A Picture of Manliness

Although there are lots of views, hot takes, and controversies about what a healthy, godly man looks like, I hope this is a picture all of us could get behind.

“When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship. Such a man is hearty in private as well as in public; his blood is not cold and fishy, but he is warm as your own fireside. No pride and selfishness chill you when you approach him; he has his doors all open to receive you, and you are at home with him at once. Such men I would persuade you to be, every one of you.”

Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

I want to be a man like this, I want my daughters to marry men like this, I pray my church is filled with men like this, because Jesus is a man like this.

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Your Pastor Has to Be Blameless

It doesn’t take long to hear about pastors who’ve been sexually abusive, used funds unethically, have acted or spoken in reprehensible ways, or lived in hidden addiction while acting like all is well. Recording more names and failings would be difficult, not because there aren’t more examples, but because of how much time it would actually take to type it all out.

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the evangelical church has something of a crises on its hands when it comes to the character of her pastors.

My Gut’s Response to Pastors’ Failures

Each time I hear of pastors who have disqualified themselves from ministry, I am overcome with two deep feelings. First, a deep pain for how these pastors have given the world reason to dismiss the gospel and the church. Pastors represent Christ and his gospel of salvation in an incredibly powerful way to both the world and the saints. When they fall, they take much down with them. The pastoral office is a high stakes calling and that is why not many should become teachers in the church (James 3:1). So, when I see men entrusted with such an important position fall in sin, hypocrisy, or duplicity, my heart breaks in ten-thousand pieces because I love the Savior and the saints they represent.

The second feeling I have is one of anger. I feel pain for the Savior and the people affected by unqualified pastors, but I feel anger at those who seek to lift themselves up even though it crushes others low. I resonate deeply with the woes Jesus charged against the religious leaders of his day:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice . . . They do all their deeds to be seen by others . . . they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others . . . The greatest among you shall be your servant . . . Matthew 23:1-11

No one bears the responsibility to reflect Christ’s sacrificial, shepherd’s love for the church as much as pastors do. They are to be the best imitators of Christ among us. So, when they forsake their calling to benefit from the sheep instead of benefit the sheep, a deep well of anger rises up within me. And, if Jesus still feels the same about such men today as he did in the first century, then it angers him too.

Is there grace left for such men? Yes! Absolutely! If they repent. The parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), and the lost son (Luke 15:11-32) are just as true for the fallen pastor as any other sinner. If any would acknowledge their sin, repent of it from their heart, and bear fruit in keeping with that repentance, they will find a gracious Savior to cleanse them and a gracious people ready to receive them back into fellowship (Romans 10:9; Galatians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Their repentance doesn’t mean they should become pastors again (as this isn’t anyone’s right), but they should definitely (as long as their church is acting faithfully to Scripture) be joyfully welcomed back into membership with God’s people. The church of Jesus Christ is for repentant sinners! However, unfortunately, genuine repentance for such men seems to be the exception and not the rule.

What Can the Church Do About Failing Pastors?

There is a lot to say in answer to such a question, but one of the first things that must be said is simply: the church must take seriously Paul’s pastoral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 more seriously. This won’t make it impossible for unqualified men to become a pastor, but by taking the qualifications given us in Scripture more seriously in calling men to the position or evaluating men already in the position will go a long way in helping the crises of falling pastors.

It’d be worth taking time to walk through each of the qualifications and I may do that (for my own sake) in the future. But for now, there is one summary qualification for pastors that will do any believer well to meditate on and take seriously. That is, a pastor must be “above reproach” or “blameless.”

Paul said it this way:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. Titus 1:5-7

If the church begins to demand their pastor(s) are men who are “above reproach,” then the church at large will begin making significant steps forward in decreasing the amount of unqualified, ungodly, and dangerous men who fill so many pulpits. The logic isn’t difficult. If a church’s pastor lives in such a way where it would be hard for folks to accuse him of any legitimate wrongdoing, then it’s likely he isn’t doing wrong at all. So, when a church is evaluating pastors either for hiring or keeping, it shouldn’t first look for humor, leadership abilities, vision casting, organizational skills, or inspirational charisma, but for blamelessness.

This prompts the question: what does “above reproach” or “blamelessness” mean?

What Does It Mean to Be Above Reproach?

Simply, it means that pastors should live such Christ-like, exemplary lives that they wouldn’t be charge with wrong doing often or legitimately. I say often and legitimately because even the best of men can be falsely accused every now and then, but the best of men are not accused often or with legitimate accusations. However, if a man is frequently accused of wrong doing by folks who seem to have something legitimate reputation and evidence for their accusation, then the church must start listening and praying hard for wisdom.

To help further color in the qualification of being “above reproach,” I offer two helpful voices. David Mathis says:

As low-bar as “above reproach” may sound in some ears, with just a little reflection we can discover some of the wisdom in it. This banner qualification is not merely “innocent” or “righteous” or “acquitted,” but “above reproach.” We are looking for men above being reasonably charged with wrong in the first place. The term means, writes commentator George Knight, “not open to attack or criticism” (The Pastoral Epistles, 155); “he is not objectively chargeable” (156). He’s not one who makes a practice of dancing around the fine line of righteous reproach.

Whether a man is technically innocent (or not) is not the entirety of the issue for church leadership. He might be unnecessarily controversial in a way that betrays immaturity or lack of wisdom. We want a pastor to be not only forensically righteous but also “the kind of man whom no one suspects of wrongdoing or immorality” (Anyabwile, 57).

John Stott further reflects:

As we approach the question of eligibility for the pastorate, we are struck at once by the requirement of blamelessness, which is repeated. An elder must he blameless (6a); an overseer … must be blameless (7a). This does not of course mean that candidates must be flawless or faultless, or we would all be disqualified. The Greek word used is anenklētos, not amōmos. Amōmos means ‘unblemished’. It occurs in the New Testament only in eschatological contexts; that is, it looks forward to our final perfection. Anenklētos, however, means not ‘without blemish’ but ‘without blame’, ‘unaccused’. So candidates for the pastorate must be people of ‘unquestioned integrity’ (JBP), of ‘unimpeachable’ (REB) or ‘irreproachable’ (JB) character. Paraphrasing the word, they should be ‘marred by no disgrace’; ‘they should offer no loophole for criticism’. All this recognizes that the pastorate is a public office, and that therefore the candidate’s public reputation is important. Hence the requirement in many churches today both of individual references and testimonials and of a si quis, that is, a public statement by the candidate, followed by a public opportunity for the congregation to challenge it.

Stott, John. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus (The Bible Speaks Today Series) . InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Pastors don’t need to be perfect. They can’t be. Even more, they don’t need to be “near perfect.” But they do, they absolutely do, need to be “above reproach.”

A Simple Plea: let’s Adopt God’s Standards for Our Pastors

John Stott, a man who pastored the same local church for over fifty years, taking his que from Paul’s list of pastoral qualifications, offered this challenge to make sure:

When there is a shortage of pastors, the temptation is to lower the standards of eligibility, and accept and appoint everybody who applies, even if they are not blameless in home life, behaviour and doctrine. Virtually all churches have selection procedures. But they do not always maintain apostolic standards. Instead, in some churches today it is no barrier to ordination (if) a candidate has a public reputation for a lack of Christian integrity and consistency; is married, divorced and remarried, even more than once; is a practising homosexual; has children who are both unbelieving and undisciplined; has a serious flaw in character or conduct; or holds liberal theological views with little respect for the authority of Scripture. It is something of a scandal that, in defiance of the apostle’s teaching, such persons are recommended and accepted for (pastoral ministry). So let us do what we can to copy Paul’s strategy and maintain Paul’s standards. The church would be in a far healthier condition if we did.

Stott, John. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus (The Bible Speaks Today Series). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

The church is unimaginably harmed when unqualified men lead her. The only way to avoid that is by taking the apostles’ words seriously and putting them into practice. If our pastors are not “blameless,” they should not be pastors.

May the churches of Christ all over the world hold their pastors to the same standard that Christ does. If we do, I think some good will come.

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A Prayer for Those Returning Home From Work

“Love does not insist on its own way…” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Rob Green helpfully applies this characteristic of love to the husband driving home from a long and tiring day at work:

While many people marry because the other person helps them love themselves better than anyone else, biblical love is interested in giving instead of taking, and serving instead of being served. When people arrive home from work, they often feel tired and run down. They are ready for a relaxing, problem-free evening. But when they are met at the door by a needy spouse (one who wants to have adult conversation for the next two hours, one who wants to share her feelings and emotions, one who is crying after a horrible day), there is a tendency to get frustrated. Biblical love does not demand from the other person, but willingly gives. Biblical love seeks the good of the other.

You might ask, “How does this happen?” Most of us, myself included, have a drive from our work to our home. A wise man uses this drive time to pray and confess something like this:

“Lord, you know I am tired. What I want most is to go home and discover that the homework is done, a wonderful dinner is ready, and a relaxing evening of playing outside in the beautiful weather is ahead. But I know that your will might be something different today.

Help me to remember that I don’t need anything because you have given me everything I need. If I get home and chaos exists, help me to gently, kindly, patiently love each member of my family. Help me remember that my wife has probably had a hard day too and you may calling me to serve her tonight. Please help me to use this opportunity to display the reality that Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and present ministry are meaningful in my life.”

(Taken from Tying the Knot, p. 31-32)

May God’s men love their families in such a way.

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What Jean Calvin & Modern Secularists Have in Common

Secular progessivism is looking much more like a religion than a movement nowadays. Each passing day provides more and more evidence that the separation of church and state applies only to organized religions and not the religion of secular liberal humanism that saturates progressive media, mindset, and legislature.

Maybe a few small examples could help flesh this out.

Racing for Pink Slips

Recently, California unashamedly rolled out their new public school “Health Education Framework” which brazenly promotes its own tribe’s sexual morality over the historic and common views held by Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Christians, and many other religious constituents.

A few years ago, the Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges, by act of will (p. 3), that the definition of marriage had to be edited (erased completely?) in order for it to fit more snugly within a modern naturalistic metaphysic instead of the definition held by religious and irreligious folks since we started recording history.

Each year, California legislature continues to propose new bills that would greatly diminish or destroy religious liberty (for example).

What we see today is not a battle between those who want church and state to be married (most Christians would be against this) and those who don’t. It’ a battle where one religion in particular, secular progressivism, is racing for pink slips.

Progessives & Jean Calvin

Jonathan Leeman teases this out wonderfully:

People often criticize John Calvin for his argument that the state should enforce the first two commandments (no other gods, no idols), and I would agree with those critiques. Yet it occurs to me that more and more secular progressives do what Calvin did — they publicly promote their gods and prosecute forms of worship that offend them. My friend Andrew T. Walker recently tweeted:

Don’t be fooled: Secularism is a form of theocracy. It’s very jealous for its own glory, commands our worship, & demands a set of ethics.

How do secular progressives do this? Certainly through the ordinary legislation and judicial processes. Yet it’s also worth highlighting the work that public schools and education policy do in making disciples. Education is a society’s “paramount moral duty,” said political philosopher John Dewey, since it is “the fundamental method of social progress and reform.” Through the public schools the children of a nation come to “share in the social consciousness” of that nation.

To put it another way, public schools, as agents of the state, participate in the religious indoctrination of their students. Before the Civil War, schools reinforced a Protestant orientation. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, school lessons began to move in a naturalistic direction. After World War II, secular progressivism became increasingly predominant. Schools today especially work to cultivate students who are conscientious in matters of social justice.”

A member of my church whose children attend a Washington, DC, public school recently received an e-mail announcement from the school notifying parents of the school’s participation in a Gay Pride parade. I appreciate the fact that the school sent an e-mail. That doesn’t always happen now. The letter explained that the school “values diversity and “strives to create a safe and inclusive environment.” The administration believed that participating in the parade would be “a great way to proactively engage your child(ren) in a conversation about LGBTQ people in a way that focuses on acceptance, respect and understanding, promoting the spread of correct and positive information.”

I, too, hope that schools will foster “acceptance, respect and understanding” for all people, no matter how they identify themselves. Yet my Christian faith does not treat every conceivable identity-construct as morally legitimate. Should we foster “acceptance, respect and understanding” for those who identify themselves as thieves, adulterers, or (as I saw on one courtroom television show) vampires? For the people themselves, yes. For their identities as thieves, adulterers, or vampires? Not according to my faith.

What this school e-mail represents, then, is the state’s concerted effort to religiously indoctrinate my friend’s ten-, eight-, and five-year-olds in a different faith. A faith that worships the gods of self-definition and self-expression.

Through the classroom, the legislator, and the courtroom, today’s progressive is only too happy to use the state to enforce his moral and religious codes.

Taken from, “How the Nations Rage,” p. 41-42

As Mary Eberstadt said, “Secular progressivism today is less a political movement than a church.”

We’re All Pretty Darn Religious

The point I think important to walk away with is this: none of us enters the political sphere without bias, underlying presuppositions, or even an agenda. As Leeman says elsewhere, “Either we ask the state to play savior, or, to say it the same thing a different way, we demand it plays servants to our gods” (How the Nations Rage, p. 28). What is important is for all parties, but especially those who fancy themselves “irreligious,” to stop pretending they separate their deepest held beliefs from their political activity and to acknowledge how “religious” they actually are.

Then, we can move forward with at least a little more clarity and honesty.

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Ooh, That Double Vision

He saved perfectly, he’s saving progressively, & he will save completely.

In reading my devotions today, I came across a passage that stirred my heart so I thought it may do the same for yours, my dear friend and pilgrim.

In Titus 2:1-10, Paul issues a series of ethical commands for how Christians are to live and what kind of people they should strive to be in Christ. After explaining how Christians are to live in 2:1-10, Paul then explains why in Titus 2:11-14.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-13

Notice this simple, yet profound truth: what a Christian does today is grounded in what Christ did and what Christ will do. Our present life is a response to the grace of Christ that appeared in the past and the glory of Christ that appear in the future.

John Stott helps apply this in his commentary on Titus.

The apostle, in this short paragraph of only four verses (11–14) brings together the two termini of the Christian era, that is, the first coming of Christ which inaugurated it and the second coming of Christ which will terminate it. He bids us look back to the one and on to the other. For we live ‘in between times’, suspended rather uncomfortably between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ . . .

The best way to live now, in this present age, is to learn to do spiritually what is impossible physically, namely to look in opposite directions at the same time. We need both to look back and remember the epiphany of grace (whose purpose was to redeem us from all evil and to purify for God a people of his own), and also to look forward and anticipate the epiphany of glory (whose purpose will be to perfect at his second coming the salvation he began at his first).

This deliberate orientation of ourselves, this looking back and looking forward, this determination to live in the light of Christ’s two comings, to live today in the light of yesterday and tomorrow—this should be an essential part of our daily discipline. We need to say to ourselves regularly the great acclamation, ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.’ For then our present duties in the home will be inspired by the past and future epiphanies of Christ.

Canon Hay Aitken suggested that the two comings of Christ are like ‘two windows … in the School of Grace’. Through the western window a solemn light streams from Mt. Calvary. Through the eastern window shines the light of sunrising, the herald of a brighter day. ‘Thus the School of Grace is well lighted; but we cannot afford to do without the light from either West or East.’

Stott, John. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus (The Bible Speaks Today Series) . InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

The Christian’s present life must be motivated, guided, ruled, and fueled by focusing on both the grace of Christ’s past cross and the glory of his future crown. If it’s not, we’ve lost our track.

As Foreigner once sang:

Ooh, double vision, I need my double vision
Ooh, It takes me out of my head, takin’ me out of my head
Ooh, I get my double vision
Ooh, seeing double double, double vision
Ooh, oh my double vision
Ooh, double vision
Yeah-ah, I get double vision, ooh . . .
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How Ought a Christian Behave in 2020?

A real life picture of a Facebook debate.

Americans are living in a fairly chaotic and volatile time. Our two political parties have never seemed so polarized. Many see the government’s actions in response to the virus as either too weak and insufficient or way too strong and unnecessary. As the election nears, the alarmist rhetoric from both sides of the aisle sounds more and more like a bad counterfeit of the book of Revelation. The prophets are condemning the other side to hell while shouting to the watching world, “The end is near (if our candidate isn’t voted in)!”

Our chaotic time has created (intensified?) a chaotic style of discourse as well. Whether online or in-person, we’re surrounded by people screaming at, accusing, and disrespecting those with different views than them on the big things (e.g. abortion, racism, economic structure) and the little things (e.g. masks). No one seems to know (or care) how to get along.

How Ought a Believer Behave in 2020?

So, this brings us to a good question to ponder, “How ought believers in Jesus behave in such times of governmental controversy and conversational pollution?” What do we need to be reminded of in 2020?

To get straight to it, here are six good counsels to start.

(1) Have a Posture of Ready Submission to the Government

The government is a gift from God for which we should be thankful (Rom. 13:1). The government’s authority is established by God so we should be ready to respect her officials and obey her rules (Rom. 13:7) when it acts legitimately and doesn’t forbid what God commands or command what God forbids (as my pastor likes to put it). Yes, there are times were obedience to Christ demands we disobey the government (Acts 4:18-20), but the default position of a Christian’s heart must be submission, obedience, and honor to the land’s rulers ans laws. For a really helpful sermon on this, see here.

(2) Be Ready for Good Works

Don’t allow the problems “out there,” which you can do little to nothing about make you ignore the problems “right here” that you can do a lot about. By all means, pay attention to what’s happening in our world “out there” and be active, but know this: Christians should be busier in doing good to their neighbor in person (e.g. practicing hospitality, helping someone follow Jesus, etc.) than they are owning the libs online.

(3) Speak Evil of No One

Informed disagreement is vastly different than speaking evil (e.g. disrespecting, slandering, baseless accusations). Christians are encouraged to the former, but prohibited from the latter. This includes (especially) those with different political views than you or those in government positions. Make sure your mouth delivers only light and life.

(4) Avoid Quarreling

Again, informed, civil, and respectful debate is different than engaging in verbal fistfights. The goal of civil debate is to persuade folks who think differently with thoughtful arguments and even being open to learn in the process. The goal of quarreling is to score points with those who already agree with you by using all sorts of soundbites, slogans, and “gotcha” tricks with no intention of seriously listening or learning. Avoid quarreling like you do dumpster fires because, like them, they’re only hot and stinky.

(5) Be Gentle

This must be a hallmark characteristic of any Christian communication whether it be preaching those who believe or attempting to persuade those who don’t; whether it be speaking with those who respect you or those who disrespect you. Allow the world to rant and rave and yell and threat, but Christ’s people must not descend into such juvenile, thoughtless habits. May our speech, in writing or speaking, online or in person, be always gentle (1 Peter 3:15).

(6) Be Perfectly Courteous Toward All People

There is more to being a Christian than being polite, but not less. It behooves those bought by Christ’s blood to show basic respect, manners, and civility toward others who bear his image. This means we should not be known for interrupting, shouting, yelling, name-calling, not listening carefully, or other disrespectful practices. Whether or not folks agree with what you say, they should at least always walk away thinking, “What a respectful person they are.” If you find yourself wary of this, think of the alternative. Do you think it is ever a good thing for a person to walk away from conversation with us saying to themselves, “What a disrespectful and rude person they are.” Remember, there is nothing virtuous about saying true things in a jerky way. Keep the truth, leave the jerkiness.

Four Brief Notes About the Above Counsels

First, if you think the above sounds too politically correct and soft-footed, then take a quick look at Titus 3:1-2:

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

If you have issues with the counsels, then know whom you’re disagreeing with.

Second, one good thing about the internet is your writing and interactions are written down to look at later. Consider taking the above list and hold your own interactions up to it. Where are areas in your conversation where you see God’s grace? Praise God for those! What are some habits you need to repent of?

Third, I think we need to realize that a lot of our online and in-person debate characteristics are taken from the world instead of the Lord. Many of us look more like (insert high profile conservative here) instead of Jesus. So, I ask you, “Who is forming you? In whose image are you being conformed?”

Fourth, some may be thinking, “But this is a time to stand up for the sake of religious liberty, the life of the unborn, and other important rights being threatened!” To that, I say: you are absolutely correct! Informed believers should be speaking life-giving (both eternally and temporally) truth and not be cowered into silence! It is important! And that is all the more why the above counsels are needed because our message is muted when we ignore them. If you seek quarrels, people will avoid you. If you speak evilly of people, people will ignore your message. If your life isn’t adorned with good works, people will note your hypocrisy and think your message of little power. If you don’t pay attention to how you are communicating, then many will not pay attention to what you are communicating. Yes, this is a time to speak up and therefore it is all the more important to pay attention to Scripture’s commands concerning our conduct. We should not want to obscure life-giving truth with ugly tactics.

As usual, there’s more to say and more nuance to explain, but here’s the bottom line: God has a lot to say about what we say (our message), but also how we say it (our manner); both our beliefs and our behavior. As followers of Jesus, we want to make sure that we take both seriously.

As a final thought, I think it will help keep us from danger if we make sure we are always more critical of ourselves than we are of others. Let’s not allow the world’s great evils make us blind to our own folly and neglect of Scripture’s commands. As John Stott once said: “We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’”

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A Christian’s Politics

What should a Christian’s politics look like?

Though there’s much to say, I found this thought from Jonathan Leeman a good and necessary place to start.

Christian’s politics always begins with Jesus. He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords. And we know his will through his Word.

A Christian’s politics proceeds through the spoken evangelistic word: “The King is coming to judge all transgressors. Repent and believe, and he will graciously pardon.”

A Christian’s politics then takes root in the individual heart. Only a heart that’s been remade by the Spirit of God will no longer seek to lord it over others, but will extend mercy even as it has received mercy.

Then, remarkably, a Christian’s politics should become visible in the life and fellowship of the local church—both in its teaching and in its fellowship. Whether you’re a member of this party or that party, the local church is where we learn to love our enemies, forsake our tribalism, and beat our swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. Here is where we tutor one another in the righteousness and justice of God. Here is where the righteousness and justice of God become tangible, credible, and believable for the onlooking nations.

Every week that a preacher stands up to preach he makes a political speech. He teaches the congregation “to observe all” that the King with all authority in heaven and on earth has commanded (Matt. 28:20). He strives to shape their lives in the way of the King’s law. We then declare the King’s judgments in the ordinances, embrace the King’s purposes in our prayers, and echo the King’s joy and mourning in our songs.

Read the whole piece here.

If you want more on Christian faith and politics, grab Leeman’s book, How the Nation’s Rage. I recently started and have already found it helpful.

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What Happens When a Christian Sins?

No matter what form of Christian ministry you find yourself laboring in (e.g. childrens, youth, adult, parenting), here is a question you will be asked:

“What happens when a forgiven believer in Jesus sins?”

Since the questions has everything do with our relationship with God, sin, and grace, your answer will dramatically affect how the questioner views the gospel of Jesus. Therefore, it’s a question to ponder deeply and prepare to answer succinctly.

John Bunyan’s Answer

John Bunyan helps answer the question, “What happens to a believer’s relationship with God when they sin?”

Sin, after the Spirit of adoption (has) come, cannot dissolve the relation of father and son, of father and child . . . Now mark, you are no more a servant, that is, no more under the law of death and damnation, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:4-7).

Suppose a child grievously transgresses against and offends his father, is their relationship therefore dissolved? Again, suppose the father should (discipline) the son for such offense, is the relationship between them therefore dissolved? Even more, suppose the child should now, through ignorance, cry, and say, “This man is now no more my father!” is he therefore now not his father? Does not everyone see the folly of such thinking?

Know, then, that your sin, after you have received the Spirit of adoption to cry unto God, “Father! Father!” is counted the sin of a child, not of a slave, and that all that happens to you for that sin, is but the discipline of a father. “What son is he whom the father disciplines not?” (Hebrews 12:1).

(Taken from The Fear of God, p. 47-48)

The London Baptists’ Answer

Or, as the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith puts it well in article 12:

God has granted that all those who are justified would receive the grace of adoption, in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ.1 By this they are counted among the children of God and enjoy the freedom and privileges of that relationship.2 They inherit his name,3 receive the spirit of adoption,4 have access to the throne of grace with boldness, and are enabled to cry “Abba, Father!”5 They are given compassion,6 protected,7 provided for,8 and (disciplined) by him as a father.9  Yet they are never cast off10 but are sealed for the day of redemption11 and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.12

1Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:4, 5. 2John 1:12; Romans 8:17. 32 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 3:12. 4Romans 8:15. 5Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:18. 6Psalms 103:13. 7Proverbs 14:26. 81 Peter 5:7. 9Hebrews 12:6. 10Isaiah 54:8, 9; Lamentations 3:31. 11Ephesians 4:30. 12Hebrews 1:14; 6:12.

And here is another part (article 11) of the same confession.

God continues to forgive the sins of those who are justified.14  Even though they can never fall from a state of justification,15 they may fall under God’s fatherly displeasure  because of their sins.16  In that condition they will not usually have the light of his face restored to them until they humble themselves, confess their sins, plead for pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.17

14Matthew 6:12; 1 John 1:7, 9. 15John 10:28. 16Psalms 89:31–33. 17Psalms 32:5; Psalms 51; Matthew 26:75.

There is definitely more that could be said, but these answers, and the Scriptures therein, will serve you well as you seek to help others live within the finished work of Christ and enjoy their blood bought adoption as sons & daughters of God.

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The Christian Testimony of an Old Testament Believer

In the foreword to Dr. J. Alec Motyer‘s excellent little book, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament, Tim Keller shares this fantastic insight he learned from the good doctor a few decades ago.

Approximately 40 years ago, during the summer between my undergraduate college years and seminary, I  . . . came eventually to the Ligonier Valley Study Center . . . where R. C. Sproul was hosting at his regular weekly Question and Answer session a British Old Testament scholar, J. Alec Motyer. As a still fairly new Christian, I found the Old Testament to be a confusing and off-putting part of the Bible.

I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church . . . After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their “testimony” to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:

We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator—the one who stands between us and God—came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.

Then Dr. Motyer concluded:

“Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.”

My young self was thunderstruck. I had held the vague, unexamined impression that in the Old Testament people were saved through obeying a host of detailed laws but that today we were freely forgiven and accepted by faith. This little thought experiment showed me, in a stroke, not only that the Israelites had been saved by grace and that God’s salvation had been by costly atonement and grace all along, but also that the pursuit of holiness, pilgrimage, obedience, and deep community should characterize Christians as well.

Taken from “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament, p. ix-x)

What is concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament and what is revealed in the New is concealed in the Old. As the author of Hebrews put it, “The law has but a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). As Jesus put it, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).

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Favorite Quotes from “Ready Player One”

I recently enjoyed Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Here are some of my favorite quotes. Please note, I don’t necessarily agree with all the below quotes, but in one way or another find them helpful, intriguing, or illustrative of certain ideas or points of view.

An Angsty Teenager’s Take on Silly Religion. Fascinating (hilarious) when juxtaposed with a main character and plot infused with moral objectivity, virtue, and absolute truth.

“I wish someone had just told me the truth right up front, as soon as I was old enough to understand it. I wish someone had just said: “Here’s the deal, Wade. You’re something called a ‘human being.’ That’s a really smart kind of animal. Like every other animal on this planet, we’re descended from a single-celled organism that lived millions of years ago. This happened by a process called evolution, and you’ll learn more about it But trust me, that’s really how we all got here. There’s proof of it everywhere, buried in the rocks. That story you heard? About how we were all created by a super-powerful dude named God who lives up in the sky? Total bullshit. The whole God thing is actually an ancient fairy tale that people have been telling one another for thousands of years. We made it all up. Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. “Oh, and by the way … there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. Also bullshit. Sorry, kid Deal with it.”

An Angsty Teenager’s Gospel of Enlightenment. The myth of our day.

“You’re probably wondering what happened before you got here. An awful lot of stuff, actually. Once we evolved into humans, things got pretty interesting. We figured out how to grow food and domesticate animals so we didn’t have to spend all of our time hunting. Our tribes got much bigger, and we spread across the entire planet like an unstoppable virus. Then, after fighting a bunch of wars with each other over land, resources, and our made-up gods, we eventually got all of our tribes organized into a ‘global civilization.’ But, honestly, it wasn’t all that organized, or civilized, and we continued to fight a lot of wars with each other. But we also figured out how to do science, which helped us develop technology. For a bunch of hairless apes, we’ve actually managed to invent some pretty incredible things. Computers. Medicine. Lasers. Microwave ovens. Artificial hearts. Atomic bombs. We even sent a few guys to the moon and brought them back. We also created a global communications network that lets us all talk to each other, all around the world, all the time. Pretty impressive, right?

An Angsty Teenager’s Take on Death. “But the evidence seems to suggest that nothing happens.” Except for that one guy that came back and told us some stuff (Luke 24).

“You’re probably wondering what’s going to happen to you. That’s easy. The same thing is going to happen to you that has happened to every other human being who has ever lived. You’re going to die. We all die. That’s just how it is.

“What happens when you die? Well, we’re not completely sure. But the evidence seems to suggest that nothing happens. You’re just dead, your brain stops working, and then you’re not around to ask annoying questions anymore. Those stories you heard? About going to a wonderful place called ‘heaven’ where there is no more pain or death and you live forever in a state of perpetual happiness? Also total bullshit. Just like all that God stuff. There’s no evidence of a heaven and there never was. We made that up too. Wishful thinking. So now you have to live the rest of your life knowing you’re going to die someday and disappear forever.


The Cold Unreality of Video Games & Virtual Life. Interesting to think that this take on the meaninglessness of video games and virtual life must also be applied to “real life” from a naturalistic perspective. For, in the end, all this doesn’t mean anything. Once the “Game Over” screen hits at our death, we fade to black and all our struggle, pain, victories, and achievements are forgotten. From a naturalistic perspective, all of us are “just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting (our lives) on a glorified video game” we call life.”

Then I paused and spent a moment staring at my rig. I’d been so proud of all this high-tech hardware when I’d first purchased it. But over the past few months, I’d come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist. Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.

Standing there, under the bleak fluorescents of my tiny one-room apartment, there was no escaping the truth. In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified video game.

But not in the OASIS. In there, I was the great Parzival. World-famous and international celebrity. People asked for my autograph. I had a fan club . . . I was a legend. Nay, a god.



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