Shepherding with Sense and Sensibility

pastoring_capps_350_194_80

My article on Shepherding with Sense and Sensibility was recently published at The Gospel Coalition. Here is the introduction:

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.

November 2, 2015 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

The Mission of God (Jonah 1)

Web

This is an excerpt from a sermon I preached at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole sermon 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.

October 28, 2015 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

“What Did You Expect?” – A Marriage Conference with Paul Tripp in NC

Tripp

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.

Register Here!

  • 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. 

Overview

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?

Register Here!

October 25, 2015 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

The Church as a Kingdom Community (1 Peter 4:7-19)

Web

This is an excerpt from a sermon I recently preached at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole sermon here.

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.

October 7, 2015 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

The Suffering of the Church (1 Peter 3:13-4:6)

Web

This is an excerpt from a sermon I recently preached at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole thing online.

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.

September 29, 2015 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

The Church Scattered (1 Peter 2:13-3:12)

Web

This is an excerpt from a sermon I recently preached at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole thing online here.

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.

September 21, 2015 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

“The Spirits in Prison” in 1 Peter 3:19-20

he-descended 2

I recently polled my Facebook friends on their interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-20. There was much discussion, and differing views, which led me to write this blog post.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” – 1 Peter 3:18-20

There is much theological debate concerning verses 19-20. Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on First Peter, “…a wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so I do not know for certain just what Peter means.” As Ed Clowney notes, this confession by Luther should warn us of overconfidence. However, I believe there is enough biblical evidence to make an educated interpretation of this passage.

Much of the debate hinges on the identity of the “spirits” in verse 19. Depending on the context, the word translated “spirits” can either be used in reference of human spirits or angelic spirits (Num. 16:22; 27:16; Acts 7:59; Heb. 12:23). But the word itself in the immediate context is not enough to understand this passage. The references Peter uses here must also be examined in the context of the entire Bible. WIth that said, here are the three major views on the interpretation of this passage.

Option 1: The preincarnate Jesus preached through Noah to people in Noah’s day (Augustine).

The first interpretation understands “spirits” in reference to the unsaved human spirits of Noah’s day. In this sense, Christ (in the Spirit) proclaimed the gospel through Noah (1 Pet. 3:18,20). Therefore, the unbelievers who heard Christ’s preaching through Noah, and did not obey, are now suffering judgment as “spirits in prison” (3:19). In other words, because of their unbelief they are in prison spiritually.

There are several reasons why Biblical interpreters have adopted this view. First, Peter calls Noah a herald of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5), and the designation “herald” corresponds to the idea of Noah being a preacher (1 Pet. 3:19). Second, Peter says the “Spirit of Christ” was speaking through the OT prophets (1:11). In this sense, Christ could have been speaking through Noah as an OT prophet.

Option 2: Jesus proclaims spiritual triumph over the principalities and powers of evil.

The second interpretation argues that Jesus proclaimed victory over the fallen angelic spirits who were awaiting the declaration of their final judgment even since the days of Noah. In this sense, in Jesus’ victory over death their condemnation is sealed. Simply put, the resurrection of Jesus is a proclamation of his spiritual triumph over the principalities and powers of evil.

One argument against the first view, and a merit of this second view, is that throughout the New Testament the plural word “spirits” most often refers to supernatural beings rather than humans (Matt. 8:16; 10:1; Mark 1:27; 5:13; 6:7; Luke 4:36; 6:18; 7:21; 8:2; 10:20; 11:26; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 19:12, 13; 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 16:13–14; Heb. 1:7). Moreover, the word “prison” is not used elsewhere in Scripture as a place of punishment after death for people, while it is used for Satan (Rev. 20:7) and other fallen angels (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).

Option 3: Jesus descended into hell and preached to unbelievers or fallen angels, offering them a second chance (Origen).

In a third view, Jesus supposedly descended into hell on the Saturday between his crucifixion and resurrection – when his body was dead, but spirit was alive. Some have advocated the idea that Christ offered a second chance of salvation to those in hell. This interpretation, however, is in direct contradiction with other Scripture (Luke 16:26, 23:43; Heb. 9:27) and therefore must be rejected on biblical grounds, leaving either of the first two views as the most likely interpretation.

Conclusion 

Among the three most common interpretations, the first two fit best with the rest of Scripture and with historic orthodox Christian doctrine. However, because of the reasons stated above (and below), I lean towards the second view. Namely, that 1 Peter 3:18-22 references Jesus resurrection as a proclamation of victory over the principalities and powers of evil. In this sense, the message that Christ proclaimed is one of triumph, after having been “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

On The Proposed Connection Between 1 Peter 3:19-20 and Genesis 6:1-4

Some scholars, including Schreiner, corroborate the “spirits in prison” in 1 Peter 3 with Genesis 6:1-4, but the context of Genesis 6 suggests that God’s anger is directed toward man, not fallen angels having offspring with humans. Moreover, I do not believe the connection between “the spirits in prison” and the Nephilim passage of Genesis 6 is necessary, nor is it congruent with the trajectory of the biblical narrative.

I believe the reference to God’s patience as Noah built the ark as an analogy of His long suffering in general, even at the climax of evil in the Genesis 6 world. During that time period, humanity had plenty of opportunity to repent (Rom. 2:4, 3:25; Acts 14:16, 17:30), and eight did. Moreover, verse 18 of 1 Peter 3, seems to be contrasting the current age and the age to come (Heb. 5:7).

As for Genesis 6, it is often argued that “the sons of God” are angels, but that does not seem to align with the whole of Scripture (Matt. 22:30). In Genesis 6 the “sons of God” begin to marry the daughters of men, bringing about the judgment of God. This judgment could either be taken as limiting man’s life to 120 years, or it could refer to the time left before the destruction of society by flood.

I understand the “sons of God” in Genesis as a reference to the Sethites (those in Seth’s line). So men in the Godly line of Seth began to marry women from the ungodly line of Cain. Therefore, these marriages increased the evil Cainite-types in the earth at the expense of the godly Sethites. For more on this understanding of Genesis 6, see Daniel Fuller’s The Unity of the Bible, Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan, Meredith Kline’s Divine Kingship and Genesis6:14; and Walter Kaiser’s The Promise-Plan of God.

September 16, 2015 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

Older Posts Newer Posts


Twitter

My two girls. In less than a month, there will be three. NC Museum of Art. A fun date night with @lauracapps3195 at the NC Museum of Art.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65,205 other followers

%d bloggers like this: