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Theology, Evangelism and the Cross…

October 29, 2008

Last week I gave a preview to Sunday’s message (the audio for which is here), which began in Gethsemane and moved into Isaiah 53. In the message, I made the point that the reality of the cross and reflection on Christ’s work strengthen three of the most important works of the church- Exaltation, Edification and Evangelisation. Reflecting and talking about these truths is not just ‘doing’ theology for the sake of theology; instead theology should lead to practical outworkings of some magnitude.

Having just read Packer’s, ‘Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God’ (I’m still kicking myself for not reading it earlier), the ‘theology-practice’ aspect has been on my mind. Speaking primarily in the context of ‘theology-evangelism’, Packer couldn’t have said it better:

“Evangelism and theology for the most part go separate ways, and the result is great loss for both. When theology is not held on course by the demands of evangelistic communcation, it grows abstract and speculative, wayward in method, theoretical in interest and irresponsible in stance. When evangelism is not fertilized, fed and controlled by theology, it becomes a stylized performance seeking its effect through manipulative skills rather than the power of vision and the force of truth. Both theology and evangelism are then, in one important sense, unreal, false to their own God-given nature; for all true theology has an evangelistic thrust, and all true evangelism is theology in action.” – J.I. Packer

A sneak preview… What was in the Cup?

October 23, 2008

This is turning out to be a crazy week. Two Sermons to prepare, some youth work related things, two all night security shifts, college assignments, coaching duty for a friend at weightlifting nationals… and when I can, preparation for New Zealands strongest man in 3 weeks.

I thought I would post a transcript of the first 15 or so minutes (a prolonged introduction) of my Sunday morning message. The audio for this sermon (and others at Howick Baptist Church) will be available next week. The truth that I will be speaking on has been extremely beneficial for myself and greatly increased my appreciation for the gospel of Christ. I am thankful to men like Paul Washer, Wayne Kuypers and Peter Somervell for instruction and teaching on the cross; and this message will flow out of that instruction.

———

I recently walked into a Christian bookstore, for the first time in quite a while. Looking around at the most popular books, I was struck by one thing. We’re by and large a bunch of miserable Christians. Most of the books seem to be about boosting self-esteem and helping people live happier lives. Many Christian books seem to be about dealing with our miserable lives. And I looked around and saw many images of the cross, many crosses on necklaces for sale. But I never really saw any books about that cross and what it means; or God and who he is.

Then I talk to believers and they’re often telling me their Christian lives are dry and need new life breathed into them. They just don’t know where to look or what to do. This all got me thinking about that image of the cross and Christ and also what message the church has to share with the world. Something is wrong if all these Christians need to be told how to cheer themselves up all the time. I was left wondering if maybe we’re so miserable and our spiritual lives are so dry because we simply don’t grasp something of the enormity of who God is and what Christ accomplished on the cross. Surely if the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of souls, that same gospel is sufficient for our daily spiritual needs and as a result we don’t have to look to pop-psychology to give us a boost? In Christ alone my hope is found!

I would like us to today to think deeply about the cross of Christ. The same cross that is so often misunderstood and pushed aside. In doing so I’d like to revisit the night before the Saviours crucifixion, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane, found in Luke chapter 22.

Luke 22- 39-46

39 And Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

The night before Christ was to die, must have been a terrible time. We read that Christ was in such agony that he was sweating literal drops of blood. Medically this happens very rarely and only in cases of extreme levels of stress and anxiety. Christ, the sinless one, was the next day to take on the sins of the world and be crucified. He prays to the Father, repeatedly asking that the cup, if possible, be taken away. Christ was not ultimately sweating blood at the prospect of nails in his hands (though I do not want to diminish that pain), there was something far greater going on here. So I ask the question: What was in that cup? What was in that cup and why does it matter to us today?

Man’s great problem is that we have sinned and sinned against a holy and righteous God; and God has declared that the wages of sin is death. If you sin, you must die. All throughout scripture, animals are sacrificed, people are washed away in floods, famines lead to starvation… all as the tragic result of human sin. But, God shows mercy, when mercy is not deserved, and offers a way of forgiveness. However, he does not just forgive people for sin. God requires payment, in the same way a judge cannot just forgive a guilty murderer or rapist, and remain a just judge. “I am a merciful judge… you are now free”

God has said that the wages of sin is death and requires a sacrifice to satisfy his own law. In sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth, Christ was shown to be the one to satisfy that law. He was to become that sacrificial lamb through which forgiveness of sins came. (7mins)

So I fast forward to our present day and the implications of these truths of the gospel message in our lives.

We live in a society that is far more self-centred, far more impatient, far more politically correct than I think we realise. We want all the good stuff, and we want it now. And this is not helpful when thinking about Christ, the cross and the Christian life.

Now, personally I love just looking up at the stars on a clear night. I never get tired of just looking up at the awe-inspiring stars that light up the night sky. Now you might say that’s not a very manly thing to do, and I’m aware of that! But my man-card is still secure in my back pocket!

So I ask, during the day, where are those stars? They don’t disappear, they’re still there, but they don’t make us say, “wow,” during the day time.

In the same way, I think, that we are so impatient to look at the bright shining stars that are the work of Christ, that we don’t wait till they are framed by the nightfall/darkness of sin, agony, despair, of judgement and wrath. We don’t want to hear about those things.

So our stargazing becomes a thing to do in the daytime. Sure the stars are still there, but they don’t inspire awe as they do during the darkness of night. Its the same way with the cross and the work of Christ… “give me the good stuff, I don’t want the bad. I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t want to think about it.”

So I ask, from what must we be saved?

I asked a few believes these questions and expected a range of responses.

From sin? From hell? Bad relationships? Bad breath?

What was sin going to do to you?

While there is a sense we need to be saved from hell, but hell is not a person and will not run after you!

Another said that the question should not be, “From what must we be saved,” but, “What have we been saved to?” Looking at the question instead in a more positive light.

But imagine a woman who has just recovered from Cancer. She has a greater appreciation of her current state of good health when she looks back to what she has been saved from. When she remembers that a few months ago she was facing death and now she has been cured, saved from the Cancer, her good health appears even sweeter. The question of from what we have been saved, matters.

So from what must we be saved?

We must be saved, from God Himself.

RC Sproul says that God saves us by Himself, from Himself and for Himself.

The Bible says “Fear not man who can kill your body, but fear God who can kill your body and throw you in hell.” This is a sobering truth and what that we should reflect upon often.

What happened on that cross, what was in that cup?

Read Isaiah 53, specifically verse 10 to see what the word says.

-Jono

 

Why I’m a Seeker-Sensitive Calvinist…

October 14, 2008

Last week I took a great break down in the countryside on a New Zealand dairy farm. Amongst all the sight-seeing, hiking and rabbit hunting, I did some much needed reading. J.I Packer’s excellent work, ‘Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God’, was a highlight and I regretted not having read it sooner. Also partially completed is David Well’s ‘The Courage to be Protestant’, a work I’m deliberately reading slowly to soak as much up as possible. Richard Baxter’s work, ‘The Reformed Pastor’, is already having an enormous effect on me and bringing some structure to plans to catechise the teenagers and young adults in my local church.

Packer’s and Well’s books really got me thinking on matters of evangelism, church methodology, current church trends and God’s sovereignty. I came away with the thinking that those who believe most strongly in the sovereignty of God in salvation, should always seek to be the most seeker-sensitive. I would consider myself a seeker-sensitive Calvinist and growing more in that understanding all the time.

Now, defining the terms is an interesting exercise. Simply, the Calvinist, if you boil the terminology down, is the one who says, “Salvation is of the Lord,”- Jonah 2:9. Calvinists have always sought to affirm the high ground of the sovereignty of God in salvation and the inability of man to save himself.

Now, the Seeker-sensitive’s aren’t the easiest one to define as they’ve grown so large and diverse. They have a basic theology and methodology though. Simply put, they would say that men and women are seeking after God and the church is the place to meet that need. Churches then gear their services towards attracting and entertaining seekers, doing their best not to offend them, ultimately with the aim of getting the people to become followers of Christ.

The Seeker-sensitive movement signalled a paradigm shift in the way one ‘does church’, over time becoming man-centred, not God-centred. Which isn’t surprising in today’s Western world. Men like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren popularised this movement and have influenced thousands of churches to do likewise. It is my personal opinion that this man-centred theology and methodology (which fleshes itself out in varying degrees) has done more to harm the church than anything else in the last few decades. We make man an idol and EVERYTHING suffers. Except perhaps the size of the congregation. But you’d have a hard time making the biblical case for calling a large gathering of unbelievers or alternatively enemies of God (some would call them ‘pre-Christians’), coupled with some believers… a church.

So why if I believe Calvinism is the best theological framework for understanding salvation and justification, do I suggest they likewise be seeker-friendly?

Well, they simply must be.

Though we need to remember…

“No one understands; no one seeks after God.”- Romans 3:11

“The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”- Luke 19:10

There is one Seeker.

His name is Jesus Christ.

Towards him we need to be Seeker-friendly.

“I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”- Matthew 16:18

-Jono

Of Emergent Manifesto’s, Emerging death and bad language.

September 25, 2008
Sometimes I look at what is going on in the ‘Evangelical world’ (whatever that is these days!) and cringe. Other times, I watch the circus and have a laugh at the clowns. This week is one of those weeks where I feel compelled to break out the popcorn and enjoy the show.

For some reason, I was living under a rock last year when Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt released this video to go along with their combined writing project. An Emergent manifesto of hope is a great insight into what makes the more liberal arm of the emerg*** movement tick. Now for all the talk of deconstruction and paradigm shifts, post-modernity, prayer-labyrinths and soya-lattes; these folks have still positioned themselves inside Protestant Evangelicalism. The Jones-Pagitt video should bring to light what has been pretty clear from the beginning- they’re about constant reformation of the church. Out of the Reformation came the term, ‘Semper Reformanda’- always reforming. So what does that concept look like for our Emergent Hopers? The leader of the leaderless EC, Tony Jones, says:

“What we want is to fashion a beautiful Christianity that we can hand on to our children and grandchildren and that they can pick up and reform in their own way.”

*Silence*

Narrator: “Is that the sound of an agitated Martin Luther rolling in his grave?”

If that wasn’t bad enough. We get another little gem from Mr Jones…

“As I’ve reflected on the word ‘justice’ which crops up a lot in Emerging circles I’ve noticed that ‘justice’ and ‘gospel’ are really the same thing.”

I have a feeling that statement has the potential to make a backslidden Catholic throw up in his mouth. Knowing that justice= gospel, I went back to substitute the terms in Bmac’s Justice creed. But by then I had to move on due to an overpowering fusion of laughter and nausea.

Given that the offending video is barely 18 months old, it brings me great joy (yes, joy) to read Out of Ur’s story on the death of the Emerging church.

“Here lies the Emerging church, Peter Pan she was not.”

Now it’s obvious the movement won’t just die immediately. I’m sure the more extreme crowd will hold on for dear life, despite many like Andrew Jones and Dan Kimball calling for a dropping of the EC title.

Kimball is a nice guy. I respect him in that he actually seemed willing to involve himself in ‘conversation’ with more conservative evangelicals. So I’m not surprised that he can say the following:

“I can’t defend or even explain theologically what is now known broadly as ‘the emerging church’ anymore, because it has developed into so many significantly different theological strands. Some I strongly would disagree with.”

Kimball seems to want to go off and establish another movement based on the Lausanne Covenant. Which removes one more moderate voice from the whole conversation.

But lets be honest, the whole EC movement has barely outlived Wilkinson’s Prayer of Jabez fad. Changing the terminology isn’t going to sustain a movement which largely seemed intent on being built upon ‘authenticity’ rather than the foundation that is Jesus Christ- 1 Cor 3:11.

That doesn’t bode well for the future of the post-emerging church.

Which leads me to bad language and washing your mouth out. John Piper invited Paul Tripp and Mark Driscoll to speak at this years Desiring God conference. Living in the evangelical backwaters on New Zealand, I’ve been lucky to read Nathan Busenitz’ excellent thoughts over at Shepherds Fellowship Pulpit. Two conference related blog posts can be found here and here.

While some wonder why Piper has provided a platform for ‘reformed bad-boy’, Driscoll, it seems Tripp has been the more controversial speaker.

War of Words author, Tripp, managed to say the four-lettered ‘s’ word half a dozen times in a video. By the looks of things evangelicalism will never be the same again. After a lengthy warning about what follows, Tripp tells a story about him and his children having a conversation about language. Tripp’s point is that ultimately biblical speech is defined primarily by intent, not what is culturally appropriate. Hence, saying, “Ok, Dr Tripp, I’ll do that,” in a loathing, sarcastic way is not appropriate or good, despite none of those words being culturally inappropriate. In getting to this point, Tripp ends up using a bit of bad language.

SJ Camp had a blow up over this, managing to call Paul Tripp a “pinhead” and say “crap”, justifying their usage by claiming he was trying to see if anyone would “take the bait.” Some well respected bloggers and pastors have likewise joined the Tripp-lynch mob.

A few observations:

– Tripp’s kids are hardly now going to think it’s a good idea to swear, as their father rightly pointed out- you just can’t give use the word in a grace-giving way.

– Regardless of whether you explicitly mention the ‘s’ word, the word pops up into your head.

– You don’t have to play the video on Sunday morning during corporate worship.

-You don’t have to listen to it either.

– We’re a bunch of evangelical-Pharisees.

I know I’m not meant to defend a guy using bad language. But 340 blog comments about using a few swear words to illustrate a profound truth is simply much ado about very little.

Here everyone, take a chill pill.

-Jono

 

 

 

That most influential message…

September 8, 2008

First up, I’ve had a bit of a think about how much I’d like to blog. The answer is- not too much. I’ll evaluate that after a while, but for now I’d like to post once a week, on a Thursday. Without making any promises, I’d suggest stopping by on a Thursday or Friday to see if anything new is up. WordPress stats have let me know people still are checking back for a read and I’m sorry to have disappointed for the last little while.

So… the drumroll moment has come. The most influential sermon I have heard is: The Last Generation- by Steve Lawson.

Preaching during the June 07 Impact Conference at the old Hastings Bible Church (now Riverbend Bible Church), Lawson preached the text of 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; and I’m still recovering.

He had preached a 5 message series on the Beatitudes, in tandem with Jerry Wragg who preached on Philippians 2. But it was this message that around 200 people will never forget. Though the message was 70 minutes long, it felt no more than 15. Afterwards, the entire congregation sat in a stunned silence for a further 5 minutes. The audio recording does not catch the full intensity of the message, the first 20minutes feels so much longer than I remember. The Spirit-fuelled reception of the word cannot be grasped through computer speakers. But the truth spoken remains the same. Should you wish to know what Whitfield sounded like, I imagine this would be a living example.

I moved churches after hearing this message, strongly believing that the Lord had a ministry for me to be involved in at that church, though not knowing any details. Within weeks, that proved to be correct as I was asked to shepherd and transition the high school ministry. Around 5 people decided to go to bible college after hearing this message, a further 3 men that I know of plan to attend seminary. That would be a mere fraction of the effect this message has had on New Zealand churches.

How I wish such conviction would grip the churches across our country more often! Preach the word and faithfully pray that the Spirit would choose to do His work!

If you don’t have the time or even the desire to listen to the whole message, I would recommend reading the text and then listening to parts 7 and 8.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,

Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

Maranatha ‘O Lord, come quickly.

Quote of the year- 1877

August 27, 2008
“Lord, there are so many today who are running away from the truth. Oh, that You would be pleased to speak by Your Spirit that Your word may be known. Lord, hold us fast to the truth of Your word, bind us to it. May we not be ashamed of the truth of Your word but proclaim it boldly without compromise. May we not wish to be thought cultured, nor aim to keep in step with the times. May we be side by side with You, O bleeding Savior; and be content to be rejected, be willing to take up unpopular truth, and to hold fast despised teachings of sacred Scripture to the end.
Oh make us faithful unto death.”
Prayer by C. H. Spurgeon December 30, 1877

The 5 most influential sermons I’ve listened to:

August 21, 2008

I believe in the ministry of the word. I believe in preaching. Many no longer do and seek to replace preaching with other things. Preaching often gets a bad rap and rightfully so. But true biblical preaching, faithful to the meaning of the Scripture and faithful to Christ, is needed all throughout the world.I have been fortunate to sit under the exposition of Peter Somervell and while he does not feature in this list, that prolonged exposure has ultimately been the most beneficial for myself.

However, sometimes one hears a message and it stirs something inside. At times the Holy Spirit uses faithful preaching mightily to accomplish His purposes. I would expect that all these preachers below would admit that if their sermon brought widespread change, it was because of the Spirit, not their eloquent language or individual brilliance.
5. A Call to Anguish by David Wilkerson
Wilkerson, from New York, preaches on Nehemiah 1 in this moving message. I don’t know how to explain what he says, except that you NEED to listen to this. I don’t agree with all of his theology, but his faithfulness leaves a lasting impression on me. This is a call to anguish in the church and an attack on easy-believism.
Exert:

“I see more of the world impacting the church, rather than the church impacting the world. I see the music taking over the house of God, I see entertainment taking over the house of God. A hatred of correction, a hatred of reproof, nobody wants to hear it anymore… when was the last time you heard a message come forth that so burned in your soul you knew it came from God. I hope you hear it here. Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God?”
link to message
4. Slaves for Christ- John Macarthur
Those at Shepherds conference 08 heard Macarthur preach arguably one of his best messages ever. He literally hit this one out the park. Speaking on the usage of two Greek words, kurios and doulos in the New Testament, Macarthur illustrated the truth that biblical language students have known for centuries; that the Christian is a slave to Christ. Our English Bibles constantly translate doulos as servant, which is not actually an option. It should be translated as ‘slave’. With the knowledge that kurios (Sovereign Lord) when combined with doulos, uses undeniable master-slave terminology, one gains a much fuller understanding of the NT. Macarthur then gave a survey of the New Testament which gave a deeper understanding of our relationship with Christ.
 
Exert:

“How do you think that flew in a slave world? This is so missing from Christian vocabulary. But once you get it, when the Bible says you were chosen, you say, “You mean like when a master went into a slave market and chose a slave? And then you were bought like when a master paid a price for the slave? And then you were owned, subjected, called to account; but also protected, provided for and rewarded.” That’s all slave talk! The gospel is a call to slavery. We just have to decide whether you’d rather be a slave to Jesus Christ or the devil.”

 
 

 

 

link for transcript:
Currently this message is not available for free download, though you can find a shortened and similar version here:

3. Salvation- True Gospel series- Paul Washer
Washer preached this 90minute sermon as part of 6 message series. I found it well hidden on the sermonindex site, but am incredibly grateful for it. Those who know of Washer (he’s growing in popularity, rightfully so), usually listen to his more popular messages, easily available on Youtube or other sites. This one, initially based on Ezekiel 36:22-28, is an attempt to understand salvation and comes after a few messages on repentance. His passion is evident and while it’s not extremely ‘polished’, I’ve found it necessary to listen to it around 10 times.
Exert:
We need to understand that salvation is more than a tiny human decision. It is a supernatural work of God. We must understand salvation. I am so sick of our proclamation of the gospel that is so stupid. I am so sick of our view of salvation that is damning more people to hell than anything the world can muster.”

link

2. Ten Shekels and a Shirt- Paris Reidhead
To say this message is powerful, would be an understatement. The late Reidhead opens Judges 17 with the story of Micah and his priestly duties for 10 Shekels and a suit of clothes, following with his move to the tribe of Dan for a greater sum. Reidhead then talks about expedient Christianity and humanistic religion- religion existing primarily for the happiness of man. Paris attacks this forum of ‘Christianity’ that has infiltrated churches and affected so much of our thinking. I cannot recommend this message enough, purely because it is God-focussed and not man-focussed. This truth has the potential to rip up our comfortable churches and be used by the Spirit to align our thoughts and worship towards God, not ourselves. 
Exert: I’m not giving you one. You need to hear it all. Yes, it’s from the 60’s, but it’s gold.
link, audio and transcript
I’ll save the number 1 for another time. Watch the anticipation grow…