Monthly Archives: November 2010

 

Nov

30

2010

Jared C. Wilson|4:05 pm CT

All Great

What is the message of the gospel?

That the greatest good (God) offers the greatest action (love) to the greatest need (wrath-owed sinners) by sending the greatest treasure (Jesus) in the greatest invitation (to everyone) into the greatest life (everlasting).

How is this not exciting?

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Nov

25

2010

Jared C. Wilson|3:52 pm CT

7 Ways to Kill the Thanksgiving Impulse in Your Life

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 4:5-7

This is an excellent recipe for what it itself describes: a Spiritual settling of the heart, thankfulness, closeness to God. But let’s suppose you didn’t want those things, you didn’t want to be thankful in all circumstances (as God commands through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5). How would you design your system in order to crush any impulse of thanksgiving in your heart?

1. Freak out about everything.
Let your unreasonableness be known to everyone. Be unreasonable about everything. Turn everything into drama, everything into a crisis.

2. Practice practical atheism.
The Lord is at hand, which is certainly something to be thankful for. Our God isn’t just transcendent, but immanent. He wants to be known. You could therefore intellectually acknowledge God is there, but act like he’s not. Assume he has no interest in you or your life. If you pretend like God’s not there, you don’t have to thank him for anything.

3. Coddle worry.
Be anxious about everything. Really protect your worry from the good news.

4. Give God the silent treatment.
The best way not to give thanks is not to talk at all. That way you’ll never give thanks accidentally.

5. Don’t expect anything from God.
Don’t trust him for anything. Normally we do this so we don’t have to feel disappointed, but another reason to do it is so he won’t give you anything to be thankful for. If you pray for something, he just might say yes, and then you’d be obligated to thank him.

6. Relentlessly try to figure everything out.
The peace of God is beyond our understanding. He is bigger than our capacity to grasp him. The closer we get to God, the bigger he gets. An immense vision creates immense reaction. So if you want to crush that reaction before it has a chance to start, ask as many “why” questions as you can, and don’t settle for the answers Job or Habakkuk or David did. Best to think you’re better than them and deserve an explanation from God. If you really want to kill thanksgiving, act like God owes you. Leave no room for the possibility you might not know or understand something. And one of the best ways to crush thankfulness is to take credit for everything you can.

7. Focus on anything other than the gospel of Jesus.
God owes us nothing but has given us every good thing in Christ. If you’re not interested in thanksgiving, by all means, pay no attention to that. Concentrate on your problems. Don’t concentrate on Jesus, or you might accidentally end up thankful in all circumstances.

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Nov

23

2010

Jared C. Wilson|9:41 pm CT

The Whole Armor of God

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God . . .

– Ephesians 6:13-17

We are commanded to obey, but as we do so, we are commanded here and there to do so after having “Put on Christ” or having “put on the new self.” We best be wearing gospel armor when going about God’s business.

Notice there are no pieces of effort in the armor of Ephesians 6:13-17. The belt is the truth. What protects our vitals? Righteousness, but not that of ourselves; that is not impenetrable. But Christ’s is. Our shoes are the gospel. (They make missionaries’ feet beautiful.) When the evil one throws his darts, do we block them with the shield of our law-keeping? No, with the shield of faith. Salvation is, in this metaphor, literally on our minds. We wield not the word of ourselves, but the word of God.

This is armor given, not earned.

Put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). Don’t put on the Law. You can try, but even if you were to cover every square inch of yourself with law-keeping, that armor’d be paper thin.

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Nov

23

2010

Jared C. Wilson|8:50 pm CT

When Does a Disputation Become Vain?

Once upon a time, when I was new in the blogosphere, I argued with anyone and everyone. I was a bit of a cage phase Calvinist, but worse than that I didn’t understand how to talk to people online, and even worse than that, I was not gospel wakened so I gave the energy of utmost importance to stuff that was good but not of utmost importance.

I don’t do that any more. It’s dumb.
But one thing I do try to do is respond to my online critics. I know lots of bloggers/authors don’t do this, whether out of busy-ness or lack of interest. Some don’t do it because they consider critics not worth the time, ever. I don’t think that’s true, and in an effort not to seem “above” people who’d disagree with me, when I do have the time and think the criticism about something important, I try to respond. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes a critic receives clarification on something they thought I was saying but really wasn’t and is appeased. Sometimes dialogue yields more understanding of each other’s stances, whether we end up agreeing or not. I would call that fruitful. It’s always good to agree or disagree with what someone actually says/thinks, not with what we think they say/think. Agreement or not, better understanding is always a good thing.

But other times . . . well, other times it doesn’t work out so well. A couple of weeks ago a blog commenter was convinced, by one post that said nothing of the sort, that I was defending socialism. Despite many posts already written staunchly defending that the gospel is something God does, not anything we do, despite the fact that the post in question said nothing about “works of justice” being or contributing to the gospel, this person insisted on accusing me of the social gospel. After I denied that several times, he invented other charges easily refuted by what I was actually saying. (One thing I have learned since blogging/tweeting is that for these kinds of critics, what they read is reality; what you’ve actually written is not.)

It happened again yesterday. I tweeted this: “Count me one Calvinist more interested in a gospel resurgence than a Reformed resurgence.”
This led to someone asking if I wasn’t setting up a false dichotomy.
I responded to say that if Calvinism = the gospel, Arminians believe a false gospel.
Enter a critic to chastise me for fearmongering about hyperCalvinists. Talk about a curve ball!

Trying to explain oneself on Twitter is difficult. Trying to explain oneself on Twitter to someone apparently unable or unwilling to understand is impossible. But I didn’t know that about him at the time, so after a series of tweets, we took it to email. Surely that will work. But it didn’t. And in the end, as I grew weary of defending against the charge that I blur the gospel news with our response to it, my dialogue partner began drawing new charges out of a hat, insisting each stuck. I was accused of some things nobody’s ever accused me of, some that are actually the exact opposite of what I’m usually accused of. The whole thing was bewildering. And that’s how I knew it was a vain disputation.

I want to be an accessible guy. (One person emailed me a few weeks ago, saying, “I heard from a friend you respond to emails from normal people.” I thought that was funny. But it was encouraging to me. It said to me, “Some bloggers/authors don’t take time to respond to readers, but a friend said you’re accessible.”) But I don’t have time to get into fruitless debates with argumentative people.

Here’s how I know when a disputation is vain and how you might, also:

1) The critic’s rhetoric increases in “heat.” He is not being calmed, even in disagreement. He is being exercised. That’s not edifying for either party.

2) The critic hops from charge to charge, creating new ones out of thin air, so that you enter an apparently endless cycle of being asked to defend against straw men.

3) You find that denying you believe a certain thing is no hindrance to being charged with believing it.

4) It becomes evident your critic cannot understand what you are saying, even after you’ve said it in several different ways, as clearly as you can. This could indeed be your fault in failing and failing to express yourself clearly, but in any event, it’s evident they don’t understand you. If neither party can re-state the other’s stance to the other’s satisfaction, fruitful debate is a non-starter. (This is why when Zach Hoag and I did that point/counterpoint synchroblog, we agreed on a thesis for him to affirm and I to deny. We knew that would make for a fruitful disagreement. It would make no sense for me to just craft some thesis I wanted to attribute to him, whether he would affirm it or not, and vice versa.)

I don’t believe the answer to online critics, as some prominent pastors seem to insist, is to completely ignore them. Bloggers/authors/pastors are not above being challenged, being criticized. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We shouldn’t pretend we reside up on high, dispensing our posts and tweets to the masses as if elevated above having to answer for what we say.
At the same time, however, once one begins taking the time to respond to criticism, one may learn quickly why some opt to ignore critics altogether.

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Nov

23

2010

Jared C. Wilson|1:12 pm CT

The Preemptive Strike Against Worry


Rose: “Don’t be worried, Mr. Allnut.
Allnut: “Oh, I ain’t worried, miss. I gave myself up for dead back when we started.”

(from The African Queen, a film by John Huston)

The Christian has been crucified with Christ, and therefore is reckoned dead to the world, so when the world offers its problems, the Christian finds worry superfluous: he has given himself up for dead back when he started.

. . . do not be anxious about anything . . .
– Philippians 4:6

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
– Galatians 6:14

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Nov

22

2010

Jared C. Wilson|3:31 pm CT

The Gospel is Awesomer Than Awesome

(19) Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. (20) Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
– Galatians 3:19-20

I preached on Galatians 3:15-22 yesterday and in my prep last week the two verses quoted above gave me the biggest headache. The first part of v.19 I could get a handle on. The second part, I understood fairly well. Verse 20′s conciseness belied the frustration therein. Galatians 3:20 is like Manny Pacquiao: doesn’t look like much, but it will tear you up. At least, it did me, anyway.

I chewed on it and chewed on it. I looked at it from different angles. I stared at it like it was one of those optical illusion pictures they sell at the mall. You know, the ones that look like a swirl of color until you get your gaze into it just right, and then you see the unicorn frolicking by a lighthouse or something? Didn’t work.

Commentaries weren’t much help. Luther has been my homeboy throughout this series on Galatians, but his comment only seemed to extrapolate further on v.19. I wanted to know what God being one had to do with intermediaries involved in dispensing the Law. It seems like the answer should be obvious. But I’m a dumb guy. I felt like a dog who’d just been handed a Rubik’s cube. (Can you picture me tilting my head to the side in curiosity-slash-confusion?)

I don’t have an endless supply of commentaries in my library, but I checked the ones I had access to. I wasn’t helped too much by them. Not even by Calvin, really. Except! The editor’s note in Calvin’s commentary said that another commentator estimated that there were 250 possible interpretations of Galatians 3:20. This was both comforting and deflating. I finally did what I never do: I pulled J. Vernon McGee’s commentary from the shelf. Who reads McGee? Certainly not me. He’s so pedestrian (I said with my nose in the air). And you know what? It’ll be another ten years before I pull him off the shelf again: he skipped over v.20 entirely! Like it didn’t even exist. His commentary goes right from 3:19 to 3:21. Like we wouldn’t notice. He must’ve gotten to it and got scared and decided not to even try.

You know those little pill-looking sponge things you can get at the dollar store for kids? You put them in a glass of water and the plastic capsule dissolves or gives way and the wadded sponge expands and it’s a duckie or a dinosaur or whatever? That’s how (I think) I eventually experienced the awesomeness in Galatians 3:20. I just let it steep. I just gnawed on it (like a dog again) to get to the marrow.

Here’s what I think it means (and I figure I have at least a 1 in 250 shot at being right):
The Law was put in place via angels, through Moses. We see this affirmed in Acts 7:38 and 53 and in Hebrews 2:2. Deuteronomy 33:2 tells us it came to Sinai by “ten thousand holy ones.” That’s a pretty impressive scene. “An intermediary implies more than one.” Yes. There were several links in the chain of command: from God via his ten thousand holy ones to Moses, then to the people. And let’s not forget to factor in the priests and the ceremonial rites and regulations that went along with all that. In order to deliver — and then to minister — the Law, teamwork, as they say, made the dream work.

“But God is one.”

Why is the gospel better than the Law? Why is Jesus more glorious than any other intermediary? Because it is God himself doing the job himself for the people himself all by himself. Consider the exhaustive and exhausting comprehensiveness and rigor that the Law entails. Multiply that by the glory that radiated on Moses’ face, that was transmitted on mountaintop via ten thousand flaming angels. Multiply that precise measurements, a routine cycle of sacrifices, and an every-T-crossed attention to detail. Now consider that Christ Jesus is more glorious, more precise, more fulfilling, more encompassing than all that. And then! Consider that Jesus doesn’t just hold up his end of the covenant of righteousness: he holds up our end too. An intermediary implies more than one. But God is one. He does his job, and ours.

That’s what I think Galatians 3:20 means. I believe that is in keeping with the trajectory of the passage and the context of the book itself, which is to say that the Law is good (for what it’s designed for), but that Jesus is much, much better. The law is awesome, but the gospel is awesomer than awesome.

“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.”

– 2 Corinthians 3:7-10

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Nov

16

2010

Jared C. Wilson|3:50 pm CT

"Lay Off, Mr. Law"

From Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, commenting on 3:19:

[T]he Law is not to operate on a person after he has been humbled and frightened by the exposure of his sins and the wrath of God. We must then say to the Law: “Mister Law, lay off him. He has had enough. You scared him good and proper.” Now it is the Gospel’s turn. Now let Christ with His gracious lips talk to him of better things, grace, peace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

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Nov

15

2010

Jared C. Wilson|4:28 pm CT

Good Preaching Gives Good Songs Context

The argument goes like this: The hymns are outdated. Nobody talks like that any more, nobody knows what these archaic words refer to, nobody sings melodies like that any more; therefore, the solution is to ditch the hymns and sing only contemporary songs.

But I don’t think the reason hymns fell out of favor is because they became old. I think it’s because our preaching got new.

The great hymn writers could tell the gospel story with gospel words in very solid ways. But preaching over time became moralistic stories with pop psychology words in wispy ways. We stopped giving the hymns context. We would sing “Oh how marvelous, Oh how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!” but our preacher had long stopped marveling and wondering about the cross, so the song didn’t make emotional sense. And then it stopped resonating with us on a Spiritual level.

All good hymns declare the gospel and assume gospel context. I suspect the main reason hymns don’t resonate with people much any more is because we don’t preach the gospel.

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Nov

15

2010

Jared C. Wilson|4:23 pm CT

No Such Thing as Easy Believism?

Well, there is, of course. But genuine belief is both simple and impossible.

From Walter Marshall’s classic The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification:

[P]eople are offended at the duty of believing on Christ, as too slight and easy a remedy to cure the leprosy of the soul; they would have some harder thing enjoined them, to the attainment of so great an end as this everlasting salvation. The performance of all the moral law is not accounted work enough for this end {Matt. 19. 17, 20).

However easy the work of believing seemeth to many; yet common experience hath sowed, that men are more easily brought to the most burdensome reasonable and inhuman observations, as the Jews and Christians Galatians were more easily brought to take upon their necks the yoke of Moses law, which none were able to bear (Acts. 15. 10). The heathens were more easily brought to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods (Deut. 12:31). The Papists are brought more easily to their vows of chastity and poverty, and obedience to the most rigorous rules of monastic discipline; to macerate and torture their bodies with fastings, scourges, and pilgrimage; and to bear all the excessive tyranny of the Papal hierarchy, in a multitude of burdensome superstitious and ridiculous devotion.

They that slight the work of faith for its easiness show, that they were never yet made sensible of innumerable sins, and the terrible curse of the law and wrath of God they lied under; and of the darkness and vanity of their minds, the corruption and hardness of their hearts, and their bondage under the power of sin and Satan; and have not been truly humbled; without which they cannot believe in a right manner. Many sound believers have found by experience, that it hath been a very hard matter to bring their hearts to the duty of believing; it hath cost them vigorous struggles and sharp conflicts with their own corruptions, and Satan’s temptations. It is so difficult a work, that we cannot perform it without the mighty working of the Spirit of God in our hearts…

People choose to trust the tenuous but hard work of persona law-keeping, hard-fought obedience accomplished by great effort and sweat, because simply believing is too difficult. If simply believing were easy, more people would do it.

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Nov

09

2010

Jared C. Wilson|11:41 pm CT

What’ll Preach That’s of the Devil

From Martin Luther:

The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, “Amen.”

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