A major idea presented by Thomas Howard in “Evangelical Is Not Enough” is found on page 45. He sets the stage by noting the common occurrence of people in evangelical churches speaking of having received a blessing from a worship service, and concludes that these worshipers treated the church service as a “worship experience.” Continue reading
The hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion has me throwing up my hands in frustration.
Faced with graphic photos of dismembered babies, I’m not sure how the pro-abortion crowd can continue to Continue reading
It’s very easy for Christians to point the finger at slavery and say “what a horrible practice that was.” It’s easy to say because it’s one of the few things Christians can still say to the approving murmurs of pagan America.
It’s much less popular to point out that the Old Testament Law gives some uncomfortable regulations for slavery, even dubbing slaves the “property” of owners (Ex 21.21). Modern preachers generally get around this by arguing that regulating slavery does not mean condoning it, or something along those lines. “The Biblical vision was always for the abolition of slavery,” we’re told. Um, yes and no.
Our association of slavery with the horrors of the 19th century and before is what makes us have to downplay the OT laws about slavery. The last thing we want is Continue reading
The answer is “yes,” but first, let me sweep up a bunch of thoughts from reading Evangelical Is Not Enough and collect them in a pile. We’ll come back and pick out the diamonds from among the dust bunnies later.
Howard has correctly concluded that our worship is loaded with symbolism whether that’s our intent, or not. So, we might as well be intentional about the symbolism that we use. To this I have shouted “amen!” but added, Continue reading
What is baptism?
It is primarily an act of identification. It is primarily an act of identifying myself as a corpse. “Who — Douglas? You won’t see him no more.” Baptism declares that we have been crucified with Christ. Baptism declares that we are embracing what Christ demands of us: to hate our mother, father, wife, children, and our own life also.
The question of the ages, when it comes to infant baptism vs. believer’s baptism, is: do we issue the certificate of death before or after the event? Infant baptism looks forward in faith to the day when God will regenerate the heart of the Christian, and writes out the death certificate in advance. It recognizes the strange truth that a Christian is not always yet a Christian.
That Christian who isn’t yet a Christian was me for 25 years. There was never a time when I would have said, “I am not a Christian.” Those who have heard my story know facts that I hid for years: the heart of the old Douglas was weighed down with the guilt of sexual sins, ambition, conceit and envy. But I never would have said “I am not a Christian.” I belonged to the class of people spoken of in I John 1.6. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” The uncanny thing about that state is that you regard your sins as somehow being lesser evils than the exact same acts practiced by non-Christians, but can’t ever shake your feelings of guilt.
One day around Thanksgiving 2010, Christ pierced through my blindness and gave me faith to see who I really was, and the glories of who Christ is: the shepherd who seeks out all His lost sheep scattered on cloudy and gloomy days, and dies to give them life. At the moment that I understood Christ rightly, the scales fell off. I believe that moment was when the Holy Spirit transformed me into a new creature. Sin has still mastered me many times since then, but what has changed is my attitude toward God. Before, I regarded God merely academically — as someone to learn about, know things about, be able to argue in favor of. The idea of Christ being the lover of my soul was foreign.
Since then, the question of baptism has nagged at my mind. I had received Christian baptism at age 8 or 9. Was there a need to go through the rite of baptism once again?
I made it a question of paedo-baptism vs. credo-baptism. If paedo-baptism (the practice of baptizing infants) is Biblical, the baptism I’d received counted once and for all, and there was no need to receive the covenant sign again. So, my Pastor, Chadwick Haygood, and I studied a book on baptism. But I too readily saw both sides and still haven’t formed a solid conclusion on that matter.
Something else settled the question.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13.45
Christian, Christ is the pearl of great price. There is no coming to Christ half way. It’s never, “I’ve found the pearl of great price! Let’s see if I can drum up enough ready cash to buy it but still keep my 401k.” No. Christ must be followed with a sense of urgency to shout to the world “I will have no other lovers!”
The only way I can think of shouting that to the world is to be baptized.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” — I Cor 15.22
Jesus spoke of a great day coming when all the dead will rise. Some will rise to be eternally condemned, and some will rise to eternal life. (John 5.29)
To launch from St. Paul’s illustration, when you drop a seed in the ground, it will bloom into something far greater. A sliver-sized lettuce seed, so tiny that we lose it between our fingers, is resurrected as lettuce. Whatever dies and is planted in the ground will live again.
Sin is a sadistic serial killer. When Adam and Eve fell in the garden, they unleashed a deadly maniac who has added to its list of victims all humanity up until now. And, you’re next on the list, or very nearly next, and will likely suffer the sadistic torture of this monster many times before the relief of the final kill shot. Such is the power of sin.
The coming resurrection of the dead is God’s final victory over Satan’s attempts to warp the world through this malicious killer. Our story, so tragic now, is headed for a great stroke of comedy — turns out, death was pulling the wool over our eyes the whole time! We thought it to be permanent, but God said, “Not so fast.”
But God won the victory over death, and salvation for His children, in a shocking, unexpected way. For, if it had been expected, the rulers of the world “would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (I Cor 2.8)
God’s way to save His people from their sins and defeat death was to put the gloriously promising career of His beloved Son on a dead end road, literally. “He was cut off from the land of the living.” (Is. 53.8) The crucifixion of Christ declares that victory is only possible on a road that will most absolutely and with complete certainly kill you before you reach your destination. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12.25)
Brothers and sisters, we serve a powerful God who sometimes drops an unseen path from heaven to circle safely around a deadly foe. “To God the Lord belong escapes from death.” (Ps. 68.20) But if you want to see the power and wisdom of God on full throttle, look to Good Friday and the mangled, lifeless, bleeding corpse of the Son of God, cut off in the prime of His life. By human standards, senseless, a disaster of the highest magnitude. By God’s standards, wisdom.
Look upon Christ, believe that He is God, and be washed of your sins! But also consider that we too must walk as Christ walked (I Jn. 2.6) — down the path with the big “dead end” sign. Because Easter Sunday shows us what God does with dead ends. Alleluia!
When it comes to church history, denominations often form because a group of Christians correctly identifies a current error. Then, denominations fall into errors of their own because they are right by too much.
So, the Lutherans were right that salvation is really by faith alone, and they were right by too much to say that this grace is so great, even baptism bestowed on an infant imparts it. The Catholics are right that the church is the unifying factor which brings meaning to all of life, and too right in saying that the Roman church is that One Church. The Presbyterians are right in seeing all of redemptive history as forms and patterns, and too right in forcing passages that don’t work that way into those patterns and forms. The Bereans are right that the books of Revelation and Daniel can’t be reduced to a vague mash-up of symbols, but are too right in thinking that they can be reduced to a fortune-telling newsreel about events in the Middle East. The ecumenical mega churches are right in thinking that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of our differences, but too right in thinking that our differences are not essential enough to divide us. Mark-Driscoll-type-churches are right in thinking that the church is a place for hipsters and progressives, but too right in thinking that the church should be hip and progressive.
Although this is a mess, the mess of Christendom is a lovely mess – a mess that shows we have a real savior, who is actually purifying His bride, actually making her His crown, and actually her Lord.