Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Deceptive Danger of Technology

I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the use of smart phoens. The are a great tools that can also be a great time wasters, distractions from engaging in life, relationships, etc. Here is a quote form a novel by Dean Koontz.

New technology – like the computer – freed men and women from all kinds of drudgery, saved them vast amounts of time. . . .And yet the time saved did not seem to mean additional leisure or greater opportunities for meditation and reflection. Instead, with each new wave of technology, the pace of life increased; there was more to do, more choices to make, more things to experience, and people eagerly seized upon those experiences and filled the hours that had only moments ago become empty. Each year life seemed to be flitting past with far greater speed than the year before, as if God had cranked up the control knob on the flow of time. But that wasn't right, either, because to many people, even the concept of God seemed dated in an age in which the universe was being forced to let go of its mysteries on a daily basis. Science, technology, and change were the only gods now, the new Trinity; and while they were not consciously cruel and judgmental, as some of the old gods had been, they were too coldly indifferent to offer any comfort to the sick, the lonely, and the lost. form "The Door to December" by Dean Koontz

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Some More Thoughts On What Evangelism Isn’t

Here is a follow up to Monday's post by Multiply.  

You may use your story to give some handles to what repentance and faith looks like. You may use your story to segue into Christ’s. But your story in and of itself is definitively not evangelism. So to close, here are some good summary statements of what evangelism is:

"Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade." J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism, 26 
"According to the New Testament, evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel. It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God's message of mercy to sinners." J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 45 
"Evangelism is telling people the wonderful truth about God, the great news about Jesus Christ." Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 82 
To sum it all up... 
"The content of our message is Christ and God, not our journey to faith. Our personal testimony may be included, but witnessing is more than reciting our spiritual autobiography. Specific truths about a specific person are the subject of our proclamation. A message has been committed to us--a word of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor 5:19)." Will Metzger, Tell the Truth, 55

See whole post here.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Trevin Wax has some good thoughts on the role of personal testimony in sharing the gospel.
Evangelicals love a good story. We’re all about “sharing our testimonies” and “telling our stories” and recounting our “spiritual journey.”
This emphasis on personal experience is one of evangelicalism’s strengths. We understand conversion as more than mere assent to Christianity’s teaching and more than mere observance of rites and rituals associated with the church. It’s no wonder that sharing our stories is a main aspect of evangelical identity and evangelistic activity.
But there’s a subtle danger lurking here. Because of our emphasis on conversion stories and testimonies, we can unintentionally make people think that evangelism is the same thing as sharing your experience.
We interpret The Great Commission’s “Go make disciples” as “Go tell your story.” They are not the same thing.
Here’s why…

Jesus and the Great Commission

When most of us think of the “Great Commission,” we start with the word “go.” The gist of Christ’s command is that we are to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching, right?
But Matthew’s version of the Commissioning scene doesn’t start with “go.” The commission itself is sandwiched between two statements related to Jesus Christ: the first concerns His authority, and the second concerns His empowering presence.
The flow of the passage goes like this:
  • All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
  • Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…
  • Jesus promises to always be with His people.
Luke’s commissioning scene gets at this same truth in a different way. For Luke, the focus is on the gospel going out in Jesus’ name.
  • The Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms point to Jesus, whose death and resurrection fulfills Old Testament prophecy.
  • Witnesses will proclaim a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins.
  • This message is proclaimed “in Jesus’ name” to all nations.
For Luke, the name of Jesus is the source of authority. In Acts, this element is not emphasized in the commissioning scene itself, but in the rest of the narrative, where the theme of Jesus’ name carrying power and authority becomes a major point of the story.

3 Elements of Genuine Christian Witness

Both Luke and Matthew infuse their commissioning scenes with christological truth. So, how did the apostles, under the authority of Jesus, witness to the truth? Notice three elements:
  1. The events at the heart of the gospel are at the heart of their proclamation. The sermons in Acts reveal how the apostles walked their hearers through the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
  2. They are witnesses to the character of Jesus in the way they pattern their ministry after his miracles and show his compassion to those in need.
  3. They are witnesses to their own Christian experience. The Apostle Paul, for example, recounts his conversion experience on two occasions in Acts (22:6‒21 and 26:12‒23).

What About Now?

So what does this mean for us today?
  1. The events of the gospel – Christ’s life, death, and resurrection – must be at the heart of our proclamation.
  2. What we do should also witness to Christ as we follow His example.
  3. Our conversion experiences should back up our gospel proclamation.
If we get these out of sync, we hinder our effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission.
For example, some Christians may focus so much on the second aspect (what we do) that they fail to verbally proclaim the gospel (what Christ has done).
Another example: some Christians focus so much on the third aspect (our conversion experience) that they fail to properly proclaim Christ’s life and work.
Let’s look at this second danger a little more closely.

Christ’s Work in History vs. Christ’s Work in Your Life

The meaning of the word “witnesses” in Luke 24 and Acts 1, as well as throughout the narrative of Acts, refers to those who witnessed the work of the Lord and spoke of it to others. The witness of the disciples was centered on Christ’s life and work, most clearly seen in his death and resurrection.
So, let’s take note: the focus of apostolic preaching in Acts is not on the conversion experiences of the disciples, but on the work of Christ that makes conversion necessary. For this reason, we should ensure that our testimony of Christ’s work focuses primarily on what Christ did in history, not merely what Christ has done in our life.

The Place for Personal Testimony

That said, there is a place for personal conversion testimonies. After all, Paul appealed to his experience when testifying to his uniqueness as an apostle. The Samaritan woman ran into town and told of her conversation with Jesus. The man born blind, after being healed by Jesus, went and told everyone what had happened to him.
Don’t hear me saying that we should stop giving personal testimonies! They are powerful.
We should work, however, to make sure these testimonies undergird and support the clear gospel message and don’t somehow replace it. What Jesus has done for me should always be connected to what Jesus has done, period.

What Happens When Personal Testimony Takes Over

Focusing primarily on our own experiences with Christ can unintentionally downplay the importance of the historic events upon which the Christian faith stands or falls.
An evangelist who speaks only of his personal experience with Jesus may be surprised to encounter others who speak just as genuinely of their personal experiences in Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. The initial desire to speak of what one has experienced personally may run into the rocks of multiculturalism, leading to a neutered presentation of the gospel that loses its basis in historical reality.
The role of personal experience in testifying to the work of Christ should be seen as a further evidence of the power of the gospel. It is not the gospel itself, but it testifies to its power.
To sum up: gospel presentations that include personal testimonies should take care to emphasize the gospel itself (the news of Christ’s death and resurrection), not merely our personal experiences of life transformation. A change of heart is a further demonstration of the gospel and should be used in personal evangelism, as long as the focus remains on Christ’s objective work on the cross.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Defines the Church?

I am studying 1 Corinthians for my devotional time and came across this definition of the church in a sermon by S. Lewis Johnson that struck me.  We have struggled as a church how to faithfully implement church discipline in the American context, specifically our context, our elders having discussed it several times in the last year.  Johnson gives us a definition of the church from the reformers: 
"Reformers defined the essential features of a Christian church as a group of people who meet regularly in one particular place for the observance of the ordinances, for the ministry of the Word of God, and for church discipline or discipline under the officers of the church. In fact, the Reformers insisted that if there was not discipline, the practice of discipline, the provision and practice of it, that one did not have a Christian church (italics added)."

Monday, July 7, 2014


I am touching on motivation for obedience in Scripture and was looking for more examples of the warning in Scripture and came across Kevin DeYoung's list here.  
Is there just one proper gospel-centered rationale for holiness? Should we, in speaking about sanctification, avoid threats and warnings and coming judgment and focus simply on our acceptance in Christ? How many motivations does the Bible have for godliness?
I see at least twenty. In the three chapters of 2 Peter alone.
1.    We pursue holiness so that we might become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
2.    We make every effort to grow in godliness because God has already set us free from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Pet. 1:4).
3.    We grow in grace so we will not be ineffective and unfruitful  in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:8).
4.    We pursue Christlike character so we will not be blind, having forgotten that we were cleansed from our former sins (2 Pet. 1:9).
5.    We work hard at holiness in order to make our calling and election sure, so that we will not fall (2 Pet. 1:10).
6.    We practice these godly qualities so there will be richly provided for us an entrance into the eternal kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11).
7.    We pursue godliness because Jesus is coming back again in great power, and we know this to be true because of the glory revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration and because of the prophecy of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:16-21).
8.    We walk in obedience to Christ because those who wander into sensuality are condemned and will be destroyed (2 Pet. 2:3).
9.    We are serious about holiness because we believe God knows how to judge the wicked and save the righteous (2 Pet. 2:4-10).
10.    We turn from ungodliness because those who revel in sin are ugly blots and blemishes, irrational animals, unsteady souls, and accursed children (2 Pet. 2:10-16).
11.    We pursue holiness because sin never delivers on its promises (2 Pet. 2:17).
12.    We pursue holiness because those who live in their sin again are like those returning to slavery, returning to mire, and returning to vomit (2 Pet. 2:19-21).
13.    We must remember to be holy because in the last days scoffers will come following their own sinful desires (2 Pet. 3:3).
14.    We make every effort to be godly because the world will not always continue as it does now; the heavens and the earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Pet. 3:4-7).
15.    We must take Christlikeness seriously right now because we do not know when the Lord will return (2 Pet. 3:10).
16.    We pursue holiness because all our works will be exposed on the last day (2 Pet. 3:10).
17.    We pursue holiness because whatever we live for in this life will be burned up and dissolved (2 Pet. 3:11).
18.    We strive to walk in obedience and repentance because in so doing we may hasten the coming of the day of God (2 Pet. 3:12).
19.    We living in righteousness now because we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell forever (2 Pet. 3:13).
20.    We pursue godliness so that Christ might be glorified both now and to the day of eternity (2 Pet. 3:18).