Monthly Archives: January 2010
“There is no way to challenge idols without cultural criticism, and there is no way to do cultural criticism without challenging idols.”
– Tim Keller
The definition of insanity, so I’m told, is “repetition of the same thing with the expectation of different results.”
I am out of my mind about the gospel, though, so I’m going to preach it week in and week out, in season and out of season, until everybody gets saved or Jesus comes back.
If I don’t get you this week, maybe next. Your lack of response will not deter me. I’m a crazy person.
I’ve been reading Richard Sibbes’s The Bruised Reed for the last couple of weeks. If you struggle with discouragement and depression, I highly recommend it.
Here is a short passage from my reading this morning:
We must not judge of ourselves always according to present feeling, for in temptations we shall see nothing but smoke of distrustful thoughts. Fire may be raked up in the ashes, though not seen. Life in the winter is hid in the root.
When all you see and feel is bleak and hopeless, do not trust what you see and feel. Do not trust your reasoning.
It sounds trite to say this, I know, but: Hang in there (somehow) and believe (even if you cannot feel) that God loves you and Christ died for you.
Also: Get some help.
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 everywhere else.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 all well and good, …
Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.”
I’m thinking, first of all, that I don’t do that, at least, not “often” enough.
I’m also thinking that if Jesus did that, just how awesome do I think I am that I don’t?
I preached from Romans 15:1-7 last weekend, which includes Paul’s quoting of Psalm 69:9, a rather powerful gem of Scripture if you think about it:
for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
I ask myself, and I asked my church, “Are we so consumed with zeal for God’s presence and his kingdom — for ‘God’s house’ — that we are willing to take the hits meant for God himself?” Are we willing to so identify with the Christ who identified with us that we will take up his cross, the object of scorn and shame and derision?
I framed my exposition around “church resolutions,” and one of them was this: We Resolve to Look Foolish.
A resolute church centered on the gospel embraces the loss of its reputation for the gain of God’s glory. It is willing to look stupid, irrational, impractical, silly . . . for the right reasons. It will be dragged into the street, absorbing the insults of those who insult God, in efforts to turn the world upside down. It will spend as much or more time and money on others as it does itself, it will send its people into the farthest reaches of the world to die, it will eat and drink with sinners, it will welcome the broken and weary, it will favor the meek and lowly, it will cherish the powerless, it will serve and suffer and …
The preacher we want [is] the man that has a full soul. Let him have a head—the more he knows the better; but, after all, give him a big heart: and when his heart beats, if his heart be full, it will, under God, either make the hearts of his congregation beat after him, or else make them conscious that he is laboring hard to compel them to follow. Oh! if we had more heart in our Master’s service, how much more labor we could endure. . . .
Perhaps you do not love your work. Oh, strive to love your work more, and then when your heart is full, you will go on well enough. “Oh,” saith the preacher, “I am weary of my work in preaching; I have little success; I find it a hard toil.” The answer to that question is, “Your heart is not full of it, for if you loved preaching, you would breathe preaching, feed on preaching, and find a compulsion upon you to follow preaching; and your heart being full of the thing, you would be happy in the employment. Oh, for a heart that is full, and deep, and broad! Find the man that hath such a soul as that, and that is the man from whom the living waters shall flow, to …
Yes, people watch too much TV and play too many video games and spend too much time on the Internet and what-have-you. But the proper response to our media over-saturation is not a rigorous attention to the explicitly “spiritual” in every margin of life. Be a Christian, not an ascetic. Don’t be lazy, but realize that Jesus Christ did not die and rise for you so that you would stress out about whether you’re being spiritual enough. So take a nap. Watch some television. The gospel frees you to chill the heck out.
“Have you heard God’s blessing in your inmost being? Are the words “You are my beloved child, in whom I delight” an endless source of joy and strength?
Have you sensed, through the Holy Spirit, God speaking them to you? That blessing – the blessing through the Spirit that is ours through Christ – is what Jacob received, and it is the only remedy against idolatry. Only that blessing makes idols unneccesary.
As with Jacob, we usually discover this only after a life of ‘looking for blessing in all the wrong places.’ It often takes an experience of crippling weakness for us to finally discover it. That is why so many of the most God-blessed people limp as they dance for joy.”
– Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods
I have taken January and February off from helping other people with their books and articles to free up my writing time to draft the follow-up to Your Jesus is Too Safe. I actually outlined the project last Christmas(!) but have been too swamped to begin writing it in earnest. But by the first of March I plan to have a submittable draft for what I’m tentatively calling Postcards from the Revolution: The Parables as Sabotage. I hope it will be a blessing to many, Lord willing it is published.
As if a kick in the pants to get going, I woke up this morning to an email from a guy who is currently reading YJITS asking me what I thought the laborers parable in Matthew 20 meant. Here was my take:
As for the kingdom parable of Matthew 20, I think it’s immediate referent is Jesus’ bringing in of “sinners” to the kingdom, not just faithful Jews. The laborers got paid the same, whether they’d worked one hour or all day. This is Jesus’ way of saying God is generous and that his kingdom is for everyone who trusts in Christ, not just people who’ve grown up religious or always been well behaved, etc. The grumbling of the long-laborers at the end is like the older brother’s grumbling to the father in the parable of the Lost Son.
The wide-frame referent is that the kingdom is for prodigals and older brothers alike, and you don’t get in by “working hard” or some …