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Eat Mor Chikin!

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment

For the past two weeks, I’ve told myself over and over again: don’t write a blog post about the current Chick-fil-a controversy. You can be relevant in other ways. Don’t post a blog about Chick-fil-a. But a couple of days ago, my mind wavered. Yes, I was tired of the situation being blown out of proportion. Yes, I was tired about hearing it on the radio every day to and from my office (and I have a 45-minute commute one-way!). But I began to become even more tired of the reaction of some Christians to this whole controversy. When Mike Huckabee originally encouraged others to participate in a national “Support Chick-fil-a Day,” I was sad that it was scheduled for Wednesday, August 1. I’m at church for my office hours today from 9-5, and the youth Bible study is at 6. Abi and I won’t be home before 9. I knew in my heart that I support Chick-fil-a regularly (not just for their Christian values but also because their chicken nuggests, waffle fries, and sweet tea are just plain-old GOOD!), so I didn’t feel too bad that today wouldn’t be the most convenient day for me personally to support Chick-fil-a.

But after nearly a week of hearing Christians adopt what amounts to, what seems to me, a “stick-your-head-in-the-sand” attitude about the issue of the wrongness of homosexuality, Abi and I are going to Chick-fil-a tonight after church on our way home, no matter how late it is! (As long as it’s not after 10:05, of course, at which time Chick-fil-a would be closed.) I’m going to get a cookies and cream milkshake. Why? Because I’m a Christian who lives in America, the greatest nation in the world (and because I happen to LOVE Chil-fil-A milkshakes!). Because I live in America, I’m free to eat at any establishment I choose, and tonight I’m going to get a late-night snack from Chick-fil-A. Just like other Americans are free to boycott Chick-fil-a, I’m free to eat at Chick-fil-a.

I couldn’t disagree more with Barnabas Piper’s article for WORLD magazine (online) yesterday. By going to Chick-fil-A tonight, I’m not participating in “a collective action easily seen as a shaking of the fist or a wagging of the finger.” I’m “affirm[ing my] appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up,” to put it in Mike Huckabee’s words. By indulging in a few hundred extra calories that I really don’t need I am in no way delivering the message of “us versus you” to homosexuals, as Barnabas Piper said. I am simply enjoying a milkshake with my wife, and at the same time putting my five dollars into the hands of a company who has been taking a lot of heat lately for simply agreeing with the Biblical definition of marriage. I am making no statement to any homosexuals. I am not declaring war on them. I’m enjoying a milkshake!

Furthermore, for Mr. Piper to say that the divisions caused by biblical convictions are “inevitable, but not desirable” is to go against the attitude of Scripture and of the Christ to whom Scripture points us. Before his death, Jesus told his disciples (and us by extension), “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). And did Jesus not elsewhere say, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” to this earth (Matt. 10:34)? And Jesus followed himself up by saying that “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). It’s interesting that Jesus should say that, because in the online discussions of many Christians who are downing other Christians for noticeably standing up for Chick-fil-A, it seems to me that one of their main arguments is, “I have homosexual friends and relatives whom I don’t want to offend and thus lose the opportunity to witness to them.” Is it a witness to homosexuals to (perhaps unknowingly) condone their behavior as right (or even morally irrelevant) by not standing up for those who call homosexuality what it is: a sin? Edmund Burke is absolutely right: “evil prevails when good men do nothing.” Sins of omission are just as much sins as sins of commission. Not doing the right thing is just as bad as doing the bad thing.

As I have written in a prior blog post:

The issue of homosexuality matters because it is a grievous sin. And unless people come to a knowledge of their sin, and realize their need of Christ as their Savior, they cannot and will not believe on Him for eternal life. Nothing short of eternity is at stake!

We certainly must not add further stumbling blocks and follies to the already offensive (offensive to the natural mind, anyway) gospel, but we Christians must realize and affirm that homosexuality is a dangerous sin that further erodes the already suffering view of marriage. We must realize that since marriage is a picture of “Christ and the church,” if we call homosexuality anything less than a sin (or worse yet, to condone it openly!), we betray and water down and adulterate the gospel itself.

And as I have written at another time, we Christians should “respond biblically” to homosexuals by offering them the hope of forgiveness in Christ after lovingly pointing out their sin nature (which manifests itself, in part, in their homosexuality) to them. I will elaborate this earlier point here in this post: Jesus tells us that loving our neighbors, which include all unbelievers, as ourselves is the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39). But how are we to love homosexuals, or any unbeliever for that matter? The highest act of love we can show toward a homosexual or any unbeliever is to share with them the gospel: that although they are sinners, Creator God sent his Son Jesus Christ to this earth. Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience, and because of his perfect obedience, his death on the cross fully satisfied God’s wrath on all those who would ever come to faith in him. And God proved his satisfaction by raising Jesus from the dead on the third day. We receive forgiveness for sin and eternal life through Jesus Christ only when we trust him to save us by what he has done, turning to him in repentance, away from our sin.

Accusing other Christians for making the “bold mistake” of supporting “the leadership” of Chick-fil-A in its “view on this issue” of homosexuality is not loving, toward believers or unbelievers. Sticking our heads in the sand and hiding in the basement and refusing to address homosexuals’ sin is not loving; it’s damning. If we maintain close friendships (“good relationships”) with homosexuals without showing them their sin and need for a Savior, are we diligently sharing the gospel (the whole gospel) with them? To ignore their unrepentant sin is just as bad as withholding the good news of Jesus (for indeed, they won’t be saved if they do not see their need of the Savior and repent of their sin!). Barnabas Piper is wrong. My going to Chick-fil-A tonight is about me supporting a company whose values I agree with. Tonight as I pay for my large cookies and cream milkshake, I’m not bashing gays; I’m hoping that Dan Cathy and his company will continue to prosper as they speak biblical values into a lost world, and that unbelievers of all kinds, both homosexual and heterosexual, will come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved.

As for you? Go to Chick-fil-A. Or don’t go to Chick-fil-A. This is America, and you have the freedom to choose. So make your choice. Just make it for the right reasons. Don’t worry that supporting Chick-fil-A will “result in greater contention and fewer softened hearts. On both sides.” (By the way, Christians should not soften their hearts regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality. Sin is sin. We should be loving toward homosexuals, but again, that means pointing out their sin and the only hope in Christ, NOT ignoring their sin altogether.) Don’t worry that you’ll lose any hope you have for witnessing to homosexuals. Don’t worry that other Christians will condemn you for being unloving. If you don’t want to eat Chick-fil-A (today or any day), don’t. If you want to, do. Love Christ. Love others. And don’t be afraid to point out an unbeliever’s sin before sharing the forgiveness available in Jesus Christ. Even if they are homosexual. Because sin is sin, and we sin when we ignore unbelievers, whether homosexual or heterosexual, in their hell-bound state.

My Thoughts on “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

June 5, 2012 1 comment

On May 30, 2012, several Southern Baptist leaders issued online “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” Tom Ascol is currently writing a thorough response to this Statement at the Founders’ blog, so I will not go through the Statement article by article; rather, I will respond to this Statement briefly and focus on the continued need for unity among Southern Baptists.

A Brief Response

“A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” is rife with falsehoods, contradictions, and slanders.

Before the numerous theological falsehoods of the ten articles, the Statement’s Preamble includes numerous factual errors. The authors define Calvinism in terms of “the doctrines of grace,” TULIP. Calvinists, then, (according to this Statement) are those who believe these things. Calvinism is NOT, as this Statement claims, anti-missional. Both John Piper and David Platt are two prime examples of people who believe “the doctrines of grace” and who are also very missional. As Platt writes in Radical,

God gave his people his image for a reason–so that they might multiply his image throughout the world. He created human beings, not only to enjoy his grace in a relationship with him, but also to extend his glory to the ends of the earth.

Simple enough. Enjoy his grace and extend his glory. This is the twofold purpose behind the creation of the human race in Genesis 1, and it sets the stage for an entire Book that revolves around the same purpose. In every genre of biblical literature and every stage of biblical history, God is seen pouring out his grace on his people for the sake of his glory among all peoples. (65)

How could Platt there be more “Calvinistic”? How could Platt there be more missional? God’s meticulous sovereignty doesn’t undermine missions: it gives missions its ultimate purpose–to glorify Him! This being said, how can it possibly be true “Without ascribing to Calvinism, Southern Baptists have reached around the world with the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone”? Adoniram Judson, the first Southern Baptist missionary to Burma (modern Myanmar), believed in God’s meticulous sovereignty. Earlier in church history, before “Southern Baptists” existed, Paul of Tarsus was so engrossed by God’s glorious grace that he spread the gospel all over the Roman Empire!

In addition to those factual falsehoods in the Preamble and too many theological falsehoods for me to list here, contradictions redound in this Statement. The most glaring contradiction is in the Preamble:

We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called “Traditional” Southern Baptist soteriology, which should be understood in distinction to “Calvinist” soteriology. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is articulated in a general way in the Baptist Faith and Message, “Article IV.”

The beauty of Article IV of The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) is that whether or not one believes the Bible’s declarations of God’s meticulous sovereignty, one can accept it. Article IV in its entirety reads thus:

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

This Statement in its Preamble affirms that this Article articulates “in a general way” their “‘Traditional’ Southern Baptist soteriology.” But they later contradict the BF&M Article IV in their own Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner:

We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.

We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

Did you catch the contradiction? Article IV, BF&M, says that regeneration “is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (emphasis added). According to the Baptist Faith and Message, regeneration comes before (prior to) repentance and faith (responding to the Gospel). But what does this new Statement, which claims to affirm the BF&M, deny? “We deny that any person is regenerated prior to … responding to the Gospel” in repentance and faith. This is a logical contradiction. Regeneration cannot come both before and after repentance and faith. It must come either before or after since regeneration is an event that occurs at a single moment in time. Although the writers of this Statement accuse “Calvinists” of departing from traditional Southern Baptist soteriology, it is the authors of this Statement who are departing from established Southern Baptist (and more importantly, biblical) belief concerning regeneration, which is the first aspect of salvation “in its broadest sense.”

Finally and saddest of all, slanders crop up at various points in the Statement. Not only is the statement, “Without ascribing to Calvinism, Southern Baptists have reached around the world with the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone,” factually false, but it is also a slanderous blow to genuine Southern Baptist believers who affirm God’s sovereignty in addition to human responsibility because it implies that they are anti-missional and uninvolved in missions. And as Tom Aschol has noted, the Statement’s insistence that “The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself” is demeaning toward those whom the authors identify as Calvinist, almost relegating them to a second-class status as Southern Baptists. These slanderous labels and statements are divisive, and it saddens my heart to see such a display of divisiveness by fellow Southern Baptists, brothers whom I and every other Southern Baptist have partnered with in order to fulfill the Great Commission to spread the gospel to all the nations.

The Need for Unity

The Southern Baptist Convention has always included “Calvinists” and “Arminians.” Southern Baptists have always differed as to how many points of TULIP to believe, but Southern Baptists have always unified despite these differences in order to cooperate together to spread the gospel to all nations. I want to see this cooperation continue. I want to see this unity continue. Surely heaven will be composed of both “Calvinists” and “Arminians,” so I want to see these different groups of believers cooperate on earth! And they have in the Southern Baptist Convention for nearly two hundred years. I would hate to see this cooperation stop.

Yes, there was a decline for most of the 20th century among Southern Baptists, both individuals and churches, who taught both God’s meticulous sovereignty and man’s responsibility, but there was also a simultaneous decline in Southern Baptists who taught the inerrancy of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ. Since the conservative resurgence in the SBC in the late 1980s, an increasing number of Southern Baptists, both individuals and churches, have found themselves believing anew not only in the inerrancy of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ but also in God’s meticulous sovereignty. Why is this necessarily a bad thing, even to those Christians who do not believe in God’s meticulous sovereignty? The Southern Baptist Convention is just that: a convention. Its churches are autonomous. Let individual churches decide what to believe as a local body concerning God’s sovereignty. Since this Statement could unnecessarily divide the SBC, it is unwarranted, sad, and ultimately, I believe, unbiblical.

Never mind the fact that I disagree on biblical grounds with at least something in every Article of this Statement except Article Ten. This Statement is unbiblical because it seems to be fostering disunity and disharmony in Christ’s church as represented in the SBC. (One need only look at the comments on the Statement’s web page to discern this.) Such disunity directly defies God’s Word:

  • This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. – John 15:12
  • I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through your word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  – John 17:20-21
  • I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10
  • Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel – Philippians 1:27
  • complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. – Philippians 2:2

These and other verses are commands from God that Christians love one another and unite around the gospel for the sake of spreading the gospel and making God’s name known throughout the whole world. The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) is helpful; “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” is not helpful. Fellow Christians who believe in God’s meticulous sovereignty, do not be consumed by anger at this incendiary Statement; rather, let us pray for our brothers and sisters who disagree with us on this matter, so that we may continue to join together in spreading the gospel around the world. Fellow Christians who do not believe in God’s meticulous sovereignty, do not sign this Statement and lend it your support; rather, continue to unite with us believers who disagree with you on this matter.

Doctrine is important. So is unity. May the Southern Baptist Convention continue to grow in both, to the glory of God.

Update: On June 6, Dr. Albert Mohler posted his thoughts on “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” I thoroughly recommend it to all of you.

Amendment 26

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Tomorrow Mississippians have an excellent opportunity to affirm God’s Word. In addition to voting for legislators, Mississippians will vote on Amendment 26, presented in its entirety below.

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi:

SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hearby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ:

SECTION 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” (source: http://yeson26.net/media/3932/definitionofperson.pdf)

Since the infamous decision of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has been legal in the United States. However, the legality of abortion as determined by the majority opinion hinges on one vital piece of (wrong) information: the unborn child is not a person. As section IXA of the decision concedes,

The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a “person” within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. … If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses [410 U.S. 113, 157] for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. (source: http://womenshistory.about.com/library/etext/gov/bl_roe_f.htm)

Thus, the passing of Amendment 26 conceivably could lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade. And the overturning of Roe v. Wade (or, at the very least, the circumventing of it) is necessary for the abolition of legal abortions in the United States. And abortions ought to be outlawed because they are the murdering of human life. Even science teaches that life begins at conception. And since human life begins at conception, then abortion is murder, which the Bible forbids (Ex. 20:13, 1 Tim. 1:9, Rev. 21:8, et al). And since murder is an evil that government outlaws (and that rightly so, since one of the functions of government is to restrain and to punish evil – see Rom. 13:4), the government should also outlaw abortion, since abortion is demonstrably a form of murder.

Currently, however, the United States government does not ban abortion, and Roe v. Wade indefinitely upholds abortion as legal. Therefore, if you have the ability to vote for Amendment 26 tomorrow, I strongly encourage you to vote yes to Amendment 26 not only to affirm the biblical (and scientific) truth that human life begins at conception, and thus is a person, but also to begin a process of overturning Roe v. Wade and enabling our government to rightly outlaw a currently legal form of murder, abortion.

Nothing New Under the Sun

August 6, 2011 1 comment

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. –Ecclesiastes 1:9

According to the CDC, exactly 1 out of every 2 marriages in the United States will end not at death, when brides and grooms vow they will part, but with divorce. Even for first-time brides and grooms, they have a nearly 40% chance of divorcing. Numerous books, some movies, and at least one theatrical production is devoted to the idea that the American culture has fallen from its supposed godly roots in its distant past, and they cite this high divorce rate as proof. But no culture, let alone America’s, has started with a godly culture. Even Israel, God’s chosen nation, as soon as it received God’s law in Exodus 24:3, had committed idolatry with their golden calf in Exodus 32 before Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the law. Even those who had seen God’s judgment on the Egyptians, who had seen God’s salvation through the Red Sea, chose idolatry, both in this incident at Mt. Sinai, and later at the edge of the promised land (Numbers 14:1-4). Their latter idolatry proved final and fully fatal; for this rebellion God refused to let them enter the promised land (vv. 28-30). The writer of Hebrews attests that the first generation of Israelites was eternally lost in Hebrews 3:18-19; 4:9-11.

And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. … So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

These verses indicate that the Israelites were unable to enter not only the physical rest of Canaan but also the eternal rest of heaven. If God’s own chosen nation was sinful from the beginning, how can we claim that our nation, born out of a non-biblical rebellion (Romans 13:1-7), has been righteous even for a moment?

The point I am getting at is this: sexual sin is nothing new. Divorce rates may be higher, but spouses have been cheating on each other since biblical times. The Greek poet Horace, writing mere decades before the First Coming of Christ, writes in his Odes, Book III Poem 6, “Moral Decadence” (trans. A. S. Kline):

Our age, fertile in its wickedness, has first
defiled the marriage bed, our offspring, and homes:
disaster’s stream has flowed from this source
through the people and the fatherland.

The young girl early takes delight in learning
Greek dances, in being dressed with all the arts,
and soon meditates sinful affairs,
with every fibre of her new being:

later at her husband’s dinners she searches
for younger lovers, doesn’t mind to whom she
grants all her swift illicit pleasures
when the lights are far removed, but she rises,

openly, when ordered to do so, and not
without her husband’s knowledge, whether it’s for
some peddler, or Spanish ship’s captain,
an extravagant buyer of her shame.

What do the harmful days not render less?
Worse than our grandparents’ generation, our
parents’ then produced us, even worse,
and soon to bear still more sinful children.

Well could his culture as well as ours heed the warning in Hebrews 13:4—”Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” In his commentary on Hebrews, William L. Lane quotes this same poem before provding his own insightful comments:

The awesome prospect of the final judgment throws into high relief the ultimate importance of respect for marriage and for sexual integrity. They represent aspects of the pursuit of holiness that are foundational to the worship of God. (p. 517)

And Jesus details how we are to show “respect for marriage and for sexual integrity” in Matthew 5:27-32. There, Jesus equates respect for marriage and for sexual integrity with abstaining from lust and divorce, for lust is adultery, and divorce results in adultery if one lies with a divorced man or woman.

Past cultures sidestepped Jesus’ teachings on marriage and sexual integrity by hiding their sexual sins with secret affairs and clandestine meetings under the cover of night. Our culture is not doing anything new; it is merely doing these sexually immoral acts in broad daylight and without any sense of shame. Paul’s words in Romans 1:28-32 about sinful society was applicable just as much in his day as it is in ours:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Sexual sin is nothing new. Sexual immorality has been around since before the Flood in Genesis 6. Homosexuality, fornication, and adultery have all been present for millennia. The only difference is that these things are now done openly and in broad daylight. We ought not beseech our country to come back to God; communist and socialist ideas have been too-readily adopted (if unwillingly) by the American church. We cannot change a country corporally before we can change it individually. Our country’s moral decadence, while a problem, is not our country’s biggest problem. Our country’s biggest problem is the lostness of its citizens individually. God does not command societal reform; God commands evangelism and discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20). By his grace, let’s be about his work of spreading the gospel and tending to its growth … one individual at a time.

Should Sermons Be “Relevant”?

July 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Is relevance good, a necessary evil, or altogether abominable? Based on the proliferation of sermons that are not based on what the Bible actually says, some preachers would say that relevance is altogether abominable. But relevance is not the problem; it is not inherently bad. Rather, relevance must be determined by the Bible. As Graeme Goldsworthy writes in his book, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: “Since it is the gospel that, by revelation, shows us the real nature of our human problem as well as God’s answer to it, relevance has to be assessed by the gospel” (61). Goldsworthy later concedes, “There is nothing wrong” with addressing commonly felt needs, but “unless the felt problem is then redefined by the gospel, we are in danger of reducing the Christian message to a pragmatic one of helping us feel better or make the world a better place to live in” (62). Some may take umbrage at Goldsworthy’s words, objecting, “Shouldn’t we want people to feel better? Shouldn’t we want the world to be a better place to live in?” The answer to these questions is yes, but as Goldsworthy notes, such goals must be worked toward under the greater and dominant goal of faithfully proclaiming the gospel.

Even those who object to Goldsworthy’s comments must admit that the gospel makes people feel better in an ultimate way; a saved person, by the gospel, knows that he or she is a child of God for all eternity! What can make a person feel better than the grace that God offers in Christ? Likewise, the gospel makes the world a much better place to live in, not by magically suddenly erasing all the world’s ills the moment a person is converted, but by giving the converted person hope in a renewed world that will come at the end of time. Unsaved people have no hope of ever making the world truly better; any solution for the “betterment” of the world apart from the gospel is actually hopeless; man-made solutions will only perish. In fact, the redemption of creation cannot happen until the end of time. As Paul writes in Romans 8:20-21, “For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Creation will be recreated as our bodies are raised immortal, at the return of Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

So, from Goldsworthy’s analysis, in what way should sermons be relevant? Sermons should show people “the real nature of our human problem as well as God’s answer to it.” In short, a relevant sermon shows from Scripture that people need salvation and that this salvation is found only in the person and work of Christ Jesus our Lord. Should sermons be relevant? Yes. Sermons should be relevant by presenting the gospel and by showing how the gospel affects every aspects of a Christian’s life. Relevance is not achieved by preaching to felt needs; relevance is achieved by preaching the gospel to people and showing them from Scripture how the gospel answers their every need.

Don’t Fear People – Love Jesus!

June 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Update: The day after I posted this blog, John Piper posted a blog concerning this issue. His take on “the new calamity” is fresh and insightful. I’d highly recommend it to all of you.

Last Friday, New York became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Its Senate voted 33-29 in favor of the measure, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law shortly thereafter. As Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, notes, this means that fully one out of every nine Americans lives in a place where same sex marriage is “the law of the land,” and if California’s Proposition 8 is ultimately declared unconstiutional, then over 33 percent of Americans will live in such a place.

Later in the same article, Dr. Mohler has this further analysis:

One of the lessons learned in this sad spectacle is the fact that enough Republican senators changed their positions on the issue under intense pressure, thus enabling the passage of the legislation. The same was true for the minority of Democratic senators who had previously voted against the measure. One of these, Carl Kruger, changed his vote because the nephew of the woman Kruger lives with was so outraged over the issue that he had cut the couple off from an ongoing relationship. “I don’t need this,” the Senator told a colleague, “It has gotten personal now.”

Well, of course it has. But what this statement really means is that many Americans, including many in the political class, simply fold their moral convictions when they conflict with the lifestyles or convictions of a friend or relative.

The above reminded me of a passage in Matthew where Jesus says that Christians should not “simply fold their moral convictions” in the face of relational adversity on the human level. To quote Christ directly:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (10:34-39)

Carl Kruger is no Christian (he is Jewish), but we Christians should learn from this situation. We must remember that we must not allow cultural pressure to overcome our biblical convictions. And as I have already written in a previous blog from almost a full year ago, the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong. So we must not allow those around us to scare us into backing off from our convictions.

There are those who may say, “But Jesus’ own words here are that ‘those who do not love me more than they love their parents are not worthy of me.’ And aren’t we all unworthy of Christ?” Yes, those are Jesus’ own words, but we must allow context to protect us from avoiding a text’s unpopular, though valid, application. How does Jesus conclude this paragraph? “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” So to be unworthy of Jesus (to use this passage’s language) is to lose one’s life from finding life outside of Christ. This is the clear teaching of Scripture (Acts 4:10-12, et al).

To find life outside of Christ is to not love him supremely. To find life outside of Christ is to love father or mother or wife or children more than you love Christ. True faith in Christ includes an all-surpassing love for him that exceeds your love for all others. And let us not forget the Holy Spirit’s words in 1 John 4:18. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” If we truly love Christ, that love will overcome any fear of the people around us who support the legalization of same sex marriage. (And we all know at least someone who supports it.) Let us not be like Carl Kruger, an unbeliever who goes against his previous votes against same-sex marriage “because the nephew of the woman [he] lives with was so outraged over the issue that he had cut the couple off from an ongoing relationship.” (There is also the grievous evil of cohabitation in this situation, but that’s another post for another day.)

Fellow Christian, by the grace of the Holy Spirit of God who empowers you to persevere, keep finding your life in Christ, and don’t be afraid to stand by the increasingly unpopular conviction that homosexuality is wrong. Love Christ more than you love (or is it fear?) those around you who condone homosexuality by advocating for same-sex marriage.

John Piper Is Back!

January 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Praise the Lord, John Piper has returned from his eight-month leave of absence! (And I have returned albeit momentarily after a month off blogging. Haha.) You can read John Piper’s (highly condensed) reflection on his leave of absence here. I highly recommend it to all of you.

I have had an exceedingly productive month of December and start of the new year, and I look forward to blogging in the future about the lessons that God has taught me in the past month alone. It has been great taking my own unannounced (and unintentional) leave of absence from blogging, and I feel refreshed and invigorated to press on in the race before me. (Blogging will still be kept to a minimum … I have more pressing engagements to attend to. I mustn’t make an idol out of this to the neglect of other, higher, God-given responsibilities.)

But I digress. Back to John Piper. He turns 65 Tuesday, and I continue to be amazed by this man’s humble devotion to the Lord. From his leave of absence report:

One could look at this [my age] two ways: 1) it’s the age most people retire, or 2) it’s the age Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and led England and the Western World to victory over Hitler’s aggression. I find Churchill much more inspiring than retirement.

John Piper is aging, but he’s still serving the Lord faithfully. You’ll have to read his whole report to get its full effect, but from reading that report, John Piper’s love for the Lord is clear as crystal. As someone young just entering (youth) pastoral ministry, I pray that God would give me the same ever-growing love for Christ that John Piper has. I pray that one day I will have the humility he had to nurture his and his family’s spiritual health almost exclusively for 2/3 of the year. That takes humility, that takes devotion, that takes a heart that is filled with the Spirit. And John Piper’s faithfulness spurs me to greater faithfulness in the ministry that God has superabundant-graciously given me. I thank God for John Piper, and I thank God for the work that he’s doing in John Piper’s life … and I pray that God would do the same work in me, throughout my life.

Very few of you readers are vocational ministers, but you are all Christians, and thus you all have ministries. I mean that we are all Christians, all disciples of the Lord, and disciples are to make other disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). So I pray that your prayer is the same in substance (that God would make us faithful, to His glory) as John Piper’s, and as mine. I’m excited about 2011, for what God will do in us and through us—his people—this year.

John Piper is back and ready. Are we ready, too, not in our own power but in the power of God’s indwelling Spirit?

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