Posted by: Drew | December 11, 2007

Reconciled to Christ Part 1: The TRUE Secret

The TRUE SecretRhonda Bryne, best-selling author and friend of Oprah Winfrey, recently released a book that she believes will change your world and your life. The book is called The Secret and it topped the NY Times Bestseller’s list for several weeks. The book is really just a rehashing of a book called The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles written way back in 1919. Wattles promoted what he called “The Law of Attraction.” Simply defined the Law of Attraction states that by the power of positive thinking you can achieve anything and have everything you always wanted. You can be rich just by thinking the right thoughts about yourself! Bryne picks up the Law of Attraction in The Secret. Both Byrne and Wattles’ thinking really just amounts to New Age philosophy repackaged, but Americans are eating it up. Bryne’s philosophy in the end simply amounts to narcissism (worship of self). If you don’t believe me let me show you, here is an excerpt from The Secret:

The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous thing you experience, is all there for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know The Secret.

Compare that with Colossians 1:15-20:

(15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. (17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, (20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Rhonda Bryne would have you believe that you are the center of the universe. The apostle Paul claims in Colossians 1, not only that Christ is the creator of all things but also that all things were created for Him. In other words, everything was created and continues to exist (Col 1:17) for Christ. Thus, Christ is the center of the universe. He is before all things. He is the “firstborn of all creation.” This doesn’t mean that he was the first to be born but is a title taken from the Old Testament which simply denotes the supremacy or sovereignty of one person over another. Christ, however in contrast to any earthly ruler is “firstborn of all creation,” meaning He is sovereign and supreme over all.

There is a huge contrast between Rhonda Bryne’s view of the world and the Apostle Paul’s. If Bryne’s view of the world is correct, God is nothing more than a dotting parent who gives into his child’s every whim. According to Bryne’s worldview, if God exists, He exists for you! Bryne’s teaching reduces God to a feeble creature that bows to our every demand and desire rather than demanding the submission of our every demand and desire at His feet–which is what the God of Scripture demands. Whoever Bryne’s god is, her God is not holy. Her God does not demand worship or deserve it. Bryne’s God is much more like you and I than the God of the Bible. Bryne’s God is a pushover and in the end Bryne would claim that you are God because everything is subject to you!

Paul’s God is holy, so holy that we cannot stand before Him unless we are completely pure (Ps 15). So holy that sinners fall on their faces before Him and cry out for mercy (Isa 6:5), one who is glorious–so glorious that we cannot measure up to Him (Rom 3:23). And yet, despite our sin, he chose to reconcile all things to himself by the blood of the cross (Col 1:20).

Paul’s emphasis on reconciliation in Colossians 1:20, ought to tell us that all is not right in the world. If everything was right, there would be no need for reconciliation. But the fact is that, much is very very wrong. Though God created everything good, his creation has undergone corruption (Rom 8:20-21) because from Adam on (Rom 5:12-13) we have rejected God in our sin. We have neglected to realize that we were created by and for God. In our sin we have rejected the purpose for which were created–to know and worship God.

God has chosen to reconcile all things to himself through Christ’s blood shed on the cross (Col 1:20). Although all things are not right in the world, God has promised to make them right through Christ. He created everything and everything belongs to Him, thus everything will be reconciled back to the purpose for which it was created. Not everyone will be reconciled in the same way. Some will be reconciled through faith in Christ to eternal joy (Matt 25:23) while others will be reconciled unwillingly and will be cast “into the eternal fire with the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41).

Everything exists for God. Everything exists for Christ. He and the Father are one (John 10:30) as all the “fullness of God dwells” in Christ (Col 1:19). Our biggest problem is we have neglected to live in such a way that reveals that, indeed everything exists for God.

We are all probably a little bit more like Rhonda Byrne than we are willing to admit. We might not think the world revolves around us but often act like it. We get upset when people don’t act the way we want them to. We defend ourselves unnecessarily. We continually try to hide our faults. We try to make ourselves look better than the people around us and we point fingers when things go wrong. If we are honest, our biggest problem in life is that we want the world to revolve around us but it doesn’t. The world revolves around Jesus Christ. Our failure to recognize this has left us in a dreadful state–“alienated” and “hostile in mind,” toward God (Col 1:21). This is a state we cannot change in and of ourselves. We need God to intervene, lest we remain cut off from Him.

The good news is that God has intervened in Christ. He has reconciled all things to Himself. But how will you be reconciled in the end? Will you be reconciled to eternal glory because you have believed on Christ? Or will you be reconciled in eternal punishment?

The world doesn’t revolve around you, it revolves around Jesus . . . are you living in light of this truth? Are you living in light of the TRUE secret–that everything exists for Jesus?

In my next post I will show how Christ’s reconciliation of “all things” to himself cannot mean that all will be eternally saved in the end and address the specific reconciliation of sinners through Christ’s death on the cross.

Posted by: Drew | November 11, 2007

How Should Our Churches be Led? 1/3

How Should Our Churches Be Led

Leadership in the local church has received renewed interest in recent days, thanks in part to ministries such as 9 Marks. It seems like more and more pastors are seeking to transition their churches from a single pastor model of leadership to that of a plurality of elders (while this is a encouraging development–pastors who are making this transition should do so very carefully and patiently!). By a plurality of elders I simply mean multiple pastors, elders, or overseers (these terms are essentially synonymous in the NT). We ought to rejoice in this renewed interest in plural eldership as such a model reflects the clear teaching of the New Testament.

Despite this renewed interest in plural eldership that I have seen in many churches recently, the majority of Baptist churches do not possess a plural elder model. Thus, the leadership model of the New Testament is worth thinking about. So in my next three posts, I will do my best to discuss the model of church leadership found in the New Testament. Thoroughly tracing the New Testament model of leadership in the local church would be a task too vast for this blog, however, I will do my best in this post, to briefly highlight some significant teaching in the NT on plural eldership. In two follow-up posts, I will address what biblical elders ought to be doing in our churches and why understanding the role of elders is important to all members of the church!

First, we should not that the church or churches in Jerusalem had elders (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4, 6, 22-23; 16:4; 21:18). Acts 14:23 indicates that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in all the churches they visited on Paul’s first missionary journey. Further 1 Timothy 5:17 indicates that the church at Ephesus had a plural leadership model and in Titus 1:5 Paul commands Titus to appoint elders in the church at Crete.

1 Peter gives some of the strongest evidence for the presence of plural eldership in the New Testament churches. Peter’s first epistle is addressed to churches in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” We don’t know exactly how many churches the epistle of 1 Peter was circulated to, but it was likely at least dozens, possibly even hundreds or thousands of churches in Asia Minor. Peter challenges “the elders” of these churches to “shepherd the flock of God among them.” Thus we can deduce from this that plural eldership was the pattern for all of the many churches that Peter’s letter is addressed to. Further, it should be noted that noted that there is no verse in the NT that describes one person as the single elder of a church. Although the New Testament’s teaching on elders is generally directed at churches in general, Philippians 1:1 is directed to a specific church and the model for leadership is clearly one of a plurality of elders.

While other models of leadership in Baptist churches have been espoused, the burden of proof rests on them to prove the pattern of leadership in the NT is different from that of a plural elder model.

I should mention that I believe local churches are to be led by a plurality of elders rather than ruled by them. I think that NT pattern is one of congregational rule. For instance, in Galatians 1:8-9, Paul tells the churches of Galatia reject false teaching. Thus it was the congregation’s responsibility to preserve doctrinal purity. Further, it was the congregation that ultimately holds authority in issues of church discipline (Matt 18:15-17; 2 Cor 2:6). Thus if elders are not to rule the church, what is their role?

With the plural nature of leadership in the church established, we ought to give thought to what an elder’s function in the local church is. Thus my next two posts will address the two unique functions of biblical elders—teaching and shepherding. In the list of qualifications of elders in 1 Timothy 1:6-9 and Titus 1:6-9, we see the unique qualification of elders is that they be “able to teach.” 1 Peter 5:1-4 indicates that elders are to “shepherd the flock of God.” While there is significant overlap in these two functions—but I do think they are distinct and each is worthy of our attention.

Thus, in my next two posts I will address the two unique responsibilities of elders in the local church—to teach and to shepherd the flock.

For a more thorough discussion on the plural elder model and Baptist church polity see John S. Hammett’s book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches.

 

Posted by: Drew | November 9, 2007

Everyone’s Favorite Obnoxious Evangelical

Everyone’s Favorite Obnoxious Evangelical“I would take the Da Vinci Code so I could burn the Da Vinci Code!”

“Green is a whorish color!”

These are a couple of my favorite Angela quotes from The Office, the hit comedy on NBC. I call Angela, “everyone’s favorite obnoxious evangelical” for a couple of reasons. First because she is an obnoxious character and secondly because her obnoxiousness is part of what makes The Office such a funny show.

Of course I don’t think that Angela is a fair representation of evangelicalism. And lets be honest, The Office is not the first American TV show to caricature evangelicals. Ned Flanders predates Angela by over a decade and South Park, well South Park rips on anyone and everything!

It would be easy to get upset and cry foul about the way that Angela makes Evangelicals look, but let’s face it, we don’t fit in with the world–God has not drawn us to himself in order for us to look good before the world. We could just dismiss Angela as a horrible misrepresentation of evangelical Christianity, however, I think there is an important lesson that we can learn from Angela! Most stereotypes spring from things that people have actually seen around them, meaning that Angela may be an exaggerated caricature of Christians, but there ARE some people who claim to be Christians who are as obnoxious and self-righteous as Angela is.

Instead of getting frustrated about how unfair it is to stereotype Christians, The Office ought to challenge us in the way that we evangelize.

First, we shouldn’t be surprised when the world slanders us, we are, after all, sojourners and exiles:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. -1 Peter 2:11-12

We cannot expect the world to properly interpret the gospel when we preach it to them. In fact we should expect that they will misinterpret our message. We should expect them “to speak against us.” The point here is to consistently do good to those you are sharing the gospel with not matter what their response is.

Secondly, we can learn from Angela’s poor example, to maintain good manners in the way that we share the gospel! Check out 1 Peter 3:14-16

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Angela says few things “with gentleness and respect,” thus now seems a good time to remind ourselves that preaching the gospel is never an excuse for poor manners. The way we conduct ourselves matters in our displaying of the gospel of Christ to the world!

Don’t get mad about silly TV characters like Angela, instead seek to defy those stereotypes by preaching the gospel and living it out consistently before the world. They won’t understand, but there is hope that in due time, we will see them “glorifying God on the day of visitation.”

Posted by: Drew | November 6, 2007

The Cultural Thermometer 11-6-2007

The Cultural Thermometer 11/6/2007Alright here is this week’s thermometer! In case you are wondering what I mean “this week’s thermometer,” let me quickly tell you! I decided, given that part of my job at the Seminary is to scour the news for issues of cultural import, that I would write a brief report of 3-5 interesting articles I came across. My focus is going to be on articles/news stories that Christians need to be aware of and ought to be able to respond to from a Christian worldview. I will try to post some things that are interesting that you may not have seen! So here is this weeks thermometer:

1. The Victims of Che Guevara: The Washington Times reports that the “Young America’s Foundation” has developed a new poster designed to teach college students the truth about the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. “The Victims of Che Guevara Poster, centers on a collage that uses tiny photos of those killed by Cuba’s communist regime to compose the face of the Marxist guerilla.” It has become increasingly common to see college students sporting Che Guevara T-shirts on America’s university campuses. Guevara was in charge of trying and executing the enemies of Fidel Castro and Communist Cuba–he literally executed hundreds if not thousands of innocent people in Cuba without fair trial–this is the kind of person American college students are idolizing! I applaud the YAF for trying to keep American college students from rewriting history.

2. Anti-doping chief warns on genetic cheating in sports: This article from the Financial Times reports that “Genetic manipulation will eventually dwarf drug-cheating as the main issue to confront sports, the outgoing chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency said yesterday.” Dick Pound said he was convinced scientists would make genetic development available to athletes within five or six years, allowing them to enhance performance by bulking up their bodies by up to 30 per cent.

This isn’t a new story–Scientists have been talking about the possibility of genetic doping for some time. I wanted to bring it up because I have a question for you. If genetic modification were to become legal, what would that do to competitive sports? I am asking you–by all means leave a comment with your answer!

3. Las Vegas Goes All Out to Attract Gay Travelers: Several Casinos in Las Vegas have begun marketing campaigns aimed at reaching the homosexual community. Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. started marketing to the gay and lesbian community 18 months ago after “research showed gay men spend an average of 30% more than their straight counterparts when traveling.” This ought to come as no surprise but it should serve as a healthy reminder that the gay community in America is not shrinking and has grown enough to be recognized by many businesses as a legitimate economic demographic to be reached. Such growth should challenge us to address homosexuality clearly with the gospel. As the homosexual movement grows, how can we be more faithful to reach homosexuals with the gospel? I think that is a question worth asking!

4. “Is God Keeping You from Going to Church?”: This is one of the questions posed in the new ad campaign of the UnitarianThe Cultural Thermometer 11/6/2007 Universalist Church. The Dallas Morning News reports that the Unitarian Universalist Association is “trying to raise its national profile” with the first ad campaign in its 47 year history. Ads will run in such prestigious magazines as Time! Rev. Tracey Robinson-Harris, the Assocation’s director of congregational services says that Unitarians have “messages that the world desperately needs right now . . . we are speaking up on behalf of a more tolerant, more affirming approach to the diversity of religious perspective in the world.” The Unitarian Universalist “church” ends up being nothing more than a social club and you don’t need to go to church to hear this message of acceptance–just read the New York Times or watch Oprah!

Posted by: Drew | October 31, 2007

The Theologian of the Cross

The Theologian of the Cross

It would be all to easy to singularly define the Reformation as polemic against salvation by works. Martin Luther was greatly concerned about the Roman Catholic Church and its practices that promoted salvation by works such as the selling of indulgences. But, behind the Roman Catholic Church’s theology was a theological system that was corrupt not only because of its belief in salvation by works but also because of its denial of the theology of the cross. Luther charged

the Roman Catholic Church with abandoning the theology of the cross in favor of a theology of glory.

It might, to many today, seem obvious that the cross ought to lie at the center of our theology. Luther never called himself the theologian of the cross, but he would later be referred to as such because of some powerful statements he made in the Heidelberg Disputation. Instead of speaking for Luther about what it means to be a theologian of the cross, I will let him speak for himself, here are some highlighted points of the Heidelberg Disputation:

20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the things what it actually is.

22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded and hardened.

23. The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ [Rom. 4.15].

24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.

25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.

26. The law says “Do this”, and it is never done. Grace says, “believe in this” and everything is already done.

At the heart of Luther’s polemic against the Roman Catholic Church, was the assertion that Rome completely misunderstood and misrepresented the cross of Christ. They not only missed the fact that salvation is by grace alone th

rough faith alone to the glory of God alone, but they also missed the essential truth that the way of glory is the way of the cross. We cannot buy our salvation, but once we come to believe in Jesus, we can sell everything we have and follow Him! Once we see the grace of God for what it really is, we can actually, by the power of the Holy Spirit, take up our crosses and follow Him.

The Roman Catholic Church erred in thinking that we could contribute to our salvation because in their pursuit of glory they abandoned the cross–“without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.”

Posted by: Drew | October 29, 2007

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration When he took the three disciples
to the mountainside to pray,
his countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared: Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.

Then there came a word
of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.

What he said to them,
the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what’s to come.
The prophecy was put to death,
was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.

Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!

–The Transfiguration by Sufjan Stevens from his Album Seven Swanns.

There are few songs that move me to think on the glory of Jesus more than The Transfiguration by Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan tells the story of the Christ’s transfiguration with beautiful building accompaniment.

Seven Swanns is a Sufjan album that many people are relatively unfamiliar with, but it reflects his simplest and best song writing. When I listen to this album it makes me want to worship Jesus more. If you have the money the album is worth investing in.

If you can afford it, go buy this album, put it on, sit down, and spend sometime thinking about Jesus.

Posted by: Drew | October 29, 2007

They Will Know that We are Christians by Our T-Shirts

They Will Know That We Are Christians By Our T-Shirts . . . I recently saw an advertisement for a necktie in a Christian book catalog that said “Express your faith with this ‘fish and cross’ necktie.” Part of me wishes this were true–that we could fulfill the Great Commission by merely donning the right kind of T-shirts and neckties! Making disciples by mere T-shirt totting would be so much easier than setting out to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel and living a honorable life before unbelievers!

I think, however, sharing the gospel is a little bit messier than wearing the proper apparel.

The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” It may seem obvious but it must be said that the gospel is a message–it isn’t a skit or a tv show or a video or a t-shirt. It is a message that must be proclaimed (Rom 10:14-15). It is a message that has specific content. It is a message about God’s holiness and our sin. It is a message of creation, fall, and redemption in Christ. It is a message with specific content and if we are to be faithful in proclaiming the gospel, we must be faithful to accurately convey its content. If we really want to be faithful to the great commission we must be intimately acquainted with the content of the gospel, for there is no other way to God (John 14:6).

There has been much debate in recent years, about whether relational evangelism or confrontational evangelism better reflects the pattern of the New Testament. I personally think that both are present in the New Testament. In fact, if we were as zealous for the gospel as the Apostles were, we probably wouldn’t be having that debate. That said, 1 Peter has much to say about how the way we live our lives matters as we seek to proclaim the gospel. Here is one example:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” – 1 Peter 2:11-12

What we see in 1 Peter 2:11-12 is that our fight against sin cannot be divorced from our proclamation of the gospel. If we really want to see the lost “glorify God on the day of visitation” then we will heed Peter’s command to “abstain from” the passions of our flesh.

I think the more we grow in likeness to Christ by putting sin to death, the more we are likely to be slandered by the unbelieving world. Peter seems to set forth the idea that our being slandered is an opportunity for the gospel go forth. Thus sharing the gospel isn’t always fun by the world’s standards, in fact many times its messy. We have to be honest with people about sin, God’s holiness, and God’s promised judgment for sin–things that are offensive to the world.

No one is likely to come to know the Lord because of the T-shirts we wear, but if we live consistently before the world, fighting sin, and proclaiming the gospel, there is hope that we will see some of those who slandered us glorifying God on the glorious day Christ returns!

The gospel isn’t a message we can merely speak or one we can merely live out–it is a message that must be preached and one that must be lived honorably before the Gentiles.

They will not know that you are a Christian by our T-shirts. They will know that we are Christians by the wage war against the flesh.

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