His Mercy is More: God’s Surprising Kindness to Liars and Self Reliars (Joshua 9)

joshua07His Mercy is More: God’s Surprising Kindness to Liars and Self Reliars

Lies and liars. Our world is filled with them, and we often struggle to know what to do with them. This is true when are deceived, but it is also true when we are the deceiver.

On Sunday we saw another deception story in Joshua. And to play on words—Joshua 9 teaches us again that (first) looks can be deceiving. For instead of seeing how the lies of Gibeon are met with swift punishment, we find that God’s mercy overshadows their wrongdoing. At the same time, we also learn how Israel’s self-reliance is covered by the wise mercy of Joshua. Thus, in this chapter we find great hope for liars and self-reliars, which is to say we find hope for all of us!

To see how Joshua 9 leads us to appreciate more of God’s mercy and to become more merciful, you can listen to the sermon online. You can also find response questions and further resources below.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

Entrusted with the Gospel, We Can Speak With Confidence of What We Know

matrixHow do you know what you know?

Few questions may be more important for standing firm in a world full of competing voices and conflicting views. Yet, the follower of Christ does not need to fear the truthfulness of his or her faith, when that faith has been grounded in God’s revealed Word.

In contrast to every other religion that derives its views from the perspective of man, the testimony of the Bible is one where God has revealed himself to his people through Spirit-inspired Prophets and Apostles. From Moses receiving God’s Law on Sinai to the Spirit bearing witness by means of signs and wonders to the Apostles’s teaching (Heb. 2:1–4), God has entrusted his Word to men who rightly communicated his message.

In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul speaks often about the truthfulness of his message and the error of false teachers. And in these letters, he speaks in two ways that highlight the way God has communicated himself to the Church. The first has to do with the agreed upon truth (i.e., the content of the gospel) that God gave his disciples; the second has to do with the way God entrusted (passive tense of “believe”) his people with his words.

In his commentary on The Letters to Timothy and Titus, Robert Yarbrough nicely organizes the  places where Paul speaks in this way. And he show how Paul’s language of knowing (“we what we know”) is a technical term for the revealed word of God. Likewise, Yarbrough lists the places Paul speaks of the gospel (or God’s Word) entrusted to his people. Consider the way Paul speaks and what this means for our confidence in Scripture. Continue reading

Four Ideas That Led Margaret Sanger and Others to Deadly Consequences

sangerBecause ideas have consequences, it matters what a leader believes. This is true in general, but it is also true with the mother of abortion in America, Margaret Sanger.

Over the last week, I read the book Killer Angel: A Biography of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger by Presbyterian pastor George Grant. The book, commended by R.C. Sproul and Michael Milton, uncovers the dark life of Margaret Sanger. In Grant’s book, he exposes many of the underlying ideologies which fueled Sanger. To understand what drove her and what still drives her disciples, its vital to know her story, and Grant’s book is excellent. (Here’s my summary of it).

In what follows, I want to make four summary observations from Sanger’s life and legacy that show how her views of sex, culture, eugenics, and money led her to start an organization that continues to prey upon the most vulnerable in our country. My prayer is that by knowing more of her story it will help us to be better equipped to expose Planned Parenthood’s lies and bring hope to those who women targeted by their organization. Continue reading

Framing the Gospel: Four Biblical Truths For Rightly Proclaiming and Protecting the Gospel

framesFor the gospel of God to remain in focus it needs a frame. That is to say, if we are going to proclaim Christ clearly and consistently, we must understand the biblical presuppositions necessary to preserve and protect the gospel. In particular, the gospel needs at least four truths to guard it from distortion. These truths do not add anything to the gospel, but they do ensure that nothing is taken away from the gospel.

What are these ‘framing’ truths?

From 1 Corinthians 15, I believe Paul explains the gospel as needing to be kept (1) central, (2), external, (3) Scriptural, and (4) historical. Without these four frames the gospel will be put in jeopardy. Therefore, to better understand the biblical presuppositions with undergird the gospel, let’s consider each of these truths briefly and then what happens when they are lost. Continue reading

Two Truths For Troubled Times: A Meditation on Psalm 46

battle

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10  “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11  The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
— 
Psalm 46:8–11 —

Has the election season of 2016 brought unusual stress? If so, consider the words of Psalm 46, a psalm which gives us to truths for troubled times.

In that passage, the Sons of Korah — a people whose own existence depended on the sheer grace of God in the face of cataclysmic judgment (see Numbers 16) — speak of fearlessness in the face of a crumbling world. They write,

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

My question: Where do they find the grace to say “we will not fear though the earth and that is in it gives way”? To most of us when the foundations shake and the rafters rock, we tremble. And in that trembling we look for cover, yet hasty searches for safety in tremulous times often leads to devastating results.

The answer comes to us in verse 1, “God is our refuge and strength.” Because he is a refuge, we don’t need to look for another. And because he is present with us in the chaos of this fallen world (“a very present help in trouble”), therefore we will not fear. Still, such fearlessness takes more than the right answers to theology exam; it takes personal knowledge of a God who is with us and for us. Continue reading

Talking Like Jesus: Six Ways to Hold Out Truth in a Hostile World

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200In our day public speech about Jesus is becoming more and more costly. For instance, the state of Georgia has requested the sermons of Dr. Eric Walsh, a lay pastor and public health expert, who was fired from the Department of Public Health over (it seems) his religious beliefs. What is going on?

On the one hand, we are watching a sea change in our country. The religious liberty conferred on us by our founding fathers and established in the Bill of Rights is being taken away.  On the other hand, we are witnessing in our country what Jesus said would happen to his followers: we are hated by the world, because the world hates him.

In other words, American Christians are experiencing, for the first time in generations, what other disciples have experienced for centuries—verbal and even violent opposition to the truth of God’s Word. Such enemy fire makes speaking up for Christ difficult, if not dangerous. Yet, such resistance may also be the very means by which Christians can show what it means to follow Christ—bearing witness to Christ through our own afflictions. But to bear faithful witness, we need our minds to be renewed by God’s Word.

Learning from Jesus

The Gospel of John shows Jesus in constant conversation with the Pharisees whose anger towards him ultimately nailed him to a cross. As John records, they questioned him, debated him, and sought to arrest him long before they succeeded in ending his earthly ministry. Still, as the beloved disciple records, Jesus constantly responded with wisdom, grace, and truth. While John’s goal in presenting these dialogues is to testify that Jesus is the Christ whom we should trust and obey (John 20:31), his recordings also show us how Jesus spoke to those who accused and opposed us. If we are going to continue to bear witness for Christ amidst enemy fire, we must learn what such speech looks like.

If silence is not an option for a follower of Christ, and it is not (see Matthew 10:32–33; Acts 1:8), how can we learn to wear our cross and speak on his behalf with boldness and wisdom? If the gospel is our message, what is the manner in which we proclaim it? How does Scripture teach us and Jesus model for us such engagement with the world?

Those are questions we should be asking, and one place we find an answer is in John 7. Continue reading

Holding Fast to the Truth

truthLast week The Gospel Coalition posted a blog I wrote on the nature of truth. I argued that truth is inspired by God, incarnate in Christ, and progressively revealed by the Spirit as the Triune God effects redemption throughout the ages.

Here’s its summary:

Without coincidence, true truth is triune truth: it’s decreed by God (the Father), personified in God (the Son), and effected by God (the Spirit). Contrary to popular belief, truth isn’t based on personal feeling, self-understanding, or a contemporary situation. It’s based on God’s revelation, centered in the gospel, and revealed by the transforming work of the Spirit.

Unlike the mood of our age, truth isn’t something we can create, discover, or deny. Like the innocent man Pilate sentenced to death, truth has a way of coming back to life.

May we, like Jesus, make the good confession and hold fast to the truth.

You can read the whole thing here: Holding Fast to the Truth.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Six Keys to Detecting the Prosperity Gospel

apjA 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

  1. Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” over the blessed God.
  2. Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
  3. Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
  5. Soft prosperity largely addresses first-world, middle-class problems.

Today, on his daily Q & A program, Ask Pastor JohnJohn Piper lists six more ways to detect the softer prosperity gospel. In order they are, in question form:

  1. Does the preacher deal honestly with the biblical doctrine of suffering?
  2. Does the preacher speak about the need for self-denial?
  3. Does the preacher preach expository sermons, where the shape and content of the Bible forms the shape and content of the sermon?
  4. Does the preacher wrestle with tensions in the biblical text?
  5. Does the preacher live a lavish lifestyle that elevates him over most of the people in his church?
  6. 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.

To hear John Piper’s answer in full, check out his podcast “Six Keys to Detecting the ‘Prosperity Gospel.'” You can also read his thoughts about developing a philosophy of ministry that does not move towards the prosperity gospel: “Prosperity Gospel: Deceitful and Deadly.” For the whole 9Marks journal, visit here.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

David Wells, World Vision, and the Need for Truth

wells

In No Place for Truth, David Wells demonstrates how the last two centuries, and especially the last fifty years, have witnessed the evacuation of theology in evangelical churches. He attributes the cause of this theological decline to a number of factors, but two in particular: modernity (with its denial of biblical authority and its elevation of individual autonomy) and modernization (with its increase in technology, urbanization, cliché cultures).

Wells shows the pernicious effect that modernity and modernization have had on the church, and how evangelicals (like the liberals before them) have opted for life over doctrine, and as a result have lost both. His book is a clarion call to return to the Scriptures and to care once again about sound doctrine. Though, this book is short on solutions, it rightly diagnoses so many problems in the church, and causes pastors and churches alike to reconsider what they are doing, or better, what they are believing.

Wells book is full of quotes and insights. Here are a number on the (diminishing) importance of theology among evangelicals. (In trying to get a handle on his thesis, I typed a number of these quotes. Here’s a selection, the rest can be found in this PDF). Continue reading

That’s the Prosperity Gospel

One of the reasons I’ve been preaching on “blessing” and considering the prosperity gospel this month has to do with the fact that I see its falsehoods in the Christians I meet, and I see its deceptions in my own heart. SEBTS ethics professor, David Jones hits this point  in his short article, “The Prosperity Gospel in My Own Heart.” He writes,

Imagine you’re driving to church on a cold, rainy Sunday morning, and to your dismay you get a flat tire. What is your immediate thought? “God, really? I’m going to church. Isn’t there some drug dealer or abusive husband you could have afflicted with a flat tire?” That’s the prosperity gospel.

Or maybe you don’t get that promotion at work, your child gets sick, or you’re unfairly criticized at church. The result? You get mad at God because you were overlooked, troubled, or disparaged. That’s the prosperity gospel.

The very thought that God owes us a relatively trouble-free life, and the anger we feel when God doesn’t act the way we believe he is supposed to act, betray a heart that expects God to prosper us because of our good works. That’s the prosperity gospel.

I don’t know an American Christian who hasn’t struggled with this sort of thinking—questioning God’s providential goodness when, in our attempts to serve him, he has permitted (or better: ordained) our trial. It is part and parcel of the evangelical experience in America that the message of salvation is accompanied by a promise of God’s good plan: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” which includes eternal life and the absence of flat tires, right?

Not really. This is an American gospel of our own making. Therefore, we need to consider afresh just how much upward mobility we have imported into our own Christian faith. In my own case, I see far more than I would like to admit, and as I think on the prosperity gospel, I am beckoned to repent and return to the true gospel. Maybe God would have you do the same? And maybe, he would use David Jones’ article to help you see the tentacles of prosperity latching to your own heart.

For more reflections on the prosperity gospel, see this month’s 9Marks Journal on that subject.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss