. Our sin is revealed to us through prayer, through our conscience, through Scripture or through the preaching of God’s Word.
  • Conviction leads to confession—we name our sin and agree with God, acknowledging our idol.
  • Confession leads to true repentance—it demands the death of our idols, which comes as we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • This leads to restitution—we seek to make right whatever we’ve done wrong in our pursuit of our idols. So if we’ve cheated on our taxes, we put it right. If we’ve stolen from work, we return it. If we’ve broken something, we replace it
  • The final step is reconciliation. Repentance—true repentance—restores relationships with God first and foremost and other people as we are able.

Repentance allows us to worship in freedom. Through repentance, we are no longer slaves to our idols, but free to worship God as He would have us—to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice,” as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1. As we trust God, study His Word, obey Him and worship Him, we are “no longer conformed to this patterns of this world, but transformed by the renewal of our minds.” Our desires change. Our attitudes change. Our habits change. All to the glory of God.

A few questions and we’ll close:

  1. What idols exist in my life?
  2. What created thing is robbing God of His glory?
  3. If that thing is revealed to me, will I repent?
  4. Will I take that first step today?

[Closing Prayer]

Truth and Lies: Dr. Peter Jones – Sexuality in a One-ist World

Dr. Peter Jones’ final session at The Exchange delved into the contentious subject of sexuality—and specifically the redefinition of what is considered normal sexual behavior. “This subject is, I believe, the tip of the spear of a societal transformation going on. And it’s unstoppable,” says Jones. “If there’s any way to stop it, it’ll be that the Christian church will have a discourse where we can describe what ‘normal’ is.”

A New Civilization

Jones believes we’ve come to a significant moment in American history. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” law is about to be repealed; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and new “anti-bullying” laws are ready to be enacted. We’re likely to see the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as a new push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States.

“The goal is for a new civilization. It’s not just a question of civil rights,” says Jones. Yesterday (June 23, 2010), CNN reported that Hilary Clinton—speaking of the need to end discrimination in the U.S. and around the world—said, “These dangers are not gay issues. This is a human rights issue…human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”

This, in Jones’ words is “breathtakingly ambitious.”

“This is not the normal progress of civic theory and civil rights,” says Jones.  The speed of change is unprecedented, particularly since the influx of religious and spiritual options that have become available to Americans since the 1960s. [Read more...]

Battling Sin is Hard, Let's Play a Game Instead

We’re working our way through The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard in my Friday morning men’s group. The book is inspired by and takes its cues from two of Puritan Bible teacher John Owen’s works on the mortification of sin. The book itself is incredibly challenging… and more than a little bit convicting.

Here’s a passage from chapter four, which we’re studying this week:

Which is easier: to sit with a bucket of butter-soaked popcorn and watch Tom Cruise on the big screen for two hours, or to kneel and pray for five minutes? Tom Cruise wins hands down, because there is literally no competition. What the flesh hates is God, so it resists anything that smacks of God—especially communion with him. the flesh can curl up by your side and watch mindless movies all night long. But let even the barest thought of meditations flutter into your mind, and the flesh goes to Red Alert. Before you get past “Our Father,” your eyes, which were glued to the screen, now sag in sleepiness, and your attention, which was so fixed on the plot, now zips around the universe faster than the Starship Enterprise. [p. 46]

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit. Whether I’m trying to pray, read my Bible, write a blog post or an article, work on my Systematic Theology certificate… I get incredibly distracted. Even now, as I’ve been typing this I’ve started yawning and getting drowsy.

But I guarantee that if I stop and check my Twitter feed or play a game on my iPhone, I’ll be just fine.

Because the flesh loves those things.

But it hates anything that makes me think about God.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do,” wrote Paul (Gal. 5:17). If this is true, then we must oppose the desires of the flesh and pursue godliness.

Because our natural selves want nothing more than to see each of us enslaved to sin.

Got any practical tips on how you’ve been doing this lately?

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’?”

"I’m a Christian and I want to apologize…"

microphone

A young man walked onto the stage at the front of the crowded room. All eyes were fixed on him. He smiled awkwardly and wondered, can I really do this? What will people think?

Heart racing and palms sweating, he gathered up his courage and began to speak softly into the microphone.

“I’m a Christian,” he said, “and I have a confession to make.

“I apologize for the Crusades and political action being confused with Christian faith. I apologize for hate crimes being perpetrated in the name of Christ and for slavery. I’m sorry for everything that we’ve ever done that has made life difficult for anyone.

“But I want you to know something. We’re really not all that bad. I hope you’ll forgive us.”

As he exited the stage, people came up to him, congratulating him on his effort. “I don’t know if I would have had the courage to say that,” they said. “That was so humble of you.”

The young man blushed and thanked them for their kind words. “I just want to be real. Authenticity is important to me.”

You’ve probably seen, heard or read something similar to this before. The Christian confessional.

This idea was most recently popularized by Donald Miller in his too-young-to-write-a-memoir memoir, Blue Like Jazz. Miller describes setting up a confession booth on a college campus where he and others would confess the sins of Christendom and ask for forgiveness.

Since the book’s release a number of similar things come out of the woodwork, whether it’s a video of a guy confessing the institutional sins of Christendom on youtube or a pastor publishing letters he wrote to people he’s sinned against in a book.

While I don’t want to judge the motivations of people who have done things like this, I have to ask the question:

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

Around the Interweb (05/02)

Jennifer Knapp & Larry King: Why We Always Lose This Debate

In light of Jennifer Knapp’s recent interview on Larry King, Trevin Wax offers some thoughtful insights into why we “always lose” in the public debate about homosexuality:

“We’re all sinners” comes up again and again in discussions like this. In her Larry King interview, Knapp realized the power of having the pastor admit that he too is a sinner. Once she received this admission, she had the upper hand in asking, “Then why are you judging me instead of me judging you?”

Whenever the discussion centers on “homosexuality is a sin… but we’re all sinners,” the traditionalist inevitably comes across looking like he is singling out homosexuality as a worse sin than all the rest. His protests to the contrary always ring hollow.

But this is the wrong way to frame this debate. We are not saying that some of us are worse sinners than others or that homosexuality is a worse sin than pride, stealing, etc. We are not categorized before God as “better sinners” or “worse sinners.” Instead, we are either unrepentant or repentant. True Christianity hinges on repentance. The pastor on Larry King Live eventually made this point later on in the broadcast, but the rhetorical damage had already been done.

If we are to reframe this discussion along biblical lines, then we must emphasize the necessity of repentance for the Christian faith. The point is not that the pastor and the Knapp are both sinners. It’s that the pastor agrees with God about his sin, while Knapp remains in her sin without repentance. That is why he is questioning her Christianity, for Christian teaching makes clear the necessity of repentance as the entryway into the Christian family.

Ultimately, the debate is not about homosexuality versus other sins. It’s about whether or not repentance is integral to the Christian life.

Read the rest. It’s well worth your time and consideration.

In Other News

Darryl Dash: We Need Gospel Movements, Not Just Better Churches

Technology: Steve Jobs shares his Thoughts on Flash

Jared Wilson: Ten Reasons to Under-Program Your Church

In Case You Missed It

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

My notes from D.A. Carson’s message at The Gospel Coalition conference in Hamilton, Canada, Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days

A review of Dr. Carson’s latest book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus

Don’t study theology, but do study theology

More wisdom from Spurgeon on faith & obedience

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: The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile

Title: The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence
Author: Thabiti Anyabwile
Publisher: Moody Publishers

It’s easy to feel ill-equipped or uncertain when it comes to evangelism at the best of times. I’d imagine that for many of us sharing our faith comes about as naturally as speaking in public. Its hard work at the best of times, especially when there’s no natural segue or a cameo appearance by Jesus Himself.

But when it comes to a Muslim neighbor, coworker, classmate or friend—how do we do share the gospel with them?

“It’s a fine question, but it has a fatal flaw. It assumes that somehow Muslims require a different gospel or a different technique, that Muslims are somehow impervious to the gospel in a way that other sinners are not,” writes Thabiti Anyabwile in the opening pages of The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence

Striking Differences

The book is broken into two parts. The first is primarily theological, addressing topics of God, man, Jesus, repentance and faith and highlighting the similarities and differences between the Muslim and Christian understandings of these teachings. This was particularly fascinating to read because it truly shows how fundamentally different the two belief systems are.

Three quick examples:

While Muslims and Christians largely agree on the basic attributes of God (holiness, justice, etc.), the Trinity is a stumbling block in part because it’s so essential to the Christian view of salvation from sin and judgment.

The view of sin is strikingly different. While Christians believe that all humanity is enslaved to sin because of Adam’s fall (Genesis 3, cf. Romans 6:6, 15-20; 7:25), Muslims deny original sin.

“Adam is not said to have sinned against God, but to have made an ethical mistake,” Anyabwile writes (p. 44). “Most define sin as simply disobeying Allah’s will. This disobedience comes from man’s weakness and ignorance, but not from a corruption of his nature.” Further, he explains that in Muslim theology, the object of sin is man—that when we sin, we do evil to ourselves, rather than offend a holy, perfect God.

As in all things, the greatest stumbling block is Jesus Himself. Given His claims about Himself, “[t]o accept Jesus as ‘a good moral teacher’ or as a prophet as Muslims do, only to then reject His prophecy and teaching is not an honest position to take” (p. 64). The truth that Christ is both fully man and fully God is an unavoidable reality and something with which we all—whatever our background—must contend. “Who is Jesus” is the most important we will ever answer, and we must do so.

These chapters are to be considered carefully. For the Christian reader, there is much encouragement and even some correction here. It’s easy to take for granted the truths of Christianity and forget how truly distinct our beliefs are. Looking at them side-by-side with an opposing view gave me the opportunity to see them again with fresh eyes and just marvel at how audacious the claims of the Bible truly are. How ridiculous they would be if they were not true, and how wondrous they are because they are. [Read more...]

His Name was Smeagol

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Colossians 3:5-6

Yesterday I started watching some of the videos Tony Kummer has kindly put online from this year’s Band of Bloggers. Trevin Wax’s address in particular hit me like a freight train. Give it a view:

Trevin spoke about covetousness and blogging and as he spoke, this point really jumped out to me:

The problem with covetousness in general is that it robs God of His glory because we’re seeking an identity apart from who we are in Christ. It also robs us of our joy in blogging. Instead of being this good gift that God has given us that we can use to serve others, it becomes a way for us to prop up ourselves.

He offered the following diagnostic questions that he uses to as a heart check for himself:

  1. Do my emotions ever fluctuate depending on how many hits my blog is receiving?
  2. Do I enjoy the attention I get, regardless of whether it’s praise or criticism?
  3. Do I get depressed if a post doesn’t get the attention I think it should?

Mulling over these questions, because I’ve noticed that on occassion my answers to these questions are “yes.” Not always, but sometimes.

And that’s a problem because, honestly, there are things that are more important. [Read more...]

The Stupidity of the Intelligent

Statue on top of an ancient building next to St. Nicholas' church in Ghent, Belgium. Photo by Ulrik De Wachter

Recently I was listening to a lecture by Dr. D.A. Carson on Romans 3:21-26, “The Center of the Whole Bible.” In his background to the text, he reminded his hearers that for the previous two and a half chapters, Paul had been building an argument that there is no excuse for a denial of God—culminating in a series of references to the Old Testament in Romans 3:10-18:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The beginning of this argument, though, is found in Romans 1:18-23 which reads:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” That’s a powerful statement, isn’t it?

My old pastor would often lament the reality that people today are educated beyond their intelligence. We have access to more information than any culture in the history of man, but little wisdom.

Dr. J. Budziszewski is the author of several books including Written on the Heart, The Resurrection of Nature, The Nearest Coast of Darkness, True Tolerance and What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and a professor of Philosophy and Government at the University of Texas at Austin.

He knows this reality all too well.

In fact, he wrote his dissertation on it—opposing the idea that we had any inherent sense of morality at all. [Read more...]

Sin is Defeated, Yet Sin Remains to be Fought

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Preaching from Ephesians 1:15-23, John Piper shared a powerful message called The Immeasurable Greatness of His Power Toward Us. Verse 18 above tells us that Paul prays for believers to have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you;” that they may know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (v. 19).

But as Piper points out, sometimes it seems like we’re not walking in this reality. Rather than experiencing this power in our lives now and rejoicing it it, we are hindered by a spiritual dullness.

The transcript of the video follows:

Because of this spiritual dullness, we are not fully aware of the blinding, deadening power of sin that is now being conquered in our lives by God’s superior power. If you are feeling healthy, you will be thrilled with the power of your medicine, only if you know the deadly power of the disease it is holding back. If you are forgiven and have any measure of victory over sin in your life, you will be amazed at the power of God, only if you know the indescribable depth and power of sin. [Read more...]