In the Gospels, Jesus says the “Great Commandment” is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (e.g., Mark 12:29–30). Indeed, it is impossible to love God and hate others (1 John 4:20–21). Just the same, it is ultimately unloving to do good to others without reference to the God of love; true love labors and suffers to increase another’s joy in the love of God.
This week our sermon considered this intersection, how knowing God means loving God and then loving others. In the context of 1 Corinthians 8, love for God looks like rejecting culturally-acceptable idols and sacrificing our own rights to serve the needs of others, especially our church family. You can listen to the sermon here or read the outline here.
Below you can find discussion questions and further resources on the love of God and fighting idolatry in our day. Continue reading →
There is a popular argument that persists among American evangelicals that prioritizes domestic evangelism over against international missions. Often it is put in the form of a handful of questions:
“Why should we spend our time reaching the lost overseas when there are so many lost in our community?”
Or, “Why spend our money on foreign missions when there are millions nearby who need to hear the gospel?”
Or, “Wouldn’t it be more effective to focus on the lost here?”
On the surface such an argument may sound plausible, even effectively evangelistic. It certainly appeals to the pragmatic. But examined by the Scriptures, it will not hold. For Scripture does not simply speak of evangelism in commercial terms—finding the fastest way to sell the gospel to the most number of people. Regularly, it speaks of the advance of the kingdom crossing boundaries, reaching nations, and extending the glory of God to the ends of the earth. In fact, the glory of God depends not only on the vastness of redemption, but its variety. Therefore, for those who care about God’s glory should also care deeply about reaching the nations.
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one shepherd. . . .
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.
The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,
but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
— John 10:16, 25–27 —
A few weeks ago I had a phone conversation with a church planting strategist in the Midwest. In discussing the merits and demerits of theology and church planting, he remarked: “The best church planters in our state are Calvinists.”
This admission did not surprise me because I know some of those church planters. They are men gripped by the gospel and desirous to see the nations come to worship King Jesus. It also didn’t surprise me because Calvinism—when it is rightly understood!!—always promotes missions, evangelism, and church planting. Church history and biblical testimony both support this fact.
Sadly, such cohesion between election and evangelism is often missed. The sentiment among many opponents of “Calvinism”—often, erroneously described as hyper-Calvinism (which is something else entirely)—is that such theology ruins evangelism. However, such a view is short-sighted. It overlooks key passages in the Bible that unite those two great themes (e.g., see Matthew 11:25–30; Acts 18:9–10; Romans 9 and 10; and 2 Timothy 2:10). Such claims also fail to remember that the modern missionary movement was, in large part, begun by Calvinists.
As it so often happens in preaching, to make one point from the text of Scripture, requires glossing over another. This is especially true when working with large chunks of Scripture.
Yesterday, I did that as I preached the Flood narrative (Gen 5:28–9:17). In that section, Moses records that God was ‘sorry’ that he had created man (6:6), which raises a whole host of questions related to God and his relationship to the world: Can God suffer? What does it mean that he is sorry? Does God change his mind? Does God know the future? Etc.
As I mentioned those things in the message, my mind was thinking: “I am not spending enough time explaining this.” But since the goal was not verse-by-verse exposition but the exposition of the whole narrative, I pressed on.
Still important questions remain about what Moses meant in Genesis 6:6. Whole revisionist theologies have been created on the basis of those questions. Open Theism, a view that denies God’s absolute knowledge of the future along with his foreordination of contingent events, arises from the emotional problem with evil and passages like Genesis 6:6 which on the surface insinuates that God changes his mind or grieves over mistakes in history.
In yesterdays sermon, I did not get a chance to answer some of those questions, but here are a few places where I or others have addressed the subject of God’s impassibility and his relations with the world.
This message kicked off a series on the holiness of God in the Old Testament. Admittedly, the message focuses more on God’s justice and mercy than his holiness per se. Nevertheless, as the first major display of God’s action in redemptive history (post-fall), it displays a vital reality: In his holiness, God is dreadfully severe towards sin and awesomely gracious towards his covenant people (cf. Rom 11:22).
A few months ago Nine Marks ministries released an e-journal on the subject of the “prosperity gospel.” In that journal, I wrote about something that I have seen in ministry, what Kate Bowler has labeled the “soft prosperity gospel.” In my article, I listed five ways of detecting this form of the prosperity gospel. They are
Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” over the blessed God.
Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
Today, on his daily Q & A program, Ask Pastor John, John Piper lists six more ways to detect the softer prosperity gospel. In order they are, in question form:
Does the preacher deal honestly with the biblical doctrine of suffering?
Does the preacher speak about the need for self-denial?
Does the preacher preach expository sermons, where the shape and content of the Bible forms the shape and content of the sermon?
Does the preacher wrestle with tensions in the biblical text?
Does the preacher live a lavish lifestyle that elevates him over most of the people in his church?
Does the preacher elevate self and minimize the greatness of the glory of God?
If the answer to any or many of these questions is “yes,” then there is or is beginning to emerge in that church a message of prosperity preaching.
Sadly, the softer form of the prosperity gospel is rife within evangelical churches. We need to be aware of it, repent of it, and pray that God would give us grace to combat it in our churches and in the corridors of our own hearts. Knowing the signs of the soft prosperity gospel is a beginning place to address the problem.
Last week, I wrote a blog that listed a number of passages that demonstrated that God saves his people for the sake of his name. Aside from Ephesians 1, my post only listed the Old Testament passages that prove this theological point. The New Testament references were left wanting.
This week, I came across a sermon by Matt Chandler entitled “God is for God.” In his conference message, he gets at the same point that God’s pursuit of his glory is the foundation of the good news. He points out the Old Testament passages that speak of God saving his people for the sake of his name. But he also goes further.
Citing passages that speak of God pursuing his glory, he lists off a bevy of New Testament texts that affirm God’s pursuit of his glory. You can see how he introduces his point above, and in his sermon, he goes on read the following passages. Continue reading →
Today, Kevin DeYoung asked the question, “What Do You Think of When You Think of the New Calvinism?” His response would be like mine. I am grateful for the men, Reformed in their soteriology, who have enlarged my vision of God for the last decade. Without them, I would still be an open theist(or worse), struggling with the anxieties that come from a misshapen view of God. Instead, because of the ministries of John Piper, Albert Mohler, and Mark Dever—to name only a few—I stand ready to rejoice in the Lord and risk on his behalf. And I stand, not because of my own strength, but because of the strong hand of the Lord who upholds me.
Now there are many, some of my closest brothers in Christ, who do not agree with me on the value of Reformed theology. For many there is suspicion, uncertainty, and diffidence towards ‘Calvinism’ and the men and women who assume the name ‘Calvinist.’ To echo the words of Nathanael, they might ask, “Can anything good come from Geneva?” Continue reading →
While America watches prosperity preachers on the new TV series “Preachers of L. A.,” John Piper drives the point home that such ‘Christianity’ is not Christianity at all. It is idolatry.
In opposition to the false claims of riches offered by the prosperity gospel, true Christianity teaches you how to suffer and to say “God is enough.” Any message that offers Jesus as a means to another end—health and healing, wealth and wisdom, or prosperity and pleasure—is a false gospel.
Jesus is the end of the gospel.
He is the pearl of great price. He is worth selling everything to gain, he’s worth losing everything to keep him. He is the center-piece of the gospel, and there is nothing better behind him. He calls himself the door in John 10, but it is not because behind him is a better prize. In him is the fullness of God, and when we enter through him, we come to the Father, who like the Son is the goal of the gospel.
Over the month of September, our church has been meditating on 1 Corinthians 13 and what it means to love. In preparation for last week’s sermon, I came across this quote by John Piper. In it he turns the therapeutic counsel of learning how to love yourself on its head. Instead of telling sinners whose greatest penchant is to love themselves, Piper points out how Jesus—who knew what was in a man’s heart (see John 2:23-25)—assumed that we already love ourselves and that we must learn to love others “as yourself.” Speaking of Matthew 22:39, Piper unpacks Jesus’ words, Continue reading →