Western culture is obsessed with sex. Sex dominates our movies, music, television, advertising, conversations, social media and more. But the question many people fail to ask is: why?
There are myriads of reasons for this. Some reasons are certainly more germane than others. And they undoubtedly overlap. Nevertheless, here are 5 reasons for western culture’s obsession with sex ...
One thing that might be particularly helpful is just a simple observation that you may not realize about yourself. And that is, that what you’re attracted to is more influenced by the culture around you than you might realize. So, when you find that one particular person more attractive than this other person, without even knowing it, you have some sort of values or things that you think of as good or best that you’re kind of reading them with.
So, the question is, how did those values get in there? How do you find that set of characteristics more attractive than that set of characteristics? And the answer, largely, is that it’s a mystery. It’s shaped and influenced over the years by what you’ve found good, and valuable, and attractive, and secure in your home and your upbringing. It’s shaped by what you take in on television, or on the internet, the media that you consume. You have a world full of people giving testimony to what’s most beautiful and most attractive. And, that has more of an influence on you than you realize.
So, you might have heard the phrasing, ‘We live in a pornified culture.’ I find that to be helpful phrasing just because it recognizes that there is this effect that pornography has on larger culture. Even if someone isn’t using porn, there’s this cultural value system where the elements of what make pornography so powerful and attractive weave their way into the way we tell our stories about romance, weave their ways into fashion. It’s an entire framework of understanding what’s beautiful and good. And basically, it packages beauty in this convenient, flashy package that supposedly costs me nothing and requires nothing of me to appreciate. Beauty becomes a way of serving myself. It’s just instant gratification, it’s “Yeah, I find that visually appealing,” and so I just reach out and I take in a way that’s meant to fill me, that’s meant to serve me. It’s having a really dangerous effect, I think, on the way Christians think about finding a spouse to marry, finding a mate to love and to cherish and to value. Because true beauty takes more effort, it costs more of us to truly appreciate because it’s this acknowledgement that I have to conform what I perceive as good and attractive to what God actually says is most good and most attractive. And that’s, in other words, believing His testimony above the testimony of everyone else.
So, for instance, if you watch the average romantic comedy, ladies just need to be aware of the pornified expectations that might shape their initial assessment of people. Instead of, sort of, a certain body shape, so much, as it might be with men, maybe it’s a certain personality or a certain style of romantic consideration. What’s missing from your average romantic comedy is a value that says, “Actually, when I read the Bible, and I read, for instance, the Book of Proverbs about what a man in his prime ought to be, a man who fears the lord, a man who works hard, a man who does what is right, a man who doesn’t take a bribe, a man who just has all the things that conform to God’s values displayed there.” And then Proverbs 31 gives the female version of that, of a woman who fears the Lord. But if you actually read Proverbs 31 for the values that it lifts up as most attractive, here’s at least one surprising thing. A woman who fears the Lord is displayed primarily in her industriousness, in her work, in her labor, in her strength, actually. In her valiance. Two thirds of the verses that are talking about this Proverbs 31 woman are dedicated to the fact that she is smart, and works hard, and is productive in those ways. If you look at that value system, and then you look at what’s valued in terms of the priority structures of what we find attractive in our pornified culture, that does not line up.
And so, the question is, how do I move from here to here? And it’s through reading the Scripture enough to where the heart of God, the values of God come to map and have authority over mine. And that happens in the context of a culture where there are people valuing, in the folks you know, what God values, and drawing your attention to those things. In the context of that input into your life, do you actually start to make wiser choices when it comes to who I ought to pursue, or who I ought to allow to pursue me?
I have just been able to witness in my ministry so many conversations where older Christians who have just a really good established relationship with a single Christian are excellent resources for someone saying, “Hey, this person’s pursuing me,” or “I’m thinking about pursuing this person. What do you see in their lives?” And sometimes it’s, “Man, I see that that girl, she serves well, she’s always engaged, I’ve seen her sort of suffer well through different seasons of her life. I think that’s a worthwhile person to pursue, you should do that.” And then other times they say of that person or help you assess, “You know, if you actually think about the way she lives her life, she might have this attraction for you or this thing going for her, and we acknowledge that, but the overall pattern of her life doesn’t seem like a strong pursuit of the Lord. We would caution you against that.” What I’ve just suggested is actually really counter-cultural because, especially on issues of attraction, we tend to think so individualistically. But the great irony of thinking that it’s my choice, it’s my attraction, it’s my thing is we’re totally missing the fact that, actually no, you’ve already been influenced by a community. It’s just, which community have you been influenced by?
So, I want to be careful here, because I’m not saying it’s wrong to have preferences, or to find certain personalities easier to get along with than others, or to even find certain appearances more attractive visually than others. That’s not wrong at all. It becomes wrong when that becomes the control value under which the values of God are arranged, rather than the values of God being the control value under which all these other values are arranged. So this answer is very counter-cultural, but I hope it’s been helpful to just make us aware of what our hearts are doing when we find one person attractive and another person not, and then submitting that whole thing to Scripture and to the church and to a better community than the communities that we naturally orbit in.
Immigration, border security and citizen safety currently constitute one of the hottest issues in the American political scene. Certainly, no one can deny that this discussion was a major part of the rhetoric surrounding our last presidential election. Voices on both sides of the isle present compelling, if not emotive, appeals as to what we as a country should do. Depending on who is talking, the responsible thing is either to narrow the opening through which immigrants enter our country for the safety of our citizens or to widen the gate in order to embrace oppressed refugees with open arms. That the issue has become a part of the discussion in our churches and denomination is not surprising. It is a concern we are being asked to address in our spiritual and biblical conversations.
Now, I am going to disappoint you. My point here is not to solve the abovementioned debate or to instruct you on how to engage in this discussion. Allow me to make a much less contentious and more well-known point. Regardless of what immigration laws are created or amended in our country, the position of the pastor, church and believer must be that we leverage every opportunity we have to make disciples of all nations. This is our mission. This is one reason why believers are here and the church exists. It is the command that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ left us.
Leveraging every opportunity to make disciples certainly includes when the nations come to us. Regardless of where you find yourself on the immigration debate, I pray as a believer you can add your “amen” here! Matthew 28:18-20 is crystal clear: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I am quite certain that nothing I have written so far has been novel to you. Quite frankly, I would be concerned if you did not understand that the Great Commission commands believers to share their faith and churches to make disciples of all people. I imagine you have come to grips with this truth. So, we understand that Matthew 28 is an evangelism text and a mission text. Would you be surprised, however, if I argued that the Great Commission is also a homiletics text?
When we think of “preaching” texts—passages that guide the development of our philosophy of preaching—perhaps several obvious ones come to mind. These may include such passages as 2 Timothy 3:16–4:5, 1 Corinthians 2:1–5, 2 Corinthians 4:1–6, and Ezekiel 37:1–14. But, do we ever consider the Great Commission when we think about preaching? Should the Great Commission inform our preaching, and inform it in a specific way?
I believe the answer to these questions is “yes”! By this, I do not mean the Great Commission is only a preaching text or that preaching is the only action necessary to make disciples. Nevertheless, the Great Commission has something to say about our preaching. There are at least four implications for preaching from Matthew 28:18–20.
First, the Great Commission should inform the content of our preaching. One of the means Jesus gave for making disciples is “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” So what should be the content of our teaching? What should we preach? Certainly not content that originates with us. The Great Commission calls us to fill our sermons with Jesus’ Content, His Word. This lends itself to preaching that communicates the God-intended points of the text and not simply points “from the text.” Every single sermon we preach should strive to have as its main thrust the main thrust of the text. The command to make disciples, then, is consistent with expository preaching.
Second, the Great Commission should influence the scope of our preaching. Jesus not only instructed us to teach others to observe what He commanded, but to teach others to observe all that He commanded. I do not have the space to flesh this out here, but if your bibliology leads you to understand that all 66 books of the Bible are inspired and authoritative equally and to recognize every part of both the Old and New Testament as what Christ has commanded at least implicitly, then you must preach and teach all of the Bible if you are going to obey the Great Commission. Therefore, the command to make disciples relates to a holistic approach to teaching the Bible.
Third, the Great Commission should inform the aim of our preaching. If we consider the passage as a whole, at least two objectives for the Christian life exist: evangelism and edification. If we do not evangelize, we will have no one to disciple. What is true of our personal lives would seem also to be true of our corporate gatherings and our pulpit particularly. Also, if the church you pastor is anything like most, on any given Sunday, that someone is sitting in the pews who does not know Jesus as Savior is more likely than not. Therefore, making evangelistic appeals weekly from your pulpit is not only appropriate but also necessary.
Then, what is the ultimate command in this passage? “Make disciples.” At a minimum, a disciple is one who follows Christ and becomes like Christ. So clearly, an aim of an individual Christian should be to lead others to be more Christ-like. Again, if this is true of our personal lives, it would seem also to be true of our public preaching. We should preach with the aim of edifying believers so that they grow into Christ-likeness. The command to make disciples, then, is consistent with preaching that evangelizes and edifies.
Finally, the Great Commission should influence the philosophy of our preaching. If we believe a call to teach all of the Bible is imbedded in Jesus’ command, then what is the best way to accomplish the Great Commission in our preaching? What is the most consistent way to approach teaching the Bible holistically in our pulpits? I believe the answer is systematic expository preaching. By systematic expository preaching, I mean preaching through books of the Bible or major portions of biblical books in a series in which we allow the God-intended meaning, structure and emphasis of the passages to drive the main points, outline and thrust of our sermons.
Do other ways potentially exist for accomplishing the same goal? Sure. Hypothetically, you could systemize all the teachings of Jesus and then orderly begin to work through them. However, the simpler way to accomplish the task and obey Jesus is to begin to preach through books of the Bible. Beyond this, systematic text-driven preaching allows us to accomplish the other three suggestions as well. It allows us to preach Jesus’ content. It leads us to a holistic approach to teaching the Bible. And, it is a type of preaching that I believe naturally lends itself to evangelizing the lost and edifying the saints.
Therefore, the Great Commission should drive us toward systematic expository preaching. At a minimum, systematic expository preaching is consistent with the command and call of the Great Commission.
You may begin reading this article with the idea that I will suggest how many weeks of vacation you should be given by your church, or how much you should advocate to give your pastor. Instead, I intend to answer this question a bit differently. My concern is not about how much vacation time a pastor is given, but how he uses (or doesn’t use) what he is given. In light of this being a common time where vacation time is used, I thought this post would be well-timed for many of you.
This is an appropriate time to pause for a confession. I thought you should know, I often fail at my own advice. I come to the conclusions I often write about on this blog because I have or are currently failing at them. Just thought I would acknowledge that in case you think I write this way because I have figured it all out. Far from it. The stewardship of my vacation time was once a glaring failure in my life.
A few years ago, I was lovingly confronted by a dear friend and fellow pastor that I was not using all my vacation time. In his rebuke, he explained to me the reasons I should be taking every day of vacation the church gives me, which I had never done. Here was the basis for his thoughtful, insightful, and wise argument:
- It’s for you
The pastor never gets a break in the regular routine. We are constantly on call. Vacation time is that time where you get time to breathe away from the madness, be refreshed, and rest. All of us who are pastors know we are no good for our people when we are exhausted, distracted, and mentally and emotionally spent. Use the time and use it wisely to achieve that end.
- It’s for your family
Your family always has to share you. Maybe just as important as the first one, this time is given so that your family has a block of time where they don’t have to share you with the church. When you don’t use all your time that has already been approved by the church for this purpose, you rob your family from having your sole focus to care, fellowship, and enjoy them.
- It’s for your church
How is it that many of our churches have somehow existed and functioned for the last 50 – 100 years without us, yet all of a sudden we come and develop this complex that our church can now no longer live without us for a week or two. Using all your vacation time given to you forces others to step up in your absence, shows them they can make it without you for a time, and reminds the pastor most of all that God is not utterly dependent on him for this church to function.
We are expendable and we need regular jolts of humility to remind us of that.
As a result, for the last four years I have used my full year of vacation given to me by the church since I was called as pastor. The reasons above that my friend confronted me with all showed to be true and fruitful in those ways as I did so. What have I learned from taking all my vacation time these last few years . . . well, I plan on taking it all next year.
If you are a pastor, do what you can to use it all this year. There is still half the summer left. If you are not a pastor, do all you can to encourage your pastor to take it. You, your church, and your pastor will experience multiple layers of benefit because of it.
The post Why should a pastor use all his vacation time each year? appeared first on Southern Equip.
A few years ago I hosted a student debate at my church. Three of my high school students debated three students from the local freethinking club on the historical Jesus, intelligent design, and morality. The church was packed!
One of the freethinking students argued that there is no universal moral law, and hence no need for a God to ground it. As best as I can remember, he argued that morality is merely subjective and depends upon the individual or society.
But then, interestingly, during his closing speech, the same student used the opportunity of being at a church to rail against Christians for being hateful, bigoted and intolerant. In other words, he berated Christians for being immoral ...
First off let me say that I have been a longtime supporter and reader of your work. I have been encouraged and strengthened to give a reason for the hope within by listening to and reading your books, articles, debates, classes, and lectures. Thank you for all you do!
Now, let me build to my question with a brief overview. I am a public school teacher and a youth minister at my church and love doing both. With my youth group I spend a tremendous amount of time inculcating the necessity for loving God with the whole being – heart, soul, MIND, and strength. I really want to ground my students the reality of their Faith – that it is more than feeling but is testable, rational and livable! I also teach them apologetics (I am presently going through the NT’s reliability, Jesus’ resurrection...ect.) and Christian doctrine (of which your Defender’s classes have been a huge asset! *PS – Please make a Christian theology book one day when you get the time!!) ...
It’s not a pleasant topic.
But if we don’t talk about dying churches, we will act like there are no problems. As I wrote in Breakout Churches, the first stage for any church to reverse negative trends is awareness or, stated another way, confronting the brutal realities.
Somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 churches in America will close their doors in the next year. And many of them die because they refuse to recognize problems before they became irreversible.
So, it is with both sorrow and great love for local churches that I share a pattern that is increasingly common. I call it “the six stages of a dying church.”
The church is declining numerically, but no one seems concerned. Fewer people are reached with the gospel, but no alarm sounds. The church’s impact on the community is negligible, but life continues in the church like nothing has happened.
There is a sense that something’s wrong in the church, so the church responds in one of two ways. Do more of what we are doing that has proven ineffective. Or, secondly, seek a “magic bullet” program, emphasis, or new pastor. The church does not really want to change; it just thinks it needs an adjustment.
Church leaders and members begin to recognize that the magic bullet did not reverse the negative trends, so they deflect the blame. It’s the denomination’s fault. It’s those young people who don’t respect the way we’ve always done it. It’s the messed-up culture. It’s the people in our community who stopped attending churches. The anger in these churches is palpable.
The church had been losing members gradually to this point, but now the outflow increases. And even those who don’t officially leave attend less frequently. The worship center is desolate on Sunday mornings. The anger in the church moves to demoralization.
For the first time since the dying process began, the remaining members say they are more open to new ideas and change. But their words are more words of desperation than conviction. They now see the handwriting on the wall. Their church will soon die.
The church becomes another sad and tragic statistic. At best, the church deeds its property to a healthy church. The process from denial to death in the recent past would take as many as thirty years. Today, the process is much shorter, ten years or less.
Churches have broken free from the death stages, but they are rare. And the longer the church waits to make substantive changes, the more difficult it becomes to reverse the path. It’s significantly easier to make changes at stage one than stage four.
Also, keep in mind that nearly nine out of ten of the churches that die are in communities that are growing.
The problem is not a shortage of people. The problem is a shortage of courage, commitment, and sacrifice.
This article was originally published on Rainer’s blog.
Dr. Clay Jones is one of my colleagues in the Biola Apologetics M.A. program. Although he has been teaching and thinking about the problem of evil for decades, he has just released a new book: Why Does God Allow Evil? Here is my endorsement that made the back cover of the book: “If you are looking for one book to make sense of the problem of evil, this book is for you.”
I plan to use this book very soon with a group of high school students. And it will now be the top book that I recommend on this subject (along with If God, Why Evil by Norman Geisler and The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis) ...
In the first part of this short series, we looked at how both ancient and modern disciples “take offense” at Jesus against his warning in Luke 7:23 —“Blessed is the one who doesn’t take offense in Me.” Easy scholarly and popular conclusions that Israel hoped for the wrong kind of kingdom made Jesus offensive and Israel culpable at the same time. Our second part here also finds Jesus’ view of the kingdom offensive to ancients and moderns, but for a different reason ...
Many Christians struggle with, what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? What is the unforgivable sin? Have I committed it? Many Christians feel tortured about this, even, and it can torment them.
I think a helpful way to think about it is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin, I think it’s the same sin as mortal sin in 1 John 5, the sin unto death. I think it’s the same sin as what we find in the warning passages in Hebrews, crucifying Christ again, trampling him under foot is the expression used. Outraging the Spirit, right? Insulting the Spirit of grace.
There’s a variety of ways that Scripture talks about what this sin is. In the historical context of the gospels, when Jesus talks about the blasphemy against the Spirit, who’s committed that sin? It’s the Pharisees. How have they committed that sin? They have attributed to the devil what Jesus Christ has done.
So Jesus Christ has healed a person who had a demon and he heals them and they say, “That’s not the work of God, that’s the work of the devil.” I think that’s immediately helpful. Can a Christian commit that sin? Can a Christian look at the work of Jesus Christ, can someone who believes in Jesus look at the work of Jesus Christ and say, “No, that’s the work of the devil”? I’d say, no, no Christian can, no Christian will ever commit that sin. And those who have committed that sin, they don’t care.
If you look at the work of Jesus, if you look at the work of the Spirit of God and you say, That’s the work of the devil, that’s demonic, that’s fundamentally evil, you’re not tortured by that, you think the other side is actually evil and contrary to the things of God, if you even believe in God.
So no Christian should fear, it’s often been said, but it’s true. If you fear that you’ve committed this sin, if you’re tortured by that, then you almost certainly haven’t committed that sin.
Anyone who wants to turn to Christ in repentance and faith, anyone who comes to him and says, “I’m sorry for my sins,” is forgiven. Those who have committed this sin, to put it another way, they never ever want to turn back. They’ve left Christianity behind, they’ve left Jesus Christ behind and how does it culminate in the gospels? They put Jesus to death. That’s the language of Hebrews again, isn’t it? They crucify the son of God, they utterly and totally reject him. No Christian does that, no Christian can do that.
Should we be concerned about sin in our lives? Absolutely. And we want to keep our hearts warm towards Jesus Christ. But the God who called us, he’ll keep us, he’ll preserve us and we will not repudiate him. The one who began a good work in us, Philippians 1:6, “will keep us until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The only real constants in life are death and taxes.
This old adage in the life of American culture reflects the sentiment that some things never change and some things are always changing. For example, those who are 60 years of age or older will vividly remember seeing specific aisles at the grocery store roped off to fulfill the “Sunday Blue Laws” that restricted the purchase of certain items on Sundays. On the other hand, most young people in America have no knowledge of such restrictions but could not fathom a world without social media. There is not a teenager in America who is not connected to social media in some form or fashion. Twenty years ago, no such social media existed. Today, according to the latest Pew report, 68 percent of all Americans utilize Facebook, as do 2 billion other people worldwide.
These changes are known as a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is a change in thinking that results in a change of behavior. This shift reflects the globalized society that has rapidly developed since the turn of the 21st century.
How can this globalized society be properly explained? In recent months, a review of the last days of Princess Diana have flooded the airways with numerous implications; but, this one event is an excellent depiction of the globalized society that has evolved. From this one incident in August 1997, the ethnic diversity of our globalized society is clearly and vividly reflected. What we find is an English Princess with her Egyptian boyfriend in an auto accident in a French tunnel in a German car with a Dutch engine driven by a Belgian chauffeur who was high on Scottish whiskey being chased by Italian paparazzi on Japanese motorcycles with German cameras. The first doctor on the scene was an American.
Such a globalized setting is not unprecedented in history. In the first century, the capital of the province of Achaia was the city of Corinth, and it, too, reflects such globalization. After being destroyed by an invading Roman army in 146 B.C., it was rebuilt in 44 B.C. before Julius Caesar’s death and was established as a Roman colony for retired Roman soldiers.
Located on a four-mile-wide isthmus connecting the Greek Peloponnesian to the mainland, Corinth became a globalized city for numerous reasons:
- It was a city of banking and commerce. Having sea ports on both the east and west sides of the city, Corinth became a gateway of trade, which brought great wealth to its inhabitants.
- It was a religious city that housed the great Pantheon Temple along with numerous altars for the worship of the various Greek gods of the day.
- It was also a city of great entertainment. The Greeks invented athletic contests in honor of their gods. The Isthmian Games were staged every two years in Corinth. The Pythain games took place every four years near Delphi along with the most famous of the games, which were held at Olympia in honor of Zeus.
- Finally, Corinth was known as a city of great evil and debauchery. The term from which the name Corinth is derived was used in the arts and theater to describe a citizen of Corinth who always displayed a life of drunkenness and sinfulness.
These descriptors reflect many of the same aspects of our contemporary American culture. The United States of America is the wealthiest nation in the world, consumed only by a desire for more wealth. It lives to be constantly entertained. It is more religious than ever before, yet the level of sin and corruption is at the highest peak in the history of our country. Like Corinth, America needs a moral and spiritual change.
The apostle Paul saw the need of his day as a spiritual need, and his remedy for that globalized self-absorbed society was placing a priority on biblical preaching. What is biblical preaching? Numerous definitions for biblical preaching can be found in the homiletic community today. Some advocate a topical approach to exposition while others prefer the genre of the narrative storytelling method of the new homiletic.
Paul, too, faced a plethora of methods to the task of effective communication, but he reveals his theology of preaching in the first two chapters of the book of 1 Corinthians. Paul emphasized the importance of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These chapters in 1 Corinthians tell much about the condition of the church of Corinth, but they also express Paul’s theology of preaching.
His theology of preaching involves a deep commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel as explained in the message of the cross of Christ. Paul vividly explains this in the first chapter, verse 17: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel….” In like fashion, verse 21 says, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe”; and also verse 23: “but we preach Christ crucified.”
After Paul’s encounter with the philosophers of Athens at the Areopagus (Acts 17), rather than utilizing the skilled rhetorical tools of the wisdom teachers of his day, Paul’s passion was to simply preach the Gospel in the power of the Spirit and leave the results to God. This attitude expresses his understanding of biblical preaching.
At Southwestern Seminary, expository preaching has been refined to a more focused approach expressed as “text-driven” preaching. Rather than rely on the eloquence of man’s speech to enhance a topic or the use of some theatrical endeavor to impress the listener, the effective biblical preacher must be committed to interpreting the substance of a text in the context of the passage and communicate the truths revealed therein under the anointing of the Spirit of God.
This text-driven approach aims at allowing the preacher to simply be a tool in the work of interpretation and proclamation. Biblical, text-driven sermons that flow from the anointing of God to the people of God through the Word of God by the Spirit of God are the need of the hour.
No matter what the whimsical, emotional voice of the ever-changing tide of thought may be, the task and responsibility of the preacher is to be the faithful and passionate in delivering “the faith once delivered to the saints” to the glory of the Lord Jesus and the furtherance of the Kingdom. As Paul faced the folly of his first century cultural thinking and remained steadfast in the preaching of the Gospel, may the mandate of the 21st century preacher be reaffirmed, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” This is why the mandate of Southwestern Seminary is “Preach the Word, Reach the World.”
Pew Research Center, “Demographics of Social Media Users and Adoption in the United States.” Accessed on June 16, 2017 from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media.
Leonard Sweet, “What is Globalization? The Death of Princess Diana.” Accessed on January 14, 2006 from http://www.leonardsweet.org.
John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984), vii-viii.
God tasks parents with the holy calling of raising our children, “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In this our greatest task is to help them understand the Gospel so they might trust in Christ and be saved. The problem for parents is that we often have a difficult time discerning when our kids have truly come to Christ. Either we get excited that our kids are showing interest in the Gospel and pronounce them Christians too quickly or we are so afraid of them making a false profession of faith that we go a long time without treating them as a brother or sister in Christ.
As parents we do have some guidance in knowing if our children are truly in the faith. Everything that would be present in an adult’s conversion will be present in a child’s conversion, but it will show itself in a different manner. I was 19 when I came to Jesus, and was aware of my new life in Christ the moment it took place. At the same time we have stories like John Piper’s. He does not remember his conversion, but his mother was convinced he came to faith and he does not remember ever not believing since then.
We can never know beyond a shadow of a doubt if our child has actually trusted in Christ, but we can see evidences that point to a genuine conversion. Here are some questions we can ask as we attempt to discern whether or not our children have trusted in Christ.Is your child aware of their need for a savior?
Awareness of sin and the need for a savior is an absolute necessity in conversion. While a child will not have years of drunkenness or debauchery for which they should be ashamed, he will know he has sinned and needs to be forgiven. In Romans 2, Paul talks about the law being written on the heart of every person. We instinctively know we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
When your child tells you he wants to become a Christian or starts talking about baptism, ask him why he is thinking about this now. Draw out of him, in his words at his age level, whether he feels conviction for his sins and knows that he needs a Savior. Unless he is convinced of his sins, he cannot know that he has a problem from which he needs to be saved.Does your child understand Jesus’ death and resurrection?
If your child shows awareness of and conviction for sin, begin to talk to her about Jesus. You will not be looking for her to give a discourse on the hypostatic union or penal substitutionary atonement. Does she know Jesus is the son of God? Does she believe that he is real, and that he lived the perfect life we could never live?
Then you should move into a discussion about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Can she articulate the basic facts about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Again, you are not looking for a doctoral level treatise, but in her words can she tell you about what Jesus did for her. What you are looking for here is illumination. As she talks about Jesus, do you see an awareness that she understands and knows this at a heart level?Does your child believe she is saved by repentance and faith?
The other night we read about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment so she could be healed in our family devotion. Jesus told her that her faith made her well. I took that opportunity to talk to our daughters about salvation being by faith alone. Their Dad is a pastor, their Grandfather is a pastor, their Uncle is a pastor, and their Great-Grandfather was a pastor. They never remember a time when they were not gathering with the church each Sunday and never remember a time when they were not hearing the Gospel in family devotions and in discussions during everyday life, so I wanted to make sure they heard a clear reminder that none of these things make them a Christian.
When your child approaches you about becoming a Christian, you must make sure that she gets this. “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves.” The Scripture’s testimony is clear, and while your child may not be able to give you an excursus on justification by faith alone and imputed righteousness, you do want her to evidence that she knows she must repent and trust in Jesus. Does she understand that her works or her baptism don’t make her a Christian, but that repentance and trust in Jesus do? Does she have childlike faith in Jesus Christ alone?Is your child showing signs of new life?
Seeing signs of the work of the Spirit in your child’s life is not as evident as it would be in an adult. Your six-year old is not going to have the same kind of testimony that a man with a notorious past would have, but his salvation is just a miraculous. If he has trusted in Jesus, he has been born again and the Holy Spirit indwells him. He will shows evidences of conversion.
If believers grow in conviction over our sins, compassion for other people, and display the fruit of the Spirit, then this will be present in your child’s life. It will be there in childlike form, but it will be there. You will also start to see the lights come on for him spiritually. He will start to understand more of God’s truth and demonstrate a greater awareness of God’s work in his life. As you observe his life, do you see signs of the Spirit’s work in him?Is your child free from external pressures?
The invitation system, a pressure-packed VBS or kids’ camp, and friends getting baptized can start putting pressure on your child to make a profession of faith without actually understanding the Gospel. Often children want to know why they can’t take Communion, and hear the answer, “because you haven’t been baptized yet.” In their minds the solution seems simple, “then let me get baptized so I can take Communion.”
You can never know for certain that your child has pure motives in his desire to become to profess Christ, but you should examine to the best of your ability any outside forces that may be exerting pressure on him. Ask him what made him start thinking about this. It may have been a friend’s baptism, but what about the event made him start pondering it for himself? Communion may have sparked an interest in him, but does he just want to take the bread and juice, or did hearing the meaning of Communion draw him to Jesus? These are all factors for you to ask about, think through, and pray over.Always bring the gospel to your children
Your child does not get a visible mark on her forehead or a stripe on her back when she comes to Jesus, so you have to talk, pray, and discern. Invite your pastor in to talk to your child and ask questions. He may be able to see and hear things you don’t.
Most of all though, keep putting the Gospel in front of your children. Talk about it in everyday life, in family devotions, and around the table after Sunday worship. Sing songs, pray over your kids, and repent to them when you have wronged them. God’s word never returns void, our labor in the Lord is not in vain, and in due time we will sow if we reap, so take every opportunity to tell and show your kids that Jesus is better than life.
Teen Vogue, a magazine targeting 11- to 17-year-olds girls, recently published a how-to article instructing teens how to perform anal sex. This article is on the heels of a recent article on how to masturbate if you are a male and a similar article on how to masturbate if you are female. All three articles are written by Gigi Engle, a self-proclaimed writer, sex educator and feminist activist. In the “anal 101” article, Engle states that anal sex is a “perfectly natural way to engage in sexual activity” and that “there is no wrong way to experience sexuality.” The truth of God’s Word opposes both of these statements.
Obviously, this article promotes a troubling agenda aimed at teenagers that is counter to biblical commands and principles. The four most egregious areas are:
- Promotion of sex outside of marriage. Engle’s article promotes teens having premarital sex. The Bible is quite clear that premarital sex is outside the confines of the biblical covenant of marriage. This distorted form of sexuality (sexual immorality) is referred to as fornication or sin (Hebrews 13:4, Matthew 15:19).
- Promotion of homosexuality. Engle’s article purports it is helping “LGBTQ young people.” God’s Word is clear that homosexuality is a sin. The biblical basis that homosexuality is a sin begins in Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:24. Here, God defines the institution of marriage (He’s the only one who can since He created it). He ordains it as a permanent union of one man and one woman. Jesus also reaffirms marriage as a sacred, monogamous and life-long institution joining one man and one woman in Matthew 19:4-6. Marriage is a covenant relationship and an institution established by God and is not simply a human social construct. ANY sexual behavior outside the husband/wife marriage relationship is sinful, including premarital sex, adultery, bestiality, pornography and homosexuality. The Bible speaks of the immorality of homosexual behavior in Genesis 19:1-27, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:18-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
- Promotion of sex as recreation. Engle’s article promotes a counterfeit sexual morality by promoting sexual activity among teenagers as recreation. God intended so much more for sex. Sex is a coordinating sign of the covenant of marriage, a physical reflection of the one-flesh union (Genesis 2:24). Within the confines of marriage, sex is intended for procreation (Genesis 1:28, 4:1), unity (Genesis 2:23-24), sexual purity (1 Corinthians 7:1-9), and pleasure (Proverbs 5:15-23, Song of Solomon).
- Promotion of being unwise. The Bible calls us to be wise and not foolish (Proverbs 3, Ephesians 5:17). Engle’s article fails to state the wealth of medical evidence that states that anal sex is neither healthy nor safe. Anal sex can lead to tissue damage, including hemorrhoids, damage to sphincter muscles, anal fissures, and colonic perforation. Moreover, there is a high risk of developing fecal incontinence, infection, transmission of STDs, and anal cancer (due to infection by human papilloma virus).
Parents and the church need to counter the culture by teaching teenagers to be in Christ and not in vogue. In the truest sense, we need to teach teenagers to be in the world and not of the world (Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15-17). Parents and pastors cannot be silent on the topics of sex and sexuality with teenagers. The world definitely is having the conversation—and not for teenagers’ eternal good.
 This post focuses on anal sex and teenagers. A natural extension I’m often asked in The Christian Home class I teach at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is whether anal sex is permitted within the confines of marriage. Although the wisdom principle (number 4 above) should apply, I offer the following three-step rubric for married couples to use in evaluating sexual practices: (1) Is a given sexual practice or activity prohibited in Scripture? Does it violate Scriptural moral principles? (2) Is a given sexual practice or activity beneficial or harmful (physically, emotionally and spiritually) (Romans 13:12-14)? (3) Does a given sexual practice or activity involve persons outside the marriage relationship (Hebrews 13:4)?
Given the recent stunning ruling against Barronelle Stutzman, the 72-year old grandma who was sued for running her business according to her deepest moral and religious convictions, it is more critical than ever for Christians to be ready to make a defense for religious freedom. The following essay comes from my recent book A New Kind of Apologist, and is written by James Tonkowich. This article is longer than a typical blog, but please take the time to read it carefully and help spread the word. Christians simply must be able to make a case for religious liberty today.
Dear Dr. Craig,
I have been enjoying your videos and podcasts about your study of the atonement. I have to admit though, that as of right now I don't accept penal substitution. Though I grew up with this view, I now hold a combination of the recapitulation and satisfaction theories. To briefly summarize for the readers, the recapitulation theory teaches that Jesus became like us and did what we should have done, so that in him, we might become like him and do what he did. This is perhaps the oldest theory of the atonement and is the basis for many later theories. The satisfaction theory of St. Anselm adds that Jesus's self sacrificial obedience served as restitution for our sins, or as Anselm calls it, satisfaction. In my opinion, these theories together are more Biblical and intellectually satisfying than penal substitution ...
Stretching from the time of Moses (Psalm 90) to the exile of Israel (Psalm 126 or 137), the Psalms as we know them—150 songs ordered in five books—took a long time to write. So, how do we read them in their historical context? What is their historical context? And how do we sing them today, knowing that at least some of them were first written and sung in Solomon’s temple (cp. 2 Chronicles 5:13 and Psalm 136)?
The answer, I believe, is to read them with multiple historical contexts in mind. This is not to change the author’s original intent, but to recognize that through the history of redemption (and the progress of revelation), the inspired Word of God, especially the Psalms, found multiple literary settings whereby God led his people with his Word.
Accordingly, we who come at the end of the line, or better, we on whom the end of the ages have come (1 Corinthians 10:11), must learn how to read Israel’s songbook as part of the deposit of faith given to the church (see 2 Timothy 3:16–17). But how do we do that? My proposal is that we learn how to sing the Psalms in four keys, a practice outlined by Bruce Waltke and Franz Delitzsch.
First, Bruce Waltke, in his essay, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms,” (found in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, 3–18) observes four historical phases in the development of the Psalms. He writes,
The four distinct points in the progressive perception and revelation of the text occasioned by the enlarging of the canon are: (1) the meaning of the psalm to the original poet, (2) its meaning in the earlier collections of psalms associated with the First Temple, (3) its meaning in the final and complete Old Testament canon associated with the Second Temple, and  its meaning in the full canon of the Bible including the New Testament with its presentation of Jesus as the Christ. (9)
Interestingly, Waltke is not the first to think of the Psalms in this way. He cites from Franz Delitzsch classic commentary on the Psalms:
The expositor of the Psalms can place himself on the standpoint of the poet, or the standpoint of the Old Testament church, or the standpoint of the church of the present dispensation–a primary condition of exegetical progress is the keeping of these three standpoints distinct and, in accordance, therewith, the distinguishing between the two Testaments, and in general between different steps in the development of the revelation, and in the perception of the plan of redemption. (Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, trans. Francis Bolton, 64)
Indeed, whether from three “standpoints” or four “stages,” the New Testament believer must give attention to the way in which the Psalms have various historical contexts. Only then can we apply the Psalms to ourselves, avoiding both extra-textual allegory and Christ-less historicism.Singing the Psalms in four keys
Now, I can imagine that the prospect of reading the Psalms with four stages in view might seem a little daunting. So here is a memory device that might help.
Just as songs can be sung in different keys, I suggest you think of singing the Psalms in four keys. Indeed, in any given moment you may only read the Psalm in one key, but we must be aware of the others. Only when we pay attention to all four keys do we have the full understanding of the Psalms in their historical context. Here are the four keys.
- The key of D sets the individual Psalm in its original setting. ‘D’ stands for David or any of the other historical authors of the Psalms. Psalms which have historical superscripts help us immensely here. In some cases, we do not know the details of the historical setting. But we know from the other Psalms, that each Psalm originally possessed an historical setting where the Psalm originated.
- The key of E sets the individual Psalm in the context of the Psalter itself. ‘E’ stands for Exile, the place where the Psalter in its canonical form arose. Whereas the ‘D’ key focuses on the original historical setting, this key focuses on the literary setting. The whole Psalter was written to post-exilic Israel, so there is an historical setting. But this key helps us most carefully with the arrangement and messianic message of the Psalter.
- The key of C sets the individual Psalm in the context of the Bible as a whole. ‘C’ stands for Christ, the Messiah of whom the Psalter speaks. While many Psalms speak of David or his son Solomon, the ultimate aim is that of Christ. It is this reason why Acts 4:25, quoting Psalm 16, can say that David spoke of Christ (“For David says concerning him”). In the key of D, Psalm 16 may not have spoken of Christ, but very shortly, as David’s song was put in the key of E, it would soon be pointing forward to the messiah. Accordingly, when Jesus proved to be the Messiah, the messianic intentions of Psalm 16 are clear.
In this way, we do not read the Psalms cherry-picking messianic psalms. Rather, as Waltke rightly observes, “In all fairness, it seems as though the writers of the New Testament are not attempting to identify and limit the psalms that prefigure Christ but rather are assuming that the Psalter as a whole has Jesus Christ in view and that this should be the normative way of interpreting the psalms” (7). The whole of the Psalter is messianic and should be read accordingly.
- The key of F applies the Psalms to God’s people in union with Christ. ‘F’ stands for fellowship and represents the spiritual union we have with the Christ, of whom the Psalms are ultimately directed. Truly, we may often intuitively translate the Psalms into this key. It would be laborious to always work through each key to get here. Daily devotions may and should live in this key. Still, it is important to know how and why we can sing and pray the Psalms for ourselves. Likewise, in applying them to ourselves, we should not miss who the king is and who the worshipers are. Without attention to the previous keys, we may easily employ messianic psalms for our own kingdoms (see Pss 20–21). However, by increasing our awareness of keys D, E, and C, we should avoid praying, “My kingdom come.”
Indeed, only as we read the Psalms in these four contexts can we rightly understand them.Learning to play the four keys
Again, we need not attend to every key in every sermon or prayer. But the reason why we can apply these temple songs of Israel to ourselves today is because of their progressive nature. What was written by David and Asaph and the sons of Korah was taken up and collected in the temple; then in time it was arranged as we have it in the Psalter. Finally, in the fullness of time, we see who the Psalms (especially Books 4 and 5) anticipated, and we can read the whole thing as anticipating Jesus Christ. Just read how Peter preached Psalm 16 in Acts 2 or the author of Hebrews quoted Psalms 2, 8, 45, 102, 104, and 110 in Hebrews 1–2.
In sum, we should read, sing, and pray the Psalms as our own (cf. Col 3:16), but only because of the way Christ brings them to us. Accordingly, as we interpret them, we should be aware of the way the Psalms spoke to him and about him. Only then, in union with him, can we make them our own—as sons and daughters grafted into the vine of Christ. To make this kind of personal application is in no way allegorical, it is Christian. It honors the history of the Psalms and the wisdom of God who inspired, preserved, focused (in Christ), and amplified their message.
Let us take up the Psalms then and behold the way in which Christ emerges from their lyrics. Let us give praise to God for the Psalms and praise him with the Psalms.
La Reforma y las Indulgencias, Pasadas y Actuales / The Reformation and Indulgences, Both Past and Present
En este año se celebra alrededor del mundo los 500 años del inicio de lo que se conoce como La Reforma protestante. El 31 de octubre de 1517 el monje agustino Martín Lutero clavó en la puerta de la Iglesia del Castillo en Wittenberg en Alemania 95 tesis en las que criticaba abiertamente las ventas de indulgencias de la iglesia católica romana. Lutero escogió ese día deliberadamente ya que era la víspera del Día de Todos los Santos y tanto la facultad de la universidad como muchos fieles asistían a la iglesia. Lutero inicialmente no tenía la intención de romper con la iglesia romana sino enfatizar la supremacía del evangelio de Cristo basada en su simplicidad y a la vez en su gran profundidad ...
This summer, as part of my participation in Talbot’s Kern Foundation reading group, I had the opportunity to travel to Grand Rapids and attend a 4-day think tank called Acton University. This was my first time participating in a think tank (unless you count my years watching MacGyver problem-solve for the Phoenix Foundation), and it was an experience! The annual event brings together around 1000 scholars, students, businesspeople, and leaders from over 75 countries and seeks to provide “an opportunity to deepen one’s knowledge and integrate philosophy, theology, business, development – with sound, market based, economics” (http://university.acton.org/). The daily program consisted of several parallel presentations (in fact, Talbot’s own Dr. Scott Rae was a presenter), a fabulous dinner designed to foster new relationships and stimulate conversations, and it closed each night with a plenary talk ...