• What I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry

    It is the time of year that people in their last year bible/theological college or in their last few weeks of work before doing an internship next year. Either way these are exciting times, times of great opportunity and potential but opportunity and potential need to be worked with to be fully realised. If you are doing an internship or going into fulltime ministry have you though and planned for next year? Have you worked out what your priorities are?

    Here are a few things I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry:

    1. Scheduled in times for bible reading, prayer and reading.

    When fulltime ministry hits one of the first things that can go out the window is personal bible reading and prayer. This is because bible reading and prayer seems not urgent but those 50 emails are urgent. This is where we need to work on things that are not urgent but are very important. This means scheduling in time to read the bible and pray, time to read theology, time to have significant alone time with God. If you are in fulltime ministry and you don’t work on your relationship with God why should you expect anyone else to work on theirs?

    2. Got a mentor

    There is a temptation that when we enter into fulltime ministry we have got it all sorted and we know how things are because we have had great training. But one of the things I realised (and am still realising) is that despite all the great training that I had at bible college there is so much more to learn about myself, theology, the world, people etc. Having a mentor who will put time into you and keep you accountable with your bible reading prayer, godliness etc is a great thing to have.  I know I have benefitted greatly from my mentors!

    3. Worked on my health and fitness

    Since starting Resolved I have put on about 13 kilos. Yes you read that right 13 kilos! In the first year of Resolved I slept very poorly, ate worse and almost never exercised. I have been convicted of my need to look after myself by my beautiful caring wife and my rapidly developing gut. Needless to say in the grind and rapid pace of ministry there will be temptations for you to eat junk, not work out and sleep only a few hours a night. This will surely mean you will burn out or become very ineffective.

    4. Worked harder on my preaching.

    I think I have a gift of communication and sometimes I am lazy and I rely on this. I wish from day one I not only prepared the text properly (which I usually did) but I also worked on how to communicate that text properly. Working out how to communicate the word properly turns your speech from a boring exegetical lecture to a great expository sermon.

    5. Worked harder at being organised

    I like flying by the seat of my pants. It is fun and exciting for me. But it is not for everyone else. I need to love the people I lead/pastor by being as organised for every meeting as I can, setting deadlines and keeping them and keeping myself to a high standard in the area of organisation. If I don’t do this I will lose credibility very fast and I bring the gospel and my ministry into disrepute.

    6. Made every moment count

    Because of my lack of organisation and my arrogance I wasted time. I didn’t realise and keep in front of me that every moment matters and that God is going to hold me to account. So when I am at work I need to work hard with all the hours I have. I shouldn’t scroll endlessly through blogs or YouTube or debating about how much pastors should be paid on my bible college year Yahoo group. Brothers and sisters going into fulltime ministry, you will have a lot of time to use effectively but also a lot of time to waste. Please don’t waste your time. The gospel is too important, hell too real and Jesus too amazing for us to waste time!

    These are things I am continuing to work and I will be working on these till I die I am sure. My prayer is that if you are going into fulltime ministry next year you will have a long and fruitful ministry and you will see many people come to know our great Lord Jesus!

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • What does it mean to preach the whole counsel of God?

    We kicked off Resolved in 2009 with a sermon on Colossians 1:15-20 and then we preached through the whole book of Luke in almost a year and a half. Yes, you read that right, a year and a half. But in fact it worked. I never had a sermon prep day where I thought “Oh no Luke again!” and nor did I ever hear one complaint about us going through the book of Luke at such a slow clip. But since 2009 we have preached through Galatians, Exodus, Job and Ecclesiastes as well as doing topical series’ on, suffering, defeater beliefs and sex. One of the things I have noticed is that it is very easy for a series to get dry very quickly this is especially so if you are preaching a book like Galatians or Ecclesiastes which seems to be making the same point week after week.

    Add to this dilemma I have two convictions about my preaching:

    1. I want all my sermons to be expository in nature
    2. I want to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)

    There has been much written on the first point but what does it mean to preach the whole counsel of God? Especially when you have different models, you have the Driscoll/Piper/Macarthur method which seems to take books and preach on every verse over a long period and then there are other guys who preach books in a far more rapid pace tackling entire chapters where other brother may just preach on a few verses. Which method is right?

    I think I have come to realise that preaching the whole counsel of God is not expositing every verse in the pulpit but preaching the word of God in such a way that it is faithful to the text, the canon of scripture and the Gospel. This does mean I am going to work hard at exegeting the text but this will also mean that I free myself up to preach bigger chunks and to tackle books of the Bible at a faster clip then if I thought I had to exposit every verse. I am thankful to brothers who can preach slowly through books of the Bible I think I have come to realise that is not me. But I am still going to be an expository preacher who preaches the whole counsel of God!

    What do you think “preaching the whole counsel of god” means and what does it look like for you to do it?

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • 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

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • 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!

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • So punk you wanna write a blog eh…..

    Blogging is a funny thing. I am always weirded out by people saying they actually read my blog. But people do and I am thankful. I try to blog every day Monday through Friday. Sometimes this doesn’t happen but usually it does. Each blog is meant to take me 15 minutes to write and post but sometimes it can take as much as half an hour. The question I get often is “How do I get started blogging?”

    Well get a blog page (duh!) and then get write up some content to write about and the write!

    Here are some things I do to get content:

    1. I have a blog title idea list. On my phone and on my computer I have a list of things I am going to blog on. If I get an idea for a blog I put it on the list. Having a list means that great idea for a blog I had will not go out of my head before the next blog I write but will be down on paper (so to speak) and ready for me to write a blog about it in the future.
    2. I read book not blogs. Blogs are fine but they usually aren’t as well thought through as books. I find reading an hour a day helps me to have a creative and fertile mind. Sometimes reading a book will give me an idea for a blog series or a one off blog.
    3. I blog about the questions people ask me. I am always talking to people. I love being around people and sometimes the questions I get asked turn into blogs in the future. So if someone asks me about an aspect of church planting or leadership or preaching or whatever I might put the question down onto my list and in a few days, weeks or months it might become a blog.

    Things to remember when you blog:

    1. Keep it short. Unless you are a brilliant thinker with amazing insights no one wants read your 3000 word treatise. I try to keep my blog to 300-500 words. This means someone should be able to read my blog and leave a comment in about five minutes or less.
    2. Write about things that people care about. So you have been inspired to write a blog that great!  Do you think anyone else but you cares about what you are going to write? If not ask some people. This goes especially for people who are in Bible College or who are just out of college. No offence but no one cares what you think of Karl Barth and Calvin on scripture. If you are going to write about theology make sure it is linked into peoples lives.
    3. A good title always helps. No one will read a blog titled Calvin and Barth on scripture but someone may read “What we can learn from two dead dues about the bible”
    4. Be controversial. It is a blog you are meant to put your thoughts out there and it is mean to be fun. Blog on something that is controversial or something that will get people talking.

    Hope that helps you as you get started on this weird world of blogging!

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • Baptism: Some conclusions

    In our study of the biblical text we have seen that only believers were baptised in the Gospels and Acts and we saw that, for Paul, baptism is a sign that one has died and been raised with Christ. If we take these together we must conclude then that the practice of the early church, and I would argue the most biblically sustainable practice, is to only baptise those with faith. Or to put it negatively we must not baptise infants if our findings so far are in anyway legitimate.

    There are some things I think I have not addressed that my padeobaptist brothers and sisters want me to discuss.

    Firstly, I see a similarities and differences with respect to circumcision and baptism and how they function under their separate covenants.  The similarities are: they were an initiatory right, they were done to signify the people were in the covenant and they both point to Jesus. But it is this pointing to Jesus as to where they are significantly different. Circumcision was tied to the promises given to Abraham and therefore pointed to the future reality of Jesus coming and his salvation whereas baptism points back to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Circumcision says that Jesus will come and will rescue but baptism is a sign that these realities have come.  This is significant because in a typological way baptism anticipates new covenant realities but they do not say that these realities are true of us where as baptism is a sign of the new covenant  and as a sign of the new covenant signifies that the grace of God has been given to us and they are true of us.  So we must not say that circumcision and baptism work the same way and therefore we can baptise children because they circumcised children.  This argument does not grapple with the nature of baptism and circumcision.

    Secondly, I would not think that a brother in Christ who baptises infants is not a brother in Christ. Even though I have spent a few blogs talking about believers baptism I don’t think that it is a first order gospel issue. It definitely isn’t something I would break fellowship over and I would have communion with a brother who gives infants a nice little sprinkle.

    I hope these blogs have helped you think more about Baptism and what it is and isn’t. May we, whatever we believe about baptism, pray and preach the gospel so that we are able to baptise streams of new believers.

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • Baptism: The Epistles

    We could look at a number of Pauline texts about baptism (e.g. Ephesians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 10:2; 12:13; 15:29, Galatians 3:27 etc.)

    But I want to focus on two texts in particular which I think capture the heart of what is happening in baptism:

    Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4

    “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12

    If we take these two texts as paradigmatic for what baptism is we see that baptism is a symbol showing that a Christian undergoing baptism has died and risen with Christ and now has new life. We know that a person has only truly died and been risen with Christ when they have faith in Jesus and so if baptism is a reflection of this fact why then would we baptise someone who has not yet come to faith in Jesus.

    These texts in particular should cause a person who baptises infants to rethink their position. So as we have seen in the Gospels and Acts, baptism is to be conferred on those who have made a profession of faith and therefore the Bible supports believers baptism and not infant baptism.

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • Baptism: The book of Acts

    In the book of Acts baptism is an initiatory rite closely associated with conversion to Christianity.

    The following examples make it clear that believing, repenting and being baptised go together in the book of Acts.

    Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 8:12-13 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

    Acts 10:43-48 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.  Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

    I could put Acts 8:35-39, 16:31-34, 18:8, 19:4-5 into the mix because they all show a strong connection between faith and Baptism but you can look them up in your own time. These passages all show a very strong connection between faith and baptism. It is like Acts is saying that if you want to be baptised you have to be a believer.  Isn’t this evidence enough to say that only believers baptism is a legitimate baptism?

    No I hear many of you say because of Acts 10 where Cornelius’s whole household is baptised (10:46). The argument here and in the baptisms of other households (i.e. Lydia in Acts 16 and Crispus in Acts 18) is that they baptised the whole household therefore the person who baptised them would have baptised any infants in the household. Two things could be said about this point. Firstly, Luke is frustrating in the scant amount of detail he clothes these narratives with. Cornelius might have been a young man with a young family or an old man with no children at home. He and his wife could have been barren, we just do not know. So in response to the scant detail we must not press the text into saying something it is not. We are left saying that he baptised the whole household and we do not know who comprised that household. Therefore, to use this text as a proof text for infant baptism is pressing the text further than it can be pressed.  Secondly, we need to see that the people who were baptised in 10:48 are described as hearing the word (10:44) and speaking in tongues (10:48) these are signs of belief in the books of Acts. Therefore,  it is exegetically safe to say that Cornelius’s household was baptised because they believed not because the early church baptised infants. Therefore even though Acts 10 is used by proponents of infant baptism it is actually a text, when exegeted closely, that comes out in favour of believers baptism.

    In conclusion, the book of Acts links baptism with belief and repentance. Therefore those who must be baptised must be able to have faith in the lordship and saving work of Jesus.

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • Baptism: The Gospels

    Summarising everything that the gospels say about Baptism in the space of a blog is going to be very hard but here goes:

    The majority of times that the Gospels mention baptism it is usually in connection with John the Baptist (Mark 1:4-9, Matthew 3:1-16, Luke 3:1-22.)What was John’s baptism? It was a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4) and also it was a baptism that, along with John’s preaching, was to prepare the way of the Lord (Matthew 3:1-3).  If we take these passages together, John the Baptist’s ministry and preaching was one where repentance was crucial. He wanted people to repent and, for John, baptism was a sign that a person had done just this.

    The other major passage that mentions the practice of Baptism is Matthew 28:19. Now if we look at the Greek of Matthew 28:19

    πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες

    αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνοματοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,

    We see in this clause the main verb is “make disciples “(μαθητεύσατε). It is imperatival in its force meaning that as Christians Jesus is commanding us to make disciples. The other verbs “go” (πορευθέντες) and “baptising” (βαπτίζοντες) are participles meaning they are subordinate to the main verb which is to make disciples. This means that baptising and the verb go is defined in some sense by the main verb “make disciples”. So Christians “go” to make disciples and they baptise those disciples.  Therefore here, as in the preaching and baptising ministry of John, baptism is strongly linked with repentance and being a disciple of Jesus. To put it more strongly, Jesus is linking Baptism with repentance in a way which says to have a legitimate baptism the person must have become a disciple.

    Now we do see Jesus interacting with Children (e.g. Matthew 19:13-14). But not once in the four gospels do we see Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) baptising a child. This surely makes us pause to at least reconsider whether infant baptism is legitimate.

    In conclusion, the evidence from the gospels is that a person believes and repents and then is baptised. This makes repentance and belief precursors to baptism. Therefore the gospels are in favour of believers baptism and silent on infant baptism.

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • Baptism: My story

    I wrote last week a post entitled “Why I am not an Anglican” and one of the reasons I wasn’t an Anglican was that I disagreed with Infant baptism.

    The question was posed “How does a person who grew up in an Anglican church and went to an Anglican theological college wind up practicing believers baptism and not infant baptism?” Well as always there is a story behind every belief and my one follows…

    As already stated, when I became a Christian at 14 I went to an Anglican church and needless to say this church baptised children. But they baptised the children of unbelievers and this troubled me. I heard the parent of some children say they were Christians and they would raise this child to know and love Jesus when we all knew they weren’t going to keep these promises. When I asked about this I was told that it is the parent’s choice to make these promises and keep them and that is it a great chance to evangelise the parents by telling them about Jesus in the baptism class. This made me uneasy even though I did see people come to know Jesus through this process.

    I honestly didn’t give baptism much thought until I hit theological college. I was going to an Anglican college where baptism wasn’t mentioned all that much.  When I was in College a decided to make use of the amazing library at the college, I did this by picking a topic (e.g. gender, scripture etc.) and reading for an hour a day on that topic till I came to a position on it. Needless to say one of the topics I investigated was baptism.

    When I read stuff by Baptists I was struck by how much exegesis they did. They seemed to be constrained by the text and then go to theology. When I read people defending infant baptism I saw that they were very shallow on exegesis and then were very heavy on arguing from theology why infant baptism was legit.

    As I hope the next few blogs make clear I found the arguments of infant Baptists unconvincing. I wanted to be a pastor who was on about the text. I wanted who I baptised not be driven by anything but the text and so I found myself convinced that we should baptise Believers and not infants. I also found that my Baptist brothers had better theological arguments as well.

    I want to lay out my theology of baptism and so here is what I will be blogging about over the next few days:

    Blog 1: Baptism: My story

    Blog 2: Baptism: The Gospels

    Blog 3: Baptism: Luke and Acts

    Blog 4: Baptism: The Epistles

    Blog 5: Baptism: The covenant

     

    I hope that we all can get to know what God would have us do as we consider this very important issue.

     

    Please follow and like us: