Seminary Blog

Why Ancient People Needed God, Why Modern People Don’t, and Why I Still Do

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 03/20/2018 - 09:30

Imagine living in the ancient world, a world without internet, without computers, without electrical power, without complex machines, without running water—without the conveniences of modern life. Just imagine it—the work required to gather and prepare food and water, clothing, and shelter. Also, imagine the limited knowledge available to you. It is the knowledge of your family, your tribe, your people, your ancestors. It is mostly practical knowledge required for survival.

Imagine how you might explain how things happen around you. Imagine that after several months of planting and cultivating your crops, one day they suddenly begin to turn brown and die. Imagine struggling through the next few months with just enough food to survive.

Imagine that the following year a swarm of grasshoppers tears through your crops, consuming them to the ground. Another year of hungry survival. What would you do? How would you explain what has happened?

For those living in the ancient world, both scenarios illustrate how much of the world is beyond direct human control and beyond immediate human explanation. Yet, ancient people looked for ways to explain the events in their lives and to influence what might happen. For this, the ancients “needed” the concept of “God,” or at least the supernatural. They turned to spirits, deities, or their dead ancestors to explain why things happened as they did and to somehow influence what happened in their lives.

Why did the crops suddenly turn brown and die? Because they didn’t offer sufficient sacrifices to the fertility deity. Why did the grasshoppers swarm at this time? Because evil spirits had invaded their land. Therefore, by performing certain rituals or by making certain sacrifices, they believed they could appease these powers of the unseen world and hopefully make their lives better. Ancient people needed the idea of “God” or the supernatural to be able to make sense of their world and try to control it in some way.

The situation changes with the rise of modernity. Modern science can provide logical, natural explanations for the events in normal life. So, why did the crops die? Because a virus infiltrated the fields. Why did the grasshoppers swarm through the crops this time? Because climate conditions forced them to change their regular movement patterns. Science offers answers to these kinds of everyday questions.

Furthermore, through technology, people can manipulate the world around them in ways not even imaginable in the ancient world. They can prevent the virus from destroying the crops or prevent the grasshoppers from eating the crops. It would seem that the idea of “God” or “gods” is no longer necessary to explain or manipulate the world around us.

In this sense, modern people no longer need the idea of “God” or even the supernatural. In fact, it is only with the arrival of modern man that real atheism emerges. Atheists have decided that they no longer need “God” most often because they believe science provides sufficient answers to explain and even control our world.

In fact, if science and technology have come so far in explaining so much of our world and if they continue to explain more and more with each new discovery, why does anyone need “God”? In one sense, the answer to the question is that no one does, at least not the idea of “God.” It is true that the vast majority of people, even modern people, have recognized that science itself is always limited both by the people who develop it and by the phenomena it takes into account. For this reason, science often does not provide satisfactory answers to many of life’s deepest, most difficult questions.

But ultimately, it is not the idea of “God” as an explanation for the everyday world that matters most to me. The truth is I need God—not just the idea of “God,” but the true, living God. I need Him for innumerable reasons, but the most pressing reason is that I am condemned as a sinner.

Although someone may object that sin is something made up in my head or something pressed upon me by my social environment, I know better, as do millions of others. Since I was a child, my conscience has condemned me. Even when no one ever indicated that what I was doing was wrong, my conscience pricked my heart. My conscience testifies to my need for something that is beyond myself to achieve: forgiveness.

Only God can remove the condemnation of sin, its guilt, its shame, and its punishment. Sometimes people lose their sense of guilt or shame about some behavior, but this loss most often results from a choice either to excuse the behavior or to just live with it. But God’s work exemplified in Christ does not excuse sin, nor does it ignore sin. It takes the sin away through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. His sacrifice, God’s sacrifice, brings forgiveness to those who believe.

Forgiveness stands at the heart of the Christian message, the Gospel. Paul demonstrates this point when he describes the Gospel to the Romans. The Gospel is God’s power to rescue us from the judgment of God to come (see Romans 1:16-20). Our sin convicts, condemns, and controls us. Only God can overcome sin. Only God can forgive.

And that is why I still need God. In fact, it is why all people need God.

Categories: Seminary Blog

5 strategies for actually reforming your church

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 10:22

Every parent knows the routine. After laboring to get a restless infant to sleep, one quietly walks toward the baby bed, slowly moves the baby from snuggle to prone position, and then stealthily tiptoes from the bed to a much hoped for quiet evening. Tiptoeing continues just in case the little bundle of joy discerns a slight noise and the process begins again.

On the other hand, sledgehammers know nothing of quietness. An old slab of concrete oddly left in a yard needs removing. It won’t happen by tiptoeing with a sledge. That kind of job requires the heaving, backbreaking blows of the ten-pound forged steel hammer, crashing away at the concrete.

Tiptoeing and sledgehammers have their appropriate places.

But that’s not in pastoral leadership, especially when dealing with church polity.

Traditions, traditions

Over the years, churches can amass unbiblical habits, traditions, and practices when they neglect biblical polity. Their polity practice can resemble the chaos of a middle school playground or the boring formality of a corporate boardroom or the rival fraternity food fight or the competitive, dog-eat-dog atmosphere of the local union hall. All the while, they fail to display the glory of the gospel that is supposed to unite them. They fail to act like the church that Jesus redeemed with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

Then the church issues a call for a man to serve as pastor. They’ve grown so accustomed to their disastrous polity that they don’t even notice it. But he does. He sees the disunity, the infighting, the confusion, and the failure to walk together in love. He grimaces at the revolving door membership that bloats the church roll while further crippling the congregation’s health. He recognizes the lack of faithful shepherding that should be done by elders but without elder leadership in their polity, doesn’t happen. With great courage, he accepts the church’s call to serve and begins the painful journey of leading toward biblical practices.

The pastor knows that changes need to happen. He’s convinced even more as he reads the New Testament, studies church history, and hears reports of healthy churches. He researches, seeks godly counsel, and starts to strategize on how to turn the ship around. Previous pastors seem to have done little to move the church toward establishing biblical polity. Neglect and procrastination make the new pastor’s responsibilities more difficult and intense.

But what is he to do? If he tiptoes for years in fear of the inevitable backlash, appropriate change won’t happen, and he’ll just bide his time until he can evacuate. If he takes a sledgehammer approach, he’ll likely split the church and wound a lot of faithful people in the process, while he smugly dusts off his resume for a new position.

There’s a better way.

A Better Way

1. Faithfully expound God’s Word at each Sunday corporate gathering. Nothing can replace the sequential study through books of the Bible for dismantling flawed ideologies, building a gospel-centered foundation, and establishing a framework for church unity. The Word is sharp, powerful, and piercing, going right to the heart of the matter. Instead of jumping into a detached series on polity, deal with it naturally in the Pastorals or Acts. Let the congregation see and experience the biblical context as you open up those essential truths for biblical polity.

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2. Disciple men. Follow Paul’s prescriptive to Timothy of teaching faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2) since they will spread that good word in teaching others. This means that you can’t get in a rush to change polity. It’s a matter of discipling rather than pushing for an administrative change to make life easier for you. As men learn to walk with Christ they naturally desire to be faithful to his teaching. They will affirm what you preach from the pulpit if you’ve patiently discipled them in thinking biblically.

3. Concentrate on the church’s health ahead of polity changes. While I do believe that biblical church polity affects the church’s health, it is not an end-all or magic bullet. The congregation must understand the gospel. If you are to lead them in biblical church membership then they must grasp the nature and practice of the local church. They must see the priority of unity in the body.

That doesn’t mean that everyone will cooperate. Typically, as a pastor expounds the Word, teaches godly men, and focuses on applying biblical teaching to the church’s health and unity, there will be reaction by some not inclined toward biblical Christianity. That leads to a fourth practice.

4. Patiently but surely move forward in teaching, training, and applying the Word regarding biblical church polity. Rarely do I hear of a church that doesn’t have nay-sayers when it comes to changing polity. That’s just part of it. Here is where you face the challenge to endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ (2 Tim. 2:3). Here’s where your patience as a spiritual leader will be tested (2 Tim. 2:24–26). It seems that if there’s a biblical foundation in a particular church that when the pastor patiently leads them, carefully teaches them, loves them despite their faults, and slowly moves them in the right direction, most churches will follow if the pastor endures.

By my observation, too many good brothers give up too soon before the church has time to absorb his teaching and learn to follow his leadership. They get impatient when the church doesn’t immediately respond, and then think that they must find greener pastures. It doesn’t work that way, brothers. So press on but do so patiently.

5. You need not tiptoe around biblical teaching; nor should you pound it into the congregation. Good shepherding takes place in the steadiness of feeding, nurturing, caring, and watching out for the flock. You can’t do that by tiptoeing. Nor can it be done with a sledgehammer. It happens when pastors seek to serve like Jesus did.

Be encouraged

By way of encouragement, I recently heard about a couple of pastor brothers that have patiently, slowly taught their church about biblical polity, including regenerate church membership and elder leadership. Their church didn’t have any polity documents, so they started from scratch. The church operated on the fly by whatever had been done before. They had not thought through about what the Bible teaches on polity.

After thoroughly teaching biblical polity, the pastors reached out individually to most of the congregation to ask if they had read the polity proposal. Some who hadn’t read it still voted against the new polity, admitting that they were told by someone else to oppose it. When the dust settled, the strong majority of the church approved the move to biblical church polity. Instead of bailing out when things got tough, these two pastors patiently endured and continue to love their flock toward biblical changes. Thank God for the grace he gives for such pastoral work!

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Categories: Seminary Blog

SBC’s Church Planting Sunday

Southwestern Seminary - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:30

Back in 2007, I developed an initial desire to plant a church. As time went by, I began to ask the Lord if this was of Him or just human emotion. After submitting to Him in prayer, the desire began to grow daily until a clear vision for church planting took shape, and soon after, a small church began meeting in a living room. My experience will not be the experience of every future church planter, but all Christians must be sensitive to the call of God on their lives. If you are a follower of Christ, God is calling you to serve. God is still actively calling men and women to specific ministries. While God’s call might not come as plainly or audibly as Samuel’s (1 Samuel 3:1-14), it is just as real. Will you answer?

Has he called you to church planting? If so, praise the Lord for the chance to participate in Kingdom growth in a mighty way. Planting a church will be one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of your ministry. However, if you head down this road without the call of God on your life for this ministry, prepare to be drained and broken. For those who feel the unmistakable pull of God in this direction, let me offer four areas of focus:

First and foremost … Pray. Please do not let this be what you tag on to your plans, but let everything begin and end on your knees. If your church plant does not survive, you will undoubtedly look back and see a lack of time spent with the Lord. Let prayer be that element of your spiritual life that confirms your calling to this ministry, empowers your heart for the struggles of this ministry, and emboldens your Gospel witness for Christ in this ministry.

Second, you must carefully and prayerfully assemble the ministry team. Your instinct will be to grab your friends, those who are in agreement with your plan, and run with them, but I suggest that you do not do this. Do not just assemble a team of “yes men” and expect smooth sailing. Allow God to place the people in your path whom you need for His church. Be grateful for those who encourage, but thank the Lord for those who disagree. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), and real love will confront. Your opinion will not always be correct. You need other points of view.

Third, your most substantial effort should be in sharing the Gospel. You are going to be busy with many details like location and material needs, but time spent in evangelism is time well spent. Looking to the Apostle Paul, you see a model of church planting in Acts 16. Paul carries the message of the Gospel as he goes by the river, when he encounters the possessed girl, and even when he is suffering in prison. The beauty of Paul’s life was his ability to display the glory of Jesus Christ through all circumstances.

Finally, put on your work boots. Planting is not a comfy desk job in a corner office. Church planting is real work, real labor, real suffering. If you want to see the life of the greatest church planter, just look to 2 Corinthians 11:25-28. Paul describes his experience this way,

Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

What are you willing to endure for the sake of Christ? If your motivation is not purely the expansion of the Kingdom, then this is not for you. However, if church planting is your God-given calling, do not let anything keep you from fulfilling your mission.

Serving the Lord in any respect is a holy privilege, and it is made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ. Let us not neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3), but let us be people who are willing to do anything, go anywhere, and sacrifice everything for the name above every name, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Categories: Seminary Blog

3/15/2018 DBTS Chapel: Dr. Bruce Compton

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 14:31
Dr. Compton concludes his in-depth series on the qualifications for pastoral ministry Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

3/14/2018 DBTS Chapel: Dr. Mark Snoeberger

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/14/2018 - 14:25
In this chapel message, Dr. Snoeberger explains from 2 Peter why both protology and eschatology should profoundly impact our Christian lives. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

Why your personality shapes everything you do in ministry

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 03/13/2018 - 10:33

“Should my personality influence my ministry?” A student recently asked me this question in a discussion about counseling, but it applies to any responsibility a person might hold. Whether leading, managing, preaching, organizing, parenting, or discipling, we often wonder how our personalities should affect our Christian responsibilities. The longer we live, the more we see that our personalities do affect every part of our lives, along with every person whose lives we touch. But should they? If so, how?

A thoughtful answer, from a Christian worldview, must be uniquely Christian.

What is personality?

We should first acknowledge that the word “personality” is a constellational term playing host to a cluster of ideas. Google defines “personality” as “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.” We all basically know what we mean by the term, but even Scripture itself illustrates this multi-layered concept. Look no further than the differences between Jacob and Esau, the savvy mama’s boy and his rugged hunter of a twin. Or compare Peter and John, the foot-in-mouth-disciple turned gospel-proclaiming apostle alongside the apostle of love whom Jesus himself loved. The Scriptures themselves (not to mention church history) illustrate personality differences—sometimes vast—among key figures in God’s redemptive plan.

These elements of personality, though, are not simply psychological neutralities. No human’s personality escapes the light and darkness of biblical anthropology, so no human’s personality is wholly righteous or wholly wretched. No matter how twisted our personalities, we’re still made in the image of God, and we reflect him in the ways intended by his design; and no matter how lovely our personalities, we’re still soiled and marred at the deepest levels because we’ve chosen autonomy over trust and transgression over obedience. Thus the special characteristics and unique qualities that mark our personalities refract the colorful rays of divine design while also clouding and distorting (through our sinfulness) the divine image. All of our personalities stand as evidence of God’s image in man, but all of our personalities are also corrupted and convoluted by sin.

Each of us is an individual, too, with an individual personality. Just have a few kids, and you’ll see just how different we can be, even when sourced and raised (like siblings) with the same factors at play in our lives from the earliest years.

So how do we become who we are? No one but the omniscient God himself can answer that question infallibly for any given person, but observation, experience, and wisdom confirm what Scripture clearly shows: Every individual’s personality is a creative and unique integration of inborn characteristics and external forces. In just one example, we watch Jacob, at birth, reach for his brother’s heel, and we also see his mother Rebekah’s conniving ways encouraging and shaping Jacob’s approach to his place in the family. Seen from a Christian worldview, nature and nurture both are involved in the formation of the personality, with our traits springing (to some degree) from the mysterious ground of God’s custom design for our bodies and souls, and cultivated (to some degree) by the many environmental factors he’s using to shape us along the way.

Thankfully, though, this blend of intrinsic traits and external shaping is not the end of the story.

Rehumanized personalities

The direct and dramatic acts of God in the gospel renew the image of God in us by resurrecting us in the image of Christ. No aspect of our personhood, including our personality, is left unscathed. Through faith our whole being dies and rises with Christ, including those unique qualities and characteristics that make us us. As we rise with him, even our personalities are redeemed and regenerated and renewed and reformatted. How obvious this renewal is depends on how blatantly and observably our personalities have been hijacked by sin. Either way, our personalities are then yielded to the Holy Spirit as we seek to obey our new Lord and Master with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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That being said, in conversion and in sanctification, God does not press our personalities through a single-shaped funnel that distorts the real us. Rather, he brings us alive by birthing Christ in us, reshaping us from the inside out and expressing the abundant life and holy love of his Spirit through the contours of our God-given personalities.

Salvation does not dehumanize us but rehumanizes us.

Compelled by the holy love of Christ’s Spirit, our personalities, like the rest of us, freely enlist in the glad service of love. No longer do we follow mantras like “you do you” or “just be yourself.” Instead, our personalities mature and grow, with the gospel energy of our regenerate life pressing our temperaments into a cruciform shape and coloring our hearts with a new creation hue. We grow into a vibrant, joyful life of sacrifice, following the promptings of love and happily laying aside even those aspects of our personality or preferences that are uniquely comfortable to us.

Diverse personalities, diverse spiritual fruit

Still, all along the way, the unique gifts of the Holy Spirit are channeled through our personalities, with our redeemed personalities being one expression of the spiritual gifts God stewards through us. Even the God-ordained proportions of the Spirit’s diverse fruits are measured out through the instrument of our personalities.

Indeed, the diversity of the many-membered body of Christ consists of more than our differences in personality, but certainly not less. Our spiritual gifts, according to the New Testament, are often marked by dispositional differences as varied as administration and generosity, zeal and mercy, teaching and tenderness (e.g., Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:28). The full-bodied church of Jesus Christ is full-bodied not because we all cast off our personalities and recast ourselves in the perfect personality of the God-man, but because we embrace the God-man by faith and seek to channel the strong current of his holy love through the God-given banks of our personalities. We are the body of Christ best “when each part is working properly,” because the body is “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped” (Eph. 4:15-16).

Not sacred

None of these robust theological realities are reasons to view our personalities as sacred, to protect them at all costs, or to defend our dispositional weaknesses with lazy ideas about how we just need to “be ourselves.” Our personalities should not be lionized or demonized. There is a more excellent way: We become more faithful sheep in God’s pasture when we allow the good shepherd to pastor our personalities and shape our dispositions.

Thus your personality should be a flavor of your ministry, but never the meal. If you laugh easily, seeing the more humorous side of life, then you will (and should) laugh regularly in your ministry. If you’re analytical about life, lingering over the stats and details and nuances, don’t shut off your analytical mindset which God will use to reveal life’s textures and solve life’s problems. If you’re a teacher at heart, running everything through pedagogical grids and lurching at teachable moments, know that God will use your instructional bent as a blessing to many.

Personality should touch but not torch your ministry

But also beware that your weaknesses are the dark side of your strengths. The teacher can overtalk and the verbose counselor or parent can lose their audience through misplaced lectures. The rich analysis, as we all know, can become a paralysis of indecision, or perhaps worse, a warhorse and chariot that you come to trust more than the Lord your God. And the humor and wit and satire, rich though they may be, can lose you conversational traction and relational capital through misuse or overuse.

Thus personality should touch your ministry but never torch it, just as pepper is a wonderful spice but a terrible meal. Every pastor must preach through his personality, but he must be careful not to preach his personality. Every counselor must counsel through his personality, but he must beware not to counsel his personality. Every mother must parent through her personality, but it is her torah—her actual instruction—that Solomon urges his son to follow (Prov. 1:8).

Be yourself in Christ

So what does all of this mean for life and ministry? How does being natural relate to being spiritual? How does being yourself relate to being in Christ? It means that the maturing Christian does not unthinkingly embrace her personality or ashamedly reject her personality but discerningly renews her personality by submitting herself to the daily cross of Christian living, directing her soul by the signposts of Christian love, and living her life through the Christ who is making all things new.

If you want to use your personality Christianly, the path starts here: Walk in union with Christ, each day being the newest person you’ve become as God continues sanctifying you. Marinate your personality in his life, death, resurrection, Spirit, and Word. And then go, with all the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of your personality, and do this one thing all day long: Be your in-Christ self.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

4 tough questions every pastor needs to ask about food

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 08:09

As a Southern Baptist pastor, I try to attend the annual convention every year. It is important to be there, and I am able to see pastor friends I never see apart from this annual event. Besides, the Southern Baptist Convention always contains an unpredictability that is at times entertaining. The convention draws about 5,000-7,000 pastors and members of SBC churches all around the country. There is a portion of the convention that gives time for an open mic. In other words, anyone can get up on a mic and speak to a motion or issue. Anyone. As you might imagine, some interesting, sad, and contentious words have been said throughout the history of this denominational meeting.

One conversation on the open mic floor sticks out to me. It was a year where the older generation who had historically seen alcohol as a sin and destructive in every way was defending its position against a younger generation that didn’t have the same convictions. In fact, the younger generation saw alcohol consumption as a gift from God if it was done responsibly and in moderation, citing no biblical command against alcohol, but drunkenness. The conversation became intense and heated as one side spoke, then the other side responded. It felt like things were about to get out of hand, until a young 30-year-old pastor went to the mic and spoke about his own father’s battle with alcohol. He concluded with these unforgettable but sobering words:

“This conversation saddens me. As I look around this room it appears an over-consumption of alcohol is not our major problem, but an enslavement and over consumption of food.”

And with those piercing words, the elephant in the room of the world’s largest Protestant denomination was escorted to center stage. There exists a massive obesity issue in the SBC, particularly with the pastors. In the eyes of some, being extremely overweight is endearing in a pastor as it is a sign they are loved and fed well, similarly to the way being fat in certain cultures is a sign of wealth. Nevertheless, it is a significant problem and doesn’t just speak to the eating habits of pastors, but to the state of their soul.

Two kinds of people

Here’s a gross generalization to make a point. There are ultimately two kinds of people in this world and how they deal with stress: Those who eat when they are stressed and those who don’t eat with they are stressed. Food and what we use it for can be a very insightful gaze into the state of our souls. It does for me. I come from a long line of stress eaters. Those who stress-eat cross the line of eating for enjoyment and providing nutrients for the body, to slide into that dangerous place of allowing food to be a means of comfort. I am convinced this is the main reason for the major obesity problem in America. As a result of the intense levels of stress pastors constantly endure, I am also convinced this is why so many pastors are overweight and unhealthy.

Let us also not miss the other side of this issue: those who avoid food to deal with stress. This soul exposure is more hidden because it doesn’t parade itself as an obese, overworked pastor likely enslaved to food. Nevertheless, it causes a pastor to deal with the difficulties of the ministry in a way that is unhealthy for his physical body and ignores the cry for help in his soul.

Caring for the soul

How does a pastor come to realize that food and his eating habits have strong implications for his soul? Here are four ways to consider.

  1. Grow in awareness. Self-awareness is the most important tool for our growth. Without knowing the real problem, we cannot address it. First, become aware of your family history and how you were taught to view and consume food. Was food a reward? Was food something used for comfort in difficult times in your home? Each of us needs to be aware of how we use food now. It was a profound truth for me to realize food was a means of comfort for me amidst stress and anxiety. Until that realization came from God, I would just eat too much and not know why. It also brought a helpful insight to the other side of the spectrum when I was caring for women in my church who were struggling with eating disorders. The first step is realizing that the way we view and consume food can reveal much about our souls.
  1. Keep a close eye on your weight. I once heard pastor Al Martin address a group of pastors and he shared this simple, but important truth for pastors: “What you eat and what is not burned off that day goes here, here, and here (referring to parts of his body).” My weight has become a very helpful gauge on how well I am doing with my battle to find comfort in food. When my weight goes up, it could mean a number of things. But, what it almost always exposes is that I am under more stress and eating more as a result. The managing of my weight becomes a gauge of not just stress level, but how I am coping with it. For the pastor who is 50 to 100 pounds overweight, that might expose an even greater turmoil in the soul that cannot be ignored.However, weight does not tell the full story. I once talked with a pastor who battled overeating, and yet was very skinny. He lamented how hard it was to battle overeating, and yet hear often, “You are too skinny. You need to eat more.” Likewise, there are those who are overweight because of a thyroid or metabolism issue, not because they overeat because of stress. Despite these exceptions, our weight can tell us a lot about our souls. Keep an eye on it.
  1. Care about your personal testimony. Keeping one’s weight down and staying in shape becomes harder the older we get. I’m not suggesting a person who has a bit of extra weight and doesn’t exercise as often as they wished they did is in danger of marring their gospel testimony. Nor am I advocating that we are to somehow pursue an attractive exterior for our message to be heard. We are all broken vessels being used in the Master’s hands. But for any Christians to appear utterly enslaved to any substance, be it drugs, possessions, or food, risks harming their testimony of freedom we have in the gospel. This was the elephant in the room at the convention that particular year. The gospel provides freedom from sin and the world and the power of that message can become confusing when it’s shouted by a man who is 150 pounds overweight and gets winded walking to the pulpit. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that needs to be born in our lives to affirm our testimony. Peter calls all pastors to be examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). Be mindful of your personal testimony.
  1. Find your comfort in Jesus. It’s a powerful thing to realize the impact food has on the soul and that we use food as a means of comfort in this fallen world. But the solution doesn’t stop by mere awareness. Our souls are nurtured and cared for when we realize our comfort in the stress and difficulties of our ministries is not in food, but in Jesus. We have to own our pursuit or rejection of food before Jesus can come and provide the only lasting comfort amidst this world’s sufferings. What resonates with the Holy Spirit that resides in each of us as followers of Jesus is that Jesus satisfies in a way the best food cannot.
Be honest about food

Pastors, be honest with the place food has in your life. It took me 30 years before I was honest about it. It will always be a battle for me. I assure you, the soul will continue to languish in the pain and sadness that exists that food tries to cover. Remember, God’s grace will meet you in that place of openness and honesty and will give you strength to walk in self-control and victory with the snares that food brings. It will create a space in your soul that will bring the relief and peace you truly seek.

This article was originally published at Practical Shepherding.

The post 4 tough questions every pastor needs to ask about food appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Kingdom of God

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 03/08/2018 - 10:00

The post The Kingdom of God appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

True Greatness

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 10:00

The post True Greatness appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

If Christians can lose their salvation, we all lose the gospel

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 08:00

I grew skeptical when he called it “an offer you can’t refuse.” Either this man was hiding something about the house he was trying to sell me, or his sales technique was deeply influenced by The Godfather movies. The “deal” was a dirt-cheap price on a house in one of the best part of Louisville. It didn’t make sense. Deals like this one never find me.

Soon, I learned why he had stamped a giveaway price on the house: the foundation was cracked. In a matter of time, the structure would be compromised, and the house would crumble like my son’s Lincoln Log creations. Needless to say, I said no to this house with a hidden but fatal flaw.

Christian theology is similar: if we remove any of the foundational doctrines—the Trinity, the incarnation, the authority of Scripture, the person and work of Christ, and so on—then the entire building of our faith comes tumbling down. The cardinal doctrines of Christianity stand or fall together.

I want to suggest that one crucial doctrine is sometimes relegated to the “good men disagree” category that should sit closer to the heart of orthodox Christianity: perseverance of the saints. Why do I say so? Is it really heresy to reject the doctrine of perseverance, a doctrine often referred to as “eternal security”? I’m not ready to call it heresy to reject perseverance of the saints and embrace the possibility of apostasy by genuine Christians. But I think it is far more dangerous to reject this doctrine than perhaps first meets the eye. Like the rickety house I once nearly bought, rejection of perseverance renders unstable many other critical doctrines that rely on it as a solid foundation.

If genuine believers can lose their salvation and be cast away forever, consider the collateral damage to other biblical doctrines:

Election and predestination

If God chose his people in Christ before the foundation of the world, is it possible for those same people to then “unchoose” themselves? No matter one’s view of election, final apostasy seems to render meaningless Scripture’s teaching on God’s eternal predestining of a people. Even if one holds to election based solely on foreknowledge, final apostasy seems to make God unreliable at best.

Atonement

According to Mark 10:45, Christ gave his life as a ransom for many. Jesus bore God’s wrath we deserved so he could buy us back from the curse of the law. If a ransomed one can be finally lost, doesn’t that then mean that the ransom price paid was not enough to actually purchase its intended product—the eternal salvation of God’s people? Final apostasy also seems to undermine the substitutionary nature of the atonement, since Christ was condemned in the place of his people. This view would seem to indicate that due to an exercise of their free will some of God’s people have once again fallen under condemnation with their sins no longer covered by the sacrifice of the substitute—even though they were once covered through the blood of Christ.

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Justification by faith

Justification is a legal declaration that says because of faith in Christ’s work on the cross, one is no longer guilty, positionally or legally, before God. Final apostasy seems to undermine God’s verdict and re-establish guilty charges against those who were exonerated by faith in Christ. This view mangles the foundational Reformation truth of sola fide.

Indwelling (or sealing) of the Holy Spirit

In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul describes believers as those who have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” It seems that a doctrine of final apostasy undermines Paul’s teaching of the Spirit given as a down payment guaranteeing salvation. If salvation can be lost, then the guarantee is meaningless, as is the down payment. And yes, we can grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), but can we evict him? Scripture never says that.

Promises of God

In John 10, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand . . . and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Also, Philippians 1:6 promises that God will complete the work he begins in his people, and the glorious passage in Romans 8:31-39 promises that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God. But how comforting are these promises if we can, as some argue, remove ourselves from Christ’s hand or circumvent the work God has begun in us? In what way do they remain as promises? If these promises are not true, doesn’t that undermine the very Word of God? Can we trust a God who is unable to keep his promises from being undone by the power of human choice? Is the will of man stronger than the will of God?

Intercessory work of Christ

If Christ lives to intercede for us as Hebrews and Romans 8 contend and as John 17 and Luke 22 demonstrate, then in what meaningful way can we trust his prayers if he does not get what he prays for? If Christ prays that we will be kept as in John 17 and those prayers are frustrated, then it would seem to undermine both his intercessory work and his infallibility—Christ prays and then hopes his prayers will be answered and that we will remain in the faith, but our future salvation remains uncertain.

Preservation of the saints

Inextricably linked to perseverance (and Christ’s intercession) is preservation. First Peter 1:3-5 contains a beautiful promise of God’s preserving grace for his redeemed people: “He has caused us to be born again . . . to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation to be revealed in the last time.” If God is guarding our inheritance in heaven, then to assert that free will can lead one to lose his or her salvation seems to exalt the power of man and denigrate the power of God, not to mention what it means for Peter’s language describing the inheritance as “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” Those words seem to ring with an empty note if it is possible for human beings to give away their inheritance.

No doubt, there are many additional implications for the denial of this doctrine, but these are a few of the most devastating consequences that show how crucial the doctrine of final perseverance is for Christian theology. If my reasoning is fully biblical, then it would seem that perseverance of the saints is anything but a tertiary matter. If the foundation crumbles, how can the building stand? Let us preach, teach, and defend this doctrine and demand it as critical winsomely, but without apology.

This article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition.

The post If Christians can lose their salvation, we all lose the gospel appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

For the Sake of His Name on Kindle

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 17:58
  For the Sake of His Name: Challenging a New Generation for World Missions was first published in 2002 as an outgrowth of the Student Global Impact conferences held at Inter-City Baptist Church. The book aimed to inspire and ground young people interested in the mission field, drawing on the history of the student volunteer movement and laying... Read More
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