Two Cars Spinning

On the morning of June 23, 2016, I was working with my head down in a local coffeeshop. Tunes blared in my ears as I stared and typed. Then, in a moment, someone left and the room got quiet. This place was never quiet. I looked up.

At 12:09pm, a westbound silver minivan made a blind turn across four lanes of traffic and hit a small eastbound black SUV, sending both cars spinning. The crash totaled both cars, demolishing the front left corner of the SUV. I had never seen an entire wheel assembly lying on the pavement, but there it was.

 

At the scene, people swirled, helping each driver and the passengers. The woman in the SUV shook terribly, surprised that her simple trip down the hill became a nightmare. Men swept the busy street. Police arrived on the scene. EMS removed the injured woman from her car. I directed oncoming traffic to the nearest detour.

There was a palpable mourning across that intersection. We mourned the pain, the terror, the shock. We moved to help. But only one driver was at fault. 

Which brings us to the the hot topic of the last thirty-ish months: police shootings.

Instead of merely looking at a wreck the way a child does, “Wow, that’s a mess,” we should be mature in our thinking and consider the biblical claims of the following:

  1. God values human life, regardless of ethnicity, age, criminal history, socioeconomic class. All life is valuable in the first place.
  2. The government bears the sword, and in our culture that most directly means the local police force.
  3. Police officers are called to enforce laws. If they do not do so, they are putting other citizens in danger and are themselves liable for the damage criminals subsequently cause.
  4. Not all crime is equal. Please read the Old Testament. There is unquestionably a civil hierarchy of sins. “Every sin is the same” is nonsense, in this life and in the next. Some sins are culmination of years of sinning, others are momentary acts. Some give a bruise; others take a life.
  5. All unjust killing, whether of the preborn in the womb at the local Planned Parenthood (a direct slap in the face to parents) or of a citizen by a police officer, is evil and must be prosecuted.
  6. Every human is a sinner and tainted, mind, body, and soul, with sinfulness. Every human, because he is a  sinner, is an innate self-server, racist, and liar. 
  7. Sinfulness doesn’t excuse mistrust in an entire system, because you are a sinner, too. Transparency and accountability are needed.
  8. Policemen have hard jobs and are not perfect. You and I likely do not know the first thing about what it takes to approach a dangerous situation and handle everything involved. This doesn’t mean they’re always right or always wrong.
  9. It is not a sin for an authority to shoot a dangerous criminal. Please see #2 and #3.
  10. The media, being full of self-serving sinners (#6), have a vested interest in speaking half-truths and outright lies to make better “news.” This news, in these cases, is not the truth at all.
  11. The viper-tongued media puts police officers and citizens at risk. Please see the Dallas shootings and the widespread anger toward police.
  12. Marching is one thing; loving is quite another. Both have their place, but one is immeasurably more important. You also don’t have to march with people in order to love those people.
  13. Disobedience is not necessarily racism. A hatred of authority by one party (a young man, let’s say, detained by a police officer) does not necessarily equal a surface-level racism by the acting authority. The facts, instead, must come to light. The officer may have been acting in a racist fashion, or the young man may simply hate authority, or both.

Each of these can (and maybe should) be expanded into a separate post, but for now these categories are important because they help us think through issues like that of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, and the host of part-myth, part-real stores the media tells us. 

If this local crash were a more “sensational” story, there’s no telling how the media might have portrayed it. It might have been an issue of environmentalism, or driver brutality, or racism.

Eyewitnesses know that, in the wreck on June 23, both drivers lived. Both suffered very real damage to their lives, bodies, and potentially souls. Either driver could have avoided the wreck.

In this case, only one was at fault.

Legal Principles Have Universal Applications

[This post is fifth in a series on Francis J. Beckwith’s seminal paper, “The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law.” Part 1 is called, “The Lies and Fallacies Beneath Roe v. Wade;” Part 2, “Novel Inventions of Abortion Law;” Part 3, “19th Century Anti-Abortion Law;” and Part 4, “Is the Unborn a 14th Amendment Person?“]

Second, though Texas cited no cases in which the unborn are declared Fourteenth Amendment persons, at least one federal court case did: Steinberg v. Brown. It is unknown as to why Blackmun cited Steinberg but failed to include the following, which would undoubtedly destroy his majority opinion:

It seems clear, however, that the legal conclusion in Griswold as to the rights of individuals to determine without governmental interference whether or not to enter into the process of procreation cannot be extended to cover those situations wherein, voluntarily or involuntarily, the preliminaries have ended, and a new life has begun. Once human life has commenced, the constitutional protections found in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments impose upon the state the duty of safeguarding it.

“Once human life has commenced, the constitutional protections found in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments impose upon the state the duty of safeguarding it.” As Beckwith observes, this shouldn’t have been controversial: “A legal principle has universal application.” He offers the examples of anti-burglary laws written before the advent of computers and freedom of religion laws written before a new faith was invented. Both would apply to new knowledge or situations without changing the nature of the laws.

Is the Unborn a 14th Amendment Person?

[This post is the fourth in a series on Francis J. Beckwith’s seminal article, “The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law.” Part 1 is called, “The Lies and Fallacies Beneath Roe v. Wade;” Part 2, “Novel Inventions of Abortion Law;” and Part 3, “19th Century Anti-Abortion Law.”]

B. Is the Unborn a Person under the Fourteenth Amendment?

Blackmun and the abortion-hungry Court had one more legal foundation to tear down: the unborn’s right to the personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment. The relevant part of the amendment reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any  person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Blackmun cites three reasons why the unborn are not Fourteenth Amendment persons: the Constitution doesn’t define them as such, Texas had no cases holding the unborn as Fourteenth Amendment persons, and abortion’s de facto practice in the nineteenth century. As Beckwith argues, “each reason is seriously flawed,” (p.51).

First, Blackmun’s logic on the Constitution’s definition of “person” merely begs the question. The Constitution didn’t aim to define “person” biologically. Without such a definition, the lack of one cannot exclude the unborn. To do so is to construct an argument from ignorance, but it wasn’t the last time in Roe that Blackmun did so. Further, though the development of the unborn was not known at the time of the Constitution but was at the time of Roe, Blackmun allowed no room for that in his analysis, (p.51-52).

19th Century Anti-Abortion Law

[I’ve been blogging through Francis J. Beckwith’s seminal article, “The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law.” Part 1 is called, “The Lies and Fallacies Beneath Roe v. Wade,” and Part 2, “Novel Inventions of Abortion Law.” ]

Then Beckwith further analyzes in two sections below:

A. Were Anti-Abortion Laws Meant to Protect the Unborn?

Beckwith begins, “Blackmun was wrong about the primary purpose of theanti-abortion laws. Although protecting the pregnant woman was an important purpose of these statutes, there is no doubt that their primary purpose was to protect the unborn from  harm,” (p.46).

Beckwith then quotes James S. Witherspoon’s research to show that twelve different legal commonalities between nineteenth centurty anti-abortion statutes at the state level prove this very same point: “the primary purpose of nineteenth-century antiabortion statutes was to protect the lives of unborn children is clearly shown by the terms of the statutes themselves.” Here are the twelve elements, to be understood “individually and collectively”:

  1. The laws’ punishment for attempted abortion increased if it caused the child’s death.
  2. The laws gave the same range of punishment for child-killing in an abortion as for mother-killing in an abortion.
  3. The laws called attempted abortion and other child-killing acts “manslaughter.
  4. These laws prohibited all abortions, except those necessary to save the mother’s life.
  5. These statutes called the fetus a “child.”
  6. These laws called the unborn child a “person.”
  7. These statutes categorize abortion with homicide, related offenses, and offenses against born children.
  8. The laws gave abortions severe punishments.
  9. These laws treated mother-killing abortions as “manslaughter” rather than “murder,” as they were at the common law level.
  10. The laws required that the abortion be attempted on a woman who was indeed pregnant.
  11. The laws required that the abortion be intended to “destroy the child.”
  12. The laws incriminated the woman’s participation in her own abortion.

Taken together, these commonalities prove that Justice Blackmun and the majority Court of Roe ignored the legal evidence and lied about their research.

Twelve Ways Romans Uses the Law

Romans uses the Mosaic law to:

  1. Convict of sin (ch. 1)
  2. Give just grounds for God’s wrath (ch. 1-3)
  3. Prick the conscience and lead to repentance (ch. 2)
  4. Show our utter inability and depravity (ch. 1-3)
  5. Show the glory of God’s promise to Abraham (ch. 4)
  6. Show our failure in the First Adam (ch. 5)
  7. Show Christ’s glory as the Second Adam (ch. 5)
  8. Explain our slavery to sin (ch. 6)
  9. Heighten our sense of sin (ch. 7)
  10. Show our freedom in Christ by the Spirit (ch. 8)
  11. Explain the proud failure of even the most law-oriented (ch. 9)
  12. Explain Christ’s substitution for us (ch. 10)

As always, there are probably more. But the point is: neglect neither the law nor its teachings!

Afflicting the Unconverted

Mike McKinley’s Together for the Gospel 2012 talk about preaching to self-deceived unbelievers in our churches is full of gems. Here’s one:

“[Self-help teaching] only creates high-functioning citizens of hell.”

The whole thing is worth listening to, particularly if you don’t realize the effect of so-called “cultural Christianity.”

As McKinley reminds us, Christianity is a radical thing, not something you slide into because it’s convenient. It is our job, as believers, to help people see their true spiritual state.

To the Wicked, Grace Doesn’t Come First


[photo by Mr. Stein on flickr]

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a fellow school administrator about how to deal with our lawless students. She firmly believed that we, as educators, ought to give students as much grace as possible before giving them law. This, to her, was exactly how we “show Christ’s love.” I disagreed then, and I still do. Here’s why: this principle is the exact opposite of God’s.

God gives law to the proud and grace to the humble. As Ray Comfort says, “You will never see the Lord Jesus giving grace to a proud, arrogant, self-righteous person. He doesn’t do it.” But, where Ray applies it mainly to evangelism (and we should), I’m applying it to all of our dealings with others, particularly with children.

Thinking Like a Child
When I was a child (I might say with Paul), I thought as a child. I hated law. And as a young adult, I mostly still did. I remembered my angry chaffing at “legalistic” teachers and principals and didn’t want to be like them. But, even as a child, I knew it was worse for teachers to give a pass to a prideful child (sometimes even their own child!) instead of giving them their lawful consequences.

But as time in the classroom went on, I became a father, too. And I learned the truth that, in this fallen world, everything still runs on rules and regulations. It’s just the way things go, because that’s the way God wants the world to operate. He wants us to learn the principle of sowing and reaping. He wants us to learn His economy of sin and consequences. He wants us to know about motives, actions, and just deserts.

False Grace Barricades True Righteousness
Isaiah makes this perfectly clear when he preaches in Isaiah 26:9-10:

    When your judgments are in the earth,
        the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
    If favor is shown to the wicked,
        he does not learn righteousness;
    in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
        and does not see the majesty of the LORD.

Here’s the proposition: If grace (“favor” in verse 10) is given to the wicked, then that false showing of grace obscures the wicked man’s ability to “learn righteousness.” In other words, to the arrogant, a lying grace barricades true righteousness. And, since true righteousness is the display of God’s glory, this lying grace further blinds him from “see(ing) the majesty of the LORD,” (verse 10).

Therefore, any insistence on grace to the proud is:

  1. A lie. Grace to the proud is not true grace.
  2. Dishonorable and degrading to the name and character of God. It mangles His majesty and rends His righteousness.
  3. Harmful and dishonest to the proud student. This slithering, mangling “grace” teaches no grace at all, but pictures a cuckhold of a God who winks at our sin.

Law Isn’t Evil
But it feels so “mean” to use the law, right? The law is good, Paul says, when it is used lawfully. It is for the evil, adulterous, dishonest, greedy, sexually immoral, violent, and oppressive people in our midst. We ought to use it. We must use it.

But using the law doesn’t mean that we must use it with a legalistic spirit. The law must be the tutor to bring people to Christ. So use it, teachers, to show your own conscience and that of your students that we have all failed before God’s holiness and stand in need of His mercy. Then, your consequences must be fair, just, quick, and loving, given with an eye toward repentance and restoration.

The Use and Consequences of Law
Consequences should match the crimes. For example, when a student skips class, she should receive a zero for the day and come back after school to make the class up, missing any extracurriculars or other commitments. When a student steals something, he needs to return it, pay it back again, and receive a in-school manual labor suspension. When a student cheats on a test, he has earned the right to get a zero on that test, no opportunity to replace the grade, and a short-term suspension. Anything less than these consequences teach students a lie about God’s character and His economy in the world.

But all of these very fair consequences must also be used redemptively, with the stated goal of repentance (reparations and consequences aren’t necessarily repentance) and restoration. Once the student deals with her consequences and returns, she must be as full a part of the school as her own attitude will allow.

The Economy of God
These things must be so because this is how God has structured our lives in a fallen world. We need the law to teach us right from wrong, we need it to establish boundaries and standards in our lives, and we need it to teach us that we are unable to live up to God’s holiness. Indeed, we must never think that anything but the blood of Jesus can save us.

Proverbs 22:15 says it this way:
    Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
        but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

And all the parents, youth workers, and teachers say, “Amen.” We must discipline and apply the law and its consequences, as is appropriate regarding our calling and relationships, in order to teach people the majesty of God.

When a law-breaker learns to stand before the enthroned King and say, “Woe is me! I am undone!” then he is well-positioned, the Bible says, to cry out for mercy to the Son of David, the King of Israel, the Christ of God, who kept the law in the place of everyone who repents and believes.

So don’t give the wicked in your midst a false grace, give them the very real law and its consequences, that it would train them toward Jesus Christ.

The Government Doesn’t Legislate Anything But Morality

Over the years, I’ve heard the phrase, “The government can’t legislate morality,” far too many times. Most often, this statement belies an attitude of nonchalant, postmodern hedonism that fears man more than it fears God. But lest we turn this into an ad hominem affair, we ought first prove the point:

The Government Doesn’t Legislate Anything But Morality

1. The government makes laws.
From Scripture, plain reason, and experience, we know that governments must make laws. That, in the first principle, is why they exist. If people could govern, i.e., reign over, themselves, governments would in no way be needed. But because of sin, miscommunication, and mistakes (mostly sin), governments must needs exist.

2. The government decides what is moral. To make a “moral” decision is to decide between right and wrong, to make a mark between the right and the wrong, to outline the body of what is right and what is wrong. This is the essence of law-making: people must decide what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, fair and unfair, just and unjust in a given society. We ought not be uncomfortable with this; we make sense of life by making moral decisions. We say this is right and that is wrong; it is why we have fully-functioning, ever-active consciences.

3. Every law is a statement on what is moral, i.e., what is right and what is wrong. So go gun safety bills, veterans’ benefits bills, even national budget bills. Health care bills, economic stimulus packages, and constitutional amendments all make statements as to what is considered right and wrong in our country. This is the essence of lawmaking. “Laws” are statements about right and wrong.

4. Your sin doesn’t falsify or profane the government’s job. You may be disagreeing with me on the first two points, but that would only be because you have a vested interest in protecting one of your pet sins. Maybe you like to smoke pot on the side, or carry a same-sex attraction, or want to wink at your friend’s recent abortion. Maybe you love being well-liked by the people around you. Whatever the case, your disagreement with the moral legislation of the government is more a function of your own self-deception than of the verity of these claims.

5. The government must punish wrong-doing. Again, your own self-deception may trouble you here, so let us turn to an illustration outside of our self-defensive cocoons. Suppose a madman murders your dearest loved one, and you are an eyewitness. At his trial, you are called to testify. What do you say? Do you ask the judge to let him go free, or punish him? Unless your conscience is irreparably broken, you scream, “Justice!”

As 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” The government doesn’t bear the sword (or the court system, or the jail system, or capital punishment) in vain. It’s sent by God to punish wrongdoers.

Don’t Hide
In the end, it’s clear that the government legislates nothing but morality. So don’t hide behind your saying that “it’s not their job to tell me who I can marry” or “it’s not their job to tell me what I can do with the child inside my body” (the two most common personal reasons for objecting to moral legislation). And please don’t be a coward and hide behind your fear of what others will think.

Just say that you believe same-sex marriage and abortion are completely moral, just, right acts, and be prepared to back those claims up logically. Don’t ask the government to give you a free pass because you like your favorite depraved act, or because you don’t have the courage to stand up against those who do. As a citizen of earth, it’s your job.

Every Command is a Gospel Command

A few years back, I remember hearing a young man ask the question at a youth retreat, “How far is too far to go with a girl?” The other leaders answered, “Well, you know when it’s too far,” or, “I wouldn’t even touch the girl until we got married,” and on and on.

But God reminded me at that moment that we aren’t primarily commanded to “do stuff” in the Bible, for doing stuff can never save us (not even from staining our purity before God). Lots of folks think the Bible is a list of rules (“DO pray; DON’T sleep around”), and that’s true to a point. There are lots of good rules. But it’s not ultimately true or good without the gospel.

Take John 20:30-31 for instance,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John could have written down a lot of other things for a lot of other reasons, but he tells us that by the Holy Spirit he wrote down what he did “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.”

“But wait,” you say, “There is something there that we’re supposed to ‘do.’ It says we will have life.” Yes, I say, it does say we’ll have life “in [Christ’s] name,” and by particular means “by believing.” Whatever things we have or do is by trusting on Jesus and living by faith in Him.

This is not “Do Stuff.” It is the gospel.

Take again for an example Colossians 3. Paul will go on in verses 5-25 (and into chapter 4) to lay out several specifics in how Christians are to live: kill your own immorality, stop lying, be humble and kind to each other, forgive each other, live thankfully, work hard. But the way God lays those commands out and frames them in the gospel is utterly important.

Notice the first four verses:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Under God’s Spirit, Paul begins the section by writing, “If then you have been raised with Christ.” The command of seeking heavenly things is couched in the reality of being raised with Jesus. Knowing His resurrection is the foundation of the command. The command is a gospel command.

Paul goes on to say that our lives are dead to this world and hidden with God because we died with Christ and He is hidden with God. We are to live out the truths of the gospel by believing these facts. Jesus is risen; all who believe are His.

These are gospel commands.

We could multiply examples:

  • In Ephesians 4:32, God tells us to forgive each other and be kind, as He in Christ forgave us.
  • Hebrews 10:19-25 tells us to draw near to God, hold fast to the faith, stir up each other to love, and continue meeting together because Jesus gave us entrance to God by His shed blood and constant intercession as high priest.
  • Even as Jesus commands anyone who would come after Him in Luke 9:23 to deny his own self, take up their cross daily, and follow after Christ, He is demanding that we believe His reward is better than life. Even in semi-cryptic terms, we must believe in the cross and the resurrection.

Sooner or later in the Bible, every command is a gospel command. The whole book is about one main event – the cross and the resurrection – in the life of its one main character, Jesus Christ.

So don’t believe those little children’s ditties and inscriptions on Christian paraphernalia that tell you the Bible is a list of rules. That looks true on the face but is rotten to the core. It only produces Pharisees. The Bible is a book about Jesus, and even when it tells us to do what is right, it is really telling us to live out what we believe and who we believe.

So back to my example (and you may be appalled that I left it alone for this long – what an issue!) – I did tell that young man that there were commands and standards, but I told him there were clear orders because of Jesus. Not because I say so or somebody else does, but because Jesus is risen. If you are to make a claim on Christ, you have to walk with Him by faith. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, because His commands are built on the gospel.

Works-Teachers, Don’t Forget Sin

When I listen to many evangelical teachers, I hear a similar refrain: “Just do what Jesus said to do, and then you’ll be like Him.” This appears true, but so does every false teaching on its facade.

There are several problems here. This works-teaching mangles faith into a “do this, do that, just do stuff” attitude, it ignores Jesus’ teachings on justification by faith alone, and it exchanges atonement for Christ-likeness.

Before all that, however, the “Just do what Jesus said and you’ll be like Him” teaching  misses the biggest problem we have with following Christ – sin. Works-teaching forgets that sin constantly stands in the way of our perfect fellowship with God.

We can never just “become like Jesus” without atonement.

In our sin, we deceive ourselves into thinking we can just up and follow Jesus on our own. But we are never, ever as well off as we think. We must return to the one-time-for-all-time sacrifice of Jesus for sins and kill our sin (Romans 8:1-13), but we must not deceive ourselves and say we have no sin (1 John 1:8-10).

Works-teachers, learn to deal with the heart first, learn to run to the Gospel, then the good works will follow when we have set our eyes upon Jesus.

Works-Teachers, Test Yourselves

Here is a handy checklist I use whenever I, as a husband, father, teacher, and preacher, suspect that I may be getting off the path of faith in favor of works:

  • Do you enjoy talking more about the commands of Scripture than Christ’s accomplishments in Scripture?
  • Do you get more excited about our personal obedience rather than Christ’s sacrificial obedience?
  • Do you reduce Christian “faith” to a list of do’s and don’t’s, however good those do’s and don’t’s may be?
  • When you feel unholy before God, does your mind run to your last good deed or to the crimson stains of the Savior?
  • Do you find your mind running more toward issues of social justice, moral excellence, and political activism rather than Christ’s justice, perfection, and lordship accomplished on the cross?

We are all legalists at heart, friends. The difference between a believer and an unbeliever is, when we see our sinful attitudes, whether we repent and believe the good news about the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

On God’s “Right-Now” Wrath Against Sinners

Romans 1:24-25 says: 

 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 

It’s not good for us to love other things more than God. This kind of living death is God’s right-now wrath.
In this passage, God hands sinners over to the very things they want – lust, impurity, sin! That’s God’s righteous wrath, and it is rigor mortis while the heart still beats.

Is Your Church Characterized By Commands or Christ?

Is your church characterized by commands the leaders give or by the person and work of Jesus Christ. Sadly, various issues in the church – alcohol use, school choice, political beliefs, positions on tattoos and smoking, dietary choices, positions on dancing and attire – tend to characterize the family of God, when it should be all about Jesus.

Jesus is the blazing center, the one who fills all in all, the beginning and goal of all things in the universe and in His church. Dear local church, does your life and doctrine show that?

Here are six ways to tell:

  1. Sunday Service: When people walk out of your Sunday service, do they remember the music style, the way the pastor dressed, the movies he referenced or railed against, or the gospel?
  2. Conversation & Life: When your church members get together, do they tend to discuss political issues, school choices, and dietary decisions or the great work of God in their lives?
  3. Watching World: When unbelievers talk about your church and its members, do they tend to notice that they are characterized by idiosyncracies or by the living Christ?
  4. Small Groups: When your church gathers in small groups, do the leaders focus on what members should and should not be doing or what they should and should not be believing?
  5. Diversity: It’s not an absolute judge, but is your church is characterized by a specific socioeconomic class, a particular musical preference, a small age or life situation demographic, one or two ethnicities, or by a diversity of people (as much as geographically possible) ralled around Jesus?
  6. Pastors and Leaders: Brother pastor and leader, does your teaching focus more on what your people are to do or not do or on who they are to trust?

Each of these is a strong indicator as to whether your church is characterized by commands or Christ. Together, they serve as a helpful guide to assessing the Christ-centeredness of your local body.

But why care about that? Even if your church does stand out more for opinions than for the Savior, why does that matter? Here are 5 reasons:

  1. Glory: Jesus gets more glory when He is the center rather than issues. And His glory is what He deserves.
  2. Goal: Check out Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 sometime, God doesn’t aim for our divisive opinions to take center stage. That’s for Christ alone.
  3. Good: In the biggest ways, the health of your church depends on your God-given ability to focus on Jesus, not on everything else that clamors for our attention. Politics, opinions, and false laws don’t feed faith.  The people will prosper in the Lord as you point them to Him.
  4. Glue: From places like Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, we learn that the church becomes very sticky when it is stuck on Christ. And that’s the point – focusing on Jesus leads the church to grow in the gospel, guard the gospel, and go hard for the gospel together. A church united in the gospel won’t be divided over weaker matters.
  5. Gospel: The gospel becomes and remains very clear when we labor week after week, year after year, to keep it clearly shining forth from the Scriptures. It becomes clear to the church, who in turn makes it clear to the world. The endurance of your people and the salvation of the world depend on your single-minded, violently-vigilant focus on Jesus Christ.

So, brother pastor, leader, or church member, is your church characterized by commands or Christ? Even biblical commands aren’t meant to overshadow – but rather point to – the Son of the Living God, perfect, reigning, sacrificed and risen, gracious and just, God and man, powerful and returning. Will your church be ready?

“Christianity is Not First About Our Getting Better”

Tullian Tchividjian on accountability groups, false sanctification, and the Christ-focused pursuit of holiness:

Christianity is not first about our getting better, our obedience, our behavior, and our daily victory over remaining sin–as important as all these are. It’s first about Jesus! It’s about his person and subsitutionary work–his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, and promised return. We are justified–and sanctified–by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. So that even now, the banner under which Christians live reads, “It is finished.” 

HT: Ben Barnard

Opinions We Make Into Law

One of my classes began a good discussion today on church views on music styles, then it led all kinds of good places. Along the way, we noticed that Romans 14:1 says,

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 

Notice that word, “opinions.” It works well in the context, because the Bible is teaching that issues like food preferences and special celebrative days aren’t law. They are “opinion,” and we ought to form our own convictions (verse 5) and hold them, while honoring the same of others.

My students listed the following examples of opinions we make into law:

  • church dress codes
  • alcohol use
  • smoking
  • tattoos
  • dancing

My students also rightly identified that, in churches, these issues of conscience too often trump Christ. They said that a wrong-headed focus on controversial opinions lames a church’s gospel mission. The world, you see, can tell the difference between Christ-centered focus and man-centered divisions. Can we?

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