Seminary Hill Press is the publishing arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, publishing books, pamphlets, tracts, and other Christian resources by the institution’s faculty and alumni. In 2018, the press produced multiple titles that would make great Christmas gifts for theologians and laypersons alike. Here are the year’s top five must-have books:
1. Mobilize to Evangelize: The Pastor and Effective Congregational Evangelism, by Matt Queen
Based on his own pastoral experience in the local church, Southwestern Seminary evangelism professor Matt Queen has written a practical guide for pastors who want to champion evangelism in their congregations. Mobilize to Evangelize provides pastors with tools they need to understand and to assess how evangelism is conceived, practiced, and perceived in their congregations. It offers realistic ideas they can implement to mobilize their congregations to evangelize. (Available here.)
2. Let the Text Talk: Preaching that Treats the Text on its Own Terms, by Kyle Walker
God desires His text to do the talking in your sermons. Are you willing to let the text talk? This volume aspires to show you how. It is a humble attempt to help preachers do their best to present themselves approved and unashamed as they handle the Word of God. (Available here.)
3. 31 Truths to Shape Your Youth Ministry, by Richard Ross
Designed to guide adults who value teenagers into a deeper walk with King Jesus, this devotional book aims to shape the hearts of youth leaders so that they, in turn, may shape the hearts of teenagers, turning them into lifetimes disciples of Jesus. The book champions teenagers who adore King Jesus in the power of the Spirit for the glory of God; parents who embrace their call to be the primary spiritual leaders to their children; teenagers who have heart connections with all the generations in the congregation; and churches that equip teenagers and then mobilize them to be the church today. (Available here.)
4. Christian Education on the Plains of Texas, by Jack D. Terry, Jr.
In 1915 on the plains of Texas, Southwestern Seminary established the Department of Religious Pedagogy, which became the first school of religious education anywhere in the world of academia. Founded specifically “to touch the lives not only of the special educational students who will come to study Sunday School work but also the lives of all the students who come to study here,” the school, over the next 100 years, developed into a crucial piece not only of Southwestern Seminary, but of the eternal Kingdom work that would be accomplished by its students.
This volume recounts the first 100 years of this school’s history, covering how the budding department ultimately developed into the Terry School of Church and Family Ministries, as it is known today. (Available here.)
5. In Praise of a God who Saves: 110 Stories of Everyday Evangelism, edited by Alex Sibley
Since Southwestern Seminary was founded in 1908, its students, faculty, and alumni have strived to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This volume comprises 110 stories—one for each year since the seminary’s founding—of the Gospel going forth through the witness of these Southwesterners, with many of them seeing people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. These stories will both encourage and convict readers in their evangelism, and above all, the stories will inspire them to praise our amazing God for being a God who saves. (Available here.)
To learn more about these and other Seminary Hill Press titles, visit SeminaryHillPress.com.
In recent days, several authors have received attention in the media for proclaiming that the “evangelical purity culture” has harmed young people. One of those authors, a former pastor, invites adults to send her their discarded purity rings so she can melt them and form a sculpture of female genitalia. The sculpture will be used to promote her new book.
Since (humanly speaking) I am considered a cofounder of True Love Waits, I must consider the possibility that this movement harmed rather than blessed a young generation. Ignoring the criticisms that sincere writers have raised would be intellectually dishonest.
If I were a woodworker and if my daughter loved playing softball, I might use a lathe to create a custom bat for her. However, what if a mugger stole that bat and then bashed a girl while taking her purse? I would deeply grieve that something I made was used to harm someone. I would grieve, but I would not feel guilty.
Inviting teenagers into a lifetime of sexual holiness and purity, if consistent with Scripture, is a beautiful thing. When someone takes that message, twists it, and then uses it to bash the young, I grieve—probably more than anyone. But I do not feel guilty, nor do I second-guess the rightness of the original message.
I am well aware that, using the words “True Love Waits,” some leaders twist the beauty of sexuality and present it as dirty and ugly. Others proclaim that all the responsibility for chastity rests with girls and that they alone bear the shame for all sexual failures. Others want to banish all those who stumble to a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing.
I have spent 49 years seeking to bless a young generation. I grieve that distorted messages have harmed some teenagers. And I doubly grieve when I learn that some have carried pain into their adult years. But that grief does not cause me to doubt the beauty and the rightness of the original True Love Waits (TLW) message.
In 1992–1993, Jimmy Hester and I were employees at LifeWay Christian Resources. In those days, the culture was focused on reducing the social and personal consequences of teenage sexual involvement. In the faith community, teenagers and their parents and leaders were looking for something positive and proactive rather than only reactive.
The idea for TLW came to Jimmy and me during several coffee break conversations. Because we were on break, all we had on which to record our ideas were cafeteria napkins.
At the same time, I was serving as a part-time youth pastor. Jimmy and I agreed that I would present the core TLW message to the teenagers and parents in my church. Fifty-three teenagers responded positively to the original message and indicated that they wanted to be identified with a new movement. No one could have guessed that the movement would sweep through 100 denominations and national student organizations in the U.S. and 100 countries worldwide.
If you strip away the distortions, here is the original TLW message:
- TLW is an invitation to sexual purity and holiness among teenagers who believe that God exists, that He defines ultimate truth, that He is the author of the Bible, and that the Bible communicates ultimate truth without error.
- TLW is an invitation to teenagers who believe that God came to earth in human form, that He died on the cross to pay the cost for sin, and that He now offers forgiveness to all because of His sacrifice.
- TLW is an invitation to teenagers who have accepted the forgiveness Christ now offers by faith, repenting of their sins and turning from a life centered on self to a life centered on Him.
- TLW affirms the biblical standard that all sexual expression should take place only between a husband and wife in a biblical marriage. Expressions that involve sexual organs are sexual expressions.
- TLW affirms that Christ-followers embrace and follow biblical standards related to sexual expression because they love, respect and adore Him; because they have decided to follow Him; and because they are full of gratitude for His sacrifice on the cross.
- TLW affirms that a life of sexual purity and holiness is prompted by the greatness of Christ and the power of the Gospel and not by moralistic instruction or behavior modification.
- TLW affirms that children need to hear from birth about the goodness of sex as one of God’s best creations.
- TLW affirms the biblical standard that Christ-followers do not dwell on lustful thoughts toward someone to whom they are not married.
- TLW affirms that boys and girls have an equal responsibility to follow biblical standards in all relationships.
- TLW affirms that no one follows God’s callings perfectly, including the leaders and participants in the TLW movement. We serve a God of second chances.
- TLW affirms that Christ’s death on the cross makes forgiveness for sexual sins possible. God continually picks up His children, dusts them off, and sets them on their way again without shame.
- TLW affirms that Christ-followers who never marry can have rich and full lives and exalt Christ as they live a lifetime without sexual expression.
Multitudes of adults report that the TLW message was an important factor in their sidestepping sexual sin in their teenage years. Multitudes of single adults continue to embrace and live out that message. Multitudes of married adults report that the absence of scarring from their teenage years is a major factor contributing to the beauty and joy of their current sexual expressions. Christ be praised.
¿Qué otras implicaciones podrían extraerse de la narrativa de Babel (Gén 11:1-9), además de saber que es el evento que causó la confusión de los idiomas? Bueno, una aplicación puede ser dirigida a los ministros, que no deben hacerse un nombre famoso, ni construir torres, sino que se les anima a edificar el reino de Dios. Génesis 11:1-9 continúa la demostración profunda de la naturaleza pecaminosa de los hombres al resaltar su intención de construir una ciudad y una torre tan grande que se hagan un nombre por sí mismos. Uno puede preguntarse por qué construir una ciudad y hacerse un nombre famoso es tan malo. Bueno, este evento demuestra el problema del hombre, que continuamente desea una vida aparte de Dios. El hecho es que si esta antigua ciudad hubiese sido construida, habría ido contra el mandato de Dios al hombre en Gén 1:28. En Gén 1:28 el hombre es bendecido y se le ordena, “llenen la tierra.” La idea de promulgar la raza humana sobre la faz de la tierra es la implicación que se desprende de estas tres palabras en Génesis 1. Sin embargo, en Gén 11:4, se lee de la rebelión del hombre contra el mandato de Dios de extenderse sobre la faz de la tierra.
El propósito de construir una gran ciudad y una torre en la tierra de Sinar era para obtener fama (Gén 11:4). La expresión, “nos haremos famosos” es otra forma de buscar el reconocimiento. Hoy los ministros, luchan con este problema. Los cristianos normalmente tienden a pensar en la fama en relación con las estrellas de cine, conducir autos exóticos y vivir en mansiones. Sin embargo, hoy en día la fama o el deseo de reconocimiento debido al éxito ministerial ha crecido considerablemente. Años después de una cruzada en Corea donde un millón de personas escucharon el evangelio, el Rev. Billy Kim vino a los Estados Unidos para visitar al Rev. Billy Graham. El Rev. Kim fue el traductor del Rev. Graham en Corea. El Rev. Graham le preguntó: “¿Deseas tener un ministerio exitoso?” El Rev. Kim respondió: “¡Sí!” Entonces el Rev. Graham le dijo: “Nunca hables de ti mismo.” Vivimos en una sociedad done el ser humano está más preocupado por hablar sobre sus logros, habilidades, capacidades, y el auto-promoción que por elevar el nombre de Cristo.
¿Es válido hacernos famoso como ministros del Evangelio? La respuesta a esta pregunta se puede encontrar en Génesis 12. La historia introduce un nuevo personaje: Abram. De las muchas bendiciones de Dios sobre Abram una de ellas fue que Dios hará su nombre famoso (Gén 12:2). Como resultado Abram llego a ser conocido como el padre de las naciones (Abraham), Gén 17:5. Entonces, ¿Qué diferencia hay entre los hombres de Sinar (Génesis 11) y Abram (Génesis 12)? Claramente, Dios es el que otorga grandeza. Abraham no buscó tener un gran nombre, pero se le concedió debido a su temor y obediencia a Dios (Gén 22:12, 18). ¡Qué verdad tan relevante para nuestro tiempo! Como ministros del Evangelio, nuestro propósito es temer y obedecer a Dios. Desafortunadamente, hoy en día muchos desean construir torres como los hombres de Sinar, para el reconocimiento. Qué gran tentación está a la puerta de cada ministro del Evangelio. Cada hombre y mujer de Dios se enfrentará con el reto de edificar el reino de Dios o construir su babel. El reto en si es ¿Quién se lleva la gloria? Que el Señor ayude a cada ministro a considerar el propósito de edificar el reino de Dios en lugar de sus propias torres.
What implications can be drawn from the narrative of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9, apart from knowing that it is the event that caused the confusion of languages? Well, one application can be directed toward ministers, that they are not to make a name for themselves, nor build towers, but are encouraged to build God’s Kingdom. Genesis 11:1-9 continues the deep-seated demonstration of the sinful nature of men by highlighting their intention of building a city and a tower so grand that they would make a name for themselves. One may ask why building a city and making a name for oneself is so wrong. Well, this event demonstrates the problem of man, that he continually desires a life apart from God. The fact is if this ancient city would have been built, it would have cut against God’s command to man in Genesis 1:28, where man is blessed and commanded to “fill the earth.” The idea of promulgating the human race across the face of the earth is the implication drawn from these three words in Genesis 1. Yet, in Genesis 11:4, one reads of man’s rebellion against God’s command of spreading over the face of the earth.
The purpose of building a grand city and tower in the land of Shinar (Gen 11:1) was to obtain fame. The expression in Genesis 11:4—“let us make for ourselves a name”—is another way of saying, “Let us become famous.” Fame is one of the struggles that ministers face today. Christians normally tend to think of fame in relation to movie stars, driving exotic cars, and living in mansions. However, fame or the desire for recognition because of ministerial success continually creeps up. Years after a crusade in Korea where a million people heard the Gospel, Rev. Billy Kim came to the states to visit Rev. Billy Graham. Rev. Kim was Rev. Graham’s translator in Korea. Rev. Graham asked him, “Do you desire to have a successful ministry?” Rev. Kim replied, “Yes!” Then Rev. Graham told him, “Never speak about yourself.” We live in a world where many are preoccupied with speaking more about their accomplishments and seeking self-promotion than they are with lifting up the name of Christ.
So is the aspect of “making a name for yourself” out of the question for ministers? The answer for this question can be found in the next chapter. Genesis 12 introduces a new individual, Abram. One reads of God’s many blessings upon Abram. Out of the many blessings directed toward Abram, one was that his name would become great. In time, Abram became Abraham, the father of nations (Gen 17:5). But what is the difference between the men of Shinar in Genesis 11 and Abram in Genesis 12? Clearly, God is the one who grants greatness. Abraham did not seek to have a great name, but it was granted to him because of his fear and obedience to God (Gen 22:12, 18). What an important point to drive home. As ministers of the Gospel, our aim is to fear and obey God. Unfortunately, today, many desire to build, as the men of Shinar, towers for themselves for recognition. What a great temptation crouching at the door of every minister of the Gospel. Every man and woman of God will face the reality of either decreasing in stature so that God’s name increases, or suppressing God’s work so that ministerial towers may be built that have no lasting effect, but are worthless babel before God. May the Lord help ministers to be mindful of building God’s Kingdom rather than one’s own towers. If you desire to accomplish great things for God, you must place your eyes upon Him and off yourself.
Recently, I have found myself and others engaged in debates over the components of the biblical Gospel. Some may question why such conversations still persist after 2,000 years of Christianity. After all, the core message of Christianity is the Gospel. However, Christians do not always agree on the necessary components of the Gospel. Numerous Christians articulate the Gospel as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. However, more and more evangelicals are articulating the Gospel in terms of Scripture’s story over Jesus’ story. This emergent articulation of the Gospel comprises four areas: 1) creation, 2) fall, 3) redemption, and 4) restoration. Why are they articulating the Gospel as a set of stories comprising a grand meta-narrative? Why is Jesus’ sacrificial atoning death, His burial, and His glorious resurrection only part of what comprises the Good News?
A Shift from Christ Event to Meta-Narrative
In their attempts to discover the Missio Dei, proponents of this meta-narrative form of the Gospel have adopted a missional hermeneutic of the entire Bible rather than investigating the early church’s proclamation of the Gospel. Thus, these proponents conceive the Gospel message preached by the early church as a component of the Bible’s meta-narrative. Christopher Wright, one of the proponents, states,
The Bible presents itself to us fundamentally as a narrative, a historical narrative at one level, but a grand narrative at another. It begins with the God in creation, moves on to the conflict and problem generated by human rebellion against his purpose for creation, spends most of its narrative journey in the story of God’s redemptive purposes being worked out on the stage of human history, and finishes beyond the horizon of its own history with the eschatological hope of a new creation.
Consequently, Wright and others holding the same position broaden the Gospel to an outline of the Bible: Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration.
Is Christ Part or All of the Gospel?
Proponents who articulate the Gospel in meta-narrative form frequently utilize the Christ event as part of a group of stories that constitute the Gospel. Although Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration serve as frameworks to help unbelievers understand the Gospel better, must the personal evangelist articulate each component part of the meta-narrative in order for redemption to take place?
The sermons of the early church found in the book of Acts do not include all four themes. For example, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 does not mention the creation or the fall stories. However, the Bible reveals that redemption took place when it states, “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b).
The early church did not perceive that their good works and their preaching of the Good News would restore this world to a golden age in order to usher in the return of their King. Instead, they preached the Good News in order to bring people into His Kingdom so that Jesus could restore all things upon His return (e.g., Acts 1:6).
The Early Church’s Use of the Gospel
A brief look at the early church’s proclamation is vital to understanding how to articulate the Gospel. The Apostle Paul’s understanding of the Gospel derives from two sources. First, Paul stated, “I received it [the Gospel] through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12b). Second, he understood the same Gospel to appear in Scripture. He articulated the Gospel according to Scripture when he stated,
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul acknowledged that the Gospel emphasized the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, Paul, as well as the other apostles, understood the Gospel message to contain essential points that emphasize the historicity of Jesus Christ. What were these essential components of the early church’s Gospel proclamation?
What Should the Gospel Message Contain?
The early church fulfilled the Great Commission by evangelizing with a Gospel that included specific truths. Thus, the message consists of the fulfillment of Old Testament promises (cf. Acts 2:16; 3:18, 10:43; 13:32-33). Second, the Gospel places emphasis on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (cf. Acts 2:30; 3:20.). Third, the message concerning Christ offers forgiveness leading the hearers to repent and believe (cf. Acts 2:38).
Theological liberalism was birthed when scholars started focusing on the reliability of history over the supposed mythology of Jesus’ story. While those who utilize a meta-narrative Gospel over the concise Gospel should not be charged with theological liberalism, my fear is that they are adopting a similar method with a different application. In this construct, His story gets lost in history. Therefore, let meta-narrative proclaimers remind us proclaimers of the simple Gospel that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” along with the history that these elements contain. But may they also be reminded of the old hymn that says, in telling the “old, old story,” we must focus on “Jesus and His love.”
Christopher Wright, The Mission of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 64.
Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost presents the previously mentioned elements as well as those that followed.
When my wife and I were rearing our sons, some of the most exciting times when they were very young was when we measured their height and then marked it on the back door jamb to see how much they had grown since the last time we measured. As they got older, we attended their school functions and sporting events as proud parents. Before we knew it, they had all too quickly grown up to become young men. Along the way, we also had the privilege of leading them to salvation in Jesus Christ. As parents, we have been proud over the years to watch our sons grow not only in physical stature, but especially as followers of Christ.
The apostle Paul thought of himself as a father to those in the Corinthian church, which he started (1 Corinthians 4:15). And as their spiritual father, he wanted to see them grow spiritually. He provided for them some ways to do so in 1 Corinthians 3:1-17. However, many problems existed among the Corinthian Christians that hindered their growth in Christ, and Paul chided them for it.
One of the problems in the church was that its members were divided into factions following different leaders—Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Christ (1:11–12; 3:4–5). As a result, jealousy and dissension were present in their lives (3:3). Paul called the Corinthians spiritual “infants” and “fleshly” (3:1–3). He had given them “milk to drink,” rather than “solid food,” because they were immature (3:2).
Paul essentially told the church: You can grow spiritually when you stop acting like babies. The same is true for us. Nothing is wrong with being a baby Christian. We all are spiritual babies when we first place our faith in Jesus. Something is wrong, however, with remaining a spiritual infant and not growing in Christ; something is awry when we cannot progress beyond basic Christian teaching to more meaty doctrine due to immaturity. Just as the lives of infants are focused on themselves, so also many folks have “me-first” disease and are concerned about their own comforts, agendas, and needs, not the needs of others.
The Corinthians had a misconception about God’s messengers. Paul chided the church’s members and principally told them: You can grow spiritually when you worship the Lord and not His servants. Paul did not reject the need for leaders, but he did point out that centering our Christian lives upon various preachers or leaders was an immature thing to do. The remedy for the Corinthian misconception regarding God’s messengers (for example, Paul and Apollos) was to recognize that they were servants of God accountable to Him (3:5–4:5). They were servants He used in accomplishing His work (3:5–9).
Too many people today ardently follow various preachers and leaders, sometimes seemingly more so than they do the Lord. If not flat-out idolatry, it appears fairly close to it. Christian “celebrityism” of this sort does not please God. Paul focused instead on the Lord, the One who assigned to each messenger his ministry (3:5). God’s messengers have various roles; some water and some plant, but only God causes the growth (3:6–7). God’s servants are His fellow workers who work on His building and will receive a reward in accordance with their work (3:8–9). We need to realize these truths as we seek to advance the Gospel together. We all have our different and important roles in ministry as we serve God, and no one should be exalted above the Lord, for He provides the growth.
You can grow spiritually when you build on the foundation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul compared his visit to Corinth with a wise master builder who laid a foundation while others built on it (3:10). We must be very careful about how we build upon the foundation that has been laid down, that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified (3:11; cf. 2:2). We should do so out of pure motives (3:12)—selfless service that is valuable and will stand (“gold, silver, precious stones”) rather than self-seeking efforts that are worthless (“wood, hay, straw”). Know for sure that at the judgment on the Last Day, our work done in God’s name will be revealed and tested for what it actually was (3:13–15).
You can grow spiritually when you build up and esteem God’s temple, the church. Paul spoke of the church as God’s temple; the Holy Spirit indwelt them (3:16). He permanently resides in believers. He also strongly warned that if anyone seeks to destroy the church, God will destroy that person (3:17). Paul further explained that God’s temple is holy (3:17); it is set apart by God for His purposes. The Lord loves His church, and this caution emphasizes the need for us to build up and esteem God’s church—not tear it down. Be careful and tremble if you seek to undermine the church. It does not do you or anyone else any good, and in fact, works to your eternal detriment.
Do you want to grow spiritually? Some ways we can grow spiritually are if we stop acting like babies, worship the Lord and not His servants, build selflessly on the foundation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and build up and esteem the church.
Lord, help us to grow in Christ, we pray. May we be regarded “as servants of Christ” and “stewards” of the Gospel. As stewards, we ask that you empower and help us by your Spirit to be found “trustworthy” (cf. 4:1–2).
Lord, we are grateful to you for all things. We are especially thankful for our salvation through Jesus. Help us to grow in Christ, we pray. May we be regarded “as servants of Christ” and “stewards” of the gospel. As stewards, we ask that you empower and help us by your Spirit to be found “trustworthy” (cf. 1 Cor 4:1–2).
Churches have practiced a ministry model for years that moves people of similar age, life experience, or grade into groups together, leaving them devoid of significant intergenerational relationships. Some intentional and strategic ministry and teaching among such groups can be and is warranted. However, the practice of too many churches makes hyper-age stratification the norm and intergenerational connectivity the exception, resulting in a lack of meaningful, discipleship-focused relationships between generations.
Student ministries, along with other next-generation ministries, often resemble this structure as teenagers gather with peers during planned meeting times with a few adult volunteers. Sunday morning worship services can be the only time the generations of the church are together. Even then, these services are often not conducive or focused on fostering intergenerational relationships.
Hyper-age stratification ministry has left the church and younger generations worse, not better. This practice has been responsible, in part, for harming the faith of the next generations. Chap Clark claims, “The loss of meaningful relationships with adults has been the most devastating to developing adolescents.”
David Kinnaman reveals that 18- to 29-year-olds with a Protestant or Catholic background “do not recall having a meaningful friendship with an adult through their church, and more than four out of five never had an adult mentor.” The impact of these missing relationships was revealed by the Barna Research Group, who indicated that only 31 percent of millennials who dropped out of church stated they had a significant adult friendship in the church, while 59 percent of millennials who did not drop out of church said they did have a meaningful relationship or mentorship with an adult in the local church.
We cannot say that the singular cause of young people dropping out of church is the lack of significant relationships with adults. Yet, we cannot deny for those who remained in the church that these relationships were crucial in their continued engagement in the faith community of the local church. Therefore, Kinnaman asserts, “This is true of enough young Christians that we must ask ourselves whether our churches and parishes are providing the rich environments that a relationally oriented generation needs to develop deep faith.” Of all people, places and organizations in this world, the church ought to be a family of people who live in reconciled communion with God that makes possible the intergenerational relationships with one another forged by the cross of Jesus Christ. The following are a few reasons we must embrace these relationships.
1. Intergenerational relationships are biblical.
Scripture must be the rule of our faith and practice. From the beginning, we observe that all people were made to live in relationship to God and one another. Parents were blessed to be fruitful and multiply, thus bringing into existence an intergenerational relationship between parent and child. Though sin has fractured our relationship to God and one another, Jesus Christ came to restore what sin destroyed. John Stott writes, “[God’s] plan, therefore, is not to call independent, unconnected individuals to return to Himself in isolation from one another, but to redeem a people for His own possession.” The picture of the New Testament church is a people joined “together,” living life in intergenerational relationship one to another.
2. Intergenerational relationships image God.
Living in community is one way we fulfill being image-bearers of God. God is one God in three distinct persons, with each member having a distinct role, though each Person is equally God. Bill Clem notes, “The God of the Bible is an eternal, triune community, loving each other and living in worshipful, belonging relationships.” The church is to be reflective of God’s own relationship with Himself through living in community, including intergenerational community. When the church, in spite of differences and diversity even of age, lives in loving relationship and unity to one another by the Gospel, we more faithfully reflect God’s own nature.
3. Intergenerational relationships are necessary for the Great Commission.
Parents have been called to make disciples of their children beginning in Genesis. This first and primary intergenerational relationship was a Great Commission relationship for the purpose of leading children to follow God in worship and obedience as image-bearers of God. Even more, Paul’s letter to Titus called the church to intergenerational relationships, with older men and women teaching the younger men and women. Younger generations need older generations who are seeking to make disciples of younger generations. Kara Powell reports, “Specifically, churches with close intergenerational relationships show higher faith maturity and vibrancy.”
4. Intergenerational relationships push back against rising loneliness.
Forty-six percent of Americans expressed a feeling of loneliness either sometimes or always, while 43 percent said they feel isolated and that their relationships are not meaningful. Sixteen- to 24-year-olds indicated feeling alone more than three times that of people age 65 and older. Though connected by various technologies of the digital age, young people are missing relationships with parents and other adults. Tragically, only 10 percent of individuals seek community in a local church, perhaps because they do not expect to find it there.
All Christians, especially the next generations, need intergenerational relationships among believers in the church. What can we do to push back against the hyper-age stratification and foster these relationships?
 Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 35.
 David Kinnaman, You Lost Me (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 121.
 “5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church,” n.p. Retrieved online 18 October 2018: https://www.barna.com/research/5-reasons-millennials-stay-connected-to-church/#.UlQIwRBjMSS.
 Brad House, Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 201), 32.
 John Stott, Basic Christianity (Chicago, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1964), 105.
 Bill Clem, Disciple (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 130.
 Kara Powell, Jake Mudder, and Brad Griffin. Growing Young (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016), 130.
 Jayne O’Donnell and Shari Rudavsky, “Young Americans are the loneliest, surprising study from Cigna shows,” n.p. Retrieved online 18 October 2018: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/ 2018/05/01/loneliness-poor-health-reported-far-more-among-young-people-than-even-those-over-72/559961002/.
 Sean Coughlan, “Loneliness more likely to affect young people,” n.p. Retrieved online 18 October 2018: https://www.bbc.com/news/education-43711606.
 “Americans Divided on the Importance of Church,” n.p. Retrieved online 18 October 2018: https://www.barna.com/research/americans-divided-on-the-importance-of-church/#.UzwMlq1dW7o.
1. La Escritura no lo enseña. La Biblia habla de “declarar” en el sentido de “hacer claro,” explicar y proclamar un mensaje ya dado por Dios para que nosotros lo sigamos y obedezcamos en adoración (Salmo 19:1; 50:6; Daniel 10:21; Mateo 13:35; Juan 4:25). Pero, “declarar” en el sentido de forzar que ciertas cosas pasen no es significado que aparezca en la Escritura, es más bien una practica que emula la magia pagana tan detestada por los profetas bíblicos (ej. 2 Reyes 23:24; Isa. 8:19; Jer. 27:9).
2. La diferencia entre la fe bíblica y la pagana consiste en reconocer que mi vida está en las manos de Dios y no en las mías. Intentar asegurar mi futuro por medio de afirmaciones mías, aun usando el vocabulario bíblico, es falta de fe en Dios, y excesiva confianza en el hombre.
3. Creer a pesar del mundo. La fe bíblica tiene que ver principalmente con creer en lo que Dios ha prometido en su palabra–y por eso es necesario conocerla profundamente sin torcerla como algunos comerciantes lo hacen para amontonar dinero (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2). La fe bíblica es confiar a pesar de que el mundo no cambie hoy. Es creer contra la realidad presente aun en medio del sufrimiento y aún cuando personalmente no vea su cumplimiento (1 Tes. 3:1-9; Job 19:25).
4. Creer solo en lo que Dios promete. La fe bíblica NO enseña que cualquier cosa que el creyente espere le será concedido si tan solo lo cree ciegamente y “lo declare.” La “convicción de lo que se espera” de Hebreos 11:1 no es lo que el creyente se proponga esperar. Es más bien lo que Dios dice que debemos esperar (Hebreos 10:36-38). Es decir, la segunda venida de Jesús y su juicio para el malvado.
5. Asalto directo contra la verdadera oración. “Declarar” al estilo de muchos predicadores y cantantes hoy en día es un asalto directo, y sustituto barato, a la oración cristiana (Lucas 11:2). En lugar de orar en confianza de que Dios tiene mis necesidades bajo control, y esperar en su voluntad, el “creyente” es motivado a cambiar su realidad vía el optimismo humanista. ¡No se trata de pedirle a Dios “que venga su reino,” según esta distorsión el creyente puede hacer que baje el reino solo mandarlo!
6. Copia de la filosofía secular. Este “declarar,” la llamada “palabra de fe,” es la versión religiosa de la filosofía deconstruccionista secular en la que el mundo es creación del lenguaje humano. La idea a fondo es que si cambias el lenguaje terminarás cambiando la realidad. El feminismo antibíblico que cuestiona la paternidad de Dios y propone una diosa amante del ser humano es el ejemplo más claro.
7. Antesala de la apostasía. El “declarar” de varios predicadores de la prosperidad es un atentado directo contra el esperar en Dios. Es una exhortación para tomar nuestra vida en nuestras manos y afirmar nuestro valor frente al mundo. Esta es una espada de dos filos porque, aunque sea enormemente atractiva para la baja autoestima humana y para los que necesitan provisión urgente, también es una fuente de desanimo, depresión y apostasía cuando lo declarado no llega.
8. El confesar bíblico. El “confesar” sinónimo del “declarar mágico,” en la Escritura se da en un contexto de expresar nuestro pecado (Salmo 32:5; 38:18), nuestra conversión (1 Reyes 8:33; 2 Cro. 6:24), nuestra limitación, y confianza en que Dios tendrá la última palabra. Lo central de la confesión cristiana no es reconocer mi capacidad para cambiar la realidad. Es reconocer que el que decide es “el Señor,” no el creyente (Rom. 10:9); confesar el nombre de Dios, hablar de su grandeza–y no de la nuestra– para que las naciones lo busquen y adoren (Nehe. 9:3), aunque los siervos del altísimo sufran el rechazo mientras tanto. No es mi palabra la que cambiará mi mundo, sino el Hijo del Hombre en su venida quien confesará los nombres de sus santos, haciendo pública así la razón y la dignidad que siempre han tenido (Lucas 12:8; Apoc. 3:5).
9. Buscar sólo el decreto de Dios. ¿Y qué digo de la estupidez del “decretar” del creyente? Sólo el Soberano tiene derecho a decretar, y así lo ha hecho eternamente. En la Escritura, la única vez en que los humanos decretan algo son los reyes paganos. Dios los ocupa porque forman parte de su decreto eterno (Daniel 4:17). Todas las otras veces tiene que ver con obedecer los mandamientos y estatutos escritos de Dios. El ha decretado que se deba obedecer su palabra solamente, y que se deje de estar buscando y oyendo otro tipo de “decretos.”
10. Evangeliza y no “arrebates.” “Arrebatar” o “atar” para ordenarle a Satanás es una infantil interpretación de los pasajes que ocupan esa terminología. Mateo 11:12, por ejemplo, como aparece en Reyna-Valera es ambiguo. La versión Dios Habla Hoy traduce mejor: “Desde que vino Juan el Bautista hasta ahora, el reino de los cielos sufre violencia, y los que usan la fuerza pretenden acabar con él.” Así también: NBV, NTV, PDT, etc. Este verso no enseña que los creyentes deben “arrebatar” nada, y menos a Satanás. Mateo 16:19 no es fácil de interpretar—según la mayoría de buenos comentarios bíblicos. Lo claro es que el pasaje no dice nada de ligar o atar a ningún humano o a Satanás. Más bien, prescribe la entrada al reino de los cielos. La iglesia es la encargada de abrir la puerta al reino de Dios. Todos los que entren por la puerta del mensaje del evangelio, serán acogidos en los cielos.
Por esto y por mucho más: No “declares,” No “decretes,” No “confieses,” no “arrebates” no “ates o desates”. ¡Es mejor conocer a fondo la Escritura, y honrar a Dios obedeciéndola!
1. It is not something taught by Scripture. The Bible speaks of “declaring” in the sense of “making clear,” explaining and proclaiming a message already given by God for us to obey in adoration (Psalm 19:1; 50:6; Daniel 10:21; John 4:25). But “declaring” in the sense of forcing certain things to happen does not appear in Scripture. It is rather a practice that emulates the pagan witchcraft so detested by biblical prophets (e.g., 2 Kings 23:24; Isaiah 8:19; Jeremiah 27:9).
2. The difference between biblical and pagan faith consists in recognizing that my life is in the hands of God and not in mine. Trying to secure my future through affirmations of mine, even using the biblical vocabulary, is evidence of a lack of faith in God and an excessive trust in man.
3. We should believe in spite of the world. Biblical faith has to do mainly with trusting in what God has promised in His Word—and that is why it is necessary to know it deeply without twisting it as some merchants do to accumulate money (2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2). Biblical faith is to trust in God even though the world does not change today. It is to believe against real suffering and even when I do NOT get to see what God will bring at the end (1 Thessalonians 3:1-9; Job 19:25).
4. We should believe only in what God promises. Biblical faith does NOT teach that whatever the believer expects will be granted to him if he only believes it. The “conviction of things not seen” in Hebrews 11:1 is not what the believer wants. It is rather what God has promised (Hebrews 10:36-38), that is, the second coming of Jesus and His judgment for the wicked.
5. It is a direct assault against true prayer. “Declaring” for many preachers and singers today is a direct assault, and a cheap substitute, for Christian prayer (Luke 11:2). Instead of praying that God may provide for my needs, the “believer” is motivated to change his reality via humanistic optimism. It is not about asking God “thy kingdom come,” but “making” the kingdom come down by just commanding it!
6. It is a copy of the secular philosophy. This “declaring,” the so-called “word of faith,” is the religious version of secular deconstructionist philosophy in which the world is the creation of human language. The idea is that if you change the language, you end up changing reality. The anti-biblical feminism that questions the paternity of God and proposes a goddess who seduces the human heart is the clearest example.
7. It is a prelude to apostasy. The “declaring” teaching of several preachers of prosperity is a direct attack against waiting on God. It is an invitation to take our life in our hands, affirming our value in front of the world. This is a two-edged sword because, although it is attractive to those who suffer from low self-esteem and are in need of provision, it is also a source of discouragement, depression, and apostasy when the thing “declared” does not become reality.
8. It is contrary to biblical confession. Many preachers and singers use “confession” as a “magical spell” to change reality. However, in Scripture, the term occurs in contexts for expressing our sin (Psalm 32:5; 38:18), our conversion (1 Kings 8:33), our limitations, and our confidence that God has the last word for my problems. Confession is not about my ability to change reality. It is about recognizing that the one who decides is “the Lord,” not the believer (Romans 10:9). We are to speak of God’s greatness—and not of ours—among the nations so that they may worship Him too (Nehemiah 9:3), even if the servants of the Most High may suffer rejection in the meantime. Christian confidence does not change the world; rather, the Son of Man, at His second coming, will confess the names of His saints, thus making public the dignity they have always had (Luke 12:8; Revelation 3:5).
9. We should seek only the decree of God. And what do I say about the stupidity of the believer “decreeing”? God the Sovereign is the only one with the right to decree, and He has done so eternally. In Scripture, it is only pagan kings who decreed. God uses them because they are part of His eternal decree (Daniel 4:17). All other times in which “decree” is used in the Bible refer to obeying the written statutes God has given to His people. He has decreed that only His Word should be obeyed, and that we should stop looking for other kinds of “decrees.”
10. We should evangelize, not “snatch.” “Snatching from” or “binding” Satan is a childish interpretation of the biblical passages that occupy that terminology. Matthew 11:12, for example, in Reyna-Valera is ambiguous. Dios Habla Hoy translates better: “Since John the Baptist came until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and those who use force seek to destroy it” (compare NBV, NTV, PDT, etc.). We cannot say on this verse that believers are commanded to “snatch” anything from anyone, least of all from Satan. Matthew 16:19 is not easy to interpret—check major biblical commentaries—but what is clear is that the context says nothing about binding any human or satanic being. Rather, it is related to the entrance to the kingdom of heaven. The church is responsible for opening the door, presenting the entrance to the Kingdom of God. All who enter through the door of the Gospel message will be welcomed into heaven.
For this and much more: Do not “declare,” do not “decree,” do not “confess,” do not “snatch,” do not “bind or loose.” It is better to know the Scripture thoroughly and honor God by obeying it!
As followers of Christ, time is one of our most precious and often wasted resources. We must be diligent to guard and redeem our time, because there are always people and activities that desire to spend it. Oswald Sanders argues that we often have more time than we admit. He points out that if we allot ourselves a generous eight hours of sleep per day, ten hours for work and travel, and three hours for meals, that still leaves over twenty hours a week to fill. What happens to those hours? He argues, “A person’s entire contribution to the kingdom of God may turn on how those hours are used. Certainly those hours determine whether life is commonplace or extraordinary.”
Do you remember thinking someone was just old when he said something like, “The older you get, the faster time goes”? Either I am just old, or age does not really have much to do with it. I think, as we get older, we realize how precious time is, and we begin to understand its value. The Word of God shows the value and swiftness of time. Paul tells us to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). James reminds us of the uncertainty of time when he exhorts his readers not to make plans without seeking the Lord, and that our lives are but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:13–17). Job certainly recognized the swiftness and frailty of time (Job 9:25, 14:2).
A lot of people have more money and more talent than I do, but nobody has more time. Time is the great equalizer; we all have twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week. Sanders maintains, “Our problem is not too little time but making better use of the time we have. Each of us has as much time as anyone else. The president of the United States has the same twenty-four hours as we. Others may surpass our abilities, influence, or money, but no one has more time.”
A big step in guarding our time, redeeming the time, and creating more efficiency with our time is recognizing what I call “time-stealers.”
Sleep. Of course, I am not saying you should not sleep. But how much sleep do you really need? Are you sleeping more than you should? Are you just lazy?
We have been told we need a solid eight hours of sleep a night, but many people can function just as well on six hours. Get the sleep you need, but get up and start the day. Proverbs speaks much about the dangers of too much sleep. We will spend close to a third of our lives sleeping, but let us not overdo it!
Television. A recent report showed that the average American watches somewhere between four and five hours of movies and TV shows per day! Think about this: the average American watches more than thirty hours of television per week, and more than 1,600 hours per year. Take that one step further over the course of a life-span of seventy years and the average American spends more than thirteen years of his life in front of a TV screen. Is this really “redeeming the time” or the best way to build the Kingdom? We have to avoid legalism, but we need to ask these questions.
Phones/Tablets. The same article shares that the average “screen” time for an American is more than ten hours per day. That means we spend nearly thirty years of our lives consuming media through screens. There is much content available that is edifying and redeeming, but we must guard against unredeemed time and pay attention to how our time is spent.
A few reminders:
- You do not have to respond every time your device makes a noise. Alerts can be muted or even turned off. The world will not end!
- Time spent endlessly scrolling through social media can most likely be used more effectively on some other activity.
- The makers of game apps are good at what they do and desire to get you “hooked” on their game.
- Always avoid unwholesome or questionable content; it can never be redeeming.
Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Overscheduling. One final time-stealer that I would like to point out is that many of us just try to do too much! Sanders writes, “Often the pressure a spiritual leader feels comes from assuming tasks that God has not assigned. For such tasks the leader cannot expect God to supply the extra strength required.”
Many men and women overschedule their lives at work, at church, and even in their hobbies. Many families even add stress to their lives by overscheduling their children’s extracurricular activities. There are many good and wholesome activities and even ministries, but God has not called us to participate in all of them. Busyness does not equal godliness; oftentimes it can be the exact opposite.
I submitted this article because I was re-thinking through many of these issues. Guard against these time-stealers; pay attention to where your time is going. We must seek to spend our time in the way that brings the greatest glory to our Father who is in heaven. What would God have us adjust in the use of the time He has allotted to us?
J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2007), 95.
Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 94.
Jaqueline Howard, “Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing,” June 30, 2016, accessed January 5, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/.
Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 97.
 This article was adapted from material found in Tommy Kiker, Everyday Ministry (Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press, 2018).
Man has been plagued with the desire to “play God” since Genesis 3. This includes promoting imago self rather than imago Dei. That is, culture is obsessed with representing self according to one’s own design. Although the created has always sinfully desired to be the Creator, contemporary culture is fraught with heightened forms of creating one’s identity. To be sure, we can easily and rapidly recreate our identities in both our real and virtual lives.
Online avatars permit us to create a virtual self where visual appearance, attributes, and behavior may be represented in any manner in the perceived risk-free environment of online spaces. This permits individuals to act out their personal fantasies without apparent consequences. Online screen names and profiles also permit us to self-represent ourselves in a particular manner that is often far from reality. Social media permits us to define facets of self with mere images and a few characters.
Gender fluidity is being promoted as a cultural norm. Individuals may now self-identify as someone or something else. Bookstores and blogs are rampant with self-help, self-awareness, and self-actualization topics. Tattoos have moved from expressing identity to defining identity. Advances in artificial intelligence are rapidly colliding with concepts of identity and personhood. TED talks provide unending lectures on personality, self-motivation, and humanity, all with the goal to assist us in defining our identity.
The Who’s 1978 classic “Who Are You” is the siren lament of contemporary culture. People do not know their identity. Culture has more adjectival labels for people now than one’s favorite cup of coffee at the boutique coffee shop. People are in an identity crisis, desperately trying to define themselves in a world that strangles uniqueness as it makes everything normative.
We, believers, have the answer! Our identity is not defined by a denomination or a church. It is not defined by what coffee we drink, clothes we wear, what political party we align with, whether we use an iOS or Android phone, sports team we root for, blogs we read, or whether or not we have a beard. Rather, the Apostle Paul clearly and succinctly defines our identity with the two-word prepositional phrase ἐν Χριστῷ—in Christ. He repeatedly uses this expression in his epistles (along with “in Him” and “in the Lord”), and it is critical to Paul’s, and our, theology. Our identity is a Gospel identity fully defined in Christ.
To be in Christ means we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The old us is dead, and we are a new creature placed under the headship of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1-2). Hence, our identity has been changed, and we think and act differently. We are adopted into the family of God (1 Corinthians 12:13). Having been justified, we are able to come boldly before the throne of God (Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 4:16) as a people set apart (1 Peter 2:9). Our identity comes with citizenship in heaven as we are changed to be in the world and not of the world (John 17:14-16; Romans 12:2).
Our identity does not depend on us or material things of this world, but solely on Christ. In Christ alone. We are united with Christ and are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).
So, the next time someone asks who you are, answer them with “in Christ.” When they look at you strangely, begin a Gospel proclamation.
Recently I had a conversation with a student about some trials his family is facing—one of his siblings has become wayward. He explained how his father is willing to accept this wayward sibling back into his home on the condition of repentance—an adherence to the house rules.
As I listened, I wondered: Does the child feel as if returning home is even an option? So, I asked. The student quickly responded, “Yes; my father loaned his RV to her, which impressed on me his Christlikeness.”
As I considered his answer, I could not help but wonder: What is the difference between being religious and being Christlike? Throughout the Gospels, Christological examples of service are rife, and evaluations on service are also widespread.
Couched between Christ’s teaching on the Beatitudes and prayer, Christ demands His disciples to live righteously, even perfectly, in this world. Christ says, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). And, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). These two passages should create an ominous reflection; however, more often than not, we appease our conscience theologically, saying: these passages are dealing with an unattainable righteousness, an alien righteousness, His righteous. Even though these theological truths are undeniable, practically, Christ commands His followers to live righteously, overshadowing the religious leaders. So, what does this kind of life look like, and in what way should Christians be identified as Christlike?
Matthew addresses the Jewish tradition, and in this tradition, the Law is pivotal for an adherent to be considered godly. Jesus makes this point clear, saying, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Even in modern, Orthodox Judaism, to the degree that one adheres to the Law, he is identified as “a godly man, the prophet—the creator of worlds” (Soloveitchik 90). The Law is thus to be implemented “without any compromises or concessions, for precisely such implementation … is his ultimate desire” (Ibid). This is the posture of the religious leaders within the Gospels, for they often condemn Jesus for not keeping “the Torah without … compromises or concessions.”
So, how does Christ demonstrate the kind of honorable actions that overshadow the religious leaders of his day? Ironically, He eats with the unrighteous (Luke 5:30), works on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8-14; John 5:8-10), refuses ceremonial washing (Mark 7:3ff), and fails to condemn a sinner (John 7:53-8:11). In all of these situations, Christ justifies His actions, proving them to be perfect, righteous and wise.
In Judaism, adhering to the law takes on two forms: Halakha (strict adherence to a sacred command) and Aggadah (wise exegesis of a sacred command). The Halakhic man strictly obeys the laws “without compromises or concessions,” but the Aggadahic man exegetically treats passages, reflecting God’s loving character while responding thoroughly to an apparent need. For example, in the Halakha, one cannot touch a dead body or work on the Sabbath; but what happens in the event that a Rabbi walks a short distance (about a half mile) to the temple and sees a dead body? The Halakahic man bypasses the body; but the Aggadahic man buries the dead and grieves the loss (Book 4.11a: Tracts Pesachim). So, in the Aggadah, one negotiates the strict standard of the Law and responds with a kind of wisdom that preserves the character of God, serving an immediate need.
So, to what degree do we wrestle with the Scriptures enough to exemplify Christlikeness, benefiting the other person, and preserving the character of God? In every situation where religious leaders condemn Christ for some violation, He evokes the wisdom of the Law, exemplifying the character of God and the benefit of the other person. Christ even addresses situations showing that obeying the Law implicitly is not most desirable.
How should we wrestle with the situation that I mentioned from the beginning? Should we think this father’s acts of providing shelter, rules and expectations are Christological? The first thing one should do is consult the Scriptures in a way that upholds God’s lovingkindness while looking for a beneficial outcome for the other person.
How is this done? One should ask the question: Does the Bible have a direct prohibition about how to treat a wayward child; and does the Bible negotiate this prohibition in a narrative? For example, the Bible is clear about how to treat a rebellious, disobedient child (Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Exodus 21:17); however, narratively, this parental command was never enacted. Story after story illustrates God’s lovingkindness and longsuffering even to a disobedient child.
One clear example is the father’s response to his son in Luke 15:11-32 (The Prodigal Son parable). The older son had a clear reason to be “angry,” unwilling to celebrate his brother’s transformation. But, in the father’s wisdom, the father pleaded with his older son to feel the pain of loss and the pleasure of redemption, for “this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found” (Luke 15:32). In Halakhic terms, the older son correctly responded, but in Aggadahic terms, he failed to uphold the lovingkindness of God and meet his brother with rejoicing. A higher wisdom is desired—a divine response displaying the character of God in the midst of a challenging situation.
So, was this father acting with Christlike, Aggadahic wisdom, giving shelter to his daughter with his RV? No, but he acted as a good man, even as a good religious man. The Aggadahic wisdom demands a warmth far beyond shelter, love far beyond rules, service far beyond preconceived expectations. Aggadahic wisdom daily seeks after the wayward without a protective distance.
“You fake it ‘til you make it.” So the saying goes. I can’t tell you how many are faking it in the ministry, but I can tell you that the tensions run high with the pressure that comes with ministry—preaching, ministering to people, giving counsel, keeping up with relationships, and all the while, maintaining a strong marriage and family dynamics. Time for prayer and personal study can easily fall by the wayside. Ministry is too often measured by performance. Burnout ensues as soon as something goes wrong—and something always does. So faking ministry may seem to be a temporary answer, until it’s clear that you won’t make it.
It’s the temptation that many ministers face: look and sound the part of the minister, and hope that no one catches you as an imposter. But it’s not just the minister who faces this temptation. It’s also the rest of the church—the stakes are high for not only acceptance but in becoming model members. The pressure for ministers and congregants alike tears up the church within.
Let’s be honest here. The church is stinking of fakery. Trust me, it’s not anything new. Not to point any fingers, but look at the churches in Corinth and all of Galatia. The pressure is real because of the desire to perform because of the expectation that ministers do their part and members do theirs.
Do, do, do. But where’s the grace in all of this?
My heart breaks. It’s almost as if the church is constantly concocting programs that try to regain the favor of God all over again. The definition of grace that I was taught as a boy is “getting what you don’t deserve.” It’s the Sunday School answer that I’ve found revolting, because there’s no God in that definition. Grace is God’s love. Love poured out. Love that defines new life for all brokenness. Love that God gives simply because He said, “You’re mine as you are.”
My young children do not try to act up so that I will love them more. They have the absolute assurance that their dad loves them. This is my constant reminder that grace is real, because God doesn’t see my accomplishments to evaluate my status as a child of God. I have no balance or system to work in order for God to love me more—He demonstrated His love for me, for the church, already in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 5:8). All this because He loves me and He wants me to love Him above all else (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). This relationship is grace, a love relationship that defined the course of human history through God’s work in the church.
Grace shatters the desire to fit in. Grace cripples the desire to be praised by others because Christ has already secured the church’s place by His side. This grace doesn’t need faking, because grace finds us when we are most authentic. Honest. Vulnerable. It’s in our weakness that grace is made sufficient.
Some people liken grace as a freebie, a handout given at a soup kitchen for the soul; the sustenance needed to carry the feeble soul to higher places. But what if grace is more like a declaration of a relationship grounded in freedom? Not free to do whatever one wishes, but free to become a child of God, accepted freely into His good will. Run. Play. Laugh. I see how I ought to live this life. My kids show me what full acceptance looks like—that is, what full-on security offers me.
The church is a place for this experience of deep-seated, grounded acceptance that comes from a love assured by God and reinforced by the community that seeks to love God more, above all things. When the community of God responds in true worship, there is:
- Joy, which cannot be faked, enlivening the hope in the here and now—and all the uncertainties of the days to come. See Matthew 13:44.
- Boldness in loving others, without the need of validation from others or any expectation to receive something in return. See Matthew 6:1-4.
- Excitement in seeing God advancing Kingdom work: lives changing, faith maturing, growing perspectives into what God is doing. See 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4-8.
- Gratefulness in receiving grace, the love that gives us confidence and security in Christ. See 1 Corinthians 4:7.
- Humility in knowing that God is working great things in the body of Christ. See Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 5.
Ministry involves everyone in the community to respond to the one true, living hope in Christ. Not performing, but striving for excellence in loving others.
If we can’t get this loving part right, we might as well call ministry what it is … fakery.
Recuerdo que hace algún tiempo un profesor amigo, excelente académico en su área, fue invitado a dar ciertas conferencias en el seminario donde yo trabajaba en Latinoamérica. Como era su amigo y profesor allí me ofrecí a ayudarlo en la traducción del material que traía para compartir. El se había adelantado, y queriendo ayudarme, había pasado todo el contenido de su conferencia a través de google. Me escribió emocionado, pensando que me había hecho un favor. Era mi primera vez en tratar de ¨retraducir¨ a google, luche con la traducción como nunca. Entre frases mal elaboradas, algunas peligrosamente cómicas y otras tantas que no hacían ningún sentido, después de una lucha desesperada y llena de frustración me tuve que dar por rendido. ¡No quiero ni imaginarme qué hubiera pasado si esa traducción se hubiera leído tal como estaba!
¡Cuánta necesidad tenemos de aprender de verdad otros idiomas! Las máquinas por sofisticadas que sean nunca podrán remplazar a las personas, especialmente en el proceso de comunicar el evangelio. Es triste que muchos de aquellos que están en el ministerio cristiano y que están en contacto con otras culturas simplemente no quieren o piensan que es innecesario conocer el idioma del otro. ¡Al fin de cuenta siempre habrá google!
La Escritura siempre debe ser nuestro modelo para hacer ministerio inclusive en este sentido. Existen suficientes trazos en los escritos del Nuevo Testamento, por ejemplo, que revelan que sus autores era políglotas. No cabe duda de que el griego era la lengua franca del tiempo, pero además de ella, ellos podían comunicarse en la lengua del pueblo de la gran palestina, el arameo. Sabían hablar y leer el lenguaje de la sinagoga, el hebreo. De la misma forma, en el AT encontramos grandes ejemplos de hombres y mujeres usados por Dios por su habilidad de comunicarse en varios idiomas (Moisés, José, Daniel, etc.). De acuerdo con muchos historiadores, Jesús mismo hablaba varios idiomas. ¡No hay sorpresa en esto! El es la palabra de Dios que comunica esa palabra dentro de contextos humanos, sociales, y lingüísticos específicos. (Juan 1:14-18).
Por otro lado, hace muchos años cuando llegué al seminario, me enseñaron que era necesario que yo estudiara el griego, el hebreo y el arameo para poder entender mejor los escritos bíblicos. Nadie ponía o pone en duda, creo yo, que hacerlo es necesario a fin de que no dependamos solamente de lo que otros han traducido. Algunos, sin embargo, aun haciendo todo este trabajo, terminan distorsionando el mensaje bíblico al estar satisfechos con que se haga una traducción mediocre o descuidada de su enseñanza. Hace apenas unos días alguien me pasó un librito de evangelismo que estaba siendo traducido al español, me bastó leer un par de párrafos iniciales para darme cuenta de que ¡no hacía sentido! ¡Y cuando les pregunté por qué no esperábamos a corregirlo, me contestaron que había prisa pues lo tenían que entregar en sólo unos días! ¡Si comunicaba mal o no comunicaba parecía no ser importante!
Dice don Samuel Escobar que la gran bendición de la revelación bíblica es que sea traducible y que eso significa, por un lado, que todo lenguaje humano ha sido dignificado y desacralizado al mismo tiempo (The New Global Mission, IVP 2013, p.12). Ningún lenguaje es más sagrado que otro y todos los lenguajes deben tratarse con el mismo respeto, especialmente cuando comunicamos el evangelio.
Existe algo que google o cualquier otro traductor mecánico le sería muy difícil, si no imposible, corregir. Esto es la sensibilidad cultural con la que normalmente un idioma va asociado. La traducción mecánica de modismos, por ejemplo, produce un horrible resultado en la traducción. ¿Cómo puede una traducción a otra cultura traducir lo que significa “meterse en camisa de once varas” en español? El asunto no es sencillo porque no se trata de comunicar sólo el concepto significado sino también la fuerza íntima y familiar que frases como éstas comunican a la mente del oyente, y también a sus sentimientos e identidad. Ayer mismo, un pastor de una iglesia hispana importante en Dallas Fort Worth me compartió cómo algunos de sus predicadores invitados han creído que traducir es solo una cosa de transliterar a la google: “¡No problemo! ““¿Está buena hermana?” ¡Muchos y horrorosos ejemplos para compartir aquí!
¡Y todavía hay algunos que no creen que haya necesidad de buenas traducciones, y no sólo de estas, si no de artículos y libros cristianos escritos en el idioma vernáculo del lector! ¡Todas estas cosas son sumamente necesarias cuando comunicas el evangelio del Señor!
Mucho del retraso y literario y misional de América Latina en los círculos evangélicos se debe, entre otras cosas, a que hemos estado acostumbrados a leer literatura superficial, ¡traducida de otros contextos, y muchas veces mal traducida!
Tratar de leer a Shakespeare en español obviamente es posible. ¡Pero, no es igual a poder leerlo en inglés! Existe un “algo” que se pierde, algo que yo sospecho es “mucho.” Es como creer que no se pierde nada al leer el Quijote en inglés. Lo he leído y parece tan insípido como “papas sin sal.”
Así como les pido a mis estudiantes que aprendan inglés para poder leer obras teológicas y comentarios bíblicos que puedan ayudarlos aun más en su fe evangélica, así invito a aquellos que leen sólo inglés a que aprendan a leer y comunicarse en otro lenguaje, especialmente con el que están en más contacto. Hacerlo amplía nuestros horizontes y nos libera del provincialismo que nos impide ser fieles comunicadores del evangelio.
Quiero alabar a Dios por la oportunidad de poder escribir estas líneas en español y espero que los lectores de “Theological Matters” puedan disfrutar de estos “Asuntos Teológicos” en el lenguaje de Gabriel García Márquez, de Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz y Sallarue. Quiera Dios usar todos los artículos escritos en español de este blog para comunicar mejor el mensaje eterno del evangelio.
Muchas gracias google, pero prefiero aprender el idioma original, prefiero escribir en español… ¿o en inglés?
I remember that some time ago a friend of mine, an excellent scholar in his area, was invited to give certain lectures at the seminary where I used to work in Latin America. Since I was his friend and professor there, I volunteered to help him in the translation of the material he would share and read with the students. Wanting to help me, he had gone ahead and translated all the content of his conference with Google. He wrote to me excited, thinking that he had done me a big favor. It was my first time trying to “re-translate” Google. I struggled with that translation like never before. Between badly elaborated phrases, some dangerously comical ones and many others that did not make any sense at all, after a desperate fight in full frustration, I gave up. I do not even want to imagine what would have happened if that translation had been read as it was!
How much need do we have to really learn other languages! Engines, as sophisticated as they may be, can never replace people, especially in the process of communicating the Gospel. However, it is sad that many of those who are in Christian ministry and who are in contact with other cultures simply do not want to know the language of their neighbors; or simply put, they do not think it is important enough. At the end of the day, there is always Google!
The Scriptures should always be our model for ministry even in this regard. There are enough traces in the New Testament writings, for example, revealing that their authors were polyglots. There is no doubt that Greek was the lingua franca of the time, but in addition to it, they could communicate in the language of the people of the great Palestinian region, Aramaic. They also knew how to read and speak the language of the synagogue, Hebrew. In the same way, in the Old Testament we find great examples of men and women used by God for their ability to communicate in several languages (Moses, Joseph, Daniel, etc.). According to some historians, Jesus Himself was fluent in several languages. No surprise! He is the Word of God that communicates God´s Word within specific human, social and linguistic contexts (John 1:14-18).
Many years ago, when I arrived at the seminary, I was taught that it was necessary for me to study Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic in order to better understand the biblical writings. Nobody doubts, I believe, that doing so is necessary so that we do not depend only on someone else’s translations. Some, however, even doing all this work, end up distorting the biblical message when they are happy with a mediocre or careless translation of their teaching. Just a few days ago, someone handed me a booklet of evangelism that was being translated into Spanish; it was enough for me to read a couple of initial paragraphs to realize that it did not make sense! And when I asked them why we did not wait to correct it, they replied that they were in a hurry–they had to deliver it in just a few days! That the booklet communicated badly or not at all was not important!
Don Samuel Escobar says that the great blessing of biblical revelation is that it is translatable, and that this means all human languages have been dignified and desacralized at the same time (The New Global Mission, IVP 2013, p.12). No language is more sacred than another, and all languages must be treated with the same respect, especially when we communicate the Gospel.
There is something that for Google or for any other mechanical translator would be very difficult, if not impossible, to correct. This is the cultural sensitivity with which a language is normally associated. The mechanical translation of idioms, for example, produces a horrible result in translation. How can another culture understand what it means to “meterse en camisa de once varas” if Google just translates it, “get into an eleven-yard shirt,” from the Spanish? The issue is a complex one, for communicating is more than handing over memorized formulas. Also, it has to do with doing it with intimate and familiar energy that only those phrases are able to convey. In them, the listener finds not only familiar feelings but the identity to which he can relate.
Yesterday, a pastor of a major Hispanic church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area shared with me illustrations of how some of his guest preachers have committed all kinds of mistakes when simply thinking that the issue of translation is just transliteration. “No problemo” “¿Está buena hermana?” Too many, too horrible to share here!
Much of Latin America’s literary and missional incompetence in evangelical circles is due, among other things, to the fact that we have been accustomed to reading superficial literature, translated from other contexts, and often poorly!
Trying to read Shakespeare in Spanish is obviously possible. But it’s not the same as being able to read it in English! There is a “something” that is lost, something I suspect is “a lot.” It is like believing that nothing is lost when reading Don Quixote in English. I’ve read it, and it seems as insipid as potatoes without salt.
I ask my students to learn English in order to read solid theological works and biblical commentaries that can help them even more in their evangelical faith. Most evangelical translations, with few exceptions, are poor translations of superficial works. Most of our good books come from other contexts via Spaniard Roman Catholic translators using an esoteric Spanish and translating works that are ideologically attune with them.
In the same way, I invite those who read only English to learn to read and communicate in another language, especially with the one with which they are in more contact. Doing so expands our horizons and frees us from the provincialism and ethnocentrism that prevent us from being faithful communicators of the Gospel.
I want to praise God for the opportunity to write these lines in Spanish, and I hope that the readers of “Theological Matters” can enjoy these “Asuntos Teológicos” in the language of Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz and Sallarue. May God use all the articles written in Spanish on this blog to better communicate the eternal message of the Gospel.
Muchas gracias, Google, but I´d rather learn English… ¿o Español?
When I was a child, my two sisters shared a bedroom. It was larger than mine, and I wanted it. On one occasion, while my parents were gone, I convinced my sisters to switch rooms with me. “If you really love me,” I said, “you will switch rooms with me.” So they did. We moved my furniture into their room and their furniture into my room. It lasted for a couple of hours until my parents got home.
Giving me whatever I want is a common juvenile definition of love. “If you love me, you will buy me that game. If you don’t buy me that game, you don’t love me.”
Thankfully, I no longer operate from this defective, juvenile, manipulative definition of love. Yet what I abandoned as juvenile, society is in the process of affirming. Society tells us to follow your heart, trust your feelings, and embrace whatever comes naturally. For society, with ever-increasing scope, love means doing whatever it is that you want and supporting others in whatever they want. Affirming such decisions is love, while having the gall to do otherwise is hate.
This definition of love is probably most pervasive in discussions regarding sexuality. Supporting someone who chooses to live a homosexual or transgender lifestyle is portrayed as a sign of love, whereas disagreeing with such a decision is perceived as hate. Or perhaps it’s someone who wants to leave a spouse because he “loves” someone else. How could you possibly encourage him not to follow his heart? Or maybe it’s the 19-year-old who wants to sleep with her boyfriend because she “loves” him.
Following your heart sounds sensible unless you know that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Over and over again, Scripture affirms the sentiment of Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Jesus Himself declares, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23).
Rather than following your heart, embracing what comes naturally, or supporting people in whatever they want, Jesus defines love as obedience. “If you love Me,” Jesus said, “you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus affirms this definition of love twice more in John 14. John must have thought the definition quite important, as he repeated the connection between love and obedience in 1 John 2:3-5 and 2 John 6. Additionally, while it is common to think of 1 Corinthians 13 as offering a romantic definition of love, I think we often miss Paul’s declaration that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness” (1 Corinthians 13:6). This declaration affirms that there is, in fact, such a thing as unrighteousness. And what’s more, if we rejoice in any such activity, it’s not love!
If love involves keeping God’s commandments, then it is not possible to love God by means of breaking one of His commandments. Likewise, it is not possible to love fellow human beings by breaking one of God’s commandments with them. Furthermore, it is not possible to love people by supporting them in breaking one of God’s commandments.
Jesus’ discussion of causing others to sin should give us serious pause—“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Those are sobering words. When we affirm any sort of behavior that violates God’s commandments, we are helping the next generation to sin. That’s not love.
Imagine your relief, if you were concerned about cancer, to hear the doctor say that there was nothing wrong with you. Now imagine that he told you this despite the scans that showed cancer throughout your body. On your death bed, as you finally have an opportunity to ask him why he told you what he did, he tells you quite plainly, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
As ridiculous as that sounds, we are tempted to tell people what they want to hear because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. We have traded a flawed definition of “nice” for the truth. And thus we commit spiritual malpractice.
If we want to do God’s will, we must live by and tell people the truth. Hard truth. Cancer-doctor truth. The truth as God defines it.
The question then, for any behavior we endorse, is not if it comes naturally or if it makes us feel good, but if it meets God’s righteous standards. We must give thorough attention to the teachings of Scripture in order to determine if a certain behavior meets God’s standards. And when it doesn’t, we must not help others to walk down that road.
At the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas, many Southern Baptists received a copy of the new IMB document, Foundations, at the IMB exhibit area. The document’s stated purpose is “to answer foundational questions of who we are and what we do with implications for how we live and work around the world” (4). Thus, all IMB missionaries in all contexts will be unified around these principles, which are biblical and align with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We wish to affirm some important statements in this document.
The core missionary task is “entry, evangelism, disciple-making, healthy church formation, leadership development, and strategically planned exit” (75). The Great Commission calls for both evangelism and discipleship, and we are delighted to see the emphasis on both components. All IMB missionaries must engage in both activities (20), which are described as being tied together (83). Notice the emphasis on Scripture in discipleship: “The Word of God is essential to discipleship. . . . Carefully-crafted and community-tested Bible stories are useful resources and can be developed far more quickly than a Bible translation. They often lay a foundation for Bible translation. While Bible story sets are useful tools, they do not replace the Bible” (84). We like the emphasis on translation: “If an appropriate translation of the Bible is not available, which is often the case among unreached people groups, Scripture translation becomes an urgent priority” (84).
We also affirm healthy church formation: “Rapid multiplication is biblically possible, but is not biblically promised. The gospel will spread at different rates in our work around the world” (90-91). This statement will remove unnecessary guilt from missionaries who serve well but do not see rapid multiplication. The document continues, “As mentioned earlier, our primary aim in church planting is healthy churches that multiply, and we do not sacrifice or delay introducing any characteristics of a healthy church for the sake of rapid reproduction” (91). One implication of this foundational statement is that missionaries should not advocate the use of unqualified people as leaders for the sake of rapid reproduction.
One of the 12 characteristics of a healthy church listed in Foundations is biblical leadership (62). The pastors/elders/overseers “must be examples of faithful discipleship, and they must hold firmly to sound doctrine. They must be gifted by God to teach” (62). The teaching “consists of the exposition and application of Scripture” (62). The document explains, “The pastor/elder/overseer must know the Bible and he must know doctrine. He must know both well enough to teach them accurately and to discern and refute false teaching” (95). Thus, spiritual children, who are “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), should not serve as pastors/elders/overseers.
Theological education for these leaders, however, does not require formal seminary training: “The Bible never mentions academic credentials as necessary for service in church leadership” (97). Rather, the type of theological education necessary in a particular context may be different from the typical seminary experience in America (97). In many cases, however, overseas seminaries are valuable: “Seminaries exert significant influence in existing churches and denominations. Where seminaries exist, we need to invest in their theological and spiritual health” (98).
We affirm the de-emphasis on the 2 percent standard for unreached groups: “In contemporary missiology, a people group is considered unreached if the number of evangelical Christians is fewer than 2 percent. Though this definition is helpful in some ways, it is problematic in others” (69). The definition is problematic practically: “Missiologists have examined sociological data to determine the threshold at which a movement within a people group can continue to grow without outside assistance. However, sociologists (and consequently missiologists) have disagreed on what percentage of people constitutes that threshold” (69). The definition is also problematic biblically: “In Luke’s account of Paul’s missionary journeys, he primarily records the spread of the gospel from city to city and region to region, not people group to people group. . . . It is both biblical and helpful, then, to recognize the unreached in terms of both peoples and places, for both realities bear uniquely upon mission strategy” (70). We affirm the wisdom of this dual emphasis, which flies against prevailing missiological winds.
Also flying against prevailing missiological winds is the document’s emphasis on biblical contextualization: “We commend what is popularly known as C3 contextualization, in which the church worships and teaches in the local language and adapts to the local culture in matters generally regarded as not having religious significance. . . . We reject C5 contextualization, or what is commonly called Insider Movement approaches, as profoundly unbiblical” (92). Unfortunately, many missiologists in America advocate Insider Movement methodology in overseas mission endeavors. Foundations completely forbids such methodology: “We will not ever seek to establish the church inside any other religious system, nor teach that any other religion, its founders or prophets, or its books, are in any way from God. . . . We will never teach or encourage any believer in Jesus to remain inside any other religion or continue its practices after conversion to Christ” (92). The document further describes the limits of contextualization: “We contextualize the gospel message to make it clear, not to make it comfortable or acceptable in a non-Christian context” (81).
Finally, we affirm the emphasis on sola Scriptura: “The Bible is sufficient. . . . In particular, in the great work of global evangelization, we do not need any source other than the Bible to shape and determine our strategies. Information from other sources may assist our labors, and God often calls on us to use wisdom in making decisions, but the Bible alone is sufficient to direct our work” (31). Rather than misusing Scripture to justify plans made without it, Foundations demands the opposite course of action: “We do not devise our own plans and then seek support for them in Scripture. Rather, we go to the Bible to learn what it teaches us to do, and we do that” (31). Amen!
Carl Bradford, Instructor in Evangelism
Keith Eitel, Dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, Professor of Missions and Director of the World Missions Center
Tony Maalouf, Distinguished Professor of World Christian and Middle Eastern Studies
John Massey, Associate Professor of Missions and Associate Dean for Master’s Programs
Mike Morris, Associate Professor of Missions, Associate Dean of Applied Ministry and Mentorship, and Ida M. Bottoms Chair of Missions
Matt Queen, Associate Professor of Evangelism, L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“Chair of Fire”), and Associate Director for Doctoral Programs, Roy Fish School
Daniel Sanchez, Distinguished professor of Missions
Dean Sieberhagen, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, Director of the Masters in Islamic Studies Program, and Vernon D. Jeannete Davidson Chair of Missions
Current needs require that we proclaim the truth that biblical male leadership is not about self-preservation and self-glorification. Rather, it is about protecting and providing for others. Biblical manhood is about service and sacrifice. This becomes apparent when biblical manhood is defined according to the perfection of Christ rather than according to the imperfection of men.
“Biblical manhood” is a term often bandied about today in the church as a foil to the inanities of secular liberalism. Secular liberalism lauds the perverse, excuses the obsequious, and demands fealty to the false gods of sexuality, socialism, and status. We correctly point out the problems with the world’s perversity, but is this ever an excuse for bringing in and exalting our own perversity in the guise of being “biblical”? Have too many looked at our representation of Godly manhood as involving gold, guns, and gross historical fallacies, and seen not healthy manhood but hypocritical mysticism?
In his famous novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn pointed out that the real problem we face as human beings is not in the communities who oppose and oppress us. The real problem we face is in the heart of every man. If you think your real enemy is out there, such that if you could only get that laser pointer on his chest and eliminate the threat, then you fundamentally misunderstand the true war in which we are engaged. The enemy is not on the political left or on the political right of you; your true enemy is right in the middle of yourself. Your true opponent is your own heart. Our real enemies are sin, Satan, and death.
In his famous commencement address before Harvard University in 1978, Solzhenitsyn stunned his audience, not by praising the West, but by pointing out its spiritual weakness and vulgar materialism. “The West should not preen at its victory in the Cold War,” he said, “for it lacks ‘manliness’ and courage.” (Never invite a prophet to give a panegyric!)
So, what is true “manliness”? What is biblical manhood? I think some have lauded biblical manhood but have substituted their own ideals and their own foibles for that which is biblical. Fallen Adam is not the exemplar of true manhood! Don’t take Abraham’s self-preserving lies, Judah’s perverse sexual escapades, or Saul’s proud death-dealing efforts as exemplary male virtue. Rather than looking to the First Adam, look to the Last Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:45).
Real biblical manhood is not about demanding what you want, dominating over others, or dallying in selfish sensuality. Being a real man is about obeying God, leading others into excellence in Christ through hearing the Word, and being respectful to the leadership of the Spirit in others. A real man is like Jesus. He doesn’t put others to the sword like Mohammed. No, he climbs up with courage onto the cross that God gives him just like the Lord, Jesus Christ!
And when you look to the teaching of Jesus Christ for who he thinks is an exemplary leader in the faith, prepare to be shocked. Jesus does not laud a son of Israel, a choice man among the chosen people. No, he points out their problems – Even John the Baptist, whom he follows and adores, is classified as being among the “least in the kingdom of God” (Luke 7:28). Instead, Jesus praises one of the occupying soldiers, and a high-ranking one at that. It is this Gentile, this Centurion, who Jesus praises as an exemplar: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).
What does real biblical manhood look like? (By the way, men were created by God to rule. We who are men have been given real yet limited power and authority. And God will hold each one of us responsible for what we do with the gift of authority.) So, what does male leadership, courageous manliness, entail?
Luke 7:1-10 gives us what Jesus, the only perfect Man, thought real manhood looked like. In this passage, the Centurion displays seven characteristics of true manhood, biblical manhood, redeemed manhood—the type of manhood of which Christ Jesus approved:
- The Centurion is a man characterized by great “faith” (Luke 7:9). Real manhood cannot be grasped except through faith in Jesus.
- This real man honors Jesus Christ. He does not see himself as a Messiah, for he sees Jesus as his superior (v. 6). There is no “Messianic complex” at work here.
- The Centurion uses power, but not for selfish ends. He does not abuse, misappropriate, or glorify self. He does not see himself as “worthy” even to be in the presence of Jesus (vv. 6-7).
- This real man “highly valued” those other human servants whom God gave him to lead and care about (v. 2). He seeks out Jesus to heal his servant (v. 3). He continually serves those who serve him by doing all he can for them.
- The Centurion leads a life of unparalleled virtue. He is “worthy,” as even his natural political enemies testified to Jesus (v. 4). (The significant Greek terms translated as “worthy” in this passage, axios and hikanos, indicate “fittingness” and “sufficiency,” respectively.)
- This real man, whom Jesus lauded as possessing unparalleled faith, loved those who were different from him. This Gentile loved the Jews (v. 5). This man showed no evidence whatsoever of racism. He had a deep appreciation for other human beings who were different. This man showed no evidence whatsoever of racism. He had a deep appreciation for other human beings who were different.
- The Centurion built houses of worship (v. 5). His legacy was to build up the people of God, all of which was ultimately for the glory of God.
Why did the Centurion not want to be in Jesus’ presence? Because he did not feel “worthy” enough. It is not that this man of dignity, authority, and power possessed an inferiority complex. Far from it! He was not a wimpy wallflower. Rather, he understood where true authority lies. True authority, like true glory, begins and ends with God. The Centurion’s assessment was correct, for Jesus in his manhood is worthier than the Centurion ever could be. He was not a wimpy wallflower.
If you want to see what a real man, the perfect man, looks like, don’t look to fallen men. Don’t gaze at the screen or the pulpit or the podium. Instead, look toward the Man of perfection—look to where He is. The real Man is there, on the cross, providing for and protecting others, and preaching and practicing love. Christ Jesus on the cross provides us not only with our salvation but with our definition of real biblical manhood.