Posts filed under ‘Theology’

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

7 Disciplines to Strengthen Evangelistic Focus

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Rick Segal of Bethlehem College and Seminary recently wrote a helpful article on evangelism and spending time with unbelievers titled Are You Too Christian for Non-Christians?Ask yourself, how much time do you spend with unbelieving individuals? What is the quality of your social relationships with unbelievers? Segal offers seven disciplines to strengthen your evangelistic focus in everyday life.

1. Pray for the unbelievers in your life by name.

Margaret Thatcher once famously said, “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families…” Her point being that we must regard each other at human scale, not as mere components of larger social institutions. The same can be said of the way we use the term “the lost.” Of course our hearts grieve for the millions who do not know Jesus, but we don’t know the millions, personally. Most of us do know personally at least dozens, some of us hundreds, and rather than lump these precious individuals into one big prayer cohort, we could begin to take their given names before the Lord in prayer. Start writing their names down and praying over them at least once a week.

2. Be intentional in pursuing relationships and scheduling time with unbelievers.

If you don’t make engagement with unbelieving people a priority, your life will gravitate automatically toward the pleasures and comforts of the church community cul de sac. Identify two people outside of your Christian circle with whom you think you would enjoy spending more time. Look for two more who appear to need someone to come alongside of them as they struggle with burdens in their lives. Target one other with whom you seem to have the least in common, but enough of a relationship that you could see it becoming, with a little work, a friendship. You needn’t feel that you to need to sacrifice any of your principles or values to love someone else. It’s what we’re commanded to do. Love God. Love our neighbors.

3. Don’t withdraw from unbelieving family members. Lean in.

Family members are people with whom, like it or not, you are already in relationship. You already love them, and they already love you, despite theological differences. Don’t make them a project, just love them as members of your family. Be sincerely interested in what they’re interested in, even if you find it hard to be interested. Know their struggles. Encourage them. Affirm them. Don’t be estranged. Lean in and never give up on any of them. Above all else, pray for them.

4. Love your neighbors.

Know your neighbors. Help your neighbors. Enjoy your neighbors. Be the epoxy that glues your neighbors into a neighborhood. Practice hospitality. Make your home a place that your neighbors associate with their love for each other.

5. Appreciate your workplace as the best place.

For most Christians, the workplace is the place where we will spend the most time with unbelieving people. Work requires us to collaborate with others to see it to completion. Relationships in the workplace are sometimes even easier to develop than with family members. You share more time and, in time, more in common. Don’t allow your Christianity to be a wedge that separates you from co-workers. You needn’t compromise your values, nor engage in any unbiblical activities to secure a co-worker’s esteem or affection, but you do need to take an active interest in your coworkers as fellow human beings, not just the other spokes in a wheel you happen to share. Appreciate that people in the workplace are not the means of getting your work done, they are the objects of your work as an ambassador for Christ.

6. Harvest relationships from your children’s activities.

Children are now involved in lots of activities, year round. If you have several children, the breadth of your relationship universe is substantial across the expanse of all the other coaches, parents and teammates. So, go deep. Work these crowds. Befriend people in these communities. Do things with them. Bring them together in your home with family members, co-workers and neighbors. A word of warning: don’t permit all of your kids’ activities to take place in Christian-only programs.

7. Take up a new hobby, especially one shared in groups.

Diversions from responsibilities can be personally renewing and restorative, and great venues for evangelism. Find something fun or interesting to do or learn in which you are not fulfilling a specific responsibility or obligation to anyone — just taking your mind off of things for awhile. But, find something that requires you to do it with other people. Here you’ll likely meet people of all different walks, the bond being the shared interest in the hobby. It will help to find something in which someone else, perhaps an unbeliever, will have to be invested in you to help you along. This can be the leaven of really great relationships.

The truth is the product of this hypothetical formula is not a score, it is joy. There are few greater joys in life than sharing the gospel with another person, even fewer greater joys than knowing you have been used as means, immediately or eventually, in another’s conversion in Christ. Yes, we rejoice in corporate worship, in Christian fellowship, and in private devotion, and also in the essential work of sharing Christ with those who do not yet know him.

Read the whole thing here.

photo credit: JoséPedro via photopin cc

June 24, 2014 at 7:05 am 1 comment

The Persecuted Church and American Christianity

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Yesterday Faith Street published an article by Russell Moore titled “Could the Persecuted Church Rescue American Christianity?” Here is an excerpt.

We have grown accustomed to an American civil religion, nominally Christian, where in many places it does someone social good to join a church. To say “I’m not a Christian” has been in those places the equivalent of saying “I’m not a good person.” This has inflated membership rolls, yes, but it has done so at the expense of what Jesus calls the gospel: the call to carry a cross.

Moreover, this nominal Christianity has emphasized the “values” and “meaning” aspects of Christianity while often downplaying the “strangeness” of Christianity, namely the conviction that a previously dead man is alive and returning to judge the living and the dead.

This Bible Belt experiment will not long survive the secularizing of American culture, where increasingly even the “values” seem strange to the culture. The church will survive, and, I believe, flourish — but it will mean the stripping away of the almost-gospels we’ve grown accustomed to.

Moore continues:

When we encounter those persecuted around the world, we see a glimpse of what Jesus has called all of us to. We see the sort of faith that isn’t a means to an end. We see the sort of faith that joins the global Body of Christ, across time and space, in the confession of a different sort of reign. We see a gospel that isn’t the American Dream with heaven at the end.

Read the whole thing. It is worth your time.

June 19, 2014 at 8:05 am Leave a comment

Jesus Came Preaching

George

Timothy George (Th.D., Harvard University) just published an article in the First Things journal titled “Jesus Came Preaching“. George starts the article by examining the uniqueness of a preaching Savior:

“At the heart of the Christian faith is a Savior who was a preacher. “And Jesus came preaching” (Mark 1:14). This stands in contrast to the gods of Olympus or the deities of the Roman pantheon whose interaction with mortals, when it happened at all, was transient, ephemeral, detached, like a circle touching a tangent. Zeus thundered, but he did not preach. Nor did the dying and rising savior gods of the mystery religions. There were ablutions and incantations and the babbling utterances of the Sibylline Oracles but nothing that could rightly be called a sermon.”

At the end of the article, George expounds on the power of preaching in the ancient world, and issues a challenge for pastors today. His words provide a powerful reminder to all Bible teachers – especially pastors.

The preachers of the early church were not merely expressing their personal opinions or providing entertainment to their listeners. No, they were in the vanguard of the militia Christi, the army of Jesus that sheds no blood. Their preaching propelled redemptive history forward toward the consummation of all things. This is certainly how Matthew 24:14 has been understood, from the age of the apostles right through the dawn of the modern ecumenical movement: “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

The promise still stands and the task yet remains, for God ever renews his church through new forms of preaching—the martyrs, the monks, the mendicants, the missionaries, the reformers, the awakeners, the pastors and the teachers. Where such proclamation is faithful to the living and written Word of God and enlivened by the Spirit, it is an effective means of grace and a sure sign of the true church.

To read the whole article, click here.

June 16, 2014 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

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