Posts filed under ‘Thoughts’
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I first read Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly by Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Will Metzger has been a campus minister at the University of Delaware since 1965, where he serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Christian InterAction. Here is an introduction to the main points of his book Tell the Truth:
“Witnessing is confined to a rehearsal of a few gospel facts in the hearing of a nonbeliever. Broadly defined, it is whatever we do as Christians before the watching world.”
“The airplane of Christian witnessing has two wings: our lives (conduct) and our lips (conversation).”
“The content of our message is Christ and God, not our journey to faith. Our personal testimony may be included, but witnessing is more than reciting our spiritual autobiography. Specific truths about a specific person are the subject of our proclamation. A message has been committed to us- a word of reconciliation to the world.”
“Martyn Lloyd-Jones has drawn the following foundational principles for evangelism:
- The supreme object of the work of evangelism is to glorify God, not to save souls.
- The only power that can do this work is the Holy Spirit, not our own strength.
- The one and only medium through which the spirit works is the Scriptures, therefore, we “reason out of the Scriptures” like Paul did.
- These preceding principles give us the true motivation for evangelism- a zeal for God and a love for others.
- There is constant danger of heresy through a false zeal and employment of unscriptural methods.
Understanding that God, not us, is the evangelizer (the one who brings the results) is wonderfully liberating.”
Principles for Evaluating ‘Evangelism Methods’
- What truth was taught?
- Was the nature of God defined clearly and its implications impressed on the mind and the heart lovingly and firmly?
“I have found three questions helpful to guard against this aberration:
- Were the truth points of the gospel elaborated on clearly so that a meaningful response was possible?
- Did appropriate Scripture probe the conscience, or only reinforce sinful desires?
- Was the impression given that they can decide for Christ by their own abilities whenever convenient?”
“Our evangelism needs to stress a God of holiness, not just a God who exists to give us good times and pleasant feelings. We gained redemption through a sovereign Savior rather than through a relationship to him as a mere friend.”
“There is a ‘truth bomb’ ticking away in evangelical Christianity that could explode misconceptions in evangelism. This bomb’s ingredients are the sovereignty of grace, dependence on prayerful pleading, truth-centered witnessing, genuine love and friendliness.”
The Five Primary Points of the Gospel
1. God: Our Owner, Father, Judge.
“We must give people a thorough grounding in the character of God as the self-sufficient Creator as part of our basic Gospel.”
2. God-Centered Living: The Two Rules of the Road.
“It compels conviction of sin and reveals a compassionate Savior, guilt (law) and forgiveness (love).”
“Repentance before God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are the goals of the gospel.”
“God has designed a way for us to live.”
“It is essential that they measure themselves by God’s requirements.”
3. Self-Centered Living: Separated and Enslaved
“The corruption of what is best will lead to the worst results.”
“How can human beings be so inconsistent? At one time they display self-sacrifice, at the next moment they are all selfishness and pride. This point of tension is explained by the Christian view of human nature. When people are able to see a reason for the human paradox, they may begin to admit sin is in their nature and a radical solution is therefore needed. Man plays God and man fights God.”
Bring back to God’s holiness;
“God’s rules requiring perfect obedience to see how powerless we are.”
“If we don’t treat people as persons when we witness to them, we deny a basic tenet of the very gospel in which we believe. If we turn this outline into a formula, we have depersonalized those we encounter.”
“In explaining what it means to be human, we must vividly contrast Genesis 2 and 3 (creation and Fall) and personally punctuate Romans 1:18-23 (Creature tries to be Creator).”
“to admit I am sinful in my nature (not just that I make mistakes or am imperfect), and by simply not loving God (vertical relationship) I have offended his holiness, making me liable for punishment.”
4. Jesus Christ: The Way back to Life.
“The law convicts but is powerless to convert a person.”
“It is the dying Savior on a cross who causes us to hate sin and surrender to love.
- The cross shows us how heinous sin is. (The innocent Son was punished)
- The cross reveals a way of forgiveness consistent with the justice of God.
- The cross demonstrates the love of God.”
“grace is costly but free.”
“Much of witnessing is bringing people to understand and feel the extent of their helplessness and corruption.”
Christ “provides for us two things his Father required of us:
- Our obligation to live a morally perfect life.
- The punishment we deserve for disobeying God’s holy law.”
“The fire of God’s wrath has touched down at one particular point in history. And when it did, it utterly consumed a man as he hung on the cross.”
5. Our Necessary Response: Coming Home to Jesus.
“If God is sovereign, and if the person’s conviction is of the Holy Spirit, then God can finish what he has begun.”
Assurance: “The first pillar of assurance is a trust in the promises of God as being promises to you. You count them true and take them personally. The second is the beginning of a change in your attitudes and actions corresponding to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5) and the marks of salvation (1 Jn). The third is the inner witness of God’s Spirit to your spirit that you are his child (Rom 8).
“When we sin it is to be expected that our assurance of salvation will be weakened.”
“Remind them of the three tenses of salvation: I have been saved (Eph 2:8), I am being saved (1 Cor 1:18), I will be saved (Rom 5:9). The basis of assurance of salvation is threefold: the promises of God made real to the heart, the inner testimony of God’s Spirit to our Spirit, and the production of attitudes and actions congruent with the fruit of the Spirit and God’s commandments.
- Test of Consciousness of Sin (1 Jn 1:8, 10)
- Test of Obedience (1 Jn 2:3-5, 29)
- Test of Freedom from Habitual Sin (1 Jn 3:9; 5:18)
- Test of Love for Other Christians (1 Jn 3:14; 4:7-8)
- Test of Belief (1 Jn 5:1)
- Test of Overcoming the World and Satan (1 Jn 2:13-14; 5:4)”
Note: The Biblical mandate to ‘examine yourself’ can be found in 2 Cor 13:5
“Regeneration and conversion are words to describe two different ways of viewing salvation. Regeneration is viewing salvation from God’s side; it is an instantaneous impartation of new life to the soul…Conversion, on the other hand, is viewing salvation from our perspective. It is a process of the entire work of God’s grace from the first drawing of understanding and seeking to final closing with Christ in new birth…We respond in time to God’s action in eternity.”
F.W. Faber once said, “Deep theology is the best fuel of devotion; it readily catches fire, and once kindled it burns long.”
“In witnessing we must be emotional. How can we not? We’re talking of the deepest love in the world. We’re pressing on the conscience the awful anger of God against personal sin and social injustice. We’re communicating the reconciled peace of God. Our theme is the liberating joy of no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, the Jesus who wept over Jerusalem’s unbelief.”
“It is a mistake to appeal to the unbelievers will directly if we do not accompany such an appeal with biblical content. Why? Because such content is needed to instruct the mind in its choice and humble its sinful desires.”
“A compulsion to earn salvation is deeply rooted in the nature of fallen mankind.”
“Our first parents, acting as our representatives, made a choice to disobey their maker, and their sin has affected every human since them except one. When Adam and Eve sinned, the image of God was defaced but not erased.”
Three Myths That Obscure Grace
- The myth of my inalienable rights.
- The myth of human goodness.
- The myth of [absolute] freewill.
“Grace to the Rescue
- Human beings crash, We are ‘totaled’ and ‘dis-abled’
- Re-creation (new life) is needed.
- Alien (from outside ourselves) aid is needed.
- Our maker devises a salvation plan involving his Son and the Holy Spirit.
- The Father, unobligated to save any, chooses to save many, not because of any quality in us but because it pleases him. He thus sends his Son.
- Jesus, the God-Man, provides redemption via keeping perfectly the Father’s law and through his death as our substitute sin-bearer and resurrection for those given to him (chosen) by the Father.
- The Holy Spirit, following God’s plan, regenerates those given to the Son, granting Christ’s benefits to them.
- Having spiritual new birth, they wholeheartedly respond in repentance and faith.
- They willingly and freely love God because he first loved them, and they choose to do his will.”
“We hear the outward call offering good news, but we are unwilling, Then the Holy Spirit enters…I become willing and choose Christ because what I desired in my mind was changed by God’s empowering, evocative grace!”
“The Holy Spirit regenerates people because it pleases God (Gal 1:15). It is according to his good will or purpose. “God…has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Tim 1:9).
“The new meaning of tolerance has expanded to include the necessity to approve all beliefs, opinions, values, and lifestyles. “To be truly tolerant…you must agree that another persons position is just as valid as your own…you must give your approval, your endorsement, you sincere support to their beliefs and behaviors”…Now evangelizing is called proselytizing. Although the dictionary definition of this term is mild, meaning to convert or change beliefs,” it is now linked with actions that are manipulative, pressuring, and bigoted.”
“Christianity’s distinctive features can be summarized under three headings;
- Ruin: Christ teaches that we are helpless and lost, wholly unable to save ourselves.
- Redemption: Christ is risen, we serve a living savior who bore the Father’s judgment on our sins.
- Regeneration: Christ recreates a new heart in us, and we live united with him in newness of life. Our nature is changed.”
- Common Interests
- Immediate Questions
- Abstract Questions
- Christian Explanations
“Practical Effects of Grace Centered Evangelism
- Pray for God’s will to be done, since his purposes are best.
- Are bold and less fearful of others.
- Are quietly confident, for God has promised to use them.
- Are humble, for they know God is taking the lead.
- Are filled with love, for it is God’s love that motivates them.
- Speak to the conscience, knowing it is our point of contact.
- Are expectant, for God’s purposes will come to pass.
- Are patient, trusting in God’s timing to bring new life.
- Are persistent, realizing conversion is a process.
- Are honest, not hiding any of the hard parts of the gospel.
- Emphasize truth, not just subjective experiences
- Lift up Jesus, knowing that he will draw people to himself
- Use the law of God to expose peoples inability to save themselves
- Wait for the Holy Spirit to give assurance of salvation
God-Centered Goals in Evangelism
- “Disciples (not decisions), conversion of the whole person, conscience moves them to call on God for mercy in their own words.
- Responsibly teach the gospel clearly, forcefully, patiently.
- Balance the benefits of the gospel with the sacrificial demands of the gospel.
- Allow time for prayer in their own words. (Not standardized prayer)
- Face them with the impossibility of saving themselves or exercising faith on their own.
- Emphasize baptism, partaking of the Lord’s Supper to proclaim his death, changing sinful ways of life.
- Present truth to the mind, call on the will to obey, expect heartfelt emotions to follow.
- Let the Holy Spirit give assurance via subjective inner witness and objective biblical evidence of changed life.”
Biblical theology is not just about reading the Bible rightly, though it begins there. It serves to guard and guide the local church. It maintains the right message, defines the task of the messenger, identifies imposters, tells us what we do when we gather, and sets the trajectory of our mission. It answers the question, Who are we, as the church in the world?
- How Biblical Theology Guards and Guides Churches – Jonathan Leeman
- Biblical Theology and Gospel Proclamation – Jeramie Rinne
- Biblical Theology and Counseling – Michael Emlet
- Biblical Theology and Shepherding – Bobby Jamieson
- Biblical Theology and Corporate Worship – Bobby Jamieson
- Biblical Theology and the Sexuality Crisis – Albert Mohler
- Biblical Theology and Identity – Michael Lawrence
- Biblical Theology and Liberation – Steven Harris
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.
“Who wants to settle for fleeting treasures on earth…when God offers everlasting treasures in heaven?”
Randy Alcorn’s Money Possessions and Eternity is an extensive volume exploring money and possessions from a biblical perspective. When I say ‘extensive’, I mean it. This book has almost 500 pages of material to work through. I recently read this book and found it very beneficial. Specifically, there were a few sections I found most helpful when examining ones heart, and shepherding the heart of others concerning their finances.
The Sin of Materialism
First and foremost, Alcorn argues that the human heart is the primary issue of materialism. He argues that “we [modern Christians] have failed to take materialism as a serious threat to our godliness” (74). Treating materialism as a deadly sin, the author maintains that we cannot grow in godliness until we answer these questions:
- What is it that we really long for?
- What is the deepest desire and need of our hearts?
These heart searching questions help dig deeper on issues related to possessions – enabling one to see the desire behind the “want”. Alcorn makes the case that like other sin and idolatry, materialism is a fruitless attempt to find meaning and satisfaction apart from God. The problem, according to Alcorn, is that most evangelical Christians write off materialism as characterizing other people, but not themselves.
Giving and Simple Living
As for giving, Alcorn upholds that if Western Christians all practiced healthy giving, “the task of world evangelism and feeding the hungry would be within reach” (186). Powerful point. I see this as one of the most powerful reasons for living frugally as a Christian, namely, the ability to give freely. Alcorn’s section on “living simply” is an excellent resource to think about how one uses their resources. He reasons that Christians should live simply because:
- Heaven is our home.
- It frees us up, and shifts our center of gravity.
- Because we are God’s pipeline of grace to others.
- The reward we’ll receive in heaven.
- The joy it brings us now.
- Because of the dire needs in the world.
For many this emphasis of strategic living will require looking hard at one’s lifestyle. But “better to be seen as fools now in the eyes of other people – including other Christians – than to be seen as fools forever in the eyes of the audience of one” (419).
Alcorn presents a biblical and comprehensive view of money and possessions. “The best way to check our heart’s attitude regarding material possessions to is allow all the principles of God’s word to penetrate our innermost being. (xvi)” There is plenty of biblical material in this book to do just that.
Today marks the end of Will Toburen’s pastoral ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. However, Will’s legacy will continue at Calvary for many years to come. Will served as an Associate Pastor and Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary for well over a decade. He will now join the pastoral team at the Summit Church in Durham as the Executive Pastor for Discipleship Ministry. I’ve talked with the Summit’s pastor J.D. Greear recently and he, along with the rest of their team, is excited to welcome Will to their staff. What a great addition to an already stellar team!
When I came to Calvary as a seminary student in the Calvary School of Pastoral Leadership in 2006, Will along with Al Gilbert immediately pulled me in and began investing in my life. These two men have a very special place in my heart (and heart of hearts). They have both shaped my own life and ministry in ways they may never fully know. As for Will specifically, I view him as an older brother in the Christian life. A much wiser brother.
Will’s belief in me, his loving support, and his timely challenges have been formative and affirming – something that every Christian needs and few have the opportunity to receive. Not only has Will become a dear friend, he was part of our wedding ceremony, supported our adoption process, and always encouraged me to grow in ministry through preaching, teaching, and dozens of other ministry opportunities in the local church. Since I cannot be at Calvary for his last Sunday, or attend his going away fellowship, I would like to offer a few thoughts on Will here.
Will is a gifted preacher. I would put him up there with almost anyone. While Will is one of the best, he will never seek his own fame – he gladly points to the Father. I watched Will bring passion and humility to the pulpit for almost 7 years. First and foremost, Will always preached with Jesus as the center of his sermons. Will understands the gospel and works hard to apply the gospel through every text he preached. Will was also humbly honest from the pulpit. One of the things I valued dearly in his ministry was his willingness in admitting where he had failed and where he could work harder in his own personal life. Unlike some preachers who believe that one must always “have it together” to maintain strong leadership, he lead through repentance and humility.
While he was strong in the pulpit, he was so gentle with the people. Calvary loves Will. He grew up at Calvary. He was taught in Sunday School by many of the people who eventually sat under his preaching. I could always sense the mutual endearment when Will would visit some of those dear saints in the hospital or when he would stand by them as they slipped into eternity. I have watched Will weep with those who weep, hold congregants hands when they needed a pastors love, and celebrate the joys of life with many of the people. These are lessons I will treasure for the rest of my life. When I think of servant leadership – many of my lessons were learned under Will.
As a West Campus team we would meet once a week to pray, plan, and hold each other accountable. Each week Will would not only ask us hard questions, but he would also ask for our feedback on his life and ministry. He was always quick to go above and beyond to serve others. He rightly sought chances to grow and learn from others, even guys like me who were well under his ministry age. As I look back I can only conclude that Will wanted to be the most God honoring pastor that he could be. He wanted to preach the word with clarity and with Jesus as the hero. He also wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit when it came to his own life. And being open to allow others to speak into his sanctification process speaks volumes of his character and love for the church.
Strong in the pulpit, gentle in the hospital room. Always growing, and desiring others to grow. Like all of us Will has his faults, but he acknowledges them seeking to grow in the gospel. More importantly, Will loves Jesus, loves his family, and loves the church. I am grateful for our years of ministry together. I am also thankful for our friendship. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for this gentle giant of the faith.
I love you as a dear brother Will, and pray that God would continue to bless you as you begin this new chapter. Rock that sweater vest in your new ministry setting.
The God Problem is a fascinating study of how people talk about their faith, and how they do so in a way that reflects their desire to appear reasonable. Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow observes that while the United States is one of the most highly educated societies on earth, it is also one of the most religious.
In The God Problem, Winthrow examines how middle-class Americans juggle the seemingly paradoxical relationship between faith and reason. Using the tools of discourse analysis and cognitive anthropology, Wuthnow takes the reader on a tour through the United States to sit in on 165 qualitative interviews in which he carefully examines remarks about prayer, tragedies and miracles, heaven, freedom in Christ, and science and faith.1 Wuthnow suggests that people’s faith is often guided—and perhaps restricted—by their own desire to seem reasonable.
You can purchase The God Problem here.