Leave a comment

The hole in our holiness

img_6273

“No matter what you profess, if you show disregard for Christ by giving yourself over to sin – impenitently and habitually – then heaven is not your home” (DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p. 14)

Reviewed by Kelvin Macharia:

Is it even possible to please God with our righteousness? It sounds like an ocean being amused by water in a cup. And doesn’t Scripture say that “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags?” Why bother to fight a losing fight? After all haven’t we been made righteous through justification in Christ, the righteousness that really counts?

There is a place for practical holiness Kevin DeYoung says, and it’s not optional. We are to walk in righteousness because we have been made righteous- we have been given a new identity. DeYoung has done a wonderful job uniting imputed righteousness through justification in Christ alone with progressive practical sanctification.

Not only is the pursuit of holiness possible, it is also a winning battle. Christ has won the battle for us so now we enter the boxing ring with confidence knowing that our medal is guaranteed. No matter how many blows we take, no matter how many falls we make during the fight, the medal is ours, therefore we do not give up. And we have the best coach on our side, the Holy Spirit. He not only shows us how to maneuver but also helps us stand when we fall, hands us a towel when things get messy and massages our shoulders in encouragement. We have the upper hand in this fight. This is actually a winning battle!

If you are like me, you have most probably felt discouraged at some point in this fight for righteousness. Here is a book for you. It is possible to be holy. It is possible to please our all righteous God with our imperfect righteousness, it is what he has called us to (Ephesians 5:8-10; 1 Peter 2:5).

DeYoung has packed a lot of encouraging biblical truths in this short and simple book that will be of help to Christians seeking righteousness. I specifically loved the chapter where he talks about saints seeking purity in dating and courtship. Why waste your energy determining how close you can get to sin without ‘sinning’ when you can actually run as far away as possible from sin for the sake of your righteousness and for God’s glory! And this is not only limited to dating situations, it applies to our day to day activities – the movies we watch, the thoughts we tolerate, the conversations we have with others etc.

This book is a good read to people of all ages. Get yourself a copy as you gear up for this winning battle.

Leave a comment

A year to serve and grow: recruiting now for ministry apprenticeships Sept 2017

apprenticeship-ad-2014-hd

A year to go…

how-the-iserve-app-year-works1-2

A year to serve…

Tuum 1.JPG

A year to grow…

peter-reading-bible

Interested?

 

Leave a comment

Sons or slaves

51kpoysrrel-_sx318_bo1204203200_

Peter Maiden, interviewed in Evangelicals Now (Dec 2016), speaks from his experience of leading a large mission organisation of the way our security in Christ (or lack of it) has a major impact on our ability to be servant leaders:

I witnessed a small number of Christian leaders, unsure of their identity in Christ, who became insecure leaders. This had a hugely negative impact. They often had younger people coming up alongside them, with great gifts. If they had worked with these younger people, their own leadership would have been enhanced – and a better outcome would have followed. But they couldn’t. Their identity and self-worth were based around their job and their job title. They saw any other potential leaders as a threat and rejected them. Often, I found, this was done subconsciously, but they could demean and undermine the younger leader. This was extremely destructive, especially in a team situation.

Leaders who behave like this are almost entirely unaware of their behaviour. They see themselves as serving leaders. But they are clearly deceived. This can come down to a failure to deal with our sinful nature, which wants glory for me. But the transformed leader’s desire must be for the glory of God alone.

If you have had demanding parents who gave the sense that you were accepted on the basis of your performance, and not simply because you were their child, then this can be transferred to the way you see God. Yet he accepts us entirely on the basis of the work of his Son, not on our own performance. Leaders need to be aware if this is what is driving them – and often they are not.

We have to live on the basis of covenant, rather than performance, and this needs constant reinforcement – not least because the enemy constantly wants to undermine us in this area. That is why we so need the “means of grace” – and why communion is so important for me. To go to a communion service and to be reminded of the fact that I am loved by God to the extent that he gave his own Son to die for me – this is a constant encouragement. And being in constant communion with God, through prayer and his word, is also a constant reminder of the relationship I have with him, and the wonder of adoption into his family.

A slave gets up every morning, thinking what must I do today to please my Master? But a child gets up every day, knowing they are loved by their parents. And because of that love, the child wants to live a life that pleases their parents. They set out to live that life, each day, on the basis of total acceptance. That is the vital difference.

Resources:

  • Slave or son – chart to help you assess whether you have a slave mindset or a son mindset
  • Abba Father – should we use ‘daddy’ language of God?
  • J I Packer, Knowing God, Chp. 19: Sons of God – epic
  • The search for identity or emotional gold-digging – reminder that even seeking identity in Christ can ironically become a self-focused thing – we really need forget ourselves and just seek Christ himself
1 Comment

Zeal without Burnout

zeal-without-burnout

I remember when I was about 13 years old and it was announced at church that the reverend would be away for a month for his annual leave. I remember thinking how odd that was, “You mean pastors get leave? Who will run the church when his gone?” This memory reveals what I think is the basic Christian view of people in full-time ministry. They’ve chosen to serve God, that doesn’t really seem like such a big job, except on Sundays at least so why should they really have time off?

This is where I found Christopher Ash’s book a great help. As a man in full-time ministry and who has experienced great hardship from failure to take good rest, Some of what he speaks about I know from experience – that ministry can be very tiring, and some I realized I needed so that I can think about rest in a more godly way. The greatest question about rest for the person in Christian ministry (and that should be all Christians, Eph. 4:16), is ‘Does rest mean that I am not being zealous for the LORD? Does it mean that I am just a softie who isn’t willing to be spent for the LORD?

Christopher Ash aims to lay out patterns of thought that will help us be zealous for the LORD but with full realization that we are not God and therefore need rest. We are finite beings, made of dust that are here for a season and will eventually waste away (in a physical sense). Not resting means we have too high a view of ourselves and that is in fact very ungodly! If we think that we must be there for ministry to continue, we are seeing ourselves as God and that is wrong! The only person necessary for ministry to happen is God. He is the One who convicts hearts, who saves and who builds people up so that they are transformed into the image of His Son. Graciously, He includes us in this work but we are not a necessary component in this work.

burnoutWhat this means is that we should think carefully about our view of spending ourselves for the LORD. Firstly, we need to keep in mind that it is God who works to save and transform people. Secondly we should pray that He does this work for His glory. Thirdly, should pray that He would use us for this work. Fourthly, we should remember that we can take a break from this work because we are not God.

But this book is not only for people in full-time ministry. It is a very helpful book for the ‘ordinary’ church member who is being served by these ministers. It is crucial because it will help them to think rightly about ministry and rest for ministers. This is because it is often the ‘ordinary’ church member who will be part of the congregation who provide the necessary support for ministers to be able to take good rest while ministry continues on.

I would highly recommend reading this book to better understand the importance of rest in ministry and the principles that should help us think about it in a godly manner for ourselves and others.

Leave a comment

Honest Evangelism

honest-evangelismI wonder how you feel about evangelism? For me, it’s been one of the hardest parts of my life as a disciple of Christ. I have no problem chatting to other Christians about the gospel, but as soon as I think about talking to an unbeliever about Christ and the reason for hope that I have, I seize up and waste the opportunity in silence or talking about things that don’t matter.

So when I heard of Rico Tice’s book, Honest Evangelism, I thought I should get it and read to see if I could get some help in this area. The title says it all. Rico spares no punches. He begins by laying out the reasons we should evangelize. Realizing that evangelism is about a love for God and His glory as well as a love for people so that they might receive grace and not wrath are crucial reasons why we need to evangelize. But quite accurately, Rico diagnoses the main reason people don’t evangelize (at least it the main reason for me), an idolatry of the heart.

If I’m honest with myself, I don’t evangelize because I fear awkwardness. I don’t want to be perceived as different and radical especially by my family. The root of this is that I idolize my family. I would rather ‘keep the peace’ and be ‘in’ than share Christ and that shows that there is something I value more than Christ. This is just heart-breaking. I’d honestly rather deny the reality of the situation but as I know well, that still leaves me in a bad state. What I choose to do instead is to pray about it – may God in His grace purify my heart and give me a wholeheartedness centered on His love and glory so that I may boldly speak of Him so that those who do not know Him yet might, especially those in my family that I claim to love.

More to this, Rico also gives some helpful advice on how to overcome other fears we face in evangelism by trusting in God, being prepared and intentional and simply being ourselves. He also gives some good pointers on what we are to focus on and how we can go about it. The most distinct thing that I found most helpful is his pointer about how we shouldn’t aim to win someone over in one session but should rather aim to win someone gradually by being intentional in our relationships – being wise to direct conversations to Christ (His identity, mission and call) so that people can come to really know Christ well and (as the Spirit convicts them) to believe in Him. I highly recommend this book.

Leave a comment

The art of saying No

how-about-never-cartoon

Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. (Neh. 6:2-4)

An old preacher made the point from this passage of Nehemiah 6 – Priorities keep you safe. Focusing on the main thing – the work you’ve been given to do – keeps you from distraction, harm and sin. Those who wander off and ‘pierce their soul’ or ‘shipwreck their faith’ are often those without a clear, resolute, industrious focus on their work and its value. Nehemiah was strengthened in his ability to say a clear “No” – despite the wearing repeated requests (cf. Judges 14:17; 16:16) – because he knew he couldn’t leave “a great project.”

Michael Hyatt points out that if we don’t get better at saying No then, not only will we end up exhausted, but also “Other peoples’ priorities will take precedence over ours… We won’t be able to say “yes” to the really important things.” Peter Brain, in his book Going the Distance, similarly explains how saying No is not only an important self-care skill (maintaining work/rest boundaries) but it is also a positive opportunity to explain to the person requesting (and an opportunity to remind yourself at the same time) what is the main thing for you. Jesus does this in Mark 1:38 (I’m not going to set up a healing ministry in Capernaum because my real work is to preach). With skill, sensitivity and winsomeness this approach can turn an awkward moment of refusal into a discipleship (and even vision-casting) opportunity.

But one important qualification. What we’re talking about here is not your boss giving you more work. Sanballat and Geshem are not Nehemiah’s boss. (There may be a need to have grownup, tactful and respectful conversations with your boss about workload but that’s not the point of this post.) What we’re talking about here is really distractions – either malicious distractions from enemies (as in Nehemiah’s case) or just plain old distractions – and these are the ones which are more likely to be the case for most of us – TV, social media, hyperlinks, spam, unhelpful friendships, pointless conversations, random requests for help (from those who would be better helped by someone else or just need to sort themselves out).

This is not easy stuff. In terms of technology this infographic is helpful in cutting distraction. More widely, it’s certainly going to be important to have a very clear idea what your life mission really is (Matt Perman is helpful on this) and a passionate commitment to the work you’ve been given. Then there’s going to be a lot of wisdom needed. Sometimes it will be difficult to tell a distraction from an important request (note Mk. 1:40-45 straight after Mk. 1:38). But at the very least the more straightforwardly pointless, unnecessary and unhelpful stuff that flows through our phones and screens and says, “Come to Ono” should get a quick slap down. And with the more marginal invitations and suggestions from friends and family, well, let’s at least take a moment to consider.

keep-the-main-thing-the-main-thing-4

Leave a comment

The Second David

david-goliath

As a friend remarked as he read through the Bible, “There’s a lot about David!”

David is the subject of 1 Samuel through to 2 Kings 2 and from 1 Chronicles 11 through to the end of the book. That is 76 chapters! Add the Psalms attributed to David and you reach over 150 chapters. That is roughly one sixth of the whole Old Testament. His name comes in the Old Testament about 835 times – compared to 158 times for Abraham and 715 for Moses. By any measure he is a towering figure. He is the Prophet-Priest-King (2 Sam. 23:1-5; 24:18-25); the one above all whom God fixes his heart on to use, bless, confirm and exalt (1 Sam. 13:14). The one who plans, provides for a commissions the great Temple of the LORD (1 Chron. 22-29) which Solomon merely executes.

Even before the account of David there is quite a build up to him. Notice the pattern of the Priest-King who can subdue the animals (Gen. 1:28; 2:15), the appearance of a Priest-King from Jerusalem, the language of the Shepherd-Saviour (Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Ex. 3:1; Num. 27:17), the promise of a coming of a king from Judah (Gen. 49:10) who becomes the focus of the serpent-crusher expectation (Gen. 3:15 cf. Num. 24:17), the anticipation of Jerusalem as central (Deut. 12) and the pattern of good kingship (Deut. 17), the crying need for such a king in the Book of Judges, the surprising story of God’s preparation for the birth of David in the Book of Ruth.

Then following on from the actual account of the life of David, continuing into the Books of Kings and Chronicles, the name of David comes up again and again as the subsequent kings of Judah are compared to David while judgment is restrained ‘for the sake of David.’ The Song of Songs paints a picture of a bridegroom who is not only Solomon-like but also David-like – a shepherd king. Then the Prophets repeat and add to the great promise of 2 Sam. 7, telling of one who will reign on David’s throne (Isa. 9:7), another kingly Son of Jesse (Isa. 11:1), the Second David (Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hosea 3:5).

Finally we come to the Anointed One (Mark 1:1), declared to be the royal Son (Mark 1:11 cf. Psalm 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14), one who announces the Kingdom (Mark 1:15), who gathers sinners around him (Mark 2:15 cf. 1 Sam. 22:2), who assumes the prerogatives of David (Mark 2:25), who can overcome the strong man (Mark 3:27), who has an inner circle of 3 (Mark 5:37; 9:2 cf. 2 Sam. 23:8), the one who is greeted as the Son of David and brings in the kingdom of David (Mark 10:47-48; 11:10), who is resisted by the authorities and betrayed by a the one he shares bread with (Mark 14:20 cf. Ps. 41:9), who goes sorrowing out across the Kidron Valley and up the Mt of Olives (John 18:1; Mk. 14:26 cf. 2 Sam. 15:23, 30) and is then, as all the Gospel writers emphasise, crowned and ‘enthroned’ (paradoxically on the Cross) as King.

This is the one who came to sit on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). Even though the Kingdom has been bitterly divided for a thousand years and the northern tribes lost, this king will reign over all Jacob’s descendants and fulfil the promise of the forever king (Luke 1:33).  John the Baptist, as Tim Chester has observed, reminds us not only of Elijah but also of Samuel – a Levite, born to a barren woman, the prophet to go before the Davidic king (Luke 1:69, 76), receiving the Word of the LORD for the first time after a long famine of the Word (Luke 3:2 cf. 1 Sam. 3), the one who identifies the King and officiates over his ‘anointing’ (the baptism). The theme of Jesus’ table fellowship with the unworthy in Luke’s Gospel also resonates wonderfully with the story of Mephibosheth.

Matthew, in his account of the gospel, is perhaps the strongest of all – introducing Jesus as the Messiah, the son of David, reminding us of the promise of a Shepherd from Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1-7) and highlighting the conflict with the other King of the Jews (Matt. 2:7-18). The whole Gospel is heavy in emphasis on the in-breaking of the Kingdom and the King.

So just as the account of the life and trials and triumphs of David dominates the Old Testament – being by far the longest narrative focused on one character – so the account of the life and trials and triumph of Jesus dominates the New Testament (950 mentions of the name of Jesus in the NT).

Then we could pursue the significance of the David theme on into the rest of the New Testament – e.g. how Paul interestingly chooses to summarise his gospel with reference to David (Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8) – but this post is already getting too long.

So What?

What difference does seeing the significance of David and the parallels with Jesus practically make:

  1. For one thing it should make us very cautious to jump into the shoes of David when we’re reading the stories of his life. In the same was as we are not Jesus stilling the storm or raising the dead, so we are not David defeating his enemies. More often we should identify ourselves more with his enemies and persecutors or his feeble friends. Our first application will often be to look to the Second David and only in a secondary sense to draw exemplary lessons from David’s life (in the same way as Jesus is first our substitute and only secondarily our example).
  2. Another thing I’ve found helpful in looking again at the stories of David is how the language and terms of those stories flow into the New Testament in subtle ways. For example, the whole idea of a King and a Kingdom or of Conquest or Battle imagery in the NT takes on a new meaning when you’ve just read the stories of David’s (often bloody and unexpected) exploits and rule. Also the language of ‘my lord’ and ‘your servant’ comes extremely commonly in David’s narrative. ‘Lord’ is how you address the king with respect and fear and submission and loyalty (often in a battle context or where loyalties are uncertain). ‘Servant’ is how you refer to yourself, again expressing respect, fear, submission, dependence and loyalty to the king. Interesting to think how that flows into the use of ‘servant’ and ‘lord’ in Paul’s letters for example.
  3. Finally, seeing the incredibly strong significance of David in Biblical theology opens up the Psalms of David as Psalms of Christ – the song book or prayer book of Jesus – written ahead of time.