Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Nashville Statement

Not long ago, some evangelicals published The Nashville Statement. Unfortunately, it is not about the tripe that parades about as country music these days. It is rather about sex, gender, and marriage.

Predictably, it drew a lot of praise for the great moral courage and clarity that it demonstrated as well as a lot of criticism for the narrow-minded hatefulness it delivered.

And that’s just what evangelicals said about it.

What should we make of the Nashville Statement?

As you might guess, I have a few thoughts.

First, it is good for Christians to have a voice in biblical and moral issues in society, even if, or perhaps especially if, it is a controversial topic on which the Bible is clear. There is nothing in and of itself that is wrong with a statement like the Nashville Statement. It might be appropriate on any number of topics. Letting Christian truth be known is a good thing and when a number of Christians band together to do it, it might be a better thing.

Second, it can be dangerous for Christians to make statements or participate in statements that are devoid of relationships. As with all brief statements (and many not-so-brief statements), it is difficult to communicate personal love, empathy, and grace toward others.

Third, Christians need to move past the idea that we can say biblically faithful things that will please people who have no desire to be biblically faithful, or who have a distorted view of what biblical faithfulness really is. As Christians, we need to brace ourselves that we are increasingly marginalized in American society, and American society may have been the last bastion for public Christianity on the globe. Those who do not believe Christ will reject our views.  Even fellow believers will object to some things that we judge to be biblically faithful. We must train our conscience by the Scriptures, follow it, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Fourth, Christians need to accept that public statements like the Nashville statement will have little to no positive effect in the society at large. It is doubtful that there is any significant number of people out there who are going to repent of their sins and embrace Christ because of the Nashville Statement. It is unlikely to lead to the next Great Awakening. It may, in fact, harden some. Even professing believers are hardened by the statement because they consider it harsh, too divisive, or even flat-out wrong. If we put our hope in public statements, however well-meaning they are, we will be greatly disappointed.

Fifth, Christians should recognize that very few of the people we are called to reach and minister to will know anything about the Nashville Statement. Which is to say, it really has no relevance at all for our local church ministries. Go love people, serve them, evangelize them, and disciple them. Chances are they won’t ask you about the Nashville Statement. They might ask you about their marriage, their kids, the relationship they want to get in, or the one they want to get out of. They might request prayer for a sick child or a new job. But they probably don’t care what Nashville thinks about anything.

Sixth, there are questions about whether or not signing the Nashville Statement involves a compromise of biblical commands about separation and fellowship.

I regret to inform you that my word count has just expired.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Around the Horn–10/6/17

At first is a longish article about the addictive nature of technology in smartphones. It is interesting because it talks about how the people who created the apps are now seeing the problems and refusing to participate. The guy who created the Facebook “Like” button has had his assistant setup parental controls on his iPhone so that he (the creator) can’t download apps. Beware the subtle (or not so subtle) power of connection and the ding of affirmation when someone likes your self-aggrandizing post or ridiculously-angled selfie.

I will be back to write more right after I check Facebook and Twitter.

Okay, I’m back.

How come no one has liked this yet?

I must go on anyway …

At second is an article about John Piper and LeCrae (a Christian hip hop artist). I warn you that if you like either of them, you probably won’t like this. Which means you should read it carefully and give it thought. I don’t keep up with John Piper, CHH, and LeCrae, but this article highlights how racial division is being fomented by those who are supposed to be against it. My experience of the past 19 years tells me this isn’t the way to go about it. Continually highlighting the very thing you say shouldn’t exist won’t make it go away.

At third is a good article about well-meaning Christians who participate in Angel Trees or other “Christmas-gifts-for-underprivileged-children” endeavors. I have long agreed with this and am glad someone wrote it to make up for my not writing it. Often, this reminds me of those who go and serve in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, or who go spend the night in a box on the street corner or in a rescue mission. It makes them feel better, but doesn’t actually help. In the gifting endeavors, it can actually make the problem worse.

Lastly, here is a link to a recent 9 Marks Conference with some worthy sessions. I commend it to you for encouragement and challenge regarding the church and leadership in the church.

Friday, August 11, 2017

From Ryle’s “Holiness”

If any reader of this paper really feels that he has counted the cost, and taken up the cross, I bid him persevere and press on. I dare say you often feel your heart faint, and are sorely tempted to give up in despair. Your enemies seem so many, your besetting sins so strong, your friends so few, the way so steep and narrow, you hardly know what to do. But still I say, persevere and press on.

The time is very short. A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle, and shall need to fight no more.

The presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below. When we see as we have been seen, and look back on the journey of life, we shall wonder at our own faintness of heart. We shall marvel that we made so much of our cross, and thought so little of our crown. We shall marvel that in “counting the cost” we could ever doubt on which side the balance of profit lay. Let us take courage. We are not far from home. IT MAY COST MUCH TO BE A TRUE CHRISTIAN AND A CONSISTENT HOLY MAN; BUT IT PAYS.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 117–118.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ryle on Preaching the Gospel

Here’s another passage from J. C. Ryle’s Holiness on counting the cost of becoming a Christian. This time, he is addressing the preaching of the gospel and what those who proclaim it to sinners must preach.

If we desire to do good, let us never be ashamed of walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Work hard if you will, and have the opportunity, for the souls of others. Press them to consider their ways. Compel them with holy violence to come in, to lay down their arms, and to yield themselves to God. Offer them salvation, ready, free, full, immediate salvation. Press Christ and all His benefits on their acceptance. But in all your work tell the truth, and the whole truth. Be ashamed to use the vulgar arts of a recruiting sargent. Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay, and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armour, the watching, the marching, and the drill. Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back “the cross” of self-denial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men to repent and come to Christ; but bid them at the same time to “count the cost.”

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 111.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Counting the Cost

Here’s a helpful passage from J. C. Ryle’s Holiness on counting the cost to be a Christian:

I am bold to say that it would be well if the duty of “counting the cost” were more frequently taught than it is. Impatient hurry is the order of the day with many religionists. Instantaneous conversions, and immediate sensible peace, are the only results they seem to care for from the Gospel. Compared with these all other things are thrown into the shade. To produce them is the grand end and object, apparently, of all their labours. I say without hesitation that such a naked, one-sided mode of teaching Christianity is mischievous in the extreme.

Let no one mistake my meaning. I thoroughly approve of offering men a full, free, present, immediate salvation in Christ Jesus. I thoroughly approve of urging on man the possibility and the duty of immediate instantaneous conversion. In these matters I give place to no one. But I do say that these truths ought not to be set before men nakedly, singly, and alone. They ought to be told honestly what it is they are taking up, if they profess a desire to come out from the world and serve Christ. They ought not to be pressed into the ranks of Christ’s army without being told what the warfare entails. In a word, they should be told honestly to “count the cost.”

Does any one ask what our Lord Jesus Christ’s practice was in this matter? Let him read what St. Luke records. He tells us that on a certain occasion “There went great multitudes with Him: and He turned and said unto them, If any come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25–27. I must plainly say, that I cannot reconcile this passage with the proceedings of many modern religious teachers. And yet, to my mind, the doctrine of it is as clear as the sun at noon-day. It shows us that we ought not to hurry men into professing discipleship, without warning them plainly to “count the cost.”

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 109–110.