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Archive for February, 2008

A Matter of Prayer

A sad, sad story was posted today on the Christianity Today website. You can read it here. It involves a nasty lawsuit over who are the “real” Imperials. It even has a father and son at the center. Pray for The Imperials – all of them.

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If you’ve read, or even heard of, Frank Schaeffer’s book Crazy for God, you’re aware that the son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s son (Frank, that is) has written a quite unflattering portrait of his parents and their ministry. Francis and Edith are fallen human beings like the rest of us, and certainly growing up with them would provide plenty of illustrations of sinful behavior just like it would with the rest of us.

Os Guinness spent a lot of time with the Schaeffers, including Frank, at L’Abri. He’s written a review of Crazy for God that can only be described as fantastic. You can read it here. Guinness is convinced that Frank has been unfair, unkind, and self-serving in his book and wanted to provide a response. If that was his goal, he achieved it spectacularly well. There’s nothing wrong with telling stories about people “warts and all” (the Bible does it), but there comes a point where going any further is simply cruel. Frank didn’t just step over that line, he broadjumped it according to Guinness.

Please read this, especially if you were shaped by the ministry of Francis Schaeffer. I was, and I don’t regret the fifteen minutes or so it took to read the review.

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My reading in Luke’s Gospel has brought me to chapter 4. Obviously I could be reading it a lot quicker, but I’m listening to a sermon series on it as a supplement, too (and I don’t necessarily want to listen to as many sermons as it takes to cover three or four chapters every day!).

Luke 4 shows, among other things, what Jesus came to do – obey His Father, proclaim His Father’s Word, and heal some of the sick (not all). Several things jumped out at me from this chapter.

First, Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed His Father.
In verses 1-13, we have the account of Satan’s temptation of Jesus. The Lord Jesus, unlike Adam, resisted temptation and obeyed His Father. By doing so, Jesus is known as the “Second Adam” or the “Last Adam.” Adam was the federal head (or representative) of all mankind – he represented each and every one of us in the garden of Eden. Christ is the federal head (or representative) of His people – He represents each and every person who will ever repent of their sins and trust Him alone for their salvation.

Just as Satan tempted Adam, he also tempted Christ. (By the way, I’m not forgetting about Eve. She was tempted, too, but Adam was the responsible party in God’s economy.) The most important difference is the result – Adam disobeyed, failed the test, and was banished from the garden. Jesus, on the other hand, obeyed, passed the test, and restored paradise lost.

This episode points to the fact that Jesus perfectly obeyed His Father for every moment of His life. Perfection is what God demands from us because He is righteous, and none of us – “no not one” – can give it to Him. We fall dreadfully short of God’s standard. But here’s the good news – the Lord Jesus Christ has obeyed in our place! He has satisfied the Father’s demand for perfection and lived the life we can’t live – all because of His grace, mercy, and love. Then, when we believe in Christ, that perfect righteousness of His is imputed to us.

Second, Jesus Christ was faithful in attendance at worship.
“And He (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day” (verse 16). Did you catch it? The little phrase “as was His custom” jumped out at me several years ago. The point being made is that Jesus was a regular synagogue attender. He attended worship services on a consistent basis because he was a faithful Jew. He didn’t “forsake assembling together” with the people of God. When the Sabbath came, He was there.

Think about that! The synagogues of Jesus’ time weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They were full of sinful people, many of whom had the same attitudes and actions that the Lord condemned in the Gospels. I’m certain that none of the synagogues did things exactly the way Jesus knew they should. Their doctrine wasn’t perfect. They had misunderstandings about the personality and the role of the Messiah in Israel’s history. Not only that, but the synagogue system wasn’t commanded in the Old Testament – it developed during the periods when the Jews were exiled away from Israel.

So why did He go every week? Because that’s what people who are faithful to God do. They regularly gather together with other believers in order to sing, pray, give, read and obey Scripture, and minister to one another. He went every week because He perfectly obeyed His Father (see verses 1-13).

There’s a great lesson in that little phrase “as was His custom.” Everything said about the synagogue of Jesus’ day applies to the church of today. Why should we go every week? Because God commands it and it’s what people faithful to God do. If “as was His custom” was good enough for Christ, it should be good enough for us, too.

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Here are two recommended articles for your perusal.

The first is an interview with Keith and Kristyn Getty called “Singable Doctrine.” They wrote “In Christ Alone” with Stuart Townsend, which is one of my favorites. You can read it here.

The second is a post by Mark Dever on Together For the Gospel’s site called “The Bondage of ‘Guidance.'” You can read it here.

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“How Should We Evangelize?”

In this chapter, Mark Dever examines the question of how we should proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He says we need to have a balanced approach.

Honesty is the first aspect of a balanced approach. “First, we tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe, they will be saved. But they will need to repent, and it will be costly. We must be accurate in what we say, not holding any important parts back that seem to us awkward or off-putting” (p. 55). Making people aware of their sinful and lost condition might turn some people off, but if we’re faithful witnesses we have to do it. Turning from our sins (repentance) won’t be easy, but we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. If we do, we’re manipulating people who desperately need to hear the gospel.

Urgency is the second aspect of a balanced approach. Dever writes that, “we must emphasize the urgency with which people ought to repent and believe if they are to be saved. They must decide now” (p. 57). We don’t have “all the time in the world” to ponder the offer of forgiveness and everlasting life. It’s not a scare tactic to bring up the fact that we aren’t promised another day, or minute for that matter.

Joy is the third aspect of a balanced approach. “The truth of this news of a restored relationship with God brings us great joy. so we should joyfully tell people that if they repent and believe they will be saved. It is all worth it, despite the cost” (p. 59). A sour and dour witness is not attractive. Being “baptized in pickle juice” tends to drive the non-saved away from the gospel and those who proclaim it.

Each of these aspects are important. We need to be honest and not candy-coat the gospel because we think non-believers will respond to it better. Urgency is critical, and, sadly, I’ve paid it very little attention. We also need to be joyful. This is so important, in fact, that we might need to have classes in church on how to do this (or at least to be reminded).

Dever then gives a number of practical tips on how to evangelize.
1. Pray. Ask God to give you opportunities and for lost people to be saved.
2. Use the Bible. God’s Word is a great tool for evangelism. Do a simple study of the Gospel of Mark with a non-believing friend. God uses His Word in incredible ways.
3. Be clear. Use language that anyone can understand. It’s easy for us to speak a language – a jargon – that only other Christians understand. But in evangelism, we need to try to do whatever we can to aviod that. If we use the word “justification” for example, we need to define it. Dever points out that being clear will mean that we may offend people – that comes with the territory.
4. Provoke self-reflection. “Defensiveness is natural to the fallen heart, so we want to do our best to help people hear the good news. We want to live and talk in such a way that we provoke people to reflect on themselves, on their own desires and actions” (p. 65). Ask people good questions. Listen to their answers. Put a rock in their shoe.
5. Use the church. Invite people to whom you’ve been witnessing to a church that clearly proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. More than that, however, is to bring your non-Christian friends into the company of Christians. Let them both see and hear the truth of the gospel.

Overall, this is an excellent chapter because of the helpful suggestions and reminders.

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Get Some Sleep!

Over at Big Orange Truck, a plea goes out to all of us (pastors, too) to get a full night’s sleep – every night. He thinks it’ll do us a world of good physically, mentally, and spiritually. I couldn’t agree with him more. Read it here.

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Luke 3 deals primarily with the identity of Jesus Christ. He is preceded by John the Baptist (3:2-20). He was baptized and given the Father’s verbal blessing (3:21-22). His genealogy proves He is the Son of God and God the Son (3:23-38).

John said that Jesus is “the Lord” (verse 4) and the One who will bring “the salvation of God” (verse 6). He procalimed that Jesus was “mightier” than he was (verse 16) and the One who will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (verse 16). In short, Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior.

Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by God the Father in verse 22 – And the Holy Spirit descended on him (Jesus) in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Finally, Jesus is proven to be the Son of God and God the Son by His ancestry – His genealogy. This is Joseph’s line, not Mary’s (which is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel), which explains an objection some have raised (specifically, that it seems that Jesus has two different genealogies).

John’s statement and attitude of submission in verse 16 jumped out at me. John said, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John was an extremely important part of God’s plan to prepare the way for the Messiah – he played a key role. In fact, Jesus said that there was no one greater than John in His kingdom (Matthew 11:11). With all of that being said, John did not see himself as anything or anyone important. He said he wasn’t even worthy to do the most menial task for Jesus – untying His sandals. John realized that he was the messenger and that Christ is the Message. That’s a tremendous example of submission and servanthood. John says it another way in John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I need that attitude today and, I suppose, some of you do, too.

Lord, may the Lord Jesus Christ increase and may I decrease. He’s mightier than I, and I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandals – the One in whom You are well pleased.

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