Great Story About Former MSU LB Chris Norman

Aug 31, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

I knew of Chris Norman for several years. As a pastor in East Lansing it was hard not to. He was one of our best linebackers–tough, fast, hard hitting. At some point I heard he had become a Christian. “Very cool,” I thought.

Then last year I was speaking at Athletes In Action on campus and made a point to talk to this big, attentive athlete in the second row. Turned out to be Chris Norman. I was immediately impressed by his demeanor, his intelligence, his distaste for spiritual garbage, and his desire to learn and grow. I’m thrilled to see Desiring God release this impressive video about an impressive young man who is more than impressed by our great God.

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Aug 30, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

This is a real picture taken on Wednesday of DeYoung child #6 at 20 weeks.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

A little life, a tiny person, a precious gift.

Another royal baby known and knitted together by the King.

We are very blessed.

No matter the size or condition of your children–inside or outside the womb, big or little, strong or weak–enjoy your blessings today. Pray for them and protect them. The sweetest, smallest hands salute you.

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The Preacher at His Best

Aug 29, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

Permit me a brief word about a disconcerting trend I see in young, and sometimes very popular, preachers. I mention this concern knowing full well my own temptation to it. Let me pose the problem as a question:

Preacher, are you at your best when you are closest to the text?

Too many preachers are at their best when they are telling a personal anecdote or ripping into some sacred cow or riffing on in a humorous fashion. There is a time for all of that, but we ought to beware if those times are when we are at our best. We can be orthodox preachers of good, gospel truths and still tickle people’s ears. If we’re not careful, we’ll train the large conference audience and our local congregation that the time to really pay attention is when we start drifting not when we start digging.

“Got it. Understood. Text means this, not that. Sound good. Now get back to that funny, over the top, in your face thing you do.”

I’ve done that thing; probably will again. If the rant is honest and true, the Lord can use it. But, again, I repeat myself, it must not be the best we have. The congregation should be most aflame with gospel zeal when they are beholding new things in the chapters and verses at the end of their noses. God uses all of the preacher–personality, humor, gestures–all of us. But the indelible impression left on our people must be a sense of the presence of God arising from careful attention to the word of God. If the best stuff we have every Sunday is disconnected from our hard won exegetical work, our people will learn to trust us and not the Book. They will look forward to our new antics, not our new discoveries in the text.

Ask yourself this Saturday: “Can I make my best point–the one I’m most excited about, the one I can’t wait to deliver–without noting anything from this week’s passage?” Everything you want to say isn’t everything you should say. We must be constrained by what we can sincerely say from these verses. If we want fresh power from the pulpit let us labor to demonstrate that our most passionate appeals come from the most precise exposition.

The best preacher is the preacher who is at his best when he is closest to the text.

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Not Even a Hint

Aug 28, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

It’s one thing to describe evil or even depict it. I’d never suggest that good writing or film making must avoid the subject of sin. There are many thoughtful, tasteful movies, television shows, plays, musicals, and books out there—and the good ones usually deal with sin. Sin by itself is not the problem. The Bible is full of rank immorality. It would be simplistic and morally untenable—even unbiblical—to suggest you cannot watch sin or read about sin without sinning yourself. But the Bible never titil­lates with its description of sin. It never paints vice with virtue’s colors. It does not entertain with evil (unless to mock it). The Bible does not dull the conscience by making sin look normal and righteousness look strange. And there are no pictures of plunging necklines.

We have to take a hard look at the things we choose to put in front of our faces. If there was a couple engaged in sexual activ­ity on a couch in front of you, would you pull up a seat to watch? No, that would be perverse, voyeuristic. So why is it different when people recorded it first and then you watch? What if a good-look­ing guy or girl, barely dressed, came up to you on the beach and said, “Why don’t you sit on your towel right here and stare at me for awhile?” Would you do it? No, that would be creepy. Why is it acceptable, then, when the same images are blown up the size of a three-story building?

If we’re honest, we often seek exposure to sexual immoral­ity and temptations to impurity and call it “innocent” relaxation. Commenting on Ephesians 5:3, Peter O’Brien observes that, as Christians, we should not only shun all forms of sexual immo­rality, we should “avoid thinking and talking about them.”  Even our jesting should be pure, lest we show “a dirty mind express­ing itself in vulgar conversation.” If, as O’Brien remarks, “talking and thinking about sexual sins ‘creates an atmosphere in which they are tolerated and which can . . . promote their practice,'” how can we justify paying money to see, taste, and laugh at sex­ual sin? How can we stare at sensuality which aims to amuse and arouse and weaken our conscience and deaden our sense of spiri­tual things (even if it is on ordinary cable or only rated PG-13)? We must consider the possibility that much of what churchgoing people do to unwind would not pass muster for the apostle Paul. Not to mention God.

I remember one night in seminary a bunch of us got together to watch the third Indiana Jones movie, the one about the Holy Grail. If you’ve seen it you may remember that, in this install­ment, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) fights the bad guys with his father (Sean Connery). At one point in the film there is a surpris­ing line from the senior Dr. Jones which reveals that he and his son had just slept with the same Nazi woman. It’s meant to be a funny scene, and most of the seminarians in the room—both men and women—laughed out loud. But an older, respected stu­dent (not me!) called out the group. “Guys, they are talking about fornication and incest. It’s really not funny.” I think most of the people in the room were annoyed with such sermonizing. But the more I’ve thought about that incident over the years, the more I think the older man was right. A man and his father fornicating with the same woman? This kind of immorality was not toler­ated even among the pagans in Paul’s day (1 Cor. 5:1). He told the Corinthians to mourn over it (v. 2). But we laugh.

Brothers and sisters, we must be more vigilant. With our kids, with our families, with our Facebook accounts, with our texts, with our tweets, with our own eyes and hearts. Are we any differ­ent than the culture? Have we made a false peace with ourselves whereby we have said, we won’t do the things you do or be as sensual as you are, but we will gladly watch you do them for us? The kinds of things Paul wouldn’t even mention, the sort of sins he wouldn’t dare joke about, the behaviors too shameful to even name—we hear about them in almost every sitcom and see them on screens bigger than our homes. Here is worldliness as much as anywhere in the Christian life. Try turning off the television and staying away from the movies for a month and see what new things you see when you come back. I fear many of us have become numb to the poison we are drinking. When it comes to sexual immo­rality, sin looks normal, righteousness looks very strange, and we look a lot like everybody else.

This post is excerpted from Chapter 8 (“Saints and Sexual Immorality”) of The Hole in our Holiness.

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The Goal of Missions and the Work of Missionaries

Aug 27, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

Acts 14:19-28 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.

I hope in this blog to answer one simple question: What do missionaries do?

The question is simple, but coming to an answer is not. In recent years there has been a great deal of conversation in mission literature about what exactly we mean, or ought to mean, by “mission,” “missionary,” or the newer term “missional.” I wrote a book with Greg Gilbert  in an effort to throw our two cents into the conversation. The issues are complicated, not least of all because it is no longer self-evident what we mean by words like missions or missionary.

Although Christians use these words all the time, if we were forced to provide a careful definition for them, we would find, I think, quite a diversity of opinion. For some people “missions” means nothing but evangelism, while some ecumenical organizations would rather have mission include every good thing the church might do except seeking the conversion of the lost. Is creation care mission work? What about teaching people to read and write? Or agricultural development? Or medical care? Or digging wells? Or orphan work? What if people do these things in Jesus’ name? What if these activities are part of a broader work or serve as the means to a larger end? Coming to an understanding of what constitutes “missionary” work is not as easy as it sounds.

Let me add a clarification at this point. In asking the question “what do missionaries do?” I am not thinking about the specifics of their day to day lives. I’m not going to try to describe all the particularities of what it looks like and feels like to be a missionary on the field. I would not be the best person to address that topic and it’s not what we find at the end of Acts 14.

I want to approach the question higher up and further back. I want us to think theologically about the tasks, the aims, and the purposes of mission work, and in so doing look at the responsibilities of missionaries. What should the men and women right now serving in the world as missionaries have as their ministry goals? What kind of work should churches expect, encourage, and pray for in their missionaries? What should mission committees and mission budgets look for in determining which mission organizations and which missionaries to support? These are important questions and very practical questions. And they cannot be addressed until we answer the first question: what do missionaries do?

The Beginning of a Definition

If we are to answer that question, we must first have some general understanding of what we mean by the word “missionary.” Obviously, we can’t fully define the word without determining what these people do. But we should at least try to get in the definitional ball park.

At the most basic level, a missionary is someone who has been sent. That’s what the word “mission” entails. It may not appear in your English Bibles, but it’s still a biblical word. Eckhard Schnabel—who, with two 1000 page volumes on Early Christian Mission and a 500 page work on Paul the Missionary, is one of the world’s leading experts on mission in the New Testament—makes this point forcefully.

The argument that the word mission does not occur in the New Testament is incorrect. The Latin verb mittere corresponds to the Greek verb apostellein, which occurs 136 times in the New Testament (97 times in the Gospels, used both for Jesus having been “sent” by God and for the Twelve being “sent” by Jesus). (Paul the Missionary, 27-28)

The apostles, in the broadest sense of the term, were those who had been sent out. Linguistically, this sent-outness is also the first thing we should note relative to the term missionary. It is, after all, the first thing Jesus notes about his mission–that he was sent to proclaim a message of good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Being “on mission” or engaging in mission work suggests intentionality and movement (Paul the Missionary, 22, 27). Missionaries are those who have been sent from one place that they might go somewhere else.

Every Christian–if we are going to be obedient to the Great Commission–must be involved in missions, but not every Christian is a missionary. While it is certainly true that we should all be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have, and we should all adorn the gospel with our good works, and we should all do our part to make Christ known, we ought to reserve the term “missionary” for those who are intentionally sent out from one place to another. It’s important to remember that the church (ekklesia) is by definition the assembly of those who have been called out. Our fundamental identity as believers is not as those who are sent into the world with a mission, but as those who are called out from darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). As Schnabel says about Acts, “[Luke] never characterizes ‘the church’ as an institution that is ‘sent’ to accomplish God’s will. Luke reports that a local congregation ‘sends’ leading preachers and teachers as ‘missionaries’ to other regions (see Acts 13:1-4), but the church itself is not portrayed as being ‘sent'” (Early Christian Mission, 1580). Missionaries, therefore, are those unique persons called by God and sent by the church to go out and further the mission where it has not yet been established.

The Case for Acts

We are coming close to getting back to Acts 14:19-28 and answering the question “what do missionaries do?” But there is one more preliminary step we must take before landing in this text. I need to make the case that the book of Acts is the best place to look for the answer to our question, and that the end of Acts 14 in particular is an especially helpful place to look. It wouldn’t be fair to answer our question about missionaries from the book of Acts and from Acts 14 unless there is good reason to think this book and this text means to answer this sort of question.

Let’s start with the book. Acts is the inspired history of the mission of the church. It is meant to pick up where Luke’s Gospel leaves off—which is with Jesus’ command that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” and with the promise that he will send the Holy Spirit to clothe the disciples with power from on high so they can be his witnesses (24:47-48). The same narrative is in view in Acts 1 as the church is gathered in Jerusalem waiting for the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). This second volume from Luke will describe what those commissioned at the end of the first volume were sent out to accomplish.

Don’t miss the significance of Acts 1:1: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” (emphasis added). In other words, Luke’s Gospel dealt with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and now (by implication) this book of Acts will deal with all that Jesus continues to do and teach. We must never forget that we do not replace Jesus on earth, or even partner with him in the strictest sense. The work is still his, and Jesus is still the one working. Our role is to bear witness to the person and work of Christ. That’s really the point of Acts: to show the apostles as Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (1:8). Acts 1:8 gives us the Table of Contents for all 28 chapters in the book of Acts. The apostles will proclaim Christ through these expanding geographic areas, all the way to the uttermost parts of the earth. Acts is–quite explicitly–a book designed to show the advance of the gospel mission in the world. We have every reason, then, to think this is the book that can help us answer the question “what do missionaries do?”

And we have good reason to think this passage in Acts 14 is an especially good place to get an answer to that question. At the beginning of Acts 13 the church at Antioch, prompted by the Holy Spirit, set apart Paul and Barnabas “for the work to which I have called them” (v. 2). The next verse says, “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (v. 3). This isn’t the first time the gospel is going to be preached to unbelievers in Acts. It’s not the first gospel work Paul and Barnabas will do. But it is the first time we see a church intentionally sending out Christian workers with a mission to another location. Paul and Barnabas travel to Cyprus, and then to Pisidian Antioch, and then to Iconium, and then to Lystra, and then to Derbe, and from there back through Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch, and then to Perga, and back to Antioch in Syria. This completes Paul’s first missionary journey. So Acts 14:19-28 is not only a good summary of Paul’s missionary work, it’s also the sort of information Paul would have shared with the church in Antioch when he returned (v. 27). These verses are like the slide show or the power point presentation Paul and Barnabas shared with their sending church: “This is how we saw God at work. Here’s where we went and what we did.” If any verses are going to give us a succinct description of what missionaries do, it’s verses like these at the end the missionary journey in Acts 14.

A Three-Legged Stool

We see in these verses—and in particular in verses 21-24—the three legged stool of mission work. Luke gives us the apostolic model for missionary service and that model has three parts:

  • New converts – “when they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples” (v. 21)
  • New communities – “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church” (v. 23)
  • Nurtured churches – “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith” (v. 22).

To be sure, Christian missionaries may be more active in one aspect of this work rather than another. But all mission work must keep these three things in mind. If the apostles are meant to be our models for what missionaries do—and as the sent-out ones tasked most immediately with the Great Commission, there is every reason to think that they are—then we should expect our missionaries to be engaged in these activities and pray for them to that end. The goal of mission work is to win new converts, establish these young disciples in the faith, and incorporate them into a local church.

Schnabel describes the missionary task with an almost identical set of three points.

  • “Missionaries communicate the news of Jesus the Messiah and Savior to people who have not heard or accepted this news.”
  • “Missionaries communicate a new way of life that replaces, at least partially, the social norms and  the behavioral patterns of the society in which the new believers have been converted.”
  • “Missionaries integrate the new believers into a new community.” (Paul the Missionary, 28. Cf. Early Christian Mission, 11)

Evangelism, discipleship, church planting—that’s what the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to do, and these should be the goals of all mission work. Missionaries may aim at one of these components more than the other two, but all three should be present in our overall mission strategy. The work of discipleship and church planting cannot take place unless some non-believers have been evangelized and some of them converted. At the same, we cannot leave new converts on their own once they come to Christ. They must be grounded in the faith and taught what it means to turn from sin, flesh, and the devil and follow Jesus. And if our missionary work only focuses on evangelism and discipleship, without a vision for the centrality of the local church, we are not being faithful to the pattern we see in Acts where conversion always entails incorporation. Missionary work is a three-legged stool: if we are missing any of the legs, the ministry will not be healthy, stable, or strong.

Of course, in saying that all missionaries should be engaged with these three components, I am not suggesting that the strategy is always simple and straightforward. We have to be patient and flexible in aiming for these goals. It make take years to learn a new language and win a hearing with the people you are trying to reach. You may be a doctor or nurse or teacher or business person or agricultural expert by trade. And yet, your bigger, longer-lasting goal is to win people to Christ, get them rooted in their faith, and make sure the new indigenous church is firm and established. In today’s world, reaching the least reached people takes risk, creativity, and patience. Acts does not give us just one way to do mission work.

But it does show us the work missionaries do.

On the one hand, we want to avoid the danger of making our mission too small. Some well-meaning Christians act like conversion is the only thing that counts. They put all their efforts into getting to the field as quickly as possible, speaking to as many people as possible, and then leaving as soon as possible. Mission becomes synonymous with pioneer evangelism.

On the other hand, we want to avoid the danger of making our mission to broad. Some well-meaning Christians act like everything counts as mission. They put all their efforts into improving job skills, lowering unemployment, digging wells, setting up medical centers, establishing great schools, and working for better crop yields—all of which are important and can be a wonderful expression of Christian love, but aren’t what we see Paul and Barnabas sent out to do on their mission in Acts.

I have no doubt God gifts some of us and calls some of us to care for orphans in other lands, or help people develop better sanitation practices, or help sick people with very little access to medical care. We should celebrate these callings. Full stop. With our full support. We may even give financially so that Christians can go and love their neighbors in these extravagant ways. And at the same time, without denigrating this good work in slightest, we must conclude from Acts 14:19-28, and from the entire book of Acts, that the church’s mission and the work of our sent-out missionaries is something more specific. Those demanding a “revolution” in our understanding of mission “away from the traditional missionary focus on winning people to faith in Jesus Christ, concentrating rather on a ‘holistic’ understanding of Jesus’ claims” do so without strong textual support (see Early Christian Mission, 1580-81). We see over and over in Paul’s missionary journeys, and again in his letters, that the central work to which he has been called is the verbal proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Rom. 10:14-17; 15:18; 1 Cor. 15:1-2, 11; Col. 1:28). Paul sees his identity as an apostle—as a sent-out one—to be chiefly this: he has been set apart for the gospel of God (Rom. 1:1). That’s why in Acts 14:27 the singular summary of his mission work just completed is that God “had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” Paul’s goal as a missionary was the conversion of Jews and pagans, the transformation of their hearts and minds, and the incorporation of these new believers into a mature, duly constituted church.

In their book Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission, Andreas Kostenberger and Peter O’Brien describe what it would look like “if the apostolic model is to be followed by missionaries in the contemporary scene.” The work of these missionaries would begin with the winning of converts, but it would not stop there.

Forming believers into mature Christian congregations, providing theological and pastoral counsel against dangers arising from inside and outside churches, strengthening believers both individually and corporately as they face suffering and persecution, so that they will stand fast in the Lord, all fall within the scope of what is involved in continuing the mission of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ. (268)

So what do missionaries do? They preach the gospel to those who haven’t heard. They disciple new believers in life and Christian doctrine. And they establish these disciples into healthy churches with sound teaching and good leaders.

A Few Implications

Let me finish by suggesting a few implications which follow from this answer and then make one final observation from the text.

Implication #1: Those currently serving as missionaries should consider whether Paul’s priorities are their priorities. I’m not trying to single out any specific missionaries who may come across this post. But as a general diagnostic tool missionaries would be helped by considering whether their aims look like Luke’s summary of Paul’s aims at the end of Acts 14.

For some, this may be a gentle reminder and encouragement to stay the course and keep doing the good work they are doing. For other missionaries, it may mean a serious re-evaluation of their priorities. Perhaps they’ve wandered from their charge, maybe lost sight of their original aims and goals. Any of us can experience mission creep or mission drift. It happens in businesses. It happens in churches. It happens in schools. And it happens on the mission field. You have one set of purposes in mind when you land, and then years later you’ve veered off into something else entirely.

Implication #2: We should aim with our missions budget to support missionaries who have for their goals the things we see in Acts 14:21-23. There is certainly a place for Christians to support all manner of good works, development programs, and initiatives designed to work for human flourishing. Many of us will choose to support these ventures personally from our own finances. A few of them may even be in the church budget as a kind of diaconal ministry toward those in our community or for those in need around the world. But when it comes to supporting missionaries in the mission budget, we ought to expect that they are aiming for, praying for, and working for the same things that describe the mission of Paul and Barnabas in verses 21-23. The work of the sent-out apostles should bear a strong resemblance to the work of our sent-out missionaries.

We are finite creatures with finite time, finite resources, and finite abilities. Therefore, our mission strategy must have priorities. This means first of all, we want to support godly men and women, mature in their faith, and like-minded in their theological convictions.

Second, this ought to mean we look to support those doing work in the three areas of missionary activity we see in Acts—evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

And third, once the first two points have been firmly established, I believe every church should keep two further questions in mind. Where is the greatest need? What are our greatest strengths? These two question won’t make all the hard decisions easy, but they give us a place to start making hard decisions.

Paul’s goal was to reach as many people as possible with the gospel. He made no distinction between men and women, slave and free, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, majority or minority. He wanted all to hear of Christ and was eager to go where Christ had not been named (Rom. 15:17-23). Considering almost three billion people have no access to the gospel and there are still 7000 unreached people groups, we should be especially burdened to send missionaries and support missionaries where Christ is least known.

And along with this priority of greatest need, I believe it’s wise to consider our greatest strengths. What abilities and interests do we have in our church? What do we have a track record of doing well? In what places do we already have strong ties? Where has God opened a door? Theses are the sort of secondary questions we would do well to ask, provided the fundamentals have been established.

Implication #3: You should consider whether God is calling you to be engaged in this work, should the church be willing to send you out. I know this post has been heavy on definition and precision and explanation, but perhaps you find your heart exploding with joy and purpose and resolve at thought of gospel-centered, gospel-saturated, gospel-purposed mission work. Maybe you are sitting at your computer thinking, “That’s exactly what I want to do with my life. I want to be report back to this church someday that through my witness God opened a door of faith to the nations.” There is a tremendous need, and we have a tremendous gospel. Could it be that God is calling you to be one of those who connects the two? Talk to your elders, talk to your missions committee, talk to your pastor, talk to a mature friend if you think you might be one of these missionaries we’ve been talking about.

A Final Word

I would be remiss if I didn’t direct your attention to the end of verse 22 in closing. We read there that Paul and Barnabas strengthened the souls of the disciples, encouraged them to continue in the faith, and also informed them that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. A key aspect in their discipleship plan was preparing the people to suffer. And who better to prepare them for Christian endurance than the Apostle Paul? Here we are at the end of just the first missionary journey and we’ve already seen Paul threatened, attacked, stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead. If the call to be a Christian is a summons to carry your cross, how much more the call to be a missionary?

In some ways, we have it easier today than Paul and Barnabas did. Travel is easier. Communication is easier. Medical care and hygiene are better. But in other ways, the work of a missionary is even harder. Most of today’s missionaries have a far great cultural gap to cross in their ministry than Paul did in his. Paul didn’t have to learn a new language. He traveled within the borders of the Roman Empire. He ministered among those who shared something of the same educational system and same political tradition, even if the religious history was very different at times. Sending an American to Indonesia or a Korean to Eastern Europe or a Brazilian to West Africa will likely mean greater cross-cultural pains than even Paul knew.

In the end, of course, it’s not terribly fruitful to compare missionary work in one century versus another. If we are faithfully proclaiming the gospel to those who do not know him, there will be challenges. There will always be the promise of tribulation and the possibility of even worse.

Which means we must be prepared to suffer if we go and be ready to support those whom we send. Missionaries are just like other Christians. They have marriages that need help and kids that need help and conflicts that need help. They are not super heroes. They are servants—servants of God, servants of others, and servants of the word.

It’s that last point that may need recurring emphasis in our day. Missionaries must be first and foremost people of the word. They must know it, believe it, announce it, and teach it. That’s why they go. That’s why we send. For how will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).

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Monday Morning Humor

Aug 26, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

I was the My Bad guy back in the day, with a little bit of Tall Guy Who Shoots 3’s.

Of all these players–and I’ve played with all of them–Foul Guy is the most annoying.

HT: Matt Smethurst

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Gospel Transformation Bible

Aug 24, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

Yes, there are already lots of study Bibles, but I am still very excited about this new one. If the ESV Study Bible contains the class lectures, the Gospel Transformation Bible contains the sermon notes. I pray God uses it to awaken and strengthen our commitment to the transforming power of the gospel.

(FYI: I wrote the notes for Ephesians.)

Gospel Transformation Bible – Short Promo from Crossway on Vimeo.

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The Idolatry of a Low View of Scripture

Aug 23, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

We are sometimes told that the final authority for us as Christians should be Christ and not the Scriptures. It is suggested that Christ would only have us accept the portions of Scripture that comport with his life and teaching, that certain aspects of biblical history, chronology, and cosmology need not bother us because Christ would not have us be bothered by them. The idea put forward by many liberal Christians and not a few self-proclaimed evangelicals is that if we are to worship Christ and not the Scriptures, we must let Christ stand apart from Scripture and above it.

“But who is this Christ, the Judge of Scripture?” Packer asks. “Not the Christ of the New Testament and of history. That Christ does not judge Scripture; He obeys it and fulfils it. By word and deed He endorses the authority of the whole of it.”[1]

Those with a high view of Scripture may be charged with idolatry for so deeply reverencing the word of God. But the accusation is laid at the wrong feet. “A Christ who permits His followers to set Him up as the Judge of Scripture, One by whom its authority must be confirmed before it becomes binding and by whose adverse sentence it is in places annulled, is a Christ of human imagination, made in the theologian’s own image, One whose attitude to Scripture is the opposite of that of the Christ of history. If the construction of such a Christ is not a breach of the second commandment, it is hard to see what is.”[2]

Jesus may have seen himself as the focal point of Scripture, but never as a judge of it. The only Jesus who stands above Scripture is the Jesus of our own invention.

[1] Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, 61.

[2] Ibid., 61-62.

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All Scripture–All of It

Aug 22, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

If all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16), then there is a unity to be found across the pages of the Bible. Without minimizing the differences of genre and human authorship, we should nevertheless approach the Bible expecting theological distinctives and apparent discrepancies to be fully reconcilable.

The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid of, once and for all, this nonsense about being red letter Christians, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses. An evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize the truths in the Gospel more than truths elsewhere in Scripture. If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans it has no less weight or relevance than if we read it from the lips of Jesus in Matthew. All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the parts that were spoken by Jesus.

God’s gracious self-disclosure comes to us through the Word made flesh and by the inscripurated word of God. These two modes of revelation reveal to us one God, one truth, one way, and one coherent set of promises, threats, and commands to live by. We must not seek to know the Word who is divine apart from the divine words of the Bible, and we ought not read the words of the Bible without an eye to the Word incarnate. When it comes to seeing God and his truth in Christ and in Holy Scripture, one is not more reliable, more trustworthy, or more relevant than the other. Scripture, because it is the breathed out word of God, possesses the same authority as the God-man Jesus Christ.

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Two Often Missed Gospel Essentials

Aug 21, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

It’s amazing how often people think they are giving the Christian message or have heard the gospel and yet there is nothing about sin and repentance.

The message of the gospel is not simply an invitation to know God’s love or enter his family or to live forever. That is all true. But the call to saving faith must always include a call to repentance.

Acts 13:38-39 “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses.”

The Law of Moses cannot free you. You cannot go to sleep at night knowing for certain that you are righteous before God based on your observance of the Decalogue. The law cannot set you free of your condemnation, that is why the High Priest had to offer sacrifices year after year, for centuries.

You cannot be freed from your sins by the intercession of your ancestors, or your moral religiosity. You cannot be set free from your sins because you have an active social conscience and you’re very engaged in issues of justice, or because you are a very fastidious homeschooling family. Only Jesus, the Savior, can set you free.

We have a problem. We are slaves to sin. We are under the curse and penalty of sin. We love sin. We live in sin. We were born in sin and apart from Christ, we die in sin.

The only freedom: repent and believe.

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