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Gratitude to God’s Glory

Nov 27, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)

The Heidelberg Catechism is famous for its threefold outline of Christian theology: guilt, grace, and gratitude. We are guilty sinners before God. God saves us from guilt by his grace. We respond to this grace with heartfelt gratitude. You could add a fourth strand-glory. When we respond to grace with gratitude, God gets glory.

Psalm 50:23 says, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”  We often think of thanksgiving as a family holiday, or something we give perfunctorily before meals, or something our mother commanded of us when we were in a rotten mood. But being thankful goes deeper, or, I should say, it goes higher. Gratitude makes much of God because it shows (1) that God is the author of all that is good and (2) that we love the Giver more than the gifts.

Paul explained that he ministered for the sake of the Corinthians so that more people might receive grace, so that more people might be thankful, so that more glory might go to God. What marvelous, gospel-proclaiming, God-glorifying logic! When we minister faithfully, God gets glory every step of the way.

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Our Father in Heaven

Nov 26, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

To call God Father is the privilege of those who know Jesus Christ as their brother. The universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man may have been hallmarks of 2oth century liberal theology, but they are not exactly biblical categories. We are not born into God’s family as some natural right. We must be reborn into his spiritual family. Only by adoption do we have the right to call upon God as our Father.

We see hints of this in the Old Testament—about fifteen times God is called Father in this relational sense. But what is hinted at in the Old Testament becomes abundantly clear in the New Testament: God is revealed as our Father almost 250 times.

The fatherhood of God can be challenging to some—there are bad fathers, abusive fathers, absent fathers, unkind and unknown fathers. The word father does not always conjure up good thoughts. But here again we must let Scripture reinterpret our experience rather than reinterpreting Scripture through our experience. God wants to be known as a Father. He wants to remind us that we are his precious children, that he loves to hear from us, that he knows what is best for us, that he alone can do all things.

Think about it: The Father who loves us is the King who reigns over everything. God is your Father, and your Father is God. The one who knows you best and loves you most can also do and see and know all things. We ought to have all this in mind–and plant it deep into our hearts–every time we pray.

The distinguishing characteristic of Christian prayer is not so how we pray, or how much we pray, but to whom we pray. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

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A Prayer for Ferguson

Nov 25, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

In the mess of Ferguson, make your name known. In the division and disappointment, make your name sweet. In the rage and reaction, make your name a balm. Be glorified through the winsome witness of the church in St. Louis. Be glorified through the saints–of every race and ethnicity–as we try to walk together and talk together in a more excellent way. Be glorified, O Father, as the Spirit reveals Jesus Christ and opens your word to the hurting and to the hurtful.

Your kingdom come.

Shine the light of truth wherever there is the darkness of injustice, ignorance, or misunderstanding. May your reign and rule be evident in our lips as we speak, in our heads as we think, and in our hearts as we feel. Cause truth to triumph over falsehood, gospel unity over devilish division, and affection over apathy. Grant us courage and humility, diligence and rest. May the Sun of Righteousness rise with healing in his wings.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Help us turn from the things of this world, the things that are passing away–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–and turn to your will so that we might abide forever. May we do your bidding here on earth just as the angels serve as your ministering spirits in heaven. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–may these things be cherished and sought after in every black community and in every white community (and every shade of community in between), in the suburb, in the city, and in the country, in any neighborhood overrun by crime and in any police department overrun by prejudice. Your word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Give comfort to the grieving. Give safety to the innocent. Give hope to the hopeless. Give us judges and prosecutors and juries that are fair. Give us good laws, wise procedures, and politicians better than we deserve. Be a rock and a refuge to those who are scared or suffering. Help the weak to find their strength in you. Help the strong to see their need. Help sinners find the only Savior.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

As your people, may we never forget all we have been forgiven. No crime against us is worse than the crimes we have committed against you. Make us slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Forgive us when we fight with the weapons of the world. Forgive us for not weeping with those who weep. Forgive us for judging others with a measure we do not use to judge ourselves. Forgive us for speaking when we should be silent and being silent when we should speak. Forgive us for being hard-hearted and dim-witted. Forgive us for loving our comfort more than our neighbor. Forgive us for being too often indifferent to injustice in our world and unrighteousness in our lives.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Help, O Lord. We are tempted to despair, tempted to cynicism, tempted to bitterness, tempted to give up, tempted to assume the worst about our brothers and sisters, tempted to let commentators and cable news networks tell us what is real. We are sorry for the times we have been unthinking, unfeeling, and unsympathetic. We are sorry for the times we have rushed to judgment. We are sorry for self-righteous grandstanding and self-serving stereotypes. Deliver us from the evils of lawlessness and lovelessness.

For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

You are strong; we are weak. You are eternal; we are infinitesimal. You lack for nothing; we need everything. You see all, know all, and can do all. We see in part, know in part, and can barely do our part. Be wisdom in our confusion, victory in our struggle, and peace in our fear. We gather at the cross and lay our burdens down. No matter the pain, no matter the sadness, no matter the fog of friendship or the fog of war, every day when morning gilds the sky may Jesus Christ be praised. In whose name we pray, Amen.

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University Reformed Church Votes (Again) to Leave the RCA and Join the PCA

Nov 24, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

At a special congregational meeting last night University Reformed Church voted 366-18 (95.3%) in favor of leaving the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and affiliating with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

Of the 384 votes, 335 (320-15) were cast at the meeting and 49 (46-3) by absentee ballot.

The 384 votes represent 91% of our communicant membership. University Reformed Church currently has 422 members and a Sunday morning attendance of around 650.

It may seem like you’ve heard this news before, so let me try to explain the process.

  • Our congregation also voted in April to leave the RCA. This was only an advisory vote and not required by the Book of Church Order (BCO). In our polity, the consistory is the body that files the petition for withdrawal. The meeting we had in April was the consistory’s attempt to discern the mind of the congregation before making our final decision. We filed our petition with the Classis of South Grand Rapids in May.
  • After the classis received our petition they established a four person committee to investigate the reasons for withdrawal. As a part of their investigative work, the committee, as per the BCO, met separately with each of the installed pastors and then with the consistory (without the pastors present).
  • The classis committee called a special congregational meeting for last night. I was given 10 minutes to present our reasons for withdrawal. The committee then spoke for 10 minutes against the motion to withdraw. Following the two brief presentations, the congregation was given about 30 minutes to ask questions of either side. We then voted by secret ballot. The results of our vote in April do not matter to the classis. Last night’s vote is the one that counts.

What happens now?

In the next month, the classis committee will meet with representatives of the PCA to ascertain whether we would be received into our new denominational home with open arms. The committee will then write a report, with recommendations, that will go before the whole classis. This report is due in January. The classis will vote on the committee’s recommendations in March.

If our church is given permission to withdraw from the RCA we can officially join the PCA once (1) any classis stipulated obligations are met and (2) the elders and pastors are examined and received into membership by the Presbytery of the Great Lakes.

Please continue to pray for a fair process and an outcome that will best serve the interest of Christ’s kingdom.

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Monday Morning Humor

Nov 24, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Make sure closed captioning is on. You may need to click on the YouTube clip itself and turn it on.

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Compassion Without Compromise

Nov 21, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Recently I had the privilege of writing the foreword to a new book authored by my friends Adam Barr and Ron Citlau. The book is entitled Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Bethany House, 2014). It’s a very good book. You should think about getting a copy. My foreword is below.

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Hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear something about homosexuality. It’s all over the news and all over social media. It’s the subject of countless conversations, arguments, diatribes, rants, punditry, and commentary. You can’t help but wonder: Is there really anything left to say?

Actually, there is a lot that still needs to be said. This issue is not about to fade into the background, and many of the hardest personal and pastoral questions are just beginning to surface. That’s why I am delighted with this new book.

Adam and Ron are excellent pastors, good thinkers, and great friends. I’ve known Adam since we went to college together and I sat there jealously as he, with his long, flowing locks, played guitar and crooned in the worship team, much to the admiration of many young women. Since then we’ve become close friends, colleagues in ministry, and, in many  ways, brothers in arms.

My friendship with Ron is not as long, but just as rich. I will never forget Ron’s stirring, courageous testimony at our denomination’s General Synod back in 2012. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the gospel more poignantly and powerfully presented at such a gathering. I’m grateful for Ron’s winsome, yet bold, approach to this difficult topic of sexuality. I have learned much from him.

As much as I appreciate Adam and Ron personally, that’s not the reason to read this book. A much better reason is that they have teamed up to write an engaging, accessible, sensitive, uncompromising, wise, and biblical book about the most controversial issue of our day. There are other books on homosexuality–and many of them should be read alongside this one. But what makes this volume unique is the personal touch–especially Ron’s story of having had gay feelings for most of his life–and the pastoral approach to the difficult questions none of us can avoid:

  • Should I attend my friend’s gay “wedding”?
  • Should we invite our homosexual son’s partner to our home for the holidays?
  • How should I respond if my young child thinks he’s gay?

There are dozens of questions like this in the book, each one answered with biblical insights and with good sense. I can’t imagine any Christian not being helped by this book. Adam and Ron are clear about the Bible’s prohibition of homosexual activity. They are informed on the latest scholarship. They are discerning when it comes to real-life application. And they are, above all, hopeful. Hopeful in the power of the gospel to save, to forgive, to restore, and to transform. If you are looking for a resource that will help you think about the issue of homosexuality with unflinching truth and with sincere grace, this is a great place to start.

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Who Do You Say That I Am?

Nov 20, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”

The question is doubly crucial in our day because not every Jesus is the real Jesus. Almost no one is as popular in this country as Jesus. Hardly anyone would dare to say a bad word about him. Just look at what a super-fly friendly dude he is over there. But how many people know the real Jesus?

There’s Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, and for family values and owning firearms.

There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Walmart, and for reducing our carbon footprint and spending other people’s money.

There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.

There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.

There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.

There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes run faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.

There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.

There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks German.

There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.

There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.

There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; he wants us to find the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.

There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.

There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and dream up impossible utopian schemes.

There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.

There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.

And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.

This Jesus was the Creator come to earth and the beginning of a new creation. He embodied the covenant, fulfilled the commandments, and reversed the curse. This Jesus is the Christ that God spoke of to the serpent, the Christ prefigured to Noah in the flood, the Christ promised to Abraham, the Christ prophesied through Balaam before the Moabites, the Christ guaranteed to Moses before he died, the Christ promised to David when he was king, the Christ revealed to Isaiah as a suffering servant, the Christ predicted through the prophets and prepared for through John the Baptist.

This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Savior of the world, and substitute for our sins-more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.

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7 Ways Christian Academics Can Be Truly Christian

Nov 18, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

I love the life of the mind. I am immensely thankful for good scholarship, intellectual investigation, and the best of the academic enterprise. As a pastor and just as an intellectually curious sort of chap, I want Christian academics to flourish. I also want these Christian scholars to be thoroughly Christian.

Which means at least seven things:

1. Invest in the local church. Take the membership class. Sign up as an usher. Take your turn in the nursery. Sing the hymns and praise songs like you really mean them. You need community. You need accountability. Your need diversity. To be sure, your school probably talks a lot about diversity, but what about educational and intellectual diversity? After writing that festschrift you need to be around factory workers and farmers and firefighters. Find a good church. Get plugged in and stick around.

2. Be humble. Honor others above yourself. Don’t look down on others who are less intelligent, even if it’s the pastor or the worship leader. Understand that everyone has different gifts. There are people who won’t read three books this year, but they are pure gold around the hospital bed, in the youth room, under the hood of a car. A PhD does not make you (or me) The Special. Being an expert in one little thing does not make you an expert in everything. And don’t forget about people. Engage them with the same curiosity you would your research.

3. Serve the body of Christ with your gifts. Don’t be afraid to put some of the cookies on some of the lower shelves. Teaching or writing in a way that can be understood by the hoi polloi is not a sign of selling out. Be creative, be mindful of others, and find a way to use your knowledge to encourage and equip your brothers and sisters in the faith. Eschew obfuscation!

4. Be a good spouse and pay attention to your kids. There are few contemporary idols as addictive and as respectable as academics. The promotion is not worth a divorce. That journal article is not worth your kids’ well being. Being a good dad or a good mom is not a waste of your degree. You learned, didn’t you? You gained valuable skills and contacts, didn’t you? What will gain a Christian scholar if he gains the endowed chair but forfeits his family?

5. Maintain a resolute allegiance to the word of God. Peer review, tenure review, comprehensive exams, a dissertation defense–they’re not as important as standing before the judge of all the earth with a clean conscience. Don’t sacrifice your faith for academic credentials or credibility. Don’t forget the noble ideals that inspired you to pursue this path in the first place. Let God be true, even if every man thinks you’re a nut-job.

6. Do your work to the glory of God. Work hard. Be honest. Be kind. Refuse to participate in all the games and all the politics. And as you do your reading, writing, and teaching to the glory of God, under the authority of the word of God, know that God delights in it. God loves professors as much as he loves pastors and missionaries.

7. Put your studies in perspective. We need specialists. We need scholars doing confusing work that most people wouldn’t understand and may not care about. We need people who work tremendously hard so that the pool of human knowledge can swell just a little bit more. But we also need all of this to be put into perspective. There are people in the church with wayward kids, people with depression and anxiety, people who are lonely, people struggling with same-sex attraction, people devastated by marital infidelity, people numb from the pain of infertility, people with quietly dismal marriage–and this is to say nothing of the needs outside the church. People need to hear the gospel. People need to know you care. People need to meet Jesus. I’m not saying your research doesn’t matter. I’m just reminding all of us that a whole lot of other things matter too.

 

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Monday Morning Humor

Nov 17, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

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The One and the Many

Nov 14, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

There are many ways God uses to get us to where he wants us to go. But there is only one message he gives to save us from sin.

The problems in our day is that we get the one and the many reversed.

We think there’s only one way God can direct our lives. Only one path to walk down. Only one way everything turns out right. Only one right job, right house, right church, right move. So we panic that we may have married the wrong person, taken the wrong job, gone to the wrong school, moved to the wrong state.

We worry that we may be out of the center of God’s will. God has one right way for us; what if we miss it? What if we already have? Maybe your life is much different than you thought it would. Maybe it feels like God has forgotten you. Maybe you fear that there is no possible happy ending in your future. Many of us think there’s only one way God can direct our lives, and if we don’t get our plans lined up with his, well, then all is lost.

But that’s now how our loving heavenly Father guides our steps. God had a hundred ways to get Paul to Rome, just like he has a hundred ways to get you where you are supposed to be.

By contrast, we make a mistake in the opposite direction when it comes to salvation. We panic about a missed job opportunity but never give it a second thought if we miss the opportunity to repent and believe in Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Most people figure there are many ways to get saved. It’s just about being sincere: if you really, really believe something, then you’ll be okay. Or it’s just about being a decent person: as long as there is someone out there who is worse than you, then you’re fine. We assume that with so many cultures and so many religions, they must also work out in the end.

Too many of us are so concerned about our problems right now in this life that we’ve not thought about where we will be someday later after death. We’ve got things exactly backwards. We think there is only one path for me to follow on earth, but many paths I can take to get to heaven. God tells us the opposite: worship the Lord alone and you’ll not only live forever in heaven, you’ll be taken care during your whole meandering life here on earth.

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