Posted on May 29th, 2015 by Jonathan
As It Gets Worse, It Cannot Get Desperate: “To take up one’s cross meant one thing in Jesus’ day. They did not have the luxury of metaphorizing it as we have for so long. But cheer up. The worst thing they can do is kill us (Matthew 10:28). And we all know what Jesus does with dead stuff.” Jared Wilson
Christian Ethics, Evangelicals, and Functional Marcionism: “Any time someone uses an Old Testament passage to argue for a specific idea about morality, you should start talking about shellfish and mixed fabrics.” Jake Meador
Is America Post-Christian?: “The language of a post-Christian America is used in two divergent circles, both of which are built on faulty assumptions.” Russell Moore
How I Escaped from North Korea: “At age 15, I faced a choice: I could either starve like my father, or flee the country and hope to secure a better life outside its fortified borders. Between the certainty of death and the chance of survival, I chose survival.” Joseph Kim
As a gay atheist, I want to see the church oppose same-sex marriage: “Even as a (gay) atheist, I wince to see the philosophical mess that religious conservatives are making of their case.” Matthew Parris
Where You Live Changes What You See When You Read the Bible: “Better Bible interpretation and better preaching happens when we keep social location and cultural background in mind: the social location of the Scriptures, of ourselves as interpreters, and of those who hear us preach.” Trevin Wax
Muslim Evangelism: 7 Ways to Share Your Faith: “He was afraid to talk to Muslims about his faith because he didn’t want to say the wrong thing.” Trevor Castor
In Search of an Honest Atheist: “In the Barna Group’s 2015 study on the state of atheism in America, one in four unchurched adults in the country now identifies as atheist or agnostic. But do honest atheists actually exist?” Sam Storms
Posted on May 28th, 2015 by Radical
Our goal is to publish blog posts that help you in your walk with Christ. Your feedback will help us know how we can better serve you in this way. So if you can, we’d love for you to answer the ten brief questions below . . . it should only take a few minutes of your time. Thanks!
Posted on May 27th, 2015 by Jonathan
In Secret Church 7: Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare, David Platt addresses the issue of demon possession and how we should biblically think about it. To view the teaching in its entirety, go here.
Posted on May 26th, 2015 by David Burnette
Without realizing it, certain areas of our lives can get disconnected from Christ’s lordship. We don’t consciously rebel, but we fail to consider our actions and habits in the light of God’s Word. Social media and entertainment often fall into this category. We don’t mean to look like the world in the things we post on Facebook, nor do we intentionally choose to celebrate sin as we enjoy a movie, but it happens.
One of the ways to address these blind spots, as we might call them, is to bring them out into the light. This involves applying Scripture to our use of social media and our entertainment choices–along with everything else in our lives. The following list of ten commandments for social media and entertainment is one way to do this. These commandments and the accompanying verses are taken from Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life”:
1. Fear God
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)
2. Flee sexual immorality
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
3. Speak wisely
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34)
4. Communicate honestly
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. (Proverbs 19:9)
5. Cultivate humility
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)
6. Have accountability
Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:27)
7. Maintain mastery
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
8. Guard your heart
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
9. Renew your mind
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
10. Redeem your time
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
— To access Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” in its entirety (for free), go here.
Posted on May 25th, 2015 by David Burnette
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, it’s almost a guarantee that you can make a list of friends or acquaintances who once professed Christ, and maybe even loudly, but who now, tragically, no longer participate in the life of the church. They may be open about the fact that they have left behind their Christian upbringing. Or maybe a tragic event shook them and they never recovered. Many just seem to drift, moving slowly yet surely away from the Savior they once joyfully embraced. The situation is not only sad, but it’s also confusing.
What are we to make of these “believers” who seem to have fallen away?
Before answering that question directly, we need to consider some biblical principles to help us think through our response. And just to be clear, we’re not talking about someone who misses a couple of Sundays or that guy who makes an inappropriate comment here or there. We’re talking about people who used to identify as followers of Christ, but who no longer seem to care about Christ or the church, at least not as far as we can tell. They seem altogether indifferent to the things of the Lord.
What We Don’t Know
First, we need to recognize what we don’t know. Unlike God, we cannot look on the intents and motives of the heart, which means that we cannot be one-hundred-percent certain about someone’s spiritual condition. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The complexity of the human heart, combined with the unknowns in certain situations, means that our spiritual assessment of such people should always be expressed with humility and with a sense of our own limited knowledge.
What We Do Know
Second, we need to recall what we do know. We know from a number of passages that those who belong to Christ cannot lose their salvation. For instance, Jesus says that his sheep will “never perish” because no one is strong enough to snatch them from his hands or the hands of his Father (John 10:28-30). Paul also speaks of the certainty of the believer’s salvation, claiming that everyone whom God foreknows, predestines, and justifies will also be glorified on the last day (Romans 8:29-30). These and many other passages assure us that God’s children do not get kicked out of the family. Eternal life cannot be lost.
While true followers of Christ do not lose their salvation, Scripture is also clear about the fact that those who belong to Christ persevere to the end. That is, true believers always continue trusting in and obeying Jesus until God calls them home. Sure, they continue to battle sin, and they may wander for a time, but they do not ultimately fall away. And, of course, this is God’s work in them, for they can only persevere in the power of the Spirit. A number of passages teach what has historically been referred to as the perseverance of the saints. For instance, Jesus says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13). Other passages could be cited to make the same point: true Christians do not depart from the faith (see 1 John 2:19; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).
What’s at Stake
If one of the characteristics of true believers is that they always continue in the faith, then it follows that walking away from Christ and his people is serious, as in eternally serious. Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Jesus also spoke of branches that would be “thrown into the fire” because they did not abide in him (John 15:6). The stakes could not be higher for those who walk away from the faith; judgment and eternity hang in the balance.
What Love Requires
To return to our original question, what are we to make of “believers” who seem to have fallen away? We know they haven’t lost their salvation, but because true believers always persevere in the faith, we also can’t be sure that they ever had it in the first place. It’s entirely possible for people to claim to be followers of Christ and then later prove to be unbelievers. Jesus talks about such people in the parable of the soils: they initially receive the word, but because they have no life-giving root to their faith, or because their love for the things of the world is stronger than their love for Christ, they ultimately prove that they don’t belong to God (Mark 4:1-20). Profession doesn’t always mean possession.
We might say, with all humility, that there is evidence that such people do not belong to Christ. Hopefully their wandering is temporary, and by God’s grace they may eventually repent, but given the stakes, we should not assume anything. Either way, we must seek after such people. The concern of fellow believers is one of the means that God uses to preserve his people to the end. It’s also one of the reasons why church membership and church discipline are safeguards for those who profess Christ. For the good of our souls, we need other believers to hold us accountable. With compassion, urgency, and with much prayer, we should reach out to those who seem to be wandering. Love requires nothing less.
Posted on May 22nd, 2015 by Jonathan
Freed from Self-Absorption: “[C.S. Lewis] helped me to see what is there in the world, things that, if we didn’t have them, we would pay a million dollars to get them, and having them, we ignore…” John Piper
When Hope and History Rhyme: “Christianity, paradoxically, is far more pessimistic and far more optimistic than any other worldview—simultaneously.” Tim Keller
The Weight of Two Worlds: “He lived for the moment, seeking contentment in money and sex, while displaying another life to his family and friends. For years, Shawn kept his two worlds apart.” Austin Stone Story Team
If-Only Discipleship: “I’d serve God much more effectively, if only I owned a home. Or if only I were in better health. Or if only I had fewer responsibilities with my children / parents. Or if only I were younger/older. Or if only I were in a bigger/smaller church. Or if only I were married. Or if only I were married to a believer. And so on.” Brian Rosner
When You Fear the Future: “Thankfully, God’s Word is packed with sweet promises that smash all our fearful thinking.” Trillia Newbell
Posted on May 21st, 2015 by Jonathan
Have you ever been totally overcome by an urge? Not just tempted, but literally unable to help yourself?
Say you have a weird (and totally made-up) condition in which you must always get eight full hours of sleep at night. I’m not talking about being cranky if you get less; I’m talking about not being able to wake up after being asleep for seven hours and 50 minutes because you’re ten minutes short. Like, if you went to bed at midnight and set your alarm for 7:15am, there’s no chance you wake up when it rings. If there was such a condition and you had it, would you describe yourself as free or enslaved? Obviously, you’d be a slave to your unyielding sleep requirement.
When we think about sin, we can liken it to this odd sleep condition. If we’re totally overcome by it, then we are enslaved to it. On top of that, we’re blind to it.
Second Peter 2:19 states it plainly: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
The sobering fact of the matter is that we are all naturally unable to stop sin from overcoming and enslaving us. What’s more, we dangerously deceive ourselves by explaining our sin in terms of personal autonomy. I can do whatever I want to, we think. No one’s giving me any orders. Maybe that’s not actually freedom, though. Maybe we’re actually freer when we’re able to not do whatever we want to.
It seems like that’s what Peter is saying here. If you are unable to resist sin, it’s got your number. You can’t overcome it because it’s overcoming you, making you bend to its will. You can’t not sin.
But here’s the good news. In Christ, we have been set free from sin.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:6-7). The gospel truth is that if we’re united with Christ, our old corrupted self has been brought to nothing and we are free from sin. And as we are formed more and more into the image of Christ, the less we’ll fall under the crack of sin’s whip and the more we’ll be able to practice self control (Gal 5:22-23).
In other words, believers can say no to sin. And that is true freedom.
Posted on May 20th, 2015 by Jonathan
Summer vacations are not the only trips in view when the last school bell rings and the neighborhood pool opens. For many of you, these things also mean that your summer mission trip is just around the bend. It’s good that you begin thinking about it now. You’d be well served not to wait until the week (or night) before to begin preparing for it.
So here are some simple ways to get ready, between now and the airport terminal.
Begin Praying Now. This should go without saying, but prayer must undergird any sort of ministry in which you engage. Why? Because you can’t change people; only God gives new birth. Your dependence on him for this should be evident in your prayer life. If you aren’t praying, not only may your missions goals be too low, but your trust may be misplaced.
Know Your Team. This may already be happening, but if you aren’t meeting with your team before you leave, try to get together with them soon. While praying together and planing together have enough merit on their own, meeting with your team will also help you discern personalities and roles. One of the greatest opponents to your effectiveness as a team is disunity, and spending some time together before you find yourselves in an unfamiliar and/or stressful context may help to prevent any potential quarreling.
Rehearse the Gospel. I was privileged to spend a summer on mission in East Africa. I had been warned that on-the-spot introductions to speak were common. As it turns out, that couldn’t have been more dead on. At one point I was actually handed a megaphone in a crowded market. Thankfully, part of that warning came with an encouragement to prepare a gospel presentation. I would encourage the same. Even if you’re not going to a culture where impromptu sermons and megaphone preaching is common, it would be still wise to prepare a clear and concise statement of the gospel that you could share at a moment’s notice.
Look to Local Partners. I doubt you are unacquainted with the mission of your local parters, but if you are, get to know their vision before you get there. Little could be more encouraging to a long-term missionary than showing genuine care for the ministry they’ve devoted their lives to. But more than this, doing your homework will also tell you how to best come alongside them in their work. On a short-term trip, your time is best spent serving the long-term partner since they’ll be there long after you leave. So take a back seat, follow their lead, and see what will actually serve them longterm (not just give your team the best experience). And as a side note, you can begin serving them before you go by asking them if there is anything you can bring them from home – like care packages from loved ones, books, and even snacks they cannot get in their local country.
Be Ready to Grow. Don’t substitute your personal walk with Lord for serving him on a mission trip. It’s incredibly easy to place all your focus on your team, the work you’re doing, the travel plans, and all the sights to see. In doing so, you neglect communion with the source of your power. You must proactively combat this tendency to forgo your daily devotions on the trip. So before you leave, come up with a basic plan for reading your Bible and prayer. Also, expect to learn and grow a lot through what you do and experience; it would be prudent to have some sort of journal in which to process your thoughts.
Plan for Change. Though flexibility is key on the mission field, being flexible is different than not having a plan. In fact, flexibility often requires more planning. When your in-country transportation is running two hours late, have a section of Scripture ready to begin (or continue) memorizing. If the ministry plans fall through for a day, have some sort of backup plan in place to encourage your teammates and/or local partners. If a more pressing need arises, don’t be so married to your original itinerary that you can’t adjust. Humbly serve according to the advice of trusted local leadership even if it diverges from your preconceived notion of service. And if something strange is placed on the dinner plate before you, it’s time for you to expand your palette.
Posted on May 19th, 2015 by Jonathan
Near the end of Paul life, he wrote the following words to Timothy:
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim 4:5-8)
Don’t you want to be able to get to the end of your life and speak with such confidence? I’ve done all that the Lord has called me to do.
Be encouraged by the fact that you don’ have to meet a souls-saved quota, give away a certain amount of money, or write a best seller. You have only to “fulfill your ministry” (verse 5). You’re free from comparing your ministry to others’. You’re free to simply trust God and obey his calling.
Still, that may leave you with the question of what your calling is. David Platt can answer you from Scripture: your calling is to proclaim the Word. The Word is able to make people wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:15), it is breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16)… and it is therefore exactly what a dark world needs to hear. Platt elaborates:
Proclaiming this Word in this world will never be easy. On any level. But here’s the deal: whether it involves going to our neighbor next door, or to a nation on the other side of the world, or both… let’s speak this Word with a reckless abandon, doing all that God calls us to do in this world, knowing that it will be costly, but believing that it will be worth it. Or maybe better stated, knowing the He will be worth it.
While we cannot spell out the specifics of how you are to fulfill your ministry, we can give you a sure way not to fulfill your ministry: don’t proclaim the Word. If we were given the Word so “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” then we can’t teach disciples from all nations to observe all that Jesus has commanded without it (2 Tim 3:16-17, Matt 28:20).
Posted on May 18th, 2015 by Jonathan
Route1520 is a ministry that seeks to help people struggling with sexual addition with the grace of God. In their words, “Route1520 is built on the firm belief that individuals cannot change through mere willpower or simply learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. We believe that change takes place in community as we take the Gospel of Jesus Christ more deeply into our understanding and into our hearts.” So whether it be pornography addiction or any of the sexual sins to which pornography my lead, Route1520 is not content to simply say “try harder” or “do better.” That’s contrary to the gospel. Instead, they recognize that addiction has deep roots that must be addressed spiritually, therapeutically, and communally in order for individuals to have success in stopping their sinful behavior.
As one of our Counter Culture ministry partners, we are excited to point you toward their EMBARK Men’s Recovery Intensive which will take place next month (June 11-14). For any man struggling with pornography or sexual sin, this intensive will serve as an invaluable “jumpstart for the recovery journey.” It’s not a one-time, drive-thru fix for sexual sin. Rather, this long weekend is aimed at giving men the perspective they need to fight their problem while beginning the healing process.
The short video below may give you some insight into why EMBARK could be an important first step for someone drowning in the throes of sexual addiction.
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