Identity: 1-Word

White supremacy and the gospel

Writing from Berlin, Albert Mohler does a wonderful job of juxtaposing racism and the gospel.

Even a secular observer can see the lessons of history from Berlin. The evidence is pervasive, irrefutable, terrifying, and still visible.

But Christians must see much more than the lessons of history, though we dare not miss them. We must see claims of racial superiority–and mainly that means claims of white superiority–as heresy.

That is not a word we use casually. Heresy leads to a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the eclipse of the living God as revealed in the Bible. A claim of white superiority is not merely wrong, and not merely deadly. It is a denial of the glory of God in creating humanity—every single human being–in his own image. It is a rejection of God’s glory in creating a humanity of different skin pigmentation. It is a misconstrual of God’s judgment and glory in creating different ethnicities.

Most urgently, it is a rejection of the gospel of Christ–the great good news of God’s saving purpose in the atonement accomplished by Christ. A claim of racial superiority denies our common humanity, our common sinfulness, our common salvation through faith in Christ, and God’s purpose to create a common new humanity in Christ.

You cannot preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and hold to any notion of racial superiority. It is impossible.

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Now Mohler will be applauded for his stand against racism. But the minute he relies on Scripture to speak about human sexuality or the sanctity of life, he'll be branded a bigot.

Keep this example in mind, when you're next tempted to place culture norms about Scripture. That's not an option for a disciple of Jesus.

Related: White Supremacy and the Spirit

Stay on Target. A reminder to myself.

I turned 60 last year. There are many new joys in this stage of living. Chief among them are grandchildren.

There are also new griefs. Chief among them is to see once faithful and true disciples, many of them leaders, wander from the gospel and the mission Christ entrusted to us.

It's just as much a spiritual, moral battle as it is theological. It's a battle we don't talk about. Yet the casualty rate is high and the price we pay is dear.

I don't want to spend my life correcting error. Yes, Jesus corrected error. The apostles did the same. But this did not dominate their ministry. For some, it does. Yet they are not putting the gospel to work in the world where it belongs.

So what can we do in a positive way to remain true to the cause?

We study the word continually, applying to our lives and mission. We devour the word together, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we obey. As we learn the obedience of faith, we become who we are in Christ. 

Defending a Scandal

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Southern Baptists have passed a resolution defending the truth that Christ died for our sins, in our place, taking upon himself God's just judgment on sin.

Why the need?

Every generation must choose whether to affirm what the Scriptures have always taught. Ours is no exception. In the 1960s mainline liberal Protestantism turned its back on orthodoxy. Now progressive evangelicals are repeating their error. 

Red Letter Christians — following the spirit of the age and French Catholic philosopher Rene Girad — reject the notion of a God who requires the sacrifice of his Son for sin.

At a popular level, William Paul Young (The Shack) has said the idea that Christ died as a substitute sacrifice to save sinners and satisfy the just wrath of God the Father — is a “monstrous,” “evil,” and “a terrible doctrine.”

So well done Southern Baptists for affirming what the Scriptures have always taught.

Movements decline and decay when they drift and deny their core beliefs. They remain dynamic when they stay true to core beliefs and adapt their methods to reach a changing world.

Want to learn more?

 

Did Jesus believe the Bible?

I stumbled on a blog post recently that compared the cool rebel Jesus with the faithful Bible-believers who handed him over to be crucified.

Here's how the writer described Jesus' opponents,

They aggressively studied apologetics so they could argue publicly to prove him wrong. They were sticking to the Bible. They were faithful believers who knew the Bible. They understood the Bible. They understood the character of God. They were the only group of people on Earth who had the holy scriptures and writings that documented the promises and the law of the one true living God. They were the believers. They were believers, and they nailed the heretic to the cross.

Strong words that pit Jesus against his opponents and characterise the Pharisees and Sadducees as first century Bible-believers.

The problem is, Jesus believed his Bible. According to Jesus, the Scripture cannot be broken. He came to fulfil its promises.

In the wilderness Satan used the Bible against Jesus, yet Jesus countered each time with, "It is written. . ."

Jesus' authority was based on the true meaning of Scripture.

When his opponents asked him about marriage, he replied “Haven’t you read…” and went on to quote the Old Testament and equate the words of Scripture with the words of God (Matt 19:4-6).

Jesus replied, You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. (Matt 22:29).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasted his teaching with what his audience had heard.

You have heard it said
But I say to you

Was Jesus overturning the authority of Scripture and replacing it with his own words? 

The key is the phrase, “you have heard it said”. According to Ellis, this phrase is never used to introduce the writings of Scripture. Instead Jesus is contrasting the true meaning of Scripture with the traditions and interpretations of his opponents.

For the sake of your traditions you nullify the word of God (Matt 15:6).

Jesus’ teachings did not overturn Scripture but brought out its true meaning. God is not just opposed to murder, he’s opposed to hatred. He’s not just against adultery, but he rejects lust. That's the true meaning of Scripture, not a new meaning of Scripture.

Jesus brought out and intensified the true meaning of Scripture.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt 5:17-18).

Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus reject the authority of the Old Testament. He came to fulfil the Scriptures, not overturn them. The God of the Old Testament is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus.

That's why in the days following the resurrection Jesus was careful to walk his disciples through the whole of the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi. He was preparing them for their world-wide mission. The mission of the risen Lord is founded upon a right understanding of the Old Testament—the Bible Jesus read and believed.

Beware of those who would have you believe otherwise. They may be 21st century opponents of Jesus, placing their word above God's word.

[ed. With some help from: Earle Ellis, How Jesus Interpreted His Bible.]

The God who Speaks (3)

Since Jesus is both perfect God and perfect man, he is both the most authoritative speaker and the most faithful hearer of the word of God.
— John Frame
Jesus in the Temple, Heinrich Hofmann (1881)

Jesus in the Temple, Heinrich Hofmann (1881)

Lately I’ve been thinking (with  a lot of help from John Frame) about the living word of God as the foundation for movements that multiply disciples and churches everywhere.

The God of the Bible is a God who speaks, and when he speaks things happen. He speaks to us personally in ways we can understand. He speaks with authority as our Creator and King. 

Faith is hearing the word of God and doing it.

Jesus was both perfect God and perfect man. He was the Word of God speaking the very words of God with authority. He is the Son of God submitted totally to the Father’s will.

Jesus speaks what his Father teaches him (John 8:28; 10:18; 12:49–50; 14:10; 15:15). His words are God’s words. As a man he lived in surrender to the Father’s will. He obeyed the Father’s word (John 5:36; 8:42). He did nothing on his own authority. He only spoke what the Father gave him.

Jesus obeyed what the Father told him directly and he obeyed the written words of God in the OT. He acted and spoke in a way that fulfilled Scripture (Matt. 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 26:54). 

He broke with some Jewish traditions and interpretations of the OT, but Jesus treated the OT as the authoritative words of God. The whole of the OT bears witness to him.

Obedience to his word is the criteria for discipleship. Those who hear his words and obey are like the wise man who builds his house on the rock. His mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:21). True disciples are not ashamed of his words (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).

Our love for Christ is shown by our obedience to his commands (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:7, 10, 14; 17:6, 17).

More to come on how this relates to movements of multiplying disciples and churches.

The God Who Speaks (2)

God’s personal speech is not an unusual occurrence in Scripture. In fact, it is the main engine propelling the biblical narrative forward.
— John Frame

I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between the dynamic word of God and the rise and fall of movements.

A few years ago I was struck by the way Acts is built around summary statements about the word of God multiplying, spreading, and growing in strength. In a multiplying movement, the word was doing the work.

I've been reading John Frame's Doctrine of the Word of God. Here's a few ideas I gleaned. More about their implication later.

God speaks

God speaks. When he speaks things happen. The universe comes into existence and his sustained by his word. His words are more than sounds. Through speech, God creates, sustains and shapes reality. Jesus the Word is the embodiment of everything God is. 

God speaks to us as one person speaks to another. God speaks so we can understand. This is how God has revealed himself to us in Scripture. His speech and man’s response is what drives the story of redemption forward.

When God speaks, he speaks with authority as our Creator and Lord. Our response should be to obey him from the heart.

God creates the first man and woman through his word and gives them the mandate to fill the earth and subdue it. He speaks and sets a limit on their autonomy. They are not to eat of the fruit. God’s word is at stake. God speaks with clarity and authority and expects them to obey. They need no other reason than his command. Obedience brings blessing. Disobedience brings judgment.

History is the story of our response to God’s word.

Faith, in both Testaments, is hearing the word of God and doing it.

God spoke to the first man and woman with clarity and authority. They chose not to obey. They placed themselves above God’s word. They wanted to be their own gods. Judgment came, mixed with mercy.

The story of the Bible the story of God who speaks clearly and personally, and people who respond with obedience or rebellion.

Faith, in both Testaments, is hearing the word of God and doing it.

To love God is to hear his word and obey it (John 14:21). 

Related: The God Who Speaks (1)

The God who speaks (1)

A few years ago I was working through the Book of Acts when I struck by the repeated references to the Word of God. Not just a written text, but an active player in the story. In Acts, the Word grows, spreads and multiplies. Wherever the Word goes new disciples and churches begin popping up.

The Apostles are not the main characters in the book of Acts. The Word is. Luke ends his account with Paul under house arrest, facing trial. Yet despite Paul’s confinement, the Word continues to spread unhindered.

Luke doesn’t tell us what eventually happened to Paul. Acts isn't about Paul, it’s about the spread of the Word bringing salvation, discipleship and churches—everywhere it goes.

Since then I’ve read Acts with new eyes. It’s the living Word of God that propels his mission forward. God is at the centre. He is a God who speaks and his speech is not just words, but a living Word that makes things happen.

This is at the heart of what it means to multiply disciples and churches.

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