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Free for All: Rights, Fertility, and Empathy

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 20:05

Barry chats with Rob, Winston, and Daisy to discuss insensitive children, defense of the religious right, and fertility regulations.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Sexual Morality In A Christless World

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 17:50

How would you make a case for Christian sexual morality in a secular setting? Specifically, what would you say if you were asked to speak on the Christian view of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in a university classroom? This is exactly the opportunity that motivated pastor Matthew Rueger to start researching and studying Christian sexuality in depth, and ultimately to write the book Sexual Morality in a Christless World.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Simple Solution to Unleashing the Spirit . . . No Really!

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 12:34
There is a time in everyone’s life where they look at the long list of desires and goals in front of them and wonder, “How am I ever going to get this done?” There are books and books along with blogs upon blogs of pithy slogans to help you get more done in less time.... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Seven Reasons I Will Vote for Donald Trump for President

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 09:30

The recent “October surprise” release of a video of Donald Trump from several years ago has once again prompted great angst among many, along with new and renewed calls for conservatives and/or Christians not to vote for him. His comments about women are despicable and deplorable and indefensible. Yet, I do not think the October surprise yielded any information about the man that was particularly new. Rather, it was more confirming of what we already knew. Trump is all about himself, and sex and bragging about sex are a big part of that.

I know several who have pledged never to vote for Trump for various reasons, including his boastfulness over sin; his consistent criticism and attempts to discredit and harm those who disagree with him; and their legitimate doubts over just who Donald Trump would be as president. I cannot, nor will I attempt to, defend him, and I voted for a far better candidate in the primaries.

So, in the face of all of this, just why is it that I am going to vote for Donald Trump? That is a good question that is worthy of some explanation. I have seven key reasons.

  1. Human lives—particularly the weak and defenseless. Whether Trump will defend the unborn and the weak in all the ways I think biblical and necessary, he is far less likely to wage war on them. Neither Nixon nor Ford nor Reagan nor the Bushes stopped abortion in America. None of them stopped the holocaust that is our inner cities. I doubt Trump will trump them on this, but every lean toward life a president makes is good news for the weak and defenseless among us.
  2. He is America and not Russia in World War II. If you do not understand this analogy, let me point you to a superb post by Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Seminary. (Click here.)
  3. Deeds trump words. See Thomas Sowell’s (a Trump basher) column on this. (Click here.)
  4. Supreme Court. He has promised to appoint a solid Supreme Court justice, probably more than one. We know for certain the extreme and unending damage the Supreme Court has done to our children and to our nation and to the world already. Clinton has vowed to use the court system as a political weapon against me, my children, and what we know in Christ to be right and true. We must fight this.
  5. Mike Pence. Both candidates are older, so both vice presidential candidates have a higher than normal chance of ending up in the chair. I want Mike Pence in that chair.
  6. My vote is not sacred. While I believe my right to vote is a sacred privilege, my actual vote is not sacred in that I am not required by Scripture to cast it for someone who is holy. God does not give qualifications for president, only for pastor and deacon. People who vote long vote for lost candidates and for candidates of whom they do not know the spiritual status. My vote is not sacred, but the right to vote, given by God, is sacred, and I take that seriously.
  7. I’ve done this before.

Last week, I preached a spiritual growth conference in a middle-sized church that is more than 100 years old. Since families have lived in this community for generations, I was able to witness firsthand the pain and devastation that is being poured out upon our nation, and especially upon our children, through multiple generations, by no-fault divorce.

As Wilcox affirms here, “In the case of divorce, as in so many others, the worst consequences of the social revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s are now felt disproportionately by the poor and less educated….” Wilcox further observes that while the elites in America have regained some stability in their marriages, at large, “This imbalance leaves our cultural and political elites less well attuned to the magnitude of social dysfunction in much of American society, and leaves the most vulnerable Americans—especially children living in poor and working-class communities—even worse off than they would otherwise be.”

In 1980, I voted in my first presidential election for a man who had signed the first no-fault divorce law in the nation as governor of California, setting this unprecedented American carnage in motion. His name was Ronald Reagan. He was divorced, and he did not like what he had to go through to escape his vows. Today, he is a vaunted hero of many I know who would never vote for Trump. Yet the likelihood that Trump’s presidency would open upon America anything like the destruction that Reagan’s governorship had is unlikely.

But we have become used to divorce, even in the church. We see it as part of life, a part of life to which children should learn to adjust. We have classes to fix things after the divorce. But most of those children harmed by divorce leave the church, and millions more never enter the church. So we speak in hushed tones of Reagan while we rail on social media and blogs against Trump.

Reagan later regretted the decision, at least politically. And yes, it likely would have happened without Reagan. And yes, Reagan was able to slow and even stop much in our world that was harmful. And yes, I would vote for him again. But let’s not kid ourselves that we have not faced this decision before or that we will not face it again.

Reagan promised the closing of the Department of Education that Carter had opened. Never happened. And Reagan did not stand up for Robert Bork, perhaps the strongest conservative jurist of the century. Instead, he then nominated Anthony Kennedy, who forced upon us homosexual marriage. Had all that been known in 1980, would Reagan even have been nominated?

You know, we never know what will happen. So we exercise the best wisdom we have with our vote. I never look back on a vote. For the reasons above, I pray and do the best I can. And this year, in the real world, the best I can do in the presidential race for the weak and defenseless among us, and for my children, is vote for Trump and Pence.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Personhood and the Pro-Life Position

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Mon, 10/24/2016 - 20:05

Barry talks with board-certified OB-GYN Dr. William Lile about life, personhood, and the next generation’s response to the pro-life movement.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Free for All: Human Life Span, Government Subsidies, and Heels

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Fri, 10/21/2016 - 20:05

Winston and Daisy chat with Barry to talk about feminism, the human life span, and government subsidies.

Categories: Seminary Blog

On sports and the Christian life: An interview with David Prince, part 2

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 10/21/2016 - 08:57

Ok, here’s a fastball right down the middle for you, but I think it’s a good question. You and I both love baseball deeply. It seems to me that baseball has many lessons to teach us about life. What can we learn about the Christian life from our national pastime?

Baseball means dealing with failure. “There is more Met than Yankee in all of us,” as Roger Angell has poignantly wrote in The Summer Game. Elsewhere Angell explains, “Baseball seems to have been invented solely for the purpose of explaining all other things in life” (Baseball and the American Dream, 8). When I read Paul in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing,” I think about baseball. The reality is that baseball is a game of managed failure for every player, even the great ones.

Baseball requires a kind of moral courage that keeps persisting in the face of inevitable repeated personal failures. That is the sober, unalterable reality for Mike Trout and every little leaguer as well. Baseball also demands a rigorous hopefulness. When Paul concludes his struggle with the hope-filled assertion, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), I also think about baseball. Persistent, daily plodding in the face of chronic managed failure, driven by future hope sounds a lot like my daily Christian walk.

Also, in most cases, the way a love of baseball is transmitted is through dads. No boy will love and pass down the game of baseball simply because someone bought him a glove, ball, and bat. He cannot play catch with himself, hit himself ground balls, or throw himself batting practice. Much less will he ever figure out on his own what in the world a squeeze, sacrifice, infield fly rule, frozen rope, Texas leaguer, or balk means. The mechanics, mystery, nuance, and jargon of baseball demand that one be personally discipled in its craft and patiently taught its excellencies. A baseball scorebook resembles mysterious hieroglyphics until the signs and symbols are enduringly given meaning by a learned tutor (Deut 6). Very little in baseball is seeker-friendly or self-evident, and few people pick up the game on their own.

I could go on, and on, but I will stop there.

Most pastors and laypeople alike have children who are involved in recreation sports, travel teams, high school sports, and the like. How should we help our children balance sports with church and educational commitments? What about playing on the Lord’s Day? Do you see that as a problem? How should pastors counsel their people on these matters?

Sports are never the problem. They are merely exposing the problem. Like all of God’s good gifts, sports can be easily corrupted. Some Christians make the mistake of prioritizing sports over church by reasoning that the youth sports opportunity is only for a limited period of time and the church will always be there. Clearly, teaching children that sports are a valid reason to neglect God is disastrous. Some parents even fashion themselves as victims in dealing with these issues as though they cannot set boundaries on their children’s participation. They reason as if the only options are not participating in sports at all or acting like the team’s practice and game schedule is in charge of their children’s lives.

The solution is simpler than many Christian parents and participants want to believe, but it involves leadership, direction, and conviction. Sports are never the problem; inadequate leadership is the problem. Sports are often made scapegoats for our lack of conviction and failure of leadership. A passionate commitment to excellence in athletic competition must be for the glory of God. Because God’s glory should be our end goal, our Christian conviction will lead us to set appropriate boundaries and gladly endure the consequences. When involved in sports, participants should be committed and diligent participants, but should also draw up front whatever boundaries are needed on participation. Too many embrace Christian sentimentality, which seeks to have convictions for which they never have to suffer. For parents, leading in this was is preparing your children to make Christ-honoring decisions as an adult.

Any guidance on how we should help our sons and daughters or even young people in our churches to select sports heroes? Any warnings?

My answer here is similar—parental involvement. There is a tendency in contemporary culture to consider ours the most sports-obsessed society in human history. Though our culture is clearly saturated with a passion for sports, the obsession with sports was even more pervasive in antiquity. The first ancient Olympic games can be traced back to 776 B.C. and took place on the ancient plains of Olympia, which is on the western part of the Peloponnese. Along with the Olympics, other Greek crown competitions were held at Delphi, Isthmia and Nemea. The competitions were athletic-religious festivals, and the athletes were viewed as demi-gods.

The apostle Paul was undoubtedly a sports fan (he probably attended the Isthmian games), and it seems he could not think about the spiritual battle of Christian living without pointing to the obvious parallels drawn from his interest in athletic competition. He does this even though the sporting competitions were mired in idolatry and other things that were not commiserate with Christian commitment. According to Paul, the negatives did not invalidate the positive lessons to be learned. Parents must point to the lessons to be learned and also point out the aspects that are out of line with the gospel. Both lessons are valuable. It is simply a matter of teaching your children to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Sports has become an idol in my heart when _____________________. .

Unthinking rejection or unthinking embrace of sports is a failure of Christian discipleship. I believe that the Christian with a rightly ordered, Christ-centered worldview is uniquely in a position to enjoy athletic competition as a good gift from God and his or her sports loyalties as a demonstration of providential rootedness in time, place, family, and community.

C. S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “The sin and corruption in the world was the result of people and institutions “trying to run it on the wrong juice” (53-54). Every part of our lives, including our sports lives, must run on “the right juice” or we will inevitably turn gifts into idols. To run on the right juice, we must forsake a self-referential approach to life, embracing a radically Christ-centered life and walking humbly before God with fierce gospel-focused intentionality before man. When sports are not approached with intentional Christ-centeredness, they are corrupted and can easily become a curse rather than a blessing. Sports are not inherently good in a fallen world. Like all things, sports must be redeemed and renewed in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  1. Sports has become an idol in my heart and life when I cannot enjoy sports and acknowledge sports as a good gift of God when my favorite team loses.If you cannot delight in God with thanksgiving for a hard fought contest when your team loses, then you are perverting God’s good gift of athletics and teaching those around him to do the same. Christian parent, if you cannot root like crazy with your children for your favorite team—only to see them lose—and afterward laugh and play in the yard with your kids, you have a problem; it’s called idolatry.
  2. Sports has become an idol in my heart and life when I sever my participation in sports or cheering for my favorite team from my Christian commitment.If your behavior at a game would make it awkward for you to shift the conversation to your faith in Christ, you are making an idol of sports. Sports must never control us or be the source of a Christian’s identity, because Christ alone is the believer’s identity, context, center, and end; so all other desires are subordinate to Christ, and nothing, including athletic failure, can steal the believer’s contentment.
  3. Sports has become an idol in my heart and life when it does not inspire me to faithfulness in my own vocation and endeavors.How many Christians rigorously critique the job performance, dedication, and work ethic of the coach of their favorite team while simultaneously complaining about their jobs and excusing their own lack of work ethic and dedication? Such is a sad commentary on their lack of commitment to the priority of the kingdom of Christ in their daily lives. Where this kind of Christian hypocrisy is happening, the love of sports has become detached from the Christian life and transformed into a barrier rather than a bridge to glorifying Christ.

David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.

The post On sports and the Christian life: An interview with David Prince, part 2 appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Houses with Hope

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 20:05

Barry chats with Ronna Jordan and Jared Okelo about helping those in need in Kenya. For more information go to www.houseswithhope.org


Categories: Seminary Blog

A Theological Relationship: Part 1

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 20:05

Barry begins a conversation challenging some of our presumptions about the relationship between the cross and the resurrection.

Categories: Seminary Blog

On sports and the Christian life: An interview with David Prince (Part 1)

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 10:12

You have extensive background in sports from playing to coaching and everything in between. Tell me a little about your passion for sports.

My father was teaching me about sports before I could walk. One photo of me as an infant has a baseball right beside me in the crib. My parents bought the house in which I was raised partly because it was across the street from baseball fields, a football field, and a basketball court. I am thankful athletic competition has always been a part of my life.

The smaller sporting arenas of my childhood and young adulthood will always be sacred places to me. I rarely travel to my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama without driving by Joe Marshall Baseball Field where I played baseball as a child, the East YMCA where I played football and basketball, Patterson Field where I played high school baseball, and Huntington College where I played college baseball.

Recently, one of my middle school coaches read my new book, In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship, and he decided to go to my youth, high school, and college baseball field and send me a little container of dirt from each of the infields. What a gift. Those will always be sacred places to me. After playing baseball in college the most natural thing for me was to become a High School coach and after I became a pastor and professor I have been coaching my eight children.

I cannot explain who I am as a husband, father, pastor, professor, or friend without reference to sports, which have always been a part of my life. Nor would I want to do so.

Your new book, In the Arena, is about sports and Christian discipleship. What does sports have to do with making disciples?

The Christian life is spiritual warfare. Thus, it is not surprising that the Bible seizes both military warfare and sports competition as analogies for Christian living. Think about the shared language: blitz, bomb, blown away, formation, trenches, neutral zone, red zone, offense, defense, attack, press, assault, battle, battle-plan, field general, no man’s land, battle-tested, and so on. Anyone who listens to sporting figures, analysts, and commentators knows that the language of athletic competition and the language of military combat is a shared vocabulary.

There is a sense in which all athletic competition is an artificially designed mock battle. Of course, there is a danger in the co-mingling of sports and warfare language. Actual warfare is horrific, and in comparison, sporting battle is merely trivial. Nonetheless, when kept in proper perspective, the shared language can be helpful for the Christian since the biblical storyline is a story of spiritual war. We are called to fight against sin as good soldiers of Christ Jesus who proclaim the gospel no matter the cost. Sports expose character, and for those willing to be intentional about using that fact to biblically form character, it provides a great training ground.

Consider the New Testament language related to sports. The word “athlete” comes from the Greek word athleo, which means to compete (2 Tim 2:5). Our word “agony” comes from the Greek word agon, which means fight, struggle, or conflict (Phil 1:30; Col 2:1; 1 Thess 2:2; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7, Heb 12:1) and related to agon is the Greek word agonizomai, means to fight or strive against (Luke 13:24; John 18:36; 1 Cor 9:25, Col 1:29; 4:12; 1 Tim 4:10; 6:12; 2 Ti 4:7). “Gymnasium,” comes to us from the Greek word gymnasia, which means exercise or training for competition (1 Cor. 9:24–27; Gal. 2:2; 5:7; Phil. 1:30; 2:16). According to Paul, if athletes agonize to fulfill determined temporal goals, how much more should he and others agonize in gospel ministry (1 Cor 9:24-27, Eph 6:12, Heb 12:1-2, 1 Tim 4:8, 2 Tim 2:5)?

How has knowing sports so well helped you in pastoral ministry?

After decades serving in ministry, there is rarely a day that goes by that I do not reflect on how thankful I am for the training I have received for pastoral ministry. I am thankful for the Christian mentors I have had, the Seminary training I have experienced, but for the day-to-day grind of pastoral leadership and decision making as a shepherd of a local church the lessons I have learned through sports about leadership, courage, running a program, building team chemistry, communicating a big picture vision, teaching fundamentals, handling criticism, discipline, motivation, and inspiration have been most significant.

There are some important and practical leadership lessons that are best learned in the hot sun and heat of conflict among those who care more about the goal that brought the team together than any individual’s feelings. I, and countless others, have been shaped for the good of the church by our sports experiences. I hope to help people like me to be more intentional about leveraging those lessons for the benefit of Christ and his church. All athletic competition demands a measure of courage. The possibility of failure is ever present, but in the face of it, the coach, athlete, or team must persist. The persevering courage in the face of failure and criticism that we often find in the pursuit of temporal championships in sporting competition should both challenge and encourage us as we pursue what is eternal.

Would you advise a young pastor who perhaps isn’t as big a fan to become acquainted with sports as an entry point into conversations with unbelievers and also church members?

Absolutely. When I teach at conferences and seminars about a proper Christian engagement with sports, I usually began by asking some questions. First, I ask people to raise their hands if they have ever served in the military. Then, I ask the attendees to raise their hand if they have ever made a living as a farmer. Finally, I asked those in attendance to raise their hands if they have ever competed in athletics and consistently watch sports. Every time I have done this only a few people raise their hands in response to the first two questions, but almost every single hand is raised for those who have competed in athletics.

Soldier, athlete, and farmer as the three key metaphors in the Bible for what it means to walk with God. In Paul mentions all three and then says, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim 2:7). It would seem imperative for us that since most Christians with whom we minister only have a personal point of contact with one of those metaphors, it would serve us well to have a biblically informed understanding of athletics and competition and leverage it for the sake of the gospel. Paul does not consider thinking through the relationship of sports to our Christian life an insignificant matter.
David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.

The post On sports and the Christian life: An interview with David Prince (Part 1) appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Free for All: Anonymity, Political Endorsements, and Halloween

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 20:05

Barry is joined by Joe and Winston to chat about dangers in some Halloween costumes, the reporter who revealed the identity of an anonymous writer, and political endorsements.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Demographics in America: No Longer a Black and White Issue

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 09:30

Immigration is one of the most divisive political issues of this presidential election cycle and has raised the collective blood pressure of our nation. As a nation of immigrants and, more importantly, as churches, it is imperative that we understand the past, present and future of immigration in America and the opportunities and challenges it poses to the Christian community. For churches, immigration should be a missions issue rather than purely a political one.

CNN ran a story on Sept. 28, 2015, covering a report compiled by Pew Charitable Trust titled, “Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065.” As reported by CNN, the Pew Research study showed that one in five global immigrants is in the U.S.—“the largest immigrant population in the world.”

Since passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965, Hispanics have constituted the largest group coming to the U.S., and Asians have been the second largest. The report shows, however, a surge in Asian immigration such that by 2065 Asians will comprise 38 percent of immigrants, exceeding Hispanic immigrants by 7 percent.

Perhaps the most eye-opening of all is that, as CNN reports, “By 2065, Pew projects more than 78 million people living in America will have been born elsewhere.” Regardless of how many walls we build around our country, the multifaceted need and reality of immigration are here to stay, and it is changing the ethnic landscape of America, redefining the nature of Christian missions for churches.

Global migration has arrived in the smallest neighborhoods, towns and villages of the world, including those in America where change comes slowly, and xenophobia is an ever-present reality. Demographic change brings cultural anxiety to the existing order. Embodying the current struggles with immigration and cultural change in America is the 2008 movie “Gran Torino.” In it, Clint Eastwood plays a widower and Korean War veteran, Walt Kowalski, who struggles to come to grips with his changing neighborhood and nation as Hmong families from Southeast Asia settle in his formerly white neighborhood of Highland Park, Mich. The cynical and cantankerous Walt is forced to take a closer look at another culture and begins to appreciate the family values he sees in the Hmong community, contrasted with his strained relations with his children. Eventually, Walt rediscovers his humanity by looking after and loving, in his own way, his next door neighbors’ two Hmong teenagers—both under constant threat from an ever-present Hmong gang. SPOILER ALERT: In the end, Walt overcomes his cultural disorientation, learns to love his neighbors, and ultimately gives his life to save theirs.

The neighborhood of your city, state and nation has changed due to forces beyond your control. Globalization has made the world a smaller place, more interconnected and ethnically diverse. It has led to the mass migration of people, often changing the ethnic makeup of the most traditionally “American” places in the country. The realities of this emerging world order are here to stay. Pandora’s box is open with no way to close it. As Christians and churches, how do we view these culturally disorienting changes as the world continues to come to our doorstep?
Paul offers answers in his sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17:24-29:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ (emphasis mine)

God is sovereign in the creation and placement of all human beings on the earth. He also determines when and where nations or people groups exist. Globalization and the migration of peoples are the outworking of God’s redemptive plan. He creates the conditions that lead to the relative free flow of people from one country to another in order that these displaced people would seek God.

Diaspora people and especially their children are most open in their displacement. Syrian refugees in Europe continue to convert, seemingly en mass, to Christ in their displacement. Persian people from Iran also continue to be highly responsive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ both inside and outside their home country. In America, the Gospel finds its greatest reception among immigrants and their children. Rather than responding in fear, the church has an opportunity to respond in faith, embracing people of other countries who come to our own with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Missions is no longer “over there” but in our neighborhoods. God commits the task of missions to the local church. In our own “Jerusalem,” we find residents from Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. In order to reach the nations of the world with the Gospel of Christ, churches and their leaders must become students of demographic changes and the various cultures of the world that are now in our communities in order to be faithful to the Great Commission.

What can we do as God’s people? See your heavenly citizenship as primary over your earthly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Increase your cultural intelligence quotient (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Take care of the alien in your midst (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). Churches must also be intentional in reaching immigrants through evangelism and church planting. Future growth in the Southern Baptist Convention and the broader evangelical community is directly tied to our willingness to reach the peoples of the world in our Jerusalem.

Though each country is responsible for wise stewardship in government, including the establishment and enforcement of immigration laws that promote peace and prosperity, as Christians, we know that God does as He pleases in all the earth, including the country we call home. God has chosen to allow our demographics to change. Why? Paul says that God determines the time and place of people groups so “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him….”

God’s plan in migration and immigration is redemptive. God has brought the nations of the world to our doorstep so that His churches might share the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with immigrants by life and proclamation. With all of our navel-gazing as American Christians and churches, concerned primarily for our own welfare, will we miss the opportunities for the advance of God’s Kingdom that the Sovereign Lord has given to His people? If not us, then God will raise up deliverance from another quarter.

The Triune God who worked in concert to save us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is worthy of our efforts to do the uncomfortable thing of crossing cultural boundaries in our towns and cities with the Good News of Jesus in order to show the love of Christ in the most practical of ways to those whom He has purposed to save. Where others see risk, let us see and seize the opportunities to make disciples of all nations, starting with those in our midst.

Categories: Seminary Blog

You cannot coast into Christ-likeness

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 12:02

When it comes to discipline in the Christian life, many believers question its importance. Devotion to prayer declines into drudgery. The real-life usefulness of meditation on Scripture seems uncertain. The purpose of a discipline like fasting is a mystery. Why not leave spiritual discipline to those who seem to more disciplined by nature and let the rest of us “live by grace”?

We are not what we shall become

First, we must understand what we shall become. The Bible says of God’s elect, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God’s eternal plan ensures that every Christian will ultimately conform to Christlikeness. We will be changed “when he appears” so that “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). If you are born again (John 3:3-8), this is you, Christian, as soon as “he appears.”

So why talk about discipline? If God has predestined our conformity to Christlikeness, where does discipline fit in? Why not just coast into the promised Christlikeness and forget about discipline?

Although God will grant Christlikeness to us when Jesus returns, until then He intends for us to grow toward it. We aren’t merely to wait for holiness, we’re to pursue it. “Strive for peace with everyone,” we’re commanded in Hebrews 12:14, “and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Notice carefully what that says: without holiness—that is, Christlikeness; Godliness—no one will see the Lord, regardless of how many times they’ve been to church or how often they’ve engaged in religious activities or how spiritual they believe themselves to be.

Made righteous

It’s crucial—crucial—to understand that it’s not our pursuit of holiness that qualifies us to see the Lord. Rather, we are qualified to see the Lord by the Lord, not by good things we do. We cannot produce enough righteousness to impress God and gain admittance into Heaven. Instead we can stand before God only in the righteousness that’s been earned by another, Jesus Christ.

Only Jesus lived a life good enough to be accepted by God and worthy of entrance into Heaven. And he was able to do so because he was God in the flesh. Living a perfect life qualified him to be a sacrifice the Father would accept on behalf of others who by sin had disqualified themselves from Heaven and a relationship with God. As proof of God’s acceptance of Jesus’ life and sacrifice, God raised Him from the dead.

In other words, Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life in complete obedience to the commands of God, and he did so in order to give the credit for all that obedience and righteousness to those who had not kept all of God’s law, and he died for them on a Roman cross to receive the punishment they deserved for all their sins against God’s law.

As a result, all who come to God trusting in the person and work of Jesus to make them right with God are given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). The presence of the Holy Spirit causes all those in whom He resides to have new holy hungers they didn’t have before. They hunger, for example, for the holy word of God—the Bible—that they used to find boring or irrelevant.

They have new holy longings, such as the longing to live in a body without sin and to have a mind no longer tempted by sin. They yearn to live in a holy and perfect world with holy and perfect people, and to see at last the One the angels perpetually praise as “Holy, holy, holy” (Revelation 4:8). These are some of the holy heartbeats in all those in whom the Holy Spirit resides.

Consequently, when the Holy Spirit indwells someone, that person begins to prize and pursue holiness. Thus, as we have seen in Hebrews 12:14, anyone who is not striving for holiness will not see the Lord. And the reason they will not see the Lord in eternity is because they do not know the Lord now, for those who know Him are given His Holy Spirit, and all those indwelled by the Holy Spirit are compelled to pursue holiness.

No coasting

And so, the urgent question every Christian should ask is, “How then shall I pursue holiness, the holiness without which I will not see the Lord? How can I become more like Jesus Christ?”

We find a clear answer in 1 Timothy 4:7: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (NASB). In other words, if your purpose is Godliness—and godliness is your purpose if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, for He makes godliness your purpose—then how do you pursue that purpose? According to this verse, you “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”

This verse is the theme for Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. In it I attempt to unpack the meaning of 1 Timothy 4:7 and apply it, chapter-by-chapter, in practical ways. I will refer to the scriptural ways Christians discipline themselves in obedience to this verse as the Spiritual Disciplines.

I maintain there that the only road to Christian maturity and godliness (a biblical term synonymous with Christlikeness and holiness) passes through the practice of the spiritual disciplines. I emphasize that godliness is the goal of the disciplines, and when we remember this, the spiritual disciplines become a delight instead of drudgery.


Donald S. Whitney is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary. A longtime pastor and author of numerous books on the Christian life, he is also founder of The Center for Biblical Spiritualityand is author of numerous books including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Lifeand Praying the Bible. This article was originally published on the Crossway blog.

The post You cannot coast into Christ-likeness appeared first on Southern Blog.

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