In responding to Jesus’ call to follow him, I must ask myself what it is I can do to get serious about kingdom-focused living. Am I really willing to seek the lower place at the table rather than the place of preeminence and respectability (Luke 14:1-11)? Am I really willing to give to the poor out of my abundance (Luke 19:8)? Am I really willing to touch sinners (Luke 7:36-39)? Am I really willing to proactively use my possessions for the good of God’s kingdom (Luke 6:38)? Everything in me balks at this kind of love and sacrifice. I recoil at the thought of forsaking the world and its values — whether religious, political, social, educational, or vocational. To be “sentenced to death,” to become a “spectacle to the world,” to be “fools for Christ’s sake,” to be “held in disrepute,” to go “hungry and thirsty,” to be “poorly clothed,” “persecuted,” “slandered,” “the rubbish of the world,” “the dregs of all things” — the apostle Paul might endure such suffering (1 Cor. 4:8-13), or maybe Ethiopian Christians. But I, Lord? Yet if I , as a Christian, do not practice what I preach, if I continue to major in the minors, if “poor in spirit” remains but a meaningless platitude in my own life, then I am merely an admirer of Jesus and not a true follower.
— David Alan Black
This summer I am teaching the young adults at Nansemond River Baptist Church about the “Mission of God” (Missio Dei for those of you who enjoy dead languages). After a brief introduction discussing a Biblical Theology of mission (don’t worry, if “teenagers” can learn trigonometry they can learn Biblical Theology) we are spending the next few weeks in the beautiful book of Jonah. The other night I taught through the first chapter of Jonah.
I don’t want to reproduce the entire discussion but God has really been working in my heart as I study this book. Here are a few takeaways from Jonah 1.
1. Jonah was a faithful prophet as long as God acted like he expected. Jonah, in this story, is not just running away from serving God, he’s running away from serving God where it is hard. This is a hard lesson for me to learn. Jonah hated the Ninevites; they are the sworn enemies of his people. For Jonah, the Ninevites did not deserve a chance to repent. He was nervous that God might actually save them. The questions I ask myself are sometimes hard to answer: Where is it hard for me to serve God? Who are the people that I feel don’t deserve the love and forgiveness of God? Do I value my national loyalties more than the souls of the lost persons around the world? Are their groups of people who I don’t want to hear the gospel? Would I go to a hard place like Iran, Iraq or Indonesia to share the gospel or am I content to see these people die and spend eternity in hell?
2. God sent, pursued, and saved His messenger but the messenger was never the point, it was always about the message.
3. The point of Jonah is not about a whale, it’s about the God of the whale. It’s about a God who rescued a messenger so He could rescue an entire people. The story of Jonah is not about how much God loved Jonah, though He surely did; it’s about how much He loved the Ninevites. The book of Jonah is about an upside-down God showing love and compassion to the last people on earth anyone ever expected.
4. God does not just want to save you, He wants to use you. When God confronts you with the needs of the world around you, it’s not just about Him pursuing you; He is pursuing the lost world through you. When God calls you it is because He loves the world. When He rescues you it is so that you might bring rescue to the world!
Richard Bartholomew, always vigilant against religious hypocrisy (though for the wrong reasons), has helpfully pointed out the inconsistency of many “right wing” evangelicals who loudly decry homosexuality yet have no problem with divorce. You can read the full article yourself which describes Washington State pastor Ken Hutcherson (vocal advocated against homosexuality and defender of “traditional marriage”) officiating Rush Limbaugh’s (yeah, THAT Rush Limbaugh) fourth marriage (one more than three and one less than five).
Hutcherson is also known for asserting a form a overt machismo. Here is a quote on his view of gender roles.
During his sermon, Hutcherson stated, “God hates soft men” and “God hates effeminate men.” Hutcherson went on to say, “If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I’d rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end.”
I wonder how he felt that hired performer at the reception was Elton John?
I have recently heard the idea that “you can’t appreciate the highs without the lows.” Most of the time it comes from well-meaning people trying to encourage someone who is going through a tough time or who has made some mistakes. Other people invoke this expression justify why they have to “learn things the hard way.”
I think we should file the phrase “you can’t appreciate the highs without the lows” under “statements that have no meaning at all.”
Can I appreciate a good marriage without experiencing a bad marriage? Can I be thankful for a good job if I haven’t had a bad job? Can I enjoy sobriety unless I have battled addiction? Must I experience bankruptcy to appreciate wealth?
Obviously it is illogical and unbiblical to think that bad is necessary to appreciate good. Granted, the bad times can provide perspective to the good, but I am of the opinion that information can be as good as experience. I, for one, prefer to learn from the mistakes of others.
The Bible teaches us to learn from tough experiences and mistakes, but it never indicates that we must experience these things to appreciate the blessings of God. I imagine that the Bible would never warn us about sin if we could only “learn the hard way.” Warning someone to avoid sin would be of no use because the only way they could learn that something is bad or has negative consequences is from experience. Do you see where I’m going with this?
If sin was necessary to appreciate God’s goodness and grace, then God is deficient. God either created sin or is in need of sin to accomplish his task. Since this is not a Biblical or logical option, we can deduce that we don’t always have to learn the hard way (though we often choose to learn things the hard way). I think that faithful obedience and simple trust in God is a more fulfilling avenue to joy than the highs and lows of experiential learning.
David Platt recently spoke at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Beware, if you listen to this message you will likely experience the “holy destruction” that the Spirit of God can bring. Be prepared for conviction.
Platt presents a clear and compelling message of “What the Gospel Does to Our Hearts.” The truth of the matter, the gospel, when rightly understood, will ruin your worldly way of life.
Are you ready to have your life ruined?
Until the gospel invades our hearts, any efforts to help the poor will be shallow and short-lived; but when the gospel of a Savior who became poor that we might become rich radically invades our hearts, it will radically affect the way we live for the sake of His glory amidst urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world.
The gospel demands radical sacrifice.
Hate your mom and dad, wife and kids; pick up an instrument of torture and give up everything you have. That’s a lot different than admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer.
Could it be that somewhere along the way we have taken the gospel, the very lifeblood of Christianity out, and put Kool-Aid in its place. What it means to follow Jesus is to give up everything you’ve got.
Jesus is not a good teacher to be respected; He is a sovereign Lord to be obeyed.
‘That Jesus did not command all His followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom He would issue that command.’
If we take Jesus and twist Him into our image, then even when we gather together in our churches and lift our hands to sing songs to Jesus… we are not worshiping the Jesus of the Bible — we are worshiping ourselves.
The gospel, not guilt, is motivation for giving to those who are in need.
‘God always gives what He commands.’
We have found someone worth losing everything for… Do we believe [Christ] is worth it.
Materialism is not just wrong — it’s dumb.
The cost of discipleship is great… but the cost of non-discipleship is far, far greater. It will cost us to give our resources, money, possessions, and lives in this world. But what if we don’t? The cost will be great for a billion plus people who will go on without knowledge of the gospel while we spend our millions on our buildings, and our programs, and our stuff. The cost will be great for our brothers and sisters in the world who will continue starving while our dogs and cats eat better than them. But the cost will not just be great for them, the cost will be great for us. For we will miss out… in this age and the life to come.
I got Johnny Cash’s posthumous recording release (produced by Rick Rubin) entitled “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” (only $3.99 at Amazon.com). The only ‘original’ release is the song “I Corinthians 15:55.” The rest of the recording consists remastered, “pared-back” covers.
The purportedly final Cash composition (“1 Corinthians 15:55”) is a beautiful musical rendition of the famous verse: “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory.” Cash has his theology firmly planted in the Christian hope of a future, bodily resurrection (of which Christ’s resurrection is the first).
Relevant Magazine has profiled the “complicated faith” of Johnny Cash. The article is full of memorable quotes and a fair look at Cash as famous sinner (e.g., drug abuse, spousal abuse, poor fatherhood, etc.) and famous saint. The article quotes Cash as describing the spiritual toll that drug abuse took on him:
[The drugs] put me in such a low state that I couldn’t communicate with God. There’s no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God, and I wasn’t even trying to call on Him. I knew that there was no line of communication. But He came back. And I cam back.
Here are some of the lyrics to Cash’s song “Redemption Day”
I’ve wept for those who suffer long / But how I weep for those who’ve gone / Into rooms of grief and question wrong / But keep on killing / It’s in the soul to feel such things / But weak to watch without speaking / Oh what mercy sadness brings / If God be willing
There is a train that’s heading straight / To heaven’s gate, to heaven’s gate / And on the way, child and man / And woman wait, watch and wait / For redemption day
In this recording (only months before his death) you can hear the sincerity and wisdom of Cash’s age. His voice has a gentle tremble that comes with age, yet the lyrics and music display the perfect blend of insight, art, and simplicity.
I was rereading John 10 today (after hearing someone teaching this passage yesterday). I wasn’t able to get past by vss. 10-11. I noticed how the thieves throughout the chapter are trying to deceive the sheep. I am reminded in my own life of all of the deceptions. “Thieves” are often trying “steal, kill, and destroy” my joy, hope, and satisfaction in the true shepherd. Jesus, however, has come to give me a full life, an abundant life.
Two questions: What is an abundant life? How does the shepherd provide such a life?
The more I read this section, an abundant life is a life in relationship with Jesus. Like the psalmist, a person who lives a full life is able to say that “the nearness of God is good” (Psalm 73:28). A happy sheep, is a sheep in the presence, protection, and care of the shepherd. In the words of John Piper, “my satisfaction in Christ alone must run so deep that no pain can shake it and no pleasure can compete with it.”
How does such a satisfying and good life come to me? Through a shepherd who is good (v. 11). A shepherd who has sacrificed himself for me. Jesus is both the shepherd and the sacrificial lamb.
I am reminded of the over-quoted C. S. Lewis line from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:”
‘If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than me or else just silly.’
‘Then he isn’t safe?’ asked Lucy.
‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. ‘Don’t you hear what Mrs. beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’
Christianity Today recently chronicled the Mark Driscoll/John Piper war-of-words regarding John Sailhamer’s newest book. To recap, here was the online verbal exchange:
Driscoll noted that he received Sailhamer’s newest work, The Meaning of the Pentateuch, a book he felt was appropriate for “hardcore uber geek theological types who love footnotes.”
John Piper responded with an appropriate verbal beat down:
To all pastors and serious readers of the Old Testament — geek, uber geek, under geek, no geek — if you graduated from high school and know the word meaning, sell your latest Piper or Driscoll book and buy Sailhamer… There is nothing like it. It will rock your world. You will never read the Pentateuch the same again. It is totally readable. You can skip all the footnotes and not miss a beat.
In fact, you might have to skip the footnotes unless your German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French are up to par!
A Little Background
I was first introduced to John Sailhamer and his writings when I came to SEBTS in 2006. After enduring four years of study at my undergraduate institution’s Religion department I was worn out from defending the historicity of the Hebrew Bible. Reading Pentateuch as Narrative and Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach was a breath of fresh air. This hermeneutic took the text of Scripture seriously and made sense of of the New Testament writers’ interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. These books provided a necessary corrective to my hermeneutic. I had been so preoccupied by secondary textual issues in my reading of the Old Testament I had neglected to let the Old Testament shape my questions and concerns when I approached the text. After listening to Sailhamer and re-reading the Hebrew Bible, I no longer felt self-conscious about the intentionality and cohesion of the Old Testament. Further, from a scholarly perspective, I was made aware of the shortcomings of previous historical-critical approaches to the Hebrew Bible. The method I was taught in my undergraduate studies (e.g., Wellhausen) had been demonstrated by modern scholarship to hold little prospect for consensus. The meaning of the Hebrew Bible was opened as I saw new perspectives in reading the text as intended by its author(s) (e.g., Childs, Sailhamer, Rendtorff).
The Meaning of the Pentateuch
Sailhamer’s most recent contribution to Old Testament Studies is a legitimate tome in the field. It is the magnum opus of his great career. This text combines years of classroom teaching, scholarly research, and published books and articles into one collection. The result is a comprehensive approach to the Pentateuch explaining and incorporating a robust Biblical Theology and well-defined Hermeneutic into serious, careful exegetical examination of the Hebrew Bible. The reader will gain large overviews of subjects such as Biblical exegesis, Biblical theology, historical method, and philology.
What I most enjoy about this book is Dr. Sailhamer not only makes summary hermeneutical/theological/philosophical statements but he also demonstrates how he arrived to these conclusions. Further, he demonstrates an exhaustive knowledge of the history of ideas in relation to Biblical exegesis and theology. As a historian, Sailhamer is able to trace the historiography of Old Testament interpretation and explain how modern evangelicals have arrived at their current hermeneutical guidelines.
Sailhamer takes seriously the compositional strategy and the words of the text of the Hebrew Bible. For Sailhamer, proper interpretation seeks to find the intended meaning of the author by the words he uses and the way the text is structured. As a result he spends a significant amount of time exegeting the theological commentary that occurs at the seams of the Tanak (e.g., Deuteronomy 34, Joshua 1, Malachi 3/4, Psalms 1-2, Chronicles 36). For him, these “seams” provide significant interpretive clues to the intended meaning of the Hebrew Bible. Within the Hebrew Bible (and, even, the New Testament), Biblical authors act as Biblical theologians as they interpret previous text (e.g., compositional themes, prophets, apostles, etc.).
Organization of the Book
The book is organized into three sections dealing with foundational issues (e.g, hermeneutics, Biblical theology), text specific issues (e.g., compositional strategy), and theological conclusions drawn from a reading of the Pentateuch (e.g., covenant, blessing, messiah, Mosaic Law, salvation).
Much more can be said about Sailhamer’s discussion of theology and compositional strategy. Hopefully what has been discussed will whet your appetite to read this book and (more importantly) to examine the intended meaning of the Pentateuch.
In order to increase the traffic at my new blog and be generous, I have decided to give a brand new copy of John H. Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch. To enter this giveaway merely comment on this post (make sure to use a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win). The winner will be chosen randomly and contacted via e-mail. Please share this contest with other people via Twitter, Facebook, blog, or neighborhood flyers. Only one comment per person, but you’ll get an extra entry if you link to this post on your own blog!
As a recent graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary I cannot express how thankful and proud I am for the godly leadership of Danny Akin. He is one of the main reasons I decided to attend S.E.B.T.S. He has been one of the leading proponents of a “Great Commission Resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention.
In the following video you will see Dr. Akin preach from Romans 12:1-2. While watching this video I was again challenged to give God everything. I don’t mean to use that word “everything” lightly. I want to live for God as a “living sacrifice.” I want to be a dead man walking.
Also, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Dr. Akin preach without notes or a manuscript! Must be a message particularly close to his heart. As you’ll notice, it doesn’t take Dr. Akin but a few moments to teach the gospel and how it calls us to proclaim the gospel to the nations.
He explains Romans 12:1-2 using three words: consecration, transformation, and satisfaction. However, to get to Paul’s point in Romans 12:1-2 one has to understand Romans 1-11. That is the beauty of this message! Dr. Akin walks through Romans 1-11 in a beautiful, succinct, clear manner that does complete justice to the intended meaning of the text.
Here are a few poignant quotes from Dr. Akin’s message:
Why do we need a gospel? Why do we need the power of God? Why do we need to be justified? Why do we need to be saved? The answer is — we have a massive sin problem.
Revelation brings responsibility.
Your salvation was not an accident. Your salvation was not an afterthought. Your salvation was not ‘Plan B.’
God wants your eyes. God wants your ears. God wants your mouth. God wants your mind… God wants your hands and your feet. In fact, God wants all of your body — every single part of it. He’s not interested in most of it. He’s not willing to negotiate and bargain… You can’t give God part of you.
The mind is a very delicate thing that must be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The Bible says if you’re not careful, both as a Christian and as a church, we can begin to look a whole lot more like the world than like Jesus.
I find that there are a bunch of stupid Christians… They love Jesus with their heart but they don’t have a prayer of a chance of explaining to somebody what they believe or why they believe it.
[Read a book] that will stretch your mind so that you can think more Christianly day-in and day-out rather than being a surface, sloppy, silly, stupid, Saint – we don’t need any more.
Any system of theology that lessens your passion for the Great Commission and evangelism is a theology not worth having.
In the day and age we live, you can’t be a stupid Christian. You have to be able to think well about the gospel and the implications of the gospel. You have to be able to explain and understand both what you and believe and why you believe. If you don’t read, that’s not going to happen.
For the audio-only version of this message see my previous post on the 20/20 Conference at SEBTS.
Here are two of the most helpful exegetical exercises that have informed me about the church and its purposes. I would suggest you take the time to engage in these activities.
1. Look up every instance of the word ἐκκλησία (ekklesia, church, gathering, assembly, congregation, etc.) in the New Testament. Read the context of each use. The result will be a more healthy understanding of the Bible’s use of church. To understand what a church must do you must understand what a church is. In my mind being precedes doing.
2. In regard to the “community of faith,” each Christian should look up, read, and meditate on the “one another” passages of the New Testament.
Some of the more important preliminary conclusions at which I arrived when I first did this activity?
1. The overwhelming emphasis in the New Testament is on the physical, visible, local church. To say it another way, every Christian is a member of the “body of Christ,” but that body is manifested in a particular place and time.
2. Christians need each other to become more like Christ. There is no place in the Bible for “Lone-Ranger” Christianity. The community of believers is essential for sanctification and edification.
3. The church is the place not only to proclaim the gospel, but (more importantly), to demonstrate the effects of a gospel-changed life. In today’s culture, especially, an authentic demonstration of the gospel is often more important than a precise articulation of the gospel.