The Strife

Striving Together for the Sake of the Gospel

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

The “5 Solas” (Part 2 of the “What is Reformed?” Series)

We took a look in the last article (“What is Reformed” Part 1) at the word Reformed from the perspective of a distinct historical period. Out of that historical period emerged many “reformational truths.” These Reformational truths took on unique form through the various Reformed theologians and church leaders, but can be summarized in what is called the “5 Solas.”

From the Reformation emerged what have been called the Solas of the reformation. Sola is the Latin word meaning “alone.” The five Solas are:

1.) Sola Scriptura, meaning “Scripture Alone”: The bible is sole and supreme authority in all matters of life and worship. The word of God is the measure of all things claiming to be true, good, and beautiful. The bible is the standard for truth.

2.) Sola Gratia, meaning “Grace Alone”: Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. God’s work in saving the lives of sinful humanity is not earned or merited, but is given freely and unconditionally out of God’s abundant grace and love.

3.) Sola Fide, meaning “Faith Alone”: Ephesians 2:1-10 makes clear that even faith is a gift from God, so faith is not the work we do to obtain salvation, but it is the response to God’s grace that wells up within the human heart by the power of the Spirit. Faith is given to God’s people so that grace may be received. The great doctrine of justification by faith alone, what Martin Luther called the doctrine by which the church stands or falls, was expressed in sola fide. Faith, not works or human merit, is the means by which we receive salvation.

4.) Solus Christus, meaning “Christ Alone”: Jesus Christ is the only mediator (connection, bridge, means) between sinful humanity and God. Hebrews makes clear that Christ is the perfect priest who accomplished a perfect sacrifice in laying down his life for the sake of God’s people. Jesus’s perfect righteousness was given to us when he took on himself our utter sinfulness. (2 Cor. 5:21)

5.) Soli Deo Gloria, meaning “the glory of God alone”: The Reformational worldview embraced all of life, down to the details, as an opportunity to bring glory to God. The hear that has experienced the grace of God in salvation will desire that their whole life will bear the imprint of what God has done. All of life is worship, to God and God alone.

The Solas captured the main thrust of the reformation which was this: that the Bible is the standard of God’s truth about all of life, that the bible tells us that God is a gracious God who alone can save humans from their sin and its consequences, which he does when men place their faith in Christ, all of which is for the glory of God alone.

The Reformation was not some foolish attempt to break away from the Catholic church, it was not intended to be a revolution. Only when the Reformation leaders were met with burning stakes and excommunication did they realize that the Catholic church would not listen to their pleas for reform. The Reformation heart is one that has been gripped by the truth of God’s grace through gazing at the person and work of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word of God.

In the next post we will ask, “Is the Reformation over?”

3 Blogs Young Leaders Should Follow.

I read a lot of blogs.

The best blogging is quick, focused, and insightful. I also enjoy bloggers who frequently post content, it helps to develop a rhythm that I can sync up with my home, work, school, and study schedules. At the end of each month I will be suggesting 3 blogs for you to follow. These will be blogs that I have been reading and benefiting from and if you ever have any suggestions…leave a comment.

Also, I would like to take this moment to ask you to please scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up to follow my blog. It would just make my day! If you have a blog, leave a comment and I will stop on by and follow you.

Today I want to direct your attention to 3 blogs that are incredibly helpful for young leaders.

  • Michael Hyatt’s Blog: The reason Hyatt’s blog is such a gem is that it speaks to issues of productivity, organization, and leadership within the scope of the Christian worldview. As the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Hyatt knows the privileges, responsibilities, and burdens of leadership. He speaks to these issues with an insight and gracefulness that is reminiscent of a storyteller. He speaks with great clarity regarding complex issues of leadership like vision and strategy (seen in this article for example: “Why Vision is more Important than Strategy.”). But his blog does not just deal with big issues, as Hyatt often covers the benefits of various applications and digital resources that have made him more effective as a leader. I am constantly challenged by the small suggestions that Hyatt makes, suggestions that I can read and test out in the same day. For example, I have recently been searching for another cloud based task manager and he pointed me in the direction of Nozbe…which has been amazing!

Target audience: Leaders who want to grow in both their day to day operation and their overarching leadership goals.

  • Lifehacker: Entering the Lifehacker site is like entering the Apple store of organizational/efficiency websites. First off, they post a large amount of content frequently. So the first concern is whether the site is impossible to navigate, but for as much content as they have the sit is easy to search through to find relevant information. Recently I have been thinking through a transition from a sitting to a standing desk. This seems like a trivial concern, but for those who have “desk jobs,” it is an important thing to consider. Lifehacker had a host of material to help me along the journey to finding a standing desk that works for me. It also helps me to sift through whether new applications and resources are worth the financial and time investment. For example, I don’t have the time to draw up a pro’s and con’s list for Google Drive and Dropbox…but Lifehacker did it for me. (See it here: “Dropbox vs. Google Drive.”)

Target audience: Any young leader passionate about leading, but lacking in the knowledge of all that is available to assist effective leadership.

  • Seth Godin’s Blog: Visionary. Whoever it is that you lead, you should be reading Seth Godin. The man is not only a prolific author (see Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, and Tribes), but he is a fierce blogger. Reading Seth Godin energizes me for leadership…and it’s more than vicarious living. Seth has a unique ability to get you passionate about innovation, leadership, and building a platform. From a Christian perspective, he really is advocating a servant’s heart when it comes to building a platform. Produce good material to better people’s lives and eventually a people group (maybe large, maybe small) will rally around the good material and support your platform. In the realm of leadership, Seth is like a prophet in the wilderness.

Target Audience: Those in need of inspiration and leadership renewal will find Seth’s blog full of concise content that helps to prepare you for building your platform of influence (be it small or large) today.

I hope you will visit these blogs and check out the solid content that their writers are producing. Also, I would love for you to follow this blog by scrolling to the bottom of the page and signing up to follow by email, or by following on Twitter.

till next time, KW

1 John 2:7-14: New/Old Commandment.

A contradiction is when there exists an incompatibility between two ideas, or truths.

Sometimes we run across what appear to be contradicting statements as we read through the Word of God and instead of digging deeper to investigate the tension between the two ideas or statements, we either pass over them or abandon the truth that the bible is inspired by God.  Often, just beneath the surface of the text is a world at work in the words of the Bible.  We must be careful not to isolate biblical passages for not only does it lead to unfounded conclusions, but also to frustration when we encounter passages that appear to be contradicting other passages.

When we read 1 John 2:7-11 we must be careful to not think we have stumbled into a contradiction. The Apostle John writes,

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:7-11)

Now John calls the commandment he is reminding the listeners of both old and new. What’s up with that?

Why, and how, is the commandment simultaneously new and old?  What commandment is he speaking of?

The commandment that John is speaking of is the ethical or moral implications of God’s love.  Some who claimed that they possessed a special knowledge concerning God had broken away from the church John is writing to and in abandoning that church they had not shown love or compassion to those who remained. The truth they professed to know about God did not carry with it the actions of love and grace that accompanies true knowledge God’s truth. Knowledge of God’s truth will always impact our hearts and hands.

John is telling the people that the implications, the “fleshing out,” of God’s truth is old because it was delivered in the form of God’s created order and the Law long ago.  When God created the universe He created it in keeping with His good law and standards.  The world was created with an order, or rhythm, that was was fractured through Adam’s sin in the garden.  The Law was given, not as something new, but as the explicit communication of something God had ingrained into the fabric of the world.  The commandments were the way that God’s love and grace was to be seen among His people.  But as we all know, it is easy to say we believe the truth and much harder to live it.

In our failure in keeping the commandment we see the “newness” or freshness of the commandment appear. We couldn’t keep the commandment perfectly, but John says “at the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” Which John says it is “new” because it is “true in him,” he is speaking of Jesus.  Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law and freed us from the guilt, shame, and death that came with our failure.

So does Christ’s perfect obedience give us the license to disobey? By no means!  FF Bruce says it wonderfully when he says that the work of Jesus in fulfilling the law “brought a depth of meaning that it had never known before.”  Christ’s perfect fulfillment does not cancel out obedience, it free us to joyfully obey, not to earn grace but to enjoy grace.  The commandment is old because it is an expression of God’s holiness revealed in creation and the Law, but it is new because Christ was perfectly holy so that we might rest in His holiness and joyfully obey.

“the darkness is assign away and the true light is already shining…” Jesus casts a new light onto all that is old.  Everything is properly seen through the lens of Christ.

Gospel Conversations: Providential.

You walk into the restaurant and see a buddy from high school that you haven’t seen in years.  After catching up for a minute, he tells you that he is relocating back to the area for work.  He jokingly mentions something about getting back out on the course to play some golf.  What do you do with this?

You see a friend, who you know is lost, repost a video with an agenda attached to it.  Let’s say its the KONY 2012 video.  Do you just say to yourself, “why does that person care?” Or do you message them and say, “hey, I saw your interested in that, so am I, lets meet and talk about how we can be involved.”

Last one, an angel of the Lord comes to you and says “rise and go toward the south to the road that leads to the desert…” So, after you change your pants, you head out to the desert where you meet an Ethiopian Eunuch (I’m going to let you Wikipedia “eunuch” yourself).  The Eunuch had traveled to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home and the Holy Spirit tells you “hey, that guy over there in the distance of the desert, go talk to him…”  So you go, I mean, you already walked out to the desert.  You go over and hear him reading from Isaiah the prophet and he says “how can I understand unless someone guides me?” He then proceeds to read this:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.

The eunuch asks you, “who is this talking about?”

Ever had that happen to you?  If you have please leave a comment with that story because I would love to hear it.  This is the account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch from Acts 8:26-40, I won’t ruin the ending, but you should go read it for yourself. It only gets better.

God is not just sovereign over salvation, but He is sovereign over placing His people in positions where they can proclaim His grace to hearts that have been made soft by the Holy Spirit.  All gospel conversations are providential, but some are just so obvious…for those looking.

Philip had already been proclaiming Christ, he was walking with the Spirit, and he was searching for those who needed to hear the gospel. The Spirit had opened his eyes to the mission of God in the world. Are your eyes open to the opportunities that God places before you?  Have you ever asked God to make clear to your heart whenever He is providing a platform to proclaim Christ?

Now some want to suggest that unless the situation is as obvious as the case with Philip and the Eunuch that the Lord isn’t calling them to proclaim Christ. This is not true.  The two examples listed above the story of Philip are just as providential as the account from Acts 8.  We often look past these opportunities because we are listening but not hearing, we are talking but not understanding, we are trying to be interesting instead of being interested.

So instead of writing anymore, I am committing to set aside the next 15 minutes to pray for opportunities to have gospel conversations today.  The Christian life cannot be separated from the Christian mission.  Join me?

What is Reformed? (Part 1)

As I am currently working on a book about the pitfalls along the path to becoming young and reformed, I am learning that it is not safe to assume what someone might mean when they use the word “reformed.”

So what is reformed?

The word itself could mean any number of things, but in this post we are going to look at it within the frame and context of the historical period known as the Reformation.  Carl Trueman in his excellent little book, Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, defines this period, “the Reformation represents a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the church’s life and thought.”  I think this is a great definition because it places its focus on God, and reformed/the reformation possesses at its core theological concerns.

The Reformation is often seen as starting with Martin Luther, but Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg was merely the spark that fell upon the kindling.  Many ideas that we find expressed in Luther, Calvin, Beza, and Knox can be traced back to Augustine. Augustine was a Catholic monk who helped to fight off early heresies found in Pelagius that would inevitably find their way into the church at large.  When Luther emerged on the scene, he realized that Augustine had come to his convictions by reading Paul which led Luther to the great realization that salvation was only by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the word of God alone for the glory of God alone. These came to be known as the “5 Solas” of the Reformation.  (An article will be coming up shortly discussing the “5 Solas.”)

So “Reformed” is a title for those who have embraced ideas that were renewed and rediscovered during the Reformation.

Who has been influenced by ideas that emerged during the Reformation? Well for starters, every Protestant denomination! Protestants include baptists, presbyterians, anglicans, methodists, pentecostals, free church, and countless other expressions of the Christian faith outside of the Roman Catholic church.

Every Christian tradition outside of the Catholic church has been shaped by some part of the theology that was renewed during the time of the Reformation. Now that is not to say that all protestant churches are “Reformed.” Being “Reformed” does not just mean that you have been influenced by the historical “Reformation,” but that you have found truth, goodness, and beauty in the theology of the Reformation and have embraced it for these reasons.

So are you “reformed?” You are more reformed than you think. If you believe that God preserves, or keeps, those whom He saves and they cannot be separated from God…you have embraced a truth proclaimed in the Reformation.  If you believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone…you have been shaped by the theology of the Reformation. If you have a copy of the Bible in your own language…thank the Reformers.

So “Reformed” is not a dangerous or divisive word. In future posts we will look at “Reformed” from a variety of perspectives.  Join me?

Gospel Conversations: Interested.

I took a course during my time at DBU where I learned only one thing, but it was an absolutely crucial thing for me to hear.

Would you like to pay outrageous private school tuition for this one idea, or you want me to share?

I bet I can guess your answer. Here it is: “People don’t care how interesting you are, they care how interested you are.”

So simple, right? No, its incredibly hard because we are all disgustingly selfish.  We want others to be fascinated with us, we want to be beheld, gazed at, because we believe in our broken hearts that we are worth the world’s focus and worship.  All idols promise to make you more interesting, they all promise to put you at the center of the universe, and they all fail to deliver on this promise.

Jesus was interested in people. He was always asking questions, sometimes responding to questions with questions.  In Mark 2:8-9 he ask the scribes who witness him heal a paralytic, “why do you questions these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘rise, take up your bed and walk’?”  Or when Jesus turns to his disciples in Matthew 16 and asks them, “who do peal say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13)

Why did Jesus ask questions? Because he was creating opportunities to speak into the gap.  When we ask questions we are creating a space between us and the one who we are in conversation with. This space can be tense, casual, awkward, or sensitive, but when that hollow space emerges we have been given an opportunity to speak into the gap.

“How are you?” has become a greeting. We rarely ask this questions with a deep care for the person who we are expressing false interest in. The world is full of people desperate for the gospel and gospel community, and Christians have the unique opportunity to be part of the few who are genuinely concerned about the well being of others. We need to be people who are known for our curiousness, not intrusiveness, but a holy curiosity. When we are concerned about and for others we will ask them questions and if we ask enough questions eventually we will begin to know their heart and be able to speak with wisdom concerning the gospel of Christ in their lives.

Interested gospel conversations revolve around you having a deep compassion and concern for those you study, work, play, eat, and live with.

So what’s the difficulty? Sin. Sin wants to keep you focused on yourself.  It is perfectly content with you being biblically literate, with you knowing some facts about God, and attending church, but it does not want you to sacrifice your own comfort for the care of others.  To be interested is to be selfless, to abandon the false comfort of preoccupation with self in an effort to serve those around you.

Are you interested in those around you? Who has God placed in your life that peaks your interest? Is it a people group? Is it a specific person? Whoever it is, go to them and spend time listening to their response to the questions you ask of them.  I guarantee it will open up an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ.

Gospel Conversations: Prophetic.

Some people get uncomfortable when “prophecy” is mentioned. The prophetic is usually reserved for mystics and many grow uneasy when we talk about the prophetic voice of the scriptures.

When I say prophetic, I am talking about the prophetic voice of scriptures.  The prophetic voice of scriptures is a plea.

The prophets of the bible were persons who had their legs broken and were called by God to go to specific people with a specific message that pointed towards the reality that God has come in grace for those who will turn to Him in faith and worship, but He has come in judgment for those who will not trust and worship Him.  The discomfort we feel when we discuss the prophetic voice comes from the abuses of this type of witness that we have observed.

The man screaming in the middle of the university free speech area fixated on the moral decline of American culture, the men and women who picket soldier’s funerals, and those who separate from society in an attempt to wash the sin off of themselves.  These groups do not hold to the true prophetic witness of scripture, they twist it with their own personal agendas and preferences.  Prophets don’t scream…they plead. And there is a vast difference.

Screaming emerges from two assumptions: 1.) that I can persuade you by my own power, 2.) that the unbeliever should live like the Christian.  Pleading emerges from a broken heart that understands that it is only by the power of the Spirit that the human heart is resurrected from death to life and that we can’t expect the world to live in anything but the brokenness they worship.

The prophets have the most force in their tone when they are speaking to the people of God. When the prophets are speaking to the nations or when Jesus is speaking to the gentiles or samaritans, they plead with them.

The prophetic gospel conversation is when the Lord places on your heart a specific message (rooted in God’s word) for a specific people ( who the Spirit has broken your heart for) in a specific place at a specific time that is often direct and concerned with God’s saving work for those who trust in Him and His judgment for those who reject the grace of God.

Jesus begins his teaching ministry with the words “Repent, for the kingdom of heave is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17) These words were not divorced from the love of Christ, rather, they were the articulation of Christ’s love. The love He demonstrated in forgiving sins, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and bringing the dead to life is seen in Christ’s desire for people to repent and return to Yahweh God.

Jesus is the perfect prophet. One who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness (Heb. 4:15) and loved the people He was sent to with such a fierce love that He would take the wrath that rested on them upon Himself to free them unto salvation.

Jesus wept for those whom he would plead for. Before you can begin to develop the prophetic voice in gospel conversations you must be broken for those whom God is sending you to.

So who is God sending you to? Who has he sent you to? Look around…

Gospel Conversations.

Your sitting in a local coffee shop and he walks in. This guy always seems to be getting his latte around the same time that you are hitting the books for your afternoon class. You guys have made small talk before, his name is Josh, but you really are convicted that you should try and take the conversation further in an effort to talk to him about Christ.

How?

Starting dialogue about Jesus frightens many people who genuinely desire to share their faith. We ask ourselves seemingly important questions: is it too soon to bring this up? what if he rejects the conversation? what if it gets awkward?  When we begin to give these questions credibility, we convince ourselves that we will eventually get around to it.

These questions are based off a wrong assumption; that there will ever be a better time than the present opportunity.

In the upcoming posts we are going to look at four types of Gospel conversations and really challenge ourselves to begin asking the Lord for opportunities to engage in each type of conversation.  The four types we will be looking at are: interested, relational, prophetic, and providential.  The temptation will be to settle for one of these and rule out the Spirit’s ability to provide and equip you for each type of conversation.  These types should not be seen as vending machine evangelism, with you having the privilege of picking your favorite and dismissing the others as not “your gift.”

By examining these gospel conversations, we will be challenged by God’s word to reflect on our heart’s motivation when it comes to sharing the gospel with non-Christians.  I hope these posts challenge you, as they have challenged me in writing them, to seriously think on the question of how, not if, you are going to share the truth of the gospel of Christ.

1 John 2:3-6: The Love of God Perfected.

We can be honest can’t we?

Sometimes we read the word of God and come across a passage that deeply confuses us.  It’s ok to admit this, for despite what you and I may believe, we are not inexhaustible wells of wisdom and insight.  If even the brightest among us was to be held accountable for a uniformly flawless interpretation of Scripture from beginning to end, they would fall desperately short.

So when we read in 1 John 2:4-5,

“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.”

At first the verse seems remarkably straightforward.  If you know God then you will delight to walk in His ways.  John has just finished reminding us in 1 John 2:1-2, that Christ is our advocate, He is the righteousness we desperately need.  So our obedience occurs on the foundation of the perfect obedience of Jesus. We walk in obedience to enjoy God’s favor, not to earn God’s favor.

So after John reminds us of this very clear truth, he goes on to say that but in “whoever keeps the word of God, in him truly the love of God is perfected.”  It’s that bold part that confuses us. How could the love of God be any less than perfect? How could we, broken people, perfect the love of God? Is God’s love lacking?

So what does this verse mean? It means that God’s perfect love is made complete when it is seen lived out among His people. God’s love is primarily seen in the obtaining of our salvation in Jesus Christ, but the fruit of God’s love is not just produced in salvation, for His love is greatly seen in salvation, but it is not relegated to just the saving work of Jesus.  God’s love is also demonstrated through the kindness, compassion, mercy, and obedience of His people.

To say that the love of God is “perfected” in the obedience of God’s people is to say that it is seen to be genuine or authentic.  John is demonstrating to the people he writes to, that God’s love is not something we should merely speak of or thank Him for, but something we should also demonstrate and live out.

So the question is: Does the love of God appear genuine through your life? Do you tell the story of Christ’s great love in your day to day experiences?

The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell

it goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell,

the guilty pair bow down with care, God gave his only son to win

his erring child he reconciled, you and I pardoned from our sin

(from “the Love of God” by Frederick Lehman)

What is a pitfall?

As you hear me talk about the book that I am currently writing, entitled Justification by Orthodoxy: And 6 Other Pitfalls of the Young and Reformed, you may be asking yourself, “what is a pitfall?”

A pitfall is a trap or snare. It is a hidden or not easily recognized danger or difficulty.

People don’t plan on falling into pits. They don’t plan on getting their tires stuck in the mud. But once they get stuck, once they fall, they have a difficult time getting out of the mess without being affected.

One of the pitfalls that has emerged among the young and reformed over the last 4-6 years, that I assure you was unexpected, is what I call “surrogate Christianity.”

You know what a surrogate is don’t you? A surrogate is one who is put in the place of another.

In the pitfall of “surrogate Christianity” we take the passions, experiences, dislikes, and missions of our leaders and attempt to live out our faith through their lives.

With the emergence of the podcast, blogging, and online video age it has never been easier to actually hear, see, and feel preachers and teachers around the world. This digital access has been a huge support for the renewed interested in reformed theology that accompanies this young Christian movement, but it has also created a pitfall. Now you can not only hear John Piper preach on Romans, but you can see his passion when he talks about the role of suffering in sanctification from Romans 5. In a generation looking for leadership, a holy imitation as we see in Hebrews 13:7 can quickly become an unholy idolatry.

We begin to be passionate about suffering, not because we have suffered, but because John Piper has suffered. We begin to abhor open theism, not because we know the destructive nature of that theology, but because Al Mohler abhors open theism. We talk about loving the city, not because we love the city, but because it sounds so cool and sharp when Tim Keller talks about it.

We are in danger of creating a community made up of attractive ideas, surface level emotions, and pep rally motivation.

Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

The danger is that in a genuine attempt to seek out and follow Godly leaders, this young movement has fell into a pitfall that is just a tolerated idolatry.

So the pitfalls I am discussing are not things that are inherently corrupt regarding the structure of reformed theology, or even the movement that seems to want to return to this God-exalting theology, but the broken direction that sin takes our hearts in pursuing our God.

For more reading along the lines of a “surrogate Christianity:”

Thabiti Anyabwile “Celebrity/Pastor”

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