RIGHTEOUS: Trying to be?

I came across this recently in Piper’s book entitled Think.  In principle, this seems to apply quite well to believers, particularly as we struggle to live under grace and not the Law.

In relation to Rom.10.2-3…

“They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” 

Piper writes:

Here is the root of their suicidal zeal for God.  In all their thinking about God and his righteousness, they missed the main point – that it is a free gift for faith.  When they seek to establish their own righteousness, they are not submitting to the righteousness of God.  In fact, their effort to establish their own righteousness is rebellion and insubordination against the righteousness of God.  This is why they are not saved.

But you can hear the zealous kinsmen of Paul cry out in defense: “Wait a minute!  You do us entirely wrong.  It is precisely our efforts to establish righteousness in our lives that is our submission to God’s righteousness.  What else would subjection to God’s righteousness look like, except the zeal to establish righteousness in our lives so that it come into conformity to God’s righteousness?  What would you want us to do – be indifferent to whether we are righteous or not?”

But Paul says that when you live this way – when you labor to show yourself righteous so that God will accept you – you are not submitting to God’s righteousness; you are in rebellion against God.  Why?  Because God’s righteousness is a gift of free and sovereign grace, not a merited attainment by human effort – or even a Spirit-wrought performance of relative success in holiness (sanctification).  And since it is always and entirely a free gift, submission to it means receiving righteousness as a gift.

The way that gift comes is described in Rom.10.4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  All of God’s law was leading to Christ for righteousness for all who believe.  By faith we receive Christ.  And in Christ we have the righteousness of God.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor.5.21). This is what they were ignorant of, and therefore, Paul says, they had a zeal for God and were not saved.

…Paul’s kinsmen needed to see that the righteousness of God that they lacked was a free gift of that same grace.  It comes only through union with Christ by faith.  And when it comes, it brings in its train the power to love (Rom.13.8; Gal.5.6).

COUNTERFEIT: Gospels

A little something to ponder.  Another list (found here) that describes the typical ways we gravitate toward focusing elsewhere than upon Jesus Christ’s person and work:

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

Oh, how subtle a shift it is from looking unto Jesus (worshipfully, etc) to embracing a counterfeit gospel.

CENTER: Of Gospel?

Recently came across the following list (go here); things that are NOT the center of the Gospel, yet are too often thought to be so.  I would add one more (perhaps its implied in the list): #56: The center is YOU!  Unfortunately, it isn’t all that uncommon to find folks who think the Gospel’s center is themselves (a.k.a. ‘My personal testimony’, etc.).

A shift from the True Center to a false center is hazardous to the well-being of both the Church and Christian.  Whatever supplants Christ’s person and work from the center becomes a so-called Gospel.  The implications of this idolatrous orbit around something other than Christ can be far-reaching, again, in the life of both the Church and Christian, and seemingly impossible to set right particularly if things have long centered on someone or something other than Jesus (incarnated, crucified, buried, risen, and ascended).  Fact is, the Gospel alone contains the truth and power to dislodge false-centers.

1. The center is what you do for society

2. The center is accepting all people through love

3. The center is the transformation of society so that we will we all live in peace

4. The center is separating ourselves from the sinful world

5. The center is about pointing out the sins of society

6. The center is about not pointing out the sins of society

7. The center is about maintaining the biblical view of the nuclear family

8. The center is about the sanctity of life and abortion

9. The center is about gender issues

10.  The center is political, voting Republican or Democratic, or not voting at all

11.  The center is social justice

12.  The center is being a good person

13.  The center is your devotion and piety

14.  The center is obeying the 10 commandments, and obeying the moral law of God

15.  The center is helping the church grow numerically

16.  The center is finding out new ways to help the church grow numerically

17.  The center is finding out works in the business world and bring into the church

18.  The center is finding out your generation’s needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

19.  The center is finding out what your culture needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

20.  The center is getting people involved in the church

21.  The center is about worshipping God

22.  The center is about contextualizing worship to each generation and culture, often through music

23.  The center is in political involvement to transform the values of society

24.  The center is studying the Bible

25.  The center is studying the commandments in the Bible so that we can figure out what we need to do in every situation in life

26.  The center is a literal hermeneutic

27.  The center is giving good exegetically sound sermons that help people understand God

28.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that cause people to action

29.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that are not over judgmental in tone

30.  The center is giving sermons that give insight and understanding in ways never realized by the audience

31.  The center is giving sermons that warn people about the judgment of hell to come

32.  The center is getting a top-notch preacher at your church

33.  The center is how to write exegetically sound and convincing papers on the problem passages in the Bible

34.  The center is the nature of God as Creator

35.  The center is a biblical worldview

36.  The center is having faith so that God will bless you materially and physically in this life

37.  The center is faith in the general attributes of God

38.  The center is faith in a specific attribute of God, such as omnipotence, holiness, graciousness, or justice.  This would lead to the spoken center being the sovereignty of God, the majesty of God, the adoration of God, the compassion of God, the grace of God, or the identification of the sins of the world

39.  The center is “trust and obey,” without a specific understanding of what we are trusting in.  The trust is usually the attributes of God, and that his commandments are true

40.  The center is spiritual-mystical, finding God through prayer and fasting

41.  The center is finding out what God is saying to you

42.  The center is that you are loved by God. The center is a good self-image and self-worth.

43.  The center is some theological system of understanding

44.  The center is the kingdom program of God

45.  The center is understanding a certain eschatological hope, or view on the Millenium.

46.  The center is the power of the Holy Spirit

47.  The center is spiritual warfare

48.  The center is having faith so that miracles can be done in your life

49.  The center is understanding the distinction, or non-distinction between Israel and the Church

50.  The center is accepting pre-determinism

51.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to compassion, but detached from his work on the cross

52.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to grace, but is detached from the work on the cross

53.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to discipleship and commitment, but detached from his work on the cross and the results of the triumph in his resurrection.

54.  The center is faith in Jesus, but this Jesus is vague and non-specific

55.  The center is all of the above

Principle to Hold: The Gospel Center is Jesus’ person, work on the cross for forgiveness of sins, and his resurrected triumph over death. From that center we understand the fuller work of the triumphant Christ, from his perfect life to his enthronement and return.  Again, some of the above statements are blatantly wrong, others have a high degree of truth in them.  Most are good, but good is not the center of the Gospel. It should be the goal of the theological student to understand how the Gospel Center relates to the above statements.

TIM KELLER on IDOLS:

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

GOSPEL: Moral Living or More on Him

Came across this quote a week ago or so:

“We do tend to reduce the Gospel to moral living and the American way of life. Even those of us in the church act as if God is powerless and we have to do everything for Him.  The early church knew a supernatural God who didn’t always do things the way they thought He ought to.  Maybe we should look to and rely more on Him and less on ourselves.”

BOOK REVIEW: The Naked Gospel

AMAZON BOOK REVIEW:  The Naked Gospel

[The following is my own book review. mjm]

Please, listen closely to all reviews that deem this book as faulty! And, note well, how, what Farley is teaching bears upon the criticisms by others about this book.  Some will say: “The book is off-track!” This is exactly right…The Naked Gospel is far from the garden-variety preaching/teaching we all have been subject to within much of the church.

The Gospel remains a stumbling block for all those who would seek life apart from and not in Christ Jesus, himself.

Our default mode: LAW!

Thank you, Andrew, for laboring to bring to light the Truth of the Gospel…Jesus is Our righteousness, Our life, Our rest, Our Lord! And as Lord…he literally RULES in the lives of those who believe (take Him at his word, that, He is Life!).

I have lived long enough (within the realm of works-righteousness) and alongside others who do the same to see the truth of Scripture confirmed that man is incurably self-righteous (even when it appears “godly”).

Chief Problem: IDOLATRY!

As Christians, we exercise some of the most blatant forms of IDOLATRY. That is, mingling grace (God’s image-making) and works (Our image-making). Failing to give up on our own “image-making” project (fashioning ourselves into God’s image), while missing how it is that God in Christ (the expresses image of God) goes about making us into His image.

Every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is FULFILLED in Christ.
Ultimately, every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is DESCRIPTIVE of the work of Christ “for” and “in” us.

Man is innately most comfortable in his own image-making…being as God.

For those who can’t readily swallow naked (non-sugar-coated!) Gospel-Truth (even as a Believer!)…there remains a degree of blindness and deafness to the REALITIES of Christ as fulfillment of all shadows (The Law). We become what we behold! Blind, deaf, and dumb? Or, seeing, hearing, and praising?

Farley’s work here is a great beginning to our continuing to unpack the essence of Christ crucified and risen, the New Creation.

DOGMATISM: Flesh-beat-en(-ing)

A thought or two regarding Fundamentalism.

A leading characteristic of Fundamentalism would be Dogmatism.  This is really nothing more than a Letter-driven (as opposed to Spirit-driven (Gospel-based and -contextualized)) approach.  Instead of a ‘faith’ in Christ orientation, the Dogmatist’s way is generally one rooted in ‘fear’ – though lip service is paid to the Gospel.  The latter has a way of *driving* sheep (the believer, the local church) this-way-and-that, whereas the former sees the Gospel ministry as one of *guiding* the sheep in the Way (in faith toward Christ…for all of salvation…sanctification included). 

Here’s what I’m getting at… anything that is said/done in the name of Christ that isn’t consciously and intentionally – rooted and grounded in the Gospel – is something other than a Gospel ministry, no matter how “moral”/”biblical” it sounds.  Ours is not to be “biblical” but “Christian” and I think we can be found standing in the former without possessing the latter necessarily.  We are not then to be found in Moses seat (Mt.23.2).  Subscription to “biblical norms” does not mean one is clinging in faith to Christ for each and every aspect of salvation…including His growing us up grace and knowledge of Him (i.e., sanctification, godliness). 

Paul puts it this way…there are those of us who “have the form (appearance) of godliness, but essentially deny its power” (2Tim.3.5).  For godliness is not ours to strive after as some commodity on the shelf that is just there for our taking, but the very working of God in us a faith and love, that, consistently beholds Christ’s righteousness/godliness (1Tim.1.4), and are thereby sovereignly and progressively brought into the likeness of His Image (2Cor.3.18).  In this way, Paul thought of Christ as our sanctification (1Cor.1.30).  The Gospel itself (the truth about Christ’s incarnation, righteousness, death, resurrection, and ascension…His doing not ours) is the only thing whereby God brings about the peaceable fruits of righteousness among His people (Phil.1.11; Col.1.6).

In other words, the Flesh can strive in form and yet never connect to the Source…Christ crucified and risen (Rom.8.3-15).  How we answer the following betrays our actual stance toward God and our brother:  “Are disciples of Christ made by 1) inputting the right commands, or are they 2) fashioned by beholding (Christ’s glory in the scandal of the Cross) and thereby found living in the Way?”

As I’ve said before…fundamentalism is readily found wherever people are finding their hope to be in their law-keeping and not Christ’s (even where we don’t do this in regards to justification, but more so sanctification). This is true of even we who claim to embrace the doctrines of grace.  A sounder grasp of the relationship of the Law/Gospel (particularly what the two have to do with Christ himself) genuinely and lastingly keeps things in a Christian perspective.

Just two cents worth.

APOSTASY: Masquerading as Gospel

Essentially, anything that poses as the Gospel or its equivelent is simply unbelief.  The Gospel stands completely on its own and needs nothing but the cross/resurrection of Jesus Christ to substantiate it.  Only the Gospel is gospel…and everything else…is something other. 

Related thoughts:

“Any cultural or political agenda embellished with such authority is a manifestation of “works righteousness” and ipso facto an act of apostasy. This theological proposition, over and beyond all prudential moral judgments, “hits” in all directions of the ideological spectrum; it “hits” the center as much as the left or the right. “Different gospels” lurk all across the spectrum. No value or institutional system, past or present or future, is to be identified with the gospel. The mission of the church is not to legitimate any status quo or any putative alteration of the status quo. The “okay world” of bourgeois America stands under judgment, in the light of the gospel, as does every other human society. Democracy or capitalism or the particular family arrangements of middle-class culture are not to be identified with the Christian life, and neither is any alternative political, economic, or cultural system. The vocation of the church is to proclaim the gospel, not to defend the American way of life, not to “build socialism,” not even to “build a just society” – because, quite apart from the fact that we don’t really know what this is, all our notions of justice are fallible and finally marred by sin. The “works righteousness” in all these “different gospels” lies precisely in the insinuation that, if only we do this or refrain from doing that, we will be saved, “justified.” But, as Paul tells us, “by works of the law shall no one be justified.” [Berger, “Different Gospels: The Social Sources of Apostasy,” Erasmus Lecture, January 22, 1987]”

SELF: Disguising It As Spiritual

In reading Greg Beale’s book (We Become What We Worship), I came across this quote by Eugene Peterson, which I find helpful in describing the nature of the Selfishness that flies under the colors of our “loving the Lord.” :

“Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1. There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance. “We got girls over here, friends. We got statues, girls, and festivals.” This was great stuff. And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response? The Word. What’s the Word? Well, Hebrews had festivals, at least!…

“It’s the biggest word we have—salvation, being saved. We are saved from a way of life in which there was no resurrection. And we’re being saved from ourselves. One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.

“But the minute we start advertising the faith in terms of benefits, we’re just exacerbating the self problem. “With Christ, you’re better, stronger, more likeable, you enjoy some ecstasy.” But it’s just more self. Instead, we want to get people bored with themselves so they can start looking at Jesus.

“We’ve all met a certain type of spiritual person. She’s a wonderful person. She loves the Lord. She prays and reads the Bible all the time. But all she thinks about is herself. She’s not a selfish person. But she’s always at the center of everything she’s doing. “How can I witness better? How can I do this better? How can I take care of this person’s problem better?” It’s me, me, me disguised in a way that is difficult to see because her spiritual talk disarms us.

POISON: Christless Preaching

Here we find words that hit the nail squarely on the head!  We can stop wondering folks, about what it is that ails the church, making it to look and sound so much like the world.  Cut the church off from its Head (Jesus Christ, crucified and risen!) and you have something that closely resembles a chicken with its head cut off.  Lots of commotion, but no life (in/of the Spirit). 

Just look and listen closely enough for where the Gospel is being usurped in the inner workings of the local church, and there you will find forms of idolatry that most of us would otherwise call orthodoxy.  Idolatry has a history of being subtle particularly when it is making a direct assault on the Image of God in Christ.  Remember the Garden.  It all began there one lovely day when all else was good. 

Martyn-Lloyd Jones:

“I am increasingly convinced that so much in the state of the Christian church today is to be explained chiefly by the fact that for nearly a hundred years the church has been preaching morality and ethics, and not the Christian faith. It is this preaching of the ‘good life’, or being ‘a good little gentleman’, and of viewing religion as ‘morality touched by emotion’, as Matthew Arnold put it, that has been the curse. Such men have shed the doctrines; they dislike any idea of atonement, they dismiss the whole notion of the miraculous and the supernatural, and ridicule talk about re-birth. Christianity to them is that which teaches a man to live a good life (Life in the Spirit, 19).”

Quote originally found here:   Jim Kang at Pastor’s Perspective

EvanGALATIANism: Not getting and keeping the Gospel right!

OK folks…you heard it here first:  EvanGALATIANism!

That’s right, I just coined a term that will radically transform both the Church and the World (one day).  Yeah right!

Anyway.  As the title of this post states, EvanGALATIANism has to do with our not getting and/or keeping the Gospel right, front and center; our not above all else, reading, teaching, and living/believing in accord with the Gospel (Christ himself).  And, EvanGALATIANism fails to ever genuinely understand the brokenness both apart from Christ and in Christ (identifying with the Cross; dying daily). BTW, FundaSARDISism (Rev.3.1), the elder brother to EvanGALATIANism, has long warmed-over having found itself buried alongside LiberaODICEANism (Rev.3.14).

The way (theology) of the Cross is not something we understand or live apart from the Spirit of Christ making the Word of Christ to richly dwell in us.  Hence, as we began, so even now, our entire hope is in the mercy of God to make this ONE Gospel about Jesus Christ to be the Bedrock of all faith and life.

This doesn’t mean that we at some point arrive at a higher level of Christian existence, but that we (by the Gospel) are brought to live as dead men toward the World and vacuous Religion, yet alive toward God in and through Christ Jesus, to the glory of God and good of our neighbor.

So then…beware of the leaven of EvanGALATIANism…all Gospel-less doctrine and the associated lifestyle that it promises and nurtures…that is, anything that doesn’t find its hope solely and squarely upon the Gospel.  EvanGALATIANism, perhaps having begun in the Spirit, is that religion (like all false religion) which seeks to complete the race that is before us in the power of the Self!

Worship: Being busy or bust?

 

This post is a follow-up on my previous one, regarding Miles McKee’s efforts to awaken the Church from its spiritual stupor, all the while it is dancing about Itself and not Christ.

                                  

Here again are the two links from which my comments below are taken:   

The Christ Centered Believer  (SERMON BY MILES)

The Gospel and the Believer-centered Believer  (TRANSCRIPT OF SAME SERMON)

 

NOTES:

1… We are busy (Mt.7.21-23) making self-centered GOATS into self-centered SHEEP.

2… We are busy converting the “empty” unbeliever into believers who are “full” of themselves.

3… We are busy confusing people with ideas that their being sinners is due to something they did; rather than…teaching that Adam’s sin made us sinners and Christ’s righteousness makes us saints.  In other words, “redemption” is not about what God did in us, but apart from us in Christ himself.  And that, it is Christ himself (Gal.2.20), who is the source of our life, that is our wisdom, our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption (1Cor.1.30). 

4… We are busy making a spectacle of ourselves before a watching world, rather than our being a people who are much consumed with the Specter of Christ, through Word and Sacrament (1Cor.1.23; Col.1.28).

5… We are busy trying to IM-ME-DIATELY make people “feel good” about themselves, without exalting Christ who died for their ULTIMATE good.

6… We are busy making/maintaining ‘self-centered’ believers who remain disinterested in, bored with, Christ Jesus and Him crucified/risen.

7… We are busy curtailing our message to a culture which knows both a cheap product (culturally-relevant ministry) and a cheap imposter (Christ-less religion) when it sees it!

 

*** May the Lord have mercy in making us GET OVER OURSELVES!!!

 

 

 

 

Centered: On Christ or Christian?

Here is what I suspect would be a discussion with a little bite (in a good way!).  Most churches that you either attend, or minister at, are very likely to be found having succumbed to this Gospel-less, Cross-less, Christ-less blight that I have mentioned here before and Miles McKee (in the following sermon) addresses at ‘point-blank-range.’

If you have the stomach (a Spirit wrought fortitude rooted in the Gospel) for it, PLEASE, take some time to listen to and/or read the following:

The Christ Centered Believer  (SERMON BY MILES)

The Gospel and the Believer-centered Believer  (TRANSCRIPT OF SAME SERMON)

My next post will consist of a handful of notes that capture highlights from Miles’ comments.

Christianity: Not “The Gospel and…whatever”

Here are two programs that discuss the *priority* of the Gospel in ALL that the Church is about.

WHITE HORSE INN:  We Preach Christ Crucified

&

ISSUES ETC: Gospel Driven Church

Some highlights from the first (WHI):

1. After becoming Christians, Christians have a very strong tendency to make becoming a Christian easier than it was for them. Thus missing that the Gospel is not intuitive to the natural man…no matter what coating (i.e., sugar, lemon, etc) is put on it.

2. Preaching today (and probably always has been the majority approach) is a motivational speech wherein ‘Jesus & Friends’ are cited. This has always been a problem…folks wanting to establish their own righteousness, while not fully accepting/understanding that true righteousness is by faith not works (see Rom.3.21-22; 4.5,13,22; 5.17; 8.10; 9.30; 10.3-4,6; and 14.17) . Meaning, sanctification is not about…”Ok, we got that gospel thing down, now lets get busy and holier for God!” No, from start to finish (birth to death) by faith alone!

3. Preaching today (again, always the tendency) is to create a “need” that the pastor, etc can “meet.” All the while, biblical terminology is utilized (emptied its right meaning) in order to sell folks a plan for “fulfilling your destiny.”

4. The Cross is wrongly made out to be an answer to a different set of questions than those the Gospel actually answers. In other words, folks start out on the wrong page and assume that the Gospel “applies” to that very page.

5. Paul sang “one” note…Christ crucified! This and this alone answers man’s greatest and ultimate need, to find acceptance with a thrice Holy God. The foundation of this Throne of Grace, that the Apostle exclusively preached, was made of only true “justice and judgment” (Ps.89.1). It is this Gospel that is the fullest revelation of God’s wrath against human sin (Rom.1.17-18).

The second program (Issues, Etc) is equally good, addressing many of the same concerns…the Gospel ends up being “left behind” by churches/ministries, rather than seeing it as the sole means whereby God makes a people for His name’s sake.

Survey: “Bad?” Maybe not!

Here is an interesting article about the so-called spiritual decline in the USA.  Interesting how some folks think themselves less “spiritual” if they entirely abandon any and all so-called formal religion; while others are in hot pursuit of answers wherever they can find them, so long as their felt-needs are met.  And so the pendulum swings….

The findings in this article are not all that stunning actually, but appear to be further confirmation that, what once claimed to be at the religious helm in the USA was nothing more than an empty shell.  Folks are finally beginning to realize this sad truth; the mask is being pulled away from religion(s) that has long been just skin deep. 

Though there is reason to lament here (being that what was claiming Christ’s name, lacked Christ’s grace and truth), there is reason to rejoice.  The house is being cleansed.

Superficial religiosity, no matter how well meaning or busy, will always be found out.  Preaching everything but Christ crucified will wear out with using, no matter how “helpful and good” it initially appears.  In the end…it’s never worth its salt.

Find the article here:

USA TODAY: Most religious groups in USA have lost ground, survey finds

 

Horton on Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today

Chris Anderson over at My Two Cents had the following to say regarding Mike Horton comments about Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today:

Chris said, “Commenting on the tendency for Christians to adjust our ministries so that they are more culture-friendly, Horton asks, “when will we learn what so many of our forebears knew from experience: that the success of the Christian gospel lies precisely in its offense.”

1. Our dissection of culture isn’t working.

“A host of recent studies confirms that the ecclesiastical ideology of ‘mission to postmodern culture’ works least among the people who are supposed to be the most impressed: the so-called Gen-Xers and younger. Even aside from the all-important challenge of biblical fidelity, not even the demographics support the hype that almost tyrannically controls contemporary approaches to mission and worship.”

2. Our dissection of culture isn’t biblical. We’ve made things far too complicated.

“What if, instead of adopting the division of history into modern and postmodern, we followed the New Testament distinction between ‘this present evil age’ and ‘the age to come,’ the reality of life ‘in the flesh’ versus ‘life in the Spirit’?…In this typology, ‘That is postmodern’ no longer becomes a get-out-of-jail-free card, a justification for all sorts of deviance from historic Christian norms in the name of evangelism, mission, and outreach to the postmodern culture.”

3. People haven’t changed–not in their basic nature and need. Listen to Horton:

“So which is it? Is postmodernism the big new thing or the same old thing? For mission, at least, it just does not matter.”

True Church?

I’ve been waiting for years for these guys to spell out what they understand to be a ‘True Church.’  They’ve dealt with aspects of the subject here and there in the past, but on this occasion the conversation is directly focused on the matter.

I understand and appreciate the ‘reformational’ def. of a ‘true church’ but wondered how the crew at the WHI would handle the question.

The part about preaching the Gospel well in context with the Law (redemptive-historically) was decent.  Among other things, I also appreciated the criteria of “denying or omitting” the Gospel as being a reality in false and failing churches. 

Lastly, the comments about a mass-exodus from ‘Evangelical’ churches are sobering!

Click here:  White Horse Inn: What is a True Church?

Christians, Partly Unbelievers

Mk.9.24. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

 

John Calvin, commenting on the text, stated:

“He declares that he believes, and yet acknowledges himself to have unbelief.  These two statements may appear to contradict each other, but there is none of us that does not experience both of them in himself. As our faith is never perfect, it follows that we are partly unbelievers; but God forgives us, and exercises such forbearance towards us, as to reckon us believers on account of a small portion of faith. It is our duty, in the meantime, carefully to shake off the remains of infidelity which adhere to us, to strive against them, and to pray to God to correct them, and, as often as we are engaged in this conflict, to fly to him for aid. If we duly inquire what portion has been bestowed on each, it will evidently appear that there are very few who are eminent in faith, few who have a moderate portion, and very many who have but a small measure.”

 

Kim Riddlebarger on Mark 9.24, goes on to say:

“Calvin had it right.  Because of indwelling sin, each one of us remains partly an unbeliever until we die. This means that we will constantly struggle with faith, doubt, and with indwelling sin. Remember that the law is written on our hearts. The gospel is not. This is why we need to continually hear the word preached, and why we need to receive the sacraments on a regular basis. When we do so, we are saying “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” This man’s words are very much our own–or they should be. This should be our confession….

 

“It is precisely because we are partly unbelievers that we need to hear the gospel…. As partial unbelievers, our faith is weak and we go about the motions without the power and blessing of God, we will fail. But in Jesus, we have every resource we will ever need, and that without limit or measure.”

 

“Jesus knows we are partly unbelievers. It is not the strength of faith, nor the intensity of faith, that he’s looking for. It is the presence of faith. He simply asks us to trust in him, and seek his power through prayer. And when we do so, everything is possible. But it is only possible when we confess, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

VOTING: In The City of Man

John Piper recently wrote:

“So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.”

 

READ IT ALL:

John Piper: Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting

 

AND ANOTHER WORTHWHILE READ:

Dr. Hamilton: On Politicians and Elected Officians

Dr. Hamilton: The Church Militant and Her Warfare: We Are Not Another Interest Group

 

 

 

 

Priorities of the Ministry of the Gospel

Don Carson has warned:

“Our passion must first be the gospel and not assume it to be understood.”

“We must be careful to keep the gospel central and not turn our responses to the gospel as the main target.”

Scott Thomas mentions that:

“…Carson exhorted…Christian leaders to spend our time on prayer and the ministry of the Word and allow our people to begin and maintain efforts in social concern. He said we must distinguish between what the church as church must do and what the community of believers in the church must do…”

Vote! A Biblical Mandate?

Are we bound by a biblical mandate to vote?  If not, what place does the ecclesiastical sphere have in imposing such as a question of morality?  Personally, I suppose mine is at least an average interest in things political, yet, I have my doubts as to this being of the essence to one’s being a earnest disciple of Jesus Christ, witness to the Gospel itself.

Dan Bryant (a former assistant attorney general to the US Dept. of Justice and a theologically reformed brother) reasoned that, for the church to keep from “losing its way” and to be “relevant,” it needs “to precisely have a gaze beyond here and now.  There’s a kind of appropriate inattentiveness to the here and now because the church needs to be caught up with these unchanging great eternal questions and issues.  There is a God.  He is not silent.  He has revealed himself…  That revelation is profoundly relevant to every human on earth.  It [the church] has a lot to do with out trying to become relevant politically, and to try to become relevant politically is to ultimately lose its way.”
 
Bryant further remarked that, “Here’s the relationship.  When you grasp biblical Christianity in all its glorious and colorful highs and lows, and what God has actually done for sinners like us, it produces a humility you take out into the policy arena [or whatever calling you have], ready to acknowledge that you’re not sure what’s right; you’re not sure of the best way forward.  Let’s hear from different perspectives and people.  That’s the relationship perhaps: less of a certainty about the right policy agenda, and more of a proper circumspection and humility.”
 
Dogmatism beyond the bounds of biblical orthodoxy is always susceptible to making non-essentials, essential. 
 
Dan McBride (member of the Democratic Party and a theologically reformed brother) has this to say about “essentials.”  “The risk of trivializing the mission of the church and reducing it to just another civil society interest group is a risk we always have to keep our eyes on.  The risk of the gospel being trivialized and becoming just a kind of political plank is a horrible risk we must avoid at all costs.”  
 
McBride goes on to speak of the “key distinction: the church as the church, distinct from Christians in their this-worldly calling.  …[T]he church as the church has a specific mandate.  It’s in Holy Scripture, and its mandate is not to do politics.  It is to hold forth Christ as the only way that sinners can be reconciled to a holy God.  When it extends beyond that writ, that biblical mandate, it’s left its charter behind.” 
 
Moreover, McBride explains, that: “Folks may recall the old expression that said, “In essentials, unity; in the nonessentials, diversity; and in all things, love.”  Today, those have been inverted.  The Christian right or the Christian left now define the essentials often in political terms and they demand unanimity of view on their pet political prescriptions.  The nonessentials have become doctrine.”
 
Bryant and McBride were both part of a round-table on the White Horse Inn program with Mike Horton.