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How to read the news like a Christian

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 16:18

When I was younger, if you wanted to know what the latest news was, you read the newspaper in the morning or watched the national news at 5:30 and the local news at 6:00 and 10:00. Then CNN and Headline News showed up and you could get a feel for what was going on every 30 minutes. Even then though, you had to seek the news. You opened the paper or turned the channel to the news.

We live in very different times now. Our phones give us a steady stream of headlines. At every turn, a news headline that scares or angers you begs for your attention.

How do Christians process the constant barrage of news and information at our fingertips?

Read the news like your time is valuable

We live in an economy where the advertisers fight for your attention. They don’t have to get you in front of a television or sitting down to read the newspaper anymore. A device constantly begging for your attention sits in your pocket and one “quick check” can send you down a rabbit hole of links and discussions.

Steward the time you spend looking at your phone and set specific times during the day when you will get on social media or check news headlines. If you try to constantly “stay informed,” you will end up never accomplishing anything important while you take in a steady stream of relatively unimportant information. You only have one life, don’t spend it staring at your phone.

Read the news like your hope is real

When we think about the issues taking center stage in our day, many of them concern things that make us anxious– rising healthcare costs, a shrinking economy, the threat of terrorism, and battles over free speech and religious liberty. When we hear about another terrorist attack, a liberal professor stifling free speech, or an increase in our healthcare premiums, our natural tendency is to worry and panic.

In times like these, we need to review what is true for those who trust in Christ. We know that God providentially rules over all of human history and he is working all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28-30) We know that Jesus has ascended into heaven and is preparing a place there for those who belong to him. (John 14:1-6) We know that those who are in Christ will share in his inheritance because we are God’s sons and daughters. (Rom. 8:16-17)

We could spend all day reviewing the glories that are coming to those who are in Christ and we need to look at the daily news in light of these overwhelming realities. This doesn’t mean that healthcare, abortion, social justice, and civil liberties don’t matter, instead, it reframes how we think about these issues. If we don’t get justice in this world, we know that ultimate justice is coming. If our opportunities for a comfortable retirement are declining, we remember that we look forward to something much better than retirement. Our great future hope changes the way that we look at everything.

Read the news like you love Your neighbor

Most of our news comes to us with a partisan slant. The headlines grab our attention by reinforcing the bad things we believe about our political enemies or show how our heroes are being disrespected. What ends up happening is that we grow in our animosity towards the other side. We start thinking that they don’t just disagree with us on political issues, but are dangerous people who must be stopped.

Someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is. He answered that the first is to love God and the second is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Then, the questioner asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer this question. He showed a man taking personal responsibility for the suffering of someone who would consider him a social, political, and religious enemy. Love for our neighbors looks like this. It crosses all of the lines that we like to draw.

Christians must not fall into the trap of reading daily news to feed our loathing of other people. Because Jesus loved us when we were hostile to him, we love the people with whom we disagree. We read, not to get angry and lose our cool, but to better understand how to engage those who stand on the other side of important issues. If you find that reading the news causes you to in personal animus towards other people, it’s time to review the message of the Gospel and remember the love and patience God has shown you. 

Read the news like you have heard Solomon’s wisdom

Too often, we react to the news like people who aren’t growing as believers in Christ. Too often, we draw strong conclusions and develop unrelenting opinions based on incomplete information. We read the title of an article or hear an out of context quote and rage inside. Then we start reading the comments and shake with anger at people we have never met. This takes us to a place of anger, anxiety, and unkindness.

The Proverbs speak to us about listening and making sure we have thoroughly heard a matter before we develop a strong opinion and lose our cool. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (18:13) “Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (19:11) Solomon reminds us in these passages that wisdom calls us away from quick conclusions and hot-headed reactions. Instead, it beckons us to make sure we have heard what is being said and respond with a cool spirit.

Getting angry or anxious because of the news is not a new phenomenon. Things will take place in this world that will tempt us to shake our heads, grit our teeth, or fret over the future until Jesus returns. Until that great day, we walk by faith in the promises of God, remembering to love as we have been loved and live in a manner worthy of the calling we have received.

 

The post How to read the news like a Christian appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Editorial: Thinking about Typology

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 21:58
Categories: Seminary Blog

SBJT Forum

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 20:50

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Book Reviews

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 20:47

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Ask Anything Live (Episode 4)

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 15:00

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Categories: Seminary Blog

4 Reasons college ministry is a sacrifice worth making

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 09:16

Can a small church really have an impact on a college campus? Even if it has a tiny staff, lacks modern facilities, and has no coffee bar? The answer is unequivocally yes.

Almost five years ago, my wife and I moved to South Carolina to pastor a church situated just a few blocks from a small college. When I began to ask local pastors about the campus, they joked that it was as spiritually alive as the vast cemetery that bordered it. One church in town had a handful of college students on Sunday. That was it.

So we set to work. And it was rough. College ministry took place during odd hours. Initially, the staff were less than enthusiastic. Most students were at games and practices, studying, or sleeping in on Sunday morning.

I now understand why most churches give up on campus ministry: It’s inefficient and can produce frustrating results. Campus ministry sucks up time, money, and energy that can be easily spent elsewhere. But I want to encourage churches like us to persevere. Ministering to students will cost a church a lot, but it’s worth it for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.

Here are four realities that should drive even small churches to minister to college students.

  1. They need the church more than you need them.

When a small church begins to pour into college ministry, it makes no practical sense any way you slice it. Spending your precious resources to reach penniless young people seems like financial foolishness. Even if they begin to attend or even join your church, they can’t give back in a substantial monetary way.

On top of that, college students bring heavy spiritual burdens to a congregation. Just sit down for lunch with one sometime. They will unload about the inability to afford the next semester, the stress of their parents’ looming divorce, the panic of failure on the field, in the classroom, or in a relationship.

One of my best friends is regularly burdened for the nominally Christian students he tries to mentor throughout the semester. Many of them know they are living in sin. They struggle with guilt and aimlessness. In conversation I’ll ask him, “Are any of these kids going to church?” To which he says, “No.” “Are they reading their Bibles? Are they praying?” He only smiles knowingly. They don’t realize it, but we both do. They need a local church—a body of believers to disciple, challenge, confront, and encourage them week by week.

  1. They have theological and experiential hang-ups.

College ministry often means dealing with the fallout of entertainment-driven youth group. The only contact that many Christian and non-Christian high school graduates have with the church is bounce-off-the-walls retreat weekends, gross out games, and Nerf guns. When they arrive at college, local congregations have the hard, unpleasant task of walking them through the let down of joining “normal” (read boring) church.

They may come to college with a bad taste in their mouth from hypocrisy they witnessed in a home church. Many international students may come to America with a completely secular worldview. I met a student this year who marveled that we had a church building like it was some kind of tourist attraction, saying, “I’ve never been in a church building before!” Churches who reach out to these students must have the patience to share the gospel slowly and intentionally. It will require lots of time, and still many students may disappoint and fall away.

Students can be a bit like theological kayakers. Minor rapids feel like waterfalls and every cultural or personal issue threatens to overturn the boat. What they need are spiritual fathers and mothers who will gently and calmly talk through their real issues and struggles. They need mentors who are willing to listen, willing to ask probing questions, willing to love them as they work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

  1. College ministry is an investment in the future of other churches.

Perhaps the most selfless aspect of college ministry is that you are going to so much effort to pursue and invest in young men and women who will leave in four years or less. This alone seems exhausting. Wouldn’t churches—especially small churches—be wiser to invest in reaching established families in the community?

Campus ministry requires a kingdom perspective. There is a reason why the Lord is gathering students from across the world into your city. It is an opportunity for churches to invest in the future of the capital “C” Church. This is the greatest joy and act of selflessness: training up disciples of Christ and sending them out to serve other local churches. Our ministry among even a small handful of students can have immense kingdom impact as they depart our fellowship and enter the world to become faithful husbands, wives, businessmen, teachers, and church members elsewhere.

  1. You will see mustard seed success stories.

Certainly, college ministry will drain your church. However, you’ll be surprised by how your church comes to love—even need—these students. Our college students have become vital to every aspect of our ministry: music, children’s Sunday school, ushering, outreach, prayer, small groups, the list goes on. Their energy and enthusiasm can inject a church with new life. The Spirit has given them gifts that were meant to build up your church. (And they make dependable babysitters!)

I think you’ll also be surprised how college students come to appreciate the authenticity of “boring” church. Many of them are just looking for honest relationships. So much of college life can be about faking it and hiding insecurities. When a church is comfortable with its uncoolness, it allows students to feel safe to open up and ask questions. Doors for the gospel will swing wide.

Pray about how you and your church—large or small—can begin to engage the student population in your community. Four years is longer than you realize. So much discipleship can happen if churches will see the need for the Gospel on these campuses. Pray and strive for mustard seed-sized success. Success is a small Bible study with three or four young men. Success is two students catching a vision for church membership. Success is a student spending time with an elderly church member.

These small successes will require a vital selflessness from your church. We have to trust that though Christ’s kingdom begins as a mustard seed, it grows to become a large tree (Luke 13:18-19).  May the love of Christ compel us into the sticky lives of these young men and women with patience, mercy, and grace.

 

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Older Men, Younger Men Need You

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 10:48

There is a sad and wide gulf between older men and younger men today. Generational discrimination and segregation are alive and, well, discouraging.

We have to pass the torch somehow, but so many of the bridges have been burnt. Younger guys need older guys. Older men, by God’s design and grace, there are things we will get from you and no one else. Especially those of us without dads, or Christian dads, or engaged and intentional Christian dads. Yet the decades sadly so rarely seem to play well together.

As a younger man myself, I have tried to identify how exactly older guys can love, exhort, and invest in younger men around them — men like me. On behalf of other younger men, with humility and boldness, we plead with our older brothers for five things.

1. LOVE

Young men are often asking of older men, “Do you care about me? Do you really care?” We can watch YouTube videos for advice, wisdom, and inspiration for life’s complexities. With Christian blogs today, we can access answers to most every life question without even picking up the phone. We should still ask you, but we don’t need older men mainly because they’re smarter.

Young men need steady love, a love that shadows the love of the Father (1 John 2:13-14). We need that, and we are on a journey with monsters on the horizon — monsters deep in our own hearts and all around us. You, the older man, are not necessarily our dad, but you are a “father’s friend” — a “neighbor who is near” (Prov 27:10), who teaches us about “reproach,” “prudence,” “suffering,” “adultery,” and “cursing” (Prov 27:11-14) — how to do (or avoid) all of it. The king says “do not forsake … your father’s friend.” So, we’re here. At least some of us are. Not forsaking. Maybe annoying, but not forsaking.

2. STORIES

Young men need to hear, “Everything’s going to be okay.” Most days we’re pretty sure our lives are an utter failure, a disaster zone even.

We hear: “You’re not a man.” We need: “You are a man. Let’s act like it.” We hear: “You can’t beat this.” We need: “I know that voice. This is how you fight it.” We hear: “She doesn’t love you, so life is worthless.” We need: “This is a season. God knows your needs. Talk to me about it.”

God taught you lessons when you were young. You pray, “From my youth you have taught me,” and, “Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (Ps 71:17-18). Now, for every gray hair, we want one story of God’s faithfulness, one lesson from years of learning God and his world. One “you’ll be okay” for every silver lock.

Was there a time when you had that same life experience? Tell us about it. We need to hear, “God is faithful in that situation, because I’ve seen it — I have felt it. I don’t know what it will look like for you, but he is with you, and he is faithful. And so am I.” Tell relevant, helpful stories. You can’t see the end of any young man’s story. But you can be a historical anchor for the hope that God is actually involved in this tragic world — in a young man’s tragic life — because sometimes we’re not so sure.

3. PRAYER

It’s hard for most Christians to spend time alone with God. For you to take time with the Father — with your Father — to intercede for us, to pray for our good, and to ask for wisdom for us, means more than you know. With all the brokenness between generations today, it would be an unusual and undeserved blessing to take your prayers for granted.

Paul feared the Ephesians would “lose heart,” so he prayed that God would, “grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit” (Eph 3:13, 16). We often lose heart while we make our own way. We need strength. We’re praying our immature hearts out. Take those ten or fifteen years you have on us and do with them in prayer what we haven’t learned to do yet as unskilled, inexperienced, and scared younger men.

4. SELF-SECURITY

Don’t feel the need to compete with us. We’re not your peers, so don’t measure yourself against us. If we need your more mature, fatherly help, chances are we’re not getting it from our dads. Most guys who have distant or absent fathers feel like they have been competing with other men their whole life — for stats, for affection, approval, and acceptance.

Be a friend in the war of life — a fellow soldier. We need support, friendship, and non-competitive camaraderie like that — we need a person to manifest to us, face to face, God’s disinterest in comparative performance. It’s really hard to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). But we might just learn how to do it for others through your example.

One of the most practical shapes this takes is in the form of good listening. In listening to a young man talk about himself, you will hear embedded in his words a “plea for grace” (Psalm 86:6), and you will be more equipped to speak “a word fitly spoken,” which is “like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov 25:11).

We also might need help hearing you, because we can be impatient and stubborn and defensive (what do you do with an apple of gold anyway?). God models this humility and patience: “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). God is kind because he doesn’t have anything to prove. That security produces amazing results in relationships, and in men in general.

5. VULNERABILITY

Be patient. We are slow. Don’t feel like you need to yell at us. We’ve been yelled at. Be firm if we need it. We need to be able to ask you anything — and get an honest, non-judgmental answer. This includes wisdom for Christian growth in general — in fighting sin. We need to feel, “We’re in this together,” not, “You’re such a failure.”

Most men already feel like failures. Be original, and be with us. Is 1 Cor 10:13 really true? “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” Help us to learn to practice the tension of that verse: that it is “common” — not weird or stigmatized or something to keep in the dark — and to embrace the call to “endure it,” which is nearly impossible without community. We need a place — a man — that challenges us to grow, but also makes it safe for us to confess.

EVERY BOY WANTS TO BE A MAN

This was not written for the courtroom, fathers. These “needs” are not a condemnation of you. No, they are meant for your veneration. “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who has been from the beginning” (1 John 2:13). Young men have failed older men in many ways — through incompetence and inconsistency, through shortcomings and shameful acts, through critiquing everyone else and coddling ourselves — our lives our fraught with failure. It’s true.

No matter what the young, stubborn punk in your life says, we want to mature; we want the skilled, heavy, healing hand of corrective (not punitive) discipline; we want to be told we’re wrong; we want to grow. Every young man wants to be a man who can receive the love of Christ, and out of that, become a skilled lover of God, a helpful lover of friends, and a serving lover of a woman.

We want to be like you inasmuch as you are like Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

 

This article originally appeared at DesiringGod.org. Used by permission.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Why I Don’t Want to Raise an Obedient Child

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 10:06

It’s funny the things people will ask me when they discover I have fifteen children. Most times, the questions are a barrage of “How do you do it?” and “Don’t you know what causes that?” Sometimes the questions are heartfelt — “How did you get to adopt four children?” or “Why have so many?”

But one of the most important questions that rarely gets asked is “What’s the most important thing I can teach my children?”

Of course the most vital thing to teach any child is the redemptive power that faith in Jesus gives us. But past this, most parents just tend to focus on raising well-behaved kids.

As if being well-behaved is the end-all goal of Christianity. Be good. If I have “good” kids then I am a good parent. If my kids know all the rules and follow them then I have done my job. An added bonus may include a college education or an exemplary skill of some sort, but truly it just boils down to their behavior, right?

Wrong.

I can see how we easily fall into this trap … and yes, it’s a trap. When the children are small we are basically relegated to making sure the child survives the day — no matter how many times they try and self-destruct between jumping off the couch, climbing out of their crib, and swallowing everything possible to block their windpipe. We begin to think to ourselves that if we could ever just get through a meal at a restaurant without being humiliated, make it through Publix without the three-year-old having a total meltdown, if we could just get them to listen to us and do what we say, we will have done it. Done our jobs. Get those little wee beasties tamed and they may even manage to make us as moms and dads look pretty good in the process.

I am in no way saying that obedience itself is not important. It is. In fact, your child’s life may very well depend on them stopping when you ask them to thereby avoiding being run over in the street. We must teach our children to listen to us and obey, but this is something that is rarely accomplished completely at a very young age and I have my sneaking suspicions that’s why the Lord gave us a solid sixteen-to-twenty years with our children under our wings.

But while my short term goal may be obedience, I do not want an obedient twenty-one year old. I want a young adult who knows the rules and when to break them. “No fighting in school,” may be the rule, but I want a teenager who knows when to stick up for a friend and get a bump or bruise in the process. “Live peaceably with all men,” say the scriptures, but I want my child to know it is alright to not be “peaceable” when someone is trash talking another classmate. Playing to win may be the unspoken rule, but when my child chooses all the school “losers” to be on her team for dodge ball and they get creamed, my child just won at the game of life.

You see, without watching ourselves, we can accidentally raise a child who is just obedient and not resourceful or full of initiative. We could raise a child who knows the rules and not the guiding principles, so they never weigh out which is the greater need. And I have two really good examples of this.

Fourteen years ago, I was heavily pregnant with my fourth child. I had taken my three daughters, then six, four, and three years old to play on the beach while my friend and I talked. The girls were skimming along in the waves in barely a foot of water when the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Prompted by what I can only describe as a “Holy Warning,” I yelled “Get out now!” to the children in a voice that screamed terror. The girls sprinted out of the water and ran 30 feet up to the dune. They then turned around and asked, “Why, Mama?”

Thank God they ran before they asked. A tiger shark began rapidly approaching as they sprinted out of the water and I saw it heading straight for where the girls were playing. Surely a tragedy had been avoided because they listened quickly. Shaken, I gathered them up and left the beach that day thanking God for their safety and ever since that day, “shark” has been the buzzword around our house we use when someone doesn’t listen and obey quickly.

Fast forward about ten years. A four-year-old cousin is having a surf party at the beach. About twenty five children are playing in the waves, trying out surfboards and enjoying a fun day in the ocean. One of the dads who is a local surfing legend leans over to me and says, “Shark. Get the kids out.” In my “do-it-or-else-you’ll-be-sorry” voice I promptly tell every kid to get out of the water immediately. Out of the twenty five kids, five decide they would rather play than listen. I tell them there’s a shark in the water and those stinkers start arguing with me that since they don’t see it I must be wrong. And guess who’s still in the water between all these five-to-eight year old arguers? My sixteen-year-old daughter. Daly Kay had become quite a swimmer and reasoned that since she was a strong swimmer she would rather stay in the water and gather up these yahoos to get them out of the water than leave them in there defenseless. Even as she disobeyed the clear commands to leave the water, she was pulling them out to safety. She broke the rules. She disobeyed. But she did the greater thing. She saved these kids from their own foolishness.

My kids aren’t perfect and you can be guaranteed that I’m not either. There have been plenty of times that we’ve had to learn the hard way to obey. But at the end of the journey, I don’t just want an obedient adult. I want a faith-filled bold individual that knows the rules and when to break them. I want my children to be so full of his Word, favor, and grace that they walk in confidence knowing their Heavenly Father loves them and their parents have their back. If we only focus on the short term goal of teaching our children obedience, rather than the long term goal of boldness through faith in Christ (and what his sacrifice bought us: favor, grace, and good standing with our heavenly Father), we will have missed our opportunity as parents to raise up a generation of world-changers.

Originally posted on www.believewithme.com by Lyette Reback. Used by permission.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Why do we gather for corporate worship? Five essential reasons

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 08:56

Modern technology provides many benefits. Information can be exchanged at an unprecedented rate. The level of productivity can be astounding. Face-to-face conversations can be had with people halfway around the world. But there are also dark sides to this technology. We as Christians are very aware of the many common snares of this modern technology, not least of which is the ease of access to pornography. For Christians who are trying to walk in purity and holiness, the challenge begins with the confrontation of lurid images and tempting captions on seemingly innocuous websites such as Facebook and news outlets.

There is, however, a more subtle snare lurking in this world of immediate access to information that affects Christians in a unique way: the temptation of allowing online sermons to displace one’s commitment to hearing God’s Word preached in person alongside fellow covenant members at the place and time where their local church gathers. Don’t misunderstand: listening to sermons online is generally a good thing. But when it takes the place of gathering with God’s people to hear God’s Word in person from the appointed shepherd of your soul, much of what God intended for our growth as followers of Jesus gets lost.

Here are five important reasons why it is essential that every Christian gather with other Christians in the same local church weekly to hear the preaching of God’s Word from the undershepherds of that congregation.

  1. A Christian’s faith is fueled by hearing God’s Word

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and plainly said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). This has implications for not just the unbeliever, but for the believer also. We will be most inclined to listen and engage with preaching by being present where it is preached alongside others who have also come for the express purpose of hearing and submitting to God’s Word proclaimed. This is clearly one of the reasons the author of Hebrews commands that Christians not neglect regularly gathering together (Heb. 10:25).

  1. Hearing God’s Word from your own shepherd is unique to every other encounter with God’s proclaimed Word

    It is one thing to hear your favorite preacher expound God’s Word to his church or to a random conference crowd. It is an entirely different experience to sit in person and hear God’s Word expounded and applied directly to you from your pastor, the man who knows your struggles, difficulties, and doubts, and who will give an account for your soul (Heb. 13:17).

  1. Never underestimate the power of personal connection

    I like talking to my wife on the phone, but a phone conversation can never match the powerful impact of sitting across from her, face-to-face, and talking with her as I look into her eyes. Likewise, there is a powerful connection made between a shepherd and his flock when he preaches God’s Word to those he has been thinking about and praying for as he prepared. The Holy Spirit uniquely uses eye contact, facial expressions, and body language in both the preacher and his hearers to create a powerful connection between them during a sermon. A pastor feeds off the visible reaction of his hearers. A congregation is moved by the pastor’s burden over their souls conveyed in the sermon.

  1. Spiritual fruit comes from hearing with others

    When the church gathers, the Holy Spirit works in unique and powerful ways that are missing in private gatherings (1 Cor. 14). When a congregation collectively sits under the preached Word, a level of accountability is established and nourished among the hearers to urge each other to go and apply that sermon. A greater obligation to “do something” with the Word preached and to rely on one another for help and strength to obey it exists in this kind of community life that is not present when we listen in isolation or hop churches depending upon who is preaching that week.

  1. Public sermons lead to corporate discipleship

    Some form of one-on-one discipleship in a local church is essential for our personal growth as Christians. But while personal discipleship is a wonderful complement to the proclamation of God’s Word to the communal gathering of saints, it can never replace it, for it is one of the necessary marks of the church (Calvin, Institutes, 4.1.9). When the whole church hears God’s Word proclaimed, that Word then becomes the basis for further conversation and growth in the one-on-one discipleship conversations that follow. The sermon gets everyone on the same page; personal discipleship expands on the details of that page.

There is much about modern technology that can be redeemed for God’s purposes and glory, but what technology cannot do is replace God’s design for us to grow spiritually and to receive care for our souls. God has powerful and unique purposes for every Christian in the local church. So many of those purposes are fueled when a group of God’s redeemed people covenant together to gather in person with one another weekly to hear from God through his preached Word.

 

This article was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Bible Reading in the Marriage of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 16:17

On Sunday evening, March 18, 1855, Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) looked to his Bible and declared in his sermon: “If these words were written by a man, we might reject them; but O let me think the solemn thought, that this book is God’s handwriting — that these words are God’s!”[1] For Spurgeon it was beyond the pale of sound reasoning for anyone to reject God’s words. He was not alone in those convictions; his wife Susannah (1832 – 1903) also believed in the divine authorship of Scripture. Reflecting on John 14:27, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,”[2] Susannah asserted that those “tender words” were words of “Jesus Christ himself, my gracious Lord and Master, who thus speaks, and I shall do well to ponder every weighty sentence as I listen to his loving voice.”[3] For Susannah, the words of Scripture were “the loving voice” of Jesus Christ. Hearing Scripture as the very voice of God formed the foundation of Charles and Susannah’s marriage.

Charles Spurgeon’s views about the Bible and marriage were cultivated in him from childhood by his grandparents and parents. Susannah Thompson was also raised in a Christian home and regularly heard biblical preaching at London’s prominent Baptist congregation, New Park Street Chapel. While attending a special service at the nearby Poultry Chapel, Susannah was converted. She described her conversion as, “the dawning of the true light of my soul.”[4] Following that experience, however, she fell into a season of spiritual decline.

Shortly after Charles began his London ministry in the spring of 1854, he learned of Susannah’s spiritual struggles, and he took a pastoral interest in her. He provided her with a copy of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress as an aid to her spiritual growth.[5] He inscribed the book: “Miss Thompson, with desires for her progress in the blessed pilgrimage.”[6] Charles and Susannah’s friendship deepened and on August 2, 1854, they were engaged. Susannah “knelt before God and praised and thanked Him … for His great mercy in giving me the love of so good a man.”[7] 

As Charles busied himself with ministry, he also facilitated Susannah’s spiritual growth. One example is evident in his enlistment of her to read from the writings of the Puritan Thomas Brooks and to note salient quotes. Susannah’s findings were compiled for Spurgeon’s book, Smooth Stones Taken From Ancient Brooks. Susannah wrote that behind the compilation of Smooth Stones is a “sweet love-story” that “hides between the pages.”[8] 

Spurgeon also recognized the gift of Susannah to his own spiritual development as indicated by his requests for her prayers. He believed that her prayers would promote his “usefulness, and holiness, and happiness.”[9] Charles and Susannah were married on January 8, 1856 in a wedding ceremony that reflected their deepest convictions, rich in Scripture readings and proclamation.

The New Park Street Chapel was inadequate to hold the crowds who flocked to hear Spurgeon preach. Therefore, until larger more permanent facilities were secured, church leaders leased the nearby Surrey Gardens Music Hall for worship services. At the first service, (October 19, 1856) with thousands crowding the hall, seven people were trampled to death as mischief-makers cried “fire, fire.” A deacon rushed to Spurgeon’s home to deliver the tragic news to Susannah. Later, describing the experience, Susannah wrote: “I wanted to be alone, that I might cry to God in this hour of darkness and death.”[10] Charles was deeply shaken by the tragedy. However, his recovery was precipitated while reflecting on Scripture during a walk with Susannah. Turning to his wife he urged, “Oh, Wifey, I see it all now! Praise the Lord with me.”[11] Insightfully, Susannah framed a print of Matthew 5:11 and hung it on their bedroom wall for her husband’s daily reading and encouragement.[12] Susannah’s godliness helped Charles to weather the storm.

Charles Spurgeon’s philosophy of Bible reading provides the reasoning for how he and Susannah employed Scripture intake and prayer in their marriage. Spurgeon believed that the Bible should be read carefully, meditatively, and prayerfully. Though Spurgeon urged his congregation to read the Bible directly he also encouraged the use of study aids to assist in their understanding of Scripture. For Spurgeon, it was of utmost importance to see the relation between every passage and Christ. Spurgeon referred to this as finding the “spiritual meaning of the text.”[13] 

On January 31, 1892, at 11:05 p.m., Charles Spurgeon died in his room at the Hotel Beau Rivage in Mentone, France.[14] Susannah, his wife of thirty-six years, was by his bedside. She bowed her head and “thanked the Lord for the precious treasure so long lent to her, and sought, at the throne of grace, strength and guidance for the future.”[15] 

For Charles and Susannah Spurgeon, Bible intake and prayer characterized the beginning of their marriage and supported them through a lifetime of challenges. Their marriage, grounded in Scripture, faithful in prayer, was, in every way, “a spiritual partnership.”[16] 

ENDNOTES

[1] C.H. Spurgeon. “The Bible.” In The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim ed. reprint Vol. 1. (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1975), 111.

[2] Susannah quoted from The King James Version.

[3] Susannah Spurgeon and Charles Ray. Free Grace and Dying Love: Morning Devotions. (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 64. Included in the Banner of Truth edition is The Life of Susannah Spurgeon by Charles Ray. When citing the second part of the book, it will be noted simply as, Life.

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography: Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife, and His Private Secretary, Reprint in 2 vols. (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1992), 2:6.

[5] Bunyan lived from 1628 – 1688. He wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress; published in 1678. Spurgeon’s initial reading of The Pilgrim’s Progress was around age six and he continued to read Bunyan’s masterpiece throughout his life, totaling some 100 times before he died.

[6] C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:6-7.

[7] C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:9.

[8] C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:19.

[9] C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:26.

[10] Charles Ray, Life, 164-66.

[11] Charles Ray, Life, 167.

[12] Charles Ray, Life, 168-9.

[13] This paragraph is deduced from Spurgeon’s sermon, “How to Read the Bible” from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim ed. Vol. xxv. (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1980), 625-636.

[14] Spurgeon often retreated to this hotel in Mentone seeking physical recovery and rest.

[15] C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 4:371.

[16] Ernest W. Bacon, Spurgeon: Heir of the Puritans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1968), 45.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

One Man and One Woman: The Created Order and the Problem of Same-Sex Marriage

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:29

The debate and tension over homosexuality has reached new levels in our modern society. After decades of work by activists, the governmental approval of same-sex marriage looks to be in the near future, and many feel will soon become a constitutional right for the homosexual community. Unfortunately, the Church itself has lost some in the winds of cultural change, and appears will lose many more if same-sex marriage becomes a constitutional right. With so much cultural change occurring, it has forced us to ask the hard question: is same-sex marriage wrong?

Same-sex marriage is fallacious based on its inability to fulfill the three main purposes of marriage as revealed in the created order. In looking at a small selection of verses from Genesis 1 and 2, we see that God designed marriage for one man and one woman to join together in a union for the purposes of procreation, complementarity, and reflection of the image of God. Though many on the other side of the debate may be dismissive of any argument constructed mostly from the Bible, Christians should uphold the priority of the biblical witness in this debate. We must also remember that simply because unbelievers discredit our use of the Bible as a foundation for our view, this does not invalidate the foundation of Scripture as a platform for argumentation. As one author puts it, “If Scripture is the norm that is not normed by any other norm, then we cannot set homosexuality aside as an issue of moral indifference.”

MARRIAGE FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROCREATION

From the beginning of Genesis, we see that God had an intended purpose for his creation. He wasn’t like a child playing with Play- Doh, molding the clay based on a creative whim; he was the omnipotent Creator who had very specific reasons and purposes for his Creation, especially for the human race. We see in Genesis 1:27-28, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.” It is evident that one major purpose of marriage is procreation. God made man and woman to join in marriage in order to carry out this goal. Kevin DeYoung rightly asserts, “[Only] two persons of the opposite sex can fulfill the procreative purposes of marriage.” Same-sex couples cannot fulfill this procreative purpose given by God.

Even though procreation is an important purpose of marriage it is not the only purpose. Sam Allberry writes, “Procreation is not the sole purpose of marriage (those unable to have children are no less married because of that), but it is clear that procreation is intended to be rooted in marriage.” Elevating procreation as the sole purpose actually harms marriages, making the validity of marriage based solely on the ability to have children. Stephen F. Noll writes, “It was an error of earlier ‘natural law’ teaching to see procreation as the obvious essence of marriage, thus making the marital relationship and act instrumental to the end of procreation.” While it is important to remember that procreation is not the sole purpose of marriage, it is a core facet. There is no refuting the fact that — biologically speaking — men and women are hard-wired for procreation through heterosexual marriages. However, if evangelicals wield the “procreation argument” as their primary argument, they must practice it in their own marriages.

MARRIAGE FOR THE PURPOSE OF COMPLEMENTARITY

The second purpose of marriage established in the creative order is the complementarity of a man and a woman. Thomas Schmidt asserts, “[Male] and female are necessary counterparts.” In Genesis 2:18 reveals, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” When God created woman, he created another human who would complement the man in many ways. Schmidt writes, “The Genesis narrative affirms that male and female are different in correspondence to one another such that their union constitutes a completion.” This complementarity is not merely physical, but can only be achieved by humbling seeking union with one’s spouse (of the opposite gender).

In a discussion regarding the complementary nature of heterosexual marriage, one must address the reciprocal sexual desire that men have for women and that women have for men. Our sexual desire was created by God — more specifically — it was created to be enjoyed and expressed in a heterosexual relationship. In Genesis 2:23-24, the man saw his wife and desired her because she was different from the animals and different than he; there was a clear desire for a being that was a complement to him. This sexual desire between a man and a woman is what bonds them together and connects them intimately together to form one union. DeYoung calls this is a “reunion.” It is a reunion because the woman was made from man to be his complement. Sexuality and sexual union between a man and a woman is more than just fulfillment of sexual desire, it is something that unites us with our spouse and with God. Kathy Rudy writes, “Undergirding complementarity is the idea that God intends men and women to unite sexually, and that such sexual unions bring the couple into a sense of wholeness and closeness to God.” Rudy goes on to say, “Complementarity also leads to direct criticism of homosexuality. If male and female together signifies relationship with God and salvation, homosexuality becomes a symbol of everything the Christian is not.”

MARRIAGE FOR THE PURPOSE OF REFLECTING THE IMAGE OF GOD

Finally, we can see from the created order that God designed man and woman to be joined together in marriage with the purpose of reflecting His image. Genesis 1:27-28a says, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them.” Man and woman were created to join together in marriage to mirror the Triune God. Erwin Lutzer writes, “Marriage brings a unity that is unlike anything else on this earth; indeed, it represents a unity found only in heaven — in God Himself !” The Trinitarian God of the Bible, who has revealed Himself as three persons in one being, is the God who created man and woman to bear offspring. This familial unit, created by God, is the only way to express the profundity of the Trinity in a creaturely way. A same-sex marriage does not have the capability to reflect the unity and diversity inherent in the Trinity. A same-sex marriage would simply model a reflection of a unitarian God — a God of unity in similarity. Only in a heterosexual marriage can the purpose of reflecting the image of the Trinitarian God be fulfilled.

CONCLUSION

Same-sex marriage violates the created order intended by God in the creation accounts of Genesis. For that reason, those wishing to affirm the veracity and consistency of Scripture, can only logically affirm marriage defined as between one man and one woman. Various texts from Genesis 1 and 2 indicate that God created marriage as an institution of a man and a woman to fulfill the purposes of procreation, complementarity, and reflecting the image of the Triune God. First, we saw that from a biological standpoint God created marriage for the purpose of procreation. Same-sex marriages are incapable of producing children on their own, which leads us to reject this union between two people of the same sex. Secondly, complementarity should be considered as a primary facet of marriage. The creation account shows that God intended to create Eve as a “suitable helper” for Adam. This simple declaration of God reveals that the animals were not “suitable” and another man was not “suitable” for Adam. Both of these together reveal that there is some sort of fulfillment that belongs to the role of women, not just in the physical sense, but in all senses, and vice versa. The final purpose of marriage, as it was originally created, is to reflect the image of the Triune God. Same-sex marriage cannot reflect the unity in diversity of the Trinity, which means that it cannot properly fulfill its purpose of reflecting the image of God. This can only be done through the creation of the familial unit of a husband, a wife, and their offspring.

Though the winds of culture are drastically tossing about many in the Church, no matter what the courts rule, we must stand firm in our defense of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. This was God’s original design and purpose, and we should humbly reflect that design and purpose in the life of the Church.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:21

A declaration from a coalition of evangelical leaders assembled by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, June 26, 2015

As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revela- tion, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
  • Teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
  • Affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including lgbt persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
  • Love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
  • Live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
  • Cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper. 

The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.

The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry. Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

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