Posts belonging to Category Applying God’s Word



Against Christmas / For Christmas

We have just ended a time of year that many people enjoy. No I don’t mean the time of rejoicing that God became man in the incarnation. I mean the time when people complain about the low state of the world. It seems that this time of year is especially ripe for finding things to complain about. Whether it’s consumerism, liberalism, or the commercialism of a holiday, whiners who have time off of work don’t taper off; they raise the complaining lever three notches.  “Too many people are buying too much stuff. Can you believe that the lady at Joe’s Hardware said ‘Happy Holidays’ to me instead of ‘Merry Christmas?’ I’m not going to celebrate Christmas at all because it’s become on big commercial?” And my personal favorite: “They are taking Christ out of Christmas.”

Now I realize that there are some who choose not to celebrate Christmas from biblical conviction, and I understand where they are coming from. But most of the people who complain the loudest are the ones who continue to participate in celebration, while maintaining their excuse to play Oscar the grouch all the while. Those are the people I’m speaking to. Let me tell you why I’m against Christmas and for Christmas.

The Inner Ring

Several years ago I read a speech by C.S. Lewis entitled, “The Inner Ring.” It is an excellent article about the dangers of trying to gain entrance into whatever group you wish to be a part of and how it is actually a trap. The article can be read here. The truth of that article came home to me recently as I was praying. As many know right now, my family and I are going through a transition. The Lord has blessed us thus far and we trust He will continue to, but as with any change, He has uncovered areas that I didn’t know existed and that need to be submitted to Him.

There is an innate drive in a man to gain access to a group that he thinks is unapproachable. These groups aren’t necessarily sinful; some of them are quite good. But our enemy says that if we can only get inside that group, we will have arrived. It’s about pride. This is where Lewis makes so much sense.

“I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organisation should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really deadweights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter.”

His point is that our desire to pierce those rings leads to bondage. I’ve found myself at times clamoring for reassurance from a group when the fact is, the Lord doesn’t intend for me to be a part of it. The pressure, once inside, is almost double what it was to get in. Lewis went on to say,

“And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.

That is my first reason. Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.”

And in a final quote, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.” The Lord has given us all we need. It is important not to make a particular circle of people into an idol. It can cause more damage that we can imagine.

 

 

 

Covenant theology and politics: a match made in heaven

Politics Reformed: The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant TheologyPolitics Reformed: The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant Theology by Glenn A. Moots

I really enjoyed this book. It explained many things that had heretofore been missing in my understanding of American history. The author brings a vast amount of research into the story.

In the beginning, he explains the meaning of political theology. This is contrasted with other methods of understanding politics. Then he explains the meaning of covenant theology (and does a pretty good job for a non-theologian) as well as the Protestant Reformers who contributed to it, primarily John Calvin and Henry Bullinger. The meat of the book is his description of how this theology was applied to English politics during the English Civil War and later American politics in colonial times. He concludes with a discussion of modern covenant theology as well as how we can apply this version of political theology in modern times.

It is not as large as you might think for a book that gives so much information. But this is not what you might call casual summer reading. The prose is easy but new ideas and end-notes come by the bucket on some pages. Nevertheless for those who want to know about how covenant theology in particular shaped our country, this is the book for you.

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In (partial) praise of labels

Labels are odd things. There are some labels that people love, like non-judgmental Christian. Other labels are not so popular, like “fundamentalist,” “homophobic,” and “right–wing extremist.” Many Christians fear being labeled one of these unpopular names. An unpopular name probably means that you ventured too far outside the culture’s (always shifting) boundaries.  But who makes those boundaries anyway? Before we run for fear of a label we should consider who defines the labels as well as who applies them? Most of all, why do we fear them so much?

I have long had a fear of being labeled judgmental. I want to be approachable, and being viewed as harsh is not the quickest way to gain a reputation as being approachable. But as I’ve studied Jesus’ words in Matthew five, as well as His earthly ministry, I’ve come to the conclusion that labels are inescapable. Jesus was viewed as a glutton because he regularly ate with people. He was seen as harsh by some because He corrected them, while they were proud and didn’t want correction. He could have complained that He was only misunderstood but that would have been wrong. The problem was they understood Him quite well. He was a threat to the cultural hypocrisy of His day. Paul was in the same boat. Sometimes these labels were accurate (part of the accusation of Stephen in Acts 6, for instance); many times they were not (Jesus was no glutton). The point is not the accuracy of the label, but how one handles being labeled. If a charge is false go ahead and try to refute it, but most of the time they won’t listen anyway.

None of the apostles were known in their day as being the most popular men of the city. They didn’t run from the labels and neither did they worry about how they were view by men. The only one Jesus wanted to please was his Father. If we are faithful to God’s word the labels will come, no matter how hard we try to keep it from sticking; the more you love and proclaim God’s word without apology, the more labels will stick to you.

If we fear man we will compromise ourselves and our convictions to comply with whatever views are most popular at the time. If we fear God we will lovingly proclaim His word regardless of the consequences. And when (not if) the labels come for being faithful to the word, you are blessed to receive just a minor taste of the scorn heaped upon God’s faithful prophets (Matt. 5:10-12). Not bad company, if you ask me.

Living pro-life

Rachel Jankovic is quickly catching up to her dad (Doug Wilson) as a fantastic writer of practical theology.  She has several books out, one of which Amanda and I have read and learned much from (Loving the Little Years).  In this article at Desiring God, she exhorts mothers to daily choose life.

“Far from having done our part when we carry a baby to term, we can continue to choose life every day. Every day we choose the life of another over our own life. Every day we can lay down our desires, our selfish ambition, our self-importance, and choose life. And of course this is not unique to mothers — every Christian has the means of fighting for life by laying theirs down for those around them.

Right now, in our culture, in our time, there is something uniquely potent about mothers sacrificing for their children. As we lay down our lives for them, presenting ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, that sacrifice makes an aroma. That sacrifice directly contradicts and blasphemes everything the world is fighting for. As you care for your children, on the long days and tired moments, disciplining yourself, sacrificing yourself for them, you are reaching out to the world. When you present yourself as a living sacrifice, the aroma of that sacrifice cannot be contained.”

I can’t think of any better way to say it. She concludes:

“Motherhood is the big-leagues of self-sacrifice. Millions of women kill to avoid it. In our culture of self-gratification, to embrace selfless motherhood is a revolutionary act. To see the sacrifice and rejoice in it. To recognize that the cost is your own life, and to willingly lay yourself down. The world hates the smell of that sacrifice, because it is the smell of grace. They hate it because it is the smell of something living and burning at the same time — something that is impossible without a risen Savior.

There are times to stand on sidewalks and hold signs, but holding a sign isn’t what makes a mother pro-life. Being pro-life means putting the life of another ahead of your own. It means being daily grace to the small souls nearest to you. It is not just an opinion or a position or a lobbyist group. It is the glory of maternal self-sacrifice that begins at conception and runs through labor and midnight feedings and diapers and sandwiches and crayons and homework and flu seasons and graduations and on into grandkids. It is an avalanche of small and large sacrifices. It burns bright in kitchens and bedrooms and backyards. It is the real life of the pro-life movement, and it will change the world.”

She’s on to something.  Changing the world is not about everyone giving up all their money, or moving to the inner-city, although some are called to do those things.  Changing the world is cleaning up one dirty diaper at a time, washing one dish, making one pie, taking one fishing trip at a time, all as unto the Lord.

The problem of evil and the hope of God

This is a sermon I gave a couple of years ago.  With the bombings in Boston, it was a reminder that we will never escape the problem of evil and that we need to face it honestly and accurately.

  • This is a time when Christians are posed with the question: why?  Why would God allow such a thing?  Or, “How could a God of love cause this?”
  • That question has been posed to me this week more than once.  Maybe it has been posed to you.
  • If someone asked, how would you respond?  It is important for a Christian to have an answer for such a time as this.
  • But many of us are struggling with the same questions.  Why would God allow such things?
  • You can’t look at the damage, the grief, and the pain of people and not be moved.  It’s not just others, we want to know.
  • What’s God up to?  He could have stopped it.  If you believe along the lines of the historic Baptists, you’d even say that God is the first cause of these things.  So what’s the answer?  It lies in the beginning.

I want to offer three conclusions about the problem of evil and three reasons why God allows it. (more…)

Why should we have multiple elders?

Biblical EldershipBiblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch

This book is a great explanation of why multiple elders are the biblical model of the church. There are a few things the author is too adamant on that are more informed by tradition than Scripture, but on the whole it is a sound corrective to the out of control congregational polity many churches practice today.

The first portion is topical and informs you of the type of leadership Scripture calls for in an elder. The rest of the book is biblical exegesis of the New Testament passages that refer to elders. The writing is clear and to the point without being dry. If you want to know why churches should have multiple elders, read the book.

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Judging the wagon before you jump on it

Matthew Anderson recently published an interesting piece at Christianity Today that evaluates the radical movement.  For those unsure of what that is, Radical is a book published by David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham, Alabama.  To summarize it, Platt and other authors (Francis Chan, Kyle Idleman, just to name a few) call for a new, full fledged commitment to Christ that goes beyond what most of us have engaged in up to now.  In response some families have sold their houses and moved to the inner cities; others have moved to the mission field.  On a more unknown note, many in Platt’s church (some of whom I know personally) have made smaller sacrifices to give money to missions.

Let it be said that I believe Christians should strive to do more than we currently do.  In fact, I believe many of us have made an idol out of wealth and we are living in bondage to it.  There are many who have resisted God’s call to give up everything out of fear.  Nevertheless, Anderson gives this rejoinder:

“The heroes of the radical movement are martyrs and missionaries whose stories truly inspire, along with families who make sacrifices to adopt children. Yet the radicals’ repeated portrait of faith underemphasizes the less spectacular, frequently boring, and overwhelmingly anonymous elements that make up much of the Christian life.”

Then he compares the radical movement to the Keswick movement(more…)

What changes the world?

“It is not tanks that bring down governments; it is pamphlets, Bibles, photocopy machines, mimeograph machines, carbon paper, typewriters, samizdat (underground) literature, secret prayer groups…” – Gary North, Tactics of Christian Resistance

Battling the bully of guilt – Revelation 12:10

One of the blessings we have in living in the Kingdom of God is that the one who would accuse us before God is cast down.  He has no place before the Almighty.  When Jesus established His kingdom, He cast Satan down.

But guilt still plagues us.  It would rob us just as it did Little Faith in Pilgrim’s Progress.  We must stand up to guilt in the strength of Christ and not allow it to rob us of what we’ve been given.  Tonight I want us to see how guilt operates and how we are called to fight it.

Guilt is quite similar to condemnation.  It is determined by what we have done.  If you committed a crime, you stand guilty.  God’s word says we all stand guilty before God – Rom. 3:19.  Men know that have offended God’s holy laws.  The guilt is there and they must do something about it.  The ancients made a practice of placing the guilt on someone in society.  This is clearly documented in the books by French philosopher Rene Girard.  There would be regular sacrifices to appease the guilt of the people.

God gave Moses sacrifices as a picture of what He was doing with their guilt.  He gave a scapegoat who would bear the sins of the people.  Before the “scapegoat” in other societies was a person; now it would be an animal.  The final scapegoat would be Jesus who would bear the sins of God’s people.

Jesus is our guilt-bearer.  (more…)