Wednesday, May 31, 2006

New Attitude Day #3....Breakout Session....Justin Taylor

So on the second full day, instead of having 3 main sessions, in the afternoon we were allowed to pick our own smaller breakout session to go to. The choices were difficult. You had theological giant Al Mohler doing one as well as Mike Bullmore and Bruce Ware. I couldn’t decide between Bruce Ware’s on the Trinity and Justin Taylor’s on the emerging church. In the end, I went to Justin Taylor’s and I was so blessed by this wise man. It was great to finally hear in person someone who has influenced by life these past years. All I can say is. Praise God for self-proclaimed nerds like Justin Taylor.

The title was something to the effect of “The Emerging Church in the Post-Modern Culture.” He began by defining the Emerging church. The popular definition is “high-profile, youth-centered, contemporary music, and defined by increasing numbers.” He then wanted to make sure we understood the difference between the emerGING church and the emerGENT church.

The emergent church is an actual organization led by Tony Jones. Their website for those interested in it is They are a place that cultivates friendship through conferences and books. Leadership other than Tony would be Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Brian McLaren, and Andrew Jones. The emergent church says that they are committed to God in the way of Jesus, committed to the church in all its forms (From Baptist to Greek Orthodox), committed to God’s world (following God into the world-explore and be a part of it), and committed to one another by loving and serving one another. So they are pro-Jesus, pro-church, pro-world, and pro-friendship

The emerging church is a church movement or a church conversation. Wikipedia defines it as such:

The emerging church or emergent church is a diverse movement within Christianity that arose in the late 20th century as a reaction to the influence of modernism in Western Christianity. The movement is usually called a "conversation" by its proponents to emphasize its diffuse nature with contributions from many people and no explicitly defined leadership or direction. The emerging church seeks to deconstruct and reconstruct Christianity as its mainly Western members live in a postmodern culture. While practices and even core doctrine vary, most emergents can be recognized by the following values.

These values include authenticity, missional living, narrative theology, and Christ likeness. They are against isolation and abstract doctrine.

Taylor is quick to point out that while these definitions are good, we need to remember the source. In defining these groups, we could go to the proponents, the detractors, or the confused. The above definitions are from the proponents of the emerging church (including the Wikipedia one, because Brian McLaren and other men helped form that definition).

So Taylor then turns to a book called “Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in a Post-Modern World.” This was written by two Fuller Seminary students named Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger who spent 5 years interviewing emerging churches all across the nation and coming up with the similarities as an attempt to define this movement. In the book, they say that emerging churches are communities who practice the way of Jesus within post-modern cultures. They are followers of Jesus seeking to be faithful in their place and their time.

Taylor then says that since a goal across all emerging churches is to relate to the post-modern world, we need to understand what the post-modern world is. Consequently, we must also look a pre-modern and modern as well.

The pre-modern world is the world before 1700. To sum it up in two words would be “super-natural worldview”. People found truth by listening to religious leaders in religious institutions. Their ultimate reality was the spiritual world and community was more important than the individual. There was no analyzing on your own, no experimentation.

Modernism, summed up in two words would be “scientific world-view.” The focus was reason and logic.

Post-Modernism is typically said to have begun around the 1960’s. People began to question authority. It is subjective and individual truth. To sum it up in three words, Taylor called it “Question Authority World-view.” (Here Taylor told a story that really has nothing to do with anything but I thought it funny and wanted to relate it. He said that in college in Iowa, they had your typical feminist religion professor. On her car, she had a bumper sticker that said “Question Authority.” Taylor said he always wanted to write on it “Says Who?”)

Taylor encouraged us to remember that Biblical Christianity transcends all 3 of these world views.

Eric Simmons (one of the leaders of Na) made an excellent point about why Justin Taylor was such a good speaker on this subject. God has shown him the good and the bad in it. It was very balanced. This is where Taylor moved onto talking about the three movements within the emerging churches.

The first would be the relevants. These people retain all the essentials of the gospel. They are taking the gospel in the historical form but seeking to make it relevant to the culture.

The second would be the reconstructionists. They are retaining essentials but question the historical structure of the church and reconstructing it. This would be a group that would have a house church on Wednesdays.

The third view would be the revisionists. This is the group to be concerned with. (Brian McLaren falls in here.) They are questing and revising both the gospel and the church.

Taylor had said that before we evaluated the emerging church, we needed to understand it. Here we moved onto the evaluating part.

We began first by evaluating their view of the authority of God’s word. He first reminded us of a statement by JI Packer “A half-truth masquerading as a whole-truth becomes a complete un-truth.”

The emerging church would say that the bible is a story, not a fact back. Taylor said that the bible is both/and not either/or. They emphasize only the story, not the doctrine and scripture is both. They neglect the details. But God is in those details. All scripture is God breathed. There was not one word extra. Functionally, they are undermining the authority of Scripture. It may at times, be difficult to see how but he reminds us of the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis. The Serpent (Satan) says to Eve, “Did God really say ‘You may not eat from any tree in this garden?’” (Genesis 3) Satan did not begin with a lie, but with a question. If approached, he could easily say “I didn’t say anything. Just asking questions. Just asking questions.” Satan starts with planting a seed of doubt against God’s orthodoxy. He said that he loved the Na theme of Humble Orthodoxy. He said that he thinks that the emerging church has hi-jacked the term humility. They consider themselves humble because they say “Well, I cannot be sure of truth. What I think is only right for me, not necessarily for you and that is something you have to decide for yourself.” The world looks at this as humble; humble does not equal uncertainty. You can be arrogant in your uncertainty. Humility is about submission. Also, just because you are humble, does not mean you have correct orthodox. He said that there is not an equal sign between humble and orthodoxy, but instead there must be a double sided arrow between the two. They are not equal to one another but are instead necessary for each other.

We then examined their view of the Cross. He made the statement “Atonement is bigger than just substitutionary atonement.” The emerging church will typically never say whether this is true or false, but just that atonement is bigger than that. He quotes Steve Chalke who is to England what Brian McLaren is to the United States. This is from Chalke’s book “The Lost Message of Jesus Christ.”

The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offense he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement that “God is love.” If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to reply evil with evil.”

To be honest, after Taylor read this passage, I was so blown away that I didn’t take many more notes on the section of the Cross. I feel like if I try to reconstruct what I THINK I remember him saying it will be totally of, so let’s just move to the next point.

The next point was truth and knowledge. The emerging church’s idea of truth is that absolute truth does exist but that only God knows the absolute truth, therefore it exists but we don’t have access to it. Taylor says that exhaustive knowledge is often confused with certain knowledge. Just because we don’t know ALL there is to know about God does not mean that there aren’t things we CAN know about God. Doubt is not a virtue or something noble to be chased after.

The final point was concerning sexual ethics. Even now in England, the emerging church is question whether sex before marriage is really a sin and Taylor says it won’t be long before that is a prominent question over here. However, he chose instead to focus on homosexuality-specifically McLaren’s point on the subject in his recent book “A Generous Orthodoxy.”

“Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say "it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us." That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives who seem to know exactly what we should think. Even if we are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do. If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren't sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.

Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the "winds of doctrine" blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.

The line that blows me away is “If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships.” Much of the leadership of the emerging church seems to embody the idea of 2 Timothy 3:7
“…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of truth.”

Lastly, we looked at the Alternatives, beginning with a Humble Orthodoxy. Humility is rightly viewing the greatness and grandeur of God. We don’t become humble by hating ourselves and our sins more but instead by viewing our Big God as He is. We must be humble not because we are dumb but because we are undeserving recipients of God’s grace.

Next he said we needed to have Contextualized Confessionalism. Contextualized means we must adopt our communication of the gospel without losing its essential character. He used an example that Tim Keller used. That is the hand shake versus the Holy Kiss. Both are expressions of brotherly love, but in our culture today, a Holy Kiss between two brothers would not express what it expressed back in the days of the early church. So our brothers in Christ present their love for one another in a handshake or a hug rather than a kiss. Still practicing a biblical idea but without confusing appearances. The confessionalism refers to confessing and believing the reformed truths (Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Soli Deo Gloria).

Lastly, we must speak the truth in love.

Ephesians 4:15

15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

When we present our biblical truths, as Josh Harris asked the first evening, do we present our truths in arrogance or in tears?

He closed with a solid quote from Tim Keller to the effect of “We don’t have their level of communication with the culture and they don’t have our doctrine and theology.”

New Attitude Day #3....Session 5....Jeff Purswell

Jeff Purswell's message for us was on the Holy Spirit. It wasn't what I was expecting it to be on, but it was outstanding.

He asked us the question: "Where does the power come from to live and apply this orthodoxy?"
Orthodoxy becomes functional in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We ought to live what we believe. When there's no alignment between our doctrine and our lives, the error is that we minimize the importance of doctrine.

Purswell gave us 6 marks of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
First, is that the Holy Spirit reveals Christ's presence and illuminates His work. The Spirit engenders affections, making sin loathsome and forgiveness precious. This is the ultimate goal of the Holy Spirit's work. All of our thinking about the Holy Spirit must be centered on this truth.

John 14:16-28

16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" 23Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

The disciples lived with Christ. They knew Him. He was their friend. He is now about to leave them and everything they had come to count on and trust on is seemingly going to be shaken and taken away from them. Christ is comforting His disciples in this chapter. Their greatest consolation and comfort was to be found in another helper. In the Greek "another helper" means another helper of the same kind, not a different helper. He will be another of the same. This Helper will be with us forever and in His coming, Christ Himself will be with His disciples. The Spirit mediates us into Christ's presence.

John 16:12-16
12"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Holy Spirit will declare to us things concerning Christ. He will open our eyes and hearts to things we could never see/find/know/understand on our own for the glory of our Savior.

2. The Power of the Holy Spirit embraces all of life. The Spirit's work is broad and cannot be confined to narrow strips of our Christian life. The work of God in our lives comes from the same power that spoke the Universe into being. The Spirit is an essential element-He empowers ethical life in all its dimensions. Like breath and blood and brainwaves are to your physical life, so is that Spirit to your spiritual life.
Survey your life for evidences of God's grace. As you spot them, there you will find the work of the Spirit. Christ's work alone makes is possible. The Spirit's work alone makes it actual. I am self-exalting, selfish, and self-absorbed apart from the Spirit's work.
(Here, Purswell injected this important truth. While we desire gifts, this should never overshadow our desire for sanctification and regeneration and justification and salvation.)

3. The Power of the Spirit's is Ongoing and Continuous. A common misconception is to define the Spirit's work in dramatic experiences alone. We think that the Spirit comes in one fell swoop and then departs and we must wait upon him. It's Weapons of Mass Destruction. BOOM! Spirit Work. Wait for another Boom! While these moments in ministry are vital and important we should not confine the Spirit's work to these moments.
Another common misconception is to define Him by a singular point-in-time event. "Yes, I received the Spirit on that day I was saved. Let's move on"
In Scripture, the Spirit is not isolated experiences but ongoing appropriations of the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:17-18
17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Here, where it says "be filled" Purswell reminds us that this is a command (He says it is in the passive voice. Almost like we are to let ourselves get hit in the face. God is the subject here.) We are to be continually and consistently filled-to come under the influence and control of the Spirit. Too often, people think that the power of the Spirit is like a glass of water. You may have a little or a lot-half full or wholly full. You cannot have part of the Spirit. It is the same Spirit in each of us; the power of the Spirit in other's lives is just more evident than in some. There are not two roads of Spirit growth...the upper and the lower. Instead, there is one road and some are just farther along on that road.

4. The power of the Spirit is aimed at our personal sanctification, mutual edification, and evangelistic witness. (In short, Godliness which is internal and then Service and Witness which are external.)
This sums up what the Spirit is after. If you aren't pursuing these things you are not going to experience the Spirit's power. It doesn't mean you are lacking the Spirit, you just aren't getting all of His power (this goes back to the point above about the glass and the road.)
Galatians 5:16-25

16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Purswell reminds us that this is a promise, not a command (other theologians would disagree, that it is a command.) The fruit of the spirit are suggestive, not exhaustive...these are not the only things we should strive for, they are just some examples of the Spirit's work within us.
The Spirit also will drain us of self-concern and imbue us with concern for others. The focus of all spiritual gifts is always others.
As for witnessing, every time in Acts that the Spirit comes, they preach. They share the gospel.

The power of the Spirit should include a discernibly dynamic dimension. Regardless of what you think of spiritual gifts, when believers encounter the Spirit, things happen.
Galatians 3:1-5
1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh? 4Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? 5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith--
Paul here is battling legalism. Having begun in the Spirit, are you now striving in the flesh? Paul points to their previous dynamic experience of the Sprit. Charismatic are often too mechanical in their approach (with a map of how the Spirit will/should work). Others have a Cray uncle approach to the Spirit. "Oh yea. That's uncle. We don't really talk about him. He's here in the corner, but we just let him do his own thing and leave him be.

6. The power of the Holy Spirit meets us as we passionately seek God and dependently serve God. God's spirit is a gift. You can never earn it or work your way into it or manipulate God into giving it to you. Apart from humble seeking and dependent serving, the desire will often go unfulfilled.
James 4:8
8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
God is particularly near to those who draw near to Him.

Purswell then asked the question "How do we respond?"
The Bible commands attitudes toward the Spirit. It enjoins us to posture of heart.
We should be desperate. We should be aware of our need and absolute dependency. We need to abandon all thoughts of self-sufficiency. Does your soul thirst for God and your very flesh faint for God (Psalm 63)? If you are not desperate for God then you are satisfied with something else.
We should be grateful. We overlook His work, and we take credit for His work.
We should be Hungry. Ever-pursuing, ever-asking, and ever-trusting. Are you hungry or are you reluctant? Do you thirst after righteousness?

Monday, May 29, 2006

New Attitude Day #2...Session 4....CJ Mahaney

The last session of the evening was led by none other than CJ Mahaney. I cannot tell you the anticipation with which I was looking forward to hearing the Lord use this man in person. I have listened to and benefited greatly from CJ but have never heard him live. I think most of my friends were just as excited for me as I was.

With all the other men who spoke, I was writing furiously, trying to capture what they were saying with my pen as well as my heart. However, with CJ I quickly gave up trying to write down his words but instead just ended up sitting there and let them permeate my soul. This post won’t be as long or detailed, but I am going to attempt to relate to you some of the power of CJ’s message.

CJ’s text was Isaiah 53.

1Who has believed what they heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by men
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

CJ begins by referencing the question in verse 1. “Who has believed?” The answer is that no one has believed without a prior calling. Until we were called, we were would never believe. Verses 2 and 3 speak of the appearance of Christ. He was a promising person appearing in a failed land. He had no form, no beauty, nothing that we should desire Him on our own. CJ says that he believes if we were to see a picture of Christ and the 12 disciples, we would be most unimpressed with the Savior in His physical form. No one would have guessed Him to be the Savior and apart from God’s gracious self-disclosure, no one has a clue who the Savior is.

In verse 4, the prophet begins to speak of the Reality…the divine reality. The suffering servant is revealed as the promised Savior. He suffered FOR US and BECAUSE OF US. Ten times in three verses we encounter the pronouns “we” “our” or “us.” We all would tend to claim “I didn’t do it” or “it’s not my fault.” Not here. Neither Isaiah, nor God will allow this. This is the part we played. I played. You played. Martin Luther said “We all walk around with His nails in our pocket.” My sin necessitated the crucifixion of the Christ.

He suffered as our substitute. We see the language of substitution in these verses in the words “bourn” “substitution” “carried” “wounded” “crushed” “chastisement” “stripes” and “laid on Him.”

While I am busy straying into sin and playing with dangerous temptation, He was killed for me.

“When we look upon the gruesome and deformed flesh of Christ upon the Christ, we need to reckon anew that we are actually looking at ourselves, for He died in our place. (John Calvin.)

“We are in debt to Christ specifically for this-He died in our place. This is the mainspring of all our joy, peace, and praise.” (JI Packer)

“One is taken aback by the focus of the cross in Revelation. Heaven does not ‘get over’ the cross, as if there were better things to think upon.” (Jim Elliff)

In verse 10, we see the significance of the Cross. It reveals the Father’s love for guilty sinners like you and me. “It was the will of the Lord to crush Him.” Who really killed Jesus? If we are honest, and in agreement with Isaiah, the answer is the Father. God was ultimately responsible. CJ then told us to think of combining John 3:16 with Isaiah 53:10: “God so loved the world that he CRUSHED His only begotten Son. “(emphasis mine.)May we never look at this Scripture the same again.

I cannot get across in words CJ’s message. I don’t have the words to adequately express it. It was more than the words he said, it was his tone, his posture, the Spirit speaking through him. Someone on the New Attitude blog was able to express the emotion behind CJ's meditation better than I.

Who killed Jesus?

The Father. The Father killed the Son. Feel God's love for you revealed in this verse. He crushed his son. For you. He crushed Him. He bruised him. He punished him. He disfigured him. He crushed him. With all of the righteous wrath that we deserved. That's what the Father did.

So great was his love for sinners like you and me.

C.J. repeats the words slowly. Clearly. Passionately. They sound like fire and feel like rain. The air is still in…”

He crushed Him. For you. He crushed Him. He crushed Him. He crushed Him. He crushed Him.

I don’t know if you are able to feel the impact of the word of God CJ spoke but a friend of mine, named Nick was able to. I want to share with you his story-at least, as much of it as I know.

Before coming to New Attitude, He was bitter towards God, an enemy of God. He cared nothing for the things of the Lord. His friends had been praying for his soul for years. At the first session, I was sitting next to him and could feel his apathy. The Lord gave Josh Harris a word that evening that I believe was for Nick. That was the beginning of a 24 hour process. The second evening, after CJ’s powerful sermon on Isaiah 53, we stood to praise the Risen Savior. For the first couple of songs, Nick was sitting in front of me, looking around, distracted and not participating in worship. (Then again, why would he worship a God whom he did not yet abide in?) Josh again had a word. He gave a call to Christ. Nick was surrounded by believers praying for Him and petitioning God on his behalf. You saw Nick sit and listen and become captivated by Josh’s words. He then put his head in his hands and began to sob. Within moments, he was up out of his chair and walking towards the front. Yesterday evening, on May 28, Nick became an heir in the righteousness of Christ.

After the session was over, Nick was still down front and a group of his friends made their way to him to begin to pray with him and rejoice with him. I had the privilege of accompanying his friends down there. Nick at once fell upon his needs and his brothers in Christ knelt at the throne with him. There was singing and praising and rejoicing and tears and shaking. God had been faithful and sovereign and good, as He always is.

New Attitude....Day 2....Session 3....Mike Bullmore

Mike Bullmore had the daunting task of showing us how the gospel connects to every part of our every day life. He told us that as humans, we have been given by God certain capabilities and capacities. None of these capacities are neutral. CS Lewis said "There is no neutral ground. Every second of every day has been claimed by God and consequently counter-claimed by Satan."

The first question that he asked us was whether or not the gospel is actually functioning in our lives? Do we clearly understand how the gospel relates to all areas of life-jobs, marriage, finances, friends, parents? He said that one of the clearest marks of a growing and maturing Christian is the ability to see how the gospel connects to all things. A man once told him that "All our problems come from some failure in not applying the gospel."

His first main point was to set up a Biblical paradigm-a biblical pattern of the functioning of the gospel. He asked us to imagine 3 concentric circles. In the center most one is Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:3 says that "...Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures." Paul says that this is a matter of FIRST importance. He said that he "...resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." This is the crux upon which all other things are based. The gospel needs to be connected to thoughts, feelings, thinking and behaving. This is where the gospel wields its influence.
The next circle, a little wider than the first but centered upon is called "The Truth Implications" or Gospel Truths. Gospel truths are being born out of the gospel. He gave a few different references starting with Romans 5:1:
1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of the gospel we are now at peace with God.

Romans 8:1
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Because of the gospel we are now liberated from sin and bondage to it. Without the gospel, when faced with our own sin we would either go to self-achievement or depression.

Romans 8:32
32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Because of the gospel we know that God will give us all we need.

Mr. Bullmore then asked us to think of a giant flywheel. Some 50 feet high in the air made of solid material. This hefty and massive thing takes a long time to get into motion, but once it gains momentum, there's no stopping it. It has power and strength and might. If you connected anything to it, the new object as well would be fueled by the momentum of the flywheel. The same is true of gospel truth. It may take a while to get used to living it out in all ways, but once you do, the momentum of its effects cannot be stopped.

The last and outermost circle is called "Behavioral Implications of the Gospel" or Gospel Conduct.
Philippians 1:27 states:
"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ..."

The gospel is meant to function by very specifically conforming our behavior to its truths.
For example in 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul says:
8Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price.
Paul does not subscribe to a general moralism in saying "just be good." He reminds them first of the gospel "You were bought with a price." THERFORE glorify God in your body. The gospel is the flywheel, sexual morality is the object attached to it that will gain momentum.

Ephesians 4:32
32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We are to live this way because of what was first done for us by Christ.

When you connect the gospel to all things, you are not just leveraging the logic, you are harnessing the power.

He then said that he would be satisfied to close the scriptures and sit down and be down with the sermon. However, Josh Harris and Eric Simmons asked him to give us some practical application pointers so that is what his next section was on.

He said to start with our own lives own deepening love for the gospel. Am I cultivating a deep personal appreciation for the gospel? Am I faithfully reading God's word with the purpose of connecting it to every aspect of my life? Am I rehearsing the truths of the bible? Do not let vagueness persist. Do not let fuzziness persist. Have a map of the Scriptures stores in your heart.

Second, pick one area of your life and learn how to bring the gospel to bear on it. The example he gave was suffering. How does the gospel bear the fruit of joyful endurance in the midst of suffering? Christ did not suffer so that I may avoid all suffering. He suffered so that in my suffering I may become more like Him.

Let gospel connections inhabit your conversation with others. Have biblical fellowship.
Isaiah 50:4
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary.
(The church that I am a member of is blessed by God to have men of faith who are passionate about this subject. I pray that God would bring this into each of our lives.)

Remember, the greatest good of the gospel is that God gives himself to us.

John Piper had a quote to the effect of "Jesus himself and all that God is for us in Him is our great reward. Forgiveness is not the main result of our salvation. Fellowship with Christ is the main result. "

For my generation, there is an unusual pressure to define ourselves by lesser things: our age, our singleness, our look, or one-dimension of Christian experience made possible by the gospel. What we must ask ourselves is this. Is the gospel enough? Is God enough? Is Christ enough?

"But a man in not so inclined to give up when he sees in panoramous." When you feel discouraged and troubled and full of turmoil and disillusioned, the increasingly clear panoramic vision of the gospel is what will steady your feet and allow you to declare Psalm 73. "Whom have I in Heaven but you...As for me, the nearness of God is my good."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

New Attitude Day #2-Session 2 by Mark Dever

The first session this morning was Mark Dever. His seemingly impossible goal was, in one hour, to show us God's redemptive plain throughout the entire bible-from Genesis to Revelation.

He began with a brief summary of what people have thought about the bible in the past. For example, Voltaire said that "the bible would vanish within 100 years." He said this 200 years ago. A dictionary of the USSR back in the 80's said the definition of the bible was "a collection of different legends, mutually contradictory, issued over the years by various churches."
Many however, do respect the bible. However, it is more often bought than read. He then set out beginning with a small background of the books of the Old Testament.

The OT is made up of 60 books by 30 authors over a span of 1500 years. Martin Luther said that "The bible is alive. It speaks to me. It has feet, it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me." Throughout history, there have been examples of people who have said that portions of the bible are untrue, but most evangelicals today would say that they believe the book in its entirety is truth. However, Dever says that we do basically the same thing by ignoring large parts of the bible. We study the New Testament typically and only look to the OT for pretty stories and just memorize a couple of Psalms and Proverbs to pull out of our pocket as needed. The OT is vital. God's revelation of Himself in Christ is definitely revealed in the NT. But the OT forms the setting, the context, for the coming of the Christ.

The OT sets up a Particular History. There are 3 categories of books. Law (Genesis through Esther), the Writings (Job through Song of Solomon), and the Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi). The Law is the narrative of the history of the Israelites and can further be broken down into the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and then the history (Joshua through Esther). The Writings are the experiences and are more personal which is why it is often easy for us to turn to them when in need of an encouraging word. The Prophets are more of God's commentary on the story of His people spoken through the prophets.

The OT is full of God's Passion for His Holiness. God's righteousness is clear in the OT. Often, people say that the God of the OT is mostly an unjust and angry God. This is wrong in so many ways. The OT puts atonement in the context of a relationship (Mark says that atonement is actually an Anglo-Saxon word that actually means "act one ment" or reconciliation.) Atonement is an expression of God's commitment to His own Holiness. God is angry, angry at the destruction of His creation. Do I get angry when someone sins against me? Yes. But that is NOTHING compared to God's anger over someone's sins against Him because His holiness is NOTHING compared to mine. Atonement is linked with sacrifice as the way God will assuage His wrath, His way of establishing reconciliation. Sacrifices were present in the OT in the lives of Cain and Abel before the laws were ever recorded. It seems to be something that is innately within us to satisfy Him. Sacrifices are brought by those who are grateful and not guilty, those who are instructed, not ignorant. God was using sacrifice to establish this concept in our minds-our need for a sacrifice of blood that is without blemish. The sacrifices were never the point. It was for us to see that we could never do it on our own. Annual sacrifices were to show that we were in a continual state of sin. There was no perfect and final animal sacrifice.

The OT is a Promise of Hope. Exodus 34:6-7 says:
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."
How can this promise be true? How can God both forgive and punish? How can those be characteristics within the same God? The answers lie within the NT. God has an unwavering commitment to oppose and punish sin. His patience and loving forbearance in dealing with those whom He created who then made themselves His enemies by disobeying His commandments is evident through Scriptures. The hope lies not in Israel's history or their sacrificial system. The system taught, it did not save. The sacrifices offered affected the forgiveness of no one. The promise of the Messiah is where their hope therein lay.

The New Testament tells the story of Christ. It answers the promises made in the OT. Even though Adam and Eve rebelled, God would not let it thwart His plan. Dever used a quote by John Stott. Stott says something along the lines that a man who loves his wife also loves all her pictures and letters because they are her letters and images for him to love and cherish. But the man would be a fool to love the pictures and letters more then the wife herself. In the same way, we are to love Scripture because it is the portrait of Christ. But we would be fools to love the word more than we love the Savior. The bible is to show us Christ so that we may the focus of our hopes and the fulfillment of all our longings in Him.

The NT tells the story of the covenant people. We are to be pictures of what God's character is like. When we celebrate communion, we remember Christ's purpose. The New Covenant in His blood. So how does God forgive the sins of His covenant people and yet still punish the guilty? In Christ. This is how God can be both loving and holy at the same time. In Revelation 5, John hears of a Lion. When he looked, the Lion had become the slain lamb. This is how God can forgive and punish. We are the new covenant people who have become genuinely holy, not by the blood of a bull but by the blood of the Lion-Lamb. I am evidence that God keeps His promises. Revelation 22:4 says "They will see His face." This is the climax of the bible. The immediacy and satisfaction of faith no longer but instead the seeing and savoring of the Christ. Christ's resurrection was the first-fruit-the more important and yet first of many resurrections. All our hope is in His resurrection but because he has rise, so too can we.
All the promises made by God in the OT are kept by God in the NT.

Dever then asked what our disappointments in Christ were. What job or school or dating relationship are we longing for and upset over our lack of having. He told us to study them and meditate upon them. The ruins of our own cherished plans are often the first steps in HIS sovereign plan for our lives. God allows His children to experience disappointment time and time again so that we may turn to our only hope-Christ.

Dever ended with a quote from the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis.

“And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Our job is to do what Adam and Eve did not do. To believe God’s word and to trust in His plans. We are not yet what we will one day be.

New Attitude Day #1...Joshua Harris

Well, this is my first attempt at blogging and I'm starting out with a lofty goal of summarizing solid biblical preaching. This could be a sad sad attempt on my part so please pardon any infallibilities.

So, I'm part of a movement called Sovereign Grace Ministries. At some other point I'll go more into exactly what Sovereign Grace is, but in short it is a church-planting group who embraces reformed theology and worships God passionately and vibrantly and with all their heart and soul and spirit. A few years back, Joshua Harris was led by the Lord to do a singles conference where we young believers could learn from the men seasoned in the faith, who have walked out their faith and have much wisdom to impart to us. It is called New Attitude.

So anyways, tonight was the first evening of the conference. After much worship and preparation and being led to the altar of the Sovereign Lord, Joshua Harris began his first sermon. He based it upon the text of 2 Timothy 2:14-26:
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

His main focus was on what it means to be a generation approved by God (v. 15). He said that we must first handle the truth faithfully. Our approval before God is directly tied to how we handle the word-the gospel-the message of Christ. Back in verse 8 of chapter 2, Paul tells Timothy to remember Jesus Christ. Why would Paul have to tell even Timothy such a basic thing? Simply because the greatest temptation of every generation is to subtly move beyond this central truth, and pervert the true gospel in some form.
Joshua said that so often in our generation we like to be the innovators, the people with the cool ideas and the snazzy new fangled program, but we don't do the responsible thing so well. We don't stand the test of time. We like to be looked at as the latest and the greatest. We take a solid truth and change it as we sit fit so that it fits our latest angle best. He said that we have not been called to evaluate or reinvent truth. We have been called to present it and preserve it and pass it down.
But because this truth is the same for all of time, we get bored with it. We don't want to do things that same as the generation before us, so we flirt with error because we don't want to be bothered with following the pattern. But, we as believers have not been called to cut and paste God's truth to fit our ideas.
We cannot be flippant when it comes to Orthodoxy (a commitment to the teaching of the established truths in God's bible.) And truth needs to be defended from outward attacks as well as personal apathy. The outward attacks come from the age of moderation that we live in. Our peers believe that truth is not absolute. What works for you may or may not work for me and that's just peachy (that's a shout out from Jenn to Whit). The inward attacks come from when we do not apply the truth personally.

That was Josh's second point. In order to be a generation approved by God we must apply truth in our own lives. Truth that is divorced from living practice is hypocrisy. He warned us to be cautious in the truths that we apply however. Do we believe something because it is fully backed up in Scripture or simply because it is what tradition and those that have come before us have taught? Man errs. That is fact. God cannot err. That is an even GREATER fact.
He also warned against many of the Christian writers that are so being embraced by our generation. Just because a writer can accurately describe all that you are feeling and all your turmoil and all you questions, this does not mean that the medicine they prescribe is in line with God's scriptures.
Paul also warns Timothy to flee youthful passions. Often this is used to talk about sexual lusting, but if you read it in context with the chapter, Paul is talking about much more than just sex. John Stott calls it "
...self-assertion, headstrong obstinacy and arrogance." When we see sin in our lives-do we casually stroll away from it, or do we flee from it with all our might? (I'm reminded of the scripture that says there is to be not even a hint of impurity among you. Also, there is a line in the movie "Walk the Line" that this makes me think of. "God gave us a great big apple, See! He said don't touch. He didn't say touch it every once in a while, He didn't say take a nibble when you're hungry. He said Don't Touch It! Don't think about touchin'it. Don't sing about touchin' it. Don't even think about singin' about touchin' it!”) So often we think, how close can I get to sin without it affecting me instead of how far away from sin can I get.
He posed a heart revealing question for many of the students. He asked whether or not we have grown comfortable with our current level of holiness. He said that compromise is not sophisticated and it is not mature. It is just sin-plain and simple.

Josh's third point was that we must represent the truth humbly. Apart from humility we will be Pharisees. How do we relate to those who disagree with us? Do we argue over non-essentials that, instead of edifying the body, merely serve to distract from the true gospel. We must remember that we did not create truth or copyright truth. Truth was instead handed down to us. Grace was handed down to us. Mercy was handed down to us. How can we then not hand down grace and mercy to those around us?
Josh said that the first time he encountered Calvinists in high school
"They were mean. They were clickish. They were spiteful. I guess they were just predestined to be that way." (As a caveat, that was a joke, for which he later apologized for.) No matter how correct their theology may have been, their attitude was so severe, that he was turned off from any things that he had to say. When I am talking with those that I disagree with, how do I present the truth? Do I present it in arrogance or in tears? Do I present it with an attitude of "I'm right. You're wrong. Either get on board with me or suffer the consequences" or is rather "I have been such an undeserving recipient of grace and mercy. Thank you my God. Thank you my God."

The theme of New Attitude is "A Humble Orthodoxy." Joshua wound down by summing this up. Truth by itself is not enough. Humility in and of it self is not enough. Neither truth alone nor humility alone will save anyone. Both are necessary. Both are vital. We must present truth in an attitude that embodies both the love and compassion of the Savior himself.
He ended with a quote by Mark Dever from the Together for the Gospel blog.
"What we need is humble theology--theology which submits itself to the truth of God's Word.”Liberal" theology--theology which does not view Scripture as finally trustworthy and authoritative--is not humble before the Word. Churches which are tentative and decry dogmatism may sound humble, but it is not truly humble to do anything other than to submit to God's Word. Christian humility is to simply accept whatever God has revealed in His Word. Humility is following God's Word wherever it goes, as far as it goes, not either going beyond it or stopping short of it."

Why try to rediscover what has always been true??