Shepherding to truth

Matt Chandler’s excellent post on shepherding people to truth:

Give people texts to read and then give them plenty of space to wrestle. I love strong, convincing theologically driven books. The Bible’s better.

Listen. Don’t listen to respond. Listen. You’ll find that people usually have an aversion to truth because it is affecting something or someone very close to them. If you’ll listen and see past a specific theological agenda, you can minister to their hearts. Let me give you an example. The Village is reformed in theology. A few weeks ago after an especially clear presentation of God’s sovereignty over salvation a young man came up to me after service frustrated with what I taught. It didn’t take long to figure out someone very close to him wasn’t a believer. We prayed for his family member for 10-15 minutes and asked the merciful God of the universe to save. After we prayed together, he told me he needed to “learn more of what the Bible says about all this.” After feeling loved, cared for and then prayed with, he was much more open to hear the scriptures unpacked. I have found this to be the case more often than not.

Go read his other two bullets at the link above. good stuff.

hat tip to vitamin z.

truth in love

Paul reminded the Ephesian church that only with truth would there be mature Christian unity and only if truth was spoken in love.

Truth cannot be ducked or minimized in any way, but it must be softened with compassion. It is not compassionate to downplay or minimize or disregard truth.

Dr. Mohler wrote about this the other day in the context of homosexuality.

first the truth:

The homosexual rights movement understands that the evangelical church is one of the last resistance movements committed to a biblical morality. Because of this, the movement has adopted a strategy of isolating Christian opposition, and forcing change by political action and cultural pressure. Can we count on evangelicals to remain steadfastly biblical on this issue?

Not hardly. Scientific surveys and informal observation reveal that we have experienced a significant loss of conviction among youth and young adults. No moral revolution can succeed without shaping and changing the minds of young people and children. Inevitably, the schools have become crucial battlegrounds for the culture war. The Christian worldview has been undermined by pervasive curricula that teach moral relativism, reduce moral commandments to personal values, and promote homosexuality as a legitimate and attractive lifestyle option.

Our churches must teach the basics of biblical morality to Christians who will otherwise never know that the Bible prescribes a model for sexual relationships. Young people must be told the truth about homosexuality–and taught to esteem marriage as God’s intention for human sexual relatedness.

The times demand Christian courage. These days, courage means that preachers and Christian leaders must set an agenda for biblical confrontation, and not shrink from dealing with the full range of issues related to homosexuality. We must talk about what the Bible teaches about gender–what it means to be a man or a woman. We must talk about God’s gift of sex and the covenant of marriage. And we must talk honestly about what homosexuality is, and why God has condemned this sin as an abomination in His sight.

but with compassion:

And yet, even as courage is required, the times call for another Christian virtue as well–compassion. The tragic fact is that every congregation is almost certain to include persons struggling with homosexual desire or even involved in homosexual acts. Outside the walls of the church, homosexuals are waiting to see if the Christian church has anything more to say, after we declare that homosexuality is a sin.

Liberal churches have redefined compassion to mean that the church changes its message to meet modern demands. They argue that to tell a homosexual he is a sinner is uncompassionate and intolerant. This is like arguing that a physician is intolerant because he tells a patient she has cancer. But, in the culture of political correctness, this argument holds a powerful attraction.

Biblical Christians know that compassion requires telling the truth, and refusing to call sin something sinless. To hide or deny the sinfulness of sin is to lie, and there is no compassion in such a deadly deception. True compassion demands speaking the truth in love–and there is the problem. Far too often, our courage is more evident than our compassion.

Go read the rest. Great stuff.

tyranny?

why use such a strong word when judges make up law and choose to favor one group over another rather than allow democratic processes to work?

Keith Pavlischek at First Things quotes Nathan Diament who calls this struggle over competing legal rights between gay rights and people of faith “the mega-cultural issue of the decade.”

Pavlischek points to this Washington Post article recognizing the tension as well as the fact that people of faith are losing.

Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.
….
— A Christian photographer was forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney’s costs after she refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony.

— A psychologist in Georgia was fired after she declined for religious reasons to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.

— Christian fertility doctors in California who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient were barred by the state Supreme Court from invoking their religious beliefs in refusing treatment.

— A Christian student group was not recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.

Tyranny doesn’t seem like too strong a word for this sort of thing. Now what is the proper christian response? To fight like crazy? to become another aggrieved interest group marching on Washington and/or various state capitols?

Or is it to recognize that Jesus sent us out as sheep amongst wolves and to therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves? Is it perhaps to love our neighbors as ourselves? What does such love look like in the face of the tyranny described above? how do we continue to be marked by love instead of judgment while remaining true to God’s word regarding sin?

these are very difficult questions to answer. I am afraid that very soon we will all have to find answers to them.

what he said

here is Mark Driscoll talking about holding truth tightly while being relevant to the culture.

Bumped up from last July, because it is still relevant.

here is the page where you can download the entire message that the above video was advertising.

truth and doctrine

Kevin DeYoung has a great series of four posts on Truths that Transform, Doctrines that Damn.

Here are his summary conclusions, but go read all four posts.

First off, we see that anyone who says they have a church with no doctrinal center does not have a Christian church.

Second, we see that the early church believed orthodoxy was very important, and it was more than just living the right way, it involved holding certain truths about God, Christ, and salvation.

Third, we see that orthodoxy is not a moving target. There is no indication that Paul wanted his young pastors to repaint the Christian faith for a new generation. On the contrary, there is every indication that he wanted the apostolic deposit of truth to be passed on untouched and uncorrupted.

Fourth, we see that this apostolic message was to be declared boldly and confidently, and anyone who preached a different message or led others away from this core message were to be gently opposed and strongly rebuked (somehow, I guess, we can gently oppose and strongly rebuke at the same time).

Fifth, and more to the point of this series of blog posts, we see what the essentials of the faith looked like. The gospel message that Paul preached and expected all Christian to adhere to looked something like this: God is glorious; we are sinners; and Jesus Christ is our Savior and God. Jesus Christ is the son of David and God in the flesh; he died and rose again; he ascended into heaven; he is coming again. Salvation is by sovereign grace, according to the converting power of the Holy Spirit, through faith, not according to works. Jesus Christ saves us from sin, saves us for eternal life, and saves us unto holiness.

This is the gospel of the early church. It is rooted in Scripture. It is not to be deviated from. And it must be proclaimed confidently by anyone who would lay claim to apostolic authority in his ministry.

contending and contextualizing

The church must both contend for truth and must contextualize truth to be effective in evangelism. Compare II Timothy 1:14 to I Corinthians 9:22.

Hunter Beaumont’s diagnosis of the current evangelical moment is that we are over-contextualizing and under-contending:

But in postmodernity, the cultural scorn has shifted. The supernatural is plausible again, but exclusivity and assertiveness are now taboo. The quickest way to ruffle skirts in our pluralist world is to come off rigid or narrow. So the new breed of preachers is tempted to lop off anything that sounds too exclusive—the Bible as universal truth, Jesus as the one mediator between God and man, and God’s judgment, along with its remedy, penal substitutionary atonement. This is where our generation must contend or perish.

What do you think? agree or disagree?

our culture’s effect on our faith

Al Mohler is hitting on a very sensitive topic with this post. It is a more complete picture of the effect than the slice that I was looking at in my comments to this post. I said the following:

Number 2, there is a basic misunderstanding of the important responsibility of church membership in this country. In the U.S. we are so deeply ingrained in a culture of individualism, that we don’t really comprehend the passages in the Bible addressing the serious ramifications of joining a body of believers. In Hebrews 13:7 and 17 the writer makes it clear that placing yourself under the authority of elders is very serious. You have to find elders whose faith you can imitate and you have to obey them because they will give an account for you to God. Wow! Think about the awesome amount of responsibility that places on someone like Mark Driscoll who is responsible for and will give an account for more than 7600 persons. James 3:1 is also very serious for Mark, as is I Peter 5:1-6.
We are so used to our cultural congregational easy to join, easy to leave democratic church governance model that seeing a church trying to do it biblically seems extremely foreign.

Al Mohler, speaking more generally says the following:

Americans are not sure what to do with ideals of equality and fairness, but we are generally certain that equality and fairness are the right categories to employ, regardless of the idea or context.

People who think themselves autonomous will claim the right to define all meaning for themselves. Any truth claim they reject or resist is simply ruled out of bounds. We will make our own world of meaning and dare anyone to violate our autonomy.

The same research report indicates that a majority of American Christians pick and choose doctrines, more or less on the basis of those they like as opposed to those they dislike.

This certainly explains a great deal about the current shape of Christianity in American today. Specifically, it points to at least one fundamental reason that so many Christians — including a significant number who claim to be evangelical — no longer believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.

That reason: Eternal punishment in hell is not consistent with “the American experience” or “the American way.” The God of the Bible, in other words, does not act in ways consistent with what many people consider to be American ideals. Sending people to hell is just not fair.

The Bible never claims that God acts fairly, of course. Fairness is the best we mortals can often hope to achieve. We want our children to learn to play fairly and each child learns all too quickly to cry out, “No fair!”

But God does not claim to be fair. The God of the Bible is infinitely greater than we are. He is faithful, just, holy, merciful, gracious, and righteous. A morally perfect being does not operate at the level of mere and faulty human fairness, but at the level of his own omnipotent righteousness. We hope to make things fair. God makes things right.

We must work doubly hard to make sure that we place ourselves under the authority of the Bible. There will be an increasing number of times where choosing to teach without apology or hesitation what the Bible says will be at variance with what our culture says. Recognizing this conflict will change how we approach these topics, but we must continue to teach the truth in love with gentleness and respect.

hat tip to Ramblin’ Pastor Man.