Monthly Archives: December 2011

 

Dec

25

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:47 pm CT

A Personal and Gospel Meditation on Christmas Day

There was a day we piled up presents under the tree
A festive Babel tower
Tumbling down into the confusion
Of interests with expiration dates
And the speaking of different logos and brands:
“I am of Apple.”
“I am of Sony.”
“I am of Chicken Dance Elmo.”

There was a day we spoke more languages still
Mine of sin and hers of pain
Till it all came tumbling down.
I laid with my children in their room at night,
Michael Card singing sweet gospel lullabies on the stereo
And struggled to believe that
“I AM” was also “I am for you.”

What God had joined together
I had torn apart.

This morning in the tumbled detritus
Of wrappings and ribbons
I watched my three beauties play Chinese checkers
And snow falling gently outside
The big picture window,
And I thought,
“I am of Jesus.”

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Dec

24

2011

Jared C. Wilson|7:26 pm CT

The Fullness of Deity Dwells Babely

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
– Luke 1:35

Really, the Advent season runs from Genesis 3 onward, and Christmas Day is when the miracle prophesied in Luke 1:35 is fulfilled. For those of us who believe personhood can be derived from Psalm 139:13-15 and Job 31:15, we believe the Incarnation did not begin at Jesus’ birth but at his conception. And if this is so, when Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” we know that the fullness of deity dwelled in fertilized ovum.

Will the Empire State Building occupy a doghouse? Will a killer whale fit inside an ant?

And here we are told that omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, utter eternalness and holiness dwelled in a tiny person. This makes Santa coming down a chimney seem a logistical cakewalk.

“The head of all rule and authority” (Col. 2:10) had one of those jelly-necked wobbly baby heads. The government rested on his baby-fatted shoulders (Is. 9:6).

This miracle of addition is important. We must hold it tightly or lose the bigness of the Incarnation. God came as unborn child so that Christ would experience all of humanity. And he experienced all of humanity so that we might receive all of him for all of us.

If God came as a vulnerable, needful, weak baby, we have no need to fear for our own vulnerability, needfulness, and weakness. He emptied himself (Phil. 2:7) so that we would not see our own emptiness as a hopeless cause. “As you received him” — desperate, helpless, desirous — “so walk in him” (Col. 2:6). The miracle of the God-Baby proclaims the gospel’s specialty: rescue of the helpless.

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Dec

24

2011

Jared C. Wilson|4:40 pm CT

C.S. Lewis’s "The Nativity"

The Nativity
by C.S. Lewis

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Saviour where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed),
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!

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Dec

22

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:00 pm CT

We Need More Worship Wars, Not Fewer

Self-denying humility ought to show up in the way we worship together. Thankfully, we don’t hear as much these days about worship wars in Christian churches as we did just a few years ago, but they are still there. For years I thought this phenomenon was the bane of the “make it up as you go along” whirl of low-church evangelical Protestantism, and mostly it is. But even with a set traditional liturgy, Roman Catholics and other groups often experience the same kinds of tensions.

Maybe you’re like me, reared to have the worship music tastes of a seventy-five-year-old woman. That’s because, I think, a seventy-five-year-old woman was picking out the hymns and gospel songs in the church where I grew up. I tear up when I sing “Just As I Am” or “To God Be the Glory.” And I’m left cold by what some people call the “majestic old hymns.” They sound like what watercress-sandwich-eating Episcopalians from Connecticut would listen to (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And so many of the contemporary songs sound as if they were written by commercial jingle writers, trying desperately to find words to rhyme with “Jesus” (“Sees us?” “Never leave us?” “Diseases?”). I’m not saying aesthetics don’t matter in worship. Worship is, after all, commanded to be offered with “reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28). I am saying our varying critiques of musical forms are often just simple narcissism disguised as concern about theological and liturgical downgrade.

We need more worship wars, not fewer. What if the war looked like this in your congregation—the young singles petitioning the church to play more of the old classics for the sake of the elderly people, and the elderly people calling on the leadership to contemporize for the sake of the young new believers? This would signal a counting of others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), which comes from the Spirit of the humiliated, exalted King, Christ (Phil. 2:5-11).

When I insist that the rest of the congregation serve as backup singers in my own little nostalgic hit parade of back-home Mississippi hymns, I am worshiping in the spirit all right, but not the Holy Spirit. I am worshiping myself, in the spirit of self-exaltation. The church negates the power of the third temptation when we remind ourselves that we all have this devilish tendency and cast it aside whether in worship planning or missions or budget decisions.

– Russell Moore, Tempted and Tried (Crossway, 2011), 149-150.

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Dec

21

2011

Jared C. Wilson|6:38 pm CT

What Are New Englanders Like?

In 1997 Vision New England and the Ockenga Institute at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary conducted a research project to identify composite traits of New England culture. As they noted in Church Network News’ published report, each of these traits can be true of other parts of the nation (and world), so the real key for missional ministry in New England is exegeting why’s and how’s. And as anyone in or familiar with New England can tell you, there is not really one New England “culture” but really different cultures, plural. Nevertheless, there are traits generally true about all New England, and together, these 8 traits give a good outline.

1. New Englanders Tend to Resist Change

2. New Englanders Tend to Value Tradition

3. New Englanders Tend to be Roman Catholic– I would add that this largely means that when New Englanders note a religious affiliation of any kind, Roman Catholicism dominates. In my neck of the woods, the irreligious vastly outnumber the religious of any kind, but for those who specify a religion on surveys, Roman Catholicism is most noted. I’d also add that, in my neck of the woods at least, more self-identified Protestants are active with church attendance than self-identified Catholics. So this trait can be misleading if misread.

4. New Englanders Tend to Have a Secular Mindset

5. New Englanders Tend to be Self-Reliant

6. New Englanders Tend to be Reserved– This is the biggest difference I have experienced between Vermont and the South.

7. New Englanders Tend to Favor Insiders

8. New Englanders Tend to Operate Locally

The juxtaposition of traits 2 and 4 makes for some really interesting dynamics in the small rural town where I pastor, for instance.

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Dec

21

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:25 pm CT

Announcing Seven Daily Sins – Giveaway Update

My Bible study follow-up to Abide is called Seven Daily Sins, and it officially drops January 2 from Threads. Here is the pitch:

Pride. Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Envy. Sloth. Wrath. These are the “seven deadly sins” made popular by ancient theologians and contemporary movies. We’ve all dealt with these sins at one time or another—whether we realize it or not — and those of us who follow Jesus would like to stop dealing with them once and for all.

The bad news, according to author Jared Wilson, is that we can’t shake any of the seven deadly sins. Willpower can’t solve the problem; neither will behavior modification. That’s because the seven deadly sins aren’t things we do — they’re who we are. We carry them around in our hearts 24 hours a day . . .

The good news is . . . well, the Good News. The power of Christ’s perfect obedience, sinless sacrifice, and glorified resurrection gives us the freedom to confidently diagnose the root of our sins, boldly kill those sins through gospel-fueled repentance, and joyfully walk in newness of life.

A lot of people will be making New Year’s resolutions in the next couple of weeks to in some way be better people. Let’s go deeper. Maybe Seven Daily Sins can help with that.

The Giveaway
I’m gonna give away two copies. To be eligible, all you have to do is comment leaving your New Year’s resolution. You can be serious or silly, I don’t care. One comment entry per person. I will randomly select two comments sometime on Friday and notify winners via email and in this space. (If you don’t leave an email address in the comment form, that’s fine; just make sure to check back here at the end of the day Friday.)

UPDATE: GIVEAWAY WINNERS
Two winners with their resolutions are below:
Andy: I resolve to step up the creativity that I put towards planning date nights with the wifey.
David Qaoud: To read a book a week.

Andy and David, please email your preferred shipping addresses to jared AT gospeldrivenchurch DOT com, and I’ll get your books to you asap.

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Dec

20

2011

Jared C. Wilson|4:41 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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Dec

20

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:23 pm CT

Redeemed to Perpetuate the Name

Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”
– Ruth 4:9-10

Boaz is that rare man who does things because God lives (Ruth 3:13). So behind and within all of his provision and care for Ruth is the desire to glorify God. We see this even in his expressed motivation upon winning Naomi’s land and Ruth’s hand from the redeemer with first dibs. He says he has purchased them to perpetuate the names of dead relatives. Clearly Boaz is a “worthy man” (Ruth 2:1) and not just in the sense of financial means.

Were it not for Boaz’s larger-than-self vision, we would not have the story of Ruth. Her faithfulness, her commitment, her optimism, her submission are to her praise and God’s, but Boaz’s faithfulness — his full-of-faith-ness — in redeeming her puts her on the map. Against the dark backdrop of the book of Judges’ lawless grotesqueries, in which every man did what was right in his own eyes, Boaz shines with the predawn radiance of God’s glory in Christ.

Do you know the name of the kinsman redeemer first in line?

Exactly. In Ruth 4:1, Boaz calls him “friend,” and the Hebrew behind that word roughly translates to “so and so.” Whether his reasons for passing on Ruth were good or bad, old so-and-so’s name is not perpetuated. But we know who Elimelech, Mahlon, Naomi, and Ruth are because Boaz honored them by honoring God.

And because Boaz honored them by honoring God, his own name is perpetuated, and his son’s, and his son’s son, and his son’s son’s son, and so on until the lot of them spill into Matthew 1, and what we learn there is that Boaz has redeemed Naomi’s plot of land and Ruth’s widowed hand in order to perpetuate the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

And this is why any of us are redeemed: not just so that we’d be personally forgiven and fulfilled, but so that God’s name and Christ’s lordship would be magnified in every nook and cranny of our lives spreading into every square inch of the world until we spill into the life and world to come. We are redeemed for his namesake and to perpetuate his name.

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Dec

14

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:33 pm CT

5 Ways Wives Can Encourage Their Husbands

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.

– Proverbs 31:10-12

1. Praise Him Verbally
Private nagging and public nitpicking are common temptations for wives of husbands who are sinners, by which I mean wives, but a wife ought to know that this is Chinese water torture on his heart. Most men carry around in their souls the question “Do I have what it takes?” The gospel answers this question, “No, but Jesus does, and what’s his is yours.” This is the only acceptable way to answer in the “negative.” When you nitpick and nag, you give mouthpiece to the accuser who wants your husband to know not only does he not have what it takes, he is worthless because of it. So find ways to constructively criticize and help him repent, but more than that, tell him what you like about him, how you find him attractive or admirable, how you respect him or are impressed by him. Outdo him in showing honor (Rom. 12:10).

2. Submit to His Leadership

This is not a call to be a doormat, but in my pastoral experience I encounter many a wife who says she wants her husband to lead her but then makes it clear in some way that this will only occur when she agrees with his decision. There are few things more demoralizing than a demand to lead with no commitment to follow. Instead, if your husband is not leading you into sin, your followship of your husband is a reflection of your trust in God. Peter writes:

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:5-6)

3. Reject Relational Legalism
If your husband always feels as though he is only in your good graces when he has performed to your standards or met your expectations, he will not see you as his lover, friend, or partner, but as his boss. Do you know how deeply you want to feel approved of despite your flaws, sins, and failures, that your husband would know the real you and love that you? He wants the same thing, even if he never expresses it.

4. Take an Interest
It’s not always that your husband doesn’t like to talk. It’s just that perhaps he’s learned that your favorite subjects are things he doesn’t have much to say about. Communicating with you in ways that edify and engage you is his command to obey with joy; communicating with him in ways that edify and engage him is yours. This might mean asking him questions about sports or hobbies or movies or power tools. Or maybe it doesn’t mean talking but sitting on the couch to watch the game with him or invading his “man cave”* with your presence but not your agenda.

5. Make Love to Him
This is not universally true, but it is generally true: The number one way a husband feels encouraged is when his wife has sex with him. I put it last because it’s likely the touchiest point (no pun intended), but it is (again, generally speaking) top of the list. If you’re thinking, “Well, for some husbands maybe, but not mine,” ask him. For most men, sexual intimacy is directly wired to feelings of encouragement, confidence, approval, attractiveness, and self-esteem. The things that you likely need in order to feel open to sexual intimacy are the things he typically feels afterwards — closeness, respect, approval. I know it’s weird that God set it up that way, but I think he did so that we would serve each other graciously with our bodies, learning to put each other first in a neat little “No, after you” kind of dance. In any event, one of the chief ways — if not the chief way — you can build up your husband is by bedding down with him.

Carolyn Mahaney’s chapter “Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Wife Needs to Know” in the Piper/Taylor book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ is excellent on this subject. You can download the entire book for free here.

* Dudes, if you have a man cave the sole function of which is for you to spend regular amounts of time sequestered from your family, you need to repent and reorder your priorities.


Previously: 5 Ways Husbands Can Sanctify Their Wives

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Dec

14

2011

Jared C. Wilson|2:46 pm CT

I Won’t Pre-Label Revival

“It happens over and over again that the gospel ‘comes alive’ in a way that the evangelist had never dreamed of, and has effects which he never anticipated. The gospel is addressed to the human person as a human person in all the uncountable varieties of predicaments in which human beings find themselves.

The gospel has a sovereignty of its own and is never an instrument in the hands of the evangelist. Or, to put it more truly, the Holy Spirit, by whose secret working alone the gospel ‘comes alive,’ is not under the evangelist’s control. The wind blows freely.”

– Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

I really wish people would stop scheduling revivals. It never works. God doesn’t synchronize watches with us.

I won’t pre-label an event “revival” or an “experience of the Spirit” or anything like that, because a) I am not prescient enough to where the Spirit will blow next, and b) if I were to label something “revival,” I would be both tempted to stir things up myself to suit the name and second guessing whether anyone’s reaction was a result of the Spirit’s spontaneous move or a response to the expectation to react.

I want to raise the sail for revival in desperate prayer, godly sorrow, and dogged proclamation of the joys in Christ, but I don’t have enough bluster to move the boat myself.

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