22 May 2015

All about that coffee, 'bout that coffee (no tea)

by Dan Phillips

It started Monday morning when I checked in through Facebook, and received a witty reply:

That put an idea in my mind, and the rest, as they say... well, you know what they say. For you who don't do Twitter or were doing something else (like ministry), here's highlights — and, like SHST, I'll be adding updates probably until about noon Texas time:

Actually, this does it better:
(To be clear: this Michael Brown, not the Ferguson Michael Brown)
...and finally...

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21 May 2015

Repentance involves a decision

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in May 2012. Dan offered his thoughts on common objections to the idea that repentance involved a decision.

As usual, the comments are closed.
I've remarked before (notably here, and in all these posts) that I think some highly-caffeinated Reformed types don't help The Cause much when they pick apart just about every word that comes out of most Christians' mouths.

Another example is the use made of Joshua 24:15 — "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Popularly, two clauses are singled out from this verse: "choose this day whom you will serve," and "as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." The popular use is to call people to decision, to call them to decide for Christ, to choose to serve Him.

Hypercaffeinated Calvinists (imho) retort with a sneer that this is "decisional regeneration," or "decisionalism," or something like that. Forced to expand, they point out that Joshua is not saying "Choose whether or not you will serve Yahweh." Rather, he is saying, "If you will not serve Yahweh, then choose what false god you will serve."

Fair enough, as far as it goes. That is what the verse says. And anyone who's read the whole eighth chapter of TWTG, which is devoted to the Biblical doctrine of regeneration, knows that I don't see the Bible as teaching that new birth is caused by a human decision.

But don't humans make a decision? Is it helpful simply to dismiss the whole thought? I mean, what is repentance, if it doesn't involve a decision? What is faith? Don't we say that it has a volitional element? And what is the volition, if not the faculty that chooses? Don't we teach that we're all born heading south, and we have to do a 180? Isn't a reverse direction — though enabled by a work of sovereign grace — a decision?

Even putting all that aside, I don't even think the exegesis of this text stands up as a hypercaffeinated Calvinist critique.

Isn't context an important element of exegesis? Hypercaf critics do do a better job than popular Christians, in that they go back to verse 14, read all of 15, and note that the specific words are not a call to choose whether or not to serve Yahweh. Fair enough, as far as that goes.


Keep reading. Read verses 16-27, and what do you see?

The people retort that they will serve Yahweh. Joshua replies that they won't be able to, because of their fickleness. They insist that they will serve Him. So Joshua formalizes this declaration, indicating his approval — first saying "you have chosen the LORD, to serve him" (v. 22).

In other words, they did choose Yahweh, in response to Joshua's challenge. They did choose Yahweh.

And, in conversion, so do we.

19 May 2015

Walking that pastoral tightrope

by Dan Phillips

It has been remarked that I'm fond of creating lists. Like —
  1. This one
  2. This one
  3. And this one
And that was another!

I could list out a bunch of reasons why that is true (see what I did there?)... but, instead, let's just make one more!

You know I'm not overfond of literary overwordiness, so I'll let the list expound itself. Ahem:
  1. Pastor, if you see a largely empty auditorium and don't care, then outreach and effectiveness can't matter much to you (pace Matt. 28:18-20). But if you care too much, it will crush you...making you worthless for outreach, and ineffective!
  2. Pastor, if you preach the Gospel with all the passion and power that you can plead down from Heaven, and yet not a single soul responds, and you don't care...then your faith and your ardor may be defective. But if you care too much, it will crush you, and end you as a pastor.
  3. Pastor, if you preach all corners and angles of the Word of God to your congregation, knowing that they would change visibly (some of them dramatically so) if they took it to heart — and then you don't care or hardly notice when nothing whatever seems to happen in lives needing change, then you aren't much of a shepherd (Prov. 27:23; Ezek. 34). But if you care too much, it will crush you, and you will either leave the pastorate, or start crafting sermons that are bitter and petulant, or so edgeless and general that looking for response is no longer a painful issue.
  4. Pastor, if you never lay out specific applications of how to show love for God or practice the priesthood of the believer or live out the doctrine of the church (e.g. church membership, church involvement, coming on-time so the whole assembly can start together, etc.), you may be playing it safe to protect yourself from disappointment or hostility, and you're failing to provoke your folks to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). But if you do get specific... you risk disappointment (in yourself) and hostility (in your hearers)!
  5. Pastor, if you care too much what folks think of you, and modify your message and ministry to make sure you stay popular, you're no servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4). But if you don't care at all about others, shut out their feelings and cares and needs and failings, and never consider the impact of your words or actions — you're just a loveless, self-absorbed jerk (Matt. 7:12; 1 Cor. 10:33; 13:4-8a).
So, there it is. To care, as a pastor, is to live with constant pain, to deal regularly with self-reproach, self-recriminations, self-doubt; with disappointment, with frustration, with temptations to depression and despair. It is to be moved with concern, deeply and painfully (Matthew 9:36; 14:14). It is to be in constant, daily anxiety (2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 2:20). It is to hurt and ache along with every temptation and failure in the flock (2 Corinthians 11:29).

But not to care is to fail of our calling just as surely. There is no escaping this life of joy-and-pain without at the same time fleeing from our pastoral call.

So we must care, we must care constantly and deeply... but we must not care too much!

So, there you go! On "three," now: One... two...

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17 May 2015

The standing miracle of the Church

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 34, sermon number 2,008, "The Lord and the leper."
"Some seem to fancy that Jesus came to let us go on in our sins with a quiet conscience. But He did nothing of the kind." 

His salvation is cleansing from sin, and if we love sin we are not saved from it. We cannot have justification without sanctification. There is no use in quibbling about it; there must be a change, a radical change, a change of heart, or else we are not saved.

I put it now to you, Do you desire a moral and a spiritual change, a change of life, thought and motive? This is what Jesus gives. Just as this leper needed a thorough physical change so do you need an entire renewal of your spiritual nature so as to become a new creature in Jesus Christ. Oh that many here would desire this, for it would be a cheering sign.

The man who desires to be pure is beginning to be pure; the man who sincerely longs to conquer sin has struck the first blow already. The power of sin is shaken in that man who looks to Jesus for deliverance from it. The man who frets under the yoke of sin will not long be a slave to it; if he can believe that Jesus Christ is able to set him free, he shall soon quit his bondage.

Some sins which have hardened down into habits, yet disappear in a moment when Jesus Christ looks upon a man in love. I have known many instances of persons who, for many years, had never spoken without an oath, or a filthy expression, who, being converted, have never been known to use such language again, and have scarcely ever been tempted in that direction. This is one of the sins which seem to die at the first shot, and it is a very wonderful thing it should be so.

Others I have known so altered at once that the very propensity which was strongest in them has been the last to annoy them afterwards: they have had such a reversion of the mind’s action that, while other sins have worried them for years, and they have had to set a strict watch against them, yet their favourite and dominant sin has never again had the slightest influence over them, except to excite an outburst of horror and deep repentance.

Oh, that you had faith in Jesus that he could thus cast down and cast out your reigning sins! Believe in the conquering arm of the Lord Jesus, and he will do it. Conversion is the standing miracle of the church. Where it is genuine, it is as clear a proof of divine power going with the gospel, as was the casting out of devils, or even the raising of the dead in our Lord’s day. We see these conversions still; and have proof that Jesus is able to work great moral marvels still.

O my hearer, where art thou? Canst thou not believe that Jesus is able to make a new man of thee? O brethren who have been saved, I entreat you to breathe a prayer at this time for those who are not yet cleansed from the foul disease of sin.

Pray that they may have grace to believe in the Lord Jesus for purification of heart, pardon of sin, and the implantation of eternal life. Then when faith is given, the Lord Jesus will work their sanctification, and none shall effectually hinder.

15 May 2015

Some Here, Some There — May 15, 2015

by Dan Phillips

Priorities allowing, I'll try to expand later. First thing in the morning I'm doing a podcast on BibleWorks 10.

UPDATE: here's the link to the podcast.
  • Russell Moore has seen the Avengers sequel, and he finds in it a theme that I think might infuriate self-proclaimed "angry atheist" writer/director Joss Whedon. But even Whedon, witty and creative as he is, can't change the way he's made and what he innately knows to be true, despite his angriest efforts (Romans 1:18ff.).
  • A reader points me to a new site started by friends called Defending Marriage. Its ambitious aim is to be a clearing house of news, material and information for Christians on marriage-related issues in the news. It looks interesting, check it out.
  • Doug Wilson has been on one of his rolls in recent weeks. If you haven't read And all God's people said "Wut?", you must. It's about N. T. Wright and Genesis. Then he talks about the differences between Wright and C. S. Lewis on the evolution issue.
  • Doug's first post reminded me of this post and this post from years ago. What's particularly interesting is looking at some of the outrage against me and us for even asking questions about Wright's very own words, because he is so wonderful about the Resurrection. Look at his trajectory in years since. It's an interesting case-study.
  • Lyndon Unger continues his thorough examination of "Christian" cohabitation over at Cripplegate.
  • Kevin DeYoung gives six reasons why church membership matters, and they're worth pondering and using. 
  • Kevin's article isn't primarily a Biblical exposition of the topic. This sermon works hard to deliver the goods Biblically and persuasively, and has been distributed a lot as well.
  • Denny Burk reviews DeYoung's recent book on homosexuality, which I'm looking forward to reading.

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14 May 2015

"Biblical Evangelism"

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in July 2012. The original post was the third of a 3-part series which was, in turn, a transcript of a talk that Frank gave at the 2012 Call to Discernment Conference in Tulsa OK.

As usual, the comments are closed.
The most interesting phrase in Acts 2, it seems to me, is this: there were added that day.” There were added that day. The Greek word there means “added to a group,” or “joined together.” And we might take it for granted that Luke here meant that these people confessed their sins are were added to the invisible church – to total number of people who are saved for all time. Amen?

The problem is that the text won’t let us get away with such a general reading of what happened at Pentecost. It goes on from there:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Think about this: the point of Peter’s evangelism was not simply to hand out Jesus tickets for people to now sit and wait for his return. The point of Peter’s evangelism was to get people convicted of sin and also of Jesus’ authority over them not merely to judge them, but to also forgive them and then teach them. That’s the great commission, after all, right? That’s how we can make sense of this passage – by what Jesus commanded. But look: Peter was not looking for a mere confession of sin: he was looking to cause people to be joined to the body of the church.

You know: one of the themes you will read about on the internet when it comes to evangelism is the fear of false conversions. There’s a worry that there’s a type of evangelism that will give people a false sense of security regarding their state before Christ. Let me admit that, in one sense, that talk offends me. It seems to me that the right confidence of the believer is that whatever sin there is in me, however great my sin is, Jesus Christ is greater still. Jesus Christ is greater than my greed. Jesus Christ is greater than my lies. Jesus Christ is greater than my sexual sins. Jesus Christ is greater than my anger and hatred. Jesus is overcoming all those things for me in the ultimate sense, and Jesus is overcoming them in the immediate sense – even when I am weak. This is Romans 7 and 8: Wretched man that I am, I am delivered from death by Jesus Christ – there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Amen? In one sense, because Jesus is Lord and Christ, we cannot be overconfident in his ability to overcome our sin.

But here’s the thing: Jesus himself says there are those who will cry out, “Lord! Lord!” in the final day, but he will tell them, “I never knew you.” And Peter’s hedge against that here at Pentecost is not to merely get these people to feel guilty, or to ask for forgiveness, or to write a date down in the front of their Bibles. His purpose, as commanded by Christ, was to make disciples of these people – and actually add them to the church.Let me say this as plainly as possible: as human beings, we have a great eye for the faults of other people’s way of doing things, and not much of an eye for what we ourselves are doing poorly. The challenge in the balance of our key passage from the book of Acts is to see that all kinds of evangelism falls so far short of the first act of evangelism that we ought to be embarrassed by all of them rather than justifying our way over another method which, obviously, gets so much wrong.

True evangelism is going to get people convicted of sin and get them grateful to God – and draw them into a community of believers. Let’s think about this soberly: we’re at a conference about evangelism and discernment today. Somehow our friends at Grace Family Bible church thought these two great and good ideas belong together like some kind of theological Reese’s Cup or an Oreo Cookie. I utterly agree with them. The problem we as believers face is that we don’t act like these things go together. And this contributes to the problems that exist in the church today.

12 May 2015

Things To Come

by Dan Phillips

(Not the book by Pentecost, but, you know... things to come!)

My "things to do" list has well passed my "things done" list. When that sort of thing happens, blogging is a thing that gives. But I thought I'd tell you of some things in the works:

What it does and doesn't mean to walk in the Spirit. I've mostly written on the second aspect (doesn't mean), but mean to do some writing here, in addition to what's in TWTG. I've preached about it, more than once, but it remains to put it in a blog post.

A review of Matt Harmon's Mentor series commentary on Philippians. Absolutely wonderful commentary, a rare combination of scholarship and devotion. Enthusiastically recommend it, expect it to be used for years to come.

A review of Logos 6, particularly the Reformed package. I was a beta tester. Love it, recommend it.

A review of BibleWorks 10. Also beta tested this, also love it, also recommend it. Every pastor or serious Bible teacher should have this. In fact, I'm to be talking about it on the Theotek Podcast this Friday, Lord willing.

So, when I can, you'll see this. And an SHST this Friday if I can.

In the meanwhile if you've any interest, last Sunday I preached on that theme dear to our hearts: the glory of God.

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