Posts filed under ‘Christian Theology’
A few years ago, the headline of USA Today featured an article titled “Is Sin Dead?”, where the author explored the question “has the notion of sin been lost in modern culture?” When it comes to sin we tend to think, “I am not as sinful as most people”. “I have high moral expectations of myself and others, but I know we are all human so I’m looking for an average score.” We find a comfort zone of morality, a kind of therapeutic middle ground where we think we are doing well.
But the reality is sin is bad news. There is no middle ground. But there is good news. If you can solve your problems or sins yourself, what difference does it make that Christ was crucified? We need to see our sin with honesty, but as Christians, we cannot let our distress over sin to lead us to despair. In our distress, God delivers us.
In Jonah 2, God delivers Jonah from his distress. In the text, we read that:
“…Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”
Even as the darkness of the water surrounded him, when the bars of death were closing on him, Jonah knew that His God would deliver him. Jonah knows that God is a God who hears and delivers those who call to him.
As Christians we know that there is no pit too deep where God cannot reach. There is no sin too horrific that God cannot forgive. There is no rebellion that takes you so far that God cannot bring you home. There is no distance too far that He cannot hear you cry out in the prayer of repentance.
What we learn from this narrative is, the time for repentance is now. We don’t wait to come to God when we have our lives cleaned up. We come to God because we see that we cannot clean ourselves up. Repentance requires us to acknowledge our complete inability, in contrast to God’s complete ability.
Like God did with Jonah, Jesus came to save real people with real problems and real issues. In Christ, God has delivered you. The sins he carried to the cross were your sins and mine. Jesus sank into the deep dark depths of death on your behalf. When you cry out to God he will deliver you from your cold solitary darkness, and you will find yourself on the warm shores of his mercy and grace.
The good news of the gospel is that on the cross he heard our cry for distress. On the cross he paid the price for that sin. In the resurrection, he conquered that sin. God has answered you in Christ.
Most of us have been trained in seminary to pastor with good sense. As pastors, we’re called to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Sound doctrinal preaching and teaching is a mark of faithful biblical ministry (Titus 2:1). In other words, we labor to present the truth of God with clarity and soundness. But we cannot leave it at that.
While we’re called to pastor with sense, we should also pastor our people with sensibility. The more I spend time with people in the church, the more I agree with James K. A. Smith: people are as deeply moved emotionally as they are intellectually (see Desiring The Kingdom). Therefore, we need to lead the affective or emotional disposition of our people if we want to holistically shape them. I’m not advocating for emotional manipulation, but a more thorough spiritual formation.
You can read the whole thing here.
Jonah’s ministry was built on the fact that he serves as a mouthpiece for God. However, in the first chapter of Jonah, it becomes clear that he does not want to answer God’s call to go to Nineveh and serve his purpose. However, he cannot stay home or his rebellion would be exposed.
The choice was simple. Go to Nineveh and be obedient. Stay home and be exposed. Or quit the ministry and begin a new life with a new identity in another place. That is what Jonah chooses.
Like Jonah, if we take our eyes off of ourselves and consider those around us, we will realize that our response to God’s mission affects others. As you read chapter one, the question that should naturally arise is, “what will happen to the Ninevites?”
The progression of the text is telling, there is a continued movement down. Jonah headed down to Joppa and found a ship (1:3). Jonah boarded a ship that was headed down to Tarshish (1:3). On the boat Jonah went down into the bowels of the boat to sleep (1:5). The imagery of going down is a picture for death. The suggestion is that each step away from the presence of the Lord is one step closer to to death. it’s not only Jonah’s life that is at stake, but also the sailors and the Ninevites. His rebellion affects others.
We know from the story that as the Ship set sail, God hurled a storm at the sea. As you see in 1:4, it was such a violent storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. Jonah became stiff-necked and admitted he was running from God’s call. Jonah was about to go down in his rebellion, and he was about to take everyone on the boat down with him.
Disobedience always brings forth death of some sort. The thing we often fail to admit with disobedience and sin is that it affects others. Sin never just affects us, it has implications on everyone around us. When we rebel, we turn our backs on what God has called us to.
In the midst of the storm Jonah knows there is only one way to save those on the ship. Jonah tells the sailors to hurl him overboard. He was to blame for the storm that God had hurled at the sea. The sailors even tried to row themselves out of the storm, but their efforts would not save them.
By hurling Jonah into the sea to face God’s wrath, the sailors were saved. Consider Jesus compared to Jonah. He was in heaven ruling with power at the right hand of the Father. The Father said, your mission is to go to another place where you will be rejected and despised. A place where you will be slaughtered and sacrificed. We are Nineveh, and Jesus came to save us. Thankfully, unlike Jonah, Jesus said yes. Moreover, like the sailors and Ninevites, we need to be saved from God’s judgment against our sin.
The good news for us is that Jesus (even though he did not deserve it like Jonah) hurled himself into the storm of God’s wrath so that you and I might be saved. When Jesus sunk to the depths of death on our behalf, he made it possible for us to arrive safely on the shore of eternity. That is not only good news for us, it’s also good news for those around us. Being saved, we are now called to go proclaim that Jesus offers salvation from the only storm that no man can row himself out of.
There will always be a ship in the harbor ready to take you away from what God has called you to. When you board that ship and abandon God’s call, you abandon the people God has called you to.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has provided a way of salvation. But if we rebel against our missionary call we place the lives of those God has called us to in danger! Isn’t this what happens when we place boundaries on where we will live, who and when we will serve? Your response to God’s mission always affects others.
I just found out about this great opportunity! On November 6th and 7th, Paul Tripp will be at Calvary Baptist Church, West Campus, for a marriage conference. Here are the details.
- Date: November 6 & 7 (Friday 7:00-9:15pm, Saturday 9:00am-12:15pm)
- Cost: $20 per person, and a $10 flat fee for childcare.
- Location: Calvary Baptist Church, West Campus (155 Commerce Drive
Advance, NC 27006. Just outside of Winston-Salem)
- Best Hotel: Hampton Inn in Bermuda Run (Right across the street, and has an indoor pool with water slide)
Note: the process for signing up for this conference is a little difficult and cumbersome.
It won’t take long for you to be disappointed in marriage. It won’t take long for your dreams to be dashed. The reality is that you can’t escape the brokenness of this world. You won’t be able to avoid the sin of your spouse.
The Bible teaches that we all bring something destructive into our relationships – sin. But as Paul Tripp explains, we buy into the delusion that our biggest problem is outside of us. We blame our spouse. We blame our circumstances. We rarely take seriously the nature of our own sin.
What Did You Expect? challenges you to look into the mirror of God’s Word and see yourself with clarity. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you love yourself more than your spouse. Maybe you love your little kingdom more than God’s big Kingdom. When you reach that level of honesty, you’re at the edge of real good things for your marriage.
This conference is based on his book with the same title, What Did You Expect?
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
In 1 Peter 4:7-9, we are reminded of our accountability to God in the day of judgment. In fact, the entirety of the New Testament emphasizes the expectation of the Lord’s return. Being sober minded, we must use our time wisely, knowing that at any moment we could be standing before God almighty. We must be dressed and ready for service.
This could be likened to the anticipation of expectant parents. It is always interesting when you get close to the due date. You prepare your car (install the car seat), you prepare a suitcase (or suitcases), you also prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. In other words, you are always ready to go to the hospital at a moment’s notice. This requires a constant state of readiness.
Interestingly enough, Peter connects this sober minded readiness to prayer and loving others. Readiness provokes thoughtful and constant communication with God. Readiness prepares you to immediately serve those around you in need.
These things “keep love constant”. They help us love with depth and endurance. When you consider the immediacy of Christ’s return, it gives you motivation to pray and love. And when you prayerfully consider God’s love for you, it kindles your love for others.
This love calls us to extend grace and forgiveness to those around us. When Christ returns, I do not want to be found with bitterness in my heart towards another brother or sister in Christ over a petty disagreement or hurt feelings over something done wrong. Love does not keep score, but grants forgiveness to those who seek it. In this sense, love covers a multitude of sins.
As Ed Clowney said, “Our love cannot pay the price for sin. Christ did that. But our love can imitate the mercy of God; our love can forgive, and forgiveness always pays a price.” In loving others as a kingdom community, we give a “this-world” demonstration of the world to come. We are called to glorify God by demonstrating to His dominion over every area of life.
In John 17, Jesus prayed that the Father would protect his own from the evil one. But, he did not pray that we would be removed from this world, and by implication – the suffering of this world.
We will suffer in this life. Suffering is comprehensive, and is a no respecter of persons. While the Bible covers various ways to suffer in this life, this passage is specifically concerned with distinctively Christian suffering. In other words, suffering that may come to us precisely because we are Christians.
Suffering will drive us to our knees, and at the same time it can be a powerful reminder that Jesus is King. Through suffering God brings us to Himself. Consider the words of 1 Peter 3:13-15
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”
Peter is preparing the church, not just to endure suffering – but to find in their suffering an opportunity for witness.
You can imagine that some of the Christians in which this letter was first directed to had seen the suffering of their fellow believers, and fear of that suffering had the potential of halting their desire to publicly live out their faith.
But Peter responds with strange wording – “suffering brings about blessing”. When the world sees that you are – to use the words of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:
- Afflicted in every way, but not crushed.
- Perplexed, but not driven to despair.
- Persecuted, but not forsaken.
- Struck down, but not destroyed.
They think, what is it with these people? What is this hope that is within them? This hope is a frame of mind achieved by setting apart – literally, sanctifying – Christ as Lord.
Our courage is born out of a belief that Christ is king even when things look hopeless. Moreover, in Christ we have a sure hope in the coming blessing. Hope is not wishful thinking, but true faith under pressure. Assurance of our future resurrection in Christ will not only give us courage and comfort, but will also put those who revile us to shame.
When you suffer, suffer with hope. This is the Blessing of Suffering for Christ. In suffering, we can find an opportunity for witness. In suffering, we also realize that God is bringing you to himself.
In 1 Peter 2:13-3:12, Peter argues that believers fulfill God’s desire for order when they take on the posture of service and submission. Namely, submission to others who have been given roles to fulfill in God’s appointment. Orderly behavior within the world is a way to express our trust in God.
In other words, the Christian is to live such a life in such a way that the watching world knows that we serve a higher ruler, God. This whole section describes a posture that is in direct contrast to the spirit of our world, where every individual demands rights and recognition.
First, this means that we show honor to the people are placed in office since government is a good and God ordained. We are God’s servants first, submitting to His will. It is a higher allegiance to God that motivates our submission to governing authorities. As Paul states in Romans 13, their authority comes from God, and their very existence has been instituted by God. In general, they are established for the good of society, namely, to punish what is evil and praise what is good.
Second, this also has implications on our vocation. Peter speaks directly to slaves in this passage, but let us be careful not to impose our United States historical experience on this text. Some slaves did live miserably, other slaves, however, served as doctors, teachers, managers, musicians, and artisans. Now, it was possible for slaves to suffer mistreatment at the hands of their masters for doing good. The primary focus of this text is concentrated on eliciting a godly response to that mistreatment, especially if they suffer unjustly for the sake of righteousness. By not retaliating or giving into resentment, repaying evil for evil, the Christian shows confidence in God’s justice and not giving into the desire to avenge himself.
Third, Peter directs his attention to marriage – and specifically – to wives. Order in the household has long been viewed as the foundation of the state and the orderly structure of society. Based on verse 1, I think we can make the argument that Peter primarily has wives of unbelieving husbands in view, those who “do not obey the word”. Peter is arguing that godly behavior can become a means by which unbelieving husbands come to see the beauty of the Christian faith. In this sense, submission is commended for the sake of the mission of God. A wife submits to the husband in reflection of God’s order for marriage. For the wives of unbelieving husbands, a godly life is a mighty weapon for winning him to the faith.
In all things, do not repay evil with evil, but respond to others when they do evil to you by blessing them. In this way, our submission to God is demonstrated in our service of others.
Our lives are shaped by an eternal perspective that allows us to submit to this world’s order, knowing that in the world to come everyone will answer for how they used their position and power. Jesus endured the cross, despising shame, and now sits down at the right hand of God. With that in mind, let us do the same – endure what comes our way – and do good, knowing that one day we will reign with him in eternity.