• How to be a Not Perfect Christian

    Many Christians are burdened with the the untrue idea that we have to be perfect for God to love us.Of course we know this idea not to be true but it still feels like we have to live it out.  It seems like all we remember are the times we have screwed up and not what Jesus has done for us. In response to this so many of us feel this dread when we think of God/Church/Jesus because we don’t feel like the super Christians we should be. Our lives aren’t what they should be because we are weighed down by guilt.

    If there is anyone who knew something about guilt it was Martin Luther. Luther was a German monk who was converted out of Catholicism.  In his monk days he would berate himself for the sins he committed but when he started studying the scriptures in order to lecture the University of Wittenberg he found that tht Bible taught he was saved by grace through faith. So Christians stand before God only because of what God has done for us! This is great news!

    But this begs the question  what should we do about our current state? We are forgiven but we are also sinful. What should we think about ourselves when we are caught up in sin? Here is what Luther says:

    “A Christian is at once a sinner and a saint; he is wicked and pious at the same time. For so far as our persons are concerned, we are in sins and are sinners in our own name. But Christ brings us another name, in which there is the forgiveness of sins, that for His sake sins are remitted and pardoned. So both statements are true: There are sins, for the old Adam is not entirely dead as yet; yet the sins are not there. The reason is this: For Christ’s sake God does not want to see them. I have my eyes on them. I feel and see them well enough. But there is Christ, commanding that I be told I should repent, that is, confess myself a sinner and believe the forgiveness of sins in His name. For repentance, remorse, and knowledge of sin, though necessary, is not enough; faith in the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ must be added. But where there is such faith, God no longer sees any sins; for then you stand before God, not in your name but in Christ’s name.”  – Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

    The great news is that wherever you are, if you have faith in Jesus your sins are forgiven and God sees you as perfect. Therefore it would be wrong to come away from reading this passage of Luther’s remembering your own sin more than what the saviour has done for you! The first step in overcoming  sin is to remember and take hold of who you are and what Christ has done for you. Only when you have remembered those things will you be able to deal with your sin under grace.

    Are you perfect in your own strength? No. But God has made you perfect through the death and Resurrection of his son. Therefore live in response to what he has done.

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  • A Tribute To Chappo

    Last Friday night the world lost someone who it was not worth of having. That man was John Chapman. I am extremely thankful to God for this great man.

    John took up his first post Bible College ministry position in my home town of Moree. To this day there are still people in Moree who remember Chappo and his sermons even though he kicked off his full time ministry decades ago! This was rammed home to me when, after I preached what I thought was a good sermon, a lady came up to me and said “Don’t worry even Chappo preached a few stinkers!” I dare say she remembered the stinkers because he was an unusually gifted preacher and therefore his stinkers were very rare and noticeable by their conspicuousness!

    It was Chappo and a group of other like minded clergy who worked hard at getting Peter Chiswell installed as Bishop of the Armidale Diocese in 1976. To my knowledge Peter was the first Evangelical Bishop to be installed as Bishop of Armidale. The knock on effect of this work is that every church in the Armidale Diocese has an evangelical minister and when I was a lanky 14 year old kid and I walked in to my local Anglican church I was smack dab in the middle of a great Bible teaching church. I don’t think it is too strong to say that I am a Reformed Evangelical who tries to preach expository messages because Chappo and his band of brothers worked hard to get an evangelical installed as Bishop in the Armidale Diocese.

    When I asked Chappo about what part he played to get Peter Chiswell installed as bishop he said “Oh brother I didn’t do that much. People wanted an evangelical bishop and I just said here is our man and I prayed. That is all brother!” When I asked other people who were in the know what part Chappo played in this story they always said he was instrumental or that he was a catalyst. This goes to show how much of a humble man Chappo was.

    On Saturday night I chatted two men who had worked very closely  in various contexts with Chappo and they both remarked to me that they had never heard anyone say a bad word about Chappo. He was always well liked and well loved because he exuded love and grace to all those he met.

    Chappo’s sense of humour was exceptional. I first heard Chappo at the Moree Christian convention in a Q&A time. When he got up to answer the first question I remember thinking “This is the guy who everyone was raving about?” Just when I was settling in for a night of boredom….. BANG!!! his first one liner hit me and then the next and the next. It is safe to say I have never laughed so hard in a church Q&A ever!

    Chappo was a committed Reformed Evangelical.  I remember having him for preaching class and he would press us not to care about what the academic world said about the Bible or what the outside world thought about the Bible but to hold firm and believe the Scriptures in their entirety. One time he said that we will have to read a lot of “Liberal rubbish that is for the birds. But don’t you lose your confidence in the Scriptures!” This made a huge impression on me as a college student.

    But the thing I will miss most about Chappo is his preaching. He was a man who God used mightily to bring many people to come to know and love and serve Jesus. I thank God for his preaching. It was simple without being simplistic. It was biblical and relevant. It was engaging but Chappo never included a joke just to make people listen. Although he did tell some great jokes! Chappo’s preaching was always Expository, it was always Christ centrered and always full of grace. This is the kind of preaching I want to mark my ministry.

    I thank God for Chappo and I know that as he was welcomed home he heard these words from Jesus

    “Well done good and faithful servant!”

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  • John Piper on Why Doctrine Matters

    “Gospel doctrine matters because the good news is so full and rich and wonderful that it must be opened like a treasure chest, and all its treasures brought out for the enjoyment of the world.  Doctrine is the description of these treasures. Doctrine describes their true value and why they are so valuable. Doctrine guards the diamonds of the gospel from being discarded as mere crystals. Doctrine protects the treasures of the gospel from pirates who don’t like the diamonds but who make their living trading them for others stones. Doctrine polishes old the gems buried at the bottom of the chest. It puts the jewels of gospel truth in order on the scarlet tapestry of history so each is seen in it’s most beautiful place. “

    John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, 22

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  • Do you love Doctrine more than you love Jesus?

    I’ve been reading Iain Murray’s great book Spurgeon Vs. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. The book is about Spurgeon and his battles with pastors who said that a pastor should not offer salvation to everyone because God has only given salvation to the elect; therefore you offer salvation only to those who have either great knowledge of who God is and what he has done or great sorrow as a result of their sin. In other words you only call those who are pretty much already Christians. Spurgeon argued that even though few may be saved it is everyone’s duty to believe in Jesus and therefore the gospel should be offered freely to all. He also showed from the scriptures that the apostles and Jesus called all to repent and believe in Jesus. This is how Spurgeon argued his case for a universal call to repent in one of his sermons:

    “Repent and be baptized every one of you,” said Peter. As John Bunyan put it, one man might have stood in the crowd and said, “But I helped to hound Him to the Cross!” “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” “But I drove the nails into His hands!” says one. “Every one of you,” says Peter. “But I pierced His side!” says another. “Every one of you,” says Peter. “But I put my tongue into my cheek, and stared at His nakedness, and said, ‘If He is the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross!” “Every one of you,” says Peter. “Repent and be baptized every one of you.”

    I do feel so grieved at many of our Calvinistic Brothers and Sisters—they know nothing about Calvinism, I am sorry to say—for never was any man more caricatured by his professed followers than John Calvin. Many of them are afraid to preach from Peter’s text, “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” When I do it, they say, “He is unsound.” Well, if I am unsound on this point, I have all the Puritans with me—the whole of them almost without a single exception! John Bunyan first and foremost preaches to Jerusalem sinners, and Charnock, you know, has written a book, ” The Chief of Sinners, Objects of the Choicest Mercy'” But I do not care for that. I know the Lord has blessed my appeals to all sorts of sinners, and none shall stop me in giving free invitations as long as I find them in this Book!”[1]

    One of the problems of the Hyper-Calvinists is that they seemed to love their doctrine more than Jesus. They seemed to want to protect their doctrine and preach against others who didn’t hold to sound doctrine more than they wanted to commend Jesus to a dying world. I think growing up as a reformed Christian I have a tendency to do this too. I have a tendency to fill my head with knowledge about Jesus rather than fill my heart with love for Jesus. I have a tendency to want to know doctrine about Jesus rather than Jesus himself. I find it easier to critique bad doctrine than commend Jesus to a dying world. Now I know we need both head and heart, we need to defend the truth and proclaim the truth, but I am not sure I have always got this balance right. I need to keep preaching to myself that Jesus is the one I love and serve and sound doctrine helps me do this. In this I need to hear Spurgeon’s words:

    There is a tendency, however, on the other hand in certain quarters, to make doctrinal knowledge everything. I have seen, to my inexpressible grief, the Doctrines of Grace made a huge stone to be rolled at the mouth of the sepulchre of a dead Christ. And I have seen sound doctrine, so called, made as a very seal to seal in the dead Christ, lest by any means the energy of His Grace should come out for the salvation of sinners. Oh, what is doctrine, after all, but a throne whereon Christ sits? And when that throne is vacant, what is the throne to us? It is the Monarch and not the throne that we reverence and esteem.

    Doctrines are but as the shovel and the tongs of the altar, while Christ is the smoking sacrifice. Doctrines are Christ’s garments—verily they all smell of myrrh and cassia and aloes out of ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad—but it is not the garments we care for so much as for the Person, the very Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. [2]

    What about you? Do you love doctrine more than you love Jesus?

     

  • Would you like your pastor on Facebook?

    I love the internet; it has brought us so many good things. It has brought preachers that ten years ago we have never heard of into our homes and onto our iPods. The internet has brought us much more information in blogs, YouTube videos and podcasts. But today’s media has also brought something that should be odorous to Christians. Today’s media has brought us the “Celebrity Pastor”. Now that last statement needs to be qualified. There has always been a celebrity pastors (e.g. Spurgeon, Calvin, Luther, Wesley) but we have never seen this many celebrity pastors.

    These men who have great God given gifts are now considered the standard of what a pastor should be.  In some eyes Pastors are meant to be as insightful as Piper, as passionate as Chandler and as funny as Driscoll.

    But isn’t this unfair? God has made Piper, Driscoll, Chandler etc to be brilliant men of God with extraordinary gifts for which we should praise God.

    But what about your pastor? Do you see him diligently slaving away preparing those sermons he preaches? Do you see him working hard at counselling those people in your church? Do you see him praying for every member of the youth group? Do you see him take funeral after funeral? No usually the person in the pew doesn’t see all this.

    Your pastor works harder than you might realise and if the stats are true he is more discouraged than you can ever imagine. How do you go at encouraging him? Do you actually listen to his sermons instead of rating them? Do you ever go to church expecting that God is going to speak through him or do you just sit back waiting for him to entertain you? Do you thank him ever for the job he is doing? Do you ever send him an email letting him know how you are positively impacted by his ministry?

    We are so quick to ‘like’ a celebrity pastor on Facebook but would you like your own pastor on Facebook?

    By the way this is not a cheap ploy for people at Resolved to give me encouraged. I am very blessed and encouraged by the people at Resolved. I wish every pastor could have the experience I do in pastoring you guys!

  • Responding to my Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ whom I love

    As you know I put up a blog on Monday outlining why I am not an Anglican and I have had a lot of responses to this blog and from these responses I am realising that I have clarify a few things.

    1. I love my Anglican brothers and sister in Christ. I love the fact that I grew up in an Anglican church under great evangelical expository preaching. I love that I went to Moore College and I love it that my wife has the privilege of going to Moore College! I think that reformed evangelicals from all different denominations preach the gospel and my post was not in any way saying that Evangelical Anglicans in Sydney, Armidale, North West Australia or anywhere else don’t preach the gospel. In fact I know they do and I praise God for this!

    2. I didn’t realise the Synod for the Sydney diocese started the same day I put the blog up. I generally don’t read other peoples blogs and so I thought that synod was starting in a few weeks not on Monday. I totally understand that to some people my blog looked like an attack on the Sydney Anglicanism in the week of Synod. That wasn’t my intention at all and if had realised that Synod was happening this week I wouldn’t have posted my blog.

    3. I had written this blog about 6 months ago and I have been sitting on it since. I write my blogs in response to what I am reading or thinking or sometimes what questions I get asked as a church planter. I have been asked many times about why I am not an Anglican and so I wrote the blog but wanted to sit on it for a while for two reasons. One  to see if I agreed with it in six months time and two to see if people were still asking me why I am not an Anglican. I still agree with the reasons and I still get asked that question and so that is why I posted the blog.

    4. Some of my heroes are Anglican. I love to read JC Ryle, Ridley, Cramner, Packer, Stott, Bauckham, Owen, Morris. Who are or were Anglicans. I have been blessed by so many Anglican preachers. When I was younger and podcasting wasn’t available I listened to tapes of preachers that I loved and all of them were Sydney Anglicans! I owe a great debt to these men who shaped me to love the scriptures and Jesus more because of their preaching and also to love expository preaching!

    5. I am really sorry that my blog hurt some people and made other people’s lives difficult, that was never my intention. I understand people were upset by my blog and if my words were rash and insensitive I sincerely apologise. I also realise that my name is linked with some other Christian organisations and these organisations have been copping some heat. I apologise to these brothers in Christ and I need to say that my views on my blog are my views and no one else is responsible for these views other than me.

    6. I pray for the Anglican Church and all denominations and theological colleges regularly. I want to see every church in Sydney preaching the gospel and being overrun with new people coming to Jesus. I don’t really care if the churches that are experiencing revival are Anglican, Baptist, charismatic, independent or whatever. I just want the gospel to be preached and people to come to know Jesus.

    7. I believe my Anglican brothers and sisters and I are united in the gospel. Part of what this unity gives us is to be free to disagree about non essentials. To be open and say that you disagree on baptism or ecclesiology or whatever. Being strong and united in the gospel allows us to eyeball each other in love and say “I totally disagree with you on this point but I love you and I know you preach the gospel.”  I am not sure Aussies are really comfortable with this kind of blunt, open and loving discussion. Or maybe this kind of discussion is a reflection of my personality.  Either way the blog was written because I believe I have unity in the gospel with my Anglican brothers and sisters it wasn’t written to create disunity.

    I hope I am clear that I love my Anglican brothers and sister in Christ and that I really didn’t intend any harm to come of my blog.

     

  • Why the reaction to Pipers talks in Australia has frustrated me.

    Let me be very clear about a few things before I start.

    1. I think we need to discern and sift teaching to see if it is legit. I think to do so would be absolutely irresponsible for Christians especially Pastors. So I don’t have any issue with anyone lovingly critiquing Piper’s talks in fact I will be doing just that this morning with my staff team. As Piper said we should be good Bereans!
    2. I love my heritage, I am grateful for growing up in an Anglican church and so thankful that I went to Moore college even though I am not an Anglican now by choice. The tweet I put up about Sydney Anglicans was rash and from the gut and sinful and I ask if you have been offended that you would forgive me as I am very sorry for that asinine tweet.

    Here is my issue with the response to Piper’s talks. Piper made it abundantly clear that he was not equating his joy or love for God as a work. He even said that if people took him that way they were ‘wilfully sinning” therefore I was surprised, shocked and annoyed when I saw a post claiming Piper’s soteriology might be Catholic. This frustrated me because the writer obviously didn’t listen to the many times Piper qualified what he was saying but also that he used the one of the most derogatory things a Sydney Evangelical can say about another Evangelical brother. He said the Piper might be Catholic!! Using this word denies what Piper has written and denies his theology it also makes us who don’t want to be Catholic weary of Piper instead of engaging with him. Painting him with the Catholic brush and makes us think that he is a bit off and we should keep him at arms length.

    We need to critique but let’s do it hearing a brother out properly and not misrepresenting him. Also lets not label him /catholic or charismatic or whatever just to be controversial and get people to read our blogs. Aren’t we too old for that?

    The other thing I am frustrated by is our negativity towards teaching from outside. I have been in many conversations about Piper and his preaching and most of the feedback is negatively geared. This is human nature on one level but verbalizing all the things we didn’t like about something will automatically skew our perception of the thing we are critiquing. Piper said a bunch of brilliant things. I think we should be emphasizing what God spoke to us through Piper and once we have thanked God for this great man and his talks then we can move onto lovingly discussing those areas we need clarification or modification. This is how we should talk about a brother in Christ.

    P.S. I lumped Michael Kellahan’s critique of Piper in with my criticism on Friday. This was wrong, his blog was done generously and lovingly. It had all the hallmarks of a good, fair and loving critique. I apologize to Michael for sinning against him and I ask for his forgiveness.

     

  • What I learn from Christians with mental illness/anxiety issues

    My church has recently started up a ministry to people with mental illness/anxiety called Eternal Hope. It is a simple ministry where we read from the bible, share how we are doing and then pray for each other.  But here is the thing.

    I feel like a fake when I am there.

    If we have never met, I am stupidly optimistic and positive and so when I go to Eternal Hope and I hear their pain and struggle I feel like a fake.

    I feel like a fake most when my brothers and sisters at this group talk about heaven. They talk about longing for heaven and how this life is a struggle. Then I think about my life, beautiful wife, child on the way, awesome church and I think “Man I don’t want to be in heaven yet!!!”

    But that is the point my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope see reality more than I do. They see that their home is heaven and I see what is in front of me. What I learn from my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope is that I need to be more in love with where I will be spending my eternity.

     

    What about you do you long for heaven or are you content with earth?

     

  • Why I don’t Podcast

    I used to Podcast. In fact I was a podcast junky. I was podcasting and listening to 40 different preachers. I got so much out of it but in the last few years I have not podcasted anyone. In fact I gave myself two years off podcasting anyone and here is why:

    1. Podcasting taught me to listen to preaching like I listen to music i.e. for entertainment. If I listen to my music on my new iPhone 4 (yeah I got one just to be cool) and I find the song boring or not as good as another song I skip to the next one. I learnt to do this with sermons. I programmed myself to think that it was the preachers job to entertain me and if they didn’t I just skipped to the next sermon. This meant I was putting myself over the word instead of under. Preaching became entertainment instead of another opportunity to hear from God.
    2. It didn’t help me to preach better. Okay this is an overstatement. It did help me to think about how to communicate and how to use illustrations etc. But after a few years of preaching week in week out I am finding my biggest weakness in preaching is making every sermon fresh even though we may be looking at the same topic (i.e. justification by faith in Galatians). Therefore, what I need to is to hear how a person preaches through a book and ask myself how they are making it fresh. If I listened to Piper one day and Mahaney the next and then a bit of Chandler the day after I don’t learn how Piper, Mahaney or Chandler handle the Bible week in week out because I usually forget what they preached on when I get around to hearing them again. Therefore podcasting didn’t help me preach better in the long run.
    3. Podcasting sometimes made me depressed. I thank God for the guys who I listen to but I am not like them. But when I listen to them I want to be like them. I want to be able to be as deep as Piper, as funny as Driscoll, as insightful as Chandler and as passionate as Mahaney. But when I try to be one of them I sound inauthentic. When I realise that I may never have their strengths it can make me depressed and forget that God has given me gifts and I need to play to my strengths because that is how I will be most effective.
    4. I was tempted to prepare sermons by listening to podcasts and not studying Gods word. When someone I listened to has preached a sermon on the text I am preaching on it is such a temptation to bypass translating, flowcharting, analysing grammar, reading commentaries and systematic theologies etc. the passage and just go with what they say. But that means I am short changing the people at my church in two ways. Firstly, I am not letting myself pastor them by effectively by applying the word to our specific context and secondly I am short changing them in the long run by not letting Gods word change me as I spend hours upon hours each year in the Bible. I am basically not letting myself grow as a pastor.

    So I don’t podcast but I still listen to sermons now. But here is what I do now:

    1. I listen to whole series. So if I listen to 3 sermons a week I will listen to three consecutive sermons from one series and the next week I will listen to the next one and so on until the series is completed.
    2. I ask myself what is God saying to me through this? I want to retrain my mind so that I realise that when someone is preaching it is God speaking and not another form of entertainment. Therefore I am looking for ways that God is speaking to me through the preacher.
    3. I pray about what I have learnt. I want to make sure I apply the text to my life and praying helps me do this.

    How about you, have you feel into the traps that I fell into with podcasting? How do you use podcasting and sermons on the internet?