Thursday, February 26, 2009

The 6 O'Clock Theology Shop

New Workshops looking at Biblical priorities in church life & leadership.

Fortnightly on Thursdays

19 Feb: Expository Preaching

05 Mar: Biblical Theology

19 Mar: The Gospel

02 Apr: Understanding Conversion

23 Apr: Understanding Evangelism

07 May: Church Membership & Discipline

21 May: Discipleship & Growth

04 Jun: Biblical Church Leadership

Open to all who lead & teach (in any capacity) in church life and who have a desire to develop a leadership model based on Biblical priorities.

6pm in Greenview - to register contact:

The series is based on Mark Dever's '9 Marks of a Healthy Church'.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Been reading a couple of excellent books of late which having been recommended to me I can heartily recommend to others:

When Sinners Say I Do - Rediscovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, D Harvey (Shepherd Press, 2007)
How People Change, TS Lane & PD Tripp (New Growth Presss, 2006)

Both books start from the premise that in order to understand ourselves, our needs and our challenges correctly – we need to freshly appreciate the true depth of our sinful nature. Otherwise we will forget, for example, that the greatest obstacle to having a good marriage is not my mother-in-law, my work schedule, or even my spouse – but myself. Similarly when we forget the reality of our sinfulness we will start to get all sorts of wrong-headed expectations concerning Jesus and the gospel.

Lane & Tripp list many of the pitfalls here – one of which is the lack of thankfulness and wonder that arises when we have shallow thoughts of sin. For example they observe (p4): ‘My work with teenagers has convinced me that one of the main reasons teenagers are not excited by the gospel is that they do not think they need it… When they look at themselves they do not see a sinner in desperate need, so they are not grateful for a Saviour.’ In other words, Jesus is the bloke offering a helping hand as they make their way to heaven – rather than their only chance to escape hell.

John in his first letter speaks of the deceit of thinking you have no sin (1:8). Well few of us would claim that – but isn’t there a great danger of thinking we’re not ‘that bad’ really. As evangelicals we shy away from speaking of sin in the kind of blunt terms the Bible does – evil behaviour, depraved minds, enemies of God, taken captive by the devil etc. After all it sounds a bit extreme and could offend people – so instead we talk of sin as ‘messing up’, ‘having junk in our lives’, ‘not always doing the best’. All of which are fair enough as far they go but are hardly expressive of desperate need and guilt before a holy God.

Such a ‘lightening’ of the true reality of sin can also draw us into seeing Jesus not primarily as my Saviour but a life-coach or therapist. ‘Jesus the therapist’ is one way Lane & Tripp point out people distort the gospel. They state (p24): ‘…is Jesus my therapist or my Redeemer? If he is my therapist, then he meets my needs as I define them. If he is my Redeemer, he defines my true needs and addresses them in ways far more glorious than I could have anticipated.’

Now of course Jesus helps us, comforts us and is interested in our struggles. But our relationship with Him is more than that. For example, take my children, as a father I support them in their activities & life, I am there to comfort them in times of upset, I want to encourage in times of disappointment, I see myself as their greatest ally, no-one would want to do more for them than me. But as their father there are times when I say, ‘no you can’t do that’, ‘go and tidy that up’, ‘eat your brocolli’ etc. You see, my relationship with them is more than (but not less) just being a supporter.

We need to remember that Jesus is our Saviour – we owe Him everything, there is nothing He can ask us to do for Him that is more than He has done for us. Further not only is He our Saviour but also our Lord or 'Commander-in-Chief' (2 Tim 2:3).

As Commander-in-Chief he may call us to action in places and situations we would rather not go. I was reminded* recently of those Israelites living in slavery in Egypt pre-Exodus. What a life – slavery and oppression and it wasn’t their fault. God told Jacob to settle in Egypt so the slavery was not somekind of judgement on sin. It was because their part in God’s great plan of salvation for the world was to be a slave – that was what God needed them to be and to endure for the coming Kingdom.

This isn’t something I like to think about (never mind put in writing) because I guess we all like to think that our part in God’s great Kingdom work will be a glorious one (that we’ll be a Billy Graham for example). But Jesus is our Commander-in-Chief not our agent. Just as a general in planning a battle might have to call on some soldiers to ‘go over the top’ or do sentry duty in a barren outpost - so Jesus may call us to hard places and hard tasks too. In some places today Jesus will have told one of His soldiers: ‘I need you to go to prison now for me’, or ‘I need you leave your friends and home now for me’, or ‘I need you to be ill for me now’, or ‘I need you to stay in that hard situation for me’. Like the Israelites of old we may not be able to see how our situation is helping to advance God’s Kingdom – but if we see Jesus as our Saviour & Commander we will not expect that His will for us will always be the same as our own - but it will be best.

*Need to credit Paul Rees for this thought.