Monthly Archives: June 2009

Matt Chandler on Gospel Ministry in the Bible Belt

I have a manifesto-type piece brewing on what it’s like to be gospel-driven in the Bible Belt and, God willing, I hope to compose and post it soon. But in the meantime, check out this video of Matt Chandler (with a little help from John Piper) surveying the problem(s) briefly and brilliantly.

He talks about the girl who wanted to be baptized because her mom was sick. This reminds me of the local guy who blogged about his (I think it was) seventh baptism; this latest one was “for hope.” (I counseled a guy out of a baptism last year because his reasoning sort of revolved around having been listening to a lot of worship music lately.)

Chandler, who pastors in Dallas, also talks about Bible Belt religion being inoculated against Jesus. This reminds me of something Ed Stetzer, who hails from the Northeast, once told me, which is that preaching the gospel in the church down here is like trying to give somebody something they’ve already been inoculated against with a synthetic version.

But the gospel is for the older brother, as well. It is the cure for all, the power of salvation for all who believe.

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Jesus’ Missional Prayer for the Church

A long time ago on a website far, far away, I wrote a piece on What a Missional Church Does in which I boiled down good missional distinctives to:

1. Treasuring the gospel2. Living the kingdom3. Embodying reconciliation

These are, I think, the main directives of the Church. We are to consider the announcement of the good news of Christ’s finished work for the salvation of the world as “of first importance,” letting it stir us to awe and gratitude and worshipful discipleship. It is the A-Z of our lives. Secondly, in our worshipful discipleship we live out in community the reality of God’s kingdom being “at hand,” with all that entails (the Sermon on the Mount is a great blueprint of kingdom life). And thirdly, we are missionaries — ambassadors, “sent ones” — carrying this gospel and living this kingdom for the benefit of a lost world and the lost people in it.

The way these things are carried out may vary in cultures and contexts, but these are, I think, non-negotiables for missional Christianity. I see these three marks of the missional church in Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17. Jesus prays:

“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take …

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Supported from Utter Despair

Working on a project for a client today which involved spending some time in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The 18th Chapter really ministered to me. This part especially stirs my heart and shakes me up like nothing but the gospel can:

True believers may have the assurance of their salvation shaken, diminished, or temporarily lost in various ways: as by negligence in preserving it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit, by some sudden or violent temptation, or by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance and allowing even those who reverence him to walk in darkness and have no light. Yet, true believers are never completely deprived of that seed of God and life of faith, that love for Christ and fellow believers, that sincerity of heart and conscience concerning duty, out of which—by the operation of the Spirit—this assurance may in due time be revived; and by which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. — Hebrews 7:24-25

Soli Deo Gloria!

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A Good Reminder

The video’s a little amateurish (it’s by a fan) but I love this song.

Of course it took some Calvinists (Lecrae and Shai Linne) to finally make some good Christian rap.

Kidding, kidding

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God Delights in Your Cruddy Prayers

As a writer and a prideful person, I am always trying to impress people with words. It is a relief, though, that I cannot impress God and that he approves of me in Christ anyway.

“The gospel, God’s free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don’t have it all together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to—our helplessness—is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can’t do life on our own.

Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks as the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.”

—Paul Miller, A Praying Life

HT: Of First Importance

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On Jesuslessness

There is a pastor whose Twitter feed I occasionally read, but I shouldn’t, because it absolutely drives me nuts. A large portion of my reaction is tied to my own issues, I’m sure, but I see in his broadcasts an almost pathological intention not to mention Jesus. And as I thirst for Jesus, I notice this withholding lots and lots of places in the Bible Belt. I have been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus.

John Piper says, “What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ.”

We ministers of the gospel — and Christians at large — can fumble this commission in three main ways:

1. We speak in vague spiritual generalities. Love. Hope. Peace. Joy. Harmony. Blessings. All disembodied from the specific atoning work of the incarnate Jesus and exalted Lord. It all sounds nice. It’s all very inspirational. And it’s rubbish. He himself is our peace. He himself is love. He himself is life. He does not make life better. He is life. Any pastor who talks about the virtues of faith, hope, and love, with Jesus as some implied tangential source, is not feeding his flock well.

2. We speak Christ as moral exemplar. We tell people to be nice because Jesus was nice. We tell them to be sweet because Jesus was sweet, good because Jesus was good, hard-working because Jesus was hard-working, loving because Jesus was loving. This is …

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Everything in the Shadow of the Gospel

My favorite mega-pastor Matt Chandler recently tweeted, “The Gospel must not be assumed. It’s to be articulated clearly and constantly…if not you get moralistic pragmatism.”

Yes.This is what I get at when I write things like Pharisees with Fauxhawks or The Gospel is Not Advice or The Weird Modern Desire for Legalism (and How Some People Don’t Even Know they Have It).

I got an interesting email from a reader this week asking why he doesn’t hear more in churches about “the power of obedience” (his words). I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, but in my view, the majority of evangelical preaching is about the power of obedience. It just isn’t put in those terms.

Michael Horton re-introduces the concept of “moral therapeutic deism” as the operating worldview of most evangelical messaging, and I agree. What we have going on is repackaged legalism. I know, I know — it doesn’t look like legalism, but that’s what it is.

We have been trained to think of legalism as being stuffy, outwardly religious, judgmental, traditional, etc. But any time the thrust of our message is –“do better” “try harder” “reach your potential” “do good works” “help God help you” “follow these steps” “improve your life”“succeed at life”“achieve victory”– or anything of that sort, we’ve made works the center, which is antithetical to the gospel and therefore is legalistic. Even if it’s not judgmental, even if it sounds inspirational, even if it’s kicked off with a killer video and capped by a …

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Jesus Never Slips Up or Sleeps

“We are always looking inwards and pitying ourselves and being sorry for ourselves, and looking for something to help us. Get rid of that outlook, forget yourself for a moment; the battle is the Lord’s! Salvation is His. It is for the honor of His great and holy Name. But go further and realize that because it is God’s battle this almighty power is being exercised on our behalf even when we do not realize it. Things are being done in this great campaign of which we are not aware. We may perhaps be half-asleep at our post, and we do not realize that the great Captain is planning something with respect to us. We are unconscious of it. We would all be lost were it not for that. He, I say, is exercising this power on our behalf.”

- Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier

Jesus is your advocate always. He always lives to intercede for you.

If the exalted Lord of the universe is for you, who can be against you?

(HT for the Lloyd-Jones quote: OFI)

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Called into the All-Surpassing Awesomeness of Christ

John 1:35-51:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good …

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The Way Back is Not the Way Back In — The Way Is

Read it again. It makes sense.

After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.– Genesis 3:24

Why? Why did God put a guardian angel at the garden?

I think it’s because there is no getting back to the Garden the same way we went out. We disobeyed our way into fallenness, but we cannot obey our way into redemption.

But Jesus could. And did.

He is the way back in.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.– Revelation 22:1-3

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