What We Believe- Article VII, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (part 1)

February 28, 2009

This week we are hitting the seventh article of the BF&M and the article which defines us most as a denomination (along with last weeks statements about the local church being autonomous), that being the one on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  In this post we will look at what the BF&M has to say about Baptism in particular, tomorrow we will focus on Communion.  To begin, the article says,

VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

As we go on, there seem to be very few statements in the Baptist Faith & Message that I would not handle with a little care as to exactly what they say, but on this paragraph concerning baptism I have to admit that I am completely in agreement with what has been written.

From the beginning, they assert that Christian baptism is by immersion (as opposed to by sprinkling) which is the precedent we see in places such as with the baptism of Christ in Mark 1.9-11 and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.38, as well as by the linguistic analysis of the Greek word translated as ‘baptism,’ that being baptizō.  This is of first importance, not that it has any affect on the persons salvation, but to be in full obedience of the symbol which baptism is to hold (and to which we will speak in a moment).  

Secondly, it is “immersion of a believer,” hence us calling it “Believers baptism.”  Though I love my reformed Presbyterian brothers, this is where they get it totally wrong.  Baptism is not a perfect equivalent to circumcision the way they try and pursue it.  Baptism is for the believer who, after placing faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, partakes in it as “a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead.”  Look at the most controversial of the baptism verses, Acts 2.37-39:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

What evidence does this give us that the baptism is for believers?  Because it says that the people were under convicttion from the Holy Spirit and were seeking to respond somehow (v.37).  So, Peter instructs them that, since they have been convicted (regenerated, no?) then they should repent of their sins and follow after the Lord in baptism.  The following after in baptism is done as a public testimony of faith, since it is something that a devout Jew (which reasonably we should assume these people were) would not be willing to participate in.  

Notice, that is all he says to them about baptism.  The next verse, which is where the Presbyterians go awry, deals with the promise of the Holy Spirit’s availability.  The Presbys interpret this as a promise of his actual gifting and how to receive it, that through baptism “[this] promise is [realized] . . . for your children.”  However, clearly, if nothing else, this neglects the remainder of v.39 about “all who are far off,” since we never see any hurry to baptize those people in the Presbyterian church, and so should immediately be rejected as the proper understanding of what Peter is saying. (Note: for comments on why this verse doesn’t teach baptismal regeneration, see my earlier words here.)

Next, we see that baptism is done in the full Trinitarian name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This is Jesus’ clear command on what to do in the Great Commission, particularly Matthew 28.19.

Then we get to the crux of why we do it.  I think this is so crucial.  It seems to me that some people in the Southern Baptist church cling to baptism so strongly simply because it is one of our distinctives and so is what sets us apart from the other denominations, specifically from Catholics and Presbyterians.  As a whole, this is a crumby reason to be sold out on believers baptism by immersion.  The true reason, the biblical reason, why our holding up the symbol of baptism in this way should always be because of what it signifies.  Believers baptism by immersion is not just some form of Baptist hazing ritual.  If we don’t take to heart why we are doing it then we are no better than anyone else who corrupts this act.  At the end of the day, performing the correct mode and method of baptism are honestly unimportant if the symbol is still obscured.

That said, what does the BF&M say is the symbol of our baptism?  It says that baptism symbolizes “the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.”  This can be easily justified in the biblical teachings on baptism found in Romans 6.3-5 and Colossians 2.12.

Finally, we see that baptism is a “prequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.”  This, as I have argued previously, is most clearly seen in the order of events for the first members into the church of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.  It says in Acts 2.41, “So those who [first] received his word were [then] baptized, and [afterwards] there were added that day about three thousand souls,” where we should understand that the “three thousand souls” were added to the initial body of 120 (Acts 1.15) to make up what was the church at that time.  In tomorrow’s post on the Lord’s Supper we shall see a practical controversy which is arising out of the statement that baptism “is prerequisite . . . to the Lord’s Supper.”


Resting from My Fears- An Encounter with Psalm 131

February 27, 2009

For today’s post I want to do something a little different.  The other night I was sitting in a Steak & Shake, waiting to go pick my daughter up from gymnastics, and I just felt led to read the Psalms.  Because I tend to always read the early ones, I started from Psalm 150 and went backwards.  So, I ate, and read, and journaled.  And then, I decided I would stop reading at Psalm 135, pay, and head out.  Yet, for some reason I keep going.  Psalm 134.  Psalm 133.  Psalm 132.  And finally, Psalm 131.  It is short, just 3 verses, but what it said was just really powerful to me.  It has been an up and down week.  Good news, bad news.  Back and forth.  Till finally, alone on a Thursday night, I am just worn out, kind of depressed, and thinking way too hard about things that I probably can’t deal with right now.  And I read Psalm 131 and it makes it all clear.  

So, I don’t want to commentate, don’t want to make any additional comments, I simply want you to read Psalm 131 and think about how it might apply to your life and the things that get you down, just as I did when God so providentially led me to it.

Psalm 131

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
     my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
     too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
     like a weaned child with its mother;
     like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
     from this time forth and forevermore.

Bitter Wine from the Well-Kept Vineyard- Analyzing Isaiah 5.1-7 in the Western Church

February 26, 2009

This week, according to the wonderful plans provided by LifeWay, I am supposed to be teaching Isaiah 5 to my Sunday School class.  This is an interesting passage, and when I read it for the first time that was just what I thought, “This is interesting,” but that was about it.  I did notice that it had the best verse against frat boys in it (v.22, “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink.”), but as far as something worthwhile for my class, initially I was at a loss.  However, as I kept reading, I decided to cut out all of the “Woes” directed at the men of Judah and focused in on vv.1-7.  Here’s what they say:

Let me sing for my beloved
     my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
     on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
     and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
     and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
     but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
     and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard,
     that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
     why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
     what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
     and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
     and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
     it shall not be pruned or hoed,
     and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
     that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
     is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
     are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
     but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness,
     but behold, an outcry!
(Isaiah 5.1-7)

As we read, this starts as a poem from Isaiah to his beloved, God, and then crosses over to be a poem from God to the “inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah.”  In it, both Isaiah and God lament a vineyard which had been prepared by the Lord, cleared of all debris and hindrances to growth, planted and cared for with full provision, and yet nonetheless the fruit of the vines is a bitter product, bringing judgment and destruction upon the vines.  In reading this, the one verse that really struck me was v.4,

What more was there to do for my vineyard,
     that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
     why did it yield wild grapes?

Here God is saying, what else could I have done?  What more could you have asked for?  What was lacking that the vines needed to produce good fruit? and yet they didn’t.  Has God been negligent?  Has God not provided what is necessary for his vines to grow up into healthy plants?  Surely not.  Then why do they fail?

I read this and the first thing that jumped out to me was how convictingly accurate this idea is when pressed against the situation of Western Christianity.  I particularly viewed it in light of myself and my own church, thinking how on Sunday morning we get up and head to padded chairs in a climate-controlled building with locks on the doors and coffee on the table, only to complain about how noisy it gets while we try and have Sunday School or how crowded our classes are or how cheesy the music is.  And then, when we go out from that place, we act as if we were never there to begin with and shed the “Jesus Freak” persona until the same time next week.  We pass the time between Sundays without living out our calling, without sharing our faith or living in a manner that is honorable around non-believers (1 Peter 2.11-12).  We chase after the desires of our hearts and claim “Christian liberty” for indulging in all the vices of the flesh which have controlled us since before we came under grace.  

And all the while, God is sitting back saying, “What more was there to do for my church, that I have not done in it?”  We have no need.  We are not under fear of persecution.  But somehow this makes no difference.  Though we lack not, we still seem to be producing wild grapes that make a bitter wine.  

I am just as guilty of this as all of us.  I could share my faith with anybody I want, anybody I see out in the day-to-day world I live in, without anything to fear but possibly rejection.  But I don’t.  I bide my time, saying, “That person seems busy, they don’t want a religious nut intruding on them,” “They’re probably already a Christian; look at that cross they’re wearing,” “I shouldn’t share with that person, I really don’t have time to get wrapped up in a big discussion.”  What is that?  Where does that come from?  There is no freer place in the world to share the gospel than in my context, the American South, and yet I balk at it all the time.  Why?

We are so unaware of what God has given us, or aware but unmoved by it, and in the end what it leads to is wasted fruit, grapes that are pleasing to no one, not worthy of being pressed into wine, only to be thrown out and trambled on the ground.  What will it take for this to convict us?  Will it fall short of the destruction brought upon Judah, or have we already gone too far?

Sheep Turned Back in Terror- My Biggest Fear in Sharing the Gospel

February 24, 2009

I think without a doubt that one of the most terrifying passages in the Bible for people in the church to read is Matthew 7.21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Surely, at some point, every one of us has heard that verse and paused to wonder if Jesus is saying this to me.  Now, we might pick right back up, think off to our experience of regeneration, rest on the hope of the Spirit testifying with our spirit that we truly are a son of God (Romans 8.16), and be calmed in this fear.  But their is fear there nonetheless, if just for a moment, afraid that I might be one of those turned back that day.

Beyond the personal extent, however, this is probably the most terrifying verse to me as a Bible teacher and one-day preacher of God’s Word.  I will admit it, my biggest fear in the ministry is that my preaching might give someone the false assurance of salvation.  I know that the Bible says that those who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3.1), and though I am not sure how this will be played out, it certainly must be true and worth saying.  Then, in light of this, I can’t help but feel that there will be strict judgment on holding those in a flock, encouraging them as brothers and sisters in Christ, and then finding out in the end that the profession they made was not real.  That even worse they may have felt it was real, been strengthened in that belief by my teaching, and then ultimately devastated when Christ declares he never knew them.  I do not want to be a part of that.  I do not want to add to someones false hope of salvation, and of that I am truly afraid.

Practically, to me, what does that mean?  It means that I want to avoid saying, teaching, doing things that people will respond to through human means without being transformed by the Spirit to truly follow after them.  In particular, it means that I find myself analyzing and critiquing every gospel presentation or call to repentance that I hear.  I know that it is wrong to come “with lofty speech or wisdom” to try and convince people, and that God’s Word will always accomplish it’s purposes (Isaiah 55.11), and for Pete’s sake, I’m a Calvinist so I know that nothing will come to pass that was not already foreordained by God, BUT I also know that Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12.9) and if I am not careful then my own tongue may be used to propagate his deceitfulness, so I want to watch what I say.

There are many phrases that do this for me, but one that specifically gets to me is asking people if they “have received the free gift of eternal life.”  Beyond the fact that this statement about “eternal life” doesn’t really make sense to most people, I feel like there is a gut reaction that says, “Of course I want that,” but it has nothing to do with the God of the Bible.  There is such a consumerist mindset among Americans today that they want everything that will be beneficial for them.  This means Christianity, but it also includes Buddhism, New Age mysticism, psychology, good luck charms, and just about anything else that is promoted as a positive towards living a “good life.”  Thus, many people will simply “accept” this.  Some may even become regulars at church, or even Sunday School leaders.  But, if there understanding of what’s transpired is that they have “accepted eternal life” then chances are they have not really believed.  Then, if I go in behind them and say things like, “1 John 5.13 says, ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life,’” and use that to assure my people that their “believing in Jesus” has truly given them that eternal life, without ever explaining that 1 John also says, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (3.10), then it seems all I am doing is adding to their lostness.

I guess to me, the point is  that I want to make sure people are fully aware of the condemnation that is on them when I speak the gospel.  Most people don’t really believe their sin is that bad, and unless that is made clear to them, I do not see how their response to God can be any more than a consumerist grab for more good karma.  As Mark Dever has said, the call from Christ is, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16.24), and this is not something that we should be naturally wanting to do.  If a persons first response to the gospel is an immediate visceral desire for it, then it is most likely that the gospel was either not preached or not understood or both.  Unless a person sees their own need for a savior, how can they truly accept Christ as it?

I know this probably makes me too scientific and too harsh on many well-meaning preachers of the Word, and I thank my wife for pointing out the times when I go too far off task in analyzing this stuff.  However, at the end of the day, I am still afraid of this.  I am still afraid that someone will go before Jesus at the judgment saying “Lord, Lord,” only to get turned away, and as they move towards an eternity away from the presence of God, they will think to themselves, Why did my teacher make me feel like I was safe?  I don’t want that and wish to always commit myself to the Spirit and the Word so that in my own fallen nature I will not cause it to happen.

Visitors Not Welcome?- Akin Responds Directly to Criticisms Over Driscoll

February 23, 2009

Today during chapel at Southeastern seminary, seminary president Dr. Danny Akin introduced the sermon passage of 1 Timothy 2.1-7 with the unusual disclaimer that if anyone had small children or would be easily offended by things of a sexual nature then they should consider not staying for his message.  That is interesting, seeing as how this passage deals with prayer for those in authority, God’s desire for salvation of all peoples, and the mediatorial work of Christ, but 25 minutes into it the reason became clear: Dr. Akin is addressing the criticisms he has received for inviting Mark Driscoll onto his campus two weeks ago for the 2009 collegiate conference.

Obviously, if you have been here you know what I’m talking about, but just to recap, the largest criticism being lobbed at Driscoll, and by consequence at Dr. Akin, is the one that says Mark Driscoll is a dirty man who uses dirty words trying to ramp up attendance by speaking all too casually about sex and sexual practices from the pulpit (see here and more comically here).

Before ever actually addressing the specific criticism, Danny Akin throws his support behind Driscoll foremost for his heart in ministry saying, “I commend him for wanting to pastor and guide and help his people.” From here, Akin then shares his own experiences in speaking about sex on the campus of a Christian undergraduate institution, where after his series of messages several female students confronted him about why he did not address issues of “masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex” during his talks.  Akin admitted his surprise, and later expressed his overall ignorance to this concern as several others made him aware of the prevalence of such questions among the younger generation.  Because of this, Dr. Akin makes the statement that, “I think it is ministerial malpractice not to talk about such issues. . . .  If the church and the ministers don’t address these issues for [their people] then who will and where will they get their information?”  Wrapping this all back around to Driscoll, Akin admits that it is his belief that, “”If you have a desire to see all people saved, you will first of all wisely contextualize your ministry.”

I know personally I was appreciative to see this response.  Dr. Akin is a stand-up guy, and to see him put his reputation among older, hardline Baptists on the table by confessing that if specific sexual practices are what’s being asked about then specific sexual practices are what need to be addressed was very exciting.  If todays brand of young Baptist leaders (who are truly conservative, despite some nay-sayers) are ever to gain acceptance among the old guard stalwarts of the SBC, we will have men of integrity and vision like Danny Akin to thank for bridging the gap.

If you would like to see his whole message, it may be accessed here.

Getting Fed by Digital Shepherds- A Few Podcast Recommendations for Your Enrichment

February 22, 2009

One of the things that I have benefited by most in my own spiritual growth is the blessing provide our generation of digital media.  In fact, a year and a half ago when I was going through a tough time with God, being in a new place with new challenges and no real Christian community to speak of, my journey back to good was ignited by a decision to add John Piper’s podcast to my iPod and listen to him preach during my daily commute.  Now I have a wide array of preachers and theologians that I subscribe to and devour at various times throughout the week.  Because this has been such a blessing on my life I thought I would share some of the podcasts that provide me with regular spiritual nourishment over my speakers and headphones:

(These are listed by the titles of the podcasts which you can look them up under, followed by the main teachers I listen to in them)

  • Desiring God Sermon Audio (John Piper); I have to start with this one as this is the one where my obsession with podcasted sermons began in the first place.  This podcast presents the weekly sermon from Piper’s church, Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, MN, as well as giving occasional special messages that Piper delivers at conferences or in seminars at The Bethlehem Institute.  Dr. Piper is currently on a several week writing hiatus, but when he returns he will be picking back up in the third chapter of the gospel according to John, a series he began back in September and looks to be going through over the next several years (yes, I said years).
  • Mars Hill Church: Mark Driscoll Audio (Mark Driscoll); Though Piper was my first, this is probably my favorite.  Each week I look forward to getting the 65-80 minute sermon that Pastor Mark has delivered at his pulpit in Seattle as it is always challenging and, from the viewpoint of someone who hopes to be planting in an urban context shortly, very instructive at the same time.  One nice thing about podcasts is that once you subscribe to them you usually have access to past episodes (sermons) that you may have missed but that have been archived for future listening.  When I first subscribed to Driscoll’s podcast there were about 100 archived sermons that I added as well (just click ‘GET ALL’).  Once I had listened to the current sermon I would go back to one of these archived sermons and take them in until the new sermon arrival the next week.  At this point I have listened to every archived Mars Hill sermon.  One past series I found particularly interesting was the exposition on the book of Nehemiah.  If you are thinking about planting or pastoring in a major city I would recommend you download and go through these messages.  Currently Driscoll is going through 1 and 2 Peter.
  • The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, NC, J.D. Greear Sermons (J.D. Greear)- After I heard his message on Romans 9 from the 2007 Building Bridges conference I knew I needed to subscribe to Pastor JD’s podcast and have been listening to it weekly ever since.  If you have not heard of him yet, JD is the pastor of a rapidly growing SBC/Acts 29 church in the bustling area of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle, which also conveniently is where Southeastern seminary is located.  I got to meet JD and attend his church a few weeks back and was even more impressed by their ministry in person than I had already been over the airwaves.  Right now JD is wrapping up a series on how their church can work together to reach the goals God has called them to over the next several years.
  • The Village Church- Sermon Audio (Matt Chandler); Matt Chandler is another SBC.Acts 29 pastor and is very similar in style to Mark Driscoll (though a little calmer) and JD Greear.  I am really big on Chandler right now following the message he delivered a few weeks ago at FBC Jax and am personally benefiting greatly from his messages right now.  He is certainly a guy, if not to listen to, at least to watch as time goes on.  Our generation is looking for a leader, a voice in the SBC, and Chandler (or JD Greear) may just be that person, and if not, they most surely will help inspire whoever will emerge to fill that role.  Chandler is about to start a sermon series on repentance.
  • 10th- Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) (Paul Tripp); This is the historic pulpit of Dr. James M. Boice in Philadelphia, PA, now headed by Dr. Philip Ryken.  Though it is no disrespect to Dr. Ryken, the reason I subscribe to this podcast is for the sermons it posts done by Paul Tripp.  Dr. Tripp delivers the evening message at 10th each week and is posted shortly after Dr. Ryken’s morning message.  I like Paul Tripp a lot.  He is very insightful, uses great illustrations, and for those of you who do not have the 50-75 minutes needed to listen to these other guys, Tripp is typically done in 25 minutes to half-an-hour.  Tripp just started a series on living a unified life as believers following the Lordship of Christ.
  • Living Grace on OnePlace.com (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones); This podcast is a little different than the others.  It is actually a radio-style broadcast in which old sermons by the late British pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones are cut into parts (usually two) and released each Sunday.  It is a little frustrating having to wait one or two weeks to listen to something new (I won’t just listen to half of a sermon at a time), but to hear the amazing voice and surprisingly relevant commentary of such a great preacher is well worth the hassle of piecing together a couple of episodes to get the whole sermon.  These releases do not seem to follow any particular order.
  • The Albert Mohler Program (Al Mohler); The final recommendation I will give is not actually sermons like the rest of them, but is instead a daily (on weekdays) radio program hosted by the president of Southern seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler.  There is probably not a more intelligent theologian alive today when it comes to connecting Christ to the culture (sorry Dr. Piper) and to get a daily view into what he finds important for Christians to be focusing on is quite a blessing.  Usually his show features an introductory 10 minutes of surveying all that is relevant and newsworthy to the Christian community from around the world, followed by 20-30 minutes of interview,  discussion, and call-in (the show airs live on radio) over some predetermined topic.  The best however is every Wednesdays when Dr. Mohler opens the airwaves for assorted random questions which people can call in, email, or even post onto Twitter or Facebook for him to answer.  This can sometimes be frustrating (like the never-ending calls about which version of the Bible is best or if using birth control is okay), but usually there are one or two worthwhile questions that I am interested to hear his response to.  This show is a must for anyone who lives at the intersection of Christian beliefs and the secular world (which should be all of us) and is worth listening to at least every Wednesday, if not everyday.

I hope these suggestions can help you find more resources to grow in your Christian walk.  Of course, I do not recommend any of this as a replacement for a local church that provides your primary needs and gives you a place to serve and grow in community with fellow believers.  This is simply meant to be a supplement to your own daily quiet time and weekly church attendance, a way to keep engaged with the things of God while driving to work, exercising, or browsing the internet.  The more time spent consuming the things of God, the less time you will have for indulging the lusts of the flesh, which is always a good thing.  Plus, it never hurts to see how people from around the country and world are speaking about God and in what ways God is showing up in their contexts.  Enjoy!

Much Activity in the Blogosphere- A Smattering of Interesting Posts for Southern Baptists

February 21, 2009

It looks like things have really hit an exciting time as it pertains to Southern Baptist life.  In the wake of the Driscoll/Chandler Experience a few weeks ago, and the ensuing Baptist Press smear job, many people are abuzz with insights and opinions on the future direction of our convention.  Posts are coming out trying to identify who we are and how we can cooperate between our different ages, tastes, and soteriologies.  As such, I would like to point you guys to a few that I have found most interesting:

  • The blog for Founders Ministries, an organization of dedicated Southern Baptists Calvinists, has an article up focusing on the two prevailing agendas for the future currently being pushed inside the SBC.  One view comes from the Baptist Identity movement seeking to emphasize Baptist distinctives and avoid the diluting of what it means to be a baptistic Christian.  The other view associates with the Great Commission Resurgence striving to build unity among strongly gospel-centered Christians in going out to bring the truth to the nations.  Founders president Tom Ascol offers his take on all this and where he stands on this as things go forward in his post “What will we be in the SBC?”
  • Baptist21 is beginning a new series by guest poster Dr. Steven A McKinion which is going to take a look at the next wave of descendants from the Conservative Resurgence and how they are shaping the future of our convention.  He identifies them as part of the under-40 group and offers up that they “should not [simply] be classified by [how they differ on] clothes or preaching style,” and instead offers a set of distinctives which characterize them and actually connect them more closely with the Conservative Resurgence than their “parent” generation.  This series starts with the post “Third Generation Conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention, Part 1” and will continue with the second and third parts later this week.

Please, if you are interested in the current happenings of the SBC and what direction this convention is going in the coming years, take the time to read these articles and see how the Spirit moves you on them.  It is my hope that we can see this convention continue on in the blessings that the Lord has so graciously given us thus far, but for that to happen there are many decisions about policy and vision that need to be made, and unless the younger generation wants to be shut out of this process we need to make our voices heard as the future of Southern Baptist thought.

The Sin of the 1950′s Mindset- Defining the Worldliness of Tradition

February 20, 2009

Every week there are a number of podcasts I listen to, most of which are sermons from various pastors in various churches around the nation from that previous week.  One of the pastors I listen to on a weekly basis is of course our good ol’ buddy Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill in Seattle.  This week his sermon was over 1 Peter 2.4-12 (an amazing passage, but I mean, it’s 1 Peter so it has to be) and was entitled “Trial: Temptation from Worldliness.”  I was excited to here this, not just because it was Driscoll and he is one of my favorite teachers, but because 1 Peter 2.9 is one of my favorite verses in the entire canon of Scripture and I couldn’t wait to here him cover it.

However, what he said about that verse was not what stuck with me most.  In fact, what he said that was most impactful to me was right at the beginning (about 7 minutes in) was as he was breaking down what we should view as ‘worldliness.’  Now, anyone who is familiar with Driscoll, or at least with what has been posted here about him in recent days (1 and 2), then they will know that one of the biggest criticisms of him, coming from people like John MacArthur in particular, is that he is too worldly.  In handling this, Driscoll defines ‘worldliness’ as follows: it is elevating culture over Scripture.  I really like this definition and I think it accurately gets to the heart of the matter.  Being in the world but not of the world can be navigated rightly by maintain the proper place of Scripture in your life.  Thus, to MacArthur and others who would criticize, I wonder how they would take that?  I wonder how they would approve of this definition and then further how they would argue that the ministry of Mars Hill, and Mark Driscoll in particular, fail to keep the Scripture-culture balance in the proper perspective?

But, if this would have been all he said I might not be writing this post.  Instead, he went on to argue that there are two basic ways of committing worldliness; one is to be progressive and one is to be traditional.  It is easy to define progressive worldliness.  We see it every day among our Christian friends (and probably ourselves if we’re honest) or in the mainline (liberal) Protestant churches.  It is where people see what the Bible says, see what the culture says, see that there is a contradiction, and choose to follow the culture.  This is straightforward and the most natural way to conceive of worldliness.

Traditional worldliness however is a bit harder.  What Driscoll says about this is that “Worldliness can also be acting like it’s 1950, because the 1950′s are not completely congruent with Scripture  as 2009 is not completely congruent with Scripture.”  He argues further that, though it “seems more sanctified,” arguments over the types of music that are acceptable, how you are to dress, and what books of the Bible are to be taught from the pulpit are all “1950′s traditional worldliness.  It is trying to take the world of the 1950′s and impose it on people.”  

This is certainly a perspective on worldliness I had never considered, but hearing his argument I am in total agreement.  Clearly this is addressing the issues both I have raised personally (1, 2, and 3) and I have reported on others raising (here), but somehow putting this label of ‘worldliness’ on it seems to give it more teeth.  I don’t want to say too much more on this now, but knowing that a number of the people reading this blog are Southern Baptists, many likely in a very traditional, tradition-based Southern Baptist congregation, I would ask you to chew on this for a while.  Do we, as conservative evangelicals, have a problem with elevating 1950′s culture and thought to a place where we are more concerned with being of the world than actually being in the world?

I Can’t Really Think of a Good Title Right Now- Thoughts on Authenticity in the Christian Living

February 19, 2009

I sin. Like, all the time. I probably will sin while writing this, either swearing at my big fingers for hitting three keys at once (I actually typed ‘art’ just then because I couldn’t get the ‘t’ alone) or by thinking something negative about a person who gets on my nerves and is motivating the words I am putting here. I really don’t want to sin . . . most the time. If I could go through the day without sinning I know it would be worth it. The closeness I feel with God in just going 15 minutes without committing a sin (or at least thinking I accomplished that) is amazing. Yet there I go again, saying that, doing this, thinking that, and my need for a Savior is once more exemplified.

I know this. It was no revelation for me to write that just then since, as David says, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51.3). Yet for some reason I try and hide this when I am around other people, especially when those people are Christians– which, if you think about it is the most ridiculous thing because they also know they are sinners and that I am a sinner, and still we suspend reality on this issue and simply assume we all are “already perfect” (see Philippians 3.12 for the truth). I deny my own sinfulness, or at least my continuing sinfulness, when I am around others because, well, it’s just not acceptable. Sin is something to be ashamed of, why would you talk about it? why would you acknowledge still doing it? The goal is to be holy as Christ is holy, and if you ever hope to make it there you have to act the part, which certainly means being found as far from sin as possible, right?

In Ed Stetzer’s new book Lost and Found he says that, “One hundred percent of churches interviewed, deemed effective at reaching young people by our criteria, hold authenticity as one of their highest values or has a commitment to being authentic” [p.197]. Authenticity? What? He defines “authentic” as “not false or copied; genuine; real.”

Putting this altogether what we find is that if our desire is to reach lost people, particularly young lost people, then we should focus our energies on being more genuine in our public lives. There isn’t really any form or mold to do this (since to do so seems like the antithesis of being authentic), but a few things you can ask yourself on the way to authenticity are: (1) Am I afraid to share my struggles? (2) Am I willing to tell stories that may make me appear weak or imperfect? (3) Am I saying/doing things out of pretense or as a gimmick? (4) Am I admitting the ways in which I need grace and a Savior? This is bound to be messy, but as Stetzer says, “if it is not messy, they question its authenticity” [p.198].

So then, what makes “being authentic” any different than some sort of church growth strategy? Well, what we see is that living an authentic life is not primarily about increasing the numbers of young adults you have in attendance Sunday morning at your church. This may or may not happen. No, the reason for living authentically is so that God can more easily use our lives to affect other people. What is it that keeps us from being authentic? Pride? Shame? A lack of true repentance? Whatever it is, it seems that the barriers to authenticity are not qualities which the Bible encourages in the lives of believers, and so taking the steps towards being more authentic is somewhat synonymous with the sanctification which should be taking place in our lives already.

Furthermore, as Paul David Tripp says in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. “The more we are honest about who we are, the more we are willing to stand alongside people and not above them, the more our lives will offer hope” [p.147]. We are called to be a light unto the world, with the features of a light including its comforting nature of shining through the darkness. Authenticity allows for our light to shine brighter, less hindered by the distractions around us, and thus comforting people more by illuminating better the hope that we have in Christ.

Authenticity is a goal that every Christian should strive towards. This is not just a generational thing; learning to be open and honest about our lives, our brokenness, and our need for a savior, is a pattern displayed for us clear back to Psalms and the way David pours out his life before the Lord. We are not called to stand as whitewashed tombs; we are called to be genuine people, humbly admitting that our only hope is in the wonderful mercies of a God who loved us so much that he sent his son to die for the sake of all who will believe.

Into his marvelous light we have been called. Let’s let that light shine on every part of our lives, so that people may see we are no different than them, apart from the saving and transforming power of the grace of God, and that this knowledge may provide them with the conviction leading to repentance for their own life. Amen.

What We Believe- Article VI and Regenerate Church Membership

February 18, 2009

One interesting note as it pertains to what the Baptist Faith & Message has to say about the church is on who it is in particular that qualifies to be a member of the local church. This seems obvious, right? Not quite. Let’s review what can possible be garnered from the text of the BF&M alone:

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

So, it looks like we get that the members must be “baptized believers” and that they are responsible to Christ as Lord.  Sounds good, right?  Well, what about where the New Testament talks about people obeying the teachings of the Apostles and the consequences for not doing so (2 Thessalonians 3.14-15)?  What about the admonitions to break fellowship with “baptized believers” who are sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, a drunk, or a partier (1 Corinthians 5.9-13)?  What about the call to not neglect meeting together for edification and encouragement (Hebrews 10.24-25)?  All these things, loosely what may be said to be the believers responsibility to the church, are simply left out of the article altogether.

As it stands, one could reasonably argue that the BF&M allows for people to be members in good standing of a church with no more than a quick dousing in the baptismal and a tacit acceptance that they really are trying to serve Christ as Lord, but the Bible itself seems to ask more.  Therefore, this past year a resolution on church membership, Regenerate Church Membership (RCM) to be exact, was offered and passed at the annual SBC meeting. The full text can be found here, but this is the gist of it: because of tradition and the clear call of the Scriptures, the SBC “urge[s] churches to maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ’s lordship for all members.”

The road to get this passed was long and well fought, and thankfully in the end this measure went through.  Unfortunately, given the nature of the SBC, as resolution like this does not have any real teeth as far as implementation, but the fact that the SBC is now on record as doctrinally calling for a regenerate body in the local church, it is just another nail against the easy believism, Free Grace theology which has prevailed among many congregations over the last quarter to half a century.  Thankfully the SBC, though late in addressing it, finally got around to calling for more responsibility in the church among the leadership for keeping tabs on who genuinely is among us that is among us.

As I said to my Men’s Bible study this morning, I fully believe that Scripture teaches it to be easier to be in good standing in heaven than it is to be in good standing in the local church.  This is the way it should be, since God can truly see the heart, but the only evidences men have is by seeing the fruit.  Some will argue that this is all the more reason for Free Grace and avoiding judgment, but I see no way in which that position can be made biblically tenable.

On paper this was a good step and to be applauded.  Now it is necessary to make sure it is put into practice widely enough to make a difference.