I never get tired of hearing this...
Sunday's Coming! from CTR Memphis on Vimeo.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
When it comes to what people want to hear, it seems to me that the church faces a similar situation as we look to the future of marriage in this country. Many want the sort of prophetic witness that will spin the situation to look favorable, regardless of whether that favor is from the Lord or in touch with reality.
Some people want a court of prophets who will take a surgeon’s scalpel to the Word of God. They want those who will say in light of what the Bible clearly calls immorality, “Has God really said?” Following the trajectory of every old liberalism of the past, they want to do with a Christian sexual ethic what the old liberals did with the virgin birth—claim that contemporary people just won’t have this, and if we want to rescue Christianity, this will have to go overboard. All the while they’ll tell us they’re doing it for the children (or for the Millennials).
This is infidelity to the gospel we’ve received. First of all, no one refusing to repent of sin—be it homosexuality or fornication or anything else—will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). This strategy leaves people in condemnation before the Judgment Seat of Christ, without reconciliation and without hope.
Second, it doesn’t even work. Look at the empty cathedrals of the Episcopal Church, the vacated pews of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and right down the line. Let me be clear. Even if embracing same-sex marriage—or any other endorsement of what the Bible calls sexual immorality—“worked” in church-building, we still wouldn’t do it. If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials, we choose Jesus. But history shows us that those who want a different Jesus—the one who says, “Do whatever you want with your body, it’s okay by me”—don’t want Christianity at all.
But there will be those who want prophets who will say that the gospel doesn’t call for repentance, or at least not repentance from this sin. These prophets will apply a selective universalism that denies that judgment is coming, or that the blood of Christ is needed. But these prophets don’t speak for God. And, quite frankly, we have no one to blame but ourselves since, for too long, too many of us have tolerated among us those who have substituted a cheap and easy false gospel for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Too many have been called gospel preachers who preach decision without faith, regeneration without repentance, justification without lordship, deliverance by walking an aisle but without carrying a cross. That gospel is different from the one Jesus and his apostles delivered to us. That gospel doesn’t save.
So when these prophets emerge to tell people they can stay in their sins and still be saved, we must thunder back with the old gospel that calls all of us to repentance and to cross-bearing, the gospel that calls sin what it is in order to call grace what it is. J. Gresham Machen warned us that our Lord Jesus himself never attempted to preach the gospel to the righteous but only to sinners. Those who follow him must start by acknowledging themselves to be in need of mercy, to be in need of grace that can pardon and cleanse within.
There’s also another form of court prophet of these times. This one has no problem identifying homosexuality as sin. He may do so with all sorts of bluster and outrage, but he still does what court prophets always do—he speaks a word that people want to hear. What some people want to hear is that sexual immorality is moral after all, and what other people want to hear is that same-sex marriage is simply a matter of some elites on the coasts of the country. This prophet implies that if we just sign checks to the right radio talk-show hosts, and have a good election cycle or two, we’ll be right back where we were, back when carpets were shag and marriages were strong...
...The marriage revolution around us means we must do a better job articulating a theology of marriage to our people, as well as a theology of suffering and marginalization. It means we must do a better job articulating to those on the outside why children need both a Mom and a Dad, not just “parents,” and why marriage isn’t simply a matter of court decree. It means we must start teaching our children about marriage “from the beginning” as male and female when they’re in Sunday school. It means we may have to decide if and when the day will come in which we will refuse to sign the state’s marriage licenses.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Monday, April 7, 2014
Thursday, April 3, 2014
If taking God's name in vain means using it frivolously or insincerely, then the third commandment speaks to more than just overt profanity. It also applies to the more common, more culturally acceptable phrases like "Oh God!" or "Oh my God!" I sense that some of us have let down our guard. I suspect that some of us have let the world's saturated use of these phrases shape us.
Granted, it is possible to speak the words "Oh God" or "Oh my God" and not sin. These words may begin a prayer at a moment of shocking tragedy. Imagine a mother finding her son with a near-fatal injury. She may look upward and cry "Oh my God!" as a pregnant prayer that implies a need for divine help. But surely that tragic scenario is a world away from today's thoughtless, needless uses. These phrases litter the speech we hear. Surely "OMG!" are three of the most frequently typed letters on social media and in texts. These are useless, thoughtless fillers used for anything and everything that is barely amusing or surprising.
Let's be clear, Christian: these common phrases are using God's name emptily, frivolously, insincerely. It's no surprise when the world steals from God's honor, but as for us, these things ought not to be. We must not rationalize and say, "It's just one word; God knows my heart; he knows I don't mean anything blasphemous." The third commandment is in fact about a word, a name. More than that, it is about God's honor. God's name isn't empty, frivolous, or insincere; indeed, God isn't empty, frivolous, or insincere. We must not treat him as such, whether in our hearts or in our speech.
This is not a point that good Christians can and do disagree on, like the use of alcohol, or celebrating Halloween, or using off-color words like crap. This one is more black and white than whether you should designate that receipt as a tax deduction or not. God reveals his holy names in the Bible, and we cannot borrow them for frivolous, useless speech.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
If we learned anything from last week, maybe it’s that the real controversy among evangelicals in the coming days will be about the Bible, not homosexuality.
Beneath the surface of the recent scuffle is the more vital issue of how disciples of Jesus posture themselves toward God’s word. It’s not simply about our grasp of what Scripture is, or our conviction of Scripture’s inerrancy, or even where we land with different interpretations. It’s fundamentally about how we approach the words of God, even before we get to the interpretation part. It’s about how we look when we’re looking at Scripture.
The question is: What is the church doing when it’s doing what it does with the Bible?
...When it comes down to it — when the consensus of what’s important relies on the church’s feelings that are disconnected from what the Bible says — then the only legitimate motivation for the consensus is the pressure of society. The spirit of the age becomes the real spirit we follow, and then that becomes the path of life into which we try to cram God’s word, lopping off whatever parts don’t fit. Here is where is found the “convictions, practices, and concerns” that shape the understanding of Scripture.
And when it comes to taking actual stances, if the consensus is unclear — say, if the issue remains divisive — then the only option is to claim neutrality. Until the real authority of consensus comes out to play, all we can do is buy time on the sidelines and say this whole thing is about personal sensibilities.
This posture toward Scripture is far removed from the discipleship to which Jesus calls us. He says teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. Take up your cross, let the dead bury the dead, don’t look back. Not turn your back on my word. Not take your fill of popular opinion. Not keep calm and make sure everyone likes you...
...Sure, the Bible must be interpreted, and that matters. And there are disagreements on some parts, and there have been ridiculous things in history that were supported by wrong readings. But humility here isn’t throwing our hands up in the air and saying that everyone’s reading is legitimate. Humility isn’t looking at one another and confusing hermeneutics with human dignity.
Humility has to do with how we come to the Book.
It means we move toward Scripture, even before we open its pages, by clinging to God, not ourselves. We come yielded, with eager ears, hoping for God to sanctify our minds, not our minds sanction his will. As Calvin puts it, we “bid our reason give way, submit, and subject itself to the Holy Spirit” — who works with his word, not apart from it. Never against it.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Friday, March 28, 2014
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Kevin DeYoung is easily one of my favorite writers to read. Since his book with Ted Kluck, Why We’re Not Emergent, I’ve enjoyed basically everything he’s written. With his newest, Taking God at His Word (April 30, 2013), DeYoung sets out to rebuild confidence in and love for the Bible, the Word of God, in a world that through various ways and means has sought to belittle and malign it. Beginning with the vision of the Psalmist in Psalm 119, basically a love poem about the Scriptures, and ending with the familiar 2 Timothy 3:16 summation of the doctrine of Scripture, DeYoung demonstrates the sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity of the Bible in a clear, winsome, and refreshing way.
The main part of the book is the 4 chapters dealing with these attributes of Scripture, but my favorite chapter was on Jesus’s understanding of Scripture. DeYoung simply asks, “What did Jesus believe about the Bible?” He then posits that whatever Jesus believed, we should believe as followers of Christ. From multiple places in the gospels, DeYoung goes on to show Christ’s high view of the Scriptures (for him, the OT), and how his answers to questions and statements of his illustrate his belief in all 4 of Scripture’s attributes. It is worth quoting his full conclusion to that chapter:
This, then, can be the only acceptable answer to the question posed at the beginning of this chapter about Jesus’s doctrine of Scripture: it is impossible to revere the Scriptures more deeply or affirm them more completely than Jesus did. Jesus submitted his will to the Scriptures, committed his brain to studying the Scriptures, and humbled his heart to obey the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, believed his Bible was the word of God down to the sentences, to the phrases, to the words, to the smallest letter, to the tiniest specks—and that nothing in all those specks and in all those books in his Holy Bible could ever be broken.
Finally, DeYoung ends this brief, accessible book with some practical applications and a further exhortation to read, enjoy, obey, submit to, and above all, love the Scriptures as the Word of God and our means of access to the saving knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. In a world that seeks to discredit the Bible and where even many in the Church undermine confidence in the Bible by denying one of the attributes outlined, this short book is a breath of fresh air and an admirable defense of the sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity of Scripture. While it would be a good introduction for non-believers, I think this is even more important as a very needed word for many in the Church. I pray that many churches will use this to instill confidence in and love for the Bible among their people.
I quote from DeYoung again:
So let us not weaken in our commitment to our unbreakable Bible. Let us not wander from this divinely exhaled truth. Let us not waver in our delight and desire. God has spoken, and through that revelation he still speaks. Ultimately we can believe the Bible because we believe in the power and wisdom and goodness and truthfulness of the God whose authority and veracity cannot be separated from the Bible. We trust the Bible because it is God’s Bible. And God being God, we have every reason to take him at his word.
Monday, March 24, 2014
From Josh Blount at The Gospel Coalition:
It seems the Coalition produces pages and pages of that filth the Enemy calls "truth." Dangerous stuff. But see if you can use that to keep him from the Enemy's book. Nothing his servants produce is so deadly to our cause as the Book. Far better for your patient to read 10 pieces on how to read the Book than to actually pick up the Book itself. (A practical note: perhaps you can work in one of those new devices, the ones that beep all the time, the ones the humans love so much—I can never remember their name, but how I wish we'd had them in my day!—to distract him from the Book. Keep him constantly checking for the latest update from the Coalition. Don't underestimate the power of the New and Urgent—it's one of our most powerful numbing agents.)
A little advice on handling the Enemy's foul truth, whether it be from the Book or the Coalition. Like any poison, it is most dangerous when ingested. But you may be able to convince your subject that all the Enemy wants is for him to collect these poison pills. If he can be kept from actually ingesting them, their influence is greatly weakened. What you're after is having your patient hoard these globules of truth without actually acting on them. As far as we're concerned, he can have mounds of the rot as long as they remain in storage. How will you know if he's gone beyond the collecting to actually ingesting them? The symptoms are easy to spot. His daily routine will change: the way he relates to his wife and their little brats, how much time he gives to his fellow servants in the Enemy's cause, how much he talks to our slaves about the Enemy. Any of these is a dangerous sign, and you should notify me immediately.