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Archive for July, 2010

I was reading a parable to Fred, a 95 year old member of our congregation. I asked him if he understood what it was about. In his gentle farmer burr he said “It’s about knowing the Lord I should expect.”

Words to live by!

What do you expect when you open the Scriptures?

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Happy Friday

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Part of my ordination training involved doing the Myers-Briggs personality test.  Now I realise that this is not strictly mandated by the Pastoral Epistles, but on the other hand it was a good old giggle. (See mildly amusing prayers for the 16 personality types here.)

I came out quite strongly as ENFP which means I’m an inveterate procrastinator, big-picture, no-detail, scatter-brained, last-minute, wing it with a smile and talk my way out of it later kind of guy.  At this point all the ISTJs (the opposite to me on all four spectrums) are waking up to why my blog really bugs them.  (Myers-Briggs did actually help me understand something of my bible college experience – the majority of Anglican ministers I trained with were ISTJs).

But already you’re probably sensing what everyone should know about these ‘personality types.’  They’re not neutral.  They describe real patterns alright – and extremely hard-wired patterns too.  But a lot of what they describe are patterns of sin.  A good part of each of the 16 ‘personality types’ simply identify chosen, self-protective schemes that enable us to navigate a cursed world along paths of least resistance.  Whether we buy into the ‘loud’ or the ‘shy’ persona, the ‘organized’ or ‘shambolic’, we’re basically doing the same thing – finding a way to make life work apart from Christ.  By some combination of retreating from the thorns and sewing our fig leaves we hit upon a style of relating that minimizes pain and maximizes self.

Now we cluster together in different groups of sinners because there are natural contours to our make-up, and there are unique events shaping our development.  Those internal and external differences are not in themselves sinful.  What’s more God redeems our Adamic personalities (rather than replaces them) and gives us distinct and glorious gifts.  This is all a very good thing.  Differences are not a problem.  Not at all.  The new creation will not be monochrome!  And different gifted-ness is not something to be ironed out in the name of Christian maturity.  We are trinitarian!  Our goal is not the absence of difference but the harmony of God-given distinctives.

The problem is not difference.  The problem in fact is a lack of distinctiveness to our personalities because instead we slide into personas that deny our particular identity in Christ.

How many times have we flinched from serving Jesus by making such claims as…

‘I’m just not an extrovert.’

‘I don’t really do organization.’

‘I’m not a morning person.’

I get energy from withdrawing and being alone’

‘I need order/control.’

‘I’m not good with authority/structure.’

‘I’m not a people-person.’

See more “I am not…” statements here, and their effect.

Even as we think of these deep-seated statements of identity it should be clear that they’re not just descriptive.  They are also very strongly aspirational.  I got that sense even as I took the Myers-Briggs test.  So many of the answers I gave were actually the answers that I thought the artsy, laid-back Glen should give.  In fact it was almost exactly like doing the Star Wars personality test where I tried my hardest to come out as Han Solo (but ended up as Princess Leia.  My wife was the Emporer – but that’s another post).  The point is our reactions to events are partly innate but also strongly determined by the persona we’d like to hide in.

So who’s identity are we hiding in and why?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Col 3:1-4)

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Rest of series:

I am not…

Tearing down the idol of my personality

Conclusions

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We’ve thought about the chief error in guidance – believing that our choices make us who we are.  That’s Pelagian/Erasmian/Enlightenment garbage.  But it infects everything.

One way it plays out is by feeding a familiar false dichotomy: it’s the old boundary keeper versus tight-rope walker dilemma.

The ‘boundary keeper’ believes God has set limits ‘out there’ on our behaviour.  There’s the ten commandments etc.  And if you keep them – if  you keep within the boundaries – then choose whatever you want.  Get on and do your thing.  Don’t bother God and God shouldn’t bother you.

You can see pretty clearly how the chief error feeds this view.  I am my own self-directing godlet (with limits obviously).

But what’s interesting is that the flipside to this error is essentially the same hubris differently applied.

The tight-rope walker looks very different.  They think there’s only one right path in life and at any minute they may put a foot wrong and fall off God’s will for their life.

Guidance then is all about making sure you make the one right decision in every circumstance.

But of course the question must come: Why?  Why must you make the RIGHT decision?  Unfortunately, for the tight-rope walker the answer comes: Because my very selfhood / standing before God depends on it.  You’re still effectively saying “It’s all in my hands.”

Looks humble and fearful before God.  It’s still all about you.

What’s the answer?

Well this sermon from Proverbs has a go at an answer.

Essentially I conclude – we’re not in a wide-open plain, we’re not walking a tightrope – we’re in the House of Wisdom.  From that loving security we grow wise.  And with the resources of the House of Wisdom – the Craftsmanship of Jesus; the Teaching of Jesus and the People of Jesus – wise people start making wise choices.

Audio here.  Text below.

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Luke 10 Reloaded

From my local paper…

.Puts a new spin on the payback He’ll give when He returns from His long journey (Luke 10:35).

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“What assumptions about sex are behind the common opinion that the Song is only an erotic poem, only a celebration of human sexuality and marriage, full stop?

Tremper Longman: “There is absolutely nothing in the Song of Songs itself that hints of a meaning different from the sexual meaning.”

When commentators express such opinions, are they already implicitly assuming a materialist view of sexuality?  Are they coming to the text with a presupposition that sex has no inherent transcendent meaning?  To put it the other way round: Doesn’t sex itself hint at a meaning different from the sexual meaning?”  Peter Leithart

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This righteous

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Get this.  Here’s Clark Pinnock as quoted by Mike Horton here:

I cannot deny that most believers end their earthly lives imperfectly sanctified and far from complete.  I cannot deny the wisdom in possibly giving them an opportunity to close the gap and grow to maturity after death. Obviously, evangelicals have not thought this question out.  It seems to me that we already have the possibility of a doctrine of purgatory. Our Wesleyan and Arminian thinking may need to be extended in this direction. Is a doctrine of purgatory not required by our doctrine of holiness?

Now, I don’t usually engage in Arminian bashing.  (Usually when I see such beat ups I want to side with the Arminian even if I agree with the critique).  But, with this quote… come on.  Seriously?  A protestant starts thinking that their theology requires a doctrine of purgatory?  Because evangelicals haven’t properly thought about it??  Really???

At that point, if not years sooner, shouldn’t Pinnock wake up and say “Hold on a minute.  I think I’ve become one of the baddies!”

…Like in this scene (perhaps Mitchell and Webb’s only funny sketch – though obviously Peep Show is untouchably awesome)…

This is not my attempt at a reductio ad Hitlerum.  I just relate to the whole process of waking up on the wrong side of a battle.

I remember my early days at a certain church where I found myself saying of a certain preacher that he really shouldn’t preach Christ so much and definitely not from certain Scriptures.  Let the reader understand.

At that point I had my own “Am I a baddy?” experience.  I’ve had others too.

What about you?  Have you had an “Are we the baddies?” experience??

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Look at this guy, solitary, upright, clear view to the horizon.  In fact he seems to stand between heaven and earth.  He is the Man, surveying all before him, standing on top of the world.

And which way will he go?  It’s his call.

He is the captain of his soul.  This is man at his most liberated and flourishing isn’t it?  Free to do what he wants any old time.

He’s living the dream.  Which is why the whole scene is shot through with romance – the sun setting idyllically on his sovereign Decision.

But this very modern view of our choices is a ridiculous idyll.  It crumbles under almost any scrutiny and yet it captures the hearts of the whole world – and so many in the church too.

I reckon this false belief in our identity as sovereign choosers is mistake number one when it comes to the issue of guidance.  The whole world seems to believe that what we choose leads to who we are.  And while-ever we believe that then our decisions will be invested with an existential importance they were never meant to carry.

Modern Christians are obsessed with the issue of guidance in a way our forebears just weren’t.  To a certain degree you can explain that as a function of the greater opportunities we have today to shape our lives.  In years gone past a baker’s son was a baker and that was that.  Today he might become a she and move to Thailand.  It’s his/her call!

The options have certainly expanded, but it’s the underlying false belief which invests those options with such weight that they become a burden.  We really think that our choices make us who we are.  We believe we have the power (in ourselves, in our choices) to be self-made men and women – rather than to receive our life and being as a gift.

But a moment’s thought shows how ridiculous the sovereign chooser myth is.

I could tell you some of the story of my life by telling you the choices I’ve made.  I decided to take this job and not this job.  To move to this city at this stage.  But that tells you only a very small amount about me (but, usually, the only part of me that the world is interested in – because we’re all playing the same game).

But what about the bits I didn’t decide.  For instance, my parents never decided to have me – I was an accident, as my sisters would constantly remind me.  I never decided to be born in the 20th century in the West.  I never decided to grow up in Canberra.  Would you have chosen your home town if you had the choice??  I never decided all sorts of things that have made me who I am.

And this is not to mention all the hundreds of decisions I’ve tried to make happen but they never came off.  Those failures have made me who I am too.

Didn’t John Lennon say ‘Life’s what happens to you while you’re busy making plans’?  That’s a good observation.  Life is not found in our choices and plans and strategising.  It happens to us.  We receive it.  And if we simply learnt that lesson, the weight of the guidance issue would lessen significantly.

But what we really need to do is attack the problem at its source.  We need to go to the Scriptures and learn again that what we choose does not make us who we are.  Rather who we are flows out in what we choose.

Take the book of Proverbs for instance.  You might read it and get the impression it’s supporting the world’s wisdom.  It seems to say “Wise people act like this and it’s good.  Fools act like that and it’s bad.”  But on closer inspection you see that the actions flow from being wise or being foolish.  There’s only actually one wise Person – Wisdom.  And one foolish person – Folly.  They both consider humanity to be simple and lacking in judgement (Prov 9:4,16) yet they vie for the hearts of the masses (see Prov 1:20ff; 8:1ff; 9:1ff).  They are portrayed as women – Wisdom like the good wife, Folly like the deceitful adulteress.  And belonging to their respective houses – that’s what constitutes a person wise or foolish.

Then from within those houses the wise and the foolish live out their being.  In the house of the wise you walk with the wise and feast with Wisdom.  You learn her teachings and right choices follow.

So first it’s an affair of the heart as Wisdom woos you.  This constitutes a change of being and then we see a change in will, in choosing, in action.

All of which is just to stress what Luther saw as absolutely critical in his debate with Erasmus.  The moment you make the will the centre of gravity, you lose the gospel.  Our wills are bound.  We do what we want, but we can’t want the right thing until the LORD sweeps us off our feet.  When He changes our hearts, then the will is liberated to act in line with our new hearts.  But to make our very identity depend on our choices is to commit a fundamental theological error.

I’ll write some more on guidance, but for now let’s just emphasize this basic point: we are NOT the choices we have made.  We are who we are in Christ who has wooed and won us and freed us to live in a new way.  In that new way there will be decisions to be made. But relax.  Your life and identity is not found in those plans, it’s found and it’s secure in Christ.

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A sermon on guidance in Proverbs.

More on freedom here.

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Henry Ford is supposed to have said:

“If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

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Happy Friday

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Audio here

Ever since Genesis 3 we’ve had the sense that the world out there and our hearts in here are headed somewhere bad.  And it’s not going to end well.

We’ve all got our doomsday stories.

And in the popular imagination there’s nothing like a post-apocalyptic vision of a deserted city for grabbing our attention.  How many times has New York been destroyed on film?

Well Zephaniah is facing the destruction of Jerusalem and its imminent demise is making him think of the end of the world.  Because if the people of God and the city of God and the house of God are about to be judged – then nothing and no-one is safe.  The judgement of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC is a picture of the judgement of the whole world.

And so as Zephaniah thinks of global judgement, he paints his own picture of a deserted city.  In verse 13 he turns his attention to perhaps the world’s greatest city of the day – Nineveh.  And he says this:

Look at v13

13 He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert. 14 Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind. The desert owl and the screech owl will roost on her columns. Their calls will echo through the windows, rubble will be in the doorways, the beams of cedar will be exposed. 15 This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists.

It sounds just like one of those films.  But the bible insists that there IS a right fear of the end of the world.  Judgement is coming.  And all our human securities WILL be overturned.

Things can’t go on like this forever.  Life as we know it is moving towards judgement day.  And even just on an individual level, our own bodies are decaying and falling apart, the physical world is groaning beneath us.  And one day it will come crashing down.

Which means if you don’t like Zephaniah 2 and all the bible’s teaching on judgement – well I completely understand that.  It’s not meant to be pleasant reading.  It’s a bit like the fire alarm going off.  No-one likes the fire alarm going off.  Our smoke detector is very sensitive and it’ll go off the second I’ve burnt the toast.  That’s annoying and I usually then take the battery out of the alarm until I’m done cooking.  But I’d be stupid to take the battery out for good.  I’d be stupid to throw away the fire alarm.  And I’d be stupid to complain that the alarm was too loud and shrill for my liking.  It’s meant to be loud and shrill, it’s meant to be inconvenient, it’s meant to disturb people so that it saves lives.

And it’s the same with Scripture’s warnings.  But so often we’re like the person who takes out the battery and chucks it away.  We skip over the judgement stuff because it’s a bit loud and shrill.  Well it’s meant to be. But as disturbing and inconvenient as the fire alarm is – it’s nothing compared to the fire itself.  And compared to these warnings in the bible, they are nothing compared to the judgement they warn us of.  These warnings need to shock us out of our complacency and make us face reality.

There is a judgement, there is a reckoning, there is a last day, I will face Christ my Maker.  And you can’t escape judgement by throwing the bible away and more than you can escape a fire by chucking away the fire alarm.

But even if you do throw the bible away, the world will sell you its own doomsday stories.  Even without the bible you’ll still be told of catastrophic global warming and killer pandemics and the sun dying, the earth choking, the seas rising, the universe freezing.  And just on an individual level, you’ll still get a call from the doctor to say  “The results of the tests have come back, I think you’d better come into my surgery…”  Your body will still go into the ground and rot along with everyone you love.  You can’t escape judgement by throwing the bible away.  And no-one should call the bible primitive for talking about Armageddon. We’ve all got our judgement day stories.

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These are not the outskirts of Eden.  **

Yet my defaut mode is to think exactly this.  I wake every morning with peace in the land, money in the bank, food in the cupboard.  I shower in clean drinking water, go to my rewarding job, drink coffee from the other side of the world.  I’ve lost none of my siblings, none of my close friends.  In fact all death seems to be sealed off in a sanitised compound, far from my everyday consciousness.  I have no major illnesses (that I know of).  I blog / text / download / watch the latest banal distraction.  I preach with virtually no expectation of opposition and people even thank me for bringing them the gospel.

So this is the garden of Eden right?  At least an outer suburb, surely?

I heard Rick McKinley once comment that news footage of atrocities looks very different in the west to other places.  In the aftermath of a bombing in Palestine, the crowds are grieving.  They know what to do in these situations, they’ve seen it all before.  And they cry, they wail, they mourn the dead.  In the aftermath of a tragedy in the west what are the expressions of the onlookers?  Shock, disbelief, incomprehension.  And the whole sense conveyed is ‘How could this happen?  These are the outskirts of Eden, right?’

Well, no.  We’ve actually been exiled from the Lord’s presence and the very ground beneath our feet trembles under the weight of a divine curse.  Thorns and thistles grow up for us.  Interesting to note that preposition in Genesis 3:18 – these thorns that mar all our efforts to fill and subdue the earth are not randomly placed in creation.  They are intentionally pointed at us.  The Lord rigs the whole creation for frustration (Dan Allender’s phrase).  Our relationships are bent on violence and destruction.  Even, and especially, our life-giving activities (filling and subduing and child-bearing) are shot through with excruciating pain and disappointment and we live under an ominous death-sentence.  Dust we are, and to dust we will return.

So that curse is crashing down on my head daily – and on the heads of the people I love.  But because I think I’m in a suburb of Eden, here’s how I respond.  I retreat from the thorns and I piece together my fig leaves.

Put it another way – I refuse to engage in the painful toil involved in the Lord’s work and instead I invest in whatever I think will make life work.  Under the ridiculous delusion that I’m entitled to Eden’s ease, I take pain as a sign that I’m not where I’m meant to be (since I believe I’m meant to be in Eden).  So I shield myself from this pain – be it the frustration of admin, the vulnerability of opening up to people, the risks of leading through change.   And I seek life in other ways – through my plans, ingenuity and hard graft (my fig leaves).  All this assumes that I’m basically in the Garden (at least in the outskirts).  I tell myself there’s no reason for me to engage in pain, and every possibility I can make this world work.  But this is not Eden and I must not be shocked by the thorns nor retreat from them.  Neither should I think that I can press through them to life.  Equally I must not cover myself in my own righteousness, nor think that life exists in such efforts.

Dante had the words “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” written above the gates of hell.  Actually the words above this land east of Eden could say something pretty similar: “Abandon all hope ye who live here – except for Christ.”  There is no hope for us, no hope for making life work, no hope for avoiding the curse.  There is Christ only.  Nothing we put our hope in will work.  Not finally.  But we engage in His work, in all its pain.  We renounce our own coverings and trust in Christ alone.  And we wait for the new heavens and the new earth – for that is the home of righteousness.

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** btw I’m using ‘Eden’ as a shorthand for ‘the Garden of Eden’ – Paradise.  I realise that the Garden was in Eden – a larger area (cf Gen 4:18).  So I’m begging a little artistic license here.

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Good verses for the 5 solas?

I’m preaching through the five solas of the reformation in August.  We’re beginning with Christ alone.

So it’s

Christ alone

Grace alone

Faith alone

Scripture alone

God’s glory alone

So for ten points and control of the next round – can you tell me what Scriptures I should use each week?

And any other things I should say?

Your time starts….

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… now

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Source:

“Now Betty, would you like to keep those salvations or will you trade them all for what’s in this box??”

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Horrifimus maximus!

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Evangelism seminar 2

Session 1 here

Evangelism Session 2

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There are three subjects a preacher can speak on to really turn the guilt screws: Praying, Giving and Evangelism

In the year 2000 Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 181 million hours witnessing door to door.  (It’s interesting that they compile such detailed statistics.  And that they publish them!)  A Jehovah’s Witness is expected to do 5 hours door to door work a week.

It’s very possible to mobilize incredible ‘evangelistic endeavours’ out of fear, pride, pressure and guilt.

A good question for every evangelist: Am I witnessing to bring this person to God or to bring me to God?

But evangelism doesn’t bring me to God.  It’s Christ who brings the world to God.  And I join in!

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Definition 3: Evangelism is sharing together in Christ’s mission to the world

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In terms of bringing people to God

He Did – Christ did bring people to God through His cross.

We Are – We are a body of people bringing others to God.

I Can – I can play my part in Christ’s mission.

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1) He did.  1 Peter 3:18

THE great missionary task has been completed.

My evangelism does not bring me to God.  And my failures don’t keep me away.

When I have failed to speak up or been a terrible witness among my friends – that was sin.  But Christ died for sins…

Some give the impression that Jesus died for every sin except evangelistic failure.  But no, these failures are unrighteous.  But Christ clothed Himself in that unrighteousness and gives you His spotless robe.  You are rejoiced over before the Father, even with all your failures.

So no more fear, no more pride, no more pressure, no more guilt.  You have been brought to God.

And now I join in not because I have to, but because I get to.  In fact… I am!

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2) We are.  1 Peter 2:9; 4:10-11

We scattered aliens and strangers are – together – a priesthood.

Priests are go-betweens standing between God and the people.

We declare His praises in the world (v9) and the pagans are brought to God (v12)

Notice: We ARE this priesthood.  Peter doesn’t say ‘Work hard, try and become priestly.’  He says you are already priestly.

You entered the priesthood the day you trusted Jesus.

To be a Christian is to be an integral part of an evangelistic organisation!

Notice: We are TOGETHER this priesthood.

John 13:34-35 – our life together testifies to the world.  How can we witness together?

What if two or three or four of us joined the same gym/club/adult education course?

What if we were committed, regular, intentional, up front about our faith?

Notice: We won’t all have the same job within this evangelistic body – 1 Peter 4:10-11.

Some are good ‘speakers’, some are good ‘servers’ (a hospitality kind of word).

When they work together it’s a potent combination – evangelism through hospitality – speakers and servers together.

What are your gifts?  How can we use them together in a priestly (ie evangelistic)way?

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3) I Can.  1 Peter 3:15

Be prepared.  The scout’s motto!  Be prepared with words.

Like the engaged woman, ready to show off the diamond.  Like film lover who’s just seen their new favourite film.  Like the proud owner of a new sports car or a new outfit 70% off.  Like the football supporter of the cup-winning team.  Like the new grand-parents.  We are always ready to talk about the things that are important to us aren’t we?

This is why setting apart Christ as Lord is so important.  That Christ would be more exciting than the diamond, the film, the car, etc, etc.  If the heart is right the words will come – failingly and falteringly, but they will come.

Gentleness and respect – evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

Notice: Who initiates this evangelistic conversation?  It’s the non-Christian asking “How do you live with such hope?”

It’s a “hope that is IN you.”  Not in the creeds or in a gospel tract or even in the bible but IN US!

The section begins with good advice on how to attract such interest: 1 Pet 3:8 – sympathy, love, compassion and humility.

Evangelism is not turning trivial conversations into trite gospel presentations.

It’s about prizing Christ above everything else, living with distinctive words and actions and joining Him in His mission to the world.

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Questions

Have you felt guilt attached to your evangelism in the past?  What does the gospel say into that situation?

What are your gifts?  How can you use them as part of the whole church’s priestly body?

Are there things we can do together in the world?  Be specific.  (This is not about doing more, but about doing what we do together and with gospel intentionality)

What kind of lives attract the questions of non-Christians?  How does this challenge me?  Again, be specific.

Are there one or two non-Christians in your life that you can commit to pray for?  Don’t list 300, think of two or three and pray for them regularly.

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Evangelism seminar 1

Here’s the outline for the first of two seminars I ran on evangelism based in 1 Peter.  They were for a local church’s weekend away…

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Evangelism Session 1

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Thought Experiment

Think of an evangelist.  What are they like?

Think of a person (or some people) who were significant in leading you to Christ?  What are they like?

What’s the difference?

Where did we get that image of “the evangelist” from?

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Definition 1: Evangelism is ordinary people gripped by the gospel

There are such folk as “evangelists” (Eph 4:11)

But their role is to equip the whole church to fulfil its evangelistic ministry (Eph 4:12)

Every Christian can reasonably expect to see friends/family brought to Christ in their lifetime.

1 Peter is written to ordinary people: aliens and strangers, scattered in the world and suffering.

But they are gripped by God (1:2) –

Choice in the Father’s eyes

Set apart by the Spirit

United to Christ, their Lord and Saviour

They LOVE Jesus (1:8)

If you don’t love Jesus, please don’t do evangelism

Jesus speaks of zealous but loveless evangelism in Matt 23:15 – it multiplies sons of hell!

Remember Christ crucified – warm your heart by the fires of the gospel – 1 Pet 3:18

Because we speak about what we love.  Matthew 12:34 “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Remember how 1 Pet 3:15 begins: “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”  That’s the foundation

I can talk all day about cricket.  I’ve never read a book on how to talk about cricket.  We speak of what we love.

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Definition 2:  Evangelism means living distinctly in word and deed.

When I imagine an evangelist I think of someone who blends in, who is cool, who is popular.

But 1 Peter screams out no.  We follow a crucified man.

His mission to planet earth got Him killed and our own part in this mission will also feel like crucifixion (eg 2:21ff)

2:11-12 – In the short term we will be hated, in the long term this unpopular distinctiveness will have eternal impact.

Peter knows where this distinct living will bite for the Christian:

From 2:13 – living distinctively under hostile authorities

From 2:18 – living distinctively in the work place

From 3:1 – living distinctively in marriages (even with unbelievers)

From 4:1 – living distinctively among non-Christian friends and family

In each circumstance this distinctive living will be like the cross (2:21ff)

It means extending ourselves in love to a hostile world for their salvation – it’s what got Jesus killed.

But it’s also what saves.

You are not called to be like Billy Graham.

You are not called to be Mr/Mrs/Miss Popular.

You are called to something much harder but much more ordinary – be like Jesus in the simple circumstances of your life.

You are called to live and speak distinctively for Jesus in a world that hates Him.

We think of an evangelist as someone who is the life and soul of the party and a ChristianWhat an advertisement for Jesus!

Don’t try to be that person.  Be the person who, when the party is over and life turns hard, your friend can talk to about the big issues.

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Questions

Was there a difference between your picture of “an evangelist” and those who actually brought you to Christ?  What was it?

What is the link between love for Jesus and speaking for Him?  What can we do to strengthen that link?

Are you a person that friends, family and colleagues can come to with big issues in life?  Are there things you need to change so that you will be?

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Gail Dines writes soberingly of the misogyny of porn.  (ht Tim Chester)

And here Doug Wilson speaks of how porn has ironically dampened men’s sexual interest in real women.  He concludes with this memorable line:

Porn provides the kind of sex life that someone living in a Matrix pod could enjoy.

Which is another reminder of how Gnostic pornography is.  Just like gnosticism, it’s anti-women (a hatred of the other).  Just like gnosticism, it abstracts sex from its physicality and locatedness (including, of course, its relational locatedness).  Instead it sells a kind of essence of sex.

Now we could talk about the ways pornography trains men in misogyny and objectification of women.  We could talk about how it destroys a man’s own masculinity (like here).  We could talk about how it destroys marriages.  But what I want to mention here is a more general worry – pornography is a powerful training ground in gnosticism.

Wilson’s point is not just that men in a Matrix pod would choose porn but that living porn users are trained to prefer life in the pod.  Porn is a powerful reinforcement of that gnostic air that we breathe which always prefers the ideal and the universal to the real and the particular.  And porn comes along and it wants you to desire a general, unrelated, essence of eroticism – not to engage with an actual, physical person in relationship.

Now men have always prefered pleasing themselves to pleasing others, always feared entering into real relationship and engagement.  But porn reinforces this in the most powerful way.  And in such a pornified culture is it any wonder that we see these perversions of true masculinity multiplied: the man who dreams dreams but never follows through; who fears he doesn’t have the substance to actually make an impact in the real world; who withdraws from the roles assigned to him and seems to regress in maturity; who spends all his days in blue sky thinking and neglects actual work; who indulges in grand idealism but with no follow through.

These tendencies exist in all men, but porn uses and multiplies them. And it’s this disengagement from the here and now and real and physical and particular which characterizes both porn and gnosticism and which has a real grip on this generation of men.

Having said all this.  Blogging can fall under much of the same criticism!  Hmmm.  I’m off outside…

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