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This is a Thawed-out Thursday Re-post.  There a reason why I've chosen this one, but I'll let you in on it later...

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Once I was in a preaching seminar with 15 other young guns.  We were being taught by someone you might call a living legend.  One session was on how to preach Romans 3:21-30.  The point came when the living legend asked us what we thought the application should be.  Now aside from my various misgivings about application I reasoned to myself that if an application was there in the passage it was probably worth flagging that up.  I looked down and sure enough I saw what I thought was a pretty clear “”application”" of Paul’s teaching:

Where then is boasting?  It is excluded. (v27)

So I stuck up my hand and suggested that the application might be humility.  More particularly it seemed that, since Christ had taken the work of salvation entirely into His own hands, it was out of ours and therefore we ought gladly to shut up about ourselves, our morality, religious pedigree etc etc.

“Wrong!” said the preacher.  “The application should be ‘Repent!’”

“Oh”, I said. “Why?”

I immediately regretted asking ‘why.’  Dagnammit we’re evangelicals, we’re supposed to preach repentance, it’s union rules.  Besides, I don’t want to appear soft in front of the 15 other young guns and this living legend.  The living legend was more than a little irked by my question and replied: “Because, dear boy, verse 23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Sin is the problem, therefore I would have thought that repentance would be a very good idea!!”

Those who know me may be surprised to learn that I didn’t answer back to this one.  Oh I wanted to.  How I did want to!  But judging by the alarm in the preacher’s voice and the mood of the room it felt wise not to imperil my standing any further among such sound folk.

But sometimes I fantasize about what would have happened if I’d said what I really thought.  The fantasy goes something like this:

I stand slowly, deliberately, with all the solemnity of the lone, faithful prophet.  All eyes are upon me as I bellow with righteous ardour:

“Sin is not the problem!   S i n   i s   n o t   t h e   p r o b l e m !!!

All hell breaks loose.  Outrage.  Pained howls.  Torn garments.  Hurled stones.  I am immovable in the midst of the storm.

“… Sin is not the problem… God’s wrath at sin is the problem!  Nay… moreover… God’s wrath at us in our sin – this!  this is the problem!”

At once they are felled by Truth as by lightning.  Cut to the heart, the stones drop to the floor first.  Then the men.  One by one they slump to the ground, the hand of the LORD heavy upon them.  In breathless awe they ask: “Brave herald, what is this teaching you bring us?  It resounds from the very heights of Zion against our presumption and folly.”

Sporting a fresh cut across my chiselled jawline, I am otherwise unruffled.  Ever magnanimous I continue:

“Dear friends” (the dust in the air has now leant a husky tone to my rich, commanding voice). ”Dear friends, let us not define our predicament so anthropocentrically.”

I leave this dread word hanging in the air.  The mere mention of ‘anthropocentric’ elicits groans from the already contrite gathering.  Here was their shibboleth used against them.  It stung.  Yet they could not deny that they were indeed guilty of this greatest of liberalisms.

“I commend you friends…”  They look up nervously – could there yet be grace for them?  “…While many have merely scratched the itch of modern ears, you have refused to pander to felt needs. You have proclaimed the problem of sin and for this I commend you.”  I pause.  “And yet… and yet… you have defined the problem so poorly, so slightly.  You have defined the problem from below.  You have told them that the problem lies in their own hands.  How can they not then imagine that the solution also lies in their hands?  Should you not have told them that our problem is above us - as indeed is the solution.  The problem is not fundamentally our sin, the problem is the Lord’s wrath upon us.”

“What’s the difference?!” cries out one of the younger preachers, “Our sin, God’s wrath, it’s all the same…”  He is hushed by the living legend who slowly shakes his head.  It is clear now how wrong he has been.

He stands, still shaking his head, unable to look at me or the others.  Eventually he speaks, “Glen’s right. He’s always been right!”  It looks as though the living legend has been hung from the ceiling on meat hooks.  In great anguish he exclaims, “You must understand…  We faced such terrible dangers in preaching.  We still face such dangers.  I wanted - we all wanted - to resist the me-centred pulpit.  I was so sick of hearing about ‘filling the Jesus-shaped hole in your life’.  I couldn’t stand the invitations to ‘let Jesus into the passenger seat of your life’.  I wanted people to turn.  I still want people to turn.”

I put a re-assuring hand on his shoulder. He meets my eye for the first time and continues.  “I just thought, if we can show them that ‘fulfilment’ isn’t the issue – that sin is the issue, well then maybe they’d come to their senses.  Maybe they’d see their errors and turn from them.”  I give a look to the living legend, he nods, “I know, I know, that’s the problem.”

“What’s the problem?” asks one of the young guns.

The living legend sighs deeply and turns to the others.  "It puts the focus on us.  If we just preach sin and repentance the whole focus is on us.”

“It’s anthropocentric” mutters a young gun, latching onto his favourite word.  He looks around to see if anyone else has noticed his firm grasp of the issues.

“I don’t get it” pipes up another, “I thought sin and repentance was God-centred preaching?  Isn’t that what you taught us??”

The living legend is speechless.  I break the silence.  Crouching down to their level, I ask, “If we simply preach sin and repentance how exactly is God at the centre?  He may well be over and above our conceptions of sin and repentance – but how is He in the middle?  In such a sermon isn’t God actually on the periphery?  He’s hardly the principal Actor!”  At this stage the one who muttered ‘anthropocentric’ is nodding the way failed quiz show contestants nod when they’re told the right answer.

I go on, “It’s like our passage from Romans 3.  Sin is certainly there!  Sin is certainly a problem.  From verse 9, have we not been told that all are under sin?  And has not verse 20 proclaimed that observing the law can never redeem us.  But since this is so, would it not be strange if Paul then told us that ‘repentance’ was some new work that was better than the old Mosaic works?  And yet Paul does not mention our works in this passage, not our obedience, not our repentance.  No, what does Paul point us to?  Verse 25, the blood of Jesus – a propitiation for our sins.  Now we all know what propitiation means...”

Young noddy blurts out “A sacrifice turning away God’s wrath!!”  I gesture with my hands, trying to calm his wild-eyed enthusiasm.

“Ok, yes. Well done.  It turns away God’s wrath.  Because that’s the real problem.  The problem is, chapter 1 verse 18, the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against us.  It will culminate in, chapter 2 verse 5, a day of wrath.  And Paul is at pains to say we all deserve it, we are all unrighteous and there’s nothing moral and nothing religious we can do to turn aside this wrath.  We are helpless.  BUT, a righteousness beyond us has come.  And He is the sacrifice who turns away God’s wrath.  Through His redemption we are justified freely.  That is the gospel.  That’s what we preach.  And who is at the centre of this story?  Not us.  Him.”

“So we shouldn’t preach sin and repentance?” asks another.

“Of course we should.  But those are comprehended within a much more profound perspective.  Wrath and redemption are the deeper truths.  Let us leave behind the moralistic sermons regarding committed sin and sanctification.  Instead let us preach original sin and justification!  Let us plunge them to the depths and then take them to the heights!  Enough of this middle of the road preaching that puts us at the centre!”

A couple of young guns knowingly mouthe ‘anthropocentric’ to one another.

I continue “Take Islam.  It’s a classic religion of repentance.  God remains far above, it’s down to us to clean up our act.  In fact all human religion is man justifying man before a watching god.  But the Gospel is God justifying God before a watching humanity.  He takes centre-stage and we need to move off into the audience to watch Him work salvation for us.  Christianity is not a religion of repentance, it’s a religion of redemption.  And that’s quite a difference don’t you see?”

As I speak, the young guns have been picking themselves off the floor one by one.  The room has been won to the side of Truth.  I look upon them with fatherly benevolence.

“So now friends – now that you know these things: What would be a good application of Romans 3?”

In unison they reply “Humility!”  And for a moment all is right with the world.

Until, that is, one of the young guns speaks up:

“Hey, if humility is so important, how come you’re so proud?”

Harmony is shattered.  Another piles in “And how come you’ve been dreaming us up for the last 10 minutes to feed your ego.”  Here’s where the fantasy turns pretty nasty.

“What kind of egotist spends his time winning theological debates in his head??”

“Yeah, debates he never actually won in the real world!”

Another pipes up: “I think I know ‘Where then is boasting?’ – he’s standing over there with a fatuous, smug face!!”

From here on the fantasy is basically unsalvagable.  So then, I hate to do it, but sometimes you just have to pull rank.

“Quiet all of you!  This is my fantasy.  Either you submit adoringly to my theological genius or you can get out now.”

Faced with those options they instantly choose non-existence.  One by one they vanish, though somehow their looks of betrayal and disgust seem to linger on.

“You’ll be back” I say to the departed phantasms.  “Pretty soon I’ll need to feel right about something else and you’ll be right back in my imagination, bowing to my unquestioned brilliance.

“Ha!” I say.  The laughter echoes around my empty head.

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This is a Thawed-out Thursday Re-post.  There a reason why I've chosen this one, but I'll let you in on it later...

.

Once I was in a preaching seminar with 15 other young guns.  We were being taught by someone you might call a living legend.  One session was on how to preach Romans 3:21-30.  The point came when the living legend asked us what we thought the application should be.  Now aside from my various misgivings about application I reasoned to myself that if an application was there in the passage it was probably worth flagging that up.  I looked down and sure enough I saw what I thought was a pretty clear “”application”" of Paul’s teaching:

Where then is boasting?  It is excluded. (v27)

So I stuck up my hand and suggested that the application might be humility.  More particularly it seemed that, since Christ had taken the work of salvation entirely into His own hands, it was out of ours and therefore we ought gladly to shut up about ourselves, our morality, religious pedigree etc etc.

“Wrong!” said the preacher.  “The application should be ‘Repent!’”

“Oh”, I said. “Why?”

I immediately regretted asking ‘why.’  Dagnammit we’re evangelicals, we’re supposed to preach repentance, it’s union rules.  Besides, I don’t want to appear soft in front of the 15 other young guns and this living legend.  The living legend was more than a little irked by my question and replied: “Because, dear boy, verse 23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Sin is the problem, therefore I would have thought that repentance would be a very good idea!!”

Those who know me may be surprised to learn that I didn’t answer back to this one.  Oh I wanted to.  How I did want to!  But judging by the alarm in the preacher’s voice and the mood of the room it felt wise not to imperil my standing any further among such sound folk.

But sometimes I fantasize about what would have happened if I’d said what I really thought.  The fantasy goes something like this:

I stand slowly, deliberately, with all the solemnity of the lone, faithful prophet.  All eyes are upon me as I bellow with righteous ardour:

“Sin is not the problem!   S i n   i s   n o t   t h e   p r o b l e m !!!

All hell breaks loose.  Outrage.  Pained howls.  Torn garments.  Hurled stones.  I am immovable in the midst of the storm.

“… Sin is not the problem… God’s wrath at sin is the problem!  Nay… moreover… God’s wrath at us in our sin – this!  this is the problem!”

At once they are felled by Truth as by lightning.  Cut to the heart, the stones drop to the floor first.  Then the men.  One by one they slump to the ground, the hand of the LORD heavy upon them.  In breathless awe they ask: “Brave herald, what is this teaching you bring us?  It resounds from the very heights of Zion against our presumption and folly.”

Sporting a fresh cut across my chiselled jawline, I am otherwise unruffled.  Ever magnanimous I continue:

“Dear friends” (the dust in the air has now leant a husky tone to my rich, commanding voice). ”Dear friends, let us not define our predicament so anthropocentrically.”

I leave this dread word hanging in the air.  The mere mention of ‘anthropocentric’ elicits groans from the already contrite gathering.  Here was their shibboleth used against them.  It stung.  Yet they could not deny that they were indeed guilty of this greatest of liberalisms.

“I commend you friends…”  They look up nervously – could there yet be grace for them?  “…While many have merely scratched the itch of modern ears, you have refused to pander to felt needs. You have proclaimed the problem of sin and for this I commend you.”  I pause.  “And yet… and yet… you have defined the problem so poorly, so slightly.  You have defined the problem from below.  You have told them that the problem lies in their own hands.  How can they not then imagine that the solution also lies in their hands?  Should you not have told them that our problem is above us - as indeed is the solution.  The problem is not fundamentally our sin, the problem is the Lord’s wrath upon us.”

“What’s the difference?!” cries out one of the younger preachers, “Our sin, God’s wrath, it’s all the same…”  He is hushed by the living legend who slowly shakes his head.  It is clear now how wrong he has been.

He stands, still shaking his head, unable to look at me or the others.  Eventually he speaks, “Glen’s right. He’s always been right!”  It looks as though the living legend has been hung from the ceiling on meat hooks.  In great anguish he exclaims, “You must understand…  We faced such terrible dangers in preaching.  We still face such dangers.  I wanted - we all wanted - to resist the me-centred pulpit.  I was so sick of hearing about ‘filling the Jesus-shaped hole in your life’.  I couldn’t stand the invitations to ‘let Jesus into the passenger seat of your life’.  I wanted people to turn.  I still want people to turn.”

I put a re-assuring hand on his shoulder. He meets my eye for the first time and continues.  “I just thought, if we can show them that ‘fulfilment’ isn’t the issue – that sin is the issue, well then maybe they’d come to their senses.  Maybe they’d see their errors and turn from them.”  I give a look to the living legend, he nods, “I know, I know, that’s the problem.”

“What’s the problem?” asks one of the young guns.

The living legend sighs deeply and turns to the others.  "It puts the focus on us.  If we just preach sin and repentance the whole focus is on us.”

“It’s anthropocentric” mutters a young gun, latching onto his favourite word.  He looks around to see if anyone else has noticed his firm grasp of the issues.

“I don’t get it” pipes up another, “I thought sin and repentance was God-centred preaching?  Isn’t that what you taught us??”

The living legend is speechless.  I break the silence.  Crouching down to their level, I ask, “If we simply preach sin and repentance how exactly is God at the centre?  He may well be over and above our conceptions of sin and repentance – but how is He in the middle?  In such a sermon isn’t God actually on the periphery?  He’s hardly the principal Actor!”  At this stage the one who muttered ‘anthropocentric’ is nodding the way failed quiz show contestants nod when they’re told the right answer.

I go on, “It’s like our passage from Romans 3.  Sin is certainly there!  Sin is certainly a problem.  From verse 9, have we not been told that all are under sin?  And has not verse 20 proclaimed that observing the law can never redeem us.  But since this is so, would it not be strange if Paul then told us that ‘repentance’ was some new work that was better than the old Mosaic works?  And yet Paul does not mention our works in this passage, not our obedience, not our repentance.  No, what does Paul point us to?  Verse 25, the blood of Jesus – a propitiation for our sins.  Now we all know what propitiation means...”

Young noddy blurts out “A sacrifice turning away God’s wrath!!”  I gesture with my hands, trying to calm his wild-eyed enthusiasm.

“Ok, yes. Well done.  It turns away God’s wrath.  Because that’s the real problem.  The problem is, chapter 1 verse 18, the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against us.  It will culminate in, chapter 2 verse 5, a day of wrath.  And Paul is at pains to say we all deserve it, we are all unrighteous and there’s nothing moral and nothing religious we can do to turn aside this wrath.  We are helpless.  BUT, a righteousness beyond us has come.  And He is the sacrifice who turns away God’s wrath.  Through His redemption we are justified freely.  That is the gospel.  That’s what we preach.  And who is at the centre of this story?  Not us.  Him.”

“So we shouldn’t preach sin and repentance?” asks another.

“Of course we should.  But those are comprehended within a much more profound perspective.  Wrath and redemption are the deeper truths.  Let us leave behind the moralistic sermons regarding committed sin and sanctification.  Instead let us preach original sin and justification!  Let us plunge them to the depths and then take them to the heights!  Enough of this middle of the road preaching that puts us at the centre!”

A couple of young guns knowingly mouthe ‘anthropocentric’ to one another.

I continue “Take Islam.  It’s a classic religion of repentance.  God remains far above, it’s down to us to clean up our act.  In fact all human religion is man justifying man before a watching god.  But the Gospel is God justifying God before a watching humanity.  He takes centre-stage and we need to move off into the audience to watch Him work salvation for us.  Christianity is not a religion of repentance, it’s a religion of redemption.  And that’s quite a difference don’t you see?”

As I speak, the young guns have been picking themselves off the floor one by one.  The room has been won to the side of Truth.  I look upon them with fatherly benevolence.

“So now friends – now that you know these things: What would be a good application of Romans 3?”

In unison they reply “Humility!”  And for a moment all is right with the world.

Until, that is, one of the young guns speaks up:

“Hey, if humility is so important, how come you’re so proud?”

Harmony is shattered.  Another piles in “And how come you’ve been dreaming us up for the last 10 minutes to feed your ego.”  Here’s where the fantasy turns pretty nasty.

“What kind of egotist spends his time winning theological debates in his head??”

“Yeah, debates he never actually won in the real world!”

Another pipes up: “I think I know ‘Where then is boasting?’ – he’s standing over there with a fatuous, smug face!!”

From here on the fantasy is basically unsalvagable.  So then, I hate to do it, but sometimes you just have to pull rank.

“Quiet all of you!  This is my fantasy.  Either you submit adoringly to my theological genius or you can get out now.”

Faced with those options they instantly choose non-existence.  One by one they vanish, though somehow their looks of betrayal and disgust seem to linger on.

“You’ll be back” I say to the departed phantasms.  “Pretty soon I’ll need to feel right about something else and you’ll be right back in my imagination, bowing to my unquestioned brilliance.

“Ha!” I say.  The laughter echoes around my empty head.

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preacherWe don't need better preaching, we need a better gospel.

Yes I'm being provocative and hyperbolous.  Let me remind you that this is a blog.

What I mean is this: there's a lot of focus on becoming better preachers.  The real need is to preach a better gospel. 

These thoughts were prompted by a Spurgeon comment as quoted by CJ Mahaney at T4G 2008:

"Whitefield and Wesley might preach the gospel better but they cannot preach a better gospel."

Spurgeon's point is that the power is in the gospel, not the preacher.  Amen.  But if the gospel preached aint the gospel, then we need a better one.

'Better gospel?' you ask - how can you improve on the good news?

Well you can't improve on the biblical gospel.  But you can darned well improve on the gospel preached by some.  Here's a false one I hear around the traps (there are others, but this is the devil I know best): 

'God is power.  We must submit.  Since we don't, God has a plan B.  It's a wonderfully clever mechanism called penal substitutionary atonement.  For those who profess faith in penal substitutionary atonement (and submit the whole of their lives and pass on this 'gospel' and persevere to the bitter end), then... well... they will avoid hell.  Probably.'

Lord save us from well illustrated and applied, passionate, persuasive and prayerful preaching of this 'gospel'.  Remember that the evangelism of the Pharisees made converts twice as much sons of hell as they were. (Matt 23:15)

What a thought! The perversion of your false gospel is multiplied in your converts.  Preachers - don't work on your preaching, work on your gospel.

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preacherWe don't need better preaching, we need a better gospel.

Yes I'm being provocative and hyperbolous.  Let me remind you that this is a blog.

What I mean is this: there's a lot of focus on becoming better preachers.  The real need is to preach a better gospel. 

These thoughts were prompted by a Spurgeon comment as quoted by CJ Mahaney at T4G 2008:

"Whitefield and Wesley might preach the gospel better but they cannot preach a better gospel."

Spurgeon's point is that the power is in the gospel, not the preacher.  Amen.  But if the gospel preached aint the gospel, then we need a better one.

'Better gospel?' you ask - how can you improve on the good news?

Well you can't improve on the biblical gospel.  But you can darned well improve on the gospel preached by some.  Here's a false one I hear around the traps (there are others, but this is the devil I know best): 

'God is power.  We must submit.  Since we don't, God has a plan B.  It's a wonderfully clever mechanism called penal substitutionary atonement.  For those who profess faith in penal substitutionary atonement (and submit the whole of their lives and pass on this 'gospel' and persevere to the bitter end), then... well... they will avoid hell.  Probably.'

Lord save us from well illustrated and applied, passionate, persuasive and prayerful preaching of this 'gospel'.  Remember that the evangelism of the Pharisees made converts twice as much sons of hell as they were. (Matt 23:15)

What a thought! The perversion of your false gospel is multiplied in your converts.  Preachers - don't work on your preaching, work on your gospel.

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Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...  (1 Timothy 1:15)

It's a wonderful motto for gospel ministry.  Here is the heart of all Paul does.  But when he relates it, he can't help but add his autobiography '...of whom I am the worst.'

Some ministries are good on the first half of the verse.  That's absolutely crucial.  But in my experience, few ally this to the second half.

Does our Christian ministry seek to build the appearance of correctness, togetherness, superiority?  How much is dripping in repentance and broken-hearted humility?  Are we just trying to speak out of strength to poor sinners over there?  Or are we beggars showing other beggars where to find Bread?

Thinking and preaching through 1 Corinthians recently, it's so stark what a mixture the Corinthian church was. Successful and troubled.  Their congregation contains former male-prostitutes, idolaters, thieves, drunkards and swindlers (6:9-11).  What a work of grace to convert this lot from their dark past.  As this motley bunch meet together, called saints by the Father (1:2), in fellowship with the Son (1:9), a temple of the Holy Spirit (3:16), they lack no spiritual gift (1:7).  Paul always gives thanks for them (1:4).  And yet they are foolish, divided, litigious, permissive, immoral, selfish, drunken and unbelieving.  If your friend was moving to Corinth, would you recommend this church?

Well perhaps you wouldn't recommend moving to Corinth full stop.  Here's a sailor town full of all sailor town vices.  Here's an overwhelmingly pagan culture that not only has no Christian memory, but never had one to begin with.  Yet here Paul planted the gospel seed, Apollos watered it and God grew a church (3:6) right there in the midst of a culture about as unChristian as you could possibly imagine. 

But what a reflection of the gospel that Paul proclaimed to them.  Here are unwashed heathen who are now washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (6:11).

In line with his gospel, Paul is able to address them as dearly loved brethren and to deliver stinging rebuke.  The Corinthians really are genuinely loved and they really are genuinely wrong, foolish and sinful.  And the intensity of this dual reality is increased by the very success of their church. 

I heard Tim Keller say in a 1 Corinthians sermon that we don't experience the degree of trouble they did because we're not as successful as they were.  It's the churches that really confront the culture and really grow in the midst of opposition that will produce these kinds of problems.  If we don't know these kinds of discipleship issues in our own churches it's probably because we're not reaching the people the Corinthians did and/or not growing  or seeking to grow like them.

Of course this made me think of our friend Mark Driscoll.  And how I need to be far more public in saying 'Thank God for Driscoll'.  And far more praiseworthy of the gospel ministry that seems to be happening through Mars Hill and Acts 29 . 

The gospel means we are simultaneously righteous and sinner.  And it means gospel communities and leaders can be critiqued and critiqued harshly (just read 1 Corinthians) without ever implying that they're not a gospel community.  No, because they're a gospel community there will be sin (just as there is deep and dark sin in me).  But there is also much to give thanks for and much to praise. 

I thank God for Mark's incredible gifts, his passion for Jesus, his gospel-focussed preaching and his mission-mindedness.  Which is quite a list!  I wish those things could be said of me with even a fraction of the same intensity. 

On the other hand I'm very uneasy about his macho-christology, his macho-manliness, and what I perceive to be a major lack of humility.  These things are problems.  I happen to think they really need pointing out and cautions raised, especially given his popularity. 

Now I know I have a whole bagful of my own problems.  In fact if I had a hundredth the gifting and a thousandth the success of Driscoll I'd be just as proud, probably much more so. 

But what I get a bit tired of is the all-or-nothing approach to Driscoll.  Either he's Satan himself, leading thousands astray, or he can do no wrong - any criticism justified immediately by his success or explained away as an understandable reaction to a wicked culture or liberal Christianity.  Paul never said to the Corinthians 'Yes you're getting drunk at communion, but I understand your missional context and great giftedness so I'll forget about it.' 

Please, let's believe the gospel.  We are simultaneously righteous and sinner.  Mars Hill can be successful and troubled.  Driscoll can be loved and critiqued.  And we don't have to collapse one into the other.

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unquenchable-flame-cover-small

Are you aware of Mike Reeves' new book on the reformation, The Unquenchable Flame

 

Mark Dever says about it:

 

'With the skill of a scholar and the art of a storyteller, Michael Reeves has written what is, quite simply, the best brief introduction to the Reformation I have read.'

 

How about that?!  You can check out all the wonderful resources surrounding it on Theology Network.

 

Anyway, in the book Mike makes the point that there were no Lutherans among all the refugee theologians who came to England (something still felt today in the almost total lack of Lutheran flavour to English evangelicalism, which has always been much more Zwinglian and Calvinist). p129

That seems to me to be a very great loss.  Take for instance Luther's advice to a friend, Jerome Weller who suffered great bouts of depression:

Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some sin in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. We shall be overcome if we worry too much about falling into some sin.

Accordingly if the devil should say, “Do not drink,” you should reply to him, “On this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount.” Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me? Would that I could commit some token sin simply for the sake of mocking the devil, so that he might understand that I acknowledge no sin and am conscious of no sin. When the devil attacks and torments us, we must completely set aside the whole Decalogue. When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satis­faction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.”

 

Compare Luther with Zwingli - here's Mike on p69:

Luther believed that when Adam sinned and was declared guilty, the entire human race became, as it were, ‘clothed’ in his guilt; but when we turn to Christ we are ‘clothed’ in his righteousness. Zwingli, on the other hand, believed more that we each become guilty when we actually sin, but that Christ makes us righteous in ourselves. Luther’s idea that believers are at the same time righteous (in status before God) and sinful (in heart), did not really figure in Zwingli’s mind.

 

Where can I get me some sweet draughts of Lutheran liberty??

.

...Continued from here.

Let me ask you a question: What does an evangelical look like?

‘Evangelical’ is just a label that bible believing Christians like us use for ourselves. It’s taken from the word ‘evangel’ which means ‘gospel’. An evangelical just means a ‘gospel person.’ So what does an evangelical look like?

The scandal is – everyone knows what an evangelical looks like.

Ned Flanders

Ned Flanders. We know it. The world knows it. Evangelicals look like white, middle-class, suburban, university educated, irritating, sanctimonious nerds.

Did you know that most of the world is not white, middle-class, suburban, university educated and nerdy? So what would an evangelical look like then?

hijab

Would you look like a Muslim to win Muslims?

Biker

Would you become a biker to win bikers?

evangelicalcassock

Robed to win the robe lovers?

chav

A chav to win chavs?

porn show demonstrator

Here is a protestor outside the strip clubs of New Orleans.  Is this the evangelical position towards the sex trade?

What about...

inside the porn show

Here's XXXchurch handing out 'Jesus Loves Porn Stars' Bibles.  They distribute thousands of New Testaments with this cover to pornographers and enthusiasts at porn shows across America.

All things to all people that by all possible means we might save some.

Here's the point:  If evangelicalism starts to be visibly identifiable as a certain cultural / religious movement it’s actually betrayed the evangel – the gospel – that supposedly shapes it.

That is the stunning implication of 1 Corinthians 9

To be continued...

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John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge describe the spreading evangel in their Saturday Times article:  "God is back: How Ned Flanders won the evangelical crusade".

Virtually everywhere in the developing world fiery preachers are preaching a faith that would appeal to Ned Flanders: live your life according to God's law, read the Bible as the literal word of Truth, treat your neighbour as yourself.

The sad thing is, that might be a fair summation.

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O thou brain -- exalted, senior,
Holding forth from pulpit's throne.
Feed us with thy academia,
Meted out in monotone.
     ‘We could never,
     ‘We could never,
     ‘Plumb such myst'ries on our own.'

Hear the classics now recited,
Tumbling from thy tutored lips.
Nooks ignored are now ignited,
By thy greek and latin quips.
     ‘O how richly
     ‘O how richly,
     ‘Wisdom from each sentence drips.'

Teach us frames to fathom glory,
Scriptures' tale doth not agree.
Pure distil the Jesus story,
Into subtle sophistry.
     ‘All was darkness
     ‘All was darkness,
     ‘Till thou spoke and now we see.'

Pompous, ponderous, proud, pretentious,
Leaning o'er thy preacher's perch.
Pressing out the sap that quenches,
Thirst for knowledge, Eden's search.
     ‘Breathe thy wisdom
     ‘Breathe thy wisdom
     ‘Till inflated is thy church'

O thou noble mind pray guide us,
Through the darkness and the lies.
Warn us from thy foul deriders,
We shall fear, avoid, despise.
     ‘Raise a banner
     ‘Raise a banner
     ‘We shall chant thy tribal cries.'

How to mark our true devotion?
What could ever count as praise?
But to clone thy stale emotion,
Forced to feign thy learned ways.
     ‘Where's my pulpit?
     ‘Where's my pulpit?
     ‘I'll abide there all my days.'

Marching strong into the brightness,
Resolute, we set our face.
Staunch persistence, clothed in rightness,
Rectitude, our saving grace.
     ‘Call us onward
     ‘Call us onward
     ‘Grimly to our resting place.'

Then one day in vindication,
Face to face at last we'll see
Precious few in that location,
Gathered with thy coterie.
     ‘Now receive us
     ‘Now receive us
     ‘To thy ‘ternal library.'

 

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I'll confess I'm part of the problem as much as I'm part of the solution.

But part of the solution is confessing there's a problem.

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