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Posted on January 7th, 2015 by Radical
Good news for those who want to be a part of the live gathering for Secret Church 15: tickets will be available right here on Monday, January 12, 2015 at 9:00am CT!
Tickets go very quickly, so make sure you’re online and ready to sign up when the time rolls around. This year’s live gathering will be held at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday, April 24, 2015. David Platt will be teaching on Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.
For more information on Secret Church 15, or for frequently asked questions about Secret Church in general, go here.
Posted on December 12th, 2014 by Jonathan
The Santa Question: John Murchison contends that there is freedom in deciding how your family handles “the Santa question”… as long as you follow two guidelines…
7 Things Christians Should Know About Torture: In the wake of this week’s scathing report on the CIA from a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Joe Carter helps shed a bright light on the shady practice of torture.
Why We Fail to Progress Past Ferguson: J.D. Greear weighs in on the racial problems made prominent in recent months. “Both ‘sides’ have points that need to be heard.”
Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality: “Knowledge and truth can help us both stand against the growing tide of moral capitulation,” says Jean Lloyd. “In light of this, here are seven things I wish you knew about homosexuality.”
Posted on October 17th, 2014 by Jonathan
Ten Reasons Why You Can’t be a Missionary: David Sills explores some of our most common excuses and concludes, “It is possible that you have a really good reason that is sufficient for not obeying a missionary call; but I doubt it.”
Why Keep Sexual Boundaries?: Can our motivations for sexual purity be less than Christian? According to Ed Welch, yes.
Seduction and the Cost of Saying ‘No‘: American teenagers who resolve to guard their sexual purity must count the cost, and it is high. Mark Howard says we shouldn’t minimize their suffering by comparing it to more extreme persecution.
The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred: Some gospel encouragement from Paul Maxwell: “God has something to offer each aspect of a man’s hatred of his body, and he offers it through the five relational spheres of his self-hatred.”
Posted on September 16th, 2014 by David Burnette
It may sound like a contradiction, but it’s true: serious theological errors usually contain a good dose of the truth. That’s why we fall for them.
Most Christians know to reject a teaching that openly rejects God’s Word, but when the truth is slightly twisted or simply downplayed—maybe even with Bible verses attached—it’s easier to get caught off guard. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to Scripture’s foundational teachings, like Christ’s atonement. Your answer to the question, “What did Christ accomplish by his death on the cross?” has massive implications.
In Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, you can see a list of some of the most influential theories of the atonement in church history (SC 6 Study Guide, 14-15). One of those theories is called the Moral Influence Theory, which is the idea that Christ’s death on the cross was primarily a demonstration of God’s love intended to move sinners to repentance. So what could be wrong with that? Isn’t the cross supposed to demonstrate God’s love to us? Well, yes, but that’s not the whole story when it comes to Christ’s atoning work. Consider just a couple of the problems with the Moral Influence Theory.
God’s Word clearly teaches that we have sinned against a holy God, and the penalty for that sin is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23). However, if we subscribe to the Moral Influence Theory, it’s not clear how our sin gets dealt with. The cross may deeply affect us, even moving us to change our behavior, but that won’t remove our guilt before God. We have sins that need to be forgiven (Eph 1:7) and a debt that needs to be cancelled (Col 2:14). A Righteous Judge cannot simply overlook this. It’s no surprise, then, that the Moral Influence Theory rejects the idea that our sin requires a payment, thus calling into question God’s perfect justice. Also, as Michael Horton observes, “A moral example or influence need hardly be God incarnate” (1). Clearly another atonement theory is needed.
If we want to be made right with the holy and just God who is revealed in Scripture, our sin debt must be paid. Gratefully, Christ’s atoning work has done just that. Peter tells us that Christ died in our place, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18). The name of the theory that best accounts for this view of the atonement is sometimes called the Penal Substitution Theory. As the name suggests, Christ’s atonement paid sin’s penalty (Penal) in our place (Substitution). God is both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in his Son (Rom 3:26).
To be clear, seeing Jesus as our substitute doesn’t mean his atonement is not also a deeply moving demonstration of God’s love, nor does it mean that there weren’t other purposes for Christ’s death (like disarming the “rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15). But unless a sinless, sufficient sacrifice is made for our sins—something only the divine Son of God could do—our guilt remains and none of the other benefits of Christ’s death will work for our eternal good. No mere demonstration of love, however great, will wipe our record clean.
Not even if it moves us to tears.
– For more on Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, go here.
(1) Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, 504.
Posted on April 4th, 2014 by David Burnette
We’ve all seen it: the family of four sitting one table over at the restaurant. One kid has headphones jammed in his ears, while the other one is glued to some sort of gaming device. Not to be outdone, mom is talking on the phone and dad looks to be trolling Twitter. Wait, that sounds judgmental; maybe dad is checking work emails.
Whether that scene brings a sneer or conviction, I think we can all agree that this is not a good use of family time. Even unbelievers recognize this. In a recent New York Times article titled “Parents, Wired to Distraction,” Perri Klass (M.D.) looks at how interaction between parents and children is affected by the parents’ use of mobile devices (like smartphones and tablets). Klass cites a recent journal article where researchers observed this parent-child interaction in the context of fast-food restaurants. Not surprisingly, researchers found that there was more engagement between family members when mobile devices weren’t available. Other studies mentioned in the article show how frustrated kids become when they feel as if they have to compete with these mobile devices for their parents’ attention. It’s kind of sad, really.
These studies should get the attention of all parents, but Christian parents should especially take notice. We know that making disciples begins in our own homes, but if we’re constantly distracted by Angry Birds or Pinterest, or those ever-present work emails that feel so pressing, it’s going to be difficult to do what God told Israel to do with His commands in Deuteronomy 6:7:
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
The call to talk to our children about the things of the Lord as we go about the everyday routines of life should be a delight and a privilege for us. This doesn’t mean we have to feel guilty if every waking second isn’t accompanied by a Bible lesson or a memory verse, nor does it mean that there is never a time for using mobile devices simply for enjoyment. However, if our attention is constantly drawn to Facebook or Twitter or anything else in cyberspace, we won’t be engaging the hearts and minds of those closest to us. Instead of teaching our kids how to look at the world through the lens of God’s Word, we’ll be staring at a screen. We can’t possibly listen to their struggles if we can’t look them in the eye.
At some point, putting the phone down becomes a matter of spiritual warfare.
In fairness to Klass, his article does remind us that technology is not the root problem. But this should not be news to Christians, for we know that the root problem is always the pull of sin on our unredeemed flesh and on our weaknesses. The temptation to finish a chapter before answering a child’s question predates Kindle. Nevertheless, we would be naive to think that certain technologies don’t make it easier to shirk our responsibilities. The roadblock to meaningful conversation is now at our fingertips.
The good news for Christian parents is that the spiritual health of our children is not ultimately dependent on our smartphone habits. Our close attention to them doesn’t create a new heart or a greater love for Christ. Salvation is of the Lord. Yet, parents are often one of the crucial means God uses to pass along His gospel. That’s why we should ask for the help of God’s Spirit as we seek to be faithful in this calling. There are no hard and fast rules for how often we should use our tablets, but we should at least make sure they’re not a hindrance as we seek to weave God’s truth into our everyday conversations. In the end, this will bring us far more joy than being able to check one more tweet or answer one more email. And you can bet our kids won’t regret it either.
– Entertainment and social media are topics we will cover in this upcoming Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” To find out more information about Secret Church or to register for the simulcast on Good Friday, April 18th, go here.
Posted on April 1st, 2014 by David Burnette
If I were to ask you for your favorite passages of Scripture, my guess is that the details for constructing the tabernacle wouldn’t make the list. Let’s face it, few people have the following on their screen-saver:
“You shall make the frames for the tabernacle: twenty frames for the south side; and forty bases of silver you shall make under the twenty frames, two bases under one frame for its two tenons, and two bases under the next frame for its two tenons; and for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side twenty frames, and their forty bases of silver, two bases under one frame, and two bases under the next frame.” (Ex 26:18-21)
That’s just a snippet from the latter chapters of Exodus, and we haven’t even mentioned the detailed instructions for making the furniture for this elaborate tent. Many of us, if we’re honest, just try to plow through these passages. Even if you recognize the importance of this unique meeting place between God and His people, you might wonder what the takeaway is for Christians several thousand years later. That’s a fair question, for Paul tells us that all Scripture is good for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). So then, what are we to make of poles, curtains, and clasps of bronze?
There are probably a number of takeaways from this passage, but one truth is so obvious that it’s easy to miss: the plans for the tabernacle come from God. He is the one who chooses to meet with his people despite their sin, and He is the one who designs the meeting place, right down to the fabric of the curtains. God drives this point home with Moses: “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it” (Ex 25:9).
The construction of the tabernacle was not Israel’s innovative attempt to impress God. No, these plans came down from above. The Holy One of Israel condescended to meet with His unholy people, which means that He defines the terms of worship. That’s still true today.
God no longer meets with his people exclusively in a tabernacle or a temple, or even a church building for that matter, but His Word still sets the parameters for how sinners can have access to Him. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the new tabernacle (Jn 1:14), the new temple (Jn 2:19-21), the place where God’s glory is now manifested (Heb 1:3). He is the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6). All attempts to receive God’s forgiveness and enjoy his fellowship apart from the gospel of Christ are nothing more than failed attempts to design our own meeting place with God. Such self-styled tabernacles are suited only for idols.
In reality, the instructions for the tabernacle will probably never be your go-to passage when you need spiritual strength. That’s fine, but we should at least be cautioned against seeing these chapters as merely a tedious instruction manual. The tabernacle reminds us that God chooses to make himself known to his people, even when they don’t deserve it. Instead of utterly destroying them, he sends heavenly blueprints and an offer of mercy.
Posted on December 20th, 2013 by David Burnette
Over at Ligionier, Al Mohler answers the question, “Must Christians Believe in the Virgin Birth?” Here’s two brief excerpts along with a link to the full article:
Must one believe in the virgin birth to be a Christian? It is conceivable that someone might come to Christ and trust Christ as Savior without yet learning the Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. A new believer is not yet aware of the full structure of Christian truth. The real question is this: Can a Christian, once aware of the Bible’s teaching, reject the virgin birth? The answer must be no.
…If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The virgin birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is God’s gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie.
You can read the rest of the article here.
Posted on October 31st, 2013 by David Burnette
Who better to quote on Reformation Day than the quotable Martin Luther?
Below are seven quotes from Luther, beginning with a description of the German Reformer taken from an eyewitness to his famous trial (the Diet of Worms):
“Martin is of middle height, emaciated from care and study, so that you can almost count his bones through his skin. He is in the vigor of manhood and has a clear, penetrating voice. He is learned and has the Scripture at his fingers’ ends. He knows Greek and Hebrew sufficiently to judge of the interpretations. A perfect forest of words and ideas stands at his command. He is affable and friendly, in no sense dour or arrogant. He is equal to anything. In company he is vivacious, jocose, always cheerful and gay no matter how hard his adversaries press him.” (Bainton, 99)
1. Luther’s reply at the Diet of Worms:
“Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simply reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of peoples and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” (Bainton, 180)
2. Luther on the exchange of our sin with Christ’s righteousness:
“Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, “If I have sinner, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his…” (Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” 287)
3. Luther on how the Reformation came about:
“I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept…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.” (George, 53)
4. Luther on the paradox of sinners being declared righteous:
“We are in truth and totally sinners, with regard to ourselves and our first birth. Contrariwise, in so far as Christ has been given for us, we are holy and just totally. Hence from different aspects we are said to be just and sinners at the same time.” (George, 71)
5. Luther on the battle for the truth of the gospel:
“Our warfare is not with flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places, against the world rulers of this darkness. Let us then stand firm and heed the trumpet of the Lord. Satan is fighting, not against us, but against Christ in us. We fight the battles of the Lord. Be strong therefore. If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Bainton, 140)
6. Luther on those who identified with him and followed his teachings:
“The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching ins not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone…How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?” (George, 53)
7. Luther on looking to Christ for our righteousness:
This is wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves. I am justified and acceptable to God, although there are in me sin, unrighteousness, and horror of death. Yet I must look elsewhere and see no sin. This is wonderful, not to see what I see, not to feel what I feel.” (Bainton, 228)
The quotes above are taken from:
Roland Bainton, Here I Stand:A Life of Martin Luther
Timothy George, The Theology of the Reformers
Luther’s “The Freedom of a Christian” in Three Treatises.
Posted on October 31st, 2013 by David Burnette
You may not be aware that today is Reformation Day. If you’re not familiar with why you should be grateful for such a day, Robert Rothwell has a good summary over at Ligonier.
Tomorrow, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Tomorrow is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?
At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.
You can read the rest here.
(HT: Luke Stamps)
Posted on October 8th, 2013 by Jonathan
Truth is sometimes found in unexpected places… like on TBS’s Conan from comedian Louis C.K. This combination would seem to more naturally lend itself to inappropriate comments or over-the-top jokes. And in a recent interview there, those certainly were not wanting. But in the midst of the comedy, C.K. offered a serious warning against the dangers of technology, specifically smart phones.
The thing is, you need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away – the ability to just sit there like this. That’s being a person, right?
You have to check… you know, underneath everything in your life, there’s that thing, that “empty” – forever empty. You know what I’m talking about? The knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone. You know, it’s down there. Sometimes when things clear away, you’re in your car, and you go, “Oh no, here it comes, that ‘I’m alone.'” Like, it starts to visit on you, just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad just by being in it. And so you’re driving, and you go, “Oh…” that’s why we text and drive. I look around, and pretty much 100% of people driving are texting. And they’re killing. Everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people risk ruining their own life and taking a life because they don’t want to be alone for a second.
A minute or two later, C.K. offered his simple, human solution to this profoundly human problem: let the sadness come. He exhorted people not to fill the void of loneliness with constant, superficial, smart phone chatter, but to feel the weight of the real emotion within, albeit sad. According to C.K., worthwhile feelings of happiness follow this sad catharsis.
The Christian solution to this profoundly human problem is, in one way, similar: don’t take the Novocain of the smart phone (or social media, T.V., and the like) as a remedy for sadness or loneliness. This kind of shallow distraction is dangerously blinding, and as time passes and habits are formed, it becomes scarily subconscious and natural. It is, to us, the easy way out. But this is not reality. In fact, reality – relational, spiritual, eternal reality – tells us quite clearly that this kind of narcissistic entertainment is no way out at all. Yes, narcissistic, because we are, after all, watching YouTube on our iPhones. It is this self-obsession that deceives us into thinking that if we depict ourselves in a favorable-enough light to get a couple dozen “likes,” a few flattering comments, and maybe an occasional retweet, we’re good. And if we aren’t soothed through Facebook or Twitter, then we satisfy our deepest hunger for solid food with the cotton candy of web-surfing time-wasters – an endless succession that is endlessly void of true substance. So put down the smart phone. It will not fill the emptiness and only blinds us to what is real, however bleak it may feel.
But here, the Christian solution to the problem of emptiness and loneliness diverges from C.K.’s, entirely different. While man’s deepest hunger is not satisfied by the self-gratification and self-glorification that is sought through smart phones, no matter how smart they get, neither is it satisfied by a wave of happy feelings, just as fleeting as the good cry that preceded it; the emptiness lingers after the emotions subside. Lasting satisfaction escapes.
Instead of finding the solution within, the Christian finds it without… in the God of the universe who loved his sad and lonely creation enough to cure their depression and reconcile them to himself. Though we run from God to Apple products and viral internet phenomena and emotional ecstasy, he runs to us in the incarnation. Sidestepping our shallow, human, and misguided wants, he gives us what we need – himself. Immanuel, God with us. In contrast to the temporal gratification that we seek with our smart phones, Jesus is the bread of life and spring of living water in whom we “shall not hunger” and in whom we “shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35). To stop looking at self and to start looking at Jesus is to never be empty or alone again. Beautifully, he seeks and saves the lost, and more beautifully still, he continues on in pursuit of his “found,” knocking at the doors of their hearts and jarring them awake from the onsetting numbness of the world, that he might dine with them and provide the only and ultimate remedy for their sickness… communion with their Creator.
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