Justice and the Gospel, Part 2

I posted the first part of this video back in July when it came out on YouTube. I apparently fell asleep between then and now as I forgot to post the second part when it came out. (and since I was so delinquent with this, I’ve included parts 3 and 4 as well.) But, better late then never… so here it is. Once again, this video features Mark Dever and Jim Wallis being interviewed by Skye Jathani (thanks to Out of Ur for this great interview).

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Do We Look Too Much Like the World?

1 John 4:1-6

    Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. [2] This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, [3] but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

    [4] You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. [5] They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. [6] We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

We in the Church are often a gullible people who far too easily believe someone because they give a heartfelt and moving testimony. Or sometimes, we clamor after a person because he or she is a celebrity. Our day is not marked by a thorough listening for the content of what a person is saying. This accounts for much of our cotton candy Christian culture. It doesn’t take much for it to dissolve into nothing.

We are, therefore, impoverished. This is lamentable, especially when we consider the rich legacy of bygone ages of great Christian depth and commitment. We are overly contented to build our Christian lives and churches on the sand of easy-believism. But cotton candy and sand make for poor foundations and they will not, because they cannot, provide strength and safety for the storms of life.

Thus, John directs us to test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God – because not all are. Some of us entertain false prophets unawares.  In verse five of 1 John 4, John says that these false spirits or false prophets are from the world and therefore, speak from the viewpoint of the world.

My question is: Why then does the church try so hard to look just like the world? Sadly, the church can even be more worldly than the world. I’m reminded of a comment that Macauley Caulkin made during an interview about his movie, “Saved.” He said that he went to a few Christian concerts to check out what the Christian culture was like and discovered precious little difference between the Christian concerts he attended and those of the world. Sure, there are some differences in the lyrics, but is that the sum and substance of Christian culture?

On another note, I am not against numerical growth by any means, but it can be a poor standard for biblical fidelity. Sure, some churches are growing rapidly. But how are they growing? And what are they growing? What are they producing? The apostle John states that the world listens to those who speak from the viewpoint of the world. What else would we expect? When the standards of the church seem to be “feel-good” messages, relevance, soft-teaching, worldly trappings, etc., then of course the world is going to respond favorably, even approvingly. But in a climate where truth is, de facto, offensive, worship services and sermons that are centered around God’s Word will be thought of as boring and irrelevant at best and intolerant, puritanical, mean-spirited, etc., at worst.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, except to say…

Let us be as discerning as we can about who likes us and who does not, about who accepts us and who does not, about who thinks we’re cool and who does not, about who seeks our company and who does not. For if we, as individual Christians or local churches, are very well thought of by the world around us, we may want to ask why. Could it be because we think, speak, and live too much like the world?

Grace and Truth,
Dale

Men’s Discipleship at Southside

Pat Morley, founder of the ministry to men called, Man in the Mirror, has said something along these lines: “However many men are in your church, that’s how many men are in your men’s ministry.”

It has taken me awhile to fully understand and even embrace that idea. However, I have come to slowly wrap my mind around that idea and now completely agree with it. For many churches, the men’s ministry consists of those dear brothers who attend a monthly Saturday morning breakfast and quick devotion followed by spending the rest of the day doing “chores” around the church (for which, that church is greatly blessed). I know that I had a similar view of what or who constitutes a men’s ministry; I simply substituted men’s weekly discipleship small groups in the place of the weekly breakfast.

Ministry to men, however, ought to be thought of more comprehensively than that. There are certainly components which, in my opinion, should be present and operative in a men’s ministry, yet a one-dimensional definition of men’s ministry is counter-productive and, ultimately, will not yield very much good and lasting fruit for the kingdom.

Southside’s ministry to men, as we shall see in this post, (as well as the next one), runs the gamut of activities and programs all designed to help build up our men in their faith and to equip them to be a blessing to others, in every sphere of their lives.

Small Group Study in Community

In spite of all that I just wrote on not wanting to too strictly define or limit what makes up a men’s ministry, I still passionately contend that our men’s weekly discipleship groups at Southside are foundational to all our other men’s ministries.

These weekly discipleship groups, which we call The Baxter Boys, began as a little band of men who met in the living room of my house, just a bit over nine years ago. (Click here and here to learn about our namesake, Richard Baxter.) These weekly gatherings are where our men can be instructed, encouraged, equipped, enriched, edified, and even convicted through the ministry of God’s Spirit and Word working in the midst of Christian community. (Click here to learn more about the primacy of God’s Word in such settings.)

In the Baxter Boys weekly fellowship, our men learn about the things of God – how know him better, love him more, follow him more faithfully, and how to become more and more like him. We do this in the context of community and accountability. Curiously, such a setting has been described as a sterile environment and even irrelevant to real life. I suppose it could be seen as that. I guess it may be even be practiced in such a way. Yet, one would have a hard time making that case to many of our men who have had their minds renewed and their lives transformed in and through such a ministry setting.

Throughout the year we used a three-pronged approach that consists of Word, Doctrine, and Life. By Word, I mean a straightforward study through a book in the Bible. When we study Doctrine, we are isolating a particular affirmation of our faith and focusing on it for a period of time, such as the person and work of Jesus Christ. Finally, by Life, I mean a practical, rubber-hits-the-road approach to living in this world as Christian men, whether it’s as husbands, fathers, or in the workplace. Obviously, there is overlap for all three. For example, we don’t (and, I would contend, can’t) study Doctrine or Life without studying the Word. They all connect and interrelate.

Accountability and Encouragement in Community

The Baxter Boys discipleship ministry includes accountability, yet not in the same way as smaller and more intimate groups experience it. Accountability in this fellowship is experienced more through mutually encouraging one another to attend and participate in the life of the groups. And yet, struggles, even failures, are shared. Brothers building one another up in a common faith, lifting up one another in prayer, as well as victories and successes celebrated all make up the life of these small groups.

Leadership Development in Community

Our men also learn leadership in and through our weekly discipleship groups. As our men get more and more grounded in God’s Word, they begin to feel God’s Spirit moving and calling them to serve him in a wide variety of leadership settings, such as in their homes and workplaces, teaching Sunday school classes, working with inner-city mercy ministries, mentoring boys without a father in the home, administrative committees in the church, just to name a few. God has promised that regularly renewing our minds with his Word will bring about such transformation.

Leadership is also manifested in the lives of our men as they seek to pass the baton of faith onto other men. Through study, prayer, and fellowship, God’s Spirit draws them out of their comfort zones and encourages them to invite other men to join us. Many men also begin to pour their lives into the lives of other men through various forms of mentoring and discipling.

Unity in Diversity

One last aspect that makes our weekly fellowship so meaningful is that it is made up of men from a variety of church affiliations. True ecumenism is found when brothers from a variety of denominational backgrounds can gather together and affirm one Lord, one Spirit, one baptism, one faith, all grounded in one Word.

Join Us

If this sounds like something you would like to become a part of, please do not hesitate to come and join our fellowship!

We meet on Monday nights in Southside’s Family Life Center from 7:00pm to 8:30pm.

We meet on Wednesday mornings in Southside’s Family Life Center from 6:30am to 7:30am.

If you have any questions, I encourage you to call me at 396-2676 or email me at d.tedder@southsidemethodist.org.

Blessings in Christ,
Dale Tedder
(April 16, 2010)

Truth and the Christian Worldview: Conclusion

F.) The Person and Work of Jesus Christ

Who is Jesus Christ? Was he just a good moral teacher? Was he merely a failed political revolutionary? Perhaps he was a lunatic who just didn’t know what he was doing. Or perhaps, he was a con-artist looking to trick people into believing he was more than just a human being. Christians proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ was fully human and fully God. Furthermore, Christians claim that Jesus Christ was the Lord and Savior of the entire universe. What one believes about the person and work of Jesus Christ, orthodox Christians believe, sets the pace for where one will spend eternity. Even pluralists such as John Hick feel the weight of the question about Jesus Christ’s identity. Hick says:

“There is a direct line of logical entailment from the premise that Jesus Christ was God, in the sense that he was God the Son, the Second Person of the divine Trinity, living in a human life, to the conclusion that Christianity, and Christianity alone, was founded by God in person; and from this to the further conclusion that God must want all his human children to be related to him through his religion which he has himself founded for us.”

Indeed this is precisely what Christians have believed for 2,000 years. Norman Geisler reiterates this point. He says, “Orthodox Christianity claims that Jesus of Nazareth was God in human flesh. This doctrine is absolutely essential to true Christianity. If it is true, then Christianity is unique and authoritative. If not, then Christianity does not differ in kind from other religions.” Though a thorough investigation of this point is outside the scope of this paper, Geisler provides a good outline for what the Christian apologetic is on this point. He writes:

“The basic logic of this apologetic for Christianity is: (1) The New Testament is a historically reliable record of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ… (2) Jesus taught that he was God Incarnate… (3) Jesus proved to be God Incarnate by fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, by a miraculous life, and by rising from the grave… Therefore, Jesus of Nazareth is Deity.”

Therefore, what one believes about who Jesus Christ was and what he accomplished through his life, death and resurrection has profound implications for one’s worldview. One may believe he was not God Incarnate, not the Savior of the world, did not rise from the dead on the third day. However, in believing that, one holds contradictory beliefs from what orthodox Christians embrace. Both beliefs may be false, but only one can be true.

VII. Conclusion

It has been the goal of this paper to show the necessary relationship between truth and the Christian worldview. Because Christianity claims to be a revealed religion, it is actually a sign of humility and obedience that believers embrace, proclaim, and defend their Christian faith. To avoid or reject this responsibility is a real sign of arrogance because one presumes to know better than God. John Hick properly understood the implications of confessing that Christianity alone was founded by God. What other response could possibly be more appropriate than to confess with one’s mouth and believe in one’s heart that Christianity is true, and not merely preferable? Christians believe that if Christianity is not true, then it is merely one religious preference among many. However, Christians have historically proclaimed from the beginning, that they are the humble stewards of the one, true, and living God’s self-disclosure.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dale

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 13

The Son of God, Our Lord

33. Question: Why is He called God’s only begotten Son, since we also are children of God?

Answer: Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God.[1] We, however, are children of God by adoption, through grace, for Christ’s sake.[2]

[1] John 1:1-3, 14, 18; 3:16; Rom. 8:32; Heb. 1; I John 4:9. [2] John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:5, 6.

34. Question: Why do you call Him our Lord?

Answer: Because He has ransomed us, body and soul,[1] from all our sins, not with silver or gold but with His precious blood,[2] and has freed us from all the power of the devil to make us His own possession.[3]

[1] I Cor. 6:20; I Tim. 2:5, 6. [2] I Peter 1:18, 19. [3] Col. 1:13, 14; Heb. 2:14, 15.

Quotation for Renovation

from The Discipline of Grace
by Jerry Bridges
(taken from one of the best chapters of any book I’ve ever read – Chapter 9:  The Discipline of Commitment)

“When we commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, we need to ensure that our commitment is actually to God, not simply to a holy lifestyle or a set of moral values. The people of my parents’ generation were generally honesty, chaste, sober, and thrifty. They were committed to those values, but they were not necessarily committed to God. Many of them were outstanding moralists and even church people, but they were not committed to God. They were committed to their values, not to God.”

“We can be committed to a set of Christian values or to a lifestyle of discipleship without being committed to God Himself.”

“Commitment to the pursuit of holiness, then, is first of all a commitment to God to pursue a way of life that is pleasing to Him. In short, it is a commitment to a life of obedience.”

“There is no point in praying for God’s help in the face of temptation if we have not made a commitment to obedience without exception.”

Truth and the Christian Worldview, Part 3

The Results of a Wrong Foundation

David Wells suggests that, “Truth is now simply a matter of etiquette: it has no authority, no sense of rightness, because it is no longer anchored in anything absolute.” This certainly addresses the issue of why religious pluralism is running rampant. Carl Henry says that “The West has lost its moral and epistemic compass bearings. It has no shared criterion for judging whether human beings are moving up or down, standing still, or merely on the move only God knows where.” Henry suggests that:

“Once the living God is banished, both Jesus Christ and the Bible become cognitive orphans. Not only are history and nature rendered godless, so that they can be assimilated readily either to mechanical determinism or to chaos, and not only is mankind rendered godless, so that humanity is free to play deity or to consider itself mere soulless specks of cosmic dust, but also the most basic referents of Christianity become embarrassing enigmas.”

Gene Veith concurs in his suggestion that today’s apathy toward truth is because “there is no universal consensus about what is true.” He contends that the postmodern culture “teaches that meaning is created by a social group and its language. According to this view, personal identity and the very contents of one’s thoughts are all social constructions.” Thus, the postmodern person will want to shed an oppressive understanding of truth that seeks to restrict one’s autonomy to construct the world as he or she sees it. Postmodernism advocates relativistic variety and rejects restrictive structures that seek to tyrannize individuals with “rules or criteria” for making or defending “truth-claims.” This philosophical underpinning can be clearly seen in the debate over the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ. Until the participants of a debate can agree about what their epistemological foundations are, there will be no way to even begin the debate or dialogue. While, both parties will appeal to an authority for their position, the Christian will point past autonomous reason to God himself. However, while the other participant is “free to reject the authority of Scripture, [he or she] will only substitute some other authority in its place.” Nash reveals that this is precisely what happened to the philosopher John Hick. Hick once embraced at least some aspects of orthodox Christianity, however, once he gave up the epistemological foundations for those beliefs, he drifted away from orthodoxy into the pluralism he now embraces. The abandonment of truth in the secular world has certainly made powerful inroads into the church. David Wells comments,

“Without this transcendent Word in its life, the church has no rudder, no compass, no provisions. Without the Word, it has no capacity to stand outside its culture, to detect and wrench itself free from the seductions of modernity. Without the Word, the church has no meaning. It may seek substitutes for meaning in committee work, relief work, and various other church activities, but such things cannot fill the role for very long. Cut off from the meaning that God has given, faith cannot offer anything more by way of light in our dark world than what is offered by philosophy, psychology, or sociology. Cut off from God’s meaning, the church is cut off from God; it loses its identity as the people of God in belief, in practice, in hope. Cut off from God’s Word, the church is on its own, left to live for itself, by itself, upon itself. It is never lifted beyond itself, above its culture. It is never stretched or tried. It grows more comfortable, but it is the comfort of anesthesia, of a refusal to pay attention to the disturbing realities of God’s truth.”

This has certainly happened in my denomination as well as the church at large. Christ’s church has mirrored the culture instead of leading the culture. The result is that instead of clinging to the touchstone proposition of the Christian faith, the church’s anchor has been lifted and many of God’s people are epistemologically adrift. The result is that the polls taken now show that there are as many people in the church as there are outside of the church who reject the notion of absolute truth. Yet in the face of this retreat from truth, the contemporary culture has not faced up to the logical consequences of a world and worldview without objective and absolute truth.

Next time we’ll look at what truth is and how we test it.

Stand Firm,
Dale