Monthly Archives: July 2010

Tell People About the Gospel from a Heart of Love and a Life of Service

John Piper is still on sabbatical, which was scheduled for a year. I miss his voice.

This was a blessing to me at 12:52 in the a.m.

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It is Easy to Do This

I don’t believe roller coasters are something Christians should participate in. Even those who enjoy them confess there is a fear factor involved, a “thrill” if you will. God has given us this natural fear sensation for our good, not our amusement. (We certainly don’t have any indication in Scripture that Jesus pursued entertainment of any kind.) In addition, the Bible says that God has not given us a spirit of fear and that perfect love casts out all fear. To cultivate fear then, especially for something as frivolous, for the purpose of reveling in fear is spiritually perverted. Given all the suffering in the world, including that endured by our Christian brothers and sisters, riding roller coasters at the very least seems like a poor use of precious time, an obvious violation of Philippians 4:8.

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Your Taste Buds Have to Change or Somethin’

My 7 year-old, Grace, is often deeper than she knows. At lunch today the family was discussing who liked hot sauce and who didn’t. The question came up about being on “Mom’s team” (those who don’t like hot sauce) or “Dad’s team” (those who like hot sauce), and this is what Grace had to say about getting on teams of this sort:

You can’t just decide to like something. Like, you can’t just say, I’m going to like this now and decide to like. You have to actually like it.

I told her that people decide to start liking something all the time. If what she said is true, how does that happen? She said:

You can’t just decide to start liking something. You have to actually like it. Your taste buds have to change or somethin’.

Yes! She was speaking truth deeper than she realized.

The following is a bit from my next book. Titled Gospel Wakefulness, it is coming next year from Crossway.

The kingdom itself is a treasure, often hidden from our spiritual senses while we are seeking satisfactions everywhere else, but once it has been dug up in the rocky soil of our sin and suffering, we will with great joy sell all we have to claim it. Once the tears of brokenness have cleared our eyes to behold the beatific vision of the gospel of God’s grace, we are ready to see the soul-stirring inheritance that is ours in Christ. When we have deeply felt the spiritual poverty of self-rule we …

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But Believe More Boldly Still

Luther really did say “Sin boldly,” but it doesn’t mean what we think it does. It’s a rhetorical statement that in context takes on more clarity.

Here is the passage from his message to Philip Melancthon:

If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

Elsewhere, Luther talks about committing a token sin (of sorts) to spite the devil, by which he means if the devil is foisting legalism upon you on matters that are not real sins (drinking, mowing your lawn on Sunday, etc.), you could spite him by doing just that. But in this instance he is …

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The Blessing of Persecution

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.– Matthew 5:10

At the time of the Boxer Rebellion, 230 Christian missionaries and 23,000 Chinese Christians were killed in China. In the years following, the number of Christians in China grew to 70,000. Then communist China really cracked down, outlawing Christianity and expelling all Christian missionaries. The number of Christians in China grew 100 fold to 70 million.

In our nation there is some concern among Christians about religious freedoms and the state recognition of Christian expression. These concerns are, for the most part, justified. Arguably. But there are many overreactions, many voicing of concerns that belie the reality of the God who is sovereign over everything, including nations, kings, and laws.

But let’s not presume to think we are presently persecuted. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Persecution is a blessing. Either he meant that or he didn’t. The Beatitudes are proclamations, not commands, so we don’t need to seek persecution. It’s not the blood of the one with a martyr complex that is the seed of the church. Perhaps socialism is creeping into America. We should be concerned about this and talk about it, against it even.

But let’s also not assume that persecution would be the worst thing to befall us. It could be, actually, that persecution, should it come, is the best …

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Eugene Peterson on The Blessing of the "Institutional Church"

“Love the church; hate the institution.” So many say.

Doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like saying “I love my wife; I hate marriage.”

Many fans of disorganized religion, I guess.

Here’s Eugene Peterson answering some interview questions on the “institutional church” in a now-classic exchange called “Spirituality For all the Wrong Reasons” (published in total at previous link).

So how should we visualize the Christian life?

In church last Sunday, there was a couple in front of us with two bratty kids. Two pews behind us there was another couple with their two bratty kids making a lot of noise. This is mostly an older congregation. So these people are set in their ways. Their kids have been gone a long time. And so it wasn’t a very nice service; it was just not very good worship. But afterwards I saw half a dozen of these elderly people come up and put their arms around the mother, touch the kids, sympathize with her. They could have been irritated.

Now why do people go to a church like that when they can go to a church that has a nursery, is air conditioned, and all the rest? Well, because they’re Lutherans. They don’t mind being miserable! Norwegian Lutherans!

And this same church recently welcomed a young woman with a baby and a three-year-old boy. The children were baptized a few weeks ago. But there was no man with her. She’s never married; each of the kids has a different father. She shows up at …

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Our Church Isn’t "Cute"

“Oh, it’s so cute.”

The photo is of the building in which Middletown Springs Community Church, the church I pastor, gathers each week.

The quote is something I’ve heard several times — that or something like it — typically from friends and family hailing from some steamy portion of Six Flags Over Jesus where church buildings are indistinguishable from office parks or the galleria.

Our church is “cute.” Because it’s small, old, traditional. “Cute” is the backhanded compliment for those who’d never go to a “cute” church, but want you to know they admire it and perhaps even those who aren’t privileged enough to go to a church “successful” enough for a building that is big, impressive, full-service. You know, not cute, but rather “awesome.”

But our church isn’t “cute.” It’s beautiful like a bride both blemished and perfect.

Our building is just a building, but it has stood for over 200 years on the stony soil of the oldest part of our nation, the land of Christian pillars Whitefield and Edwards, of the Great Awakenings, of Puritans and patriots, of Green Mountain Boys and hundreds-of-years-old family farms. The building is just a building but it has weathered over 200 years of harsh Vermont winters, not to mention pastors strong and weak, congregations passionate and passive, spiritual ebbs and flows of Old Testament proportions. Once upon a time the church kicked out Joseph Smith’s secretary for heresy.

Our building is just a building, but it’s not just a building. It’s a symbol of the …

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Your Church Might Not be a Church If . . .

You never hear the word “sin” there.

You hear the word “sin,” but only briefly or redefined as “mistakes.”

You can’t remember when you last heard the name of Jesus in a message.

The Easter message isn’t about the resurrection but “new opportunities” in your life or turning over a new leaf.

On patriotic holiday weekends, the message is about how great America is.

On the other weekends, the message is about how great you are.

There are more videos than prayers.

People don’t sing during “worship,” but watch.

The pastors’ chief responsibilities are things foreign to Scripture.

There is more money budgeted for advertising than for mission.

The majority of the small groups are oriented around sports or leisure, not study or service.

You always feel comfortable there.

Church membership just appears to be a recruiting system for volunteers.

You only see other church people on Sunday mornings at church.

—If your church meets one or more of these, it might be a spiritual pep rally, a religious performance center, a Christian social club, or something else entirely, but it is probably not, biblically speaking, a gathering of the biblical church.

Previously: You May Not Be a Church If . . .

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Sounds Like Gospel Wakefulness

Lifted entirely from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

John Wesley, Journals (London, 1836)

I have heard some scoff at this account. “Pietistic” was the word used, as if that settled it. I’m not big on man-made labels one way or the other. But what God gave Wesley that evening I revere as biblical, I cherish as personal, I respect as powerful. I believe in theologically aroused heart-religion. It is the gospel getting traction inside us where it really counts.

God helping me, I will promote this glorious power to my dying day — and consider it a privilege.

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Steps to Grace-Driven Sex

1 Corinthians 7:1-5:

1Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Within the marital covenant, sexual intimacy can be a joyous, mutually satisfying, and mutually encouraging gift. But many husbands and wives don’t know how to “get there.” In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, Paul is telling Christian married couples to not think of their bodies as their own, but as existing for the service of their partner in one-fleshedness. In his excellent book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes, “Sex is serving each other with our bodies.”

Perhaps we may recapture the cultural circumlocution “making love” and recast it in the vision of grace-driven sex as the fruit of a grace-driven marriage, a marriage relationship that is captured by the grace of God in the atoning work and resurrection of Jesus Christ and therefore seeks to glorify God in Christ in Spiritual power through the daily “drudgery” of the marriage. If a man carries …

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