• 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?

     

  • What are you looking for in a church?

    At Resolved we have many people coming through looking for a new church. When I ask them what are they looking for in a church there are a lot of different responses. Some are legitimate some are selfish. Most Christians these days change churches every 5-7 years so we need to know what to look for when we are finding a new church.

    Here are the things you should look for when finding a new church:

    1. Expository preaching – Expository preaching is where the sermon is derived from a text of scripture. Expository preaching is not where we take a verse from Habakkuk and verse from Romans and then a verse from Colossians and make points from each passage. The main job of an expository preacher is to help you see what the biblical text says and apply it to your life. Expositional preaching is key to a good church because the expository preaching is the best kind of preaching if you want to hear God speak in his scriptures.
    2. Biblical theology – Biblical theology is where every scripture is seen as part of the rest of the Bible and so every story, verse, and word is meant to be interpreted as part of the whole Bible. This helps us interpret the Bible rightly because we see the Bible as one whole big story that reveals who God is and what he has done and not a collection of stories or sayings in which we find a hero to model our lives on or a verse to inspire us. The Bible is primarily about God not us and biblical theology helps us see this.
    3. The gospel – The gospel is the message that we have been created in the image of God but we have sinfully rejected God. In his great love, God sent his son to die on the cross in our place, taking our punishment so that through faith in Jesus we could be forgiven. This is the gospel. This is the thing that should be emphasized in the pulpit every week, in fact this is the thing that should drive the church. If you go to a church that consistently muddies up the gospel, either by preaching a message which sounds like an Anthony Robbins talk or denying an aspect of the gospel, you need to find another church because this is not a church which is teaching you about God.
    4. Leadership – Leadership is important and the Bible is very clear on what biblical leadership is and isn’t. If you are unsure of what biblical leadership looks like, read 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. If the leadership in the church you are checking out doesn’t reflect the leadership that is modelled in the scriptures then it is not the church for you.
    5. Discipleship – Discipleship is the process where you grow in your knowledge and love of God. If you are looking for a new church you have to ask if this new church has a discipleship program or process. Of course expository preaching is central to any discipleship strategy but there are many other ways where discipleship can take place.  Make sure you are going to grow in your love of Jesus at the church you join.
    6. Service – Have you got avenues to serve? This doesn’t mean that they will ask me to serve in the way that I want to serve. For example you shouldn’t just go to a church if you want to play guitar and they need a guitarist but you should be going to a church where you can pitch in and help.

    Is there anything you would add to this list?

     

  • What I wish I knew before I got married part 2: Your job is to fall in love with who they become

    People change. This is just a fact. A person enters a new job and the pressures of that job may change them; a person enters into a new relationship and that changes them. We, as people, are in a constant state of flux. This is the way God has made us.

    So we should expect that if we get married, the person we marry will change because they are human. Your spouse will be changed by the fact that they marry you, your spouse will change if they change jobs, your spouse will change if and when you have children.

    But here is the issue. So many people tell us that the secret to a happy marriage is to keep falling in love with the person we married. But the person we married might be a very different person to the person we are married to five years after our wedding.

    So what are we to do?

    Our job is not to keep falling in love with the person we married but to keep falling in love with who they become. That is, if they put on a heap of weight and don’t look like the thin person you married, you are called to love them. If they develop a mental illness and their personality changes, you are called to love them. If they lose their job and don’t have the drive they once had, you are called to love them. If they lose their faith and walk away from Jesus, you are called to love them.

    The model for this is God and his dealings with Israel. God loved Israel no matter who she was, no matter what she did. We are called to love in the same way.

    How do you do this? Kate and I have only been married for two years but there are a few things we do to make sure we keep falling in love with the person the other becomes.

    1. We have a weekly date night. Sometimes it is just a movie or a cheap dinner but we always have a weekly date night. This helps us unwind, catch up, reconnect and keep falling more and more in love with each other.
    2. We share about our day and pray at the end of each night. Kate seems to remember all the things she wanted to tell me right when we go to bed. This can be annoying when I just want to sleep but it has actually done wonders for our marriage. At the end of every night we make time to share about what God did today in our lives and share three great things about the day. These three great things can be little things like “I had an encouraging conversation with Fred today” or big like “Jemima who is a non-Christian agreed to read through a gospel with me today”. After sharing three things that were good about today we then pray. This ends the day on a high note.
    3. We work hard at saying positive things to each other about each other. This helps us remind ourselves about what we love in the other person but it also encourages the other person.

    My prayer is that I would be more in love with Kate in five, ten, twenty years time than I am now, no matter the person she becomes.

    Because my job is to keep falling in love with who she becomes.

     

  • What I wish I knew before I got married: You will always marry the wrong person!

    “You will always marry the wrong person” – Stanley Hauerwas

    When it comes to marriage, one of the most destructive myths that many people believe is the idea of “the one”. I have written about it before but it bears repeating that the idea of finding “the one” who is perfect for me in every way and will always make me feel special is a myth that is extremely destructive. What do we need to counter this myth with?

    We need to remember that we are sinful and so is the person we marry.

    I was asked in the first few months of marriage how married life was. I sarcastically quipped, “It is going great! Kate likes to cry and I seem to be able to make that happen!” The first few months of marriage were hard for me as I kept coming up against how sinful I was and how much my sin hurt my beautiful wife. I am sure if Kate had any notions of her marrying “the one” they were dashed in the first few weeks of marriage!

    Kate and I have a great marriage but we both do things that bug each other, we both communicate in ways where the other one doesn’t get what we mean, we have different likes and dislikes and different personalities. All these things can, and sometimes do, bring tension into the relationship and it is easy to think, ‘If I was with that other person I wouldn’t have these issues.’ That could be true but if I was with that other person we would have a bunch of other issues.

    Kate is the “wrong person” for me and I am the “wrong person” for her because neither of us are perfect for each other. But no one else is perfect for us either!  Realising that we are “wrong” for each other helps us not look to the other for contentment and identity but find our contentment and identity in Jesus. It also means that we work doubly hard on our marriage because we both realise that we need to, and that Satan wants to take our differences that are small and make them insurmountable. So we work hard. The result is that we are in love and that we talk openly about our issues and we ask for forgiveness a lot and we forgive readily. I think that because Kate and I realised very early on about our sinfulness and what that brings to our marriage it has helped us craft a stronger marriage than if we held onto the notion of the other having to be “the one”.

    The great thing about marrying the “wrong person” is that God will use that person to sanctify you and mould you so that you will be more like Jesus. It will also cause you to work on being a more loving person because sometimes you have to love when you don’t feel like it.

    I love that I have married the “wrong person”. If I knew on my wedding day what I know now, I would have still said ‘I do’ and I would have still said that I will be with Kate ‘for better, for worser!’[1]

    I love you Kate and am so thankful that you are my wife! I am the most blessed man in the world!

     


    [1] This is not a typo. We memorized our vows and I stuffed them up. I literally said “For better, For worser; For richer, for poorer!”

     

  • Starving pastors can’t feed their sheep

    Last year was a dark year for me. My father passed away from cancer, the culture at my church was toxic and to top it all off I was going through a very dry time spiritually. I wasn’t making an effort to read my bible and pray. I wasn’t speaking with people who encourage me.

    I was dry.

    Now dry times happen to all Christians but it seems like so many of the stats I read say that pastors feel spiritually dry more of the time than they feel spiritually vibrant. Therefore, it is no surprise that a lot of pastors don’t spend quality time caring for their own souls. This is where I was at for a significant time last year and my church took a hit. My preaching lacked power and depth and was largely ineffective. Sure God did move but I could discern that my preaching didn’t have the power it should have.

    I realised this year that I was starving. I hadn’t been feeding on God’s word and when I did read it I read it either to tick a box saying I had done it or I was reading it to prepare for something. The thing is starving pastors can’t feed their sheep. As pastors we are to be people who watch our life and doctrine (1 Tim 4:16). Carson says about this verse says that there should be a discernible growth in life and doctrine because of our feeding and meditating on the word. Whenever I think about that I am always challenged.

    I want to feed my sheep. I want to be able to preach with passion and vitality. Therefore I need to be feeding on God’s word in a way where I am satisfied in it.

    Are you a starving pastor?

    When was the last time you had a satisfying time in God’s word?

    What steps do you need to take so you are refreshed by Gods word?

     

  • 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!

  • What if I’m not excited about my church’s vision?

    My church, Resolved, unveiled its vision the weekend before last and it was received very well. Our vision for 2012 is to grow to 80 people coming every week at Resolved, to see 20 people converted and grow from 3 to 6 community groups.

    But I have had a few people say that they want to be excited about this vision and yet they can’t be for some reason. Here is some advice if you find yourself in that position:

    1. Check your heart

    One of the things that can stop us from buying into a vision is our hearts. Sometimes we have unresolved tension between us and the leader(s) of our church. Maybe there is a lack of forgiveness or something else. Maybe there is pride, maybe you think you can do it better than the guy up the front. So first thing to do is check your heart then pray that God would change your heart if needs be and then seek out resolutions for the tension you feel. That being said, I don’t think this is an issue with anyone who is finding it hard to buy into the vision of Resolved.

    2.Inquire about the vision

    Maybe you have significant unresolved questions about the vision. Maybe it is a new vision or a different direction that your church is being taken. These times can be very hard and there could be confusion. If this is you I would suggest sitting down with your pastor or an elder and asking about vision. See if you can get your questions answered and see if you can see the heart behind the vision.

    3. Realise where you are in life makes it impossible to be excited about most things

    I don’t have depression or anything like it but I do know that depression and other mental illnesses makes it hard for some of us to be excited about most things so it would be only natural for those of us who suffer under these oppressive conditions to find it very hard to be excited about a vision no matter how good it is. I am encouraged when a person with a mental illness will say “I see the vision, I see how good it is and I want to be excited” because this person has probably already bought into the vision in a significant way. Because anyone can feel hyped about a vision. It is when the hype goes and the vision remains is when we see who really bought into the vision. So if you are suffering from a mental illness and yet you want to emotionally buy into the vision of your church and yet you can’t it may be the case that you have already bought into the vision in a far deeper way that you first realise!

    What do you think?

    Am I missing something here?

     

  • Deny inerrancy and you will kill your church

    Okay it is a provocative title I know. But read this paragraph from Thom Rainers blog on Twelve trends for healthy churches

    A number of research projects over the past four decades point to this trend. Healthy churches have leaders and members who believe the totality of the Bible, often expressed as a view called inerrancy.

    Now I think a lot of people who call themselves Evangelicals deny a parody of inerrancy not the inerrancy that is expressed by The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I would say for those of us who have never read anything on inerrancy and yet still denies it you should read the statement.  I think you will find you believe in true inerrancy not the parody of it that gets derided in some Evangelical circles.

    But my concern is that those of us who call ourselves Evangelicals and yet argue against the historicity of the scriptures realize that they are not doing the service to the church that they might think they are but they are actually destroying the church. One of the saddest things I have seen is Christians who are confused because their pastor or a theological college lecturer will say something like “Exodus didn’t really happen exactly like that” and yet say in the next breath “But the Bible is trustworthy”. Or when a pastor or lecturer makes a lot of so called contradictions in the Bible and yet say “But the Bible is historically reliable”. What the pastor or lecturer is generally doing is trying to argue against a parody of inerrancy but what they are really doing is undermining their listeners confidence in the scriptures. With this kind of teaching the chickens don’t come to roost for a few generations when no one holds to anything like an Evangelical doctrine of scripture.[1] But by this time it is too late. The scriptures wont be preached and the gospel will be denied and the church is dead and it all started with some of us trying putting intellectual respectability above faithfulness.

    If you deny true inerrancy you will kill the church. But you probably won’t be around to see it.

     


    [1] For more on the issue of inerrancy and Evangelicalism read the chapter ‘Intellectual Respectability and Scripture’ (pg. 173-214) in Ian Murrays book Evangelicalism Divided

     

     

  • How to find “The One”

    So many of us who are single are trying to find “The One”. You know the one who I should marry, the one who will complete me, the one who God wants me to marry.

    It goes without saying that if I find “The One” I will have a great life that will be always full of love and joy and will have no tears or heartbreak. But, if I don’t find “The One” my life will be a disappointment and I will not live the happy life I deserve!

    Well let me tell you where you will find “The One”.

    You will find “The One” in Wonderland next to the pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow riding a unicorn!

    You know why you will find them there? Because just like pots of Gold at the end of the rainbow and unicorns “The One” is a myth.

    Because there is no one person who will make you feel great all the time. With whom you will never fight or get frustrated with.

    There is no perfect mate

    No soul mate

    No “The One”

    “The One” is a very dangerous concept. It is not found in the Bible and it frustrates me no end that Christians talk about “The One” without realising that they have got this concept from Hollywood and the media. It is dangerous because it gives people an over inflated sense of what a relationship or marriage is going to do for them.

    “The One” is also an impossible bar that no one will be able to clear. Imagine the pressure of being someone’s “The One”. You are there to make them happy, to fill them with joy all the time and to know what they are thinking and feeling without them or you saying anything. This not only impossible but a dangerous fantasy. I have been married to my beautiful wife for two and a bit years. I still need her to tell me what she is thinking. Sometimes she pulls a face and I am left thinking “Does she want me to get something?” or “Have I missed an important day?” or “Does she have gas?”  Holding onto the concept of “The One” will only end in tears.

    How do we get rid of the concept of “The One”? We do it by hearing what the Bible says about us all. The Bible says that we are all made in the image of God and therefore we are all to be loved and respected. But it also says that we are sinful and selfish and therefore when two sinful people come together in marriage or a dating relationship we will expect that there will be tension, there will be periods of frustration, it won’t always be the romantic comedy fantasy that we hoped for. The concept of “The One” doesn’t give us a realistic view of ourselves, the opposite sex, relationships and ultimately marriage.

    Marriage is a great thing and my life has been enriched by my marriage to my amazing wife in so many ways. It is truly a great gift of God. But let’s get rid of the unbiblical fantasy known as “The One” and lets have our relationships defined by God and not by Hollywood.

     

  • The Clergification of the church

    “Most Protestant churches today resemble pre Reformation Roman Catholic churches” – Ed Stetzer

    As I said in my last blog I had the privilege of sitting down and asking Tim Sims and Ed Stetzer a bunch of questions about church growth and leadership. They both said is that most churches have an underutilized laity. If there is something important in our churches to be done we get a paid member of the clergy to do it. This is why Ed thinks that “Most Protestant churches today resemble pre Reformation Roman Catholic churches” because we have an unbiblical clergy/laity divide where we only trust those with a theological degree and they have to have attended the right theological college!

    The issue here is that we have not only been unbiblical because we, as evangelicals, believe that every Christian is has gifts to bring to the church (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12:1-8). But keeping important ministry to the paid clergy disempowers the laity. It is says that you aren’t good/smart/godly enough to do these things but please be on the supper roster!

    While I was on holidays I had the revelation that we at Resolved have been bad at asking people who aren’t elders to be joining in discipling each other and leading ministries. Since then we have started to be on the front foot with asking people to be involved in ministries and discipling each other.

    What has been the result?

    I have seen people more enthusiastic about Resolved, people getting together to read the bible and pray together, people encouraging each other to tell their friends and family about Jesus and invite them to church. I have heard people say how they feel more valued now and how they feel like Resolved is more their church than ever before!

    I was arrogant. I thought if I preached well and we had a good service in a cool location people would be enthusiastic about church and they would invite their friends to church.

    I was wrong.

    Let’s not have our people spectate let’s have them participate!

    Not only is it biblical but it will empower them and they be more enthusiastic about Jesus, our churches and reaching the lost!