Monthly Archives: May 2012





Jared C. Wilson|10:50 am CT

Against Bloodless Ghosts

John Updike, from his 1963 review of Paul Tillich’s Morality and Beyond:

[T]he net effect is one of ambiguity, even futility — as if the theologian were trying to revivify the Christian corpse with transfusions of Greek humanism, German metaphysics, and psychoanalytical theory. Terms like “grace” and “Will of God” walk through these pages as bloodless ghosts, transparent against the milky background of “beyond” and “being” that Tillich, God forbid, would confuse with the Christian faith.

– from “Tillich,” in Assorted Prose of John Updike (New York: Knopf, 1966), 220.

We too often toss around words like “spirit,” “grace,” “peace,” and “hope,” smooshing them all into some Christian-ese gobbledegook. This is not the Christian faith. The Bible will not let us have these ideas merely as ideas, as things. They are personal. Thus: “He himself is our peace” (Micah 5:5; Eph. 2:14) and “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Let’s not mess with ethereal virtues, no matter how Christianly gauzed. Leave ethereal virtues to vague saviors. Let’s not toy with bloodless ghosts, which time and time again only slip through our grasping fingers like smoke through pitchfork tines. All biblical virtues find their solidity in our real and risen Lord, Jesus the Christ. The Word is real and em(glorified)bodied!

Sinclair Ferguson brings it home:

[R]emember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a “quasi-substance” called “grace.” All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — “Christ clothed in the gospel,” as Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself.






Jared C. Wilson|10:08 am CT

Preaching That is Personal, Passionate, Prophetic

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

– Mark 1:2-4

And this is what preaching is, what pastoring is, really. From the pulpit and in private and all points in between. We are set before their faces, heralding not our ministries, not our gifts, not our talents, not our numbers, not ourselves (2 Cor. 4:5) but him whose sandals we are not fit to untie (Mark 1:7). So we are constantly pointing away in word and deed to the straight path of the Lord, calling all to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins in Christ.

We are not Jesus. Jesus is Jesus. We are like crazily rational people (2 Cor. 5:13) who won’t shut up about Jesus.

So we must be personal (before actual faces), passionate (crying out), and prophetic (preaching Christ).

He must increase, but I must decrease.
– John 3:30






Jared C. Wilson|8:37 am CT

Chasing After What Really Matters – Pastors I Admire: Mike Ayers

This is the fifth and final part in a series running every week. Details at the bottom of the post.

Everything I think and feel about my friend Mike Ayers would be a blog series unto itself. He was my youth pastor for just 2 years of high school until he left to plant a church. When Becky (then my girlfriend, now my wife) and I were having a very difficult time in the church, Mike stood by us. When just two short years into ministry myself I felt burned by the church and ready to throw in the towel on ministry altogether, Mike offered a safe place to grow and learn. He wasn’t the first guy I looked to for mentoring, but he was the first to do it. Mike officiated our wedding. And when our marriage fell apart and our local church counselor seemed afraid to go deeper with us than “husbands should take out the trash without being asked,” even though we lived in another state, Mike counseled us over the phone. As a kid, I was drawn to Mike by two things: His sense of humor and his conviction that the church existed to reach the lost with the gospel. Mike’s conviction about the church has not changed. And neither has my conviction about him: Mike Ayers is one of the kindest, gentlest, wisest, dedicated men of the faith I’ve ever met, and I am privileged to call him a friend. He has saved my bacon more than once. You should probably also know that Mike is the Lead Pastor of The Brook Church Community, the church he planted in Northwest Houston, Texas in 1995, and he is a Professor in and the Chair of the Department of Leadership Studies at College of Biblical Studies in Houston. More importantly, Mike is husband to Tammy and dad to Ryan, Brandon, and Kaley.

Where did you grow up and how did you come to faith in Christ?

I was born in Emporia, Kansas, but after moving to three states because of my father’s job, we eventually settled in my 5th grade year in a small north Texas town called Weatherford. I did not grow up attending church and only knew of God from what I saw on a religious broadcasting station (which frankly frightened me). My parents were blue-collar workers who loved me, but who made very poor decisions in their lives. They were both alcoholics at that time, and there was a lot of chaos and heartache associated with those years. My mother had been married twice before meeting my father, and I had three older half-sisters and two younger brothers.

It was out of the turmoil of my home that I began to have big questions about life and death. My resentment toward my father and mother only complicated the frustrations that I had as a 17 year old without purpose or security.

I began visiting a church with some friends from school. It was there that I met the youth pastor whom I enjoyed and to whom I related. One night he shared his testimony of coming to faith in Christ and that stirred in my heart a desire to know more. After a youth meeting, he gave me a ride home and shared with me the gospel of Jesus. I went up to my bedroom afterwards, laid down on my bed, and began to cry out to the Lord. I got on my knees beside the bed and asked Christ to save me and forgive me. I cried myself to sleep that night in sweet relief of my sin and woke up the next morning knowing that I had been transformed.






Jared C. Wilson|9:00 am CT

When Church Discipline Seems “Strange Fire”

For a greater context on my recent post on discerning repentance, here is a recent piece of mine at the Gospel-Centered Discipleship site called 5 Ways to Keep Church Discipline from Seeming Weird.

Thanks to Jonathan Dodson and company for the opportunity to share.






Jared C. Wilson|1:00 pm CT

Gospel Training for Men with Matt Chandler,

You may be interested in the Immanuel Theology Group’s gospel training for men, a series of events beginning this fall and running into 2013. Hosted by Immanuel Church Nashville, this four-weekend series features:

Jay Sklar teaching on Genesis and Revelation, August 10-11, 2012

Jerram Barrs teaching on Ecclesiastes, December 7-8, 2012

Matt Chandler teaching on Colossians, January 11-12, 2013

Me teaching on Galatians, March 15-16, 2013

More info and registration here.






Jared C. Wilson|11:46 am CT

What Does Jesus Do With Sin?

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
– John 1:29

John the Baptist commands a beholding of the sin-taking-away Lamb. What do we see in this beholding? How exactly does Jesus take away our sin?

Here are 6 things Jesus does with sin:

1. He Condemns It.

Jesus puts a curse on sin. He marks its forehead.

Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Jesus says to sin in no uncertain terms, “Sin, you’re going to die.”

2. He Carries It.

Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer.

1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

3. He Cancels It.

He closes out the account. (Even better, he opens a new one, where we’re always in the black, having been credited with his perfect righteousness.)

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”

That word resentful is more directly “to count up wrongdoing,” which is why some translations of this text say that “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

That last proclamation leads us into this great truth:

4. He Crucifies It

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

At the cross, Jesus dies and takes our sin with him. Only the sin stays dead.

5. He Casts It Away

Jesus takes the corpse and chucks it into the void.

Micah 7:19 – “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

6. He Chooses to Un-remember It.

Jesus is omniscient. He is not forgetful. But he wills to un-remember our sin.

Jeremiah 31:34 – “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Astonishing. We bring our sin to him, repentant and in faithful confession, and he says, “What’re you talking about?”

This is how Jesus forgives sin: He condemns it, carries it, cancels it, kills it, casts it, and clean forgets it. If we’ll confess it.

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”






Jared C. Wilson|5:05 pm CT

5 Old Sermons You Should Read

There are more than five old sermons we should read, but here are just five.

Thomas Chalmers, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection (pdf)

Jonathan Edwards, The Excellency of Christ

Charles Spurgeon, God’s Will and Man’s Will

Martin Luther, Two Kinds of Righteousness

John Flavel, Christ Altogether Lovely (pdf)






Jared C. Wilson|9:00 am CT

“This Will Matter Forever; I Must Give My Life to This” – Pastors I Admire: Ray Ortlund

This is Part 4 in a series running every Monday. Details at the bottom of the post.

I won’t give my friend Ray Ortlund a long introduction, not to spare you, but to spare him, because I know he doesn’t like it. I will just say that meeting him in Nashville, TN when I was an idiot church planter was one of the defining moments of my life and that God used Ray time and time again during those few years we were residents of the same town to restore my joy in ministry and my sense of calling. I’ll forever be grateful for that. And for him. Ray is husband to Jani; dad to Eric, Krista, Dane, and Gavin; pastor of Immanuel Church Nashville, and author of some good books. He is a great man of God.

Where did you grow up and how did you come to faith in Christ?

I grew up in Pasadena, California. My dad led me to the Lord at the family breakfast table one morning when I was six years old. He explained that I was a sinner — I understood that — and that Jesus had died for my sins, and would I open my heart to receive him as my Savior? I bowed my head and prayed a six-year old prayer and accepted the Lord. An almost physical load of guilt seemed to be lifted from upon me. I experienced divine forgiveness.

Tell us how you knew you were called into pastoral ministry.

My freshman year in college some Campus Crusade guys got me involved in evangelism and discipleship, and I loved it. Absolutely loved it. A new thought entered my mind: “This will matter forever. I must give my life to this.” That summer back in Pasadena I informed the leaders of my church of my new sense of call, and they began walking with me through the process that led to my ordination seven years later.






Jared C. Wilson|6:21 pm CT

John Piper on 1 Peter 3:21 and Baptismal Regeneration

Here is the text:

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .

– 1 Peter 3:21

And here are Piper’s words on it:

In verse 19, Peter reminds the readers that, in the spirit, Jesus had gone to preach to the people in Noah’s day, whose spirits are now in prison awaiting judgment. (I don’t take the position that verse 19 refers to Jesus’ preaching in hell between Good Friday and Easter.) But there was tremendous evil and hardness in Noah’s day and only eight people enter the ark for salvation from the judgment through water.

Now Peter sees a comparison between the waters of the flood and the waters of baptism. Verse 21 is the key verse: “And corresponding to that [the water of the flood], baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Now there are some denominations that love this verse because it seems at first to support the view called “baptismal regeneration.” That is, baptism does something to the candidate: it saves by bringing about new birth. So, for example, one of the baptismal liturgies for infants says, “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks.”

Now the problem with this is that Peter seems very aware that his words are open to dangerous misuse. This is why, as soon as they are out of his mouth, as it were, he qualifies them lest we take them the wrong way. In verse 21 he does say, “Baptism now saves you” – that sounds like the water has a saving effect in and of itself apart from faith. He knows that is what it sounds like and so he adds immediately, “Not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (Or your version might have: “the pledge of a good conscience toward God”).

But the point seems to be this: When I speak of baptism saving, Peter says, I don’t mean that the water, immersing the body and cleansing the flesh, is of any saving effect; what I mean is that, insofar as baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience,” (or is “a pledge of a good conscience toward God”), it saves. Paul said in Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord – everyone who appeals to the Lord – will be saved.” Paul does not mean that faith alone fails to save. He means that faith calls on God. That’s what faith does. Now Peter is saying, “Baptism is the God-ordained, symbolic expression of that call to God. It is an appeal to God – either in the form of repentance or in the form of commitment.”






Jared C. Wilson|2:39 pm CT

How Do You Know When Someone Is Repentant?: 12 Signs

How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance:

A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships. (p. 72)

These are good indicators, and I believe we can add a few more.

Here are 12 signs we have a genuinely repentant heart:

1. We name our sin as sin and do not spin it or excuse it, and further, we demonstrate “godly sorrow,” which is to say, a grief chiefly about the sin itself, not just a grief about being caught or having to deal with the consequences of sin.

2. We actually confessed before we were caught or the circumstantial consequences of our sin caught up with us.

3. If found out, we confess immediately or very soon after and “come clean,” rather than having to have the full truth pulled from us. Real repentance is typically accompanied by transparency.

4. We have a willingness and eagerness to make amends. We will do whatever it takes to make things right and to demonstrate we have changed.

5. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized, spending as much time as is required listening to them without jumping to defend ourselves.

6. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized as they process their hurt, and we don’t pressure them or “guilt” them into forgiving us.

7. We are willing to confess our sin even in the face of serious consequences (including undergoing church discipline, having to go to jail, or having a spouse leave us).

8. We may grieve the consequences of our sin but we do not bristle under them or resent them. We understand that sometimes our sin causes great damage to others that is not healed in the short term (or perhaps ever).

9. If our sin involves addiction or a pattern of behavior, we do not neglect to seek help with a counselor, a solid twelve-step program, or even a rehabilitation center.

10. We don’t resent accountability, pastoral rebuke, or church discipline.

11. We seek our comfort in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, not simply in being free of the consequences of our sin.

12. We are humble and teachable.

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

– 2 Corinthians 7:9-11