Monthly Archives: October 2009

 

Oct

31

2009

Jared C. Wilson|4:13 am CT

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

|

 
 
 

Oct

31

2009

Jared C. Wilson|4:11 am CT

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.

|

 
 
 

Oct

29

2009

Jared C. Wilson|12:38 pm CT

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 of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

68. The pastor who preaches not the incarnate Word in the revealed word, who teaches the satisfaction of good works (or anything but Christ) is serving dishonorably.

69. If any pastor preaches no gospel or a different gospel, let him be accursed.

70. The American pastor must repent of ambition.

71. The American Church must repent of its idolization of the celebrity pastorate.

72. The American pastor is right to seek to contextualize the gospel, but he must repent of the idolization of innovation and technology.

73. The American pastor must pastor more than he programs.

74. The American pastor must trust the Spirit, not statistics.

75. The American pastor must repent of the idolization of numbers and results.

76. The American pastor must above all be faithful to Christ, passionate about the gospel clearly articulated, devoted to the Word and the sacraments, and motivated by what is right, not what is expected, popular, or even productive.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on “purpose.”)

|

 
 
 

Oct

28

2009

Jared C. Wilson|9:18 pm CT

#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

|

 
 
 

Oct

28

2009

Jared C. Wilson|12:53 pm CT

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 self and its failure to find Christ sufficient.

54. The Church must repent for its neglect of and casual approach to the sacraments.

55. The Church must repent of its idolization of “cool,” in which we dishonor our parents, spite our brothers and sisters in the faith, and merely set ourselves up for the sins we perceive in them — appearing “of the times.”

56. The Church must return to feeding its gathered people the Word of God, not therapeutic motivation, on a regular basis. The Church must return to cultivating community, not maintaining programs.

57. The tide can turn in American evangelicalism if we will return to our first love.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on the pastorate.)

|

 
 
 

Oct

27

2009

Jared C. Wilson|12:07 pm CT

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 submit to community, he is saying “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21) and therefore is spiting the exhortation of Scripture and despising the purpose of giftedness, which is “the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).

30. When a Christian refuses to submit to community he is declaring himself better than others — even if he is abstaining because of elitism or arrogance in the Church — and is guilty of hypocrisy.

31. Christian community ought to be oriented around the treasure of the gospel and purposed around the proclamation of the kingdom.

32. The American Church’s occasional attempts at community are oriented around superficial interests, hobbies, self-actualization, and the livelihood of the church organization.

33. Christians need gospel-oriented community because we are sinners and constantly need to have our brothers and sisters speak and be the gospel to us, and because we constantly need to speak and be the gospel to our brothers and sisters.

34. The gospel is about reconciliation; therefore, to orient around the gospel means (a) to enjoy and to proclaim the good news of the sinner’s reconciliation with God through Christ’s finished work and (b) to enjoy and to embody the good news of the sinner’s reconciliation with other sinners through Christ’s finished work.

35. Christian community is primarily about “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5), not mere fraternization.

36. Thousands of churches holding out Acts 2 as the ideal picture of the Church do so while simultaneously, in the context of their message and their methods, subverting the likelihood of their church resembling what is seen in Acts 2.

37. Our triune God exists in community, so the American Christian’s refusal to submit to community is disobedience to the first commandment.

38. Because Christian community reflects reconciliation with God and reconciliation with our neighbor, the American Christian’s refusal to submit to community is disobedience to the Great Commandment.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on “church.”)

|

 
 
 

Oct

26

2009

Jared C. Wilson|12:05 pm CT

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 up a harsh rebuke from the Holy Spirit.

10. The aim of devotion to Scripture is our transformation, not merely our information.

11. The American Christian and the churches that train him are adherents to the syncretism of biblical values and the self-idolatry of consumer culture.

12. This syncretism is suffocating the discipleship culture of our churches, which are mostly predicated on therapeutic gospels and self-help which make do not glorify God and which make the disciple the center of Christian faith rather than Christ.

13. The American Christian is often offended by or secretive about the message of the gospel, which puts him dangerously in league with those who find the message foolish and are perishing.

14. The Christian in the American Christian ought to affirm and embrace the cost of discipleship, but the American in the American Christian hesitates to deny himself because Self is his highest value.

15. The modern disciple is currently being spiritually deformed by leaders in the Church who do not make that which is “of first importance” the most important thing.

16. The modern disciple compartmentalizes his life and does not realize that even a large compartment for “faith” or “church” or “God” is not healthy discipleship. The American Christian’s schedule and routines reflect he believes his days belong to himself and not to God.

17. The American Christian finds Jesus’ command to sacrifice and serve abhorrent.

18. The American Christian has forgotten how to pray.

19. Discipleship is best cultivated in the active participation in and contribution to the culture of a gospel-embracing Christian community.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on community.)

|

 
 
 

Oct

24

2009

Jared C. Wilson|3:34 pm CT

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.
* Jesus is the true and better Abel, who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal.
* Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar, and go out into the void, not knowing whither he went, to create a new people of God.
* Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his Father on the mount,but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “now I know you love me, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me, now we can look at God, taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing Him, and say,” now we know that you love us, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from us.”
* Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserve, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
* Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold Him, and uses His new power to save them.
* Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
* Jesus is the true and better rock of Moses who was struck with the rod of God’s justice, and now gives us water in the desert.
* Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.
* Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes his people’s victory though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
* Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace, but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.
* Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who was cast out into the storm so we could be brought in.
* He is the real passover lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so that the angel of death would pass over us

That’ll preach. And it did.

But Keller says something curious after his recitation of this list (which I’ve seen attributed to everyone from Sinclair Ferguson to Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Keller himself and to nobody) that still sticks with me: “That’s not typology,” he said, “that’s an instinct.”

Well, what’s the difference? How do you see Christ in the Old Testament—or in The Matrix or Harry Potter or the actual greats of film and literature—and in the face of a hobo or street urchin in an instinctual way, not a typological way?

My best guess is that gospel-wakefulness makes the difference. Typology is mechanical. Instinct is supernatural.

I think this is one reason why, for all my appreciation (and utilization) of good scholarship, when a blogger goes academic about the Christian life and ministry, my eyes glaze over. It is why something John Piper said at the last Gospel Coalition Conference resonated with me so strongly: “Commentaries can be sermon killers. No commentary has the word Oh! in it.”

I think that’s the difference between Christian instinct and Christian typology: the word “Oh!”

|

 
 
 

Oct

20

2009

Jared C. Wilson|12:24 pm CT

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. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

When we “get” the gospel for what it really is — the power to save, the most thrilling news there could be, the declaration that God’s Son died for us and then came back to life! to be the risen Lord and supreme King of the universe, not just the entry fee for heaven but the currency for all of life — we revel in the new creation it unleashes in its wake at every turn. We never get tired of hearing it. It’s the new song that never gets old. “Play it again, play it again!” we will cry.

Gospel wakened people have been given the strength enough to exult in the beautiful monotony of the gospel.
The further good news is that those who are dulled in their senses will not be further dulled by the gospel. In fact, only the gospel can deliver them from their dulled state. No amount of fog and lasers will do it.

That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel . . . — Romans 1:15

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel — Ephesians 6:19

|

 
 
 

Oct

19

2009

Jared C. Wilson|1:07 pm CT

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 some sweet, humble men of God who have ministries a thousand times larger than I’d ever have, but being able to focus on the writing/editing side of things is more in my gifting.

One last thing:
I was recently humbled and honored to receive an invite by my old blog-friend Joe Carter, one of the first uberbloggers in the Godblogosphere, to join some other megabloggers in launching an evangelical group blog under the illustrious banner of First Things. I was, frankly, stunned by the invite. How I got included with these actually reputable online writers — Justin Taylor, John Mark Reynolds, Hunter Baker, Russell Moore, et.al. — is beyond me, but once upon a time Joe’s Evangelical Outpost and my first (group) blog The Thinklings were big fish in a small Godblogospheric pond. It pays to have made friends back then. Even Tim Challies knows who I am. :-)

In any event, the site is called Evangel, and the fellows and I have begun posting, starting with the question “What is an evangelical?”.

My first post: People of the Gospel

Needless to say, all of this plus, you know, real life keeps me busy and not as prolific as I’d like. But I’ve got some good stuff in the hopper for The Gospel-Driven Church.

Thank you for reading, friends.

Catch you on the flip-side.

Btw, Spring is currently wide open for me right now, so if your church or group might be interested in having me speak, preach, or yell at somebody, go here and let me know.

|