Archive for May, 2009

The Work Before Us

And now, brethren, the work is before you. In these personal instructions of all the flock, as well as in public preaching, doth it consist. Others have done their part, and borne their burden, and now it comes in yours. You may easily see how great a matter lies upon your hands, and how many will be wronged by the failing of your duty, and how much will be lost by the sparing of your labour.

If your labour be more worth than the souls of men, and than the blood of Christ, then sit still, and look not after the ignorant or the ungodly; follwo your own pleasure or worldly business, or take your ease; displease not sinners, nor your own flesh, but let your neighbours sink or swim; and, if public preaching will not save them, let them perish. But, if the case be far otherwise, you had best look about you.

– Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor


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A Different Kind of Reformation

Reformation is to many of us, as the Messiah was to the Jews. Before he came, they looked and longed for him, and boasted of him, and rejoiced in hope of him; but when he came they could not abide him, but hated him, and would not believe that he was indeed the person, and therefore persecuted and put him to death, to the curse and confusion of the main body of their nation… and the reason was, because it was another manner of Christ that the Jews expected; it was one who would bring them riches and liberty, and to this day they profess that they will never believe in any but such.

So it is with too many about reformation. They hoped for a reformation, that would bring them more wealth and honour with the people, and power to force men to do what they would have them: and now they see a reformation, that must put them to more condescension and pains than they were ever at before. They thought of having the opposers of godliness under their feet, but now they see they must go to them with humble entreaties, and put their hands under their feet, if they would do them good, and meekly beseech even those that sometime sought their lives, and make it now their daily business to overcome them by kindness, and win them with love. O how many carnal expectations are here crossed!

– Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

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The Best Gospel Presentation

Men would sooner believe that the gospel is from heaven, if they saw more such effects of it upon the hearts and lives of those who profess it. The work is better able to read the nature of religion in a man’s life than in the Bible.

– Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

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Opposing Forces

If you believe that Christ is more worthy of imitation than Caesar or Alexander, and that it is more glory to be a Christian than to be a conqueror, yea to be a man than a beast – which often exceed us in strength – contend with charity and not with violence; set meekness and love and patience against force, and not force against force.

Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

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A New Trial for the Local Church?

Sat tonight with my old roommates and my wife, reenacting the time honored tradition of watching Mark Driscoll sermons. Back in the dorm, we would crowd around and watch Driscoll or sometimes Piper. Driscoll said what we were saying, and indeed what much of conservative evangelicalism was saying, just in a fresh way. His theology seemed spot on, and his exegesis meant proper application to today’s situations.

The last several months have seen some change, either in my perception of him, or in what he’s actually doing. Increasingly, his sermons have been generalized pieces of eisegesis. Was anyone else concerned… even grieved… as he went through the list of twenty “negatives” based on 2 Timothy 2 at the Gospel Coalition? There were many laughs, plenty of imprecision, and a lot of imposition on the text. I was continually reminded of John Piper’s sermon from the 2006 Together for the Gospel conference, where he strongly warned against making the pulpit a place for overabounding humor. That is primarily what Driscoll did that night, and many other nights. Do any of his mentors talk to him about this?

And then, tonight’s viewing of last Sunday’s sermon at Mars Hill. There was massive eisegesis of 1 Peter 5:2, where he applied a Prophet, Priest, King model to divide elders into three different types, essentially denying “able to teach” from 1 Timothy 3:2 and siding with the Presbyterians who have a ruling/teaching elder model. He essentially took the ways that Scripture identifies our Lord, and applied them to a business model for a healthy megachurch. Very discouraging.

But even before that, and by far the most serious… Mars Hill has for years practiced a multi-site approach to their church plants in Seattle. Each church gets to see Pastor Mark preach live across the city. I have mixed feelings about this, but it could possibly work. 9 Marks wrote a recent eJournal arguing in favor of the idea. I need to think about it more. But when he announced that one of their new campuses would open in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and that his sermons would be recorded and then given to that church a week later… and that this would be the model as they expanded to other places… my heart literally skipped beats. Not to mention that this was a local church that was now going to be airing Mark’s messages as part of their main service.

What about the local church? One of the other people in our group echoed my thoughts… even if it’s not intended, it casts an awfully suspicious light on Pastor Mark’s motives, which is ironic if not outright sad on a Sunday where the sermon title was Humble Pastors. The series is on trials for the local church from 1 Peter… but I wonder if Mark hasn’t created a new trial for the local church by essentially signaling that he’s okay with undermining its autonomy.

Two thoughts I had: 1) that I really hope I’m wrong. Perhaps Mark’s sermon in Albuquerque will just be an add-on, something people can stick around for but isn’t the main preaching time. Otherwise, this is basically subverting the autonomy of the local church. 2) I know from Reformissional Rev that Driscoll essentially adopted a model that was more suited for a megachurch that would be run like a corporation. That always irked me… the last 1/4 of that book really made me wonder where the church would go. And I think this is some of the fruit of that: when a church takes on business principles instead of Scripture as its modus operandi, something will always be compromised.

Pray for them… for the witness of the Gospel in Seattle and wherever Acts 29 church plants are found, not to mention the upcoming conference on the resurgence of the “local church.” Will this just undermine the message of that conference? I am weary of pragmatism, and really was hoping its fruit would be curtailed in Mars Hill’s ministry. This may be the event that many who were once ardent supporters of Driscoll will look back on as the moment when the ministry visibly made a major turn for the worse. I really pray I’m wrong, and that others in his circles will have the gumption to write and talk to him about this.

Am I going overboard? What thoughts do people have?

Pertinent blog posts here and here. The sermon that we watched tonight can be viewed here.

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In the Old Testament, the God of Israel set before them a blessing and a curse. A blessing for obedience, a curse for disobedience. Can you imagine living under the weight of that? I think I would want to strive for something else. A way out… I couldn’t do it.

So that’s why I’m grateful that His goodness to me is unilateral. He shapes the obedience in me, and then blesses me after He’s done the work in my heart. As I finish up my undergraduate degree, His goodness has been overwhelming… through even the bad times over the last four years. My roommate’s death, my own sin, the destruction of things I held dear… all in God’s plan. Thank You Christ.

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