I am grateful for Kevin DeYoung’s update on the Young, Restless and Reformed crowd/network/resurgence/movement/whatever and for his influence generally.  I am grateful for this entire phenomenon we are witnessing, which I believe is a wonderful work of God in our time.  It is certainly not a natural state of affairs, to be expected and taken for granted.  It is a precious stewardship from the hand of the Lord.  Our responsibility is to parlay it into more, for the blessing of the next generation.  Thank you, Kevin, for serving us to that end.

I only wish to add a thought to the third of Kevin’s three “challenges ahead.”  I will also propose two other challenges not listed there.  I am not implying that Kevin doesn’t respect these matters.  But no one post can say everything.

Kevin asks searching questions about our understanding of sanctification.  Let me add: For those churches who affirm the third use of the law, how can that theology be pursued without inadvertently counteracting the freedom of the gospel?  In the practical reality of a church culture, how can that theology avoid feeling like constant church discipline?  In what ways can a church who embraces the third use of the law be an experience of freedom that feels like freedom?  A question that is never far from my mind, in view of Romans 8:2 and Galatians 5:1, is this: Do our churches look like people who have been freed from anything?  How does God want us today to “remove every obstruction from my people’s way” (Isaiah 57:14)?  How can our authoritative pursuit of true holiness tend toward a generation of people so unleashed from everything damning that they become like “calves leaping from their stalls” (Malachi 4:2)?  Unless our holiness is also an experience of freedom, we cannot expect to see the flood of converts we long for and pray for.

And let me propose two further “challenges ahead.”

One, how will we hold together for the long haul?  The more we work together and the better we get to know one another, the more we will disappoint each other.  Given human weakness, this is inevitable.  What will hold us together when we see something alienating in another, five years from now, ten years from now?  I am not talking about erosion of theological convictions.  I am not talking about blatant sins.  I am talking about the pervasive impact of sin upon us all, which we experience in the personal annoyances which so often complicate otherwise fruitful disagreements — for example, church growth strategies, ways of translating the Bible, and other valid questions.  How can we safeguard our relationships and partnerships so that we don’t fragment into aloofness?  Obviously, it is essential that we stay low before the Lord, preserve a sense of theological proportion, and strive for humble self-awareness.  But can we talk about this together?  Can we agree on general strategies for pressing through pain into even deeper unity, for the Lord’s sake?  Do we have relationships that need gentle repair right now?

Two, how will we avoid the disaster of success by the power of the flesh?  If it is possible – and I believe it is – for us to “succeed” in the Lord’s work not by his wisdom and strength but by our own brains and abilities, then we must guard against ourselves, not just our sins but also our strengths.  If the Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way, what is our plan for prayer together, beyond perfunctory prayer?  Are we agitating with one another, and with the Lord himself (Isaiah 62:6-7), for the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus in ways that go far beyond our own capacity for impact?  Reformed people should, by the force of their own principles, be the weakest, the humblest, the most prayerful — and the most optimistic.  Even if we could succeed on our own, we wouldn’t want to.  What makes us happy is being caught up in what only God can do.  That is indeed what we are witnessing in this phenomenon we call Young Restless and Reformed.  Let’s follow that vector together.  I cannot believe we would ever regret costly investments in this way.

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17 thoughts on “Thank you, Kevin”

  1. Rick Owen says:

    Great comments, Ray! Thank you so much for adding that!

    On the third use of the law in sanctification, I’m shameless about plugging New Covenant Theology. Here’s a good starting point: http://resources.grantedministries.org/article/this_is_my_beloved_son_hear_him_j_zens.pdf

    On the grit and grind of the challenges ahead . . . “Lord teach us to pray!” Reformation and revival among stinky, stupid sheep seems to have always been imprecise and unpredictable. The history of the church has been prettified too much in some instances to reflect the whole truth which John Bunyan told more realistically about our dangerous journey. Christ’s own humiliation, replete with persecution and desertion, is our model, which was confirmed in the lives of the apostles.

    Therefore, in each of the preceding cases, let us fix our eyes on Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, rejoice in our losses and walk by faith and prayer.

  2. Robert Lewis says:

    Ray! Bringing the boom and the pow. The Lord is at work.

  3. Shaan says:

    Thanks Ray…good stuff…. I think this is a profound insight “Unless our holiness is also an experience of freedom, we cannot expect to see the flood of converts we long for and pray for.”
    I am currently studying the third use of the law… seems very sound to me in regard to our approach to sanctification corporately… but your words here have me wondering how it practically plays out without creating an atmosphere of legalism or bondage…. we desparately want our people to be holy, and in true holiness is true freedom, how then shall the twane meet… holiness and freedom? These are profound questions… “In the practical reality of a church culture, how can that theology avoid feeling like constant church discipline? In what ways can a church who embraces the third use of the law be an experience of freedom that feels like freedom?”
    It seems to me the answer must lie in the constant tension that is woven through our teaching and fellowship of God’s attributes, focusing on the most profound realities of our joyful union with Christ and God through the Word by the Spirit! We “rejoice with holy fear”…. it seems this paradox is everywhere the imprint of a holy God who justifies the ungodly by an act of unparalelled mercy through the death of His Son for His glory and our Joy! Oh the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God!!…. How can we preach a perfect Christ, who we are to follow and emulate, and yet be free to fall and fail? By a constant emphasis both on the perfections of Christ (our goal) and Gospel mercy and forgiveness, His healing grace to empower us to get up and pursue Him yet again. For the Christian, every moment is new! May God help us to work out this tension among our fellowships, and may His people experience both His freedom and His holiness as we worship Him together.

  4. Melinda Perry says:

    Thank you, Ray! Very well said.

  5. Ted Bigelow says:

    Two more concerns, yes. But they have no unique bearing on the YRR movement any more than on the United Methodists, say.

    1) Holding together for the long haul….

    2) Not operating in the flesh….

    More to the point are Kevin’s list.

  6. JP says:

    Who said Christianity was about freedom, as so many would define it?

    Romans 6:19-23 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    1. Shaan says:

      Uh….that would be Jesus…. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

      1. JP says:

        So are you saying Jesus was opposed to Paul? Important to read the whole comment before typing isn’t it?….”as many would define it?”

        1. Shaan says:

          Hi JP, Of course I am not saying that… being Christ’s slave is true freedom… And yes I did read your comment and gave it some thought…maybe I misunderstood your intention….please forgive me if I did. Were you suggesting that the kind of freedom that Ray was commenting on was some kind of freedom that Christianity doesn’t provide? thats how I read it….

  7. JP says:

    Shaan

    All I’m saying is that ‘freedom’ needs to be very carefully qualified, and far too many people, and far too many Christians, and far too many young Calvinists aren’t doing that.

    Freedom is too often placed in opposition to Legalism.That’s a false dichotomy. In truth the two are friends. In fact its only when we live in bondage to God’s will that we actually experience freedom.

    Christians are free within the constraints of God’s Law which is His revealed definition of righteousness. The Gospel frees us from Satan, and from sin, but when so freed the Christian is a willing, joyful slave to God and to righteousness. See text above.

    When Israel was redeemed out of Egypt (freed!) they were bound almost immediately by God’s law in the 10 Commandments. Obedience there-to brings only true joy and happiness.

    1. Shaan says:

      I agree…. well said… may the Lord richly bless you and may the joy and wonder of the angels and shepherds be yours today and always!

  8. Kevin DeYoung says:

    Ray,

    Great addendum to my post. Thanks for your thoughts and thanks for being who you are. By grace, of course.

    Kevin

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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