Thursday, May 31, 2012

Something is wrong with our ego

In his new and helpful little book (a pamphlet really), The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller writes:
The ego often hurts. That is because it has something incredibly wrong with it. Something unbelievably wrong with it. It is always drawing attention to itself - it does so every single day. It is always making us think about how we look and how we are treated. People sometimes say their feelings are hurt. But our feelings can't be hurt! It is the ego that hurts - my sense of self, my identity. Our feelings are fine! It is my ego that hurts.

Walking around does not hurt my toes unless there is already something wrong with them. My ego would not hurt unless there was something wrong with it. Think about it. It is very hard to get through a whole day without feeling snubbed or ignored or feeling stupid or getting down on ourselves. That is because there is something wrong with my ego. There is something wrong with my sense of self. It is never happy. It is always drawing attention to itself.

"The gospel is powerful in spite of us, not because of us"

How often we overestimate our importance! It's not that the way we live does not matter immensely, for it does. It's not that our living does not impact our effectiveness to advance the gospel, for it does. But let us not forget that the power of the gospel does not come from us. The gospel has always been and always will be advanced by a deeply flawed church made up of saved sinners.

Really good stuff from Duane Lifton explaining why our deeds will never preach the gospel:
Some today will claim that there is no true evangelism without “embodied action.” In fact, according to one critic, “Unless [Christ's] disciples are following the Great Commandment, it is fruitless to engage in the Great Commission.” According to this view, the gospel is without its own potency. Its “fruitfulness” depends upon us. But this is not the testimony of the New Testament.
According to Paul—whose itinerant ministry met few of the “embodied action” criteria—the power of the gospel does not reside in us; it resides in the Spirit’s application of the message itself. . . .

Few would deny that the holistic mission of the church is the best possible platform for our verbal witness, and that our jaded generation will be more inclined to give us a hearing if we are living it out. (Indeed, the longest section of my new book, Word versus Deed, is devoted to the crucial role of our deeds.)

But this does not permit us to hold the gospel hostage to our shortcomings.

When has the church been all it should be?

When, short of glory, will the church ever be all that God wills for it?

The church has been messy from the beginning, falling far short of living out the Great Commandment. Yet despite our failures, the gospel itself remains marvelously potent, the very “power of God unto salvation” to those who believe.

The gospel’s inherent power does not fluctuate with the strengths or weaknesses of its messengers.

This truth is humbling, but also immensely liberating. In the end, my inability to answer objections, my lack of training or experience, even failures in my own faithfulness in living it out do not nullify the gospel’s power. Its potency is due to the working of God’s Spirit.

Even when we are at our best, the gospel is powerful in spite of us, not because of us. Thanks be to God.
Read the whole article HERE.

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Celebrity Culture?

I just can't figure out why Carl is so convinced that evangelicals have surrendered to a celebrity culture.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 19 of our current series through Philippians. It is entitled "Follow The Right Example" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Right Way to Leave a Church

Words of wisdom from Kevin DeYoung:

  1. Try to leave graciously. When someone voluntarily leaves a church (not because of a move or a graduation or a deployment) it is usually a painful experience. You’ve probably been hurt or disappointed. Maybe you dislike the new pastor or the new direction of the church. The temptation in these situations will be toward bitterness. You may want to leave with all your guns ablazin’ but the approach that feels good isn’t always the one that is good. Better to err on the side of gentleness and let the Lord repay your enemies. This also makes it easier for you to admit wrong if you should find some down the road.
  2. Tell the pastor you are leaving. This may be the most important point. Please let someone know you are going. You may want people to notice you are gone, and a good elder board will notice, but if you’ve already decided to leave now is not the time for sour grapes. If you tell the leaders you are leaving, they can pray for you. Maybe they can clear up a misunderstanding. Or maybe they need to learn from your experience. Just don’t go silently into that good night.
  3. Leave off a ledge. I got this imagery from a dear member who recently left our church and did so with great grace and magnanimity. He told me that as he thought about leaving he decided he didn’t want to drift away, slowly pulling away and dropping his commitments. He said he’d rather take a leap off the ledge and be fully engaged until the moment when he decided it was time to go. Be in while you are in, and then when you are out, jump right out.
  4. Learn how to kindly and honestly answer the question “Why did you leave?” People will ask you, so figure out your answer. Don’t kill someone’s character or disembowel the whole church with your reply. Don’t lie either. A simple, straightforward answer will suffice. We didn’t agree with the direction of the church. We disagreed with some of the doctrines being taught. We didn’t feel like we could submit ourselves to the authority of the church any longer. Tell the truth, but speak it in the manner you would want the church to speak about you.
  5. Develop a plan right away for how you will look for a new church. It may take you some time to settle in a new place, but start working on your plan right away. Will you visit these ten churches? Or two churches? Will you visit them once or three times? What is important to you (and your family, and God!) in finding a church? Don’t allow yourself to float aimlessly for months and years. Too many church floaters just float away.
  6. Don’t burn bridges. If you were a faithful member of your previous church, you will keep running into those who are still there. You’ll see them at weddings, funerals, open houses, and school functions. Maybe even family reunions! It’s bound to be a little awkward but do what you can to keep the relationships intact. Many of them are worth saving. And you may need them later.
  7. Keep praying and ask others to pray for you. The ties that bind are not broken easily. In some ways they don’t have to. Obviously, the relationship changes when you leave a church, but you should still want what is best for all those you left behind. And hopefully they still care for you. It never hurts to have more prayer.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Book...

Congratulations to Dr. David Garner (a friend to me and of Church of the Saviour) for his good work in editing the new book by P&R Did God Really Say?

Good Apologetics Sites

Check out these sites which provide good resources and articles on Christian apologetics:

There are issues and then there are ISSUES

Great analysis by Denny Burk on the idea of "Post-Partisan" Evangelicals:
My concern with the post-partisanship of Jonathan Merritt is the message that it sends to ordinary evangelicals. When the ordinary evangelical steps into the voting booth this November, he will in fact have a choice to make. And that choice will involve prioritizing some issues over others. But I think Merritt disagrees. In his new book A Faith of Our Own, he writes:
Evangelicals…often reduce the immense witness of the Scriptures to only a few culture-war issues—namely, abortion and gay marriage. Both are important issues deserving serious thought. The Scriptures speak often about life and sexuality. But they also regularly address poverty, equality, justice, peace, and care of God’s good creation.
If Christians act as if the culture-war issues are the only issues or make them so paramount that they dwarf all others, we distill the limitless bounty of the Scriptures into a tiny cup of condensed political juice (p. 89).
How is a reader to apply this reasoning when it comes to voting? Merritt seems to be saying that evangelicals need not prioritize ending the regime of Roe v. Wade in their exercise of the franchise. If that is the message he’s trying to send, I think he is dead wrong.

When it comes to voting (which is the extent of political activism for most evangelicals), if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Merritt’s “post-partisan” approach causes the pro-life issue to get lost in the din of competing interests.

Christians should cast a wary eye toward anyone who suggests that abortion-on-demand is just one among many social ills. In America, it is the single greatest human rights crisis of our time, and to overlook the fact that it is legal in all fifty states to kill a person at any time from 0-9 months gestation is unconscionable.

Abortion definitely deserves more than “serious thought” in the voting booth. It deserves priority.
Read Denny's entire post HERE.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Necessity of Affliction

Scripture teaches us that afflictions and trials are a necessary part of the Christian Pilgrimage. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages believers to stand firm for the Lord, reminding them, 'For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake' (1:29). He connects belief in Christ with suffering for Christ, seeing them both as gifts granted to the church. In the epistle to the Romans, Paul says we are adopted as children of God, making us coheirs with Christ, but our inheritance in glory is conditional on our suffering with Christ, but our inheritance in glory in conditional on our suffering with Christ in this life. He writes, 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together' (8:16-17)...

Suffering is to be expected, not only as part of our human experience, but also as part of our Christian pilgrimage heavenward. Our suffering, whether a direct result of our faith and defense of the cause of Christ, or something we bear as part of the fallen world, should not surprise us. However, because we are Christians, and therefore heirs of the promises of God, our trials and afflictions have a different purpose - they sanctify us within the grand scheme of God's redemption of our souls.

Afflictions are the instruments by which God, as Master Carpenter shapes and conforms us to Christ's image (Rom 8:28-29). They are the means by which God completes the good work He began in us (Phil 1:6-7). They are occasions for our faith to grow in steadfastness and maturity (James 1:2-4). They are the means by which God exposes our sin to lead us to repentance (Job 42:3b, 5-6) and to reveal our hearts (Gen 22:1, 12). And they are necessary goads sent to test the genuineness of our faith and prepare us for the return of Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7; Matt 10:22b).

It is thus foolish for us to think we can avoid trials, difficulties, and affliction as Christians. Why would we want to? If they serve such an important purpose within God's plan of redemption, we cannot afford to live without them. Indeed, we should prefer to live with them. That is what the apostle concluded when he realized how much his trials had benefited him. He says, 'Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor 12:9b-10).
From Living By God's Promises by Joel Beeke & James A. LaBelle

The Sufficiency of Christ

All your church attendance, all your religious activities, your Sunday school attendance medals, your journals, having a “quiet time,” reading the Scriptures—it’s all in vain if you don’t have Christ.

We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the power of his resurrection. If you add to or subtract from the cross, even if it is to factor in biblically mandated religious practices like prayer and evangelism, you rob God of his glory and Christ of his sufficiency.

Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for us, not because of all the great stuff we’ve done but because Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death.

My sin in the past: forgiven. My current struggles: covered. My future failures: paid in full all by the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace found in the atoning work of the cross of Jesus Christ.
From The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

Are Christians Too Political?

From "An Open Letter to Young, 'Post-Partisan' Evangelicals":
As we fight the culture war, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re not going to agree with each other, and sometimes I still get deeply frustrated at my own side. But I no longer believe the lie that there is a path for Christians through this culture that everyone will love — or even most people will love. I no longer believe the lie that American Christians are “too political” and if we only spoke less about abortion we’d be more respected (the mainline denominations have taken that path for two generations, and they continue to lose members and cultural influence).

So, “post-partisan” Christians, please ponder this: First, as the price for your new path, are you willing to forego any effective voice at all for unborn children? Are you willing to keep silent when the secular world demands your silence? After all, that is the true price of non-partisanship — silence. Second, if you believe that a more perfect imitation of Christ (more perfect than the elders you scorn) will lead to more love and regard for the Church, consider this: No one was more like Christ than Christ, and he wound up on a cross with only the tiniest handful of followers by his side.

Follow Jesus, yes, but don’t think for a moment that will improve your image, and don’t be surprised if He takes you down much the same path He took the generation before you.
Read the entire post HERE. It will be worth your time.

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to keep church discipline from seeming weird...

Great post from Jared Wilson:
As God has built his church, his church leaders have not always kept up with what makes a church a church. So even to mention the idea of a church disciplining its members strikes tenderhearted and undereducated Christians as weird, mean, and legalistic. How do we work at keeping church discipline from seeming weird? Here are 5 ways:

1. Make disciples.
Many local churches have simply becoming keepers of a fish tank. A surface level of fellowship is often in place, but the central mission of the church – to make disciples – has been neglected. Instead, churches are structured around providing religious goods and services, offering education or even entertainment options for their congregational consumers. People aren’t being trained in the context of ongoing disciple relationships. But this largely what “church discipline” is – training.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. Matthew 18:15
In discipling relationships, we are always disciplining one another, not chiefly or only in the fight against sin but largely in our encouragement of each other, edifying one another, teaching one another, and sharing one another’s burdens. In short, disciples know each other. And so Matthew 18:15 might be happening all the time, perhaps weekly within loving relationships where there is no imminent danger of somebody being kicked out of the church but rather a constant iron sharpening of iron.

In churches with healthy discipleship cultures, church discipline is going on all the time in helpful, informal, everyday ways. When the more formal processes of church discipline become necessary, they are much less likely to be carried out too harshly or received strangely. The church will already have a positive training context for knowing that discipleship requires obedience, correction, perseverance, and mutual submission.

2. Create clarity about church membership.
In many churches, there is no church membership structure at all. But even in churches that maintain formal church membership, the expectations and processes are unclear. Prospective church members need to provide more info than merely their profession of faith, previous church membership, and the area of service they are interested in. They need to know what the body is promising to them and what they are promising the body. If church membership is a Christ-centered covenant relationship – and it is – their needs to be a clear, mutual promise between all invested parties that their yes will be yes and their no will be no, so that there can be no surprise when someone’s yes to sin is received with a no from the church.

3. Teach the process.
I remember a church meeting once upon a time where elders were sharing the grounds for dismissal of the lead pastor. The evidence was extensive and serious, and there was plenty of testimony about the elders having for years seeking the pastor’s repentance and his getting counseling to no avail. One woman, visibly upset, shouted, “Where is the grace?!” The whole idea seemed weird and unchristian to her. She did not have the biblical framework to know that the last several years’ of seeking the pastor’s repentance was a tremendous act of grace, and that indeed, even his dismissal was a severe mercy, a last and regrettable resort in seeking to startle him into Godly sorrow over his sin. But churches aren’t accustomed to thinking of discipline that way; they think of grace as comfort and niceness. This is because we don’t teach them well.

For some, church discipline will always be objectionable because it seems outdated and unnecessary. But for many, their objection is a reflection of simply not knowing what the Bible teaches on the matter. If a church never broaches the subject until a church’s response to someone’s unrepentant sin must be made public, church discipline will always seem alien. “What are you doing bringing all this law into a place that should be filled with grace?” And the like. So we have to preach the relevant texts.

One word of caution, however: Some churches love teaching the process of church discipline out of all proportion; they love it too much. In some church environments, church discipline is mainly equated with the nuclear option of excommunication and the leadership of the church is not known for its patience but for its itchy trigger finger. Teaching the process of church discipline is not about filling the church with a sense of dread and covering the floor with eggshells. It’s about providing enough visibility about the guardrails and expectations that people can actually breathe more freely, not less. Church discipline – rightly exercised – is motivated by real, sorrowful love and concern.
4. Follow the process.
Once again, we fail our congregations when we don’t begin church discipline until we feel pressed to remove someone from membership and refuse them the Lord’s Supper. It’s as if there aren’t previous, patient, hopeful steps in Matthew 18. Even the context of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 5:13 appears to demonstrate excommunication is the final straw, not the only one. If we will follow the biblical process of church discipline, beginning with confidential and humble rebuke of a brother’s or sister’s sin, if unrepentance persists and the circle of visibility widens, expulsion will be seen as a regrettable and sorrowful necessity, and as something intended for a person’s repentance and restoration, not for their punishment.

5. Practice gospel-centeredness.
God will get the glory and our churches will give him glory when church discipline is practiced in the context of a grace-driven culture. You can expect church discipline to seem unnecessary and legalistic in churches where the gospel has not had any noticeable effect on the spirit of the people. But in churches where God’s free grace in Christ is regularly preached and believed, church leaders will be regularly setting aside their egos and narcissistic needs and the laity will be bearing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, and believing all things (1 Corinthians 13:7), including that while no discipline feels pleasant at the time, in the end it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).

"When Satan Comes to Church"

Good and sobering words HERE.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 18 in our current series in Philippians. It is entitled "Restful Striving" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Monday, May 21, 2012

New Credo...

Check out the new edition of Credo Magazine HERE.

5 Resolutions Worth Following...

Great wisdom from the Memoirs of Charles Simeon:
The longer I live, the more I feel the importance of adhering to the rules which I have laid down for myself in relation to such matters.
1st. To hear as little as possible what is to the prejudice of others.

2nd. To believe nothing of the kind till I am absolutely forced to it.

3rd. Never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report.

4th. Always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed towards others.

5th. Always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.
I wonder how much greater would be our joy and our fellowship if we were to commit ourselves to such simple rules.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Should we use "Son of God" in Muslim Contexts?

There has been much debate concerning the so-called insider movement which advocates removing references in the Bible to Jesus as the Son of God. The debate is important. Obviously, Muslims are offended by any language that would refer to Jesus as anything other than a great prophet. And, since Muslims are anti-Trinitarian, references to God's Son would be, to them, blasphemous. What motivates the Insider Movement is, of course, noble. But how far should we go when seeking to reach out?

The PCA has released a report from a study committee charged to consider the validity of removing Son of God references as a strategy for reaching Muslims. The report will be released in a series of installments. This first installment is entitled “Like Father, Like Son: Divine Familial Language in Bible Translation.”

The report concludes:
Bible translations geared for Islamic contexts should not be driven by concerns that Muslims may recoil from biological terms applied to God or Jesus. That revulsion originates primarily out of religious conviction, not any communicative limitation of the terms themselves. The essentially biological terms (Hebrew, ben and ab; Greek, huios and pater) are divinely given and therefore should be translated into comparable biological terms. Footnotes, parentheticals and other paratextual comments may be used to explain the biblical and theological riches of Scripture, while never subverting the important truths embedded in the biological contours of Scripture’s words.

Not all translation workers share these methodological commitments. Therefore, churches should carefully assess the philosophies and practices of translation workers whom they support. Churches should direct resources toward faithful translation and, if loving attempts at correction fail, away from projects and persons advocating problematic approaches to translation. For the honor of the God who has revealed himself in his Word, churches and agencies involved in translation should collaborate to improve the spread of the Christian message worldwide, ensuring that Bibles oriented towards those in Muslim contexts retain the fullest range of theological meanings resident in the original languages.

The responsibility for faithful translation and worldwide gospel proclamation rests finally in the church of Jesus Christ.
Sacrificing the clearly inspired Son of God references to Jesus is giving up far too much. It begs the question, how do we win someone to Jesus, if the Jesus we win them too is not the Jesus revealed in God's Word? Further, if the idea that Jesus is God's Son offends Muslims (and it surely will) just wait until you tell them about the cross and Jesus' substitutionary death.

When you get a chance, check out Colin Hansen's interview with John Piper on the insider movement.

HT: Justin Taylor

Why Church Membership Matters

From Jonathan Leeman:
In the last post, I answered the question, What Is the Local Church? That brings us to the next question: what is church membership?
Answer: It’s a declaration of citizenship in Christ’s kingdom. It’s a passport. It’s an announcement made in the pressroom of Christ’s kingdom. It’s the declaration that a professing individual is an official, licensed, card-carrying, bona fide Jesus representative.
More concretely, church membership is a formal relationship between a local church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.
Notice that several elements are present:
  • a church body formally affirms an individual’s profession of faith and baptism as credible;
  • it promises to give oversight to that individual’s discipleship;
  • the individual formally submits his or her discipleship to the service and authority of this body and its leaders.
The church body says to the individual, “We recognize your profession of faith, baptism, and discipleship to Christ as valid. Therefore, we publicly affirm and acknowledge you before the nations as belonging to Christ, and we extend the oversight of our fellowship.” Principally, the individual says to the church body, “Insofar as I recognize you as a faithful, gospel-declaring church, I submit my presence and my discipleship to your love and oversight.”
The standards for church membership should be no higher or lower than the standards for being a Christian, with one exception. A Christian is someone who has repented and believed, and that’s who churches should affirm as members. The only additional requirement is baptism. Church members must be baptized, a pattern that is uniform in the New Testament. Peter said to the crowds in Jerusalem, “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). And Paul, writing the church in Rome, simply assumes that everyone who belongs to the Roman church has been baptized (Rom. 6:1–3). (I'll consider this requirement of baptism further in the next post.)
Church membership, in other words, is not about “additional requirements.” It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church. It’s about “putting on,” “embodying,” “living out,” and “making concrete” our membership in Christ’s universal body. In some ways, the union which constitutes a local church and its members is like the “I do” of a marriage ceremony, which is why some refer to church membership as a “covenant.”
It’s true that a Christian must choose to join a church, but that does not make it a voluntary organization. Having chosen Christ, a Christian has no choice but to choose to join a church.

J.I. Packer

HT: Carl Trueman

The Blind Eye and The Deaf Ear

From an address by John Piper on the life and ministry of Charles Simeon:
He was like Charles Spurgeon who gave a lecture to his students entitles "The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear." The pastor must have one blind eye and one deaf ear, and turn that eye and that ear to the rumors that would incense him.

Simeon was deeply wronged in 1821. We are not given the details. But when he was asked about his response (which had, evidently been non-retaliatory) he said, "My rule is – never to hear, or see, or know, what if heard, or seen, or known, would call for animadversion from me. Hence it is that I dwell in peace in the midst of lions" (Moule, 191).

We would do well not to be curious about what others are saying. Nothing makes me want to tune someone out more quickly than when they begin a sentence, "A lot of people are saying . . ."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"The best book in a minister's library"

"I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable ... Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister's library."

- Charles Spurgeon

Church Discipline And The Means of Grace

From Carl Trueman:
 Apparently, a church in Oregon is suing a former member and her daughter for defamation on a blog. Apart from the difficulty of mounting a successful suit for defamation under the US's admirably lax defamation laws (where not only factual error but deliberate malice must be proved), the whole idea of suing a former member on this kind of thing is most unbiblical and arguably strengthens the woman's case that this is not a church which behaves like a church should.

Going to law is a tricky issue for the church. It is quite possible that a church might need to serve a restraining order on someone who posed a serious physical threat to a congregation, but suing for defamation seems to collide with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 and, indeed, with the entire thrust of a significant strand of New Testament teaching -- that the church should expect to be slandered, libeled and generally trashed in this world and to accept the same in a spirit of humility and joy. The only real response to such slander should be 'Did they spell my name correctly?'

It also speaks eloquently of a failure to understand the nature of biblical discipline, presumably as a result of failing to understand the biblical nature of the church and the means of grace. The church is marked by two things: the word and the sacraments. These are the means of grace. When someone is unrepentantly committed to a pathway of extreme sin, the church's weapons are those whereby that person is excluded from the means of grace. That is all the church can do. By refusing this woman the word and the Lord's Supper, the church has done all she can.

While we are on the subject of church discipline, it seems that this is, as noted above, historically connected to the means of grace. So what happens to church discipline when the means of grace start to be expanded beyond word and sacrament? When we include art, or music or even sports? I have no sympathy whatsoever with such an expansion; but, given the emphasis on these emerging in certain quarters and, indeed, the arrival of arts and sports pastors on the scene, I wonder if those who do in practice seem to see these things as means of grace have really thought through the practical consequences for church discipline. Perhaps we have to stop people looking at pictures (unless it is something by Thomas Kinkade?), listening to anything but 70s disco music, and playing anything but American football? Answers on a postcard.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"What is that difference?"

Kevin DeYoung has written one of the most insightful posts I have read in a while concerning the problem of what he calls "squishy evangelicalism." And it describes far too many churches accurately.
The audience I have in mind are those Christians, pastors, and churches that continue to affirm the basic contours of evangelical faith. They’ve never read Fosdick or Tillich or Schleiermacher. They don’t read the Christian Century. They don’t know much about Deutero- or Trito-Isaiah and don’t really care to waste any more time with documentary hypotheses. They think Paul wrote Ephesians and John wrote John. They love Jesus and want other people to love Jesus. If you ask these Christians, pastors, or churches if hell is forever and people must be born again, they’ll say yes. If you ask them whether you can trust everything in the Bible, they wouldn’t dare say no. They have no problem with any of the historic creeds and confessions. The people and institutions I have in mind gladly affirm penal substitution, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and a real historical Fall. The folks I want to address are energetic about evangelism. They want to see churches planted and people come to Christ. They think small groups, accountability partners, and mission trips are excellent. And at least in private conversation they’ll tell you that homosexuality is not. These Christians, pastors, and churches are not liberal...

Have you ever been talking to a pastor or someone from another church and it seems like you should be kindred spirits. The person you meet is obviously a warm-hearted, sincere Christian. They don’t have a problem with any of the doctrines you mention as precious to you and your church. They don’t affirm liberal positions on major theological questions. They nod vigorously when you talk about the Bible and prayer and church planting and the gospel. And yet, you can’t help but wonder if you are really on the same page. You try to check your heart and make sure it’s not pride or judgmentalism getting the best of you. That’s always possible. But no, the more you reflect on the conversation and think about your two churches (or two pastors or two ministries) you conclude there really is a difference.

And what is that difference?

That’s something I’ve thought a lot about over the past few months. I’m sure I don’t have all the answers, but here are ten things that distinguish between what I would call a vibrant, robust Bible-believing church and one that gets the statement of faith right but feels totally different.

1. The mission of the church has gotten sidetracked. Recently I stumbled upon the website for a church in my denomination. Judging from the information on the site I would say this church thinks of itself as evangelical, in the loose sense of the word. Their theology seems to be of the “mere Christianity” variety. But this is their stated missional aim: “[Our] Missions are designed to connect people and their resources with opportunities to respond to human need in the name of Jesus.” A church with this mission will be very different from one that aims to make disciples of all nations or exists to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.

2. The church has become over-accommodating. I’m not thinking of all contextualization (of which there are some good kinds and some bad). I’m thinking of churches whose first instinct is to shape their methods (if not their message) to connect with a contemporary audience. And because of this dominant instinct, they avoid hard doctrines, cut themselves off from history and tradition, and lean toward pragmatism.

3. The gospel is assumed. While the right theology may be affirmed in theory, it rarely gets articulated. No one believes the wrong things, but they don’t believe much of anything. When pressed, they will quickly affirm the importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, of penal substitution, of justification by faith alone, but their real passions are elsewhere. What really holds the church together is a shared conviction about creation care or homeschooling or soup kitchens or the local fire station.

4. There is no careful doctrinal delineation. Theology is not seen as the church’s outboard motor. It’s a nasty barnacle on the hull. You will quickly notice a difference in message and methods between the church whose operating principle is “doctrine divides” and the one that believes that doctrine leads to doxology.

5. The ministry of the word is diminished. While preaching may still be honored in theory, in many churches there is little confidence that paltry preaching is what ails the church and even less confidence that dynamic preaching is the proper prescription. No one wants to explicitly pooh-pooh preaching, teaching, or the ministry of the word, but when push comes to shove the real solutions are structural or stylistic. How often do those engaged in church revitalization begin by looking at the preaching of the word and the role the Bible plays in the practical outworking of the congregation’s ministry?

6. People are not called to repentance. It sounds so simple, and yet it is so easily forgotten. Pastors may call people to believe in Jesus or call people to serve the community, but unless they also call them repent of their sins the church’s ministry will lack real spiritual power. And this should not be done by merely encouraging people to be authentic about their brokenness. We must use strong biblical language in calling people to repent and calling them to Christ.

7. There is no example of carefully handling specific texts of Scripture. People will not trust the Bible as they should unless they see it regularly taught with detail and clarity. Churches may still espouse a high view of Scripture but without a diet of careful exposition they will not know how to study the Bible for themselves and will not be discerning when poor theology comes along.

8. There is no functioning ecclesiology. If you put two churches side by side with the same theology on paper, but one has a working ecclesiology and the other has a grab-bag of eclectic practices, you will see a startling difference. Careful shepherding, elder training, regenerate church membership, a functioning diaconate, purposeful congregational meetings–these are the things you may not know you’ve never had. But when you do, it’s a different kind of church.

9. There is an almost complete disregard for church discipline. If discipline is truly one of the three marks of the church, then many evangelical congregations are not true churches. All the best theology in the world won’t help your church or your denomination if you don’t guard against those who deny it. If we are to be faithful and eternally fruitful, we must warn against error, confront the spirit of the age, and discipline the impenitent.

10. The real problem is something other than sin and the real remedy is something other than a Savior. The best churches stay focused on the basics. And that means sin and salvation. Sadly, many churches–even if they affirm the right doctrine on paper–act and preach as if the biggest problem in the world is lack of education, or material poverty, or the declining morals in our country, or the threat of global warming. As a result we preach cultural improvement instead of Christ. We preach justice without Jesus. We lose sight that the biggest problem (though not the only problem) confronting the churchgoer every Sunday is that he is a sinner in need of a Savior.

If you read through this list and think you have everything down already, don’t be haughty. If we get all these right and are proud about it, we’ll rob ourselves and our churches of God’s blessing. But my prayer is that somewhere out there in the frozen tundra of the internet a pastor or a congregation or a church leader will read through these ten items and think, “You know, this may be what we’re missing.” The evangelical church needs depth where it is shallow, thoughtfulness where it is pragmatic, and conviction where it has become compromised. A casual adherence to a formal set of basic doctrines does not guarantee real unity and does not ensure genuine spiritual strength.

Al Mohler discusses gay marriage

Taking God into the pulpit...

From Carl Trueman:
This last Friday, I had the privilege of being in Vancouver to give Dr. James I. Packer an honorary doctorate and to interview him for the Westminster website. The interview will be posted on the Westminster site in the next week or two. Suffice it to say that, if I had known what answer he was to give on my question about the damaging effect of upper class English public (for US, read private) schoolboys on Anglican theology, I would have walked from Philadelphia to Vancouver in my bare feet. Nay, on my knees in the rain. I love talking to someone who shares the same basic prejudices that I do.

One other question I did ask was about Dr Lloyd-Jones. 'He took more of God into the pulpit with him than any other preacher I have ever known,' was Dr Packer's reply. One can be nostalgic about the past, but I wonder how many of this generation's archetypal, aspirational model preachers will have that said about them thirty years after their death? They were funny; they had huge churches; they took more stand up comedy into the pulpit -- or onto the stage -- than anybody else; they looked cool; they were branded and puffed by the powerful evangelical patrons as role models for the rest of us; they had great hair-does; they were so hip and young, at least until it became painfully obvious that they had passed forty many years before. I can imagine all these things being said. But that they took so much of God into the pulpit? That seems somehow less likely.

Those of us who preach need to reflect on Dr Packer's comment, repent daily of our pride and pray without ceasing that we take God, not ourselves, or Chris Rock, or our mastery of street talk or postmodernism, into the pulpit with us. A preacher should be remembered not for the numbers he once attracted or for his slick engagement with the wider culture but for whether he spoke the words of God as a man of God.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stick With Your Work

Great words for pastors.

Sidelined by distraction...

One of the things I love about the Basics Conference at Parkside Church is that the theme never really changes. Each year the focus is on some aspect of the pastor's role as preacher. It is refreshingly non-innovative.

Alistair Begg preached the first message this year. His text was Acts 6:1-7:
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
The primary pastoral duty is the prayerful preaching of God's Word. John Owen wrote, "The first and principle duty of the pastor is the feeding of the flock of God by the preaching of the Word."

There is a direct correlation between the ministry of preaching and the growth of disciples.
"And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus." (Acts 5:42)

"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4)

"And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)
Chapters four and five of Acts recount some of the opposition faced by the apostles as they faithfully preached the Word of God. The enemy used various tactics to sideline them. They were mocked, threatened, and arrested. They also had to deal with the deception of Annanias and Sapphira. But what seems to have truly threatened the ministry of the Word were increasing needs within the church and the subsequent grumbling that followed.

Alistair made the point that the enemy, having failed to stop the apostles from preaching by persecution, now seeks to stop them by distraction. History seems to confirm that distraction is a far more effective tool to sideline the preaching the Word than is persecution.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

He's Always Been Faithful To Me

So, the video is only a single picture. The song, however, is amazing.

Paul was a meanie

I have the privilege once again to attend the Basics Conference. Basics is the annual pastor's conference at Parkside Church outside Cleveland. I have been attending this conference for nine years and it is always a restful and challenging time. One of the helpful elements of the week is that I come early enough to attend worship at Parkside under the preaching of Alistair Begg.

This morning Alistair continued his series through Titus. His text was Titus 1:10-16:
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
This text falls between two calls for elders to be able to teach sound doctrine and be willing to rebuke those who who contradict it.

What an odd set of priorities this seems to many contemporary evangelicals who seem willing to jettison doctrinal boundaries for a veneer of peace. Alistair pointed out the harshness of Paul's tone and how offensive it seems to many today. "They must be silenced." Those who are diluting the church with errant doctrine are "liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." We are to "rebuke them sharply." Notice that Paul will not allow the word "rebuke" to be dumbed down. There is a sharpness which is to accompany a rebuke given to those who teach or embrace errant doctrine within the church.

Bottom line? Paul was a meanie. He was a narrow-minded bully. He believed in the necessity of sharply rebuking error and those who teach it. He simply did not allow for peaceful coexistence (within the church) with errant doctrine or those who teach it. I shudder to think of Paul's long-term prospects in any church today. His intolerance for what is false would simply not be tolerated in a church milieu where the only heresy is believing that there is heresy.

Recommended Reading:
The Real Scandal Of The Evangelical Mind by Carl Trueman
The Courage To Be Protestant by David Wells
The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Preaching Through Adversity...

I do not know where I would be were it not for the clear evidence of God's grace in the lives of so many preachers before me. Charles Spurgeon is one of those men who have most captivated my attention because of the volume of his work and the honesty with which he wrote about his heart-breaks.

I have, in the past, posted a link to John Piper's profoundly comforting address on Charles Spurgeon which he presented at the 1995 Bethlehem Pastor's Conference. The following is just a bit about the man who knew what it was to preach through adversity:
Preaching is heart work, not just mental work. So the question for us is not just How you keep on living when the marriage is blank, and a child has run away, and the finances don't reach, and pews are bare and friends have forsaken you; the question for us is more than, How do you keep on living? It's, How do you keep on preaching. It's one thing to survive adversity; it is something very different to keep on preaching, Sunday after Sunday, month after month when the heart is overwhelmed...

For just over a year now that has been perhaps the uppermost question of my life. And, if I am not mistaken, I believe it is now, or will be, uppermost for many of you as well. Just last Sunday night I spent a half-hour on the phone with the wife of a pastor who would love to be here. He is under so much criticism and accusation that she found it hard to go to church and marveled that he could preach last Sunday morning—and I know this is a pure and faithful servant whose church I would gladly attend for the sake of my soul.

Preaching great and glorious truth in an atmosphere that is not great and glorious is an immense difficulty. To be reminded week in and week out that many people regard your preaching of the glory of the grace of God as hypocrisy pushes a preacher not just into the hills of introspection, but sometimes to the precipice of self-extinction.
I don't mean suicide. I mean something more complex. I mean the deranging inability to know any longer who you are. What begins as a searching introspection for the sake of holiness, and humility gradually becomes, for various reasons, a carnival of mirrors in your soul: you look in one and you're short and fat; you look in another and you're tall and skinny; you look in another and you're upside down. And the horrible feeling begins to break over you that you don't know who you are any more. The center is not holding. And if the center doesn't hold—if there is no fixed and solid "I" able to relate to the fixed and solid "Thou," namely, God, then who will preach next Sunday?

When the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God, I am what I am," he was saying something utterly essential for the survival of preachers in adversity. If, by grace, the identity of the "I"—the "I" created by Christ and united to Christ, but still a human "I"—if that center doesn't hold, there will be no more authentic preaching, for there will be no more authentic preacher, but a collection of echoes.

O how fortunate we are, brothers of the pulpit, that we are not the first to face these things! I thank God for the healing history of the power of God in the lives of saints. I urge you for the sake of your own survival: live in other centuries and other saints.

I have turned to Charles Spurgeon in these days, and I have been helped...

What comes through again and again is Spurgeon's unwavering belief in the sovereignty of God in all his afflictions. More than anything else it seems, this kept him from caving in to the adversities of his life. He said,
"It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity" (see note 51).
This is exactly the opposite strategy of modern thought, even much evangelical thought, that recoils from the implications of infinity. If God is God he not only knows what is coming, but he knows it because he designs it. For Spurgeon this view of God was not first argument for debate, it was a means of survival.
Our afflictions are the health regimen of an infinitely wise Physician. He told his students,
"I dare say the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness ... If some men, that I know of could only be favoured with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God's grace mellow them marvelously" (see note 52).
He meant this mainly for himself. Though he dreaded suffering and would willingly avoid it, he said,
I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable ... Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister's library (see note 53).
He saw three specific purposes of God in his struggle with depression. The first is that it functioned like the apostle Paul's thorn to keep him humble lest he be lifted up in himself. He said the Lord's work is summed up in these words:
"'Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.' Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker ... Those who are honoured of their Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil" (see note 54).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bearing False Witness Against Christ...

From Joe Carter:
The Blasphemy of Barak Obama

Mr. President,
Earlier today you made a statement that will go down in history as one of the most audacious ever made by a sitting President.

And no, I’m not talking about your admission that you supports gay marriage. The only thing surprising about that revelation is that you decided to stop lying about your position before the election.

No, I’m referring to the fact that you’ve made one of the most theologically ignorant claims in modern history:
This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.”
Considering that you once defined sin as “being out of alignment with my values,” it’s not surprising that you quickly gloss over all that “Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf” stuff (presumably Jesus died on the cross to save us from our misaligned personal values, right?). But your implying that Jesus supports same-sex marriage—and there really is no other way to interpret your statement—is nothing short of blasphemous.
No, Mr. President, Jesus does not support same-sex marriage. Even a liberal Christian like you should not be able to make such an historically and theologically absurd claim with a straight face. The history of Christian thought on sexual ethics from the time of the stoning of Stephen to the Stonewall riots has been consistent that engaging in homosexual behavior is strictly and clearly prohibited by God’s Word.

Indeed, Mr. President, you’ve embraced a position that even the godless pagans of antiquity would have considered too radical to for decent people to champion. Admittedly, we now live in a culture so morally obtuse that we can look to barbarians and heathens as moral exemplars on the issue of marriage, so maybe we shouldn’t blame you for not tacking with the political winds. Also, you’ve never been one to exhibit moral courage, and it would have required more than you could muster to stand against your party’s big-money immoralists in an election year.

Nevertheless, to imply that Jesus would support same-sex marriage is contemptible. I realize it probably won’t hurt you come election time—too many Christians are more concerned about saving your seat in the Oval Office than they are with slander against our Savior—but I encourage you to repent of your blasphemy.

Please, Mr. President, for once in your career set aside your magnificent ego and humbly admit that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m praying that you’ll do the right thing and admit you were wrong. If not, you’ll discover that God and history are harsh judges with long memories.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Place To Stand

Today, President Obama, looking strangely uncomfortable, announced his support for homosexuals to marry.

Given the deadly combination of pragmatism and biblical illiteracy so common within evangelicalism, confusion on moral issues is sure to abound.

Michael Yussef has written a timely call for Christians to stand upon God's Word in the face of cultural trends:
Recently I read a masterful article in The Christian Post by Dr. Albert Mohler, who is nothing short of a modern-day prophet. In the article, Dr. Mohler warns, “The urgency to reach people with the Gospel can, if the church is not faithful and watchful, tempt us to subvert the Gospel by redefining its terms.”

Specifically, Dr. Mohler drew attention to how some evangelical megachurches appear to be softening their positions on homosexuality. He calls on evangelical leaders to steer clear of the sinking sand of celebrating homosexuality—a quicksand that the mainline churches, I believe, have fallen into. Many evangelicals today need to take a hard look at what happened to their mainline forebears.

Having once served as a priest in the Episcopal Church, having warned my denomination’s leadership against sinking sand, having walked out before the denomination enveloped me, I offer my plea to my friends in some of these churches.

I am hearing the same language I heard 25 years ago: “We must love without passing judgment,” they say. “We need to accept people regardless of their moral practices.”
But my concern goes far beyond those misleading statements. The questions that no one seems to ask in the midst of this muddled thinking are: Why is the homosexual lobby adamant that their practice should not only be accepted, but celebrated, especially by Christian leaders? When they know full well what scripture says? Why does the homosexual lobby feel that it’s not enough for the church to love and care for them as individuals?

Recently, I was discussing that with a man who is gay, a man whom I care deeply about. His argument was, “If you truly love me, you must accept me into membership.”

He agreed that his lifestyle was against the clear Word of God; he even agreed that it was against God’s created order. Nonetheless, he wanted me to “get on” with accepting that this is a new day and that a new model is needed. Never mind that I would have to compromise the Word of God. Sadly, many believers today are thoroughly confused. With respected church leaders sending them mixed signals, no wonder they don’t know what to believe anymore. 
Read the entire article HERE.

"The Word did it all"

"Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble.... I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn't have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug's game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word."
- Martin Luther

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Honor such men"

From Carl Trueman:
It makes sense that, if the enemies of the church, human and spiritual, wish to destroy her, they will subvert her from the inside. Persecution from outside usually has the opposite effect, strengthening the church and fostering growth. Modern China is the great example of this. Attack from the inside is far more deadly. For this reason, the elders are in the front line.

As the public face of the church, both externally and internally, the fall of an elder is always more devastating in terms of its impact than a church member. In addition, the false teaching of an elder will foster false professions of faith among those who hear; and false converts will encourage the appointment of more false teachers and the propagation of more error. The elder, then is going to be the primary target in the church of evil. The church, humanly speaking, needs vanilla men who will stand firm, morally and theologically.

Further, the teacher is the herald of good news. Like a messenger from a battlefield, he brings the goods news of the triumph of the king against the armies that seek to destroy the church. That makes him a target for those who would wish that such news never be proclaimed.

It should also make him an object of honour for those who hear and rejoice. It is hard to imagine that the villagers would not honour that man who brings word to them that the army which threatened their destruction has been destroyed. The herald did not win the victory but he would no doubt be carried shoulder high through the village that night.

So it should be for the one who proclaims God's word each week. He should be honoured not for who he is or what he has done but for the glorious good news which he brings.

This brings me finally to the way in which such vanilla men should be honoured. It seems probable that Paul had finances in mind in 1 Timothy, presumably because he was aware of some particular local conditions. But honour should not be restricted in that way. For me, the best way I can be honoured is that people pray that I fall not into sin and bring disgrace upon the church but finish well. And then they can honour me when I preach by listening to what I have to say. Not that they should believe it because I say it; they should always search the scriptures to see that these things are so. But when a man stands up to tell you about the victory of the great king, that is vitally important news; and the ones who do not hang on his every word are presumably the ones who are really clueless - or really careless - about what is happening.

Lloyd-Jones put it pungently in Preaching and Preachers (page 172): '[I]f a Christian man, however able and learned and knowledgeable he may be, is not ready to sit down and listen to the man whom God has called, and appointed, and sent to perform this task, with joy and with keen anticipation, I take leave to query whether that man is a Christian at all.'
Read the entire post HERE.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 16 of our current series through Philippians. It is entitled "Rejoice In The Lord" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Heavy Ballast of Humiliation

From an excellent message by John Piper on the life, afflictions, and legacy of Charles Simeon:
Simeon was utterly unlike most of us today who think that we should get rid once and for all of feelings of vileness and unworthiness as soon as we can. For him, adoration only grew in the freshly plowed soil of humiliation for sin. So he actually labored to know his true sinfulness and his remaining corruption as a Christian.

I have continually had such a sense of my sinfulness as would sink me into utter despair, if I had not an assured view of the sufficiency and willingness of Christ to save me to the uttermost. And at the same time I had such a sense of my acceptance through Christ as would overset my little bark, if I had not ballast at the bottom sufficient to sink a vessel of no ordinary size. (Moule 134f.)

He never lost sight of the need for the heavy ballast of his own humiliation. After he had been a Christian forty years he wrote,

With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time laboured incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I have never thought that the circumstance of God's having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63). . . . There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and I have always thought that they should be viewed together; just as Aaron confessed all the sins of all Israel whilst he put them on the head of the scapegoat. The disease did not keep him from applying to the remedy, nor did the remedy keep him from feeling the disease. By this I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful, but humbled in thankfulness, before my God and Saviour continually. (Carus, 518f.)

If Simeon is right, vast portions of contemporary Christianity are wrong. And I can't help wondering whether one of the reasons we are emotionally capsized so easily today – so vulnerable to winds of criticism or opposition – is that in the name of forgiveness and grace, we have thrown the ballast overboard.

Simeon's boat drew a lot of water. But it was steady and on course and the mastheads were higher and the sails bigger and more full of the Spirit than most people's today who talk continuously about self-esteem.
Listen to the audio or read the transcript of this entire message HERE.