Monthly Archives: March 2009

 

Mar

31

2009

Jared C. Wilson|3:14 pm CT

The Kingdom is For Those Who Know How to Die

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
– Luke 14:12-14

Blessed are the Type-A personalities,
for theirs is the corner office.
Blessed are those who remain unfazed,
for they will be self-confident.
Blessed are the powerful,
for they will inherit the promotion.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for success,
for they will be rewarded.
Blessed are the religious,
for they will be the envy of many.
Blessed are the pushy,
for they will have much to be proud of.
Blessed are the cool,
for they will be called gurus.
Blessed are those who are recognized because of their achievements,
for theirs is the renown among men.

Can we say that those beatitudes aren’t the prevailing wisdom today?

This is from a pastor’s blog (I kid you not):

It’s the elite, the excellers, the achievers, the succeeders, and those who raise their game to a level of “must” who end up with the money, power, and satisfaction. It will cause you tension, aggravation, and sleepless nights. It will wear you out and push you down the road. But that’s what you were made for.

For what? Money, power, and satisfaction?

This is why the real beatitudes are today the powerful scandal they were in Jesus’ day. Because the kingdom is for the hurt, the grieving, the mourning, the poor and poor in spirit, the meek, the downtrodden, the marginalized, the discarded, the weary, the torn, the broken . . .

And why? Why is that?
I believe it is because those people have a keener sense of their own need. When you are on the drug of money or power or success (or any kind of drug), you can be numb to your basic, fundamental deficiency. Why do we keep trying to fill the God-shaped hole with any god but God? Because the other gods are just ways to believe we have no needs, that we have the power inside of us. Any worship directed to anyone or anything other than God is essentially self-worship.

And those who keenly feel and know their own brokenness know self-worship is stupid.

When we will look upon the cross of Christ and see in it not just our security for salvation but the mandate for working out our salvation, we are much closer to beholding the gospel’s power to save than if we see the cross as the metaphorical key to some self-improvement project.

This is why the crippled (generally speaking) got it, and the Pharisees (generally speaking) didn’t.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
– Luke 14:11

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
– Matthew 16:25

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

– Matthew 5:3-11

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Mar

30

2009

Jared C. Wilson|4:31 pm CT

Faith, Hope, and Love is About Proximity to Jesus

How do we get to that other side of our struggle, how do we see God’s method in the madness, God’s providence in our pain, before we get there?

To be honest with you, I’m not sure . . . I am generally reluctant to hand out a patented set of Several Steps to Whatevertheheck , especially when the steps we are taking are taken under the heavy weight of real life struggles — illnesses and injuries, betrayals and infidelities, distances and deaths. The Christian life, despite what so many of our preachers often tell us, really isn’t “How to Succeed at Work”-type stuff.

Do you know the story of the invalid at the Sheep Gate pool? Here’s a portion of it from John’s Gospel, a little something to further whet your appetite for redemption:

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. (John 5:2-9a)

This man waited thirty-eight years for his healing. Thirty-eight years! You don’t need me to tell you that that is a long time. (And of course some people go their entire lives enduring excruciating pain that is never healed until they are received into God’s presence after their death.)

Day after day, for “a long time” the passage tells us, this man watched while others ignored him, even stepped over him to get their own healing. Day after day, for a long time, this man lay paralyzed mere inches from hordes of people celebrating the joy of the pool’s healing power. Day after day, for nearly forty years, I imagine this man had to fight feelings of resentment, of jealousy, of despair. But he didn’t give up.

Heck, how could he? He was paralyzed, right? What other choice did he have? This, I submit, is beside the point. The point is that the man could have decided, “This will never happen for me.” In his spirit, he could have abandoned all hope. He might not have been able to flee the pool’s tantalizing vision, but he could have given up hope he’d ever make it into the pool himself.

And in the end, it wasn’t the pool he needed. It was Jesus. How often do you or I believe material substitutes will cure what ails us? We hold out hope for a new job, a new home, a new relationship, a new whatever, believing that when we finally accomplish this or that, we will finally be free of our doubts or fears or struggles, rarely embracing that only the grace of God in Jesus is sufficient for our needs.

. . . [How do we emerge] on the far side of our journey seeing our traveled path with redemption-colored glasses?

The one tiny piece of advice I’d offer on how to see your painful journey as an act of God consecrating your life to his will is to work at consecrating each moment in the journey to faith, hope, and love. By faith, I do not mean “believing in yourself.” By hope, I do not mean “hoping for the best.” By love, I do not mean “following your heart” or some such vague nonsense. We, like invalids, are incapable. We, unlike God, do not really know what is best for us. We, unlike Jesus, have hearts that are deceitful above all things.

No, we will endure, we will prevail, we will persevere, we will be redeemed, both during the process and in the culmination of a Christ-centered faith, hope, and love. Day in and day out, we consider our options to endure or despair, and we choose endure, because to despair is no more valid an option for us than getting up and running away is for a paralyzed man. We consider our lot and, in the spirit of Simon Peter, declare, “To whom shall we go?,” because opting for anything other than proximity to Jesus is no option at all.

(This is an excerpt from the chapter titled “Jesus the Redeemer” from my book Your Jesus is Too Safe, coming in July from Kregel)

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Mar

27

2009

Jared C. Wilson|2:57 pm CT

The Power of a Peacemaking Church

Thabiti Anyabwile is one of my new favorites. Here he is in a short clip preaching on the importance of not leaving the work of forgiveness and reconciliation undone.

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Mar

27

2009

Jared C. Wilson|2:43 pm CT

The Commodity Culture

Began Skye Jethani’s The Divine Commodity yesterday, and I’m already more than halfway through it. Full review and my part in Jethani’s “blog tour” for the book to come. But I wanted to share this passage that concisely describes our commodity culture and how it affects the worship cultures of our churches.

In our modern world the rain that falls freely from the heavens and the molecular building blocks of life have become commodities.

Like so many elements of our consumer culture, commodification is not the problem but rather its pervasiveness. In a commodity culture we have been conditioned to believe nothing carries intrinsic value. Instead, value is found only in a thing’s usefulness to us, and tragically this belief has been applied to people as well. Divorce rates have skyrocketed as we’ve come to see marriage as disposable. When a spouse is no longer useful he or she can be abandoned or traded. Abortion, the termination of an “unwanted” pregnancy, is believed to be morally justifiable because an unborn child is not a person. Personhood is a legal status reserved for those who are deemed useful. Pornography, prostitution, and child sex trafficking are the result of sexuality being commodified. Modern people may express outrage at the horrors of the African slave trade or the Holocaust, but in truth the commodification of human begins that made those atrocities possible is more prevalent today than ever before.

The reduction of even sacred things into commodities also explains why we exhibit so little reverence for God. In a consumer worldview he has no intrinsic value apart from his usefulness to us. He is a tool we employ, a force we control, and a resource we plunder. We ascribe value to him (the literal meaning of the word “worship”) based not on who he is, but on what he can do for us.

Jethani goes on to connect this infiltration of commodity culture into church cultures to sociologist Christian Smith’s identification of the prevailing spirituality of Moral Therapeutic Deism, which is the “religion” Michael Horton surgically attacks as the scourge of present day evangelicalism in his book Christless Christianity.

Really, Jethani’s and Horton’s books could be read in tandem. They are excellent complements and Jethani’s book is already striking me as just as important a read as Horton’s.

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Mar

26

2009

Jared C. Wilson|11:21 pm CT

Book Me, Dano

Shameless self-promotion alert!

I am currently booking more speaking engagements, so if your church, group, or event might be interested in having me speak, go here and let me know. First ten bookings will receive a fantastic deal. Promise.

And I won’t ask you to sell anything for me in the lobby or whatever.

But! If you’re on Facebook and haven’t become a “fan” of my book, go rectify the situation at the Your Jesus is Too Safe Facebook page. Becoming a fan automatically qualifies you for future drawings for free books.

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Mar

26

2009

Jared C. Wilson|6:06 pm CT

Why Gospel Wakefulness is So Important

“It is the unhurried meditation on gospel truths and the exposing of our minds to these truths that yields the fruit of sanctified character.”

– Maurice Roberts, The Thought of God

This is so true.

This is the thing so few get, because it sounds so ethereal, intangible. And aside from the facts that Jesus Christ is material and tangible and that what he did was physical and historical, the process of gospel wakefulness is kinda ethereal and intangible. It’s supernatural. It happens in the regenerate heart and overflows into the sanctified life.

But it results from gospel proclamation and transformation (Rom. 1:16; 10:14).
And this is why all the practical tips in the world won’t save a dang soul.

Lazarus didn’t need 7 steps. He needed Jesus’ resurrecting word.

(HT for Roberts quote: Of First Importance)

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Mar

26

2009

Jared C. Wilson|5:59 pm CT

Sign O’ the Times

Got an email yesterday from a guy starting a phone counseling business in which seminary students (and others) pretend to be Jesus for people who call in. The idea is that you’re getting personally counseled by Jesus himself, I guess. This entrepreneurial fellow wanted to know if I wanted “in” on the venture.

Um, no.

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Mar

23

2009

Jared C. Wilson|2:17 pm CT

The Trouble with "Impact!": The Vision of the VeggieTales Visionary

Shaun Groves has an excellent post today called Phil Vischer’s Jesus, sharing excerpts from Skye Jethani’s book The Divine Commodity (which is on my must-get list). I hope Shaun won’t mind if I reprint pretty much the whole thing.

“The Christians my grandparents admired – D.L. Moody, R.G. LeTourneau, Bill Bright – were fantastically enterprising. The Rockefellers of the Christian world. Occasionally I would read about different sorts of Christians that would confuse me, like, say, Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa seemed like a great woman, but her approach struck me as highly inefficient. I mean, she was literally feeding the poor. One at a time. Didn’t she see that her impact would be much greater if she developed some sort of system for feeding the poor that could be franchised around the world? She could be the Ray Kroc of world hunger! Wouldn’t that be better?”

After the financial collapse of Phil’s company Big Idea Entertainment, makers of Veggie Tales, Phil explained the belief system that had driven him to make the motion picture that caused it all:

“God would never call us from greater impact to lesser impact! Impact is everything! How many kids did you invite to Sunday school? How many souls have you won? How big is your church? How many videos/record/books have you sold? How many people will be in heaven because of your efforts? Impact, man!”

He began questioning this belief system:

“The more I dove into Scripture, the more I realized I had been deluded. I had grown up drinking a dangerous cocktail – a mix of the gospel, the Protestant work ethic, and the American dream… The Savior I was following seemed, in hindsight, equal parts Jesus, Ben Franklin, and Henry Ford. My Eternal value was rooted in what I could accomplish.”

He eventually concluded that the Christian life “wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience.”

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Mar

23

2009

Jared C. Wilson|2:01 pm CT

Loving the Provision More than the Provider

The big fat elephant in the room of evangelicalism’s preaching against sin is gluttony.

I gave it a shot at Element last night, as part of our current series Seven Daily Sins.

A recap of sorts can be found here.

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Mar

19

2009

Jared C. Wilson|3:37 pm CT

Love is Not Easier

Many of us have this weird idea that Jesus loosened things up. Some of us think that for centuries emerging from the Old Testament Law, everything was rigid and difficult, and then Jesus showed up with his peace, love, and good vibes and just told everyone to love everybody.

Why do we think it’s easier to love people than it is to just be religious?

I’m not sure people who think and speak that way really even know what love is.

Maybe the reason we don’t all, in the spirit of unity and rainbows, just set aside our differences and love each other is because it’s really freaking hard to do that.

Just as an example, Jesus said that if you lust after somebody, it’s the same as sleeping with them, and if you hate somebody, it’s the same as murdering them. Where in the world would we get the idea this makes things easier? It’s a lot easier to not kill somebody than it is to not hate them. It’s a lot more difficult to not lust than it is to not have sex.

And it’s a lot easier to follow some rules everyone can see me keep than it is to truly, actually love people.

Anybody can be on their best behavior. But to love someone who hates you? That takes Jesus and his cross.

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