Revolutionary Christianity- Living the Revolutionary Lifestyle in Battle

May 23, 2009

“In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” “ – Nehemiah 4:10-14

 “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” “ – Matthew 2:13

“It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him” – Mark 14:1

I was listening to a sermon once that came across the above passage from Nehemiah and I thought that it portrayed a very strong message for those trying to live the lifestyle of revolutionary Christianity. There will be discouragement from within (“In Judah it was said . . .“), and there will be attacks from without (“And our enemies said . . .“), and in light of such we must be prepared, with swords and spears and bows if necessary, in order to protect our Christian faith and family.

I believe this is a point, seemingly obvious, but all too often glossed over by churches who are exceedingly timid to bear their own arms in the fight to preserve that which we believe in, love and cherish. There are too many churches who have adapted a policy of not being quarrelsome (2 Timothy 2:14,23-24), but instead of taking this stance in the proper context of not mincing words with false teachers who are arguing foolish things, they use it to be noncommittal and overtly passive to the fiery arrows which the world is all too ready to launch at us.

Instead, as Nehemiah shows, the revolutionary Christian must always be ready to take up arms and defend Christianity against the forces which want to see it dead. If Nehemiah had allowed passivity the church may have never been rebuilt in Jerusalem. In the same way, if we don’t stand ready for battle today, the attacks of popular culture and secular progressivism may leave the modern Christian landscape as desolate as that of Jerusalem before Nehemiah.

One point that we must always keep in mind, and I don’t think that I can ever do too much to emphasize this point, is that the battle we fight on Earth is one with two fronts: the front against the forces of the world and the front against the corruption of “Christians.” We can clearly see this portrayed in the life of Jesus, who had to flee as a baby from Israel because the non-Jewish king Herod the Great longed to kill him in order to save his kingdom, and who eventually was murdered as a result of the plot by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. We also see this in the passage we reflected on from Nehemiah: not only did Nehemiah have to protect from the enemies of God outside of the city but he also had to contend with the despair of God’s people in all of Judah.

This principle is of supreme importance to remember for the revolutionary Christian in America today. In a country where well over half of the population claim to be “born-again Christians”, or specifically in my age group 60%, it seems like this would not be a problem. It seems like with such a large fellowship of “believers” in America that we would all stand united together against the world and only have one battle front. However, the problem that we see is the extreme disconnect between people who claim to be “born-again” and those with a truly regenerated spirit. I don’t wish to pass judgement on anyone person, but I think we all may agree that “not everyone” in our country who says “‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21-23). As such, we come across plentiful resistance from “Christians” whose hearts are still stone (Ezekiel 36:26) and who are turned against the will of God (Matthew 12:50).

Therefore, as a revolutionary Christians we must be prepared for the battle. We must be daily putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), reading and studying our Bibles (“and take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”) , communing with our fellow revolutionaries (Hebrews 10:24-25), engaging the culture as Paul instructed (Corinthians 9:19-23) without being corrupted by that culture (Romans 12:2, 1 Peter 1:14). This is our fight and has been since the days of Jesus’ incarnation on Earth. We must be prepared to battle on two fronts, remembering always, as Nehemiah instructed, our Lord, who is great and awesome, whose glory is our rallying cry!

There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Corporate’- Recovering a Biblical View of Repentance for the Church

March 21, 2009

For this week’s Sunday School lesson I have been studying chapters 29 and 30 of the book of Isaiah.  In these passages we see various warnings and condemnations directed at the people of Israel.  I particularly found myself keying in on verses 12 through 14 of chapter 30:

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,”Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

The accusal of despising God’s instruction (cf. 30.9) through relying on “oppression and perverseness”  really hit me as a horrific charge, and the subsequent images of a pregnant, forbodeing wall crashing down and a dish being obliterated made this all the more moving.  If there is anything that Christians today major in it is trusting in oppression and perverseness in place of a right regard for the Word of God, and to be able to open a discussion of this on Sunday morning should certainly generate plenty of thought as to just how we are guilty of this.

However, as I continued working on the lesson, I knew that I wanted to wrap up with how we should respond.  Of course, the typical idea for response would be to present the gospel and present Christ as the eternal, unchanging savior who died once for all to pay for our sins– this is correct certainly.  But, thinking about the recent emphasis in my life on working through our issues in a true covenant community, I noticed something else about the charge: it is directed to “a rebellious people.”  This is not just the failing of one person, some ostracized screw up out of the people of God; this is an indictment of the whole nation.  Yet even that isn’t such a great revelation, as we know so much in the Old Testament, particularly the prophets, is an acknowledgment and warning over the failings of the whole people.  What really struck me was this: if the condemnation fell against the whole people, then how were they supposed to respond?  As individuals?  No.  They were supposed to correct it as a whole people as well!

The perfect picture of this would be the response of post-exilic Israel in Nehemiah 9.  Following a renewal of understanding in the law and of the transgressions which they had committed leading to their exile from Jerusalem, this is what Nehemiah says about their response:

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.  And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God. (Nehemiah 9.1-3)

These people stood, confronted with their sins, with the years of rebellion and following the ways of the world right before them, and corporately they rallied together, opened God’s Word, and confessed their sins.  As a people, they separated themselves from those outside the covenant and confessed together where they had gone wrong.

Likewise, why should we not join with the others in the church, all of us who have in one way or another despised what God has commanded, and be in repentance together?  Sure we have examples of personal sin and personal repentance (see David in 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51), and we are all responsible for our own individual sin (Ezekiel 18.20), but we also  frequently see the people repenting as a whole because they were all guilty of some sin that had crept into their collective,  accepted way of life.  So are we, so is the church.  We are all guilty.  We are all complicit in rebellion together.  Yet never do we call for corporate repentance for what we’ve done wrong.  

It is my belief that we will see a greater, quicker, and more lasting change in the church, in all of Christianity, if we were to learn how to do this.  How to not sit back every Sunday and pretend like we’ve got it all together.  Like we did not in some way despise God’s Word this week, did not rely on oppression and perverseness instead.  No, we just sit around and wait until someone is caught in “unacceptable” sins and then harass them into individual repentance; which only serves to make us more self-righteous and smug as we continue strolling down the road of rebellion ourselves.  We must confront the sins that we are all guilty of– self-sufficiency, pride, slander, materialism.  It’s all there, we know it is.  But every Sunday it is just the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

God charged the whole nation for their  sins, and it took the whole nation joining back together in recognition of their corporate failings to rightly repent and return the people to their God.  Can we embrace this idea as well?

Building the Walls of Self-Control- A Prayer on Proverbs 25.28

November 24, 2008

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” -Proverbs 25.28

Without self-control I am left at the whim of the advances of the enemy.  The lion which roams, seeking to devour (1 Peter 5.8), will have free access to the streets and homes of my mind and body.

To gain self-control one must be like Nehemiah coming to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  It begins with a strong commitment to God, not allowing compromise (Nehemiah 1.4-11).  It requires both a hand at work in the building and a hand devoted to wielding the sword (Nehemiah 4.15-23).  If all we have is the sword then we may tarry the invaders for a while, but eventually we will tire and they’ll overwhelm us.  If all we have is the trowel to build then we will try to work too quickly, constructing a hastily-made wall which will not hold up to the attacks it’s sure to encounter (Matthew 7.24-26).

God, without self-control I am no better than the lost man I once was.  My heart is enlightened to you, and for moments I may shine in obedience, but in due time I find my way back to living like the world around me (1 Peter 4.3).

Lord, give me victory over the flesh, rein-in my worldly desires (James 1.14-15), that I don’t bring shame to your glorious grace by persisting in evils which I know you have saved me out of (Romans 5.8).

Father, restrain me like a child.  Keep me from making the decisions which cause you pain (Romans 8.14-15).

By no means should I continue in sin so that grace may abound (Romans 6.1-2).  Let my walls always be in repair (Nehemiah 2.17).  Let me work on them unceasingly, with sword and with trowel, with diligence and with eyes set on you (Colossians 3.2).


Rebuilding the City- A Final Thought

September 24, 2008

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” -Esther 4.14

Though I may return to this idea later, I think I have said what I feel convicted to say for now about the necessity and process for rebuilding the church in America. However, after spending a number of posts going over how we can move towards returning the church to the place where Christ left it, there is one final thought that I would like to share, and this, breaking with the theme of the looking into the post-exilic books of Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, comes from the book of Esther.

The key verse from Esther, what so many people know, is Esther’s great declaration of submission in “If I perish, I perish” (4.16). Yet what I want to focus on is the words of Mordecai which led her to make this declaration. Mordecai, speaking as a devout Jew who was supremely concerned with the future of Israel, nevertheless knows that in the face of adversity, God will provide someone to save his people (“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place.”). In like manner I am coming to you guys fully aware that no matter what happens to the church in America, in the end God will raise up his people to deliverance.

That said, the second part of verse 14 is the challenge I meant to lay out here initially in quoting Nehemiah 2.17 (“Then I said to them,’You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’“), that being “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” If you are reading these words, please test where the Lord is directing you, where his call is on your heart, and if you feel him leading you to stand up among the church in America, among the body of believers that is beat down and derided in the culture, and call them back to Acts 5.13 status (“None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem“), then by all means do it.

There is no time to be fearful. As has become one of my most favorite verses of late, I call all of you to embrace Hebrews 13.13-14, “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” The church is waiting, crying out for people to lead it back to greatness in this culture, to being a city on a hill and a light unto the world. Join me and be those leaders!

Rebuilding the City- What We Are Building Towards

September 23, 2008

Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’” -Nehemiah 2.17

I have quoted numerous times already Nehemiah 2.17 which gives us the call to rebuild the city (church), but still I think we may ask the question of, Why should we do this?

Many people today are wont to look into Acts and say “What is the true New Testament church? Let’s return to that,” and more often than not this quest leads them into Acts 2.42-47, speaking of living “with all things in common.” Now, as much as I believe that this is the true design for the church, to me the more important aspect is what we see in Acts 5.13,

None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.

To me this is the goal that we should be striving for, that the people may still not be convicted of their sins and come to repentance, but it will not be because they didn’t have the body of believers executing the teachings of Christ correctly.

A common “reason” for avoiding Christianity these days is to say, “Well, I know a bunch of Christians and their Christianity hasn’t made them any better.” Of course, we can be assured that this argument barely touches the surface of why they really aren’t repenting from their sins, but it is hard to argue with the premise when we all know these same “Christians” for who their relationship with Christ does not appear to have made any difference in their life. Thus, if we were to return to the words of Acts 5.13, what I want to call “Acts 5.13 Status,” we would at the least be removing this excuse and thus causing people to be more directly confronted with their sins instead of being able to deflect their failings off onto others.

Is this going to be easy? Certainly not. But I think that reanalyzing the things I have already posted in this series will help put us on the right path. As I’ve said before, quoting Jesus of course, the church, the body of believers in our culture, is meant to be a light unto the world and a city on a hill (Matthew 5.14), and our work of rebuilding the city should be meant to direct us to this Acts 5.13 status; that in seeing us, though the world may not change, they will at least hold us in high-esteem and thus be glorifying God through us. That should be our goal.

Rebuilding the City- Drawing Lines in the Sand

September 20, 2008

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’ Then I replied to them, ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.’” -Nehemiah 2.19-20

These days it seems there are two things you can count on: one, everybody is going to claim to be spiritual in some sense of the word, and two, everyone will have a “justification” for what they do that comes from the Bible. Mark Driscoll illustrates this point when he talks about a group of potheads in Seattle saying that they all know two verses from the Bible: “I have given you every seed-bearing plant” (Genesis 1.29) and “Thou shalt not judge” (Matthew 7.1). Of course these aren’t legitimate excuses for breaking the law with the use of marijuana, but to most Americans this is a ground which they will not question, that being the ground of faith.

This senselessness creeps into our congregations as well. Look to the Methodist churches in California whose ministers are defying church rule and performing marriages for their gay communicants, making statements in defense of their actions such as “This is my flock. It’s a matter of integrity and a matter of what it is to be a pastoral ministry.” So, in order not to violate the consciences of these ministers the Methodist leaders of Southern California “recognized ‘the pastoral need and prophetic authority’ of clergy and congregations to make marriage available to all.”

Clearly this is a problem. When we have churches that begin changing their stances based on individuals consciences and personal opinions about what is hateful then we lose all notions of a church which is standing on the Word of God. I know I refer to this a lot, but Tim Keller’s quote from his book The Reason for God is so true here:

To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense?

Except, unlike in the quote where Keller is addressing people who avoid Christianity because it offends them, what we are finding instead is people who are “embracing” Christianity and yet declaring from the inside that it must change because it is offensive to them. How ridiculous is that?

It is my belief that the church, in order to build its walls strong once again, must take the approach of Nehemiah saying “Excuse me. You clearly don’t belong here. Please get out.” Yeah, it sounds harsh, but so do the words of Jesus in Matthew 7.21-23 when he says “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Guess what? It’s supposed to be harsh. We are not supposed to just put up with whatever in the church. This is repeated numerous times in not so many different ways throughout the Bible (Try 1 Corinthians 5.12-13 which says, “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? . . . ‘Purge the evil person from among you’“).

If we are to be serious about rebuilding the church, returning to the place where God’s presence is felt among us and where we are able to stand as a city on a hill and a light unto the world, then we must not be afraid to be harsh and hurt a few feelings. I certainly would much rather offend a fallen human here on earth than the only perfect God in heaven. The Methodist ministers in California are right, it’s about integrity. But that integrity is not the integrity of being PC in the world, it’s the integrity of standing under God’s Word in every action we take. And sometimes that’s not going to make everybody happy. And it’s not supposed to!

Rebuilding the City- Getting the City Involved

September 14, 2008

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. . . . ” -Nehemiah 3

When reading the book of Nehemiah one can’t help but notice the numerous insanely long lists of Jewish names. The first occurrence of this is in chapter 3 as Nehemiah runs off the various people who worked to rebuild the walls and where they positioned themselves at to do this work. It would be easy to just pass this off in the same way we may pass off other lists of names or genealogies that abound in the Old Testament, but instead I think that there is a point in it that we can find, namely that being the point that in order to rebuild the walls of the city it requires the participation of the whole congregation, each taking and constructing their own little piece.

Look at the language used in verse 5 of chapter 3: “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.” The people weren’t just embarking on a public work, they were performing an act of service to the Lord. In the same way we need to accentuate to our people how their involvement in the task of the church is a vital part of service to the Lord and a crucial piece of the wall that is being rebuilt.

I just recently finished reading Thom and Sam Rainer’s new book Essential Church? and the main point of the whole text is that in order for our church to put an end to the exceedingly high number of dropouts occurring when our members are 18- to 22-years old, it is important for us to make them see how church is essential to their life. And one of the ways in which they recommended making this stick is by giving these young people roles in the church. What could be better than putting the next generation of the church, the next generation of inhabitants of the city, in roles where they are working to rebuild the walls?

Another point we need to see is in verses 17 and 23: “After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. . . . After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house.” So many people are discouraged from serving in the church because they see it as the role of someone else to do. This is mainly because a lot of those people see service in the church as being service in a teaching capacity to which they do not feel called. Yet we need to show people how they can serve the church and work to rebuild the city walls by taking care of the area around them, that is, by putting to use whatever talents it is that the Lord has given them.

This may seem simplistic, but some of the most vital ministries which the church performs are ones that seem so benign, such as providing meals for young couples who just had a child or mentoring church members a stage of life behind you. All forms of hospitality and guidance should always be encouraged in our churches as they help to birth the genuine community which is so crucial for the church to actually perform its mission in the world.

At the same time, behind the scenes ministries such as technology assistance and facilities preparation are backbone operations which must be done to keep the church running smoothly and yet are often unnoticed by the average Christian searching for ways to serve. By illuminating these opportunities we can plug dozens more people into the service of the Lord and help shore up our abilities to rebuild the wall quickly and efficiently.

If we are truly going to rebuild the church it is going to take the participation of more than just a select, motivated, talented few. It will take the collective effort of all of God’s people serving in their own areas, putting in time to make sure that every corner and crevice of the wall is as strong as possible.

Rebuilding the City- Desiring Accountability

September 13, 2008

I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, ‘You are exacting interest, each from his brother.’ And I held a great assembly against them and said to them, ‘We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!’ They were silent and could not find a word to say. So I said, ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.’” -Nehemiah 5.6-11

The next step which I think must be taken in rebuilding the distinctive city of God in the church is that the leadership, and more generally the whole of the congregation, must move into a state of accountability to one another. We must be developing a culture in which believers can come together and speak strong words about the sin that they see creeping around in each others lives. Their needs to be a mindset in which we can count on our brothers and sisters in Christ to call us out when we are stepping into iniquity and to trust them enough to guide us out of spiritual darkness that we may not otherwise be able to see. This is the accountability that I’m speaking of and is the type of accountability that I think we see demonstrated in the above passage from Nehemiah.

Speak to most any person outside of the church today and one of the main charges they will bring against Christianity is that it is hypocritical and the believers are strikingly similar to the world around them. These people know we are called to be different. How and for what purpose may elude them, but they all seem to have gotten the memo that that’s the big picture. Thus, to see otherwise is a sign to them of a lack of sincerity or authenticity in belief and is a major turnoff to Christianity (Not that a lack of hypocrisy will win people over, but there is no point in doing more to discourage them). However, living lives which are accountable to the rest of the people in our church can make strides towards rectifying this situation. If there is a core of people inside the church who are holding each other accountable to living like the Bible and not the like the world then the criticisms of hypocrisy will start to ring hollow and the people making them will lose that as an argument for why they don’t need Christ and the church in their life, leading to conviction and hopefully more people won into the kingdom of God.

Of course, hypocrisy and evangelism shouldn’t be our only motivation for accountability. We should also be moved towards accountability because it is the clear calling of Scripture to us. In 1 Corinthians 5 we hear from Paul that the congregation is “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler” (v.11) and to “[p]urge the evil person from among [them]” (v.13). Also, in Galatians he instructs that “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (6.1). Accountability is the charge of the whole church, and the leadership particularly. If there is to be order among the body of Christ and if God’s people are to be growing in righteousness and maturity, then those who are in places of authority and prominence must be keeping account of one another so as to correct and avoid falling into asundry sorts of sins.

Sadly, instead of doing this what we find in most congregations is that those in leadership are only concerned with staying in leadership and so are not willing to opening up about their own sins or to step on toes by pointing out the sins of another. There develops a “go-with-the-flow” mentality in which everything is okay as long as nobody knows. Yet, once people do know, the affects of the lost trust and disappointment can tear whole congregations in two and deeply scar a relationship between the church and the community which it is trying to minister to. The absence of accountability is a deadly problem in many corners of Christianity in America.

So please, if you are seriously interested in seeing the church revitalized in our country, if you are interested in seeing the city of God being rebuilt among his people, pray for, move towards, and live out accountability among each other. We will not have a foot to stand on in changing the world with the message of the Gospel if the message of the Gospel hasn’t first clearly changed us.

Rebuilding the City- The Necessity of Biblical Preaching

September 12, 2008

(This is the third post in a series concerning what principles we can learn about rebuilding the church in America as seen through the books of Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. . . . They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” -Nehemiah 8.1-3, 8

It is my conviction that first and foremost, if the church is to be rebuilt among us, the primary concern for our people should be strong, expository, biblical preaching. And I mean that exactly as I said it, it should be the primary concern for our people. So many of us are want to put the onus for biblical teaching on the preacher and “his style,” but what is really needed is a culture which commands a faithful, thorough handling of the Word of God. As we see in Nehemiah 8, it was the people who “told Ezra . . . to bring the Book of the Law of Moses” to teach from. And moreover, it was the people who sat for 4 hours and listened as Ezra exposited from the text. The people desired strong preaching and they called forth a leader who would give it to them. We must share this desire if we are going to make a difference.

But, you may ask, Why is this type of preaching, namely exposition, so important? Well, as a first authority on this I want to refer you guys to Al Mohler’s new book He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World. Most of my understanding of the importance of expository preaching has its roots in what Dr. Mohler has taught and so I will defer to him as a superior authority on the topic. However, I will give an argument for why I believe this way.

Expository preaching, as defined in Dr. Mohler’s text, is

” . . . that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text.” (p.65)

In other words, expository preaching is preaching which starts with God’s Word and radiates out to everything else. By preaching in an expository manner the preacher is bound solely to what the Bible says. This is important, though a seemingly trivial requisite until one observes that most congregations in America treat the Bible as only one among a number of central texts, of which may include other religious tomes, man-made religious studies, or even popular fiction (such as the case with The Shack). The people need to be crying out to hear what God has to say about himself and not what things William P. Young has to say about God (or “Papa” as he calls her, eek!). If we aren’t getting God’s Word first from the pages of Scripture then chances are, given the proportion of wackos to devout teachers, we are getting it with a lot of man-made philosophy attached.

This also makes a difference because if one is bound to the text then they are bound to whatever situations it may bring up. And since I do not know of a book in the Bible which is made up of just four chapters on how to avoid road rage (for real, I sat through a sermon on this once) then we will be forced to face theological questions and commandments which may not necessarily appeal to our laissez-faire desires for spirituality. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of applications to be found in the Bible, but those should be a secondary concern of ours to the raw message of Scripture as we encounter it. This is the role of the radiating out. We start with the text and what they show us and then, once we have addressed what God is saying, we begin to search for applications of it to our lives. Unfortunately, there are too many people, including preachers, who have their own ideal of a God they would be willing to serve, and thus only thumb through the Bible looking for passages which they can bend to justify their desires. Correcting ourselves to a right position of Scripture in our views will make a visible change in how we worship.

A third wonderful consequence of expository preaching is that when you take what comes without running it through the filter of seeker-sensitivity you are put in a place where many false teachings of Scripture are confronted. This is what I believe the Spirit meant through Paul when he wrote Titus 1.9 speaking of pastors, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” As is even visible on the comment board here (see comments on “I Choose Hell- CS Lewis and God’s Role in Condemning”), people can construct almost any argument they want using out-of-context Scripture. But when keep within the lines of the larger, coherent message, these heresies and misconstruals are more readily shown in the light for what they really are.

If we want to see the city of God rebuilt and the church to regain its influence and reputation in the culture, we must begin at the level of desiring solid biblical teaching and preaching. As 2 Timothy 3.16 says, the whole Bible is “profitable” to us, and as such we should not neglect any of it.

Rebuilding the City- The Call of this Generation

September 9, 2008

Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’” -Nehemiah 2.17

The walls of the city are torn down and God’s people stand exposed. Fierce wolves and lions run in and out of their midst without hindrance. Fiery darts reign down on them without any protection and all the nations make sport of watching the city burn.

This was the state of Jerusalem in 430 B.C. in the time of Nehemiah. It is the state of the church in America today in 2008.

We have been crippled. The wall separating us from the world has been destroyed. Now evil runs to and fro, inside and out, polluting the body of Christ. This generation must work to rebuild. We must grab our tools and our swords and work to restore that which God has called us to defend. This is not a wall of protection from having to go out into the world, but a wall which sets us apart (for we are called a holy people, 1 Peter 2.9), repels the attacks of our enemy, and provides for us a name in the world which is above the derision and humiliation which the world casts on us now.

Leaders must emerge with a heart to do this work, and I will be one!