Monthly Archives: October 2008

Semper Reformada: The Five Solas for Evangelicalism Today

The purpose of this site is to comment on and call for the ongoing reformation of the discipleship culture of the evangelical Church. Today, on Reformation Day, I am reflecting on the five solas for the Reformation.This is also an entry in Tim Challies’ 3rd Annual Reformation Day Symposium, and at his site, you will find many other thoughts and reflections on Reformation Day from other great bloggers.—

Evangelicalism is at a crisis point.

The number of large churches is increasing, but the number of professing Christians is decreasing. And is it any wonder, when the ministry and proclamation of so many of our churches is only marginally Christian? By some statistics, young adults are dropping out of the Church at a rate of 70%. And the ones who stick around are burnt out on both the legalistic fundamentalism of their grandparents and the licentious modernism of their parents. In limbo between a graceless gospel and a therapeutic gospel, this generation suffers from evangelicalism fatigue.The REVEAL survey and others have revealed there is a staggering discipleship vacuum in the Church. The Church is divided between those whose passion is reserved for political power and prestige and those whose passion is reserved for popularity and personality.

The opportunity before is awesome. The Church is God’s plan for the world, God’s only venue for the proclamation and embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pluralistic, pessimistic, problematic—lukewarm and loving it—Western culture and the churches that capitulate to it are as much like …

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Kill Your Idols, Part 2

My latest piece is up at SearchWarp:

Kill Your Idols, Part 2: Anxiety and “God’s Will”

A taste:

We make anxiety an idol when we are really not as concerned about knowing God’s will as we are protecting our own comfort.

We really want to be comfortable. So when we agonize over some decisions, we’re not really saying, “God tell me what you want me to do,” we are really saying “God show me the route that will be easiest and happiest for me.” But many times God’s will is for us to be very uncomfortable, afflicted even. It’s a mistake to assume that, for instance, if you go into business with your friend and the enterprise goes belly up and doesn’t pan out that you obviously stepped out of God’s will. It’s a mistake to assume that if you go across the country to take that scholarship in order to be close to your boyfriend and then he dumps you that somehow this decision was out of God’s will.

It is the mistake of assuming that Christians are not meant for difficulty or trouble, and that if they somehow enter that, they are outside of God’s will or have made a mistake. This is based on a Christianity that promises comfort and ease, though, not the real Christianity of the Bible.

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Filthy Rags

“Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can be found only in Jesus Christ.”

– Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow

I know a guy who is passionate about service but is constantly and unwaveringly angry about other Christians’ lack of service. He despises his brothers and sisters for not doing as much as he does and looks down on them.

He has turned service into righteousness and therefore revealed his own lack.

(HT for the quote: Of First Importance)

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Spiritual Movement

The biblical words for spirit (ruach in the Hebrew, pneuma in the Greek) both bear the basic meanings of “wind” and “breath.” This shouldn’t just inform our understanding of spirit; it should inform the implications of spiritual reality.

Like wind and breath, spirit is something invisible that has visible effects. We can’t see the wind, but we can see leaves rustling. On an extremely gusty day, you can look up into the sky and see nothing extraordinary, but if you ran up a kite, the force of the lift would require some real strength to temper.

This is simplistic, I know. But the illustration makes a very serious point:The Christian’s Spiritual life is the invisible having visible effects. This is a tough reminder for all the cheap gracers with Jesus as their MySpace hero: If your spirituality doesn’t have a visible effect, it’s crap.

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Kill Your Idols, Part 1

Started a new series at SearchWarp today. Check it out:

Kill Your Idols, Part 1: Spiritless Spirituality

Each piece will be loosely based on an Element sermon series I did about a year ago.

A taste:

We were made to worship. We can’t not worship. Attribute it to that “God-shaped hole” or whatever, but because God made us for relationship with him, and since God designed us to desire connection with something outside of ourselves (ideally, other people), we come hardwired with the desire to follow, to tap into something larger, to connect. And the fall of mankind didn’t eradicate this need, it only perverted it.

By design, we want to worship. And this is why we are all idolaters . . .

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Gut Check: Five Questions for Pastors

Pastors, ask yourselves these questions.

1. How often do I get out of my office and serve somewhere in the community?

2. How often do I read my Bible other than for sermon preparation?

3. How integral is Jesus to my sermon? (How often does he appear in it? One mention? Two? Is he an illustration? A quote? Is he the point of the message? Could the same sermon be preached to Muslims if you substituted “Allah” for “God”?)

4. If someone from my church is in the hospital or dying, is it likely that I will visit them? (If it’s not likely, is it possible?)

5. What is the chief indicator of the spiritual health of my church?

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Have Mercy

Today is Blog Action Day, and I don’t really even know what that means, but I gather it has something to do with motivating people to do something about poverty.

Two things:a) I’ve been writing all day and I’m tapped out. I’ve got nothing motivational to say to you about combating poverty today, except that if you’re a follower of Jesus you should be doing something about it. (And I suspect most of my readers are doing something already.)b) If you’re not inclined to help out, I seriously doubt a blog post will change your heart. Especially one as short and unmotivational as this one. But, seriously, if you say you’re a follower of Jesus and yet you’re not interested in this aspect of Jesus’ teachings, you got bigger problems than a blog post can solve.

Anyhoo.

I do some different things in this regard, with my family and with my church and with my own dang self, all of which are pretty simple, none of which make me some kind of awesome humanitarian along the lines of Mother Theresa or Angelina Jolie-Pitt, but the one thing I’d recommend to you, especially if you’ve got children, is sponsoring a child through Compassion International.

Believe the hype. Compassion is awesome. And what they do works and it works well.

My family has sponsored a little girl named Lorena from El Salvador for about six years, since about the time our oldest was 1. So we have literally seen Lorena grow up (in pictures). …

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"There is No Act So Mundane That it Lies Outside the Scope of the Gospel"

The title is a line from Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, and it helped inspire my latest piece at SearchWarp:

The Sovereignty of God and the Washing of Dishes

An excerpt:

If every day and every space within that day is subject to the lordship of Christ, there is no such thing as holy space and less holy space. In fact, what many of us really need to do is not drop changing diapers to go into the world and “make a difference,” but submit our changing of diapers to the lordship of Christ. Every act, no matter how menial, should be an act of worship, and it can be if we are doing it in gratitude and prayer and committing it to the glory of God.

The work of the Christian, in a million subsequent echoes of the Incarnation, is to make sacraments of our moments, infusing the spiritual into the ordinary and treating the ordinary as spiritual. The idea, Sinclair Ferguson writes, is that we are “doing the Spiritual thing naturally and doing the natural thing Spiritually.”

Abraham Kuyper famously preached:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

And therefore there is no square inch of our daily lives over which we should not cry, “His!,” and act as if it were so.

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Comforting Discomfort

While Matt Chandler is on the brain, I should mention that God favored me enough to tune into the Catalyst backstage live feed mere minutes before he was interviewed and took questions off the chat. I submitted a question, the moderator posed it to Chandler, and his answer brought me to tears.It wasn’t that I didn’t know the “right” answer. It’s just that I needed someone to say it to me; I needed someone else to say it to me. I needed someone like Matt Chandler to say it to me.

In a similar vein, this piece by Michael Horton is like getting a big hug and a reassuring pat on the back.A lengthy excerpt:

Whereas Peter organized the diaconal office so that the apostles could devote themselves to the Word and to prayer, ideal ministers seem increasingly to be managers, therapists, entertainers, and entrepreneurial businesspeople.

Open up the average issue of Christianity Today to advertisements for pastoral positions and you’ll find descriptions like “team builder,” “warm and personal style,” “outgoing,” “contagious personality,” and “effective communicator.” (Catholic friends tell me that something like this affects Catholicism, too.)

I think they’re looking for a Director of Sales and Marketing, whom they may (or may not) call “Pastor.” I’m not against directors of sales and marketing; I just don’t think that this is what we should be looking for in the way of shepherds . . .

We wouldn’t have had Paul, for example. Who, having advertised for an outgoing team builder with a contagious …

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The Attractional Horror of the Cross

The curious paradox of the atoning death of a bloody Jesus rising above the plane of human history with a mocking crown of thorns is that he is offensive in an attractive way.

It is the utter horror of the cross that cuts through the chatter, noise, and nonsense of our day to rivet our attention, shut our mouths, and compel us to listen to an impassioned dying man who is crying out for the forgiveness of our sins and to ask why he suffered.

Tragically, if we lose the offense of the cross, we also lose the attraction of the cross so that no one is compelled to look at Jesus. Therefore, Jesus does not need a marketing firm or a makeover as much as a prophet to preach the horror of the cross unashamedly.

—- Mark Driscoll, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches

(HT: Of First Importance)

Christ crucified gets my attention. It’s when he bids me join him on the cross that I am tempted to walk away.

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