Archive for the ‘Secret Church’ Category
Posted on November 24th, 2014 by David Burnette
When it comes to the topic of spiritual warfare, some Christians seem to be all in.
You know the person I’m talking about: he finds demons lurking behind common colds, transmission problems, and every other less-than-ideal circumstance. When any difficulty arises, you’re likely to hear him say, “I think it’s the enemy.” While this approach to spiritual warfare has its problems, there’s another perspective on the demonic that poses a danger for many of us, and it’s just as unbiblical. Practically speaking, we act as if Satan doesn’t exist.
We would never say that, of course, but in reality Satan’s opposition to Christ and his people makes no difference in our thoughts and actions and prayers. A number of factors may be involved: maybe we’re reacting against that Christian friend who’s always convinced that Satan is sabotaging her life, or perhaps we’ve adopted a naturalistic, secular mindset without realizing it, or maybe, and this seems highly likely, we just don’t want to sound weird. Attributing something to demonic opposition can make you feel, well, pretty unintelligent. However, as Christians, we shouldn’t decide what we believe based on how it makes us look. After all, we claim that Jonah was swallowed and then regurgitated by a giant fish, and that Christ will return to earth to judge both the living and the dead—so much for sounding sophisticated. Reality for us should be shaped by the Word of God, not what we see or feel.
The idea of a cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan may sound bonkers to a watching world, but that doesn’t make it any less real or any less serious. Yes, Christians are secure because of Christ’s death and resurrection, but that doesn’t mean Satan is idle in the meantime. He is described as a devouring lion (1 Pet 5:8) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). John goes so far as to say that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). Shouldn’t that affect the way we pray and fight sin and give for the spread of the gospel?
In the end, the reality of spiritual warfare doesn’t mean we look for demons behind every turn, nor should it cause Christians to panic. We are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3), and the One who is in us is greater than “he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). However, Satan’s opposition should remind us of our total dependence on God. Gospel proclamation and Christ-like living will put us in the devil’s cross-hairs, which is why we must put on the “whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11). Although victory is assured, there is, at least until Jesus comes, a battle to be fought.
– For more on what Scripture teaches about spiritual warfare, see Secret Church 7, “Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare.“
Posted on November 20th, 2014 by David Burnette
Why should Christians and churches speak to the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, or to marriage in general? Aren’t these just political and social issues? Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC, talks about why marriage is a gospel issue in his recent address to worldwide religious leaders at the Vatican:
As an evangelical Christian, I come to this discussion with motivations about the common good and human flourishing, but beyond these merely natural goods to an even deeper concern for what I believe to be the purpose of the entire cosmos: the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of us must stand together on conserving the truth of marriage as a complementary union of man and woman. But I would add that with that there is a distinctively Christian urgency for why the Christian churches must bear witness to these things. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that the alpha and omega of the universe is personal, that the pattern and goal of the universe is summed up in what he called “the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 1:10). . . .
. . . we stand and speak not with clenched fists or with wringing hands, but with the open hearts of those who have a message and a mission. And, as we do so, we will remind the world that we are not mere machines of flesh, but rather, we are creatures, accountable to nature and to nature’s God. We must do so with the confidence of those who know that on the other side of our culture wars, there’s a sexual counter-revolution waiting to be reborn, again.
For a full transcript of Dr. Moore’s address, go here. The fact that marriage portrays and bears witness to the gospel is one of the reasons we’ll be covering this issue in Secret Church 15, “Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.” For more info, go here.
Posted on November 12th, 2014 by David Burnette
Ask most Christians what it means to fear God and they will probably begin by telling you what it doesn’t mean.
Fearing God doesn’t mean that we cower before our Maker, nervous that he might wipe us out simply because he’s in a bad mood. God isn’t a cruel and erratic despot. While that’s certainly true, there’s another error that we are probably more susceptible to in our day. We often need to be reminded that God deserves our fear.
Steven Lawson talks about our “unhealthy casualness” toward God (1), a clear sign that we do not fear him rightly. Even if we prefer to use words like reverence and awe instead of fear, there’s a danger that those words will ring hollow if we don’t have a right view of God. To fear God rightly we must continually behold his majesty as it is revealed to us in the pages of Scripture. The result is what Lawson calls a “heart attitude of worshipful submission to [God]” (2).
If the idea of fearing God seems like it’s only for super-Christians, consider Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” In other words, fearing God is Christianity 101—it’s the posture that every child of God ought to assume. Again Lawson notes, “At the very core of saving faith, there is always a healthy, holy fear of God that causes a believer to tremble” (3). Fear is the only proper response to the God who is unmatched in holiness and unlimited in his power. However, this kind of fear doesn’t mean that we downplay God’s grace and focus only on his justice, as if his attributes could be neatly separated. Nor does it mean that we must always have a serious look on our face when talking about spiritual things.
Fearing God isn’t joyless.
The God we fear is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). This is why the Psalmist says, “But with you [God] there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps 130:4). This is the same God who is revealed to us in the message of Christ crucified, so fearing him necessarily involves an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Still, there’s a weightiness to this fear. The apostle John fell down “as though dead” (Rev 1:17) when he got the following vision of the exalted Christ:
His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Rev 1:14-16)
Like John, we too need to recognize the greatness of the One we’re dealing with. But Christ’s goal is not simply to intimidate us. His first words to John were, “Fear not” (Rev 1:17). God reveals himself to us so that we might run to him for refuge, that we might rest in his power and his wisdom. The fear of God leads to peace, not paralysis. And when we reverence God like this, it’s only natural that we would cry out with the prophet,
Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
For this is your due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like you. (Jeremiah 10:7)
–For more on getting a Scriptural view of the God we serve, see Secret Church 4: Who is God?
Posted on November 7th, 2014 by Jonathan
Boys, Porn and Education: The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy, an all-boys boarding school in Pennsylvania, writes about the negative effect pornography has on education.
6th Circuit delivers a win for citizens to define marriage: In an extremely well-written opinion, judges Sutton and Cook explain their ruling to uphold four states’ ban of same-sex marriage.
Black and White: Learning Together from Ferguson: Over at Desiring God, Thabiti Anyabwile explains that, together, we can learn a lot from what’s happening a Ferguson . . . if we are listening.
Each of the issues discussed in this week’s Well Said – pornography, same-sex marriage, and racism – will be covered in Secret Church 15: Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.
Posted on October 31st, 2014 by Jonathan
Today, much of the country will celebrate Halloween by dressing up in ghoulish costumes. But I’m not just talking about October 31. Halloween has become a month-long affair. This time of year, everywhere you look you see horns, pitchforks, and ghosts, some “realistic” and some “playful.” Before we become numbed by the culture around us, let’s reorient ourselves according to God’s Word so that we can see what is real and know what ought not to be played with. In our fascination with everything haunted, we could benefit from a healthier perspective on what’s truly scary.
So let’s talk about demons. Real, scary, serious demons. But let’s also talk about our glorious God, who is to be feared above all.
View all of Secret Church 7: Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare, HERE.
Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by Jonathan
Can we know God? The reality is, God is incomprehensible. Psalm 145:3 says, “His greatness no one can fathom.”… We can never fully understand any single thing about God. We can know something about God’s love, power, wisdom and the other attributes… But we can never know His love, power, wisdom or other attributes exhaustively. This is key for us to understand. We can know something about Him, but we can’t know Him exhaustively.
Now some of you are thinking, “What about 1 Corinthians 13:12?” It says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully.” Well what Paul is saying is, there’s coming a day where our knowledge is going to be more complete, but he’s not saying there’s going to be a day when we are going to be omniscient. Paul doesn’t say in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that one day we’ll know all things. We have this idea sometimes. We think, and we even say, when we get to heaven we’ll know everything. I hate to break it to you, but when you go to heaven you’re not going to be God. It’s not going to happen. It’s not the purpose. You’re not going to know all things. His omniscience is an attribute unique to Him alone. So we can’t know God exhaustively.
The reason is twofold. Number one, our sinfulness, and number two, His greatness. We can’t know God fully because of both our sinfulness and His greatness. We’ll unpack both of those. Because of our sin we are hindered from glimpsing the fullness of God. We know that. Every single one of us has sin in our lives that keeps us from knowing God as completely as we could. But even when all sin will be removed from us, we will still be finite and God will still be infinite. Even when we get to heaven we won’t be infinite like God. We won’t be God. That means that for all of eternity we will increase in our knowledge of Him.
I want you to think about this with me. God is infinite in His love and His power and His wisdom… But if that’s true, and we are always going to be finite – not infinite – then the reality is, we will be learning more, and more, and more about His love, and His power, and His wisdom, and all that He is for all of eternity.
We can respond to this in two ways. If, in pride, we want to be equal to God in knowledge, this will depress us. Some people think, “I’m never going to get there? Never going to understand it all? I mean you think after a cool 400 billion years I might be closer.” But the reality is, no, we will not be any closer.
However, if in humility we want to live to adore and worship God, this will delight us. I want you to let this picture soak in, that for all of eternity, day after day after day, we will never tire of learning more and more and more and more about the love, the grace, the mercy, and the power of God. And this is huge. Sometimes when people think about heaven, they say, “If heaven is going to be perfect won’t it be perfectly boring?” And some of you have thought that. We think, “That’s a long time – eternity. I mean, don’t you get tired of that?” The reality is, because of who we are going to see in God tonight, we’re going to realize that you cannot get enough of this God, and for all of eternity, we will learn more and more and more. We can know God.
As if we needed more troubling news on the religious liberty front, now comes word that pastors in Houston have had their sermons subpoenaed by Mayor Annise Parker and the city attorney. The subpoenas come in response to the pastors’ opposition to an Equal Rights Ordinance that concerns issues of gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations.
A number of Christian leaders have spoken out against this quite brash move by the Houston mayor, as the request for these sermons is a clear violation of the First Amendment, and a reminder of how opposition from the culture is becoming more acute. The ERLC is offering suggestions for how you can stand with Houston pastors, which you can see here. In addition, here are several excerpts from Christian leaders reacting to Mayor Parker’s overreach:
– Russell Moore (ERLC)
“I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.
The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.
The churches, and pastors, of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi. After an earthquake, sent by God, upturned the prison where Paul and Silas were held, Luke tells us that the officials sent the police to tell Paul and Silas they could go. Paul replied. “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men who are Roman citizens and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly. No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (Acts 16:37).” Read the rest here.
– Jason K. Allen (Midwestern Seminary)
“For the church, though, the mayor’s handling of the First Amendment is secondary. Our handling of the Bible is primary. Our indignation over the mayor’s boldness must be displaced by passion and resolve of our own. We are called to speak the truth in love; to preach the Word in season and out. Ordinance or no ordinance, subpoena or no subpoena, First Amendment or no First Amendment, God’s Word doesn’t change—and our convictions must not change either.
That is why my concern is not so much Mayor Parker’s orchestration of velvet-gloved persecution. My concern is whether or not Christians will persist in having the courage of their convictions. This won’t be the last time the church encounters intimidation—for we are assured that all who desire godliness in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
And Mayor Parker isn’t the first ruler to threaten the church either. Here we learn from our apostolic forebears. Just as when the Temple authorities threatened Peter and John in Acts 4, their response must now be ours, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Read the rest here.
– Joe Carter (Acton Institute Power Blog)
“Texas law makes it clear that the discovery process in a legal proceeding “may not be used as a fishing expedition.” Houston’s city attorneys are certainly aware of this fact, so why are they seeking the sermons and communications of pastors who aren’t even involved in the lawsuit?
The apparent answer, as ADF notes, is that the Houston city government “has embarked upon a witchhunt.” They are trying to send a message to area pastors that criticism of city policies from the pulpit can result in their being dragged into court. This is a despicable display of government overreach and an attempt to stifle both religious freedom and political speech. If this violation of citizens rights isn’t checked in Houston, other cities will get the message that irrelevant legal actions can be used to harass church leaders who dare to challenge our “public servants.” Read the rest here.
— For more on how followers of Christ should approach the issue of religious liberty, stay tuned in the coming weeks for posts related to David Platt’s upcoming book, Counter Culture, as well as posts and information related to Secret Church 15: “Christ, Culture, and A Call to Action.”
Posted on October 15th, 2014 by David Burnette
We’re excited to announce that Early Registration for Secret Church 15 is now open!
Simply go here to register for SC15 as a church, as a small group, or as an individual. The last day to get early registration pricing is January 25th. For those who have participated in Secret Church in the past, please note that this year’s gathering will not take place on Good Friday. Instead, the date for this upcoming gathering is Friday, April 24, 2015. Beat the end-of-year busyness by registering now.
David Platt will be speaking on “Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.” In case you missed the topic announcement earlier this year, here’s a summary of what you can expect followed by a video that talks about the purpose behind Secret Church:
The culture around us is constantly changing, and successive changes are often accompanied by significant challenges. So how does the call of Christ compel us to respond to these challenges? How does a Christian respond to the rapid rise of so-called same-sex marriage and the increasing acceptance of homosexuality? How does a Christian live in a world of sex slavery and rampant pornography, a world where babies are aborted and widows are abandoned? How does a Christian think in a culture of pervasive racial prejudice and limited religious liberty? What does a Christian do in a church that exalts prosperity amidst a world of extreme poverty? During this Secret Church, we will explore biblical foundations for answers to these questions and come to significant conclusions regarding how Christ calls every Christian to engage culture with a firm grip on the gospel in the church and a fervent passion for God’s glory in the world.
Posted on October 2nd, 2014 by David Burnette
It’s easy for churches to get busy doing a lot of activities. Many of these activities are good, and they are done in a sincere attempt to serve Christ. Other activities distract attention and divert funds from what the church ought to be about. However, regardless of a church’s motives or the effect of it’s activities, the question we must start with is this:
What does Scripture say the church should be about?
That’s the real issue, not surveys, trends, business models, or even the needs of those to whom we’re called to minister. We get our orders from the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, and he has not left us in the dark. He has told us in his Word what we’re to be about. In Secret Church 9: The Body of Christ, David Platt lists seven activities that the church should be about (SC 9 Study Guide, pgs. 33-87). Here, according to Scripture, is what the church does:
- The church evangelizes.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matt 28:19)
- The church baptizes.
“ . . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19)
- The church teaches.
“ . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:20)
- The church nurtures.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship . . .” (Acts 2:42)
- The church worships.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)
- The church prays.
“And they devoted themselves to . . . the prayers.”
- The church multiplies.
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
Now certainly some of these activities will be carried out in different ways depending on the church. For instance, there will likely be multiple ways church members gather for prayer and fellowship. However, on the whole, these priorities should mark the church’s activities.
Do these activities mark your church’s ministries and budget?
Posted on September 30th, 2014 by Jonathan
In the Old Testament, God gave his people the law. In the New Testament, he gave them his Son, the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is the only way to the Father, because he’s the only one to ever perfectly keep God’s law. That’s why, in Galatians 5, Paul rails against the idea that our standing before God is dependent upon us doing certain things rather than being dependent upon the death and resurrection of Jesus: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law” (4).
But if our justification doesn’t depend on the dos and don’ts of the law, why, then, does Paul turn around and give us another list of sins to avoid—the “works of the flesh” (21)? He goes so far as to say our eternity is at stake if we indulge in sexual immorality, idolatry, jealousy, etc. Isn’t this just another attempt to be justified by what we do . . . or don’t do?
How are we to navigate this impossibly confusing balance of not-looking-to-the-law-for-salvation-but-still-having-to-obey-it?
Another list from Galatians 5 clears the haze: “the fruit of the Spirit” (22-23). The difference here between works and fruit couldn’t be more important. Works of the flesh are the things we do, naturally. The fruit of the Spirit is what the Holy Spirit does in us, supernaturally. Our Spirit-produced works still don’t save us, but they necessarily flow from our salvation as the Spirit lives in us. Faith is the root and works are the fruit. But unlike the works we produce in our weak flesh, “the Spirit produces the life and character of Christ in every facet of our character” (David Platt, Secret Church 5: Exploring the Holy Spirit). It’s a total transformation of who we are from the inside out.
It may seem that the Holy Spirit makes our works completely irrelevant, but nothing could be further from the truth. Now, because of the Spirit’s work in us, we not only have the desire to obey God’s commands, but also the power. When we’re walking by the Spirit, we aren’t gratifying the desires of our flesh (v 16), and the character of Christ – the great law-keeper – is manifest through us.
In other words, the Spirit doesn’t make good works disappear. In a very real sense, they come to life.
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