Monthly Archives: February 2011

 

Feb

28

2011

Jared C. Wilson|12:12 pm CT

Christ at the Center of Revival


He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
– John 16:14

“In all companies, on other days, on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of JESUS CHRIST, the glory of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, his glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of God’s word, the sweetness of the views of his perfections, &c.”

– Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions

It is the Spirit’s raison d’etre to shine the light on Christ. The Spirit is often called the “shy” Person of the Trinity because of this. He is content — no, zealous — to minister to the Church the Father’s blessings in the gospel of Jesus. He quickens us to desire Christ, illuminates the Scripture’s revelation of Christ, empowers us to receive Christ, and imparts Christ to us even in his own indwelling. For this reason, then, any church or movement’s claim of revival better have exaltation of Christ at its center, or it is not genuine revival.

At the front end of Paul’s excursus to the Corinthians on the sign-gift charismata, he reminds us: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

What we often see in false revivals is the exaltation of particular figures or the worship of a worship experience itself. You can turn on nearly any religious television programming and see this work in action. Christ is given lip service but exhilaration, personal revelation, warm fuzzies, and spectacular manifestations are the real objects of worship. Charlatans are at the helm, and they purport to wield the Holy Spirit as if He were pixie dust. In these cases and others, it is not the Spirit stirring, but the spirit of the antichrist.

Edwards writes elsewhere:

When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was born of the Virgin, and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God.

Revival given of the Spirit of the living God, places Christ always and ever at the center.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
– John 4:2-3

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Feb

28

2011

Jared C. Wilson|12:10 pm CT

Ad Hominem: or, Rob Bell Needs New PR

Without commenting either way on the whole “Is Rob Bell a universalist?” brouhaha, I would say it is rather interesting to read the endless defensive posturing of Bell’s admirers against the relentless offensive posturing of the (cue scare-quotes) “neo-Reformed.” John Piper says “Jump” and we say “How high?” We are lockstep with the Gospel Coalition. Calvinism is the Borg and we’ve been assimilated, no longer thinking for ourselves.

Does this happen? Undoubtedly. Yet a bit of self-reflection might have Bell’s many self-appointed PR managers wondering if they are doing the same. Four fingers pointing back at you and all that.*

What I mean is, it is interesting to read the accusations of mindless, lockstep fandom against some from the eager fandom of another. John Piper has “minions,” one of Rob Bell’s minions defenders said.

Just ’cause you’re not “of Cephas” doesn’t mean you’re not “of Apollos,” is what I’m sayin’.

* We should all do this introspection.

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Feb

24

2011

Jared C. Wilson|2:10 pm CT

Discontentment

Dearest Murktooth, my poppet, my pigsnie,

I am happy to charge you with the present task for your assigned patient. I am happy, because it is a rather easy task, evidence of your still remedial aptitude for temptations, which is itself evidence of your patient’s lack of growth. Your stagnation is your success, then, as it is so often in the infernal arts.

The task before you is this: stimulate discontent in your patient. This task is easy for not a few reasons, perhaps the chief of which is that you will have so much help from the sweet cacophony of messages from the surrounding culture, urgings and invitations to your patient to “Try this” and “Experience that,” to buy one and get more along with it, to flit about from promise to empty promise, to become a dilettante of the world’s conveyor belt of delights.
One of the wonders of this onslaught of advertisement is that it doesn’t just pitch products to fulfill needs, but also pitches the needs themselves. Your work, Murktooth, is not cut out for you. It is laid out like buy-in-bulk candy for an untended baby.

Tend to your braying baby, Murktooth. Tell him that he deserves things that are designed to be indulgences. Tell him to desire things he would not have thought to desire himself, and then to see these desires as non-negotiables for his own happiness.

The clearest path to cultivating discontentment in your patient is to speak to him purely in terms of his “rights.” Of course, the Enemy’s missive speaks of right most often as an adjective—right belief, right conduct, righteousness, and the like—not a noun, but you will find your patient’s inward bent susceptible and hospitable to this concept. It should not take much pressing to plant favorably in his heart the idea that he has a right to comfort, to convenience, to material goods, to whatever his appetites and inclinations place their crosshairs on.

The Enemy promises a peace that passes comprehension. Promise your patient instead a peace that passes through consumption. And more consumption. This will seem more likely to his fallen reasoning, more empowering to his fallen confidence. In this way not only will your patient be discontent in “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities,” but in human power, flattery, comfort, accumulation, and success as well.

Your master,

Legion

This letter originally appeared in the February 2011 Tabletalk, themed Letters From the Abyss.

I explore related themes in Abide.

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Feb

23

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:55 pm CT

New England Then, as Now — And Now, as Then


“But what a dead and barren time has it now been, nor a great while, with all the churches of the Reformation. The golden showers have been restrained; the influences of the Spirit suspended; and the consequence has been, that the gospel has not had any eminent success. Conversions have been rare and dubious; few sons and daughters have been born to God and the hearts of Christians not so quickened, warmed and refreshed under the ordinances, as they have been. That this has been the sad state of religion among us in this land, for many years…”

This is a description of New England — of Massachusetts, specifically. Dry, spiritually parched, not much receptive to the gospel. It is a description of New England in the early 1700′s.

Then, as now, the spiritual landscape was discouraging. Then the Spirit did something extraordinary through the work of Jonathan Edwards and others in Massachusetts specifically and New England in general. This description is from W. Cooper in his Preface to one of Edwards’s works, describing the state of the place before the Spirit began His Great Awakening.

Now, as then, we are dry.

Now, as then, we only need the Spirit’s inclination to see revival.

Because of this, now, as then, things are not hopeless.

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Feb

22

2011

Jared C. Wilson|7:36 pm CT

How the Gospel Establishes the Law

This reminds me of what Theodorus long ago replied to Philocles, who was often hinting that he preached doctrines which tended to licentiousness because he enlarged diligently and frequently upon faith in Jesus Christ: “I preach salvation by Jesus Christ,” said Theodorus; “and give me leave to ask, whether you know what salvation by Christ means?” Philocles began to blush, and would have declined an answer.

“No,” said Theodorus, “you must permit me to insist upon a reply. Because if it is a right one, it will justify me and my conduct; if it is a wrong one, it will prove that you blame you know not what, and that you have more reason to inform yourself than to censure others.”

This disconcerted him still more, upon which Theodorus proceeded. “Salvation by Jesus Christ means not only a deliverance from the guilt, but also from the power of sin. `He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and redeem us from our vain conversation,’ as well as deliver us from the wrath to come. Go now, Philocles, and tell the world that, by teaching these doctrines, I promote the cause of licentiousness. And you will be just as rational, just as candid, just as true, as if you should affirm that the firemen, by running the engine and pouring in water, burnt your house to the ground, and laid your furniture in ashes.”

Indeed, both the doctrine and the grace of faith, are evidently, yea, and designedly injurious to heathen morality as well as pharisaic righteousness. But with regard to true morality, which forms a necessary part of godliness or evangelical holiness, instead of being, in the smallest degree, injurious to this, they directly tend to it; yea, and they are the necessary, the fundamental principles of it. Sooner might fire be without heat, and a solid body be without weight, than a true faith of the gospel be without evangelical holiness.

– John Colquhoun, “The Establishment of the Law by the Gospel”

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Feb

22

2011

Jared C. Wilson|12:47 pm CT

GospelEPIC (or Something Like That)

I am in Nashville today for a writers’ meeting at LifeWay in support of a new gospel-centered adult Bible study curriculum edited by Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax. Here is a bit from Ed on this work:

… [We] have not yet settled on a name for this curriculum. The working title was originally Telios and we’ve recently been calling it GospelEPIC. But, we are not 100% sure. So I need your help. Take a look at the description of this curriculum and tell us what you think we should name it. Is GospelEPIC a good choice, or would you suggest something else?

DESCRIPTION

A new curriculum that will provide the basics of a biblical theology in a systematic way over the course of three years through frequent retellings of the overarching storyline of Scripture (in two formats: Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration and God-Man-Christ-Response).

CORE VALUES

1. Deep, but not Dry.

* We’re seeking to be theologically robust and yet very accessible to anyone who studies this material. We want to change the definition of “deep” to mean more than obscure Bible facts or practical tidbits for daily living. Instead, by “deep,” we mean “going deeper into the gospel and its implications until it confronts the idols of our hearts.”

* One of the ways we will succeed at providing curriculum that is deep and compelling is by elevating participants’ view of the Scriptures, so that they will subsequently engage the Scriptures faithfully on their own. We understand that how we treat Scripture will influence the way participants study Scripture. Therefore, our desire is to model a text-driven approach to biblical exposition and theology.

2. Christ-Centered.

* We don’t want a week to go by without Jesus being present in our lessons. God is the primary actor in the grand narrative of Scripture, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is the climax of this story.

* Though we seek to be Christ-centered, we will not force gospel categories or incorporate the cross into lessons haphazardly. Instead, we hope to approach the Old Testament in a hermeneutically responsible way that follows the model of Jesus on the road to Emmaus: all the Scriptures testify to Christ. We will approach New Testament ethics and commands by seeing them as implications that flow from the gospel announcement of Christ crucified and raised.

3. Story-focused.

* Being Christ-centered naturally brings our focus to the overarching Story that the Bible tells in four parts: Creation / Fall / Redemption / Restoration.

* Many Christians are familiar with certain Bible stories, but they are not always sure how the stories fit together into the Bible as a whole. By focusing on the grand narrative of Scripture, we hope that this curriculum will help us connect the dots and think as Christians formed by the great Story that tells the truth about our world. We also believe this approach will provide a hope-filled outlook on our world because of the future God has promised His people.

4. Mission-driven.

* Telling the story of the Bible is impossible without leading to mission, as the story of the gospel reveals the heart of our missionary God and His desire to save people of every tribe, tongue, and nation.

* Weekly gatherings are not the goal of the mission; they are the means by which we connect with one another and learn God’s Word so that we are equipped to love God and neighbor while spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. The goal is not to fill our heads with theological truth but to fuel our hearts with passion to join God on His mission to bring people to Himself. Keeping a focus on how the gospel leads us to mission is a crucial aspect of how we apply the Bible to our lives.

* One way we hope to facilitate a mission-driven emphasis is by encouraging participants of GospelEPIC to collaborate with likeminded churches in carrying out the Great Commission and living according to the gospel’s implications. Many times, we consider mission in terms of individual calling. We hope to keep the mission emphasis ecclesiological, so that churches will think of ways they can make a difference locally and globally – proclaiming the truth of the gospel in word and demonstrating the gospel in deed.

I’m very excited and hopeful about what God may do through this work. We are hoping and praying it will bear much fruit, and I am immensely blessed by the privilege to contribute.

If you’re a user of LifeWay material — or even if you’re not — keep an eye peeled for its debut.

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Feb

21

2011

Jared C. Wilson|11:25 am CT

Happy Birthday to My Baby


It is Becky’s thirty-(cough!) birthday today. It is difficult to put into words just how special God’s grace is to me in and through her. And that’s exactly what she is. Since our dating relationship began almost 18 years ago and through our marriage (15 years this June) she has been the single most earthly evidence of God’s ministry in the gospel to me. We have walked through much together; many times, she walked while I cowered. Still she blesses me despite my unworthiness; still she forgives, still she helps me repent, still she lavishes love.

How can I describe her? Those who know Becky know she is a force of nature. She is loud in a lovely way, adorably animated, vibrant and vivid. She feels deeply, cares greatly. She is a mother with unflagging interest in even the most mundane interests of our daughters. She finds fulfillment in fulfilling her children. A brilliant businesswoman when she had to be (and still), her ultimate desire is to take care of her family. She is the hostess with the mostess! A Loozy-anna gal, she cannot cook a small meal and so is happiest when our house is full of friends laughing, loving, and eating.

She is an endless supply of lovability. Here’s something I have appreciated relatively recently:
Her eye is remarkable. Photography is a talent she has developed only in the last few years, but I remember way back when her knack for putting together an eye-catching bulletin board for the youth group or for “visual merchandising” in the Baptist Book Store made people stop and pay attention, whether they were walking down a hall or watching from afar in the strange world of the corporate office of the Baptist Sunday School Board. And while that artistry lay dormant for a decade, I see now the uncanny way with her camera she notices tear-drop sized berries emerging from a snowbank or the shadow of a sapling across a sunlit stream. I am able to look; she is able to see. I see a treelined road; her eye captures a Narnian path, an invitation to magic. I love this about her. It is a long-running inside joke between us that Becky has “beguiling blue eyes,” but I suppose it’s only fitting that those beguiling eyes capture beguiling images.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the ways Becky makes ordinary life extraordinary. If I were to tell of all her amazingness, I suppose all the blog posts in the world could not contain them. But here is one more, and the diamond in her crown: Becky desperately loves Jesus, and she feels his gospel in her veins. Christ is precious to her.
And she is precious to me.

Happy Birthday, baby. I love you.

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Feb

17

2011

Jared C. Wilson|4:07 pm CT

And So Beware Innovation

The soundest and safest Christian reflection consists in “what you have received, not what you have thought up; a matter not of ingenuity, but of doctrine; not of private acquisition, but of public Tradition; a matter brought to you, not put forth by you, in which you must not be the author but the guardian, not the founder but the sharer, not the leader, but the follower.”

– Vincent of Lerins, quoted in Christopher Hall, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers (Intervarsity, 2002), 27.

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Feb

17

2011

Jared C. Wilson|2:41 pm CT

Facebook Note

Every day I receive friend requests on Facebook from folks I don’t know. I assume these are spurred mainly through the blog or my books or what-have-you. First, please know I appreciate your wanting to connect. Secondly, please also know that it’s nothing personal, but I have decided to limit my Facebook friends to people I either actually know in real life or at least have met once or connected with via the Internet for writing projects, etc.

I do, however, have a public Facebook page that anybody is welcome to “like.” If you are interested in being Facebook friends with me, that is really the best place for us to connect. You can find it here: www.facebook.com/authorJaredWilson.

Thanks.

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Feb

16

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:13 pm CT

Like Its Source, Awesome

“As Jonathan conceived of grace given by God, however, it was, like its source, awesome. Where some might have pictured it as a sweet and gentle stream from which to drink as one saw fit, Jonathan saw God’s grace as a tide of goodness that overwhelmed the sinner. God, if He were truly divine, could not be small; grace, if it were truly grace, could not be weak.”

– Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God (Chicago: Moody, 2010), 62.

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