pastoral theology

The Guy With The Mic Does Not Speak For The Room

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, culture, evangelism, mission, pastoral theology | 3 Comments

micLast month I was helping out with a number of student missions. One mainstay of the university mission is a “lunch bar.” The Christian Union provides free food, there’s a talk (often with a provocative title) and then the speaker fields questions.

I was not the lunchtime speaker at the last mission I helped with so I got to sit in the audience and watch. What I learnt at those lunch bars has stayed with me because it has implications that go far beyond the student world. Here’s how it unfolded…

The talk titles for this mission were fairly provocative and the Q&A session was facilitated by a roving mic which the questioners held to command the room. Those two facts led to an interesting and perhaps predictable dynamic. Only certain people have the confidence to take the mic and therefore if it’s a particularly hot topic, you are in for a spicy 10-15 minutes at the end.

What happened pretty much every day was that we had a number of Christians from the CU, a number of guests of those Christians, some randoms who came for the food and some randoms who came for the hot topic. We then heard an excellent talk which tried to honour the question but which was basically a presentation of Jesus in 20 heart-warming minutes. Then the questions came. Invariably those who self-identified as unbelieving took the mic first and asked pointed questions. Every now and again a genuine enquirer was brave enough to ask a question on topic, but not often. And by the time our hour was up, we’d gotten well and truly off the beaten track into the realm of “Old Testament genocide” or some other subject equally far from the set topic.

Once the official time was up though the temperature in the room cooled significantly. We would turn to our neighbour and almost invariably their reaction to the event was:

“Really interesting”.
“Hadn’t thought about any of that before.”
“My granddad died last month and it’s made me wonder.”

After every lunch bar we’d have sensational conversations – about the John’s Gospels given out, about the talk, about random “religious questions” they’d always wanted to ask. Very little mention was made about the Q&A and if there was conversation about it, the number one impression they got was how the speaker reacted to the angry questioners. Very few could even remember what was said, even though it was just minutes earlier.

And here’s what I’ve been thinking ever since: Don’t be cowed by the angry questioner with the mic. He doesn’t speak for the room and “refuting” him isn’t the goal. We can try to respond thoughtfully sure. But our deeper goal is to engage graciously and our ultimate priority does not lie with the mockers. They sneered in the Areopagus (Acts 17) and they will sneer today. So what? Paul preached, some sneered, some believed, Paul moved on. Let the sneerers take the hindmost.

How often are we intimidated by those who have the microphone – those who speak loudest in the media – those who set themselves up as spokespeople for the culture? We could spend all our time fretting about the messages that dominate the airwaves. We could waste our days wishing to wrest the mic from others or fantasizing about how we might refute them publicly with devastating smack-downs. Or we could just get on and preach the gospel, ignore the sneers – they will always come – and engage our neighbours who just aren’t where the sneerers are at.

Don’t be deceived – the guy on the mic does not speak for the room. Those in the media do not speak for your friends. Preach the gospel, turn to your neighbour and let’s engage those conversations – the fields are still white for harvest.

 

 

The Nature of God – Triune from the Beginning

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, covenant continuity, evangelism, pastoral theology | 1 Comment

I’ve been listening to a lot of Muslim – Christian debates. Here are three that have interested me recently – each of them with Dr Shabir Ally.

Firstly there’s James White vs Shabir Ally on whether the earliest witnesses to Jesus confessed His deity:

White argues that the earliest sources unashamedly confess the deity of Christ – the “Carmen Christi” of Philippians 2, the “NT Shema” of 1 Corinthians 8 and Mark’s Gospel speak of Jesus as Yahweh. Fascinatingly Shabir seems to concede as much, at least over the Philippians 2 material, but then claims that this must be a corruption of the earliest beliefs. Why? Because we know that the Jews were monotheists (which Shabir conflates time and again with “unitarians”).

Shabir wriggles off the hook because he claims that the Old Testament is unitarian. If this is so then NT trinitarianism must be a corruption and the Quran must be correct in saying that the Christians have changed their book. His wriggling is very unconvincing, obviously, because the evidence James brings is without question the earliest. All Shabir can do is to claim that beneath the Scriptures there must lie an original unitarian faith in Jesus that gets developed in trinitarian ways over time. It’s all a “just so story” but he gets away with it because he asserts that the OT is unitarian.

The second debate I watched recently was Jay Smith versus Shabir Ally. Watch Jay’s 35 minute opening statement from 17:55 where he brings devastating critiques of the historicity of the Quran and its transmission:

Shabir responds with numerological hocus pocus from 53:45. As Dr Ally waxes lyrical about the number 19 in the Quran your jaw will hit the floor (but not in the way Dr Ally hopes). It’s astonishing that this would be put forward in a serious debate and take up so much of Dr Ally’s argument. Jay’s historical critique of the Quran remains completely unanswered.

But still Shabir wriggles off the hook because, well, we all know that the NT must be corrupt? Why? Because it changes the doctrine of God from the OT.

Ok then, step forward Nabeel Qureshi. I loved this debate. Just listen to Nabeel’s opening statement from 8:15.

Here Nabeel is hitting where it hurts. I love that he questions whether Tawhid (Islam’s unitarianism) is the simple doctrine of God that Muslims claim. Actually Tawhid involves Muslims in all sorts of difficulties. If Allah is alone, how can he break free from the prison of his own transcendence to communicate with creatures. Some Muslims speak of the word of Allah existing with him in eternity which is really the only way you could have true revelation from Allah. Only if the Quran is an eternal communication could it communicate the eternal God. But of course as soon as you say that you are threatening Tawhid because you have something alongside Allah.

In Christian theology the eternal Word who is God from God is not a problem. He’s the solution. Without Him God must be mute and we must be left in the dark. Nabeel was right to press Shabir on the question of the Quran’s eternality, it goes to the heart of the Islamic doctrine of God and forces the Muslim to the horns of a dilemma. Either God does not have an eternal word and thus we cannot know that Allah is transcendent or he does have an eternal word and Tawhid is completely compromised.

More fundamentally though Nabeel establishes that the OT, in its own context and on its own terms, is not unitarian at all and could not be read unitarianly. This is where I have found evangelism to Muslims gaining most traction. When you show that Yahweh is face to face with Abraham and then rains down judgement from the-LORD-out-of-the-heavens (Genesis 18:1; 19:24) you show that Moses’ doctrine of God is nothing like Mohammed’s.

Have a watch and enjoy Nabeel’s arguments. And if you want another couple dozen more OT Scriptures – see these 24 verses that cannot be read unitarianly in the Hebrew Bible. We simply do not see a progression from unitarianism to trinitarianism in the Bible or history. What we see in the Scriptures is a compound unity to God with three Persons who may take divine titles. We see this from Genesis 1 onwards. Unitarianism is not the pure origin, it is the much later corruption. This corruption began with the Rabbis reacting against the early Christians and continued with the heresy of Islam (much aided by pagan philosophy).

One thing I admire about Islam is its comprehensive view of history. For them Adam is a Muslim, so is Moses, so is Jesus – and they all taught Tawhid. The Christian view of history ought to be similarly consistent. Adam is a Christian, so is Moses, so are all true prophets – and they were all trinitarian. These are the arguments that truly fight fire with fire in Muslim-Christian debate and these are the truths that make sense of our Christian faith: triune from the beginning.

I Gave My Life To Jesus: spoken word video

Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology | 11 Comments

 

More Spoken Word

 

I gave my life to Jesus about a thousand times,
At teenage shrines of rare experience,
They’d blare Delirious then dare obedience,
I’d swear allegiance, soul-bared and serious,
Each prayer more daring than the previous.

On stage, the preacher saw we staunch hard core,
who flocked to the fore to knock, knock knock on heaven’s door.
He claimed salvations like he was keeping score.
Yet none were sure but he…
And none doubted more than me.

So I prayed again, to firm cement it,
Making sure I really meant it.
Vowed my life to be amended,
Willed my all to dust descended,
Gave my heart to be expended.
Then when all my prayers were ended…
Nothing, but my self lamented…
Oh I pretended all was mended and extended lifted hands
But within I could not understand:
What more could He demand?

I gave my life to Jesus a thousand different ways,
No single day would pass without this act.
I would contract to yield my every part,
To make one more fresh start,
To be more set apart,
And in return I’d yearn for Him to impart the merest trace
of grace into my heart.

I gave my life to Jesus, though faith continued flagging,
though doubts were ever nagging, zeal sagging
dragging down to duty’s basement.
But at least I had my bracelet!
O dear bracelet, give me strength anew.
The bracelet counseled: What Would Jesus Do?
And to answer all I could think was that He would sink
to His knees in passioned pleas,
like at Gethsemane.
And with almighty self-surrender,
there He rendered ALL to God who, silent, let Him fall.

So what should I do?
I too would heed that call,
and likewise sprawl before the Splendor.

This crawl became my pattern,
each new day I’d flatten self
before the Lord, pressed down to gain reward
that never came. But all the same I’d call.

And all the while the preachers told me
“Give control, not part, but wholly,
Give your heart, your life, your all.”
But rarely do I recall
Being told what He gave, my Lord to save.
Except… they slipped it in… to conscript us they gripped us
With “Jesus whipped, our Saviour stripped,
the blood it dripped from the cross,” but they ripped it from it’s gospel frame
To say “Now YOU. YOU DO THE SAME.”
And thus Christ’s offering was flipped, we were guilt tripped
by the very act that saved us.
So it was engraved, instilled:
The cross was a standard unfulfilled by us.
Oh but we’d try, my how we’d try, we’d bow the knee and bear the load,
It was the very least we owed.

I gave my life to Jesus… but somewhere down the road I slid,
my faith undid even amid my church, my prayers,
even as I bid for heaven’s care,
beneath the lid, the venom hid.
I was your youth group’s keenest kid,
But no-one hated God more than I did.

With Him it’s just take, take, take, there’s no break,
His thirst for blood who can slake?
At least vampires get you just once,
But this God held perpetual hunts.

I gave my life to Jesus but I guess it was no good.
I did what I could to appease Him,
but no pleasing seemed probable,
So this elder brother turned prodigal.

And I could chronicle the years headed east.
A far country unpoliced,
It was a famine disguised as a feast,
A pig-sty passed off as release.

But there… at the end of the track, with life out of whack when all was pitch black…
THERE – what brought me back?

THIS BOOK.
Cos THIS BOOK, as I read, didn’t say what they said,
To those with bowed heads, under piety’s dread, by their leaders misled,
THIS BOOK said: REPENT and BELIEVE the GOOD NEWS.
The KINGDOM of God is at hand.
There He stands in your stead,
your King lifts your head,
He has shouldered your dread,
arms outstretched till they bled.

As I read, I met HIM: the Father’s sheer Gift,
now offered to lift us from cowering,
The feeble empowering,
The filthy clean showering,
the lowly now towering in Him.

So that night on His knees? Gethsemane’s pleas?
Those prayers they were said for me.
Cos I am not Jesus there in the garden, begging for pardon,
I’m Peter.
Despite all my boasts, I’m asleep at my post,
And Jesus does it all for me.

Can you give your life to Jesus? Talk about cart before horse.
Can we resource the Source who flows like a river
He is the Giver and we just receive, that’s what it means to believe.

So I’ll leave an appeal. To the preachers who feel
that they must stir up zeal, then let it be His we reveal.

You say “Give your heart”
This says “Christ is the donor”

You say “Yield your life”
This says “He was always the owner”

You say “Get on fire.”
This says “You are the Light.”

You say “Keep running to God.”
This says “Walk in Christ.”

You say “Dare to be a missional, intentional, incarnational, contextualised, no-compromise, counter-cultural, radical, red-letter, fully-devoted, disciple.”
This says “Follow.”

You say “Get hungry for God.”
This says “Take, eat, swallow.”

You say “Press into God”
This says “You’re hidden in Christ”

You say “Be a world changer”
This says “Lead a quiet life.”

You say “Surrender all.”
This says “You’re not your own.”

You say “Step up to the plate”,
This says “You’re raised to the throne.”

You say “Burn out”
This says “Shine”

You say “Work on your relationship with Jesus.”
This says “I am my beloved’s and He is mine.”

Folks, look at the book and unhook from this wearisome, will-driven view
Stop giving your life to Jesus, He’s the Giver delivered for you.

More Spoken Word

House of Tweet

Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology, tweets | Leave a comment

What’s the place of “apologetics”? I debate the issue with Tom Price ()

If by “apologetics” you mean “persuasive, thoughful, contextualised gospel preaching” then Yay Apologetics! But 1Cor1&2 rules out Something

If apologetics = “evangelism in the mode of answering Qs” I am 100% pro-apologetics. If it’s separate then it’s “evangel +”

-Today gospel preaching isn’t working
-U sure it’s the gospel that’s being preached?
-Oh sure, I’m talking about *evangelical* churches
-Hm

-Yeah we still believe in preaching but we need more
-Like a prayerful, loving community living it out?
-I was thinking of a new website.

Jesus doesn’t so much make safe passage for us back to heaven. But He has made treacherous passage for Himself down to us. #EnjoyYourDay

In Christ ur members of God’s flock, purchased by God’s blood, fed by God’s word & surrounded by God’s grace. Acts20 #EnjoyYourDay

– I fear the church will miss the next big move of God.
– Impossible, the church IS the move of God.

It’ll be alright in the End. If it’s not alright now, it’s not the End. #EnjoyYourDay

Astonishing to think that God remains Giver even in judgement: “He gave them over… He gave them over.. He gave them over…” Rom1:24,26,28

We’re all cut from the one cloth (Adam).
We must be clothed with the One cut (Christ).

Want proof of ‘the Divine’ breaking into this world? Look to the virgin womb. The empty tomb is more abt ‘the Human’ breaking into the next

#Exodus12 It’s not the quality of your life ‘in here’ that counts. It’s the quality of His death ‘out there’ that saves #EnjoyYourDay

By the Spirit of the Son you have a new spiritual heart-beat: Abba, Father… Abba, Father… Abba, Father… (Gal 4:6) #EnjoyYourDay

In Athens – Paul was not channelling Socrates but Elijah.

He didn’t rescue u so He could delight in u. He delighted in u & so rescued u. Ps 18. U’ve been loved at your worst. #EnjoyYourDay

Naturally the human race casts God as a hard task-master, not because He is one, but because it suits us to quietly despise and dismiss Him.

“The LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him.” (Psalm 32:10) #EnjoyYourDay

Not just net gainers. Even our greatest suffering redeemed 2 greater glory: More than conquerors thru Him who loved us! #EnjoyYourDay

“You are my Beloved Child, I’m thrilled with you” – the Verdict we all want from the Father we all crave. And it’s ours in Jesus #EnjoyYourDay

Only Sinners love (Luke 7:36-50). Therefore every sin is an opportunity to know yr indebtedness and the forgiveness of Jesus #EnjoyYourDay

“My child, get up” He will say. And u will rise 2 feasting joy, complete astonishment & face-to-face with Jesus (Luke 8:40-56) #EnjoyYourDay

Who qualifies 4 Christ’s Kingdom? The powerless, the wicked, the little children: Lk18:1-17. Don’t reach up, receive where u r #EnjoyYourDay

“Now death is but a Jacob’s ladder whose foot is in the dark grave, but its top reaches to glory everlasting.” Spurgeon

Exodus: Abraham’s seed (God’s son) Redeemed from Slavery(1-6), thru Judgement(7-14), into Dependence(15-18,24), Love(19-23) &Worship(25-40)

I find Twitter discussions are often more fruitful than blog discussions since each side engages each point as the dialogue develops.

Blogging debates can easily become two guys shadow-boxing in their own corners. Twitter forces you to engage each point as it arises.

You know the tree of life in the garden of God? That’s not just for religious art. That’s for *you* to eat from (Rev 2:7) #EnjoyYourDay

Your sorrows He carries, your infirmities He takes up, your sins He bears. (Is 53) Your weaknesses only draw Him closer #EnjoyYourDay

He’s the Judge of the world, the Revelation of God and a gentle, lowly Rest-Giver: Matt 11:20-30. #EnjoyYourDay

If you’re going to sing to your plants “Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles” is best. It aids germannation.

Gangrene costs an almondy leg.

“Which” magazine have me ranking colas all day long. It’s soda grading.

I dunno if it’s high cuisine but asparagers is definitely on the haute-istic spectrum.

Threshers wined me up

An ancient shoe-makers guild? Load of old cobblers.

Faithfulness or Fruitfulness?

Posted on by Glen in ministry, pastoral theology, union with Christ | Leave a comment

vine2It’s a question commonly posed among Christian ministers: Am I called more to faithfulness or fruitfulness?

When you realise that there can be great “ministry successes” based on “secret and shameful ways”, you start to prize faithfulness all the more.

When you see dry-as-dust ministers making no impact but claiming a justification in their plodding “faithfulness”, you might start to prize fruitfulness.

Which is it?

Three initial thoughts:

1. If the purpose of the discussion is to make ministers feel better or worse about themselves, it’s almost certainly the wrong discussion. If it becomes about managing our own egos in ministry then we’re already on the wrong footing. Too often we take sides on this one because we want to insulate ourselves from critique (if we’re ‘faithful’ but fruitless) or to congratulate ourselves (if we’re ‘fruitful’ but faithless).

2. The benefit of the “faithfulness” side is that it prioritises what God is doing in us before it considers what God is doing through us. This is good. God does not treat His children as means to an end, but as ends in themselves. The faithfulness crowd focus – or at least should focus – us on what God is up to in their own walk with Jesus before they ever consider “bums on pews.”

3. The benefit of the “fruitfulness” side is that no-one can be fruitful without abiding in the Vine. It’s possible to be a stone-hearted servant lacking any kind of vibrant relationship with Jesus. “Faithfulness” can become a cloak for “doing your duty” and all the sins of the prodigal’s elder brother come into play. The fruitfulness crowd focus – or at least should focus – on an expectant and lively communion with Jesus that just does bear fruit. It’s not the busyness of the builder, laying brick upon brick. It’s the organic growth of the branch that will be fruitful in connection with the Vine,

So it seems like both sides have good points to make: faithfulness makes me think of God’s work in me before all else. Fruitfulness makes me think of my position in Christ before all else. But in practice I find that both positions can unwittingly distract us from our true focus. The faithfulness minister can be too keen to protect their own ego when proper critique and hard questions may be in order. The fruitfulness minister can end up viewing “abiding in Christ” as a means to their real end – ministry “success”.

But if John 15 is properly in view then the faithfulness minister is directed to the true nature of faithfulness – not bricklaying obedience, but intimate communion. They are also challenged on the issue of fruitlessness – not, notice, “numbers.” But still, we should be asking about fruit. Galatians 5 fruit is a good place to start: love, joy, peace, etc… Jesus does not merely say “Plod along, the outcome is immaterial.” He said “If you make your home in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (v5)

Does this fruit go beyond character formation? Well Jesus did say that the fruit itself will abide (John 15:16). It is people who abide in Christ – not simply your Christian character. Therefore it is appropriate to ask “Are others growing in the Vine through my ministry?” No? Then something’s up. And Jesus tells you – abide in Him (v4), let His word abide in you (v7), pray (v16), love (v17) and you will bear fruit: promise. True faithfulness does result in fruitfulness.

And for the fruitfulness crowd – remember: the fruit is not the point. The Vine is. It’s easy to get convicted about our lack of fruit in ministry and to make that the reason we return to the Lord. Well praise God that something reminds us to commune with Christ. But desire for results isn’t the best motivation is it? Let’s never seek fruit for the sake of fruitfulness. That would be like using your spouse simply to have children. The truly faithful do not seek first fruit – they seek first the Lord. In Him – and only there – they are fruitful and multiply.

Original Sin: What’s not to like?

Posted on by Glen in 321, evangelism, gospel, pastoral theology, sin | 4 Comments

Original sin is a bit of a passion of mine (committed sin too but in a different way). I bang the ‘original sin’ drum in posts like these:

The Good News of Being Condemned Already

Original Sin (for the Evangelists Podcast)

The Importance of Adam

I’d love to see a proper renaissance of this teaching in our evangelism. Unfortunately Christians shy away from it for several reasons – not least a loss of confidence in the historical Adam. But let me leave that to one side and here sketch out three good reasons our culture ought to resonate with original sin and then address three dumb reasons why it really doesn’t.

Three Reasons Our Culture Should Love Original Sin

It’s holistic

We all know that we’re perishing physically. We’re born into a terminal condition called life. The Christian faces the fact that we are whole persons. We refuse to believe in a divorce between our physical state and our moral/spiritual state. We’re born perishing – that’s just a fact. There’s no need to appeal to some other magical realm where we remain pristine and virtuous. Original sin treats us as whole people – dying on the outside, dying on the inside.

It’s communal

Yes we live in an insanely individualistic age but actually the language of community is hugely prized. We’re in this thing together. That’s what original sin says: We’re all in the same boat. No use pointing at the bad folks over there. I am them and they are me and we’re all in a mess. Original sin levels the playing field and brings us together in the same place – a place of authenticity…

It’s authentic

These days authenticity plays really well. If you can fake this you’ve got it made. Well here’s a doctrine that says we’ve all got deep, deep issues. And no-one can claim an exemption. Nobody’s perfect. Here is the death of all judgmentalism – no-one has achieved a different class of moral existence. All those religious types who think they’re better than others are, beyond question, hypocrites. Original sin says we’re all the black sheep of the family, so let’s stop pretending to be ‘on the side of the angels.’

Having said all this, here are Three Reasons Our Culture Hates Original Sin

We think we’re immortal (The myth of limitless potential)

Modern westerners are in complete denial about our creaturely limitations. We spend our lives seeking to avoid and reverse our mortality. Actually we don’t face our physical perishing so it’s no wonder we can’t face our spiritual perishing either.

We think we’re islands (The myth of individualism)

For all our talk of community, our doctrine of humanity is thoroughly individualistic. I might like to get together with others, but it’s my personal desire here that’s important. I’m a community kinda guy. That’s how roll. When the community starts making claims on me, I cool off big time. When you start telling me of my corporate identity and responsibility, I’m likely to get pretty offended.

We think our decisions make us free (The myth of choice)

It’s so incredibly stupid and enslaving and obviously untrue but we are captivated by the idea that we create our own identity through the exercise of our personal choices. I know, I know – the multiplication of choices mostly ends up paralysing us (see, for eg, this TED talk on the Paradox of Choice) but still the mythology persists. And the  slogan “it’s your decision” is so overwhelmingly persuasive it seems impossible to counteract.

But…

Let’s keep holding out the holistic, communal, authentic side of this message and let’s keep chipping away at the delusions we tell ourselves: that we’re immortal; that we stand alone; that we create ourselves. Let’s point out our mortality and our limits. Let’s highlight the failures of individualism. Let’s spotlight the slaveries we bring on ourselves precisely when we make our bold choices.

And all the while, our goal is not to burden people under the conviction of sin but to awaken them to the reality we all face. The whole point is to wake up the world to the obvious: we’re sick. To embrace this truth is not our damnation, it’s our salvation. For Jesus did not come for the healthy but the sick. He did not come to call the limitless, individualistic self-creators but only original sinners.

Not resourcing the devout: raising the dead

Posted on by Glen in evangelism, pastoral theology, preaching | 18 Comments

Luther Preaching

Let me try out a couple of statements on you:

Church is God’s mission strategy for the world.

Agree? Sure you do. Ok, what about this one – straight out of Romans 10:

Preaching is God’s normal means for converting the lost.

Cool with that? Good!

So then, let’s put these truths together, and let’s say:

The Sunday sermon is absolutely central to our evangelistic task.

In other words, if we want to help our churches be evangelistic, the pulpit should be at the forefront of our thinking and practice.

I suggest that, often, this isn’t the case because we think of Sunday preaching as “resourcing the devout” rather than “raising the dead.” In this situation preaching is aimed squarely at “the saints” with the emphasis on saints (and not sinners). Preaching here easily becomes an explanation of our requisite beliefs and duties as Christians (plus some motivational prompts, perhaps). In other words our preaching is law.

Result? The congregation feels burdened, the Christians feel like church has nothing to say to their friends and if non-Christians find their way in they feel like it’s not for them. Perhaps even deeper than all this, the Christians go away feeling that the good news aint so good, that they need to try harder at this Christian caper and that therefore they’re not free to go out into the world because maybe this week their real job is to maintain their position on the holiness perch. All of this is deadly to evangelism – whether or not non-Christians are present on a Sunday!

How should we react to this? Well evangelism must spring from a deep love and appreciation for the evangel. So let’s think more deeply about the  gospel – we’ll go back to basics:

We are born in Adam according to the flesh.

We are born again in Christ by the Spirit.

Until Christ’s return we have Adam’s flesh and Christ’s Spirit.

We are in Adam by nature and in Christ by grace.

We know our Adamic reality by sight and our Christian identity by faith.

These are the realities behind the truth that we are simultaneously righteous and a sinner.

 These twin realities remain with us until Christ’s return – we will live with these tensions all our lives.

Certainly we must proclaim that Christ is stronger than Adam; the Spirit is stronger than the flesh; our righteousness determines us not our sin; grace triumphs over nature; we walk by faith not sight; etc; etc.

But even though God’s grace in Christ far exceeds our sinful nature in Adam, the tension is not obliterated in this age.

Therefore I can still be called a sinner, I still have flesh, I’m still an offspring of Adam.

My Christian identity comes to me while I remain in Adam.

All of this upholds the vital truth that God’s justifies the wicked. (Romans 4:5)

As Luther says:

– Martin Luther (Luther, WA, 1.183ff).

Since this is so, here’s what follows…

God’s grace meets us in our sinful natures.

God addresses us as sinners in Adam even as He calls us righteous in Christ.

In ourselves we have sin, only in Christ do we have righteousness.

We are called, therefore, to live not by possession but by gift.

That gift comes to us by the Spirit in the Word.

Therefore…

Preaching means addressing sinners and proclaiming the grace of God to them in Jesus.

This does not minimize the “how much more” of God’s abundant grace, it is precisely the context for it.

Preaching is not resourcing the devout but raising the dead.

This is not simply about “evangelistic preaching” at the “revival meeting.” It is the true nature of all preaching.

If this is true…

The job of the preacher is not to top up the spirituality of Christians who have righteousness in their grasp and need to beef it up a bit.

The job of the preacher is to address people sunk in sin and failure and to tell them of a Saviour who is beyond them.

Crucially therefore the audience for the sermon is “the children of Adam.”

All of which means…

The Sunday preacher does not have to choose between two very different kinds of hearer for their message.

The congregation is not split between those who have made a one-off decision for Jesus and those who are yet to choose for Christ.

The Christian needs to hear of their sin and Christ’s salvation. The non-Christian needs to hear of their sin and Christ’s salvation.

The same gospel is for Christian and non-Christian alike.

If preachers actually believed this and actually preached like this I believe our churches would be transformed.

Christians would be saved from the hypocrisy Luther spoke of above.

Christians would know their sin and the grace of a gospel that meets them where they really are instead of their prettied-up Sunday best.

Christians would experience the grace of God more powerfully through a gospel that doesn’t merely strengthen their resolve but saves their souls.

Christians would hear a gospel that applies to the children of Adam and not just to the religious – i.e. a gospel that’s relevant to their Monday to Saturday existence.

Christians would get more of a vision for their vocation out in the world, realising that the Scriptures teach us how to live not just how to function as a Christian.

This will equip us for how we can address our friends with the same gospel. Because it really is the same gospel that answers our friends’ problems.

It might even inspire us to think “So and so needs to come and hear about this, we were talking about anger management (or whatever) just the other day.”

At the end of the service we might just “go in peace to love and serve the Lord” with gusto – not trying to top up our functional righteousness with a few more churchy practices.

Therefore, we might actually feel free to get out into the world, love our neighbours and maybe even befriend them!

And we could then feel that church is a place we could invite our friends – and maybe even do it.

Those are ten benefits of gospel preaching every Sunday and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that non-Christians will very likely be present and may just get converted!

So how about it? Tim Keller gives it a go and he does alright, don’t you reckon? So can we have a go too? Can we address the whole congregation as the children of Adam – every one of them needing Jesus desperately? Can we see the Scriptures as addressing the problems of life not just the difficulties of Christian piety? Can we do more than resource the devout – can we, by the Spirit’s almighty power, raise the dead through the gospel word? If we don’t aim for that I’m not sure we have the right to call ourselves gospel people.

Tweets for my sweets

Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology, tweets | Leave a comment

Some preaching offers Christ – like a meal in a restaurant. Some preaching offers ‘biblical truth’ – like raw ingredients at a wholesalers

If you’re a Christian you are “in Christ”. And you can’t get closer than “in”. #EnjoyYourDay

When Christians protest: “Non-Cs will Never believe/understand THREE [or TWO or ONE]” I often find it’s They who don’t believe/understand it

If you are in Christ, even if He wanted to send you away, God would have to un-knit His own being to do so. #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus encamps around you, the Spirit fills you, the Father beams at you. #EnjoyYourDay

The Greek mind makes vertical contrasts: ideal is above, we are below
Hebrew thinking makes horizontal contrasts: ideal is later, we are now

When we think about the visible/invisible church, is our mindset Greek or Hebrew?

Anyone who says ‘Men try to fix things, women just want to talk it out’ has never spoken to an older woman about child-rearing ;-)

The Risen Lord cooks breakfast for total failures (Jn 21). He hasnt changed in 2000 years. He loves u just the same. #EnjoyYourDay

God is not just forgiving, He’s Father. You’re not just accepted, you’re adopted. #EnjoyYourDay

Adoption into the life of God, thru the blood of the Son! What kind of God do we have? One who gave everything to have us #EnjoyYourDay

Worship is 24/7, sure, but so is marriage. Setting aside special times to enjoy it does not undermine the ongoing reality – it sustains it.

Priesthood of all believers, sure, but Christ gives different gifts and roles to *help* our corporate priestliness (Eph4:11-13; 1Pet4:10-11)

“We’re saved by grace not rituals.” Exactly, so take communion every chance u get & let it proclaim to u that grace that u prize.

If minds emerged from purely Darwinian processes how did we ever arrive at a Darwin? Fitness to reproduce does not equal fitness to think.

If you’re looking for proof of this, ask yourself who at your high school was considered fittest to reproduce? The honours students?

The Good Shepherd has not retired. The One who gave His life 4u watches over, guides, feeds & protects u right now. #EnjoyYourDay

Good news: God has prepared good works for you to walk in today. (Try to look surprised when it happens). #EnjoyYourDay

Gnostic Gospels: Fan fiction from beyond the fringe.

Actually, as I’ve thought about it, it’s more like Frenemy Fiction

Last night on TV I saw a genuine marriage where the celebrant said “By the power of your love for one another I pronounce you husband&wife”!

Then again, I’ve also seen baptisms where the minister says “On the basis of your profession of faith, I now baptise you…”!

Jesus does not wish you well on your way to heaven. He is heaven. And you’re in Him. #EnjoyYourDay

Every word of Ps119:25 articulates the nature of the flesh & the Spirit:
My soul cleaves to the dust;
Give me life according to your word.

Jesus doesn’t merely give us a legal status, He IS our legal status. And not just legal- royal and familial and…dare I go further? 2Pet1:4

We say “We need more harvest.” Jesus says “You need more workers.” (Matt 9:37)

On the plus side, @Stephenfry’s comments remind us that we do Not worship Authority-writ-large. We too despise and reject the author of evil

For @StephenFry to treat Christianity without a Fall is not just straw-manning. It’s shooting the enemy and calling him “God”

One irony regarding Fry’s tirade: He rails against disease, decay and death but only ends up enthroning them as lords of the cosmos.

A much deeper irony: Fry takes aim at the author of evil and Christians rally to defend the monster.

The Father IS Love, the Son IS Grace, the Spirit IS Fellowship (2 Cor 13:14). You have everything you could ever need or want. #EnjoyYourDay

When our champion wins, we celebrate. Thank God we have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor15:57) #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus does not hit “Snooze” on your sins, to revisit them later. He’s hit “Dismiss”, once and for all. #EnjoyYourDay

What surrounded Jesus’ gospel preaching? Matt9:35-38
LOVE 4 the lost,
FAITH to see their true condition,
HOPE for a coming harvest,
PRAYER.

All that harms & perverts comes from a defeated enemy. Your victorious Friend brings fullness & life: even thru this harm. #EnjoyYourDay

Let persecution be our context not our complex.

Arguments about the length of days in Genesis 1 don’t get very far. Much better to talk about the *kind* of days they were: “good”.

Father, Son & Spirit means Fullness, Poured-out & Poured-in. Divine Fullness is Poured-out for you and Poured-in to you. #EnjoyYourDay

To say “Jesus is the only way to God” is only superficially Christ-centred. Far more fundamentally: “There IS no God except the Jesus-God.”

Without the eternal Word of God it’s not simply that we lack the vocabulary to speak of God. Without Christ there is no God to speak about.

We can’t imagine ourselves into a world w/o suffering since WE wouldn’t exist in this other world. More importantly the LAMB wouldn’t exist

The god the New Atheists decry certainly does not exist. #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus is not ‘the only Way’ like a bridge is the only way 2 an island. He’s the only Way like a light beam is the only way 2 see the source

You have nothing to bring God but weakness & failure. Yet this is exactly what He accepts thru Jesus our Saviour #EnjoyYourDay

Whatever you’ve done this weekend, whatever you will do this week, God’s love is as free as the sunshine. (Matt 5:45) #EnjoyYourDay

Reminder to self: Videos don’t go viral. People go viral.

As Abraham precedes Moses so the new covenant is older than the old. Galatians 3

Christians are new covenant not old covenant people. This means we are children of Abraham not of Moses. Galatians 3

He’s magnetic, heroic & this world’s true Champion. He knows u by name, prays 4u constantly & longs to see u face to face #EnjoyYourDay

If you like building personalised lighthouses that’s your own lookout.

At our bespoke undertakers, our motto is: It’s Your Funeral

Marmalade: for when life hands you marmals

I respect the makers of colonnades even more when I remember what life has handed them.

Cuba’s big problem has been finding a successor to Castro but no one wants to play second Fidel

I told them “You must stop snorting marijuana” because sometimes you have to say what’s right even if it puts joints out of noses.

Your list of passive-aggressive tactics made a glaring omission

If it’s all the same to you I’ll call you a monist

If it means nothing to you I’ll call you Niall

The Spanish must be constantly overwhelmed by their todo lists

Let the dish run away with the spoon, it’s the fork that counts.

-I’ve had no help in thinking up a girl’s name.
-Monica?
-Sure, or handle, appellation, sobriquet, whatever. I’m just saying noone’s helped

I just made a bad karma joke. It got what it deserved

Warning: there are some bad karma jokes going around

“There’s only 1 word to describe my failed attempt at a prosthetic testicle” Shambolic.

Is it worth catching up with the #GreatBritishSewingBee if I haven’t seen Great British Sewing A?

I like comparing historical periods now and then

Face facts people: the average Briton is mean

In gritty Channel 4 documentaries, 8 out of 10 youths say they refuse to become a statistic.

Compulsive talking is a bore I must say


Little child, for you

Posted on by Glen in baptism, pastoral theology | 80 Comments

Baptism

On Sunday we are having Ruby baptised.
Here are some reasons why

1. Because we are children of Abraham so we treat our children the way he treated his (Genesis 17).

2. Because the New Testament never retracts 2000 years of Biblical practice regarding households and the covenant sign.

3. Because the covenant sign (even the sign and seal of “justification by faith”) is explicitly for children of the covenant to grow up into (Romans 4:11)

4. Because sacraments are visible words and we want to tell her God loves her.

5. Because we want to surround her with every gospel promise.

6. Because we want to raise her as a Christian.

7. Because she’s not a Muslim, a pagan or a neutral. She is ours and we are Christ’s.

8. Because “as for me and my *household* we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:15)

9. Because in the Bible when households rejoice in the Lord, households are baptised. This household rejoices in the Lord.

10. Because we want to pray and worship with Ruby and foreigners to the covenant cannot do that.

11. Because we want to declare to her, to the church, the world and every principality and power that Ruby belongs to Jesus.

12. Because she belongs to Christ’s body.

13. Because nothing says “Gospel” like declaring Christ’s love to the powerless.

14. Because we want her personal response to Jesus to be a personal *response* to Jesus.

15. Because we think faith is so vital that we must do everything we can to elicit faith – therefore we drench her in God’s promises.

16. Because to be credo-anything, the promise must come first. And baptism is a promise.

17. Because we don’t so much dedicate Ruby to Jesus, He claims her for His own.

18. Because Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” (Matthew 19:14)

19. Because, as regards our simple trust in Christ, we are meant to be like children, not the other way around. (Matthew 18:3)

20. Because faith does not earn gospel promises, gospel promises elicit faith.

21. Because sacraments are not our declarations to God but His to us. The arrow comes down – and it comes down to the unworthy.

 

 

Thingamy-Jiggery-Pokery

Posted on by Glen in faith, grace, pastoral theology, prayer, preaching | 18 Comments

the-thing-movie-poster

We’re always making a thing out of things that aren’t things. There’s a technical term for this but I’m just going to call it thingification. The name’s not important. What is important is that it’s ruining your Christian life. Let me show you how with reference to 6 things that are commonly thingified.

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Grace is not a thing.

“Grace, Grace, Grace” we sing. And I think “She sounds awesome, I wish I could meet her.” But I can’t meet her because there’s no such person. There’s only Jesus who is given to me by the Father apart from any desert of my own. That’s grace. But grace is not a thing. Grace is the gift of a Person and if I want to know more grace I need to train my eyes on Jesus. Then I’ll see how freely He’s given. At that point I have an experience of grace, but my experience won’t be of a thing but of a Him. (For more see here).

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Faith is not a thing.

“We’ve got to have more faith” we cry. And so we check the little perspex window on our heart to see if the faith pilot-light is flickering strong. Oops, looks like it’s going out. Quick, turn the faith tap to maximum. But  how? What is faith? Again, it’s not a thing. Faith is to recognise and receive Jesus (John 1:12-13). He has been graciously given, therefore we trustingly receive Him. But faith is not something we dredge up out of our inner spiritual life. If you want “more faith”, don’t look for faith – look to Jesus. That’s how faith comes. (For more see here).

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Prayer is not a thing.

“I need to work on my prayer life” we say. And we mean it. But so often what we mean is “I need to improve at this spiritual discipline because my lack of proficiency reflects badly on my stature as a Christian.” Or maybe we want to improve because we want to “improve our relationship with God.” In some ways this motivation is even worse because it pictures “my prayer life” as the thing that connects me to God, rather than Christ. Then it becomes very important to focus on “my prayer life” but as something quite separate from focusing on Christ our Mediator. So we force ourselves to go to the prayer meeting and hear someone pray: “Please may God bless this work…” And we think, “Huh? I thought we were praying to God? Are we? Or are we performing a thing called prayer in front of one another?” Perhaps the pray-er does manage to address God but then mixes up the Persons. At that point you have to ask: Has prayer become a thing that we do. Should it not be an enjoyment of our adoption before the Father through union with the Son in the joy of the Spirit? But so often, don’t we find that prayer becomes a thing we must get right. And a thing that stands between ourselves and communion with God? (For more see here).

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Bible Reading is not a thing.

“I must read my Bible” we vow, “every day, come rain, hail or shine.” Well alright but why? Another spiritual discipline to master? A duty to tick off the list? If we manage it, is there not a sense of “Phew, job done!” But what if “Bible Reading” isn’t a thing in the Christian life. What if Bible Reading is simply how the Father speaks His word to us in Christ and by the Spirit. What if Bible Reading is not a thing we need to get right but a word in our ear from our gracious God? (For more see here).

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The Sermon is not a thing.

“What did you make of The Sermon” we ask each other after the service. Suddenly The Sermon is a thing – a thing in between the preacher and the congregation. It’s a production that we then pass comment on. And from the preacher’s point of view the same thingification can happen: “we prepare and deliver a sermon” rather than “herald God’s word to a congregation.” Unfortunately this thing arises in between preacher and people – a thing that will be dissected and focused upon by both sides. But really there is no such thing. There’s only God’s word coming down through the preacher’s lips. There’s only a congregation hearing the voice of the living Christ. The Sermon is an artifice. It is not a proper object of our attention – only the Christ which it proclaims. (For more see here).

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Discipleship is not a thing. (Updated)

“The church has woefully neglected discipleship” they lament. We all give a hearty ‘Amen’ then we look in our Bibles for the word “discipleship” and, shock horror, it’s not there. The word “disciple” is certainly there, but discipleship? No, the Bible is not interested in disciple-craft. Jesus does not want us to be good at the art of following Him. He just wants us to follow Him. Yet, might it be that discipleship is one more concept that takes us away from Jesus Himself and makes us dwell on a thing in abstraction from Christ? It’s worth considering. (For more see here).

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What do you think? And are there other aspects of the Christian life we thingify?

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