How to Disciple Busy Men

I interact regularly with young, ambitious, and busy men. They are regular attendees, members, and aspiring leaders in my church. They have young families with two, three, sometimes, four children. Many of them commute over two hours to New York City for work, leaving the house before 6am and getting home after 8pm.

How do you disciple them?

How do you disciple these busy men, especially, if you are a young pastor yourself? How do you actually develop busy men as leaders when you have two, three, and sometimes, four children? What about when you’re overloaded with hospital visits, small groups, and sermon preparation?

Read the full article at Rookie Preacher

Blogging the Institutes–1.11.11–Service to an Idol is Worship

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

Service to an Idol is Worship 

I am not ignorant of common Roman Catholic arguments used in favor of images. One in particular is especially subtle. They draw a distinction between being a image-servant and an image-worshipper. This enables them to speak of the service given to the image, without insult to God. Therefore, they believe themselves to be blameless if they are only servants of the idols and not worshippers of them–as if it were a light matter to only serve an image.

This distinction cannot hold. Essentially, they claim that they can worship an image without worshipping it! The plain fact is that they only claim to be smart while throwing dust in the eyes of the uneducated. But no matter how eloquent they think they are being, they can never prove that the same things are two different things! How can explain away what they’re doing when they would condemn ancient idolaters of idolatry if they merely claimed to “serve” the idols. You cannot escape conviction by trying to rename murder or adultery. It is equally absurd to believe that serving an idol is different than worshipping an idol. They cannot escape the fact that their idolatry is akin to the idolatry of pagans. It all stems of the same root: trying to depict God through images.

Church as the Body of Christ

Baptism is the entry way into the church of Jesus Christ. It is the identifying marker that God has made good on His promises and has brought new life to someone. It is also a public statement to the world that new Christians are now “all-in” with Jesus. They left everything, picked up their crosses, and are following Jesus.

Once we enter the church, we encounter various description, metaphors, and pictures of what the church is. The church can be described as a “temple” (1 Peter 2:4-5), a bride (Revelation 21:9-10), and commonly, the “body of Christ.” What does the Bible mean when it talks about the church being the “body of Christ”? Two main things. First, Jesus is the “head”, meaning that He is the authority over the church. He tells the church what to do and how to do it. Second, the metaphor of church as the body of Christ is used to explain how all Christians are dependent upon each other and work together to advance God’s mission.

Christ as Head

The Bible repeatedly talks about Christ as the “head” (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 4:15, 5:23; Colossians 1:18, 2:10, 2:19).  He is the “head” of men (1 Corinthians 11:3), the church (Ephesians 5:23), and all rule and authority (Colossians 2:10). Christ rules over all people, places, and things. But Christ is especially “head” of the church, because only the church is described as His “body.” Just as our head (i.e. in today’s language brain), guides, directs, and tells our body what to do, so also, Jesus guides, directs, and tells the church what to do.

Ephesians 1:19-23 further describes Jesus relationship as head both to the cosmos and to His body, the church:

These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Notice that Christ’s rule is based upon His death and resurrection. Jesus died and is raised from the dead, and then seated with God at the supreme place (1:20b).  When Jesus came into the world, He had a job to do: die for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Due to His complete obedience during His lifetime (what theologians call Jesus’ “active obedience”) and His complete obedience by dying on the cross and fulfilling God’s mission (what theologians call Jesus’ “passive obedience”), God highly exalted Christ and gave Him the most supreme name above all names. Consequently, everyone will bow in adoration of Christ (Philippians 2:6-11).

In Christ’s exalted, post-resurrection state, God has now given Christ “as head over all things for the church.” Christ rules over the whole universe for the benefit of the church (Peter T. O’Brien, Ephesianspg. 145).  The church is then described as Christ’s “body.” Paul, however, explains even further what this means. The church is the Christ’s “fullness.” Christ’s presence fills the church just as God’s presence filled the temple in the Old Testament. What this means is that Jesus is present to bless His people when they gather together. He is present with the church. He sees what’s going on. He guides and directs our decisions. He shows us the different decisions we should be making. He reminds us of our acceptance before God through Him.

But how does Christ rule?

Christ as “head” also means He rules over the church. Christ’s rules over His church through His Word. First of all, the church gets it very existence from God’s Word:

It has been rightly claimed that the church is the creation of the Word (creature verbi). The new birth, as part of the new creation, is effected in the church (i.e., through its ministry of the Word), but not by the church. The individual does not give birth to him- or herself, nor does the community give birth to itself; both are born from above (Jn 3:3 – 5). The origin and source of the church’s existence is neither the autonomous self nor the autonomous church: “So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Ro 9:16). Where there is God’s Word and Spirit, there is faith, and where there is faith there is a church. (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, pg. 752).

If the church derives its existence from God’s Word, it is entirely natural for Christ to continue to sustain the church through His Word as well as guide and direct (i.e. rule) the church by His Word. Ultimately, all Scripture is Jesus’ Word because all Scripture points to Jesus (Luke 24:27-47). So all of Scripture guides the life of the church, not just the “red words” of Jesus. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament letters, properly interpreted, inform how the church should live in the world.

So what does this mean?

Christ as head fills the church with His presence. So God’s presence does not need to be sought for anywhere else other than in the gospel–The good news that Jesus died for sinners. Once embracing the gospel, we grow in Christ not by looking outside the church but by looking to the practices and forms of worship God has established within the church. Regular corporate worship with all of God’s people who have committed themselves to a local church is foundational for growth.

Since Christ rules over the church by His Word, careful, focused, repeated reading of God’s Word is necessary. To repeat: the foundational activity for growth is to attend corporate worship with open ears. To hear God’s Word prayed, preached, and sung will grow you. Moving into your week, however, calls for further devotion to Word of God. Reading it, memorizing it, and meditating over it are good personal practices for growth. Attending a Bible study or Community Group throughout the week is also a way of being devoted to the word.

Vertical and Horizontal

Christ as the head of the church is a “vertical” reality–how we relate to God. Christ’s presence fills the church and He rules over the church by His word. But being the “body of Christ” also has “horizontal” implications–how we relate to one another as believers. To that horizontal reality is what we will turn to next time.

Blogging the Institutes–1.11.10–Idolatry in the Church is Hypocrisy

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

Idolatry in the Church is Hypocrisy

You can’t deny that the worship of idols still happens. Why do people bow down before images? Why do they turn to them while praying as if they were an ear to God? Augustine makes the point that every time people pray or worship while looking at an image, they believe the image is “hearing” them and will accomplish what they are praying for. Why do Catholics disregard some images while paying great attention to others? Why do they wear themselves out going on pilgrimages to see certain images while they have similar ones at home? Why do they fight and shed blood over these images? They seem more willing to part with the one true God than with their images!

I haven’t even begun to go into detail about the worst errors that the human heart conceives of. I am only pointing out the hypocrisy of those who engage in such behaviors and yet want to be cleared of the charge of idolatry. They claim that they do not call these images “gods.” The Jews or the Gentile idolaters didn’t either! Yet, the prophets never ceased to charge the people of committing spiritual adultery with idols of wood and stone. Ironically, the very acts that the prophets criticized are done every day by those who call themselves Christians, because they worship God with images.

Forget Your Birthday; Are You Alive?

Conversion [to Jesus Christ] may be a crisis; it may be a process. Even a crisis like birth is really a process…It would be stupid to argue whether birth or growth is the more important element in our experience. We are born to grow. And so it is in the Christian life. Some can remember the date of their conversion. Others cannot. What does it matter? Some people know their birthdays. Others do not. And none of us would know if our mothers had not told us! The important thing is not the date of birth, known or unknown, but whether or not we are alive.

Michael Green, Evangelism through the Local Church, pg. 38

Salvation Words: Introduction

Don’t miss out on the glories of salvation–what God has done for you in Christ! In fact, the book of Hebrews warns us about neglecting “so great a salvation” (2:3). Neglect brings condemnation and disaster upon us (2:2). Moreover, the author of Hebrews repeatedly points out the dangers of  “neglect” or “drift”:

  • “We must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it…” (2:1).
  • “Christ was faith as a Son over His house–whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (3:6)
  • “Take care, brothers, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (3:12)

I think you get the idea.

The startling thing about even those three verses is that they all seem to speak to a situation where someone starts out fairly well,  but then “falls away” or “neglects” God’s salvation. Neglecting salvation can begin by not really understanding it fully. If salvation becomes merely a “get-out-of-Hell-free” card, then you won’t really believe it has any relevance for your day-to-day living. Having a coupon for a free meal at a restaurant you’re not really interested in will be easily forgotten. Being able to escape the consequences of some distant reality (in your mind) like Hell will seem trivial compared to the pleasures or pains of daily life.

What God has done in salvation is much bigger, much grander, than we typically think. It takes the whole Bible to recount the story of God’s rescue plan for His people. Although beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation is a great way to see how God has worked to save us, it can also be extremely time consuming. The Bible is a big book!

So to capture the essence of our salvation and to summarize what Scripture says, Bible teachers throughout the church’s history have often categorized the different things God has done for us using big theological words like “propitiation” or “reconciliation.” But these words are important. Why? Because they help us pay close attention to the gospel message! They help us focus on salvation and learn more of its depth and beauty.

What you will find, too, is that many of these big theological words and concepts interact and overlap with each other. Concepts like “justification” and “reconciliation” are built upon things like “propitiation.” When you study the Bible and unpack each of these salvation words you will find a glorious and grand truth: God saves sinners.

 

Blogging the Institutes–1.11.8–The Origin of Idols

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

The Origin of Idols

Where do idols come from? The teaching by the Book of Wisdom on this matter has reached near universal acceptance–idols originated by those who made images of their deceased loved ones. I admit that this practice is very old and it is like lighter fluid igniting the flame of idolatry to burn brighter. I don’t admit, however, that it was the origin of idols. Idols were in use much earlier than this practice as evidenced by the words of Moses (Genesis 31:19). When Moses speaks of Rachel stealing her father’s household idols, he is speaking of a common vice. We can infer then, that the human mind if a perpetual factory of idols. There was a kind of renewal after the flood of Noah, but soon afterward, humans descended into idolatry once again.

There are reasons to believe that even in Abraham’s lifetime, his grandchildren were given to idolatry. He must have seen the whole world polluted with idols in his lifetime. Joshua testifies that even before Abraham was born, Torah and Nacor worshipped idols (Joshua 24:2). If even the children of Shem fell into idolatry, how much more would the descendents of Ham (who was cursed!) worship idols. The human mind, stuffed full of its own self-importance, creates “gods” in its own image. People substitute vanity and imaginary ghosts for the one true God.

Not only do people imagine false gods in their minds, but they have the audacity to then make physical images of these gods. The mind conceives of the idols and people’s hands give birth to them. The Israelites are an example of this phenomenon: “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him” (Exodus 32:1). They knew the one true God who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and had delivered them by His great power. And yet, they lacked assurance He was near to them. If only they could see God, then they could know He was with them! So they advocated for an image to be made of God.

Our everyday experience shows us that our flesh is restless until it sees some image of God which looks like itself. Therefore, people regularly create visible images to worship.