Articles

When Our Sons Ask For Stones, Let’s Give Them Bread

In Perspective on June 2, 2014 by The Spillover

Jared Wilson:

In the religion news headlines this week is the story of a pastor who has decided the Bible condones homosexuality. His church, it seems, has determined to see how they might live in a tension between those who agree and disagree. Dr. Mohler has a reflective piece on the situation. It is likely not a coincidence that the pastor in question has a son who has recently come out of the closet.

I am reminded of the Christianity Today report from a few years ago that post-evangelical provocateur Brian McLaren had officiated the same-sex wedding of his sonDenny Burk had some good reflections, as did Carl Trueman.

There are some obvious “talking points” to engage in here, about the trajectory of these mind-changing pastor’s hermeneutic, slippery slopes and all that. But I am reminded again of these strong words from our Lord:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

– Mark 3:31-35

Jesus is providing a foundation and a watershed at the same time, a connecting point for his other provocative statements about letting the dead bury the dead (Luke 9:59-60), bringing division to families (Matt. 10:34-37), hating mom and dad on his account (Luke 14:26), no marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:30), and how his mom ain’t so special (Luke 11:27-28). We also get some grounding for Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:29.

Confronted with the well-meaning concerns of familial loyalty, Jesus will not take his eyes off the cross before him. He knows God is building a new family, one that is eternal, one that is centered on God as Abba and the Son of God as the good older brother, the finally worthy of the honor who in his gospel is not ashamed to call his brethren brethren (Heb. 2:11). So the warnings are strong, the wording is harsh. Jesus doesn’t hate his family. But he loves his Father and the will of his Father more. He wants to honor the will of God more than he wants to satisfy the will of his family.

This is a good word to all of us familyolaters. We take what most of us consider the most important thing in our lives and give it the weight of our worship in a way that is both dishonorable and unsustainable. And we end up living “Thus saith the family” rather than “Thus saith the Lord.” I know personally what happens when one worships his wife: he harms her. I know what happens when we make our children the center of our universe: we harm them. That is true hatred. Trading in the cross for the thin gruel of temporary satisfaction, appetites, compulsions, is the worst thing you could do to somebody. And when it comes down to seeking one’s happiness over their holiness, we aid and abet the theft of their eternal joy. This is what Danny Cortez and Brian McLaren have done.

I hope for the grace not to follow suit at a million different turning points, big and little, as my kids grow up. I know the temptation will be great.

Christ would have us focused on him, loving him above all else. And when all else, including our beloved families, asks us to betray Christ and his word in order to instead serve them, we face Abraham’s excruciating dilemma. But pledging our hearts to heaven, we will not look back to Egypt or Sodom, trusting that true mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters are those who follow Jesus and that obeying God is worth any cost, including hurting the feelings of those we love.

What I mean is, when our children ask for stones, let’s defy them and give them bread instead.

Articles

They asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian

In Awareness on May 16, 2014 by The Spillover

Denny Burk:

NBC News has the story of a Nigerian Christian man who was shot by Boko Haram terrorists for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. This man’s name is Habila Adamu, and he was attacked by the same group of terrorists who recently abducted 200 Nigerian school girls. They broke into his home, shot him, and left him for dead all in full view of his wife and son. It’s a miracle that he is alive. It’s even more a miracle that he stood.

You must read his story in his own words. Below is an extended excerpt from the NBC News report:

A father who was shot point-blank in the face by Boko Haram recounted how the militants asked whether he was “prepared to die as a Christian” and then left for dead.

Habila Adamu, 40, was so badly wounded in the attack that he said goodbye to his wife as blood poured from a gaping wound.

The father-of-one said the April 15 capture by Boko Haram of more than 200 girls from a boarding school brought back painful memories of the night he was shot and beaten in his home.

“When I heard about those girls I started to pray,” Adamu told NBC News on Tuesday. “Boko Haram have no mercy. All they want to do is drive the Christian community out of northern Nigeria and they won’t stop until they do it.”

Many of the minority Christians in Yobe province were fearful of Boko Haram because the militants had attacked homes and businesses in the region, according to Adamu.

“They asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian … My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ”

The businessman initially thought they were soldiers on patrol near his home one night in November 2012.

“But when I saw their robes and AK-47 rifles I knew they were not from the army,” he said. “They told me they were there to do the work of Allah.”

With his wife Vivian and son David, now aged seven, looking on, four men forced their way indoors and asked whether he was a member of the police force or army. He told them he was not.

“Then they asked me whether I would convert to Islam and when I refused they asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian. My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ. I felt powerful, unafraid, I don’t know why.”

Before he could refuse a second time, a bullet pierced his neck.

“I fell on the ground,” Adamu said. “They thought I was dead because they stomped on me twice and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is great.’”

Adamu mustered the strength to talk to his wife before slipping out of consciousness.

“She was crying so many tears,” he said. “Neither of us thought I would survive so I told her that to live in this world was to live for Christ. I told her to look after our son and herself.”

“A doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me”

Recovering her composure, Vivian ran to find help from fellow members of the Christian community – only to find that militants had killed 12 others.

Too scared to leave the house, she tended to her husband for eight hours. At first light, she was able to arrange transport to a nearby medical center.

“When they saw the wound, a doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me,” Adamu said. “I had lost so much blood.”

However, they gave him painkillers and transferred him to the Jos University Hospital, hundreds of miles further south, where doctors funded by the non-profit organization Voice of Martyrs were able to treat him.

Adamu’s condition gradually stabilized and he was discharged about two weeks later.

I thank God that He spared Adamu’s life. I thank Him even more that He gave Adamu the courage to stand. Read the rest here.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

Articles

4 Questions When Jesus Confronts Us

In Being Real on May 15, 2014 by The Spillover

J.D. Greear:

One of the ironies of our current culture is that most people today find Jesus rather boring. Most people don’t mind Jesus, but they don’t really love him or hate him either. This proves that which proves they haven’t actually met him.

No one in the Bible was ever bored with Jesus. The real Jesus was polarizing; people either loved him or hated him. The more attractive he grew to some, the more loathsome he grew to others. Certain people thronged to him, while others plotted his death.

That’s why I love it when I bump up against a tough saying of Jesus, like you find in Luke 12:51: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Here is Jesus confronting each and every one of us, saying, “I didn’t come to be a religious addition to your life. I came to turn your entire world upside-down.”

Four questions in light of that:

1. Have I “owned” Jesus in all my relationships?

Are we really letting Jesus take the lead in our families? Parents, are you teaching your kids to obey Jesus more than you? The Christian world is filled with parents who don’t want their kids to obey God and go on the mission field. And if they must defy you to obey God, then that’s what Jesus is asking. But do we really want our kids to obey God in spite of us?

Are we letting Jesus redirect our work? I know business leaders in the community who have lost jobs because they refused to sacrifice their integrity. I know others who were ostracized or fired for sharing their faith. As our society continues to debate about public religious liberty, this may be more and more costly for us. Are we going to own Jesus at our workplaces?

Will you own Jesus in your friendships? Will you continue to confess Christ in the midst of withering criticism from those you hold most dear? When they lie about you, and cut you out of their circles? Or will you treasure certain relationships more than your devotion to Christ?

2. Am I obeying him with what’s in front of me right now?

It’s pretty easy to talk about “total sacrifice” in the abstract. Would I die for Jesus? Of course! But are we obeying him right now? It’s always easier to be obedient in a dramatic hypothetical than in the nitty-gritty of life. Before we say we’re willing to have our throats slit for Jesus, we need to examine our current habits. Are we serving others, giving to the mission, or spending time in biblical community?

Here’s a huge one: are we submitting to the biblical pattern of sexual ethics?Most young Christians have no qualms with sleeping together before marriage. What business do we have saying we would die for Jesus when we aren’t willing to obey him with our lives today? Dying isn’t the hard part; living is.

3. Do I have any conditions for following Jesus?

What areas do I insist that God provide for me if I’m going to follow him? I have been tempted this way plenty in the past, and I know people who have walked away from Jesus because of some pain or disappointment in their life. They thought that they deserved a better marriage, or a better job, or they were broken up about somebody’s death.

All that revealed was that Jesus wasn’t “all” to them. He was a means to an end. When the means stopped working, they looked for a better one. Jesus doesn’t want us following him because he’s the fast track to a better life; he wants us to follow him without reservation and without condition.

4. Where I am causing division, am I doing it like him?

Sadly, a lot of Christians take Jesus’ words about division and they apply them in all the wrong ways. They’re divisive, but only because they’re acting like jerks.

But Jesus didn’t cause division like that. Jesus spoke the truth, and when that caused division, he drew all of the fire onto himself. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

We tend to defend ourselves in anger, but Jesus bore our insults with compassion. We tend to press the issue, but Jesus patiently responded to different people in different ways. We tend to dismiss people when they disagree with us, but Jesus was able to clearly confront sin and still draw us close to him.

Is there division in your life because of Christ? Or do people around you still think Jesus is boring?

Articles

I Hate Sharing My Faith

In Evangelism, Videos on May 9, 2014 by The Spillover

Francis Chan:

Articles

Hope for the Despairing Heart

In Soul Food on May 8, 2014 by The Spillover

Christina Fox:

The gospel saved me.

“That’s elementary,” you might be thinking. Yes, the gospel, the truths of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, appropriated by faith, have saved me for all eternity. But that’s not the salvation about which I am thinking.

The gospel saved me from my pit of despair.

I have battled depression on and off since adolescence. It began the year my grandmother died, I switched schools, and close friendships were lost. There was a brief respite during college and graduate school. Then after the birth of each of my two children, the despair sucked me into a darkness I had never known before. It terrified me. The thoughts and feelings that consumed me were paralyzing. I had fallen into a deep pit and couldn’t find a way out.

What Jesus Has Done

As a trained counselor, I tried all the things I knew to do to manage it. Though they brought me some temporary help, it wasn’t enough to give me the hope I longed for and needed most. So one day, I met with my pastor to seek his help.

I recounted for him everything I had done to climb out of the pit. They were all good things, helpful things. He heard me list the coping skills I had used, my strategies to change my life’s circumstances, and all the external solutions I had tried. “But I haven’t heard you tell me how you are trusting in what Christ already did for you,” he responded.

I must have had a blank look on my face because he said it again.

In my mind, I wondered, “What does this have to do with my depression? I came here to find out what I should do to make my life better.”

We went on to talk about what it means that Jesus lived a perfect life for me, died for me, and rose from the grave for me. And here’s the truth, while I didn’t leave the office that day completely cured and transformed, I did leave with a new seed of hope. As the months went on, that hope grew and grew. Its roots dug deep in my heart and over time started to bear fruit.

While this conversation with my pastor may not seem earth shattering, and though what we discussed was not some amazing new concept, the conversation reminded me of a truth I had forgotten. It reminded me that my hope and joy are not found in what I can do but in what Jesus has already done.

Out of all the things I have done to manage my depression over the years, it is the gospel of what Jesus has already done for me that has given me lasting hope. Because the insidious thing about depression and despair is the way they strip away hope. The future is dark and bleak. The silence and isolation is deafening. There seems to be no end in sight.

But the gospel gives hope.

The Gospel of Hope

Jesus told the disciples, “In this world you will have sorrow, but take heart I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This life is not trouble free. Jesus did not sugarcoat what it means to follow him. Life will be hard. But our hope lies in what Christ has done: he overcame sin and death.

The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that Jesus was a man of sorrows. He was not unfamiliar with the pain and suffering of this life. He knew temptation, sorrow, fear, illness, and death. He experienced rejection, loss, poverty, loneliness, and abuse. There is not one tear we have shed that he does not understand. Jesus took on all our sin, shame, and sorrow at the cross. He bore the weight of our guilt and punishment. He suffered the torment of separation from God that was rightfully ours.

But because he was sinless, the grave could not hold him. When he rose from the grave he conquered sin and death. Through faith in his complete work of redemption, we have the hope of eternal life forever in a place where there will be no more sorrow and tears.

There’s more. Not only do we have the hope of forever, but we have hope right now. Because of what Jesus accomplished for us, we have been adopted into the family of God. He is our Father. We are co-heirs with Christ. All of God’s promises are for us.

Everything We Need

This means that when life is hard, we have free and complete access to the throne of grace. We can come to him and know that he hears us, that he cares, and that he will help us. As a beloved child, we can trust that he will provide for us. We can rest in assurance that his love for us is not dependent on what we do but what on Jesus has already done. And with that is the promise:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)

We also have the promise that Jesus will finish what he started in us. He will not leave us unchanged. He will use every pain, every sorrow, and every tear in our lives for our good and his glory. We are not on our own in this, he promises to be our strength in weakness and will give us everything we need to live for him.

Depression may come and visit me again. As Jesus said, we will have sorrow in this life. But I know in whom I hope. When despair weighs heavy on my heart, I need to “take heart” and remember that Jesus “has overcome the world.” And because he overcame the world and conquered sin and death, I know he can resurrect hope in a heart filled with despair.

Articles

Braille – Consecrated to Jesus (spoken word)

In Videos on May 2, 2014 by The Spillover

Articles

What if your baptism had more power in it than you ever dreamed?

In Perspective, Soul Food on May 1, 2014 by The Spillover

David Mathis:

Visible words. That was the Reformers’ term for baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

In complement to the spoken words of gospel preaching, these twin rhythms of the gathered church are dramatizations of the grace of God. These “visible words” rehearse for us the center of our faith through images and actions in the God-given pictures of washing, touching, smelling, and tasting. Alongside preaching, they reveal to us again and again the very heart of the gospel we profess and aim to echo. They are enacted “signs,” pointing to realities beyond themselves.

But these ordinances are not just signs, but “seals.” They confirm to us not just that God has done something salvific for mankind, but that it applies to me in particular. The gospel is not only true in general, but specifically for me. And when a Bible-believing, gospel-cherishing church applies the seal to me, it can be a great grounds of assurance that I myself am included in the rescued people of Christ.

In this way, baptism and the Lord’s Supper serve to mark us out as the church, distinct from the world, and are part of what it means for the new covenant to be a covenant — with acts of both initiation and ongoing fellowship, both inauguration and renewal.

The Sacraments As Means of Grace

And, as theologian John Frame notes, the ordinances are not just signs and seals, but serve to bring God’s presence near. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16 that the bread and the cup are “a participation” in the body and blood of Jesus. They renew and strengthen our sense of being united by faith to the risen Christ. They are not automatic, but operate through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith. Those who participate in faith, grow in grace — as we do under the preaching of God’s word — while those who engage without faith, ask for judgment (1 Corinthians 11:27–30). (Which is cause for keeping those without a credible profession of faith from participating in the sacraments.)

These practices are not, as some have taught since the Reformation, just signs, or mere symbols. Nor do they work apart from faith, as some wings of the church have maintained. Rather, the two ordinances are means of God’s grace, Christ-instituted channels of God’s power, delivered by God’s Spirit, dependent on Christian faith in the participants, given in the corporate context of the gathered church.

For many, the Lord’s Supper is more manifestly an ongoing means of grace, but what about baptism?

Grace in the Water

Baptism marks new-covenant initiation. It is applied just once, to a believer deemed by a local congregation to have a credible profession of faith, as entrance into the fellowship of the visible church. The gospel drama experienced, and on display, in baptism corresponds to the graces of conversion in the Christian life in first embracing the gospel — initial cleansing from sin, repentance, new life, and union with Christ (Romans 6:3–5).

Baptism is not only obedience to Christ’s command, and a living testimony of the candidate’s faith in Jesus to all witnesses, but it also serves as a means of joy to the one being baptized. Not only is it a valuable confirmation from the visible church that we are born again, but it’s a unique, one-time experience of the grace of the gospel dramatized for the one in the waters, as we’re symbolically buried with Jesus in death and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

Improve Your Baptism

But baptism isn’t only a means of grace to the one-time candidate, but also to all believers looking on with faith. This is important to the Christian, but something we often miss. The Westminster Larger Catechism calls it “improving our baptism.” This dense statement rewards a slow reading:

The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

That’s one long, complicated sentence, but the short of it is this: Baptism is not only a blessing to us on that one memorable occasion when we were the new believer in the waters. It also is a rehearsing of the gospel for the observer and a means of grace throughout our Christian lives as we watch, with faith, the baptisms of others and renew in our minds the riches of the reality of our identity in Christ pictured in our baptism (Romans 6:3–4Galatians 3:27Colossians 2:12). Wayne Grudem writes,

Where there is genuine faith on the part of the person being baptized, and where the faith of the church that watches the baptism is stirred up and encouraged by this ceremony, then the Holy Spirit certainly does work through baptism, and it becomes a “means of grace” through which the Holy Spirit brings blessing to the person being baptized and to the church as well. (Systematic Theology, 954)

Watch in Faith, Wash Your Soul

So, next time your church stirs the waters, don’t twiddle your thumbs waiting out this inconvenience for the singing and preaching that follow. You need not be re-baptized to experience again the grace of this drama.

Rather, with the eyes of faith, see the gospel on display in the waters. See the preaching of Christ’s sacrifice pictured for you, and hear the music of your own new life in the burying of the believer and their resurrection in Jesus. Keep your eye on the waters, and the witness. Watch in faith, and wash your soul again in the good news of being joined to Jesus.

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