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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Pierce Family Info...

If you have not heard about Elizabeth's condition, read here.

I just had a good phone call from Daniel and just want to convey some further information:
    1. The Surgery.
Daniel said surgery is scheduled for Monday, April 30th at 9am. The surgery should last from 4-5 hours. Elizabeth could possibly be bumped by another surgery if a more severe case came along. However, in all likelihood, she will be well into the road to recovery by this time next week.
    2. The Prognosis.
Doctors seem pretty confident that this glioma tumor can be removed successfully. While any procedure involving the brain can be tricky, they are pretty secure that there will be few, if any, complications. However, the doctors have also stated that this kind of tumor usually recurs in a much more aggressive way. They may not be able to treat it the next time it comes, probably years down the road.

However, the family is remaining hopeful and focused on the current situation. Praise God that He has allowed doctors to have skill and technology to treat this condition this time. He is the Great Physician Who does not need the help of doctors. He can certainly cure Elizabeth's condition of His own choosing. Likewise, He could continue to bless doctors and technology in ways that allows medicine to do things they thought impossible a few years from now. (We've seen this happen in our church before.) The family also sees this as a sober reminder that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
    3. The Encouragement
Many in our church participated in an encouragment box sent April 16th. With the surgery being moved to Durham, the box did not catch up with the family until yesterday. However, Daniel stated that the timing could not have been more perfect. The box came just at a time when the family could use the boost and he said it was a tremendous encouragement!

Please continue to keep the family in your prayers and praise God for the comfort He has been providing.

Embracing Lordship

Churches (and individual believers) are often tempted to run on one of two tracks. Paul's answer to legalism and antinomianism is to see the Lordship of Christ. He tells us to look up toward Christ seated at the right hand of God. But Christ's Lordship is not an ambiguous picture, for Paul presents lordship in the word translated "raised up". Paul paints this picture in both the definition and in its parsing.

Of Person and Number

We are not playing a mere word game here. It is important for us to see the power that is in the very words used by Paul. For we know these words are inspired; God superintended every word...down to the voice, person and number.

Paul places "sunegerio" in the 2nd person plural. ntgreek.org states:
There are three main classes of grammatical person in both English and Greek. Person indicates the form of the verb (and also pronouns) which refer to:
1) the person(s) speaking (First Person)
2) the person(s) being spoken to (Second Person) and
3) the person(s) being spoken of or about (Third Person).
As for number, it states:
The concept of grammatical number is quite straightforward in both English and Koine Greek. It is the property of a verb (and nouns and pronouns also) which indicates whether the reference is to one (singular) or to more than one (plural).
2nd Person means Paul was saying "you." Plural means we have to understand he is speaking to more than one person. This is basic stuff. We learn these things in elementary school. Our question then is not to determine the person or number, but knowing these, our question then becomes, "To whom is Paul speaking?"

Of course, Colossians 1:2 clearly states:
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
It would be accurate to say that Paul was writing to the church in Colossae, provided we keep in mind that doesn't necessarily mean every person who meets in their fellowship. Just attending or calling oneself a part of the fellowship is not of concern to Paul. He is writing to the saints and faithful brethren. This is further attested in Colossians 3:1. The first word in the sentance is ει. "Ei" can be accurately translated "if." (Forget the fact that the NIV translates it "since." Nearly every other reputable English translation chooses "if." Seriously, go buy a NASB if you don't own one.)

Paul is only addressing the regenerate. Even in his tone, he is reminding each person to examine yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you have been raised with Christ, you are to focus on Him, seated at the right hand of God. This can not be effectual for the nonbeliever, for every action is either legalism (attaining "his own righteousness" through adherence to law) or antinomianism (denying the rule of God in action and thought). Only those--through the divine work of God the Father, Christ the Savior and the Holy Spirit--who have been raised to life are capable of setting their minds on things above. Those who have not been given life may hear the reading of Paul's letter in public, but they are not Paul's intended audience.

Certainly it is difficult to tell the wheat from the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). There are some nonbelievers who will declare Christ as Lord and some who will do some pretty miraculous deeds (Matthew 7:21-23). Clearly, false teachers masquerade as genuine believers (Acts 20:30) and can only be spotted by the fact that they diverge (1 John 2:19). How much more difficult to discern the heart condition of the person outside of public inspection, say the person cleaning the nursery? In fact, we must acknowledge that we can't see the heart, only God can (1 Samuel 16:7). Churches will have false converts in them, there is no way for us to prevent this. However, there is at least one primary litmus test:

Do they even proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as Lord?

It is not a problem of whether the question is asked. Most pastors I know regularly urge people to make this proclamation. It is certainly not a problem of zeal, for what thrill is greater than seeing a person come to the place of acknowledging Christ as Lord. Yet, it is a problem of practice. Could anyone visiting the church be able to tell the professing believer from the professing nonbeliever?

We've been told that treating the believer and nonbeliever differently is not a good strategy. We should immediately incorporate visitors into positions within the church. Give them a job to do, for they'll stay if they take ownership. Get them plugged into ministry and perhaps that ministry will even be the tool that leads them to Christ. Do you like kids? Come work with ours! Can you keep a beat? Join our band! Like people? Become a "greeter" at our church. We should bring them right into the "community" and make them as comfortable as possible. Perhaps, over time, without noticing, they'll become convinced of the gospel.

But they are not part of the "community" and Paul has no problem reminding us.

You (the saints and faithful brethren) have been raised up with Christ...

Put a dead person in close proximity to living people and only one thing happens. The dead person does not absorb life, but the living absorb the stinch of death. The church is desperately looking for new and fresh ways to regain our evangelistic power, yet our light is getting dimmer and dimmer. The world is not looking more and more like us, we are looking more and more like the world. This is why I can not comprehend allowing nonbelievers to "minister" to the Body through video interviews, traveling choir concerts, special music presentations or even picking up the trash. They have no light.

I've heard the "seeker-sensitive" arguments. I've heard very passionate speeches (corporate and personal) exhorting me to get on the program. I was told once by a man I believe genuinely cares about me (yet has never been to my church nor heard me preach) that "unless [my] church becomes more seeker sensitive, it will not survive." I've heard the sermons (and read a few books) that claim "seeker sensitive" is just the modern day application of 1 Corinthians 14:23-24. (That argument is a gross misrepresentation of the text, let alone it requires one to ignore that verse 26 says all things are done for "edification," a verb reserved for the believers. Perhaps I'll write on this at Perspicuous Perspectives soon.)

Typically, when having this conversation it proves unfortunate, yet necessary, that one has to offer the following provisos:
    Our church cares about the lost.
    Our church desires to reach the lost. (And God has been gracious to allow us to do so.)
    Our church speaks and acts in a way that is mindful that lost people are in our presence.
    Our church wants a nonbeliever to know they are welcome in our presence, but we do not want them to be comfortable. (I'm not sure we even want our believers to be comfortable.)
I am not calling for a nonbeliever to be treated with hostility or contempt. To be anything but loving, caring, honest and truthful would be to sin. However, I believe it is imperative that we distinguish the professing believer from the professing nonbeliever for the sake of:
    1. The mature believer.
Their ability to evangelize is greatly confused when they don't know if the person serving with them knows Christ or not. Should he link arms to join in spiritual battle with the man beside him, or is the man next to him held captive by the enemy?
    2. The immature believer.
The immature believer can be stagnated by what they see. They are surrounded by people ministering that may or may not bear the marks of discipleship. Should we be suprised that they continue to languish.
    3. The unbelieving servant.
Our hearts are bent toward self-righteousness. How scary to let a professed nonbeliever pick up a broom and start cleaning. Is it possible that they will believe their service is earning them favor before God (despite our protests)? Is it possible others in the church will be confused by their service (assuming it to be a sign of discipleship) and give them unmerited words of affirmation? Could the church unwittingly be contributing to the veil over their eyes?
    4. The visitor
What of the person who walks in the door and spots a known nonbeliever serving? Is he going to think, "Oh, a fellow seeker, I bet they are letting him serve so that he eventually becomes one of them," or is he naturally going to think, "Huh, I didn't think that guy was a Christian, but he must be one of them."

If we believe it is necessary for a person to declare Christ as Lord, then presenting Him in His Lordship is the only "seeker friendly" thing to do. Paul did not hesitate to remind that his words only applied to the believer. This would serve as a stern warning to any listening who did not know Christ. To seek the things above, they must first be "raised up with Christ." Paul is not speaking to a club or a group. He is speaking to the Bride of Christ.

Paul calls the church in Colossae to keep their focus on Jesus Christ, their Lord. There ability to see Christ as Lord begins (and remains rooted) at their understanding of their gospel conversion. He very carefully chooses the word "sunegerio" to make his point. It reminds the reader that he is raised from death in sin to life in Christ. The passive voice reminds him that this work was divine. It was not his doing, but rather, it was done to him. The person and number reminds him that Paul is only speaking to those who have been converted. All this from just one inspired word.

But "sunegerio" says even more than that...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Elizabeth Pierce Update...

Elizabeth is the daughter-in-law of Daniel Pierce (founding pastor and current outreach pastor of our church).

It was discovered last week that Elizabeth has a brain tumor (glioma) in her frontal lobe. Doctors tell the family this is the easiest place for a tumor to be removed. The family has decided to seek treatment at Duke University. Elizabeth and family are now at Duke and have met with the doctor twice. Daniel shared that the doctor made them feel quite hopeful and encouraged about the operation. Surgery will be performed April 30th. Elizabeth will then need a couple of days of recovery in the hospital after the procedure.

Daniel said they are encouraged with the decision because:
    1. Duke has more experience in Elizabeth's condition than the Atlanta hospital (though the Atlanta facility appeared to be top notch as well).
    2. Teressa's family lives in the Durham area, making family support even more possible.
    [3. Daniel may not agree, but Duke has the best basketball program in the country.]

This news comes just a couple weeks after Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, William Anderson Pierce.

Please pray for the Dan (Daniel's son), Elizabeth, William, Daniel, Teressa and the rest of the family involved.

Plan A

While discussing the Daughters of Zelophehad this Sunday, we explored the concept that God does not have a "Plan B." He ordained for Zelophehad to only have daughters, yet permitted their inheritance.

Perhaps it was a bit of a heavy leap, but we then took a look at Romans 11 to see that God's plan in salvation was not an issue of Plan A (Israel) and Plan B (Gentiles). My desire was that if we see God's eternal purposes working in the large scale issue of salvation, then we would certainly be able to see it at work in smaller issues, such as land inheritance.

God's purposes for His People is not something I've spoken on a lot of. Therefore, as I straightened my desk up for a counseling appointment this morning, I found it interesting that the following quotes from Shepherds' Conference fell out of a stack:
Papias (60-135 AD) who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he moreover asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions...Amongst these he says there will be a millenniaum after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.--Eusebius (275-339 AD)
But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.--Justin Martyr (100-165 AD)
Therefore peace being made, and every evil supressed, that righteous King and Conqueror will institute a great judgment on the earth respecting the living and the dead, and will deliver all the nations into subjection to the righteous who are alive, and will raised the righteous dead to eternal life, and will Himself reign with them on the earth, and will build the holy city, and this kingdom of the righteous shall be for a thousand years.--Lactantius (240-320 AD)
Philips Schaff (1819-1893) summarizes this way:
The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertulian, Methodius, and Lactantius.
While meeting with a couple of brothers this week, I was reminded of my grand inadequacy regarding eschatology. However, I was also reminded of why it is important. He has written out the ending. He has called us to serve Him. We have the privilege of being part of His "Plan A."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Voice of Lordship

Paul encourages the reader to keep seeking things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. But he has not called them to action without explanation. Paul presents Christ as Lord when he presents our salvation. We have been raised up with Christ. Paul speaks of "sunegerio" in close proximity to transgressions and death. We should speak the gospel the same way.

But Paul did not just give us a vocabulary clue. His voice presents Lordship.

It should be obvious to us that our resurrection from the dead is not an active event. We do not raise ourselves, nor is a dead person capable. Dead people cannot act on their own accord. Just understanding "raised up" should be enough for us to see ourselves as helpless in conversion. We have been raised up with Christ.

But just incase we missed the point, Paul presents the verb "sunegerio" in the passive voice. ntgreek.org explains:
Grammatical voice indicates whether the subject is the performer of the action of the verb (active voice), or the subject is the recipient of the action (passive voice). If the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, then the verb is referred to as being in the passive voice.
If Paul places our being raised up in the passive voice, then Paul is directing that the action was done to us. We did not make it happen. We did not even participate in the event. We were lifeless and Christ raised us.

We cannot expect a person to submit to Christ's Lordship if they have not been called to it. Calling a person to His Lordship begins at conversion. If our gospel does not confront a person with their sin and spiritual death, we are not presenting Christ in His full glory. However, we may not merely diminish Christ's Lordship with watered-down gospel content, we can do it with our voice as well. As with most things, it's not just what we say, but how we say it.

It may be tempting to shrug off such a thing. Shouldn't we just be pleased that the gospel is being preached? Certainly, Christ is honored with gospel preaching, even when the preacher's motives are not pure (Philippians 1:18). How much more, believing our men have the purest of motives, should we care about our voice and our content? We should all be willing to have these conversations and re-evalute what we have come to know as regular methods.

When we do not speak to men as being dead, we open the door to denying His Lordship. It then becomes easier for us to take an active role in conversion.
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.--1 Corinthians 3:7
The evangelist must be careful to communicate his role accurately. None of us have ever saved a soul. Conversion is not an issue of societal, economic, political, racial or even generational barriers being torn down. Scripture declares it is simply a spiritual battle. Every man stands before God incapable of understanding the gopsel without God illumining the heart (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Certainly, we do not desire to put any stumbling block before people. People will stumble over the cross (1 Corithians 1:23). I would still stumble over the cross had Christ not turned my heart toward Him. We must declare with our lips that He alone is the One who raises us up to life. We do not participate in our own salvation, nor do we participate in the regeneration of another person.

We may articulate that with our lips, but find our actions are contrary. This can be done when we:
    1. Fail to celebrate gospel proclamation if conversion has not occurred.
    2. Ask, "But does it work?" when someone describes a Biblical evangelism model.
    3. Speak of our "saving someone"
    4. Claim that it is up to us to find the "God-shaped whole in every heart."
    5. Speak of moral people as closer to being saved than others.
    6. Emphasize fabricated words like "pre-evangelism" and "pre-Christian."
    7. Depend on business marketing techniques to make God famous.
    8. Believe that the nonbeliever simply being around believers for an extended period of time will eventually open them up to the gospel.

"The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know."--Mark 4:26-27
I do not make Christ Lord; He already is. I do not save myself; He does all the work. I do not save anyone else; He does the work of regeneration.

I was dead when I was raised up with Christ. The definition of "sunegerio" reminds us of this. The voice of the verb reinforces this.

But we're not done seeing how Paul points us toward Christ as Lord...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Defining Lordship

As I've stated earlier, συνηγερθητε can open our eyes to Lordship. We should not approach "you-have-been-raised-up" lightly, for Paul is the only one who used this term in the New Testament. Even then, he only used it three times total (including this passage). We will understand His Lordship better, if we delve deeply into this term.

So let's take a look at "sunegeiro."


LXX is the abreviation for the Septuagint. (LXX is the roman numeral for 70.) This comes from the exaggerated story that 72 scribes translated the Old Testament into Greek in 70 days. The most extreme legend states that at at the commission of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, these 72 scribes each created identical translations while working separately. Such mythical stories caused some to see the translation as divine. It was the original "Authorized Version."

While we acknowledge it is merely a translation, and the LXX is not "God-breathed," there still is much that can be gained from observing this text. We can learn what Greek words the scribes considered similar to the original Hebrew, thus helping us better understand the Greek word its context. Paul would have been privy to this translation, therefore he would also understand the history of the words he used. There are three places we see "sunegeiro" (or a derivative):

Exodus 23:5--If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying {helpless} under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release {it} with him. (emphasis added) The LXX renders "sunegeiro" as lifting a completely incapable animal up. Your enemy's donkey has fallen under a load. The owner cannot lift it on his own. Therefore, you are to "sunegerio" it with him.

Isaiah 14:9--Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. (emphasis added). In this taunt from Israel, Babylon joins the ranks of kings who once ruled Israel, only for God to lay them low. Sheol will "sunegeiro" the dead leaders of the earth to welcome Babylon into their fold.

4 Maccabees 2:14--Do not consider it paradoxical when reason, through the law, can prevail even over enmity. The fruit trees of the enemy are not cut down, but one preserves the property of enemies from the destroyers and helps raise up what has fallen. Similarly to Exodus 23:5, this passage speaks of treating enemies well. One helps "sunegerio" that which has fallen at the hands of his/her enemy's destroyers.

From the LXX, "sunegerio" denotes lifting up that which is helpless, destroyed or even dead. No one "raises up" one's own self, for the term is used to assist that which can't rise up alone.

New Testament

"Sunegerio" only shows up three times in the New Testament, each time at the pen of Paul. Let's examine the other two times to see if they shed light on Colossians 3:1:

Ephesians 2:4-7--But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (emphasis added). Paul says that we were dead in our transgressions when God made us alive together with Christ! He raised us up with Him to be seated with Him in the heavenly places. This will be fully realized in eternity future, though we experience being raised to life even today.

Colossians 2:12--having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (emphasis added). Like Romans 6, Paul lays out that our baptism is a picture of our faith. We have been buried with Him, and raised to life with Him. This picture is clear in that Paul uses one of the roots of this compound word when he says "raised Him from the dead" at the conclusion of the verse. In fact, the next verse give tremendous insight:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

The other two times that Paul uses "sunegerio" it refers to resurrection from the dead. What could possibly be a more helpless state than being completely dead, dependant upon God to give you life. And when He raised Christ, He raised us up with Him!


Therefore, we find ourselves at Colossians 3:1, being told we have been "sunegerio" with Christ. According to the context of the passage, and the usage of this term, it must be understood that we have been raised to life with the resurrection of Christ. Since we were dead in our sins, God then raised us up with the resurrection of Christ.

It cannot be overstated that Paul uses "sunegerio" in close proximity to trangressions. Paul is not merely speaking to a resurrection from the dead that is coming for believer's some day. Paul speaks that this resurrection is from being dead spiritually, for we were lifeless in sin.

So what does this have to do with Lordship?

Today, people usually mean something different when they speak of being raised up with Christ. No longer is it that a corpse has been given life, but instead, it simply means Christ has given them a boost. We preach a gospel that won't damage the self-esteem. Being "raised up" simply means that your life is improved.

Christ is presented as giving you possibilities.
Christ is presented as offering you your best life, now!
Christ is presented as bringing purpose to your life.

(And now I've just upset some.)

I am not arguing that these men deny the wages of sin is death. At least with one of them, I do not believe that is the case at all. This is not an argument of the motive or faith of these individuals. It is an examination of their message.

And I'm not even going to argue that their statements are wrong, for Christ can grant each of these things (though I honestly do not even know what Schuller's means). These things are not contrary to Christ being Mighty, for you must have power to provide these things. With some clarification, they may be accurate statements. However, the question must be asked:

Do these statements present the unbeliever as dead?

Adam was just a lump of clay until God breathed the breath of life into him (Genesis 2:7)!

Ezekiel just preaching at skeletons until they received the breath of life (Ezekiel 37:1-14)!

Christ's voice brought dead Lazarus back to life (John 11:43)!

Christ the Improver of Life or Christ the Author of Life?

A felt needs gospel message will not present Christ as Lord, but simply as Life Coach. A gospel that is not centered on our sin and deserved death is void of power. Paul was not telling us that Christ offers to "raise us to the next level." Paul is telling us that Christ raises sinful men from death into life.

How can we expect our people to avoid legalism and antinomianism if they do not see Christ as Lord? We can tell ourselves that we will present the Lordship of Christ to them later, but we must ask, "How can we expect them to see Christ as Lord if they were not brought to Christ as Lord?"

We must preach that man is dead in his sin, for being "raised up" is about a resurrection from the dead!

But that's not all that συνηγερθητε says...

Monday, April 16, 2007

In a Word, Lordship

I've stated previously that Paul is directing our eyes toward the Lordship of Christ. By seeing Christ as Lord, the believer is protected from legalism and antinomianism.

So there you have it. See Christ as Lord and you (and your church) will avoid self-righteous rules and lawlessness.

[Series over.]

Well, not quite.

Just declaring Christ as Lord is not enough (Luke 6:46). There are plenty who claim Christ's Lordship and have no problem speaking of it, but that does not mean they accept it. Their actions must match their words. Yet, doing good works does not declare Christ as Lord, either (Matthew 7:21-23). Their words and actions may both declare Him as Lord, but their heart may be far from Him.

This does not mean we are freed from considering our words and actions. On the contrary, we must consider our words and our actions as evidence of something deeper; our thoughts and motivations. But can we trust our own self assessment? Certainly not (Jeremiah 17:9)! So how can we search our motives?
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.--Hebrews 4:12 (emphasis mine)
Clearly, if we are looking to honor Christ's Lordship, the Word of God provides the best direction. Paul tells us to set our minds on Christ, seated at the right hand of God. But how do we direct our minds toward Him? How are we sure we are honoring His Lordship?

The Lordship of Christ is woven into every page of Scripture; there isn't a verse that would deny it. But it would be great if Paul would give us an answer, even within the context of this passage. And, like usual, Paul does just that. He doesn't just tell us to see Christ as Lord, he helps us begin the process to understanding this truth. It's so simple, he lays it out in one word:


Well, one word in the Greek, that is. It takes five to say it in English (you-have-been-raised-up).

And it's going to take us a few post to unpack it...

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Quick Layover

After ten posts in one month about the emerging/emergent church, you may have been a bit surprised to see me change focus. When I invited their party to detrain (though they are welcome to stay aboard for the conversation), it may have seemed a little abrupt. It may be wise to explain why I began punching other tickets.

I'm not sure I believe in post-modernism.

Like an atheist who claims not to believe in God, you're probably thinking, It doesn't matter what you think, Danny. Facts are facts. Of course, you'd be right. Allow me to explain. Let's pretend the Lord tarries another 500 years (but pray He doesn't). Will the people 500 years from today really recognize postmodernism as seperate from modernism? Of course! you scoff, I can't believe Danny can't see the difference!

But consider the following:
    Some claim postmodernism is dead.
Books have been produced and theorists speculate that 9/11 killed postmodernism. Perhaps they are right, or perhaps not. Either way, it shows that postmodernism may already be off its moorings a bit. If so, and the movement only lasted a couple of generations, do you really think it will be considered a completely different era?
    It's reaction based.
Ever wonder why modernity wasn't called "post-dark ages?" Specific inventions, philosophy and discoveries played into the development of modernism. Sure, it responded to some things in the era before it, but largely it developed as a unique movement.
    It should probably be called "plus-modernism"
Since it is a reaction, many times they just took the modernist philosphy to the next level. It is truly a misnomer to consider postmodernism the antithesis of modernism. Postmodernism is really like modernism's little brother. They look pretty similar, its just that postmodernism is a little more extreme. (Please don't read that as me saying one is better than the other. They could be the rough bully brothers around the block, for all I care. I merely call modernism the bigger brother because it came first...hence the names.)
    I'm not sure I buy modernism either.
That's just my way of saying, I think when we label eras, we sometimes get ourselves in trouble. Back in Jesus' time, there were wonderfully postmodern statements and also postmodern thinking floating around. There really is nothing new under the sun. We may speak differently or emphasize a different point, but each era is a group of people rebelling against God and trying to excuse themselves.

And though these men probably wouldn't sign onto this post, David Wells, Os Guinness and Phil Johnson (to name three), all agree that postmodernism has more in common with modernity than most recognize.

Labyrinths, lectio divina, centering prayer, yoga and icons. Do those things bother me? To varying degress, yes. But these are just outworkings of another list that bothers me:

Undermining of: substitutionary atonement, heaven, hell, eschatology, the Kingdom future, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, progressive sanctification, transformational separatism, propositional truth, sufficiency of Scripture, perspicuity of Scripture, necessity of Scripture, inspiration of Scripture, limitations to general revelation...and on and on. (If you have ECM sympathies, relax, I am not saying every EC has these characteristics. But these trends do come up in some ECM discussions. Don't forget, I'm letting you off the hook.)

Here's why the ECM was given a pass from here on out.

If there are concerning practices that trouble us, they are probably born out of troubling philosophy. And since modernity and postmodernity are quite similar (in my opinion), their troubling philosophy may actually be shared.

Some of the current extreme trends in the ECM do look quite a bit like a train wreck. But we don't learn anything from just staring at the wreckage, we've got to examine where the train got off the tracks.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Train of Thought

As I've stated before, I came to Colossians 3 for the wrong reason. Originally, I wanted to share that the common ECM neglect of teaching on heaven and hell can have negative consequences on every day life. We are encouraged to consider eternity.
Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Above could be considered a reference to heaven; certainly Christ's presence there supports this. The contrast with "earth" in verse two also lends one to think that Paul is calling us to think "heavenly thoughts." Though the passage wouldn't make the point as well as other passages, the heaven reference seemed to allow this passage to be usable. Except one phrase kept screaming out at me:

Where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Paul was not merely telling the Colossians to think about heaven, in fact, he wasn't telling them to focus on heaven at all. He was telling them to think of heaven because Christ is there. And not only is he there, but He is seated at the throne of God. Paul says that this is the answer to our problems with legalism. We will avoid legalism, not by overreacting and going toward lawlessness, but by focusing on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And after calling the church to focus on Christ's Lordship, Paul calls them to disciplined action (3:5-17). Clearly a focus on His Lordship prevents antinomianism as well.

And that is where the debate just got hotter. Suddenly the issues of concern are no longer just how one person handles this one isolated text, it becomes an issue of their focus on the Lordship of Jesus. We're not just dealing with how one wants to "do church," we suddenly find ourselves discussing who is in charge of the church. This is the prevelant issue for us all.

Next Stop, Emerging/Emergent Church--Am I concerned that many in the ECM have diminished (or denied) heaven, hell and the atonement. I once thought that those three issues were unrelated. However, I think these three denials come from the same source. The throne room of God is located in heaven. Ultimate judgment is exercised when considering hell. And the atonement through Christ declares our helplessness and utter dependence upon Him. Neither of these three topics can be addressed without acknowledging the Lordship of Christ.

But this stop is actually where I'm allowing ECM to detrain. They're welcome to stay along for the ride but the focus will not remain on them.

For the FGBC--I was reminded this week to keep the vision that we are a Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Each church is autonomous and seperate. There is no bishop overseeing things and every national organization serves the churches, not vice versa. It would be inaccurate to say the whole fellowship is traveling in a certain direction or to speak with broad generalizations. In fact, while I am concerned about some trends I see "advertised" about some churches, my primary concern goes even before that. How are we doing with the fellowship part?

And this is where it gets terrifying. I was practically born in this fellowship. I have spent 28 of my 31 years in a Grace Brethren Church (and the three that were outside the fellowship were under the leadership of a GTS trained man). I did NAC and Bible Quizzing. I attended BNYC religiously. I participated in Operation Barnabas. I pursued my education at Grace College. My first pastoral position was in a Grace Brethren Church in the Chesapeake District. I then went to serve with a speaking ministry headed up by a Grace Brethren pastor. With this ministry, I traveled to many of the churches in our fellowship. When I couldn't stand being out of pastoral ministry any longer, I left the speaking ministry and got plugged back into the pastorate of a church in our fellowship. I love our fellowship.

But, in my ten years of pastoral experience, it does not seem that our fellowship has a very good track record with disagreeing. I was only in high school when the "conservative split" took place, but I have heard enough stories to know that both sides had moments that could not be described as civil. It's safe to say we love the Lord, we love His church and our hearts break for the lost. When we discuss how to do those things, it's obviously going to get emotional.

However, just as dangerous is to sit back and decide, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Avoiding issues or ignoring practices is really contrary to the dynamics of a fellowship.

Danny, are you saying that fellowship churches are acting in ways that deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

Short answer: yes.

Before you pray an imprecatory prayer in my direction or throw your keyboard through your screen...take a deep breath. Let's be honest, there are numerous ways in our own lives, and in each of our churches, where we fail to declare Christ as Lord in our actions. None of us have obtained perfect obedience. But hopefully, when each of us are confronted with our shortcomings, we acknowledge it and look to correct, either with our personal lives or our church. Each of us has room for improvement.

Therefore, in the coming posts, I want to look at some elements of Christ being Lord. From time to time, I will probably juxtapose these thoughts with current practices, either from within fellowship churches, or even the greater Christian community. I am not claiming that a church that engages in a practice I struggle with is actually an instrument of Satan. I am not calling for their removal from our fellowship. I am merely saying I struggle to understand how the practice is not contrary to their intention to declare Jesus as Lord.

I've been told this is dangerous territory. I've been told the problem with other situations is that people do this outside of the context of relationships. I've been told to sit back and get to know guys better. I hope this blog is not viewed as bypassing relationships, I hope to develop more and more meaningful relationships over time. I actually hope this blog can enhance that process.

I'm a fairly young pastor (though the gray hair keeps saying otherwise), with a young family. My time is limited with responsibilities in my home and my church. Our church is fairly young and I'm still trying to figure out how to shepherd the people plus the wonderful staff the Lord has blessed me with. I try to remain fairly active in our district activities as well. But I sense that most of the other pastors are feeling the same tension I am. We'd love to know each other better, but when?

I know these posts have taken a long time to get moving. The train is almost ready to leave the station, but there may be a few more instructions before our departure. The journey may be smooth or quite bumpy, I have no idea. But I'd like it to be productive, so that's why I've proceeded with such caution. I've probably moved more slowly than necessary and I hope I have not created some undue anxiety. (The feedback I have received to this point has been tremendously helpful, so keep it coming. You're helping me mold these thoughts as I work through them.) If I've been stretching your patience, I greatly appreciate your grace.

We'll be picking up steam soon enough, and I assume the discussion will get rolling. Are you on board?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Should Men Watch Nudity?

Brad Peppo gives seven reasons why you should not.

Among those reasons:
Consider your own daughters. Be prepared for the difficulty of explaining to your young girls why they shouldn’t do for other men what you’ve been paying other girls to do for you.
[By the way, if you have a daughter and you still want to argue your religious liberties...don't bother reading the post.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ECM, FGBC & Me: Mutual Hatred

There is something that the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement (ECM), the FGBC, and I all hate. Though we hate this one thing, we do not hate it as much as the Savior does. It is a monster that we all see as errant, destructive, even damning. In a word:


Legalism is the dependance upon moral laws to establish a favorable standing with God. In reality, most people on the globe are legalists...they believe their good works will earn merit before the Almighty. Every other religion but genuine Christianity is a form of legalism. They depend on their acheivement to reach up to God.

But legalism isn't just reserved for the nonchristian. Legalism can grow within a church as well. Just before entering the text (Colossians 3:1-4), we should look at part of the context:
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Though this world no longer holds us in its sway, we can still find ourselves easily drawn into its rules. We set up a list of "do nots," assuming they will preserve our purity. In a quasi-gnostic way, we begin to see the problem as those physical things around us, rather than the condition of the heart.

According to verse 23, legalism has its advantages. It will make you look smarter. It will make you look more religious than others. It will make you look more pious and even more self denying. However, these are merely appearences, for it is empty. It holds no value.

It can not mortify sin. Our struggle is not merely to control our outward actions, but it is to have a heart that is conformed to the Lord's will. A man can build parameters and walls around his life in an attempt to prevent defilement. However, in his heart, he can still commit wickedness. This sort of legalism, is empty and worthless, only increasing frustration while doing nothing to kill the sin.

It can condemn us to hell. Paul was very seriously opposed to legalism. It is not just fruitless, it presents a gospel that really is no gospel at all. For the one who establishes exterior requirements to cooperate with the grace of God in their lives to earn their meritorious favor is not actually kneeling at the cross of Christ. They have spit on His sacrifice, determining it to be insufficient and have added their works. (Read: Galatians) This is legalism.

And most emerging/emergents and Grace Brethren will agree that legalism is bad. We steer far clear from legalism when it becomes apparent. But steering away from legalism is not enough, for we may just aim ourselves for another ditch:


Many respond to legalism with such a distain that they assume all law is wrong. Therefore, in effort to be "gracious" they abandon the law all together. When approached with the Law, and faced with grace, our feeble minds often consider antinomianism to be the best option (Romans 6:1). The pendulum swings from a law oriented faith to a zero law orientation.

Quite frankly, this is where many today are swinging. They've attended churches they found stiffling. They grew up in environments that encorporated rules, only to leave that environment and find out the rule has weak (if any) Biblical support. They learned to label and catalog people according to an exterior system that they soon discovered was weak and empty. Therefore, they saw moral law as their enemy. They have broken out of the chains legalism only to swing fully to the other side, ignoring all moral law. They claim to believe in sin and believe Jesus died to pay the wage of sin, yet they deny any existence of it in their life. Or perhaps they will accept the label sinner, but are hesitant to every actually call anything sin. But we have not been called to lawlessness.

Some in the ECM have resisted legalism to the point of becoming antinomian. They are not alone. There is antinomianism within our own fellowship. There is lawlessness within me.

But could the ECM be swinging back the other way? Sick of the empty, lawless and ineffectual faith that so many claim today, many in the ECM are calling for lifestyle reform. They are calling for people to help clean up the environment, help out the poor and deal with social injustice. They want to see people act upon the things the church has claimed. Therefore, they stir the people up toward action and projects that will become part of "kingdom work."

And in many ways, this too appears to be the appropriate response. One look at Colossians 3:5-17 (and beyond) will establish that Paul expected the people to live with self-denial. In fact, to be a disciple, we must deny ourselves. That is proper. But if at the core of the issue, self-denial and self-righteousness are only different in an area unseen: the heart.

The temptation to counter legalism is to tear down all discipline. Don't require anything of people, simply call for an intellectual decision and leave it at that. But this is antinomianism, for it is faith without works. So we counter by focusing on works. We call people to action. We scream at dead bones to walk, but we're only addressing the exterior, and therefore we've swerved right back into legalism. In my opinion, here's where the groups appear on the road. (Keep in mind these are generalizations, and each group has exceptions):
Many would hear struggles with moral issues like homosexuality, or the resistance to see abortion as a major political issue and would assume that the ECM is on the antinomian side. However, I personally would disagree. I believe much of the ECM is a response to antinomianism, and is therefore swinging back toward legalism. How is that possible when there seems to be so much ambiguity? How could postmodernism lead to a legalism? Because there is so much emphasis placed on the exterior actions that major tenets of the gospel are assumed (or worse, denied) in effort to focus our actions. To draw an extreme caricature, driving a Toyoto Prius, while drinking free trade coffee and giving to a secular AIDS in Africa organization allows a person to be part of the "kingdom work" whether they believe in Christ or not. These are actions the person hopes leads toward merit. Without absolutes, our faith is not rested in anyone but ourselves.
Let's be honest, we're always behind in every trend. We always seem to be buying our new winter jacket just when the season's bathing suits are coming out. And since much of society is becoming moral action focused, we're probably swinging a lot in the other direction. Whether we are just sliding in, or just starting to oversteer out I couldn't say, but it certainly seems that we are in the antinomian ditch. We currently structure in an "anything goes" environment. We're hesitant to discuss doctrine or weigh a methodology Biblically, for fear that we would be too "rigid." Therefore, we have a collection of churches that look vastly different, pursuing many different goals, several of which are antithetical. The greatest way to get the ire up of other men in the fellowship today is not to try something new or even stick your toe over the lines of our Statement of Faith. The quickest path to vexation is to question these new methods. Our montra becomes to err on the side of grace (as if grace and err could ever go together).
And to keep the car/oversteer illustration, where am I? I am a wreck.

So is there any hope for our condition? If we spot our antinomianism, do we simply overcorrect into legalism? If we call out the one who has drifted into legalism, are we merely calling him to return to lawlessness? Are we just to mind-numbingly swerve all over the road?

Not if we read on in Colossians. For Paul gives the answer for the ECM. Paul tells the Fellowship how to get out of this pattern. Paul exhorts me to find the straight path. It's a path the ECM often does not even address. It's a path the fellowship will speak of, but often denies in its action. LIkewise, it a path I set myself on, only to often begin swerving again.

But if we all really hate legalism and despise antinomianism, it is the path we must take...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Taking a Deep Breath

Nearly two weeks ago, in the midst of the ECM series, I was preparing to write a post about the ECM's neglect of the eternal. Their focus can be so strong on the here and now that they miss so much that Scripture says about our future destiny. In fact, this hope of our future, should impact our current life (1 John 3:1-3)

1 John 3:1-3 would have been the perfect text, and it would have made the point...but I didn't turn there. I'm not sure why, but I kept going to Colossians 1:1-3. To be honest, I kept trying to get Colossians 3:1-3 to fit the topic. Like bashing a metric socket onto a rusty standard bolt, I knew it wasn't a good fit, but thought it may be serviceable. So I kept trying to pound my agenda into the text. I thought I could come close, but then I realized three things:
    1. I'd care.--I cringe when I look back at a text and realize I got it wrong (pretty much the first 5 years of ministry). How much worse if I knew I had it wrong as I was writing?
    2. You'd care.--Thankfully, several readers would call me to the carpet if they felt I was doing a little bait and switch with the text. Please keep at that. Don't let me slide!
    3. God cares.--It's His Word, not mine. Therefore, I have no right to alter it or make it fit my desires.
So I sat there terribly humbled by this text. Not only did I have a false impression of this famous passage, I actually considered taking it hostage to accomplish my tasks. Once I decided not to manipulate Scripture, I reasonably assumed I'd move on to 1 John 3:1-3, for it seemed to make my point.

Instead, I just stared at my computer screen. Perhaps, if I had the wrong idea about Colossians 3, I should stay there and search around in the passage. I clearly had a mistaken impression of the text, so it wouldn't hurt to stick around and see what Paul was really saying. I started at chapter one, verse one. As I began reading through and up to chapter 3 I realized something. While Colossians 3 didn't make the point that I wanted, it did make the real point to be considered. I thought that a major problem for the ECM was that they regularly discount the future/eternal state. While Colossians does not refute this idea, the text exposed there is a more severe problem.

The severity of the issue made me want to quit. I considered just ending the ECM series, for I had not commited to any length. It's one thing to say a movement may neglect a text or may be ignorant in a doctrine. It's another all together to state their is a deeper problem at its root. I've seen people offended in the past, do I really want to go down that road again?

I don't intentionally look to offend anyone. It's not my goal to alienate others. But honestly, I've only known a couple people who consider themselves emerging/emergent, and they pretty much quit "conversing" with me a couple years ago. Most of the people who come to my blog pretty much share my perspective, so there is very little at stake. I don't aim to upset anyone in emerging circles, but honestly, they're probably not reading this anyway.

But the chief issue of Colossians 3 is not an emerging/emergent problem. The issue Paul addresses extends to many churches today. In fact, the issue is one that permeates our own fellowship. It has certainly caused me to reexamine many things we do as a church. I know there are areas where we violate the principle, I'm just not aware of what they are yet.

So I'm left to wonder, do I bother writing about this? I have very little invested in the emerging/emegent movement, but I have some people I care about that I feel have been seduced by impure trends. Do I bother to confront? I dearly love the FGBC. I have been raised in it and have purposefully chosen to remain in it. Do I care enough to speak up? (Every other guy I know who has gets immediately villified.) Lastly, can I really say I love our church if I ignore these issues in our own assembly.

Oh why did I start this series with an appeal to Titus 1:9? *sigh*

(Or was that a big deep breath before I dive in?)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My Favorite Resurrection Line...

τι ζητειτε τον ζωντα μετα των νεκρων

Why do you seek the Living One among the dead?

--Luke 24:5

Thursday, April 05, 2007

In the face of suffering...

Jesus prayed:

"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth."

"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."

"Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world."

"O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
More on the incomparable selflessness of Christ, here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Does Mohler Read Caribouyah?

It looks like he may.

Just eight hours after this post, David's "little cousin Al" chimed in on the issue. You can find his hour long radio show dedicated to my post here.

One just has to wonder, why would adjust his show schedule and not comment on this site?



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mayhue on Premillennialism

I love Dick Mayhue, so when I saw he most recently spoke on NCT and Futuristic Premillennialism (chapel messages here), I thought I'd check it out.

Dr. Mayhue laid out the following seven reasons (no significance to the number seven) why we should have a premillennial perspective:
    1. Premillennialism starts with a hermeutic as the presupposition, not a theology.
A postmillennial or even amillennial approach starts with a theological persepective that determines their hermenuetic, which in return presents their theology in the reading. At this point, Mayhue provides a few quotes from people outside the premillennial camp, agreeing that reading the texts in its most basic form does lend itself to a premillennial approach.
    2. Exegetical Integrity with Revelation 20.
Mayhue presented four rules that should lend to reading "1,000 years" as literally one thousand years:
      a. When we approach a number in the Scriptures, we should always assume it to mean its literal quantity, unless given clues in the text to be taken figuratively.
      b. Even more specifically, numbers when regarding time should be taken literally.
      c. Never is year used in the Scriptures, when attached to a number, that it does not mean the exact designation of time it means...unless you make Revelation 20 the only exception.
      d. The number 1,000 is not used elsewhere in the Bible in a symbolic sense. (Mayhue offers that some will cite Job 9; Job 33; Psalm 50; Psalm 90, Ecclesiastes 6; Ecclesiastes 7 and 2 Peter 3:8...if we look closely we will discover that while they make a point that goes beyond the scope of 1,000 years, they are using the 1,000 years literally to make that point...like Peter comparing a literal day to literally 1,000 years.)
    3. The identities of Israel and the church are distinct in the New Testament.
Mayhue points out that "Israel" appears 20 times in the Book of Acts (always refering to historical and/or ethnic Israel), and "church" appears 19 times in Acts (always referring to believers from the time of Pentecost and beyond.) The terms are never used interchagibly. The church is never called "New Israel" or "Spiritual Israel" in the New Testament. And Israel is never called the church in the Old Testament.
    4. The preservation of Israel as a people, and as a nation, is very, very significant in history.
There has never been another ethnic group that has been persecuted like the Jews, and yet still exists and thrives today. Take a look at all the ethnic groups in Scripture that are extinct today. How could this happen? Consider Jeremiah 31:35-37; Jeremiah 33:19-26.
    5. Abrahamic Covenant and Davidic Covenant are unconditional covenants.
God made them, will sustain them, and will ultimately fulfill them. They are eternal.
    6. All other eschatologies propose: Christ reigns, then He comes. Yet, Scripture seems to present: Christ comes, then Christ reigns.
    7. There are literally dozens of Old Testament passages that promise literal land, kingdoms and provinces. Check out Amos 9 in the MacArthur Study Bible for further notes on this.

Mayhue warns the listener against "Dogmatic Theology," the practice of presupposing a perspective upon the text. Again, this is the idea of letting your theological system inform your hermeneutic. He warns the answer is not to read the Bible with a premillennial hermeneutic either...but simply to let the text speak.

Like a hosehead, I listened to this message first (it was the last in a 5 part series). I look forward to checking out the other four. (And Dr. Mayhue hinted that this will be the content for the next Master's Seminary Journal as well.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Piper on Machen on Relativism

From Piper's message "The Challenge of Relativism" (transcript and audio) given at Ligonier National Conference:

This gives rise to every manner of spin. The goal of language is no longer the communication of reality, but the manipulation of reality. It no longer functions in the glorious capacity of affirming the embrace of confessional truth, but now it functions in the devious capacity of concealing defection from the truth.

Eighty years ago, J. Gresham Machen described this relativistic corruption of language in relation to confessional affirmations:

It makes very little difference how much or how little of the creeds of the Church the Modernist preacher affirms. . . . He might affirm every jot and tittle of the Westminster Confession, for example, and yet be separated by a great gulf from the Reformed Faith. It is not that part is denied and the rest affirmed; but all is denied, because all is affirmed merely as useful or symbolic and not as true.

This utilitarian view of language is the direct fruit of relativism. It leads to evasive, vague speech that enables the relativist to mislead people into thinking he is still orthodox. Listen to Machen’s amazingly up-to-date description of the mindset that comes from relativism:

This temper of mind is hostile to precise definitions. Indeed nothing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than an insistence upon definition of terms. . . . Men discourse very eloquently today upon such subjects as God, religion, Christianity, atonement, redemption, faith; but are greatly incensed when they are asked to tell in simple language what they mean by these terms.
This is nothing new. Athanasius dealt with this regarding Arianism. Men would sign the Nicene Creed, even though they would redefine what it meant. Machen was writing his response to modernists, nearly a century ago. What makes us think it is not happening today?