Fuel for the Christian Life

Tullian Tchividjian explains that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation as well as fuel for living the Christian life.

HT to Timmy Brister

The only real question for believers

Matt Carter finished up the Blueprint series at Austin Stone Community Church yesterday. Please download all 5 of these messages and give them a listen.

At the beginning of yesterday’s message, Matt asked the only question really worth asking for believers. “Are we going to live the watered down version of Christianity that we’ve defined today or are we going to live Christianity as it is defined in the Bible?”

well? which is it for you? The version that fits in around the edges of our lives and pocketbook or the version that other people call us crazy for living?

The way I have been asking it of myself for 24 years or so is “what does really meaning it look like?”

I bet that it looks something like this video about front porch ministry:

Are we willing to live on our front porch for Jesus? Are we willing to move nine miles to the America within America where the need is overwhelming to live on the front porch for Jesus?

Well?

HT to Timmy Brister for the video

J.I. Packer on Repentance

Timmy Brister is starting a blog series on the importance of ongoing repentance in a Christian’s life.

His post today in that series is this quote from J.I. Packer:

“We need to realize that while God’s acceptance of each Christian believer is perfect from the start, our repentance always needs to be extended further as long as we are in this world.  Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.”

– J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 87.

The sign of life and health in a believer is that his or her’s knowledge will be growing of all three of the bolded things above. As we progress we should become more aware of the depth of our sin and depravity, we should become more aware of parts of ourselves that haven’t been surrendered to God’s control and we should be always learning more about God as we study His Word.

If we are healthy Christians we will be increasing in these three types of knowledge and enlarging our repentance accordingly. It isn’t a straight line graph of growth, but the trend should be upward.

death to self-righteousness

the Gospel ends self-righteousness.

ht to Timmy Brister

The recent SBC convention

I didn’t attend the recent SBC convention in Louisville, Kentucky, but it has been interesting reading various perspectives on the event.

Timmy Brister attended his first convention this year. Afterward, he posted ten highlights of the week and ten lowlights.

one of Timmy’s highlights was:

3.  The discussion and vote for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was historic and hopefully paradigm shifting.  Dr. Mohler was sharp and persuasive; Dr. Frank Page was irenic (as usual) and clear that this transcends theological differences; Tom Ascol was direct in returning us to issue at hand by avoiding the subtle attempts to overthrow the motion; and the young brother from TX has bold and convincing as a spokesman for the younger folk and why they are here in support for the GCR and future of the SBC.  The overwhelming vote of 95% to 5% in the affirmative revealed that we as Southern Baptists are ready for change in spite of the failed attempts of Morris Chapman and the majority of the Executive Committee to stop it.

Obviously, this is a very important vote and event in Southern Baptist Life. A recommitment to the Great Commission is essential if the denomination is to last longer than one or perhaps two more generations. Still, I wonder how this step will translate into action for your regular old run of the mill Southern Baptist Church down the block. That is where the rubber meets the road. In those pews are the hearts and minds that need to regain a heart for our joint ministry of reconciliation. In those pews are the feet that need to get moving while there is still time. In those pews are the mouths that need to open to share the Gospel with their friends and neighbors.

The vote on a GCR Task Force is an important step, but time is short and the need for immediate action is greater than it ever has been.

One of Timmy’s lowlights was:

3.  Cultural Fundamentalism

The Southern Baptist Convention has embraced the religious forms of the South in many ways that has pushed cultural fundamentalism at odds with gospel-centered churches.  This fundamentalism emphatically embraces the culture war and bemoans the sinful actions of secular society, calling for radical separation and denunciation of things aforementioned in #2 (homosexuals, drinking, cussing, etc.).  More attention is paid to the cultural imperative than the gospel indicative, thereby leading to a moralism or religion that fights for cultural values and even sometimes elevates them to a higher degree than the gospel.  Although I agree that some of the issues are important, the presence of this cultural fundamentalism is quite disconcerting, especially as this past convention revealed the level of importance placed upon them.  I would much rather see us deal with being “of the world but not in the world” than being “in the world but not of the world.”  We need the fight the war with sin the camp before we fight the war with sin in the culture.  And for the record, I have never had an ounce of alcohol in my life, nor smoked, nor do I cuss – but that’s besides the point. ;)

This one and the lowlights Timmy lists before and after this one get to the heart of the problem that has to be overcome in order for the SBC to ever be effective again as a denomination. Satan has well and truly blinded the hearts and minds of many good people and has them believing that fighting for cultural moralism is the same as engaging in the ministry of reconciliation. I have struggled against this mentality most of my life and it is the reason that I finally left my church last year.

There are more important things to which to attend than keeping track of people’s outward conformity to a list of “acceptable” activities. Quit wasting time with conduct lists and get busy for the Gospel while there is still time to work.

wise as serpents, harmless as doves

Jesus sent his twelve disciples out by two’s in Matthew 10 to proclaim the imminence of the Kingdom of Heaven. As part of his charge to them, Jesus told them in verse 16 that he was sending them out like sheep in the middle of wolves “so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

That phrase has haunted me since I first remember seeing it in a coach’s devotion after football practice in high school. (yes, I went to a christian school.)

Look at it again: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

“I am sending you out” Jesus commissioned the disciples and he has commissioned us.

“as sheep in the midst of wolves” Jesus sent them out to a world that hated him and would therefore hate his followers. (cf 10:24-25) But his disciples were to remain “as sheep.”

“so be wise as serpents” this is the part that just continues to rotate in my mind. Why say it like this? Specifically, why “serpent”? was Jesus saying that we are to know the schemes of that old serpent, Satan as well as the snake himself does? I think maybe that is it. I think perhaps this is Jesus teaching his disciples to be very aware of the particular worldly culture into which they were ministering.

“and innocent as doves” at the same time that his disciples were to be in the world and wise regarding Satan’s schemes therein, they were to remain innocent as doves. They were to keep their character as sheep following their Chief Shepherd. In the world but not of the world. familiar with the culture, but not polluted thereby.

Study it for yourselves and tell me if I am off base. Just meditate on chapter 10 of Matthew for a while.

Anyway, I bring that up because I really like Mark Driscoll.

To me, he exemplifies a man of God sent by Jesus as a sheep in the middle of Seattle Washington’s wolves. He endeavors to be as wise as a serpent, and as innocent as a dove. Obviously, like all of us, he fails in one or both sides of this equation from time to time. But he is trying to thread that needle rather than staying safely on the side of remaining innocent as a dove, because he knows that his obligation is to people in Seattle that desperately need to hear the voice of the Shepherd and will not do so unless the man God uses to call them is wise to the worldly culture in which the people live.

Whenever Mark was taking a beating recently, it seemed to me like his critics were missing the main thing. That is why I wrote this post. And it is why I wrote this post as well.

the main thing is that Mark is trying to thread the needle of being as wise as a serpent while remaining as harmless as a dove so that he can fully obey Jesus command to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

One of the more vociferous critics of Mark Driscoll has been Steve Camp. I love Steve Camp, but couldn’t understand the unbalanced nature of his attacks on Mark.

I have learned via Timmy Brister that Steve has now apologized.

That is where I had failed in addressing these things concerning Mark and his ministry; this is where the Lord convicted me as I reviewed some of my past articles I had written about him. I was not godly in how I used words to speak of those concerns on this blog. IOW, I came to see that in a very real way we have the same problem… just a different manifestation. I find myself identifying with Isaiah in the temple as “a man of unclean lips” that needed to repent of his sin. Unclean lips doesn’t necessarily mean here a tongue that uses seedy speech, but rather one that represents a heart that is not right before the Lord – unworthy deserving judgment. That was me; and apart from God’s sanctifying grace each day – that is still me. IOW beloved, my heart was not right towards my brother in Christ. I should have been more gracious, charitable and balanced in my words when commenting about his ministry in the Lord. In my zeal to champion reformed biblical theology which I deeply believe, I was blinded to the prideful log in my own eye while blogging about the speck in my brother’s eye. For this, I sincerely ask the readers of this blog and those associated with Mark and Mars Hill Church to please forgive me. I have already asked this of Mark privately and he has been most kind to extend to me a heart of mercy. It is my desire to always speak the truth in love and to not carelessly amputate another in that process.

Steve makes public his apology in the context of a review of Mark Driscoll’s recent debate with Deepak Chopra regarding the existence of Satan.

Steve realizes in watching Mark’s performance during this debate the nature of Mark’s gifting by God.

4. Mark has a rare ability to take complex spiritual truth and say them in a simple and pedestrian way that communicates the core meaning (while staying true to Scripture) to those who don’t speak Christianeeze or have never darkened the door of a church before. This is a gift; and one I wish more pastors had.

Go read the whole post by Steve regarding his apology to Mark and his review of the nightline debate. Very useful and edifying stuff indeed.

more fighting

I think that the leadership of the SBC is really misunderstanding the moment we are in historically, culturally, theologically.

Here is the Baptist Press article about Mark Driscoll.

Here is a response from Southeastern Seminary that just had a conference with Mark Driscoll as one of the speakers.

Here are some thoughts from Todd Burus, a young Southern Baptist.

And here is what Timmy Brister has to say.

I just want to echo Timmy’s closing remarks on this episode:

In any [] case, the fact that articles like this can be written about a brother in Christ that is so inaccurate and uncharitable in the Baptist Press does not raise the issue of Mark Driscoll but Christian virtue. I’m tired of being embarrassed as a Southern Baptist, and I would much rather partner with those who resembles Jesus than the Sanhedrin. As for Dr. Akin, he deserves our prayers and deepest respect. He, like others (e.g., John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Tim Keller, etc.), has chosen to see what God is doing in the life of Mark Driscoll and encourage him. Undoubtedly, Akin has and will continue to (as a result of this BP article) receive grief and criticism as a result. As for Mark Driscoll, I would put him up to any Southern Baptist preacher today who preaches Christ and Him crucified (and how many SBC churches can you find Jesus preached on any given Sunday?). Baptist Press’ efforts would serve the cause of Southern Baptist life much more in the future should they highlight such preachers who are planting gospel-centered churches and reaching this younger generation whom we have all but written off. Southern Baptists can learn from Mark Driscoll, but that can only begin when we lay down the knives.