he age-old Sunday school quip is “No matter what the question asked, the answer is always “Jesus.”” We laugh, but in life nothing could be more certain, and never more certain than with regard to America’s current political season. No matter what your party leanings, all sides have the solution to America’s woes. But just like in Sunday school, the answer to America’s problems is Jesus. I can’t say it nearly as well as Douglas Wilson, so here’s his rendition of it in The Political Teeter Totter. This is a short piece, exhortational in nature, and good for us all. Would that we would hear more of this from pulpit and campaign stump.
rom Yesterday’s Bible reading:
Even the death of a family pet should remind us not to be proud.
20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish. (ESV)
n his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem occasionally offers a personal comment relating to the current evangelical state in America. In his chapter on conversion, after showing from Scripture and logic that faith and repentance are inseparable, Grudem gives this analysis:
“When we realize that genuine saving faith must be accompanied by genuine repentance of sin, it helps us to understand why some preaching of the gospel has such inadequate results today. If there is no mention of the need of repentance, sometimes the gospel message becomes only, “Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved” without any mention of repentance at all. But this watered-down version of the gospel does not ask for a wholehearted commitment to Christ—commitment to Christ, if genuine, must include a commitment to turn from sin. Preaching the need for faith without repentance is preaching only half of the gospel. It will result in many people being deceived, thinking that they have heard the Christian gospel and tried it, but nothing has happened. They might even say something like, “I accepted Christ as Savior over and over again and it never worked.” Yet they never really did receive Christ as Their Savior, for he comes to us in his majesty and invites us to receive him as he is—the one who deserves to be, and demands to be, absolute Lord of our lives as well.”
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), pp. 716-717.
This also may help explain why only 8 million of our 16 million Southern Baptists can be found in church on any given Sunday, or why so many of our young people abandon church forever between their freshman and sophomore years in college.
he very solution I was getting at in my previous post. Would that more among us would see what the young author of this post sees, and Spurgeon saw. Would that our church music reflected the passion therein expressed.
usical reform is something I wish were somewhere in the fabric of the SBC program currently on the front burner. Sadly, it is not. I will be surprised if music as an issue is mentioned once this year in Louisville.
I say program because that is just what it is. It is well intentioned, to be sure, proposed by good men, to be sure. It is, however, merely a program, set with all of its little cures. Each item under each Roman numeral is just another attempt to solve the little problems that are merely symptoms of the one big problem. Dr. Akin, in his now-famous address touched on the problem numerous times, but only as items under the Roman numerals. It pleased me a great deal at the time I first listened to it via podcast, and later read the transcript. Then when I read the drafted statement that everybody is mad about signing (or condemning), I realized the whole thing is just another well-intentioned program, another symptom solver.
The glory of God, showing him large, should have been the over-arching theme. Instead, as the program’s title betrays, it’s all about numbers. After all, that is what Great Commission Resurgence really means. Our problem is that our numbers are dwindling. We are in decline. We need to beef up our evangelism. By the way, that is what is what it is all about. That is what the SBC was founded upon all those years ago. Yes, that is sarcasm, but don’t get me wrong. I do believe that evangelism is integral to genuine Christianity, and many behind this effort have genuine love for the lost. The only problem is that the Great Commission is not the only command our Lord ever gave us, and the “last thing he said while still on this earth” doesn’t supersede everything he said the three years prior, nor everything the apostles said from The Acts of the Apostles, to The Revelation of John; unless, of course, you are a red-letter Christian.
Faithfulness is a much more pedestrian term than evangelism. I guess that is why we hear it so seldom among the “faithful” these days. Faithfulness is that boring Elmer’s glue of the faith that makes Christianity real, that makes it credible when you speak a word of grace to the lost. It is doing the right thing, even when it is hard; very hard. Faithfulness is weighing the long-term gains against the short-term gains. Faithfulness is choosing the best and the highest, over the pretty good and the mighty high. Faithfulness is working hard, showing up early, staying late, and coming back from lunch early; not because you boss is watching, but because you want to be pleasing to your Father in heaven. Faithfulness is skipping the tube or You-Tube, so you can catechize your children, and interact in their lives; because they have souls that will spend eternity somewhere, and they are your first and most important mission field, not to mention your best hope for the future of your stinking denomination. Faithfulness is staying married to the same spouse for life, because you made a promise, and it is the picture of God’s faithfulness to you. Faithfulness is mowing your lawn, waxing your car, cleaning your house, sweeping your driveway, making a budget, being nice to the not-so-nice, driving the speed limit, dressing modestly, keeping guard over your tongue, etc., etc. In other words faithfulness is taking every thought captive to obey Christ, by seeing how every bit of God’s word applies to every bit of your life, not because you need to, but because you want to. You want to magnify Christ in your life.
So, what does all of this have to do with musical reform, you may ask. Music is an undercurrent in all of our lives, both secular and sacred. It is so subtle we hardly notice it most of the time, yet its subtleties enables it to shape our thoughts and attitudes in every area of our lives so profoundly. As someone somewhere said quite some time ago, “We sing the faith into our hearts.” My question is, what kind of faith are we singing? Our recently-revised Baptist Hymnal 2008 was a feeble attempt at reform. When I see the SBC begin to take seriously the way we express ourselves to God and each other in song, then I will believe that we have begun to solve the real problem that faces the SBC; the general lack of faithfulness and integrity, in every area of our lives. We don’t evangelize because the God we sing about is too small. Those who do evangelize are not taken seriously. The world looks on and sees us as just the same as them, only “religious.”
I guess I should give credit to what got this post started. Douglas Wilson is “not one of us.” That is how most of you would put it. The more I read Pastor Wilson, the more I believe he should be one of us. Or is it maybe that we are not one of him, but should be? For some time he and his have undertaken to reform music in the context of worship. I am not suggesting we should ape the style from his tradition, just the attitude of his heart. Here is a quote from his recent post on musical reform. You should take the time to read the whole article. It is not long. It is not even earth shattering, but it is good common-sense food for thought. If you follow just this one regularly-recurring topic of Wilson’s you will profit greatly.
. . . we are living in a time when general musical education has been abandoned for some generations, with the result that many of us know what we like, but we don’t know what we are liking. So as we have undertaken the challenging task of musical reformation, we are trying to provide something to the next generation that we ourelves did not receive.
“Churches rightly draw a higher proportion of needy people. They also have a great number of people whose lives have been completely turned around and filled by the joy of Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ is therefore like the ocean. It is enormous and diverse. Like the ocean there are warm and clear spots and deadly cold spots, places you can enter easily without danger and places where it will immediately whisk you away and kill you. I realize how risky it is to tell my readers that they should seek out a church. I don’t do it lightly, and I urge them to do so with the utmost care. But there is no alternative. You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.“
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008) pp. 236-237.
omething to think about:
“All Americans are Christians.”
“All Americans are rich.”
“All Americans are immoral.”
We had a missionary couple from an Islamic country preach in our service a while back, and during a Q & A the above is what all the locals believe. We were told this perception is based mainly on two things: the fact that famous figures such as Madonna prominently wear a cross around their neck, and most of the American tourists throw a lot of money around and dress and act immorally.
Because of this they introduce themselves as “followers of Jesus Christ, the Messiah,” and they try to dress as modestly as possibly, among other things, to differentiate themselves from “Christians.”
What a novel idea. Maybe we here in the U.S. should adopt similar measures. Ya Think? Well, maybe we would first have to adopt different views of our faith.
hile cleaning out my computer the other day, I came across this text clipping that pretty much says it for me these days.
“That is why I often find myself at such cross-purposes with the modern world: I have been a converted Pagan living among apostate Puritans.”
C. S. Lewis
The above portion of this post has sat in my drafts for a couple three weeks due to a busy schedule. For that reason this quote has been running through my thoughts a good bit, so I have had time to mull over it before completing this post. Although it still does resonate with me quite a bit, I find it to be a two-edged sword. I find myself on both sides of the quote; with one thought the converted Pagan, and with the next thought among the apostate Puritans.
You do realize, don’t you, that pretty much all of life is based on a continuum? Nearly nothing is black and white. Sure, there is objective reality with God, but with man, broken and fallen, every issue is gold mixed with dross. I find myself criticizing my apostate Puritan brethren at one point, only to find myself the apostate Puritan at another point.
So where is the path through this mess we call The Christian Walk? How do you perceive yourself just as broken as the rest, just in different places? Of course love would be the quick answer, but one-word answers are easy to spit out yet impossible to put into practice—perfectly. Maybe patience would be a good one-worder, but I, like you don’t have time for that. I’m sure endurance supplies no solution, because I see myself wearing down, wearing out. I fear my mileage is about to out last my warranty.
There is one word that will suffice, but is still no easy answer. All good answers, although simple, are never easy. Jesus. We need to look more to him and less at those around us. When we do look at our brothers and sisters, we need to look for Jesus in them. Love him and look for the blood mark on them and love them.
How this is all acomplished ventured into is also simple yet difficult. Here two words lead the way: prayer and Scripture. We need to spend more time with our Savior via these two modes of communication. Be honest with yourself. Couldn’t you spend more time in prayer and Scripture reading?
I’ll be honest. I know I could.
thought for some time, trying to arrive at a catchy title to this post, describing the meeting between Mark Driscoll and J.I. Packer; something like “Beauty and the Beast,” or “The Prince and the Pauper,” but I couldn’t find anything that was 1) respectful of both parties, 2) not confusing as to who was who, and 3) still catchy—funny—descriptive—provocative. I decided on what you see above, because that is just what they are: godly men, and like-minded. You might disagree, but that’s okay. It’s a free country: you can err and still keep your head.
Quite short and to the point, this tidy post is valuable for the short list of topics provided by Packer at the request of Driscoll on topics “all young Christian leaders need to study in order to be prepared for the next fifty years.” The four-item list could be abbreviated as “mystery—focus—practice—mystery.” You really need to read the whole post, and see the picture. Now here’s my take on those four essentials:
Tell me pastor, parent, young person; do you try to untangle the mysteries of the faith ()? Does the work of the Holy Spirit leave you speechless ()? Does grace still amaze you ()? To be sure, we should plumb the depths as we study and pray, but at the end of the day we should put our hand over our mouth () and worship.
Do you practice your faith at home? Does your spouse/parents/children see Christ in you? Are you a Christian? Do you drive like one? Is God honored by your check book, your television viewing, your conversations with the members of your own household? How long does it take a total stranger to tell there is something different about you (; )?
Here we are, back where we started: at mystery, as seen in the Trinity. Is there a god Like our God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Okay, so we’re not charismaniacs (most of us), but do we preach, live, witness like he doesn’t exist, or, at least, doesn’t really matter? Just because we don’t fully understand the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean we get to ignore him ()?
Looking at the picture made me wonder: What will the next picture look like forty years from now? Who will be sitting on a couch picking the brain of Mark Driscoll? It’s a scary and thrilling thought, isn’t it?
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (ESV)
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (ESV)
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (ESV)
4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth. (ESV)
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. (ESV)
34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (ESV)
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)
16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (ESV)