Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Social Pornography

On his blog, my friend Matt pointed out this intriguing quote from Alan Hirsch:
If male porn has to do with looking at people’s private parts, the female version has to do with looking at people’s private lives. We call this ’social pornography.’ It fills women’s gossip magazines and does enormous damage to the women addicted to them…if women insist on men not looking at Penthouse, we suggest that women might want to give up on People magazine as well. Either way, unredeemed male and female sexuality is a major cause of human brokenness and a major reason why many walk away from following Jesus.
I've heard this argument before and for the most part, I agree with it. But since I am not a woman I can't say for sure. Any ladies out there want to comment on this?

How to Get the Lasting Inner Applause

"Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."
This passage from Jeremiah 9 is what Keller unpacks in his sermon, Sickness Unto Death (available for free on his podcast). The sermon weaves in elements from Soren Kierkegaard's book of the same name. Keller explains that these verses in Jeremiah are a radical reshaping of our self-image and the way we look for the verdict that we are okay. We often look to other people to say "Well done", but of that Keller says:
"Outer applause never translates into the inner applause that we need: the permanent, settled certainty that we are praiseworthy, love-worthy."
He goes on to say that Paul loves these verses. Paul quotes them in 1 Corinthains 1 and then rephrases them here in 1 Corinthians 4:
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me."
These verses fly in the face of most modern psychological advice. Today, the cure for low self-esteem is to have high self-esteem. Instead of caring what other people think, you should only care about what you think. But Paul says something utterly different. We ought not to have low self-esteem or high self esteem, but instead look to the verdict that can only come from God.

And again in Galatians 6, Paul sums up everything he's been saying about the gospel in verse 14, by summarizing Jeremiah 9:23-24:
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...
This is the key to having this radically new self-image. We must learn to not just acknowledge the work of Christ, but boast in it. And there, boasting in the cross of Christ, is where we get that inner applause we are longing for.

Keller, toward the end, summarizes it this way:
"What happened at the end of Jesus' life? The greatest somebody in history became a nobody. The one person whose life deserved absolute applause, was mocked, was jeered, was spat on, and was rejected even by God. Why? 2 Corinthians 5:21 says 'God made Him who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.' What does that mean?

On the cross Jesus Christ got the verdict that our performance deserves. Deep in His heart, He heard 'Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire,' so that when we embrace Him by faith, we can hear deep in our souls, 'Well done, good and faithful servant'...

Jesus got the verdict that our performance deserves, so we can get the verdict, the applause, the praise that His performance deserves."

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Health Care Bill: Give Up the Fear

A convicting word from Russell Moore:
The United States House of Representatives just passed a health care reform bill that I and lots of other Christians opposed. Such legislation should concern us. There are some bad consequences for the weakest and most vulnerable among us, principally unborn children. But should it also concern us that so many of us are talking today about how afraid we are?

Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC? Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?

It’s not that I think Christians should be disengaged from issues of justice (God forbid!). It’s just that I wonder if we wouldn’t represent Christ and his kingdom better if we did it with a certain tranquility of Spirit, a tranquility that signals we’re not afraid of the rise and fall of temporal kingdoms and their policies.


If we were half as outraged by our own sin and self-deception as we are by the follies of our political opponents, what would be the result? If we rejoiced as much that our names are written in heaven as we do about such trivialities as basketball brackets, what would be the result?

So if what you’re afraid of is a politician or a policy or a culture or the future of Western civilization, don’t give up the conviction but give up the fear. Work for justice. Oppose evil. But do it so that your opponents will see not fear but trust, optimism, and affection.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the impact of Tim Keller and his sermons. I wanted to highlight one sermon that I listened to recently that is particularly good. It's called The Cosmic King.

In the sermon, Keller is unpacking what the term "I am the Alpha and the Omega" really means. He says that John (writer of the book of Revelation) gave the first century Christians a view of Jesus that enabled them to endure the horrific persecutions they were facing. He continues:
"The early Christians show Jesus as the Alpha, the beginning, the first. This is one of the most comprehensive statements that Jesus is God anywhere in the Scriptures. To say I am the beginning means I was not created, no one before me, nothing precedes me. He’s not the Beta and Omega. He is our origin. What difference does that make? How does that apply to me?

You must start with him. All of your thinking must start with him. It’s natural to start with ourselves but we must not. Someone might be saying I didn’t come here for doctrine and dogma, but just for some practical advice. But you’ve got to start with doctrine and dogma, because unless you start with something outside of you you’ll never find you. You are not the Alpha. You’ve got to get out of you to find you. That’s the message of the Scripture: unless you start with Him, unless you know Him you can’t know yourself."
Keller goes on to say that we must ask ourselves, "What is my Alpha point?" He says that everything outside of Christianity is escapism. We must start with Him to find ourselves and for life to make sense.

He also says that we must look to Jesus as our Omega point:
"There’s only two ways to approach God. You can either make Him the means and something else the end, or you can make Him the end and everything else the means. Each of those ways produces a completely different religion, a completely different religious experience.

The Omega points in your life are the non-negotiables. They are the things that you say I’ve got to have that or my life has no point. Most of us, seekers and Christians, start by approaching Christ not to make Him our Omega point, but to use Him as a means to reach the Omega points we’re not getting to. Our life is falling apart because we’re not getting some of these things that are our points. So we say maybe Christianity will help. So we go towards Him to make use of Him as a means. You can’t do that because He is the Omega point."
Basically, don't come to Jesus as a way to get something else. Rather seek Him as your end and appreciate Him as He really is, the Lord of glory:
"When you see this picture of Jesus, His hair is white to show that He is wiser than the wise. His eyes are fire to show He’s more penetrating than the deepest fire. His face is brighter than the brightest sun. His voice is louder than the loudest ocean. He’s trying to show you His glory. That’s what struck John and made him fall down. The word glory in the Bible means weight. If you put a stone in the middle of the creek, the water will go around the stone. It will change the waters path. Why? Because the stone has more glory than the water. The stone matter more than the water. What Jesus Christ is saying is I am the Lord of glory, everything else swirls around me. Only things that are done for me will really last. Only things that are done through me will really last. Only things that are done with me will really last."

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Nihilistic Eros of the Consumer Society

My seminary class this spring is Ecclesiology (theology of the church) and the Sacraments. So far it's been great. The first book that we're tackling is Michael Horton's book, People and Place.

I ran across this quote from the second chapter and thought it was worth noting. You might have to read it a couple times (I certainly did), but I think he rightly presents the current culture's drive for instant gratification through consumerism. In context, he is explaining how the culture (and much of the Church) has manipulated idols to meet our own immediate needs, instead of allowing an external word to reveal what's true about achieving "true shalom":
"The nihilistic eros of the consumer society, which seems to have drawn much of American Christianity into its wake, creates a desire that can never be satisfied. Ads and shop windows offer us a perpetual stream of icons promising to fulfill our ambitions to have the life that they represent: a fully realized eschatology. Handing our credit card to the salesperson can be a sacrament of this transaction between sign and signified. Yet this anonymous space of endless consumption is the parody of the place of promise: true shalom.

Consuming images, living on the surface of immanence, we refuse to be called out of ourselves by an external word that would truly unite us to God and our neighbor. Silently and alone, we surf channels and Web sites, window-shopping for identities."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Redeemer Who Really Redeems

Kevin DeYoung:
"The doctrine of particular redemption is worth talking about because it gets to the heart of the gospel. Should we say “Christ died so that sinners might come to him”? Or, “Christ died for sinners”? There’s a big difference. Did Christ’s work on the cross make it possible for sinners to come to God? Or did Christ’s work on the cross actually reconcile sinners to God? In other words, does the death of Jesus Christ make us save-able or does it make us saved? If the atonement is not particularly and only for the sheep, then either we have universalism–Christ died in everyone’s place and therefore everyone is saved–or we have something less than full substitution. If Jesus died for every person on the planet then we no longer mean that he died in place of sinners, taking upon himself our shame, our sins, and our rebellion so that we have the death of death in the death of Christ. Rather, we mean that when Jesus died he made it possible to come to him if we will do our part and come to him. But this is only half a gospel. Certainly, we need to come to Christ in faith. But faith is not the last work that finally makes us saved. Faith is trusting that Jesus has in fact died in our place and bore the curse for us—effectually, particularly, and perfectly.

Reformed people talk of “limited” atonement not because they have an interest in limiting power of the cross, but in order to safeguard the central affirmation of the gospel that Christ is a Redeemer who really redeems. “We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ,” Spurgeon observed, “because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved.” But, Spurgeon argues, it is the view of the atonement which says no one in particular was saved at the cross that actually limits Christ’s death. “We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved.”

I belabor this point not to belittle Arminian brothers and sisters, but to give Jesus Christ his full glory. Christ does not come to us merely saying, “I’ve done my part. I laid down my life for everyone because I have saving love for everyone in the whole world. Now, if you would only believe and come to me I can save you.” Instead he says to us, “I was pierced for your transgressions. I was crushed for your iniquities (Isa. 53:5). I have purchased with my blood men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9). I myself bore your sins in my body on the tree, so that you might infallibly die to sins and assuredly live for righteousness. For my wounds did not merely make healing available. They healed you (1 Peter 2:24).”

“Amazing love!” a great Arminian once wrote. “How can it be that you, my Lord, should die for me?!” Praise be to our Good Shepherd who didn’t just make our salvation possible, but sustained the anger of God in body and soul, shouldered the curse, and laid down his life for the sheep."
From his book, The Good News We Almost Forgot.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tim Keller's Impact Through Preaching

Tim Keller is a pastor in NYC for whom I am incredibly grateful. I started listening to him toward the end of my (first) senior year at UGA. I gradually started listening to him more and more and eventually he became a staple for me (along with Piper), listening to him during my longer car rides.

I appreciate him because he is one of the best I've ever heard at drawing out and articulating the truths of the gospel. He is incredible at taking people in the OT and showing how Christ is the true and better one. And I love the way he infuses history, philosophy, music, film, literature, and pop culture into his sermons to show how the beauty of Christ is central in all things.

In the old days his sermons cost a couple of bucks off the website, but recently a large amount have been made free through two main avenues. The first is a site that has 150 free sermons that are categorized in nine different sections. The second and most recent way to get his sermons is through a iTunes podcast. The podcast is posting 6-7 per week. Though there is some overlap between the podcast and the free sermon archive, there are usually a couple each week that are unique to the podcast.

Here are just a few of my favorites that I recommend listening to:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Misguided Christian Outrage

Russell Moore at the Resurgence:
Why are we so desperate to see "God" affirmed by the outside culture, even when the "God" they're talking about more closely resembles Zeus (or, as in this case, Lucifer) than Yahweh? When we reach this point of perpetual outrage, are we closer to identity politics than gospel proclamation? I'm afraid so.

Could it be that the problem is we really want the reassurance that we're "normal"? We'd like a shout-out in our pop culture and our political speeches to signify that we're acceptable, that Christianity isn't really all that freakish. But, if that happens, apart from submission to the Cross, is it really Christianity anymore (Jas. 4:4)?

What if, instead, we loved the world the way God does (Jn. 3:16), and not the way the satanic powers ask us to? What if we loved the world through verbal proclamation and self-sacrificial giving, not by seeking product placement for the Trinity? Rather than expecting our politicians and musicians and actors to placate us with platitudes to some generic god, let's work with them where we can on "doing good to all people" (Gal. 6:10). Let's proclaim the God of a crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus. And let's teach our kids and our converts the actual content of the biblical revelation.

That project is more difficult than signing Facebook petitions. But it's more Christian than pouting when our culture mavens misspell "Elohim" on the golden calves we've asked them to make for us.
Read the whole thing

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Importance of Good Friends

Roy posted some great thoughts concerning what he has learned about men and women:
When men do not connect/hang/love other men they:
  • don’t lead
  • their aspirations fizzle
  • they stare at porn
  • they get fat and watch reality TV with their wife or girlfriend
  • we never meet expectations, not even our own
When women do not connect/hang/love other women they;
  • become nags
  • they crave control, if they lose it they become more of #1
  • they hate both men and women
  • their expectations get higher, no-one can ever meet them
In the end this boils down to where the gospel is meeting you….and if you are meeting with the gospel I believe it eventually leads to healthy same-sex relationships.

**the presupposition is that you have good friends...