• Was Jesus a Wimp?

    The new Rector of St Mark’s Darling Point, Michael Jensen, has written a thought provoking blog entitled The Wimp that Won. As with all of Michael’s writing it is clear, lucid and has enough quotes from dead theologians and poets to make you realize that Michael is one brainy dude who has studied at Oxford and that he probably wrote the piece in a tweed jacket. 

    The guts of the blog is that Jesus was not an Ubermensch, which is an idea created by the crazily brilliant German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The Ubermensch is a person who will act as his own God, giving himself morality and value as he sees fit according to him alone. The Ubermensch is an independent individual who has the power to banish herd instincts from his mind and become a master of self discipline. So basically he is the type of person that every atheistic undergrad uni student wants to be but can’t because they are still living with their mum.

    Michael says that Jesus was not a beastly or tough dude (my words)  but a man who gave up everything for the glory of his father and for our betterment and he was cruelly beaten and died an ignominious death on the cross and therefore we should be just like him. Jesus was a wimp that won and we should be the same

    But here is where Michael and I disagree. The Jesus of Philippians 2 can’t be a wimp, to give up all that he has and die for others is not a wimpish thing to do at all. It is a model of perfect toughness and love. It is the definition of what strength is. So in Michael’s obvious hyperbole he has undercut something very unique and manly about Jesus. He has also lost an opportunity say something very profound about what true toughness and manliness is. True toughness and manliness is not having a beard and tattoos, drinking scotch and smoking cigars all while reading Calvin’s Institutes and beating up an Arminian. No real toughness and  real manliness is knowing when to wield your might and power. In Jesus’ love for humanity, in the incarnation, Jesus chose not to wield his considerable might and power for the sake of those he loved and yet, in his return, we will see that might and power on full display.

    Was Jesus a wimp? Hell no. He was a true man, one who knew when  to wield his power and when to relinquish it for the good of others. This is not wimpish, it is ultimate manliness and toughness on full display.

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  • An Open Letter To Kevin Rudd

    Dear Kevin,

    as a brother in Christ (and I do believe you when you call yourself a Christian) I was discouraged to see how you answered our brother in Christ on Q&A last night.  I was discouraged for the following reasons:

    Firstly, I was discouraged by the way you handled the scriptures. You said that the Bible condoned slavery and if we take it literally we should have been fighting for the confederacy in the American Civil War and your point (I think) was that just because the Bible condemns something that doesn’t mean the Bible is right. This argument makes it quite easy for people who don’t believe the Bible to be bolstered in their opposition to the Bible and I’m sure, as a Christian, you wouldn’t want people to oppose the Bible but to love reading it as they hear God speaking to them through it. As a Christian brother, I wish you defended same sex marriage by not firstly attacking the Bible which, as a man with your intellect and learning, you could have easily done. The Bible is under enough attack from people who aren’t Christians without having Australia’s most prominent self confessed Christians trashing it.

    Secondly, I was discouraged by your statement that the Bible was about “universal love, loving your fellow man”. This statement has an element of truth in it for the Bible does speak of God’s universal love for everyone and that Christians should love our neighbour as ourselves. But we can say true things in a way and in a context that misconstrue the truth and can give people a false impression of what the truth is and this is what you did last night. Saying the Bible is about  “universal love, loving your fellow man” is true if God’s universal love is couched in the fact that this love is not given to us all because we are beautiful little Vegemites who deserve God’s love but quite the opposite. God’s universal love is given despite ourselves. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and therefore God can justly judge us and condemn us to hell. But God, in his great universal love for all mankind, becomes a man and takes the punishment that was ours as he dies on the cross so that if we trust in him we can be saved from his right and good judgement. This sacrifice is for everyone and therefore this love is given to all. This is the context in which the Bible talks about God’s universal love. And loving your fellow man therefore is not saying to people “live however you want” it is about seeking their best and if the best thing for them is lovingly telling them about Jesus so that they would repent of sin well this is how we love.

    My fear is that people heard your statement that the Bible is about  “universal love, loving your fellow man” they heard that God loves me for who I am and doesn’t want me to change. Brother, we both know, Jesus clearly asks people to repent or change their ways as they come to know and love him. I fear that your statement about what the Bible is about will allow people to misconstrue the love of God and duck Jesus’ tough and yet loving call for everyone to repent and follow him.

    And finally, I was discouraged by the way you treated a brother in Christ. I am fine with passionate disagreements (I think we need to have them in order to have a truly tolerant society). But I have not read one person, Christian or not, who didn’t think you were angrily dressing down the brother in Christ who asked you a very legitimate question. Your tone was off brother and as someone whose tone is off a lot of the time I know how hard it is to keep your cool when answering an intense and and passion fueled question. We all screw up, we all make mistakes and forgiveness is there for us all.

    You are usually very cool when answering all kinds of questions and so your answer last night made me think if you are passionately answering this question not because you are passionate about it but for political expediency in that you wanted to show people who are passionately for gay marriage that you too are in their corner. I hope I am wrong.

    Kevin, as a student of the scriptures you know how short lived our lives (especially political ones) are. You also know that one day we will have to give an account for the words we uttered. I can assure you when you stand before Jesus on that last day you will not say “I wish I was more unclear on what the Bible says so that I will get more votes”. No I think you will say “I wish I had been clearer and stronger on what the scriptures say.” Because on that last day you it won’t matter how many votes you received when you were on earth it will only matter if one person votes in your favour and whether that one person says to you “Well done good and faithful servant” or “away from me I never knew you”.

    You and Mr Abbot are in my prayers.

    Your Brother in Christ,

    Hans

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  • How to have a pastoral conversation

    When I started Resolved I was thrust deep into people’s lives and what I found was their lives were like mine… very messy! I did have a course called pastoral counselling when I was at Bible College but I found myself having to read and train myself on how to have a pastoral conversation with someone. How do you talk with someone and help someone when they come to you for help. Here are the 5 things that I have figured out and still training myself to do:

    1. Don’t preach listen

    It is so easy to preach at someone especially when the solution is right there. The problem with preaching at the person is most of the time people want a feelings conversation not a solutions conversation (I have my wife to thank for teaching me the difference between the two.) People want to be heard and our job as pastors/friends/fellow Christians must be to allow them to air what is going on. That means that we have to do what I find very hard. I have to listen.

    2. Seek to understand

    But how do I listen? What am I listening for? When I listen to people I am trying to get at why they are doing what they are doing or why they in the trouble they are In. I am asking myself not what is the solution but what is the root cause. I am seeking to understand them and where they are coming from and then I am seeking to sympathise with them. For example, if I have someone who is deciding to go out with their mates and get drunk every weekend and they are feeling guilty I could say “You have to stop getting drunk!” But is that the Issue? Or are their feelings of belonging to a group of people and being accepted by them the real Issue? I want to listen and get at the root of the problem not the surface level problem and I want to ask questions so that the person I am meeting with will figure the root problem out for themselves Instead of me telling them that.

    3. Your only tool Is the gospel

    As a Christian I know that the gospel is the answer to all problems in the end. So I want to bring my friend back to the gospel and let the gospel inform how they are to deal with their situation. I usually ask the question “What is the gospel saying to you in this situation?” If It was my friend who was getting drunk I would be trying to get them to see that their Identity Is In Christ and their community Is the church and that Is what defines them and gives their life meaning not whether they are popular or not. This can take many meetings though.

    4. Pray with and for them

    I always want to pray for them In front of them. I want to show that their heavenly father still loves them and wants to hear from them. I also want to model through prayer that he Is In control and therefore we can trust him.

    5. Follow them up

    In the next few days follow them up. If you see them before you call them or email them ask how they are doing. Make sure you are on the front foot with this. I am bad at remembering to follow stuff up so I have to put It In my IPhone 2Do list app or it doesn’t get done. So remember to follow them up.

    As I said to begin with I am still training myself how to have pastoral conversations. Sometimes I don’t follow these steps/rules and every time I think that I should have.

    What’s your game plan for having pastoral conversations?

     

  • Why we need to repent over how we speak about Charismatic Christians

    One of the things I have noticed in Sydney is that some of us get riled up at the mere mention of anything to do with Chrasmatic theology or practice. I know people whose preaching usually has a point in it where they critique, helpfully or otherwise, an aspect of charismatic theology or practice.

    Now I am not a charismatic but I am concerned with the way we Sydney evangelicals talk about our charismatic brothers and sisters and I do think we need to repent and apologise for this lack of tact and grace.

    Here are my three biggest concerns:

    1. We lump all Charasmatics together

    What do all these guys have in common: Creflo Dollar, CJ Mahaney, Brian Houston, John  Wimber, John Piper and Kenneth Copeland. Answer: They all, in some sense, call themselves charismatic. This little exercise should show us that charismatic is a broad term in which many different people fit under. Now I have got no problem with anyone going at a charismatic prosperity preacher with gusto but when we, with that same gusto, go after a reformed brother who happens to be charismatic with a small ‘c’ I think we are forgetting that there are differences and we are now lumping all people who call themselves charismatic together and tarring all with the same brush. This is neither loving nor gracious.

    2. We don’t critique them lovingly, graciously or well

    I remember at college having a class about music in church.  The topic shifted to how our charismatic brothers and sisters do music. It was interesting that those of us who were most vocally opposed to the charismatic view of music were the ones who had the least experience with charismatic music! The scary thing is that I have heard preachers do this too. I have heard preachers critique the charismatic point of view based on hearsay and the like and not on their own experience or research. This leads to wrong conclusions and, in some cases, slander. We also don’t do our people any service when we critique badly because we are warning them against a straw man and not a real danger which may or may not be there.

    3. We treat Charismatics like they are Galatians and not like they are Corinthians (if they even are)

    Have a look at the way Paul talks to the Galatians:

    6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

    Galatians 1:5-9

    1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    Galatians 3:1-5

    Have a look at how Paul; talks to the Corinthians:

    4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

    1 Corinthians 1:4-9

    1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.

    1 Corinthians 2:1

    21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

    22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

    23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

    24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

    1 Corinthians 16:22-24

    Why the difference in language? Why is Paul so harsh to the Galatians and loving (notice the repeated use of brothers and sisters) to the Corinthians? It is because the Galatians were going to a false gospel. Whereas the Corinthians, even though they had issues to do with speaking in tongues, prophecy and the like (1 Corinthians 12-14) were not going to a false gospel. For Paul there were issues that, because these issues threatened the gospel, needed to be dealt with harshly using strong language. Then there were other which needed correction but were done with loving words and with an acknowledgement that these guys were his brothers and sisters.

    When I look at our critiques of charismatics I hear a different thing going on. I hear us treat our charismatic brothers and sister as if they are Galatian heretics not Corinthian believers. This says far more about us than it does about our charismatic brothers and sisters.

    Do charismatic brothers and sister need to be critiqued in love? Yes, just like we do.

    Lets make sure we love them as we critique them. Lets make sure we commend the gospel by how we critique anyone as we do it with grace, love and

     

  • Whores, Prostitution, Sin, Idolatry and the Bible

    I have been reading a brilliant book called God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery by Raymond Ortlund. If you think the title is confronting in it’s first print it was called Whoredom! It is a book which is traces the theme of spiritual adultery through books of the bible like Hosea, Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah etc. . It is a very confronting and yet spiritually enriching book.

    It has caused me to think about the following things:

    Do I really realise how offensive my sin/idolatry is to God?  If God has said that sin/idolatry to him as offensive to him as a married woman who is cheating on her husband with any man she can find (Jeremiah 2:23-25) is offensive to her husband. My sin is that bad. Do I take it that seriously? Do I take my lust, my pride, etc that seriously? Or do I think it is a mere annoyance to God?

    Do I really savour the cross as much as I should? If my sin is as bad as Jeremiah for instance makes out that must mean that the cross is much more glorious than I could ever imagine because it payed for that sin. If my sin is that bad and the cross is that amazing I should treasure Jesus and the Gospel more than anything else.  It should be delight and my satisfaction.

    The preaching of the prophets was not nice. You really don’t see many passages about God’s people being whores on Christian t shirts do you? This has given me pause to assess my own preaching and proclamation of the gospel. Am I communicating not only the gravity of sin but also the gravity of the gospel? Am I scared of being offensive? Is the antidote to spiritual complacency more practical application or a deeper grasp of our sin and the glory of the gospel?

    These last few questions are questions that I don’t have an answer on as yet. They are merely food for thought. But one thing I am sure of is you need to get God’s unfaithful wife and read it!

     

  • My need for humble orthodoxy

    One of the things I lack is humility. But before you close this window because you are thinking “Hans is just blogging about the obvious!” hear me out.

    The contradiction in my life is this:

    I know the truth and yet I am not humble.

    I know the truth about me being a despicable hell bound sinner, who was rightly and justly under God’s wrath. I know the truth about me being saved by God’s glorious grace, for his glory, And I know the truth about the only thing I bring to God is my own sinful life and yet I am not humble.

    I am proud.

    This comes to bear especially when I am talking about the truth.

    I want to know the gospel deeply, preach the gospel powerfully and defend the gospel winsomely. But I find, in my own heart at least, a lot of pride when I do these things.

    But when my pride rears its ugly head the most is when I am talking with someone else with whom I disagree about some theological issue. My pride says to me:

    “They don’t know what they are talking about!”

    “They haven’t got a bachelor of divinity but you have!”

    “They haven’t read all the books that you have!”

    “They haven’t read the right books but you have!”

    “They don’t know the gospel/bible/the text like you do!”

    “They say that because they are New Perspective, Barthian, Liberal, Catholic, Arminian, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Uniting church, etc.”

    These things that pop into my head bring me great pride in what I know and what I can articulate. How quickly do I forget that the only reason that I believe these things is by God’s grace? How quickly do I forget that is it God who gives me the gifts I have? How quickly do I forget that am saved only by God’s grace? How quickly do I forget about the fact that God loves the person I am speaking to?”

    I need a huge dose of humble orthodoxy.

    It is my prayer that I will stand for the truth of the gospel with a humility that is shaped by the gospel.

    God, may you give me the grace to do just this.

     

  • 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.

     

  • As a pastor you need to encourage and inspire your people!

    There is something about the Sydney evangelical culture that makes it very hard for us to give specific encouragement that actually encourages. The word we throw around in Christian circles is helpful.

    “That was a helpful sermon.”

    What the hell does that mean?

    We need to get over our britishness, get some emotional intelligence about us and learn to encourage and compliment well. I have devised four steps to direct, specific encouragement

    1. Choose your adjective

    Step one is choosing your adjective. Make your adjective count, go over the top because that will communicate better. If you go with words like helpful, good, faithful they will encourage somewhat. But if you use words and phrases like amazing, biblically inspired, gripping it communicates more directly.

    2. Be specific

      What was it about what they did that was encouraging? Tell them. You may say “I loved the way you led us in singing in church especially the way after the second song you read that passage from scripture and helped us reflect on the cross and then you led brilliantly into that new song from there.” Once again far better than how you led the singing was good or helpful

      3. What did it do to you?

      Tell them what affect what they did had on you. For example, you may say I loved your sermon or you could say “I loved your sermon because it made me consider Jesus in a new and it encouraged me greatly in overcoming a specific sin in my life.” The specificity is the thing that will make the compliment mean something because it shows how they have impacted you.

      4. Inspire them

      The final thing you want to say is something inspirational like “Man I am so looking forward to the next time you pray in church because I was so encouraged. Thanks for doing amazing job.” This rounds out the encouragement and it also is inspirational.

      As Christians we need to be encouraging and so working on this is something we should be doing. Especially if we are in leadership

      Who should you encourage at church this week?

       

    1. Leaders communicate clearly

      There is nothing worse than talking to someone and you walk away not knowing what they really said or meant. It is tough listening to someone who is just not clear in their communication.

      Leaders however must be noted by their clarity of communication.

      If you hang out with a great leader you see they communicate with confidence and with clear direct words. But how do you develop this?

      I have asked leaders and studied them and it seems that they do or are the following:

      Competent in their field – The reason a leader can be clear in their communication is that they know what they are talking about. They have had years in their field and they have thought deeply about what it means to be successful in their field. So when they speak they have a wealth of knowledge backing up their words which in turn makes their communication are clear and direct.

      They are prepared – Leaders are over prepared and this helps them to clearly communicate what they want. They have prepared what they want to say, how they want to say and why they want to say it.  I once sat down with an ex CEO of a multibillion dollar company and asked him about communication and he said that before every meeting whether it be a phone meeting, board meeting or just a meeting over a beer he would write down on a piece of paper what he wants to say and he would rehearse how he wanted to say it so that the best outcomes would be brought about. It is no fluke then that he was a brilliant communicator and leader. As leaders we should be striving for this kind of preparation.

      They are direct – Leaders never want to leave the people they lead thinking “What was I meant to do?” So they are very direct in communicating what they want and what is best for the organisation they lead.  This directness takes time to prepare but when they are prepared, leaders are direct in their speech.

      They have energy – When they communicate leaders have an energy that is infectious. They use words which have energy built into them. They use phrases which push forward in a loving way. They have artful turns of phrase that inspire, energize and encourage. Do you, as a leader, use your words to inspire, energize and build up?

      They love their people- as we have seen in the last post leaders love their people. This love helps the leader shape the way they communicate to each person they talk with.

      Leaders communicate in a way that inspires the people they love. They are direct and clear because they are prepared and competent in their field.

       

    2. What I learnt from John Stott

      Today I read this:

      “Those self-appointed evangelical leaders come across as hypocrites, monetizing Jesus rather than emulating him. Some seem homophobic, and many who claim to be “pro-life” seem little concerned with human life post-uterus. Those are the preachers who won headlines and disdain.”

      The quote is taken from a piece in the New York Times about John Stott who passed away last week. This article basically says how well Stott did at emulating Christ and how badly other more well known christian leaders have done in this area.

      It made me think what does the world hear from me?

      What does the world hear from my church, Resolved?

      What does the world hear from us as Christians?

      Do they hear that we love them as we take a stand on the issues we should take a stand on?

      Do they hear compassion as we preach?

      Do they hear and see both truth and tears or is it just cold truth?

      One of the things that I loved about John Stotts writing and his preaching was his ability to say what was true about our world and our condition and yet he came never across as judgmental but loving and caring. You could hear and feel as he preached and wrote that these weren’t just ideas and words he was preaching and writing about. These words and ideas were designed and crafted for people and so he needed to communicate them with care and love.

      I hope one day I can master preaching the hard truths of the gospel with love and care just like John Stott did.