The Ten Commandments

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I have enjoyed The Gospel Project’s summer study – God’s Way: A Journey Through the Ten CommandmentsWith every study we run a corresponding blog series as an additional resource for churches and groups using The Gospel Project. Here is the series on the Ten Commandments.

  1. Daniel Davis – Do not have other gods besides me
  2. Aaron Armstrong – Do not make an idol for yourself
  3. Micah Fries – Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God
  4. Mark Rooker – Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  5. Jani Ortlund – Honor your father and your mother
  6. Mary Jo Sharp – Do not murder
  7. Jeremy Pierre – Do not commit adultery
  8. David Jones – Do not steal
  9. Jason Duesing – Do not give false testimony against your neighbor
  10. Tim Brister – Do not covet

I also wrote one post on Jesus and the Ten Commandments for this series. Enjoy.

July 22, 2014 at 9:35 am Leave a comment

The Gospel According To Jonah

Philip Nation and I are preaching our way through the book of Jonah at The Fellowship in Nashville. One of the things I love about preaching Jonah are the clear hints of the gospel throughout the story.

A few years ago Stephen Witmer of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary wrote a post at The Gospel Coalition that captured these hints well. Enjoy!

419wLgnluDL “Jesus himself invites us to look for hints of the gospel in the Book of Jonah.

He does so by referring to his own death and resurrection as “the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39) and by comparing Jonah’s experience with his own (“for just as Jonah . . . so will the Son of Man”). This suggests that the shape of Jesus’ experience is roughly similar to Jonah’s experience. If we know the stories of both Jonah and Jesus, we can immediately see the similarities. The raging sea and the cross are both places of desperation and death. The fish and the tomb (in which both Jesus and Jonah lie for “three days and three nights”) are (quite unexpectedly in each case) a step along the way toward life after death. In both cases, God is the one responsible for this new life—he tells the fish to deposit Jonah on dry land (Jonah 2:610) and he exerts his great power to raise Jesus Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Jesus sees Jonah’s experience as analogous to his own. You might say that in this case, the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament (i.e. Jesus’ reference to Jonah) actually points to the Old Testament’s use of the New (i.e. Jonah’s story embodying hints of a greater story to come—the redemptive events most central to the gospel itself).

Are there other hints of the gospel in Jonah’s experience? Jesus’ self-comparison with Jonah invites us to ask this question. I think the answer is yes. Most of these hints, however, come by way of contrast between Jonah and Jesus rather than comparison. This is not surprising. It’s easy to imagine that the story of a wayward and disobedient servant of God would more naturally point by negative example toward the perfect servant of God who perfectly fulfilled his mission. Jesus himself says he is “greater than Jonah” (Matthew 12:41). The similarities between Jonah and Jesus show us the glory of Jesus and the gospel, but the differences cause the gospel to shine even more brightly.

And the differences are many. For instance, although Jonah describes his experience in the sea and the fish in terms that sound like death (Jonah 2:15-7) he didn’t actually die in the raging sea or the hungry fish. That’s because his mission was to preach, not to die. By contrast, Jesus’ mission was to preach and also to die. Thankfully, Jesus had more than a near-death experience. He really did die (John 19:341 Corinthians 15:3). Because he did, there’s a gospel to preach.

Moreover, the reason Jonah came close to death was because of his own sin. He himself says this to the sailors on his ship: “I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12). In fact, throughout the book of Jonah, we see the pagans in the story acting more honorably and righteously than the prophet. The prophet who despises non-Jewish peoples and wishes them harm (Jonah 4:1-2) is the recipient of their sacrificial kindness (Jonah 1:13). The prophet who is slow to experience a change of heart (and it’s not clear that his heart has changed even by the end of the book) sees pagan sailors (Jonah 1:16) and pagan Ninevites (Jonah 3:10) repent and draw closer to God. Jonah’s near-death experience is clearly because of his own sin. The cause of Jesus’ death is utterly different. He dies not because of his own sin but because of the sins of others (2 Corinthians 5:21). The righteous dies for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18).

Jonah didn’t willingly choose to enter the raging sea or the belly of the fish. He was thrown into the sea by the hands of the sailors (Jonah 1:15), but he knew it was actually God casting him into the sea (Jonah 2:3). And it was God’s decision, not Jonah’s, that Jonah would enter the fish: “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17). In the case of Jesus, it is clear that God sent him to the cross (Acts 4:27-28Romans 3:258:32). But it is equally clear that Jesus willingly chose the cross: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17-18).

Jonah grudgingly obeyed God after his near-death experience in the fish and went to Nineveh to preach, although his heart still wasn’t in it (Jonah 4:1-3). Jonah’s almost-death was intended by God to win his obedience. But Jesus’ death was his act of obedience: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). After the fish, Jonah’s work was just beginning; God gave him a second chance to fulfill his commission (compare Jonah 1:1-3 and 3:1-3). But at the cross, Jesus could say his work was finished (John 19:30). God’s redemptive plan was accomplished through Jesus’ obedience. With less-than-ideal material to work with in the person of the prophet Jonah, God sovereignly used Jonah’s disobedience to draw people to himself (Jonah 1:16).

What happened to Jonah and Jesus after the fish and the grave? Jonah’s “resurrection” left him in an inglorious pile of fish vomit on the shore (Jonah 2:10). Jesus rose gloriously from the dead (Romans 1:4) and ascended into heaven, to the right hand of God (Ephesians 1.20-23). So although Jesus went lower than Jonah (he actually died), his ascent was infinitely higher.”

To read the whole thing click here.

July 17, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Are some Christians being unfairly shamed out of the public sphere?

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Alan Noble is the managing editor and co-founder of Christ and Pop Culture and is an assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Noble recently wrote a thought provoking article on Christians and the public square for The Atlantic titled Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?

Is evangelical Christian morality still viable in American public life?

…There is a fear that in an increasingly secularized society, there will be less tolerance for people who wish to act upon their deeply held religious beliefs, except in narrowly defined, privatized spaces. This is a fundamentally American concern: Will I have the right to serve God as I believe I am obligated to?

Often, Christian claims to religious liberty are framed as homophobia and misogyny, rather than disagreement grounded in morality.

Often, the Christian defense of what they believe is their religious liberty is framed as fundamental hatefulness, homophobia, and misogyny, rather than disagreement grounded in morality. Much to the shame of the faith, a few who claim to be Christian really are motivated by hate. Those who disagree with them see little point in engaging with them on these issues, which is understandable, but it’s unfair and counterproductive to extend that attitude to all evangelical Christians. If the evangelical worldview is deemed invalid in the public sphere, then the public sphere loses the value of being public. American discourse will be marked by paranoid conformity, rather than principled and earnest disagreement. And our ability to prophetically speak to one another and to our nation’s troubles will be restrained.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

July 15, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Russell Moore on The Kingdom of God

Russell Moore, the president of the The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, explains the significance of God’s kingship and the foundational nature of God’s Kingdom to all of Christianity. This video is from Ministry Grid, a video based leadership development platform for the church.

July 10, 2014 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

Jonah and The Mission of God

This is the first message in a series on the book of Jonah that Philip Nation and I are preaching at The Fellowship in Nashville, TN. The sermon starts at around 23:30 (and ends at 54:40…Boom! Almost 30 minutes on the dot.)

July 8, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Navigating Patriotism and Christianity

America the Beautiful Country

Patriotism is a good thing. As C.S. Lewis once put it, patriotism is the natural emotional connection we have with place. We’re wired to ache for this notion of home. However, as Christians we understand that this world is not our home. As American Christians, we also understand that the USA is not our promised land. We are settlers, but we are only passing through.

Many younger evangelicals have wrestled with the issue of patriotism theologically. So, here are a few blog posts that explore the relationship between patriotism and Christian theology.

Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy In A Patriotic Service by Trevin Wax.

Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Babylon. If this statement is true (and I admit it is a generalization), then it may help explain why many millennial church leaders feel a sense of angst regarding patriotic services in the church. As we witness the quickly shifting tides of morality in the United States, evangelicals who feel embattled in the cultural maelstrom are less likely to see the U.S. as the de facto “good guy” in all we do. The culture shift makes patriotic celebrations in church a sensitive issue.

Thinking Theologically About Patriotism by Kevin DeYoung.

In some parts of the church, every hint of patriotism makes you a jingoistic idolater. You are allowed to love every country except your own. But in other parts of the church, true religion blends too comfortably into civil religion. You are allowed to worship in our services as long as you love America as much as we do. I don’t claim to have arrived at the golden mean, but I imagine many churches could stand to think more carefully about their theology of God and country.

Rightful Revelry: Cautions Concerning Combining Patriotism and Worship by Ed Stetzer.

Christians are, in a sense, dual citizens– of the Kingdom and of the nation where they live. I live in a country that is not without fault, but I am proud to be a citizen of that nation. I teach my children to be proud of their nation– not unaware of its challenges– and patriotic citizens. Yet, I think that Christians in all those places need to be careful about mixing their faith and worship with their patriotism and nationalism.

Reconsider God and Country Services by Chris Martin

Millennials have a general lack of interest in religious matters and are somewhat apathetic when it comes to patriotism. How might these facts affect how we plan our God and Country services? I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that singing God Bless America and peddling politics from the pulpit this Sunday may not be a draw for young people outside your church who do not know Jesus or share the same views as you…Don’t burn bridges on the altar of political partisanship. Don’t build a wall around the gospel with bricks fashioned by your political passion.

Should Churches Display The American Flag? by Douglas Wilson, Lisa Velthouse, and Russell D. Moore.

I tend to sympathize with Doug Wilson on this one. However, Russell Moore makes a compelling case. Moore writes:

Removing a flag doesn’t remove the tendency to idolatry or triumphalism; it just leaves such things unaddressed and untroubled. If a congregation already has a flag in the sanctuary, the first step might be for the pastor to use it as an object lesson in a right-ordered patriotism.

The flag can prompt the church to pray for and honor leaders. The flag can prompt us to remember that national identity is important but transitory. There will come a day when Old Glory yields to an older glory, when the new republic succumbs to a new creation. Until then, let’s reorder all our affections, including our flag-waving. But let’s do so maintaining the paradoxical tension of “resident aliens.” There is no need to play “Rapture the Flag.”

Photo credit: photopin

July 3, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Engaging Kids Imagination With The Christian Story

In this video, Sally Lloyd-Jones discusses parenting children into the Christian worldview story.

Jones is a New York Times bestselling children’s book writer. Her books include The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing.

June 26, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

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