469 Posts By Hans Kristensen

  • Comforting Truth no. 4: Heaven

     

    A few years ago I was sitting in Hungry Jacks in Kings Cross at around 9pm when a bunch of prostitutes walked in. They were loud, raucous and quickly made themselves the centre of attention. A song came on over the radio called Heaven by the Eurogliders.[1] The lyrics of the chorus are:

    Heaven, must be there-ere

    Well, it’s just got to be there-ere

    I’ve never – never seen Eden

    I don’t wanna live in this place

    One of the prostitutes turned to another and said “Do you think it exists? Heaven I mean.” The other one said “Sure, cause I don’t wanna live in this place!” At this they laughed, ordered their food and loudly went on their way.

    When I see my dad racked by pain, hardly able to eat anything and I know there is no human way he will survive this cancer I think of heaven. Because when I see my dad in so much pain I don’t wanna live in this place! I want be in a place which is described like this:

    Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

    I want to be in a place where there are no more tears or cancer or hatred or violence or death or mourning. That is the place I want to be. So when I see my dad racked with pain or when I see him exhausted and sleeping on the couch, a mere shell of the man he once, I was I realise my hope, my future and my home is heaven.


    [1] You can see the video clip here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJou-XIUywQ

     

  • Comforting truth no.3: The Resurrection

     

    The Bible states that our resurrection will be patterned after Jesus’ own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-44) and so our resurrection, just like Jesus’, will be physical. This gives me great hope for myself that one day, no matter what happens in this life, my body will be resurrected and made new.

    When I think about the resurrection and I think about my dad I remember what he used to be like before the cancer struck. He was a man who was thin and yet very tough and strong, he had boundless energy and was always working. But now he has lost a tonne of weight, he now cannot do one tenth of the things he used to do, he sleeps a lot and doesn’t have a quarter of the energy he once had. The resurrection says that this will not be the final picture of my dad I will see. If my dad believes in Jesus he too will be resurrected and given a new body, an imperishable body , a body  that is not racked with cancer one that is fit and with boundless energy.

    It seems like every year there is a bishop or pastor who will deny the physicality of the resurrection. Remember that when they do that they are not just denying something that is integral to the Christian faith they are denying me and my dad hope. Hope that one day my dad will run again, hope that one day my dad will be able to work like he used to hope that one day everyone who trusts in Jesus will be raised physically to a new and eternal life!

    So make sure when you preach the resurrection this Easter people go away knowing that Jesus was raised physically!

     

  • Comforting truth no. 2: The Incarnation and the Cross

     

    Can God sympathise with me in my pain? Is God sitting up there watching us “from a distance” like Bette Midler talks about.[1] These questions are answered in the incarnation and ultimately the cross. For in the incarnation and the cross we see God becoming man and suffering. But this brings up the question of Impassibility. Impassibility states that God cannot suffer that he is without ‘passions’. What our church fathers sought to do in affirming the impassibility of God is to make sure that God is not just a souped up human who is affected like us by the trials of life. They sought to affirm that God doesn’t need us that he is not dependant on him and that we cannot change God’s nature by how we relate to him. I think as a reformed evangelical I want to affirm all these things. The Bible presents a picture of God who is wholly other, who doesn’t need us to survive.

    Well then it seems that if we subscribe to Impassibility (which I want to do) we now have a God who is unlike us and who cannot sympathise with us. But here we need to hear Carson’s words:

    It is no answer to espouse a form of impassibility [Here Defined as: Primarily means that God is incapable of suffering, however, can mean to not experience any emotion of desire, or any emotions, period] that denies that God has an emotional life and that insists that all of the biblical evidence to the contrary is nothing more than anthropopathism [Here Defined as: to ascribe human feelings and passions to God].  The price is too heavy.  You can then rest in God’s sovereignty, but you can no longer rejoice in his love.  You may rejoice only in a linguistic expression that is an accommodation of some reality of which we cannot conceive, couched in the anthropopathism of love.  Give me a break.  Paul did not pray that his readers might be able to grasp the height and depth and length and breadth of an anthropopathism and know this anthropopathism that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:14-15). D.A Carson The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God pg.60

    Carson’s words ring true we must make sure that we don’t craft a doctrine in such a way that doesn’t negate things that are obvious in the Bible. So therefore we need a rightly crafted doctrine of impassibility. We need to show that God has emotions but they are unlike ours. I think Robert Reymond has nailed it:

    “Thus whenever divine impassibility is interpreted to mean that God is impervious to human pain or incapable of empathizing with human grief it must be roundly denounced and rejected. When the Confession of Faith declares that God is “without…passions” it should be understood to mean that God has no bodily passions such as hunger or the human drive for sexual fulfillment…”
    “We do, however, affirm that the creature cannot inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress upon him against his will. In this sense God is impassible.”
    Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith pg. 179

    So God can feel and he does experience pain. But he does this because he chooses to suffer. It is not like we have hurt God. No, God has come down as a man to experience our pain and our suffering in the cross. It was his choice to suffer and it is his choice to love. As Carson states:

    “If God loves, it is because he chooses to love, if he suffers, it is because he chooses to suffer. God is impassible in the sense that he sustains no ‘passion,’ no emotion, that makes him vulnerable from the outside, over which he has no control, or which he has not foreseen.” (Love of God, 60)

    The comfort I receive when I consider the cross is that God came and experienced our pain even though he didn’t need to. Therefore, in a real and complete way he knows and understands my pain of seeing my dad battle terminal cancer. He knows my dad’s pain in suffering. Therefore I can pray to God knowing he sympathizes with me. I can be angry at sin and ask God to change this world which is wracked by sin, knowing that he has let sin impact him. I can ask him to heal my dad of his pain because he has felt real physical pain.

    This is the God I serve, this is the God who reveals himself in the cross. This is the God I take comfort in.


    [1] I am sorry that I quoted Bette Midler in my blog. I hereby repent of my sin and will never quote her again! If you do want to have a painful experience here is Bette singing “From a distance” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDSh5wUtXt4

     

  • Comforting truth no. 1: Sovereignty of God

     

    One of the core truths of the Bible is the God is in control of everything, especially over suffering. This truth is seen graphically in two places. Firstly in the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) where Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery but God, through sins against Joseph and other circumstances, gives Joseph the weighty task of being a ruler in Egypt. As you know, one of the highpoints in the narrative is when Joseph’s brothers come before him to plead for their life. It is then Joseph says  “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (Genesis 50:19-21) It is here where we see the evil acts of man are not outside of the plan of God. In fact, both God and man are working in the same act but bringing different intentions to the act itself, God’s intention was to save, man’s intention to do evil. The second place where this doctrine is seen is the cross, especially as it is unpacked in Acts 4. In Acts 4 after a wave of persecution the believers pray this prayer about the cross “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.  They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” (Acts 4:27-28) Once again we see two intentions at work in the cross, one to bring life and one to bring death.  We once again see God in control of evil and suffering. I could talk about this theme in Job or in Pauls letters but I think the above references point out the theme of God being control of suffering is a biblical one.

    I find it comforting that God is not in heaven wondering about the evil and suffering in the world. God is not in heaven wondering “What happened to Niels Kristensen?” Why isn’t he wondering that? Because he is in control of my Dads cancer.  This is comforting because I know that God has a reason for doing all this. I am not sure of his reason(s) but I know whatever happens God will be glorified and people will be saved. Therefore, I can rest in knowing there is some purpose behind my dad and my family’s suffering and it is not some random thing put upon us by dumb luck. Because dad’s suffering is under the watchful eye of God and it is under his control it has some higher meaning, meaning that I may never know but meaning none the less.

    I also find it comforting that God is in control in my prayer life. I can’t fathom how God people can pray to a God who is not in control of a situation (i.e. open theism) or is not powerful enough to enact change (deism). But the God of the Bible is in control of everything, even down to the hairs on our head, and is powerful enough to enact change even on a cellular level. So when I pray for God to heal my dad I pray knowing he is in control and he is powerful enough to heal if he chooses to do so.

    One of the great things we need to preach as pastors is God being in control of all things especially suffering. This is a very hard truth to grasp but one when meditated on I have found comfort in.

     

  • Five comforting doctrines to cling to in the face of suffering

     

    As some of you may know my Dad has terminal cancer. It was diagnosed at the start of last year and he has been fighting it since. As I have gone through the pain and the anguish of seeing my dad suffering in this way 5 doctrines have given me comfort. For the next five days I will outline one of these doctrines and why in the face of death and suffering it gives me comfort hopefully it will help us all (especially me) think about suffering and death more biblically.

     

  • Are the lost really lost?

     

    What do you call people who aren’t Christians at your church?

    • Non Christians
    • Lost
    • Unsaved
    • seekers

    I think there are issues with all of these categories. Lets break them down

    Non Christians – calling people non Christians is an exclusionary term, it is a term which we divide people into groups Christians and non Christians, sounds like us and them. Even though the bible does use this kind of language it can and does present barriers to evangelism and making people who don’t know Jesus feel comfortable in church.

    Lost – Are they really lost? Once again this has got roots in the bible (i.e. Luke 15). But does this adequately get at what Luke 15 is about? Is Luke 15 primarily about people being lost or Gods love for the lost? If it is about god’s love for the people who don’t love Jesus shouldn’t we have another term for the “lost”?

    Unsaved – If you think about it when does the bible talked about those who are unsaved? Doesn’t the prefix un suggest that once they were saved? Anyway this doesn’t communicate the love that we should have for those we are seeking to share the gospel with.

    Seekers – My atheist friend hates this term. He says” I am not seeking anything so why call me a seeker”? I think this term reflects that most people have got either a Christian worldview and are seeking the right church or they are searching for something more. I do think that many people are searching for something more but there are just as many relatively happy with their life without Jesus and therefore this term is not broad enough to categorize all people who don’t love Jesus.

    But the biggest issue for me is the biblical one. In the Bible God sends his son to the world because he loves the world (John 3:16-17) and so mission in the bible starts with God and his love. Shouldn’t we talk about people who are not saved, seekers, etc. In terms which capture this dynamic?

    What if we started calling people aren’t Christians something like

    • Those who Jesus loves
    • Those who Jesus was sent for

    Of course all this raises a number of other questions. But blogs aren’t meant to tie up every loose end and give us resolution.

    Do you think these capture the love of God more than our traditional designations? What do you think? Join the conversation……

     

  • Who do you want to be in 20 years time?

    Last year I hit 30 and for some reason I thought “Man I am getting old!” Now after I was brought back down to earth by a friend who said “Just wait till you hit 50!” I thought about my life and thought what do I wanna be like when I am fifty? What kind of pastor, what kind of leader do I want to be? When I thought about it and I let my imagination go here is the list that I came up with:

    • A well known (famous) Pastor
    • An exceptional preacher
    • A pastor of a large and significant church
    • An author of many books

    I then thought about what God wants me to be and here is what I came up with:

    • He wants me to be a great Husband and Father ( 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Ephesians 5:22-6:4)
    • He wants me to have grown in my life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16)
    • He wants me to be faithful in my preaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
    • He wants me to be a man of prayer.

    When I compare the two lists two things becomes apparent

    1. I need to kill my pride!
    2. God is more concerned with my faithfulness than my status

    What kind of person do you want to be in the future?

     

     

  • The danger of emulating heroes

    One of the greatest things about our world is the preponderance of people worthy of hero status! I think having heroes is a great thing, a God given thing, we should be inspired by people who are great in areas we wish to be great.

    But one of the things I have noticed in the past few years is that people have not stopped at admiring a person but have gone onto emulating them in every way. It seems like I only have to be with a person for a few minutes before I can guess who they want to be! When a person says something like “Man I hated his preaching so much I wanted to punch him I the neck!” I think “Hello Driscoll.” Or when a person bangs on with talk of “doubting people being regenerated or the churches in X-place have lost the gospel” I think “Hello Paul Washer!” Now I must confess that I was a Driscoll junkie and that in every sermon I preached for a year I looked for some fight to pick. (So this is kinda hypocritical for me to blog about). But in saying that I think this kind of emulation is a tragedy. People like Driscoll, Piper, Washer, Jensen etc. Are amazing men and should be heroes but when we so exalt them that we cannot see their faults and they become the standard for our lives we have forgotten that it is Jesus and not a preacher who sets the course of our lives. Not only that we forget the doctrine of creation, for David talks about being knit together in our mother’s wombs by God (Psalm 139:13), which highlights the care and precision that God displayed when he made us. He made us to be individuals, individuals who yes, follow the same God as revealed in scripture, individuals who by all means should have heroes, but individuals who have gifts, abilities, energy levels and emotions different from those heroes.

    If we try to be someone we are not are we saying that God made a mistake in creating us like he has?

     

  • The New Reformed Catholics?

    Lately I have sat down with many reformed brothers who love to read the puritans and reformers     (just like me) and it seems I have the same type of conversation. A conversation where they communicate that there is a massive chasm between where they are in their life and where they want or need to be. This is especially in the spiritual realm. When I ask them whats up I hear them talk about “not reading the Bible and praying enough.” Or not being a good enough father/husband/friend/pastor etc.”. I hear them say they aren’t hating their sin enough, or not believing the gospel enough etc.

    On one level these brothers are very perceptive because what Christian can say they really pray enough? What Christian can say they are living in light of the gospel enough?

    But on another level these brothers remind me of someone who is one of their heroes.

    They remind me of Martin Luther, but in his pre-converted state. In His pre converted state Luther was always worried about living up to a holy God. He never rested in God’s grace. He needed to hear the gospel and once he did he was set free.

    Here is what so many brothers have done with Good reason. In their attempt to glorify their saviour they have become morbidly introspective, focusing on their works and their sin and not on their standing in the gospel not on their saviour.  The result of this is they have little joy and Christianity becomes a dead cold religion of works and sin not a hope giving relationship with Jesus where my righteousness, hope, joy and life is found in him alone!

    These brothers are the new Reformed Catholics!

    What is the antidote to this morbid introspection?

    It is focusing not on ourselves as sinners but on Jesus as saviour.

    It is focusing not on ourselves as spiritually and morally incomplete but on Jesus who spiritually and morally completes us

    It is not bringing our eyes low so that all we see is ourselves but lifting our eyes heavenward so that all we see is Jesus.

    Isn’t it a bit ironic that the one thing we reformed guys who love the puritans and the reformers need to hear is the gospel?