Monthly Archives: November 2011

 

Nov

24

2011

Trevin Wax|3:58 am CT

From Grace to Gratitude

This post is from a Romanian pastor, friend, and former seminary colleague of mine, Ovidiu Patrick. He sent it to me a couple weeks ago, and I asked him if I could share it with others.

Grace.

Gifts.

Gladness.

Gratitude.

All these words are in a logical and theological order. In Greek, they all belong to the same family of words (charis-charisma-chara-eucharisteo).

GRACE (charis)

God is the author and the source of grace. Grace is the best thing that ever happened to man. Without grace we are condemned and lost in God’s divine court.

Grace is not a theory, a myth, or a beautiful idea. Grace is God’s favor for the lost. This divine favor is materialized in God becoming man, in the incarnation that we celebrate year after year on Christmas. Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of grace.

The grace of God gives the condemned man what he does not deserve – eternal forgiveness and endless life – and does not give man what he deserves – eternal damnation and destruction. To be in God’s grace is to be right with God and to live a free life, free from sin that the law of God condemns and from which it cannot save you.

Grace saves. The law condemns.

Grace takes you out of all sin’s debts. The law shows the eternal debts that man has before God.

Grace has the power to change the man. The law is powerless in changing anybody.

Grace is amazing. The law is frightening.

The law shows you what only grace can do, but from God are both law and grace.

GIFTS (charisma)

Everybody loves gifts. Gifts are free, like grace. Grace doesn’t cost you anything, but it cost God all He had.

God loves to give gifts to His children. The spiritual gifts that He gives are indispensable in God’s economy. All the people of God have received spiritual gifts from Him. Throughout church history these gifts have been a controversial subject. The purpose of this article is not that of elucidating and clarifying each spiritual gift; it is not that of becoming a referee between Christians who do believe in miraculous gifts and those who don’t. The truth about gifts is that they always come because of grace. There are no gifts from God without grace. We cannot work for them, cannot bribe God for them, cannot choose them, pay for them, or insist so much in prayer before God hoping to incline His will to give them to you. The grace of God brings the gifts of God.

Sin took away everything we had, robbing us of godliness. Grace gave us everything we needed. The spiritual gifts are all we need. We cannot neglect them. Living the life based on the spiritual gifts brings fulfillment and places us in the center of God’s will. If a Christian has everything he wants, but he is not using his spiritual gifts, he will always be frustrated, stressed, and envious. Spiritual gifts are the real thing in life.

GLADNESS (chara)

Gifts bring joy in the house. Every house where you can find presents, you will find joy too. The lack of joy is either because we neglect our gifts or because we try to “steal” somebody’s gift. The spiritual thieves always try to violate God’s sovereignty over gifts. They are not enjoying what God gave them, they want what others have.

Christian life is abundant joy. When joy is missing, something is not right. Actually, joy is the objective and accurate way of testing your spiritual gifts. Stop imitating others’ gifts. Start rejoicing for the gifts you received from God.

GRATITUDE (eucharisteo)

Joyful people never forget to say, “Thank you.” Gratitude is a sign that you enjoy what you got.

More than ever before, gratitude is a missing mark of our generation. We are dissatisfied with what we have.

Gratitude is the sign that you understand grace. Grace cannot leave you in a state of ingratitude. People who do not capture the idea of grace are people dissatisfied with what they have, with their accomplishments. They always want more, no matter if it is money, physical pleasure, success, or influence.

But once you taste grace, you want more of Christ. In grace there is a continual gratitude, a peace that surpasses understanding. Grace gives you rest from all the things that exhaust you and never fulfill you. When you live by grace, gratitude for heaven is there because heaven is real for you; it is not just a wish, as the people in my country of Romania say, “I wish I can get to heaven,” I wish I was saved, but have I done everything to deserve that?” Christ has done everything. The believer’s attitude cannot be but continuous gratitude.

The meaning and the order of these four words should capture our attention because they speak about what is essential in life, and we do not want to miss that. Where grace abounds, gratitude follows unceasingly.

 
 

Nov

23

2011

Trevin Wax|3:17 am CT

Encountering the Trinity 2 – "Immersed in Love"

Yesterday, we looked at the beauty of encountering the Triune God. Today, I want to focus on how this indwelling by the Holy Spirit takes shape in our lives.

Immersed in Love; Overflow of Love

Augustine’s picture of the Trinity imagines the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and the Son. The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Spirit is the Love of the Father for the Son. What, then, does it look like for a believer to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

It means that the Father’s love for the Son will be replicated in the believer’s delight in Jesus. The very love that the Father has poured out on Jesus throughout all eternity is the love that is present in our hearts. Whenever you hear the name of Jesus and feel your heart leap for joy… whenever on your darkest days you lean heavily upon the love of God for you shown in Jesus Christ… whenever you are enraptured in worship at the beauty of Jesus Christ’s suffering for your sins – you are experiencing the eternal love of God the Father for His Son! The Spirit of God is residing in you so that the love of the Father for His only Son is coursing through your veins. Your heart is reflecting the Father’s.

That’s why anyone who claims to love God must inevitably love the Son of God. If you claim to love God but not Jesus, you don’t know God. The Spirit is not in you. Likewise, if you claim to honor God but do not honor Jesus, you have no spiritual life in you because the Spirit gives honor and praise to Jesus.

Irenaeus of Lyon said that “the Spirit-filled man is the man who is truly alive.” In other words, only the Christian who is indwelt by God the Spirit is truly alive, living life to the full. Only the Christian knows what it is like to be immersed in the love of God, to participate in the love relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that has been taking place from eternity past. Christians live in love because Love lives in them.

While taking a class on worship in seminary, I remember some discussion about the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Some classmates questioned the theological truthfulness of one line in the last verse: “All who live in love are Thine.” They worried that such a statement could be interpreted as saying, “Everyone who loves belongs to God regardless of their standing with Jesus.” I understand the concern.

But when properly understood, the hymn is quite right. Only the Christian can live in Love because only the Christian understands the very nature of God. Only the Christian has the Spirit of God residing in his heart – the Spirit who allows true love to flow in and then through the heart. Yes, all who live in love (rightly understood) belong to God, and all who belong to God will necessarily live in love.

The apostle Paul believed the goal of Christian teaching is love. This truth brings us back to where we began. If the sum and substance of Christian theology is “God is love,” then the goal of all our sermonizing and catechizing and teaching must be love. God is our goal.

The Trinity is vitally important because it leads us to actually participate in the essence of God’s self-giving love. To be indwelt by the Spirit is to be immersed in the love of the Father for the Son and then to overflow with that love into self-giving actions on others’ behalf as we point them to Jesus.

 
 

Nov

23

2011

Trevin Wax|2:01 am CT

Worth a Look 11.23.11

At ETS, Bobby Herrington presented a paper called Online Churches and Christian Community. Marc Cortez responded with a follow-up post: Is Online “Church” Really a Church? Why We Need Better Arguments:

I’m not convinced that the answers we’re offering do justice to the questions involved. And I’m afraid that if we don’t do a better job answering the question, people attracted to online communities will (justifiably) ignore our answers. So I’d like to summarize Herrington’s argument and then identify 5 things I think are commonly missing in these discussions.

Some Fear Megachurch Bubble May Soon Burst:

Most megachurches — which earn that label around the 2,000-attendance level — are led by baby boomer pastors who soon will hit retirement age and without suitable replacements in the pipeline. And some fear the big-box worship centers with lots of individual programs no longer appeal to younger generations.

Theological Questions are Often Personal Questions in Disguise:

If we embrace that there is something, something intensely personal, usually driving these questions, then a better response, rather than a dispensation of information, is to simply return the question with a question: Why do you ask?

How Do Love and Holiness Relate?

Some churches have veered too far toward what they think is holiness, while other churches have veered too far toward what they think is love. If a church has abandoned holiness, it has abandoned love, and if it has abandoned love, it has abandoned holiness. Holiness and love are mutually implicating and work in concert, not in opposition.

 

 
 

Nov

22

2011

Trevin Wax|3:13 am CT

Encountering the Trinity 1 – "Desire and Indwelling"

The biblical truth about God as a Trinity is intended to stir up our affections for our glorious God. It is not enough to know about God in three persons. We should also ask the question: What does it look like to know Him personally as a Trinity?

The Desire for Love

Every human being who has ever lived has encountered a hunger for the Trinitarian nature of God. The very fact that humans relate to one another, crave community, come together in marriage and family demonstrates the truth of this desire. The desire to love and be loved is, at its core, part of what it means to be made in God’s image.

That’s why we have so many movies and TV shows and plays and songs and books written about love. Perfect love remains elusive. We desire it. We crave it. We want to set our affections upon something or someone, and we want to be the object of someone else’s love as well.

We love and are loved because we are made in the image of a God who is love. “Our hearts are restless until they find themselves in thee,” said Augustine. That inner restlessness, that yearning for perfect love, is God-given. We were made for God.

Only Christianity satisfies the craving for a relational God of self-giving love. Islam’s Allah is distant and judgmental. Eastern religions so confuse the personhood of God with creation that it is difficult to see how they are distinct. But in Christianity, we are invited to take part in the ongoing love relationship of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We encounter God in the person of Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we come to know God.

Indwelt by the Spirit

Consider this: God invites us to partake of the love relationship that He has within Himself! We are invited to join in what some theologians have termed “the divine dance.” There is a mutual indwelling of the Persons of the Trinity that is open to us. Jesus says that He is in us and we are in Him.

The Scriptures teach that when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts. Just like the Son of God took on flesh and walked among us – making His home on earth, the Spirit of God enters our being. We become temples of the Spirit, mirroring the beauty of God’s infinity within the finite nature of our bodily existence.

The Trinity is not some bare doctrine only helpful for proving the errors of Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a doctrinal truth that represents an experiential reality. We are not only to believe in the beauty of the Trinity. We are summoned to participate in the beauty of the Trinity!

If the essence of God is self-giving love, then participation in the Trinity means we are caught up into the divine dance of love going on from all eternity. We are welcomed into the mystery of holy love. Christian George puts it well: “We embrace the mystery of the Trinity because it has embraced us.”

Tomorrow, I will follow up this post with a reflection on how this indwelling by the Holy Spirit takes shape in our lives.

 
 

Nov

22

2011

Trevin Wax|2:38 am CT

Worth a Look 11.22.11

Sally Quinn reflects on the lessons she’s learned since launching The Washington Post’s On Faith. Interesting mix of postmodern presuppositions and conclusions:

I have never been so enthralled, learned so much or been so fulfilled by any subject so much as this. It has totally changed my perspective on life. It was clearly what I was meant to do. From the volume of emails and comments, I know that others find the site as informative, provocative, thoughtful and entertaining as I do.

Don’t Waste Your Exclamation Points:

Generally speaking, a church will over time become affected by, influenced toward, and transferred into whatever her preacher is most excited about. Pastor, our people don’t usually get excited about what we tell them to be excited about. Have you figured that out yet? Instead, they get excited about what they see actually excites us.

J.D. Greear - “Salt and Light”:

The Hebrew word for “holiness” means separation-quite literally, ‘to be cut away from something.’ It also means “perfection,” as we see in our English word holiness, “wholeness” of beauty, love, moral integrity. Jesus was the Holy one, our supreme example of holiness: he was separate from all impurity in the world, yet so “whole” in his love for us that he took upon himself our pain and our sin.

Many Christians only think about the first dimension of holiness…

Parents and the Image of God:

Christ died to restore us to being full rep­re­sen­ta­tions of God’s char­ac­ter.  That is what we were made for.  That is my real power for par­ent­ing. In Christ the image will begin to be restored in this life and glo­ri­fied in the age to come.

But mean­while, look at your chil­dren as image bear­ers of God.  Treat them as your equals. Treat them as individuals.

 
 

Nov

21

2011

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

The Gospel Project

UPDATE: The website for The Gospel Project has been launched.

A little over a year ago, I transitioned out of pastoral ministry and took on the role of editor at LifeWay Christian Resources of a new small group curriculum for churches.

Beginning Stages

My first two months at LifeWay (November-December 2010) were primarily focused on helping develop the vision for the new curriculum. In conjunction with Ed Stetzer (general editor), I began mapping out what topics this curriculum might cover. We put together some different options – some focused more on systematic theology, others focused on a variety of approaches, etc.

We also began putting on paper the core values we wanted to keep at the forefront of this curriculum. “Theologically robust” (which we renamed “deep, but not dry”), “Christ-centered,” “Grand-narrative-focused,” and “Mission-driven” are the important elements we want to see in every quarter and (hopefully) every lesson. We took these buzz words and fleshed out how they might apply to a curriculum.

Advisory Council

Then we brought together an advisory council to speak into the project, leaders like D.A. CarsonMatt ChandlerJames MacDonaldJ.D. Greear, Eric MasonJuan SanchezCollin HansenKimberly ThornburyJoe Thorn, Danny Akin, and Jay Noh. We met with members of the council in Dallas and Chicago earlier this year and received helpful feedback and great insight into this curriculum.

The meetings with the advisory council were very helpful. The group helped us refine the vision, make needed adjustments, and craft a three-year cycle that brings together systematic theology within the framework of the Bible’s grand narrative. After both meetings, we went back to the drawing board – affirmed in our general direction yet helpfully challenged in some of the particulars.

The Writing Begins

We went back and forth on a few different names for this new curriculum, finally settling on TGM (Theology, Gospel, Mission), a name that helped us crystallize the three components we wanted to have present in every lesson. Earlier this year, we began gathering writers for the initial quarters. The writers’ meetings have been wonderful. I can’t believe I get to meet and work with such great people!

Some of our writers include: George Robinson (professor of missions and evangelism at Southeastern Seminary who has done extensive work on the evangelistic tool The Story), Jared Wilson (pastor in Vermont, author of LifeWay’s Threads study Abideand Gospel Wakefulness), Juan Sanchez (pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, TX), Halim Suh (pastor at Austin Stone Community Church), Jonathan Leeman (editorial director of 9Marks), Geoff Ashley (discipleship pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, TX), etc.

The curriculum launches in Fall of 2012. The second and third installments of the material will take people on a journey through the Bible in 26 weeks. George Guthrie (Union University professor and author of Read the Bible for Life) has been instrumental in helping us think through how best to accomplish this task.

Major Development – “The Gospel Project”

At the same time I was working on editing the adult curriculum, a student team and a kids team were working on similar products for those age groups. A couple weeks ago, Eric Geiger, the new vice president over the Church Resources Division at LifeWay, recommended that we bring these three curriculum options under one umbrella. This change shifted me from being editor of the adult piece to being managing editor of all three lines. My task is now to oversee the gospel-centered content development across all age groups. Ed Stetzer is now general editor of all three lines as well.

These changes also meant we would need to (yet again) change the name, so as to accurately reflect the emphasis for all age groups. We’ve settled on the name “The Gospel Project.” The new name communicates the ongoing nature of this curriculum roll-out. It also communicates that this isn’t just about creating Bible studies. The curriculum itself isn’t the project that’s most important; we are. We are the gospel project. Our prayer is that as small groups of all ages work through these studies, the gospel will work on us. The church is God’s gospel project.

I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for the teams who are working on this new product. We believe “The Gospel Project” has the potential to serve the church in a good way, as it provides a gospel-centered resource for children, students, and adults.

 
 

Nov

21

2011

Trevin Wax|2:11 am CT

Worth a Look 11.21.11

Michael Patton: “Why Do We Love C.S. Lewis and Hate Rob Bell?”

Rob Bell supporters often appeal to C.S. Lewis, stating that he believed similar stuff as Rob Bell (in as far as holding out hope for unbelievers relates to inclusivism). In fact, Rob Bell seems to love and be inspired by C.S. Lewis in his thoughts and ideas.

Here comes the question I got Tuesday night a the Credo House “Coffee and Theology” study: “So why do we love C.S. Lewis but hate Rob Bell?” This is the great question I hope to answer briefly…

Mark Galli on The Confidence of the Evangelical – Why the Spirit, not the magisterium will lead us into all truth:

On a recent trip to Durham, North Carolina, I was asked, “What do you make of all the evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism?”

Lincoln and the Mormons:

These facts added up to an unusual predicament for Abraham Lincoln in the fall of 1861. Most Americans were thinking about the North and South; but the West was on his mind as well. With the rebellion raging, Lincoln needed as many allies as he could find, and both his government and Jefferson Davis’s coveted the west for its minerals and its access to the Pacific. Could he count on the Mormons?

How Many Presidents Have Been Accused of Being the Anti-Christ?

Suspected White House shooter Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was obsessed with President Barack Obama, according to investigators, and reportedly thought Obama was the Antichrist. In September, heckler David Serrano called Obama “the Antichrist” at a fundraiser. Have other U.S. presidents been suspected of being the Antichrist?

 
 

Nov

20

2011

Trevin Wax|3:24 am CT

May Your Own Heart Become an Altar Aflame

May you be comforted by the burning protective strength of your Father’s strong and stormy love.

May you be captivated by the focused heat and glow of your Bridegroom’s jealous passion.

May you recline at peace and with veiled face bow.

May you be thrilled and terrified at the rampaging, irresistible zeal of this consuming fire who has pledged Himself to do you good all the days of your life and who will not hold back even if the good seems bad, and stings and burns and blisters your skin.

May your heart thrill at the awesome God who held nothing back that He might hold you close, who poured on His Son what He never deserved that you might receive forever what you would not have desired, but were created for.

Then may your own heart become an altar aflame with fiery love and exclusive zeal to bring Him glory and expand His praise among all peoples and nations—among your friends and enemies too.

- Timothy Stoner,  The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith

 
 

Nov

19

2011

Trevin Wax|3:47 am CT

Wesley on Reading

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading.

I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.

O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant.

Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular.

- John Wesley to John Premboth on August 17, 1760, quoted in Ben Witherington’s Is There a Doctor in the House?: An Insider’s Story and Advice on Becoming a Bible Scholar, pg. 71.

 
 

Nov

18

2011

Trevin Wax|3:13 am CT

Friday Funny: Crazy Christmas Song

I was in a pharmacy this week and heard Christmas music playing. It happened to be one of the songs that drives me nuts every year: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (It’s a creepy song, really.) This reminded me of the crazy lyrics in some Christmas songs. In this one-minute video, Tim Hawkins shows why “Do You Hear What I Hear?” doesn’t make sense. Hilarious!