Monthly Archives: October 2009

Happy Reformation Day!

Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

It is the 492nd anniversary of the day an Augustinian monk nailed his pages of protest to the door of the church at Wittenburg. Or maybe he mailed them. Who knows. Either way, he threw a Malotov cocktail, and the fire still burns today.

“Faith therefore must be purely taught: namely, that thou art so entirely joined unto Christ, that He and thou art made as it were one person: so that thou mayest boldly say, I am now one with Christ, that is to say, Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine. And again, Christ may say, I am that sinner, that is, his sins and his death are Mine, because he is united and joined unto Me, and I unto him.”

- Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians

Thank you, Brother Martin. You help me see and cling to Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Christ Jesus, It is He!

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Words and Music by Martin Luther

1. A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevaling. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.

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95 Theses for the American Church, Part 4: The Pastorate

Day 4 in an annual reprint in anticipation of Reformation Day.

On the Pastorate in the American Church

58. The elders and pastors of the church, as ministers of the gospel, are charged by Jesus to feed the sheep.

59. The trend within the American church of orienting the worship gathering around seekers while simultaneously demanding sheep “self-feed” is therefore a sin in need of repentance.

60. Leaders in the church must watch their life and their doctrine closely.

61. Leaders in the church must not remove themselves from the community life of the church, as if they are somehow, by office or giftedness, above it.

62. The pastors of the churches in American have ceased serving as their church’s resident theologian.

63. The qualities necessary for church leadership are clearly outlined in Scripture. These include self-control, ability to teach the Word, and gentleness.

64. The qualities most in demand in the American pastorate are frequently foreign to the qualities made most important in Scripture.

65. The professionalization of the pastorate is stunting the discipleship culture of the American Church. This is not to say that pastors should not receive pay for their service, only that the influence and predominance of professional business and marketing skills and “types” have overtaken the biblical office of church overseer so that the pastorate is more about management than it is about shepherding.

66. Churches should protect their pastor’s livelihood and integrity by both providing for his needs and lovingly demanding he feed them the Word.

67. The pastors who direct the church are worthy …

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#1 With a Bullet

“The first care of every Christian ought to be, to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him.”

- Martin Luther, Christian Liberty

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95 Theses for the American Church, Part 3: The Church

Day 3 in an annual reprint in anticipation of Reformation Day.

On the Evangelical Church and Its Congregations

39. The New Testament designates God’s elect “The Body of Christ,” and therefore the Church’s role in the world is to do what Christ did: proclaim and embody the gospel of the kingdom.

40. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.

41. Much of what passes for church in America will be prevailed against by hell.

42. The local church is intended to be a loving community that truly treasures the gospel.

43. The Church in America is generally not community-oriented and mostly treasures itself.

44. The American Church loves itself more than its neighbor.

45. The message of the evangelical American Church has shifted from bold proclamation of Jesus to an inordinate application of “biblical values.”

46. The American Church loves the spirit of the age and idolizes relevancy.

47. Consequently, the American Church has lost its courage to preach repentance and its faithfulness to the gospel.

48. The American Church needs more and more bold elders and ministers willing to be missionaries for the gospel to evangelicalism.

49. The number of large churches has increased, but the number of professing Christians has decreased. This means what we are being told is working isn’t.

50. Churches are spending lots of money on unnecessary and selfish things.

51. The Church must repent of its idolization of personality and business principles.

52. The Church must repent of its idolization of political power and prestige.

53. The Church must repent of its idolization of the …

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95 Theses for the American Church, Part 2: Community

This is an annual reprint in anticipation of Reformation Day.

On the Necessity of Christian Community and Its American Bankruptcy

20. The culture running counter to the kingdom is neither sympathetic to nor conducive to the experience of real community.

21. The American Christian, immersed in self-idolatrous consumeristic culture, is in his attitudes and behaviors unresponsive to the biblical call to Christian community.

22. The evangelical Church in America, having capitulated uncritically to the values of the surrounding culture, is unwittingly supporting the idolatry of Self and thereby suffocating the community it professes to desire.

23. Discipleship is designed to be experienced in community, but we have privatized our faith.

24. The legacy of legalism, gossip, condemnation, and bigotry in the fundamentalist church suffocates community by removing the gospel-honoring security of bold confession and relational authenticity.

25. The legacy of license, corruption, and theological superficiality in the modernist church suffocates community by affirming the Self and its prerogatives as the Christian’s real gods.

26. There is no such thing as “virtual community.” Technology is a valuable tool in the contemporary church, but it is a powerful one that is used too often uncritically.The uncritical use of technology by the Church only fosters individualism and facilitates separation from incarnational community.

27. Christian community requires that Christians submit themselves to the benefit of the community.

28. Every Christian is endowed by the Spirit with gifts and talents for the edification of the Church and the glory of God, not only or primarily for the fulfillment of self.

29. When a Christian refuses to …

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95 Theses for the American Church, Part 1: Discipleship

It’s that time of year again. That’s right: Reformation Day approacheth. Starting today and ending Friday I’m going to reprint a series I did last year at this time, my 95 Theses for the American Church.

I am fully aware of the arrogance inherent in offering my own 95 theses. But it’s not like I haven’t been nailing this stuff to the door of my blogs for several years.

19 a day for the next five days, each (more or less) on a different area of focus.

On the Discipleship of the Individual Christian

1. God saves us as individuals, but he does not save us to an individual faith.

2. The Christian’s faith may be personal, but it should not be private.

3. Life is not about us.

4. The Church is not supposed to be about us.

5. The American Christian takes for granted the convenience of the availability of God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures.

6. When a Christian abandons the discipline of the study of Scripture, he spites and dishonors the men and women who toiled, sacrificed, and died to increase the availability of God’s written word.

7. Moreover, when a Christian doesn’t read Scripture, he spites and dishonors God who graciously reveals himself to us in and through it.

8. The Christian who does not devote himself to Scripture but yet expresses frustration over not hearing “God’s will for my life” is either confused or stupid.

9. The Christian who devotes himself to Scripture in order to achieve a knowledge that puffs up is storing …

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Oh!: The Difference Between Instinct and Typology

I remember when it was cool to see Jesus in The Matrix. When that five minutes was over, and even your father in law was reading up in 2 Kings to figure out the significance of Neo’s spaceship, the whole thing was a joke. The tide had turned from a Lewisian seeing of celestial beauty in the jungle of filth and imbecility that is Myth to a marketable spotting of Christian symbolism in every pop cultural artifact imaginable. Jesus became Waldo.

I remember when it first hit me to see Christ at the center of the Old Testament narratives. It was only a few years ago—I’m a late bloomer, so sue me—listening to a sermon by Tim Keller given at the inaugural Gospel Coalition Conference. I mean, I wasn’t so dense not to see Jesus in the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, and of course I knew about the messianic psalms and prophecies, but Keller’s address, replete with appeals to Jonathan Edwards’s non-allegorical homiletical beauty, outlining of the gospel as news not advice, and laser accurate delineation of what constitutes Gospel-Centered Ministry (the name of the sermon, actually), didn’t just blow the rockface off of my understanding. To borrow one of his own illustrations, it burrowed in, planted dynamite, and devastated me. In a good way.

In his message, Keller presented the following:

* Jesus is the true and better Adam, who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us. * …

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The Beautiful Monotony of the Gospel

One fear we must put aside in our quest for greater gospel-centrality is that it will not preach week to week. The enemy and our own flesh will test our commitment with the “plausible argument” (Col. 2:4) that the gospel will just sound so one-note. We are tempted to think the repetition will have the unintended effect of boring people or making the gospel appear routine and commonplace.

But the gospel is resilient. It is miraculously versatile. It proves itself every day for those awake to it. Because it is the antidote for all sin of all people, power effectual for every type of person no matter their background or circumstance, it is God’s might to save every millisecond and therefore every Sunday.

The gospel is indeed one song. But it is a song with many notes. The news is the same, but some of the words may change and the angles shift. (Use a thesaurus if you have to.) If we are awake to the gospel and seek the wakefulness of others, Christian and non-Christian, the playing of the greatest song at every instance is a lot like the exuberance of childlike wonder in monotonous fun. In Orthodoxy, the great G.K. Chesterton writes:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. …

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Comings and Goings

It is cliched and dumb for bloggers to apologize for not blogging. But I’m doing it anyway. Sorry for the lack of substantive blogging. Life’s been busy.

A few updates, however.

I recently signed the contract for my next book. It will be a Bible study resource (with multimedia leader kit available) called God vs. Suburbia which will release from Threads sometime in the Spring of 2010. The study can be done by individuals but is designed mainly with small groups in mind, and it will highlight gospel-centered spiritual formation. Specifically, the book will be about how to subvert the idols of our age and culture (e.g. comfort, convenience, conspicuous consumption, individualism) with the rhythms of the kingdom of God (prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, generosity and service, community). I hope it will be a blessing to many.

In the meantime, I have completed the outlining stage of my next trade book, which is tentatively titled Postcards from the Revolution: Parables as Sabotage. I hope to have a submittable manuscript for it sometime in the next few months.

The Docent Group’s Glenn Lucke recently outed me as a ghostwriter “to the stars” :-), and he’s the guy who signs my checks, so I suppose it’s okay to mention that I’ve gotten enough editing, book doctoring, and writing work from some great pastors and thinkers that I’ve been able to stop doing the regular “seminary monkey” work of sermon research I’d been doing for over a year. It was fun work and I enjoyed serving …

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