Archive for February, 2013

The Importance of Adam

AdamChristCarl Trueman writes here that,

…the question of Adam is arguably the biggest doctrinal question facing the current generation.

He has a couple of strong quotes from Warfield and Bavinck worth reading too.

Last night I taught a little on 321 and experienced some push-back on Adam.

There are issues of clarity – it seems overly complicated to speak of our corporate identities like this.

There are issues of fairness – original sin seems unreasonable (to non-Christians and, one suspects, to Christians too).

There are issues of credibility – no-one believes in Adam anymore. (Non-Christians and Christian alike it seems!)

I’ve written on this stuff here and here, but I thought I’d list some more thoughts in the hope that we might speak of Christ’s vicarious action for the world with a renewed sense of the importance of Adam. With the backdrop of Adam I’m convinced we’ll be able to speak with a greater sense of clarity, fairness and credibility. Here are ten bullet-points, and some further reflections:

1) All Christians are in the business of proclaiming vicarious action: one man on behalf of humanity – on behalf of the cosmos even.  To the Bible’s way of thinking, the fact one Man answers another one man is what makes the gospel clear and credible. Without Adam, we’re proclaiming a vicarious solution to a self-caused problem.  Or, even more ridiculously, a vicarious solution to a God-caused problem.

2) All Christians are in the business of proclaiming a sin problem.  But if “sin” is basically bad behaviour, you’ll draw a blank with many. (See more here)

3) We all know that our families shape us. My ancestor, Ann Forbes, committed a crime, was exiled from the mother country and thousands have been radically affected. One person, one crime, and whole generations are determined. All our family trees are like this. It’s a modern delusion to think that we’re self made people. It’s worth unmasking that delusion because it goes right to the heart of the gospel.

4) It has real traction with the unbeliever to say “There’s a brokenness to me that goes far deeper than behaviour. I’m a part of something bigger than me. Give me the best circumstances, the greatest achievements, my dearest loved ones, and still a selfishness and pride and envy comes out of me that can be shocking.” It connects with people to talk about “deep, overpowering drives”. Connecting that to a problem of being over behaviour is not incredible.  For those being awakened to the truth (about themselves and about Christ) it is very credible.

5) Addiction is a great category for sin opened out by speaking in ‘original sin’ / ‘bound will’ terms. (Not the only category certainly, but an important one),

6) Steve Levy’s “Hell sermon” is a tremendous example of how being “condemned already” (in Adam) connects with unbelievers in a profound way.

7) Mockingbird are constantly culturally relevant because they’re always hammering home the bound will.  See their resources. Here’s an example.  Or try this series: Good News for People with Big Problems.

8) Non-Christians are also questioning our modern equation of freedom with choice – see this TED talk on the Paradox of Choice.

9) Atheists (like Sam Harris) are far more deterministic than any biblical teaching on the bound will.

10) Whether they be atheists or not, many in the culture are drawing deeply theological conclusions from our supposed union with others. It’s just that they’re thinking of their union with star-dust, we’re thinking of our organic union with humanity.  I think we’re offering a much more believable account – certainly one that accords with our deepest feelings of personal affinity.

In my own experience, I’ve seen non-Christians respond powerfully to Adam and Christ teaching.  Secular folks have become Christians through 321 and the Adam stuff has made a deep impact.  On Sunday I preached on Romans 5 and the common response from listeners was “I wish my unbelieving friend could have heard that.”  Not – “That was weird, let’s keep it to ourselves!”

I’m sure I’m wrong in many, many cases, but when I hear people say “The world will never believe in Adam”, I suspect they really mean “I do not believe in Adam.”  That might be completely false, but it’s a suspicion that’s been borne out in a few specific cases.

You might ask, “What on earth should we say to our scientifically minded friends who laugh at an historic Adam?”  Well I’d simply ask them about their belief in Christ. With 1 Corinthians 15 open I’ll say, “Here’s the bible’s logic: if Christ rose, Adam fell. Let’s ask whether Christ rose…”

I’m not seeking to build discrete theological points in a sequential argument – in which case I suppose we’d have to lay an Adam foundation first. But no, I’m inviting the non-Christian into the bible’s world and saying “Look around at the whole thing, see how it fits together. See how this story helps make sense of your story, etc, etc.”

I’m not asking them first to buy Genesis 2. Nor am I asking them first to buy Genesis 1.  To begin with, I’m asking them to view the world through a different set of lenses and praying they’ll “See it!”

Notice that I want them to “view the world” differently.  I think that’s important.  So often in evangelism we want maximal agreement in advance and so, for instance, when we teach on God, we won’t make explicit that we proclaim ‘the God of Jesus‘. Instead  we’ll just let their default doctrine of God slide – maybe addressing that down the line.

In the same way, when we teach on humanity and the world, we leave people’s ruling assumptions alone.  We basically ask them to switch their view of “God up there” and possibly “me down here” but there’s zero transformation of their view of “the world out there.” It’s enlightenment evangelism, with a transition of “the man upstairs” but little or no change in their vision of the real world, down here.

I’m fully aware that such transformation is a life-long activity.  But given that saving faith fixes on the enfleshed, crucified and risen Christ, the youngest Christian’s vision of ‘the world’ is beginning to be transformed. Again, I’m not asking anyone to believe in ‘Genesis first’ or anything like that.  I’m just saying, when we invite our friends into a Christian view of reality, we’re inviting them over to our place – a grand and strange old house. But we’ll be super hospitable and we’ll pray they’ll grow to love it.

The trouble comes when when we leave the house built on the Rock and simply build on supposed common ground.  Great will be the fall!


Read Full Post »

Pressed down but pressing in

Healing of the Woman

I know they’re all corkers, but Emma’s latest is one of the corkingest…

You hosed down the bad self, but the good one drowned too.  You untethered your life and watched as it sank.  You self-harmed to stop feeling but that worked too well. So you self-harmed to break the numbness; to feel something instead.

Read it.

Read Full Post »

I really very badly want to share this music. I want to share it with everyone who is willing to hear. And that is because I have fallen in love with this music.

She then describes a low time in which she encountered Handel’s piano music. It sparked her “personal state of wonder. It hit a really deep chord within me.”

“…So that’s how I got addicted to this music…”

Now the world must know! And no matter how foolish she feels, her passion carries her out to the world.

“I ended up with so many diverse reactions. It really made me happy because so many different responses to one and the same piece, to me that feels like it’s really great music.”

The most beautiful moment in performance art is when I can convey my state of wonder at exactly the same moment that you are open to hear it.

Then she plays. (Of course she plays, how perverse to merely talk about the music without offering it to us!).  And notice, it’s slow moving in a minor key, then an urgent recapitulation and then a glorious shift into the major key.  I wonder why that works?

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” ― Martin Luther

What do we learn about evangelism from this?  Discuss.


Read Full Post »

Romans 5 sermon

Romans5Sermon Text

Sermon Audio

Sermon Slides

“The Christian has reconciliation. We are brought into the very life and love of God. His peace, grace and glory are ours through our Lord Jesus Christ – no matter the suffering, no matter the sin.”

Read Full Post »

Heard Jim Cymbala at Crossing London yesterday.

I was very attracted to his humility and simplicity. In the morning he spoke powerfully from 1 Thessalonians on Church, the hope of the world. And how to grow it? 1. Preach the gospel. 2. Depend on the Spirit. 3. Love your people.


Read Full Post »


follow-jesusJesus is King… and we’re His Bride #howthesentenceshouldend

Some evangelistic strategies seem to be about laying a trail of breadcrumbs. The apostles seem more simply to serve up the Bread.

You won’t find gold chasing rainbows. But there’s a Golden One who wears the rainbow – Ez1:28 – He’s come to find you #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus sailed thru a hurricane to get to Legion (Mark5). He was hurled into the Abyss to rescue u. Same predicament, same love. #EnjoyYourDay

“You know how we all love justice…” = a common way of justifying hell. Perhaps even more important is: “You know how we all hate grace…”

Christ is your clothing (baptism), food & drink (communion). And He’s given while you’re naked, famished and guilty as hell #EnjoyYourDay

Feeling suitably shriven today? God exalted Jesus to His right hand to *give* you repentance (Acts 5:31) #EnjoyYourDay

In the flesh we are but dust and ashes. By the Spirit-filled King we are crowned with beauty and the oil of gladness (Is61) #EnjoyYourDay

Today, remember you are loved at your very worst, by the very Best. Rom 5:8 #EnjoyYourDay

Life is not a race against the clock. Jesus is Resurrection. Time is not ‘running out’ – not ultimately. Jn11 #EnjoyYourDay

We think of the Christian life as a ‘changed life’. It’s not. It’s an ‘exchanged life,’ a ‘substituted life’ & Christ is our Substitute. Nee

“Christianity is not the sacrifice we make, but the sacrifice we trust.” PT Forsyth

We are SEATED with Christ, Eph1-3; WALK by Christ, Eph4-5 & STAND in Christ, Eph6. (Nee) We Never climb. #OnTopOfTheWorld #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus is totally anti-heterosexual. Can you imagine Him telling His disciples “Let your sexual desire be unto the multitude of women”?

God works triumph thru deicide. The disasters of today do not catch Him off guard or knock Him off course. Crisis is His MO #EnjoyYourDay

In evangelism, proclaiming the character of Christ is not a useful technique that establishes His ‘authority’. It’s kinda the whole point

Present suffering is to future glory as birth-pains are to the joy of new life. Horrifically painful. Totally worth it. #EnjoyYourDay

Through His life, death & resurrection, Christ has taken the wheel of this world, turned on the sat nav & pressed “Home” #EnjoyYourDay

The Word of God spoke in a provincial accent. #grace

Feelings are temperamental fruit. Get in the soil of community, receive the seed of the word, look to the sunshine of Christ’s love. Wait.

“Everything goes on as it always has” says the scoffer. “Everything goes on according to the Word, Promise & Patience of God” says 2Peter3.

<< Doesn’t this mean that our mechanical (Enlightenment) view of the world is basically the scoffers’ view?

Read Full Post »

Happy Friday

I love Reggie Watts

More looping here and here.

Read Full Post »

prodigal son3Four simple questions and four (perhaps) surprising answers regarding Colossians 3:10:

Put on the new self (the new man), which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

1) Who is the Creator referred to?

In context you’d think it was Christ, who is the Creator Image of God (Col 1:15-17)

2) What gets renewed?

The “new self” gets renewed.  It’s not simply that we are renewed by getting a new self.  And it’s not simply that we are given a new self.  We are given a new self and the new self is renewed.

3) How does renewal happen?

Knowledge.  Note all the knowledge language of the letter.  This is just from chapter 1:

“heard… word of truth… gospel… learned… understood… all its truth… knowledge… spiritual wisdom… understanding… increasing in knowledge… make the word of God fully known… Him we proclaim… teaching everyone with all wisdom.”

We desperately and continually need gospel knowledge to be renewed.

4) What does our Creator look like (given that we’re supposed to look like Him)?

He is compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving – in a word: He is love (v12-14).  We know that these character-traits originally belong to the Lord because a) it says “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” and b) these virtues are outlined in the context of our becoming like Him.

So we don’t become forgiving, humble and meek because God will hold us to account and He’s big and powerful.  We are forgiving, humble and meek because He is forgiving, humble and meek.  And He has demonstrated it at the cross.

Therefore as we appreciate and know the goodness of this good news our new selves are being renewed to look like Christ – the compassionate and humble God.

Surprised by any of those answers?


Read Full Post »

Taken from Mike’s series on justification here.

Read Full Post »

Ephesians Sit Walk Stand

A Sermon on Ephesians 4:1-16

Sermon Text

Sermon Audio

Sermon Slides

The Christian life is a down-hill WALK.

It’s also a battle, we’ll see that in chapter 6. There are forces to STAND against. But we STAND because we hold the high ground.  And if you hold the high ground, you don’t need to advance, you don’t need to retreat, you don’t need to go anywhere. You just STAND in the strength of Jesus.

But this is the Christian life: First SIT at God’s right hand in Christ. Understand all that we have.  Then WALK out into the world and, all the while, be prepared to STAND against the enemy’s schemes.  But notice this: NOTHING in the Christian life is about uphill struggle. NOTHING.

There is a WALK out into the world. There is a STAND to take against spiritual powers. But there’s never a climb.  Jesus has climbed. He’s the only one.  We sit, we walk, we stand, we never climb. We are already on top of the world.  We have gone to heaven already, in Christ.  We have the fullness of God.  And now, what’s life about?

What’s the essence of this WALK? What’s the goal of this wonderful gospel?

In a word: CHURCH…

Read Full Post »

Five Devotional Talks on Luke 8

four soilsI gave these short talks at the daily prayer meetings for Falmouth CU mission week.

Throughout Luke 8 we see the Word spreading powerfully though it’s opposed at every turn. Through death, darkness and much frustration, light and life does triumph.

Luke 8:1-15 – The Word like Seed

Luke 8:16-21 – The Word as Light, Investment & Adoption Papers

Luke 8:22-25 – The Word that rules creation

Luke 8:26-39 – The Word that conquers evil

Luke 8:40-56 – The Word that defeats death

Read Full Post »

The True Myth

Lewis Tolkein

During mission week at Falmouth CU we showed The Dark Knight Rises. I was going to give a short talk at the end but we had some technical problems halfway through so I gave the talk in the middle instead. Thankfully it didn’t affect the talk too much since it wasn’t based on the plot of Batman but on the concept of myths.



JRR TOLKEIN: ‘The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories… But this story has entered History… There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.”

CS LEWIS: “The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others but with the tremendous difference that it really happened.”

Read Full Post »

Evangelism Training Session 6

EvangelismHere’s the sixth and final 321Go evangelism training session.

The others are:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5

Session 6 Handout



Our Words – His Words  2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Luke 10:16

What does it mean to go in Jesus’ name?


Prayer for Openings  Acts 16:13-15; Colossians 4:2-6; Ephesians 6:19-20

What does it tell you about evangelism that we need open hearts, doors and mouths?


We’ve thought about these sentences:

“That’s what I love about Jesus…”
“That problem is far beyond me/us…”
“That’s what I love about being a Christian…”
“That’s what I love about my church…”


A Final Sentence Up Your Sleeve

“What’s stopping you becoming a Christian?”


Helping Them Make A Start  John 1:10-13

Explain that salvation is to know and trust Jesus (it’s a marriage union with Him)
We do this together with His brothers and sisters (talk about church)
We hear His word (talk about the bible)
We speak to Him (talk about prayer)

If they want to receive Him: Romans 10:9-13 – Believe, Confess, Call


Who Do I Know Who Needs to Know?

How open are they to me?

1. Nodding acquaintance / rarely see em
2. We talk, not very deeply
3. A friendship is there
4. We could talk about most things
5. We talk about everything

How open are they to the gospel?

1. They don’t know I’m a Christian / Don’t want to know
2. They know I’m a Christian but not much more
3. We’ve spoken about gospel things once or twice
4. They’d come to something / read a book
5. They’re open to exploring Christianity in a deeper way

Spend time thinking of 3 friends and how they might meet with Jesus.

Pray for them and for opportunities to share Jesus with them.


Read Full Post »

Evangelism Training Session 5


321-GO! Part 5


Problems of the Head Luke 10:25-30ff

Coming to Christ is like getting to know a potential partner
Questions are involved, but questions are not the be-all and end-all!
At some point you just know enough to trust them.


Answering Questions: Reframing, Reflecting, Revealing…

We reframe the questions around the Bible’s definitions. (You could use 321!)
We reflect the question back because they too must answer it.
We reveal the gospel focused on Christ and Him crucified.


DISCUSS these questions using Reframe, Reflect, Reveal…

1) If God is all loving, all knowing and all powerful, how can he allow suffering?

2) Religion simply causes wars

3) How can Jesus be the only way to heaven?


A Sentence Up Your Sleeve…

“Can I step back and tell you what Christians believe in 5 minutes…”


Problems of the Heart  2 Corinthians 5:10-21

We want to feel ok with the world But Jesus hits a conversation like a sack of bricks.

We want to feel ok with God So I don’t want to get too involved with ‘the world’

We want to feel ok with ourselves But frankly we’re spiritually dry and it feels like a duty.


How would the Apostle Paul handle these objections? (2 Cor 5)



1. What problems of the head do you feel most keenly? How can they be addressed?

2. What problems of the heart do you feel most keenly? How can they be addressed?

3. Can you explain the Christian faith in 5 minutes using jargon-free language? Try it on each other.


Read Full Post »

Happy Friday

A home grown Happy Friday for you today.

Some say my preaching fails to be “relevant”. Some say I never engage with contemporary issues and movements. I hope this video finally puts the accusation to bed:

And yes, I stole the gag from Twitter.

Read Full Post »

people together arrow


Session 1

Session 2

Session 3




Session 4 Handout

Session 4 Audio


God is a Community on Mission… and so are we! John 20:21-23

Outgoing-ness not so much a decision or act – a way of life.


Not Simply Sent… We Join Him In His Outgoing Life  Matthew 28:18-20; Heb 13:13

If God is outgoing, what does it mean to be godly?


Mission is a community thing  John 13:34-35.

What kind of community reaches the world?
Why should this be so?


We Help Each Other  1 Peter 2:9-12; 4:10-11

What does it mean for church to be a priesthood?

What is the significance of our different gifts within the priesthood?

Remember 1 Peter 3:15 – All are called to use words when the time is right!


A Sentence Up Your Sleeve…

“That’s what I love about my church…”



1. Sometimes it feels like God is up in heaven and wants us to go out and bring people in. How does this teaching challenge that thinking?

2. How does your community think of your church? (Do you want those thoughts to change?)
How does your church think of your community? (Do you want those thoughts to change?)

3. How can the life of church be more invitational? How can you be more invitational?

4. How would you complete that sentence “That’s what I love about my church…”? How might you naturally talk about your church family with friends?

Read Full Post »

Here’s a repost about the vital importance of not being too earnest…

Comedy and Christianity

First of all, taking yourself lightly needs to be held together with the other half of the truth: we must take God seriously.  Once I take God seriously – and by that I mean the trinitarian God of the Gospel – only then am I freed to get my eyes off myself.

Every human religion has humanity working before a watching God.  The true God works before a watching humanity – Isaiah 64:4.  In fact, as Isaiah says, that is the distinctive of the living God – He is the God of the gospel.  And this gospel is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit take salvation entirely into their own hands and leave not one calorie of effort to be done by us.

Once we see the Son taking our humanity, empowered by the Spirit to live our life before the Father and then die the death we should die – all in our place and on our behalf – then we see that it’s out of our hands.  Completely out of our hands.

Hence the punchline of so many of Paul’s gospel explanations: “Where then is boasting??!”  (Rom 3:27; 4:2; 1 Cor 1:29,31; 3:21; Gal 6:14; Eph 2:9).  Boasting is essentially the definition of taking yourself too seriously.  And it’s the opposite of joy!

The gospel means that we must get off centre-stage, sit in the audience and watch the living God work salvation for us.  And thus we take God seriously and we do not take ourselves seriously.  In fact the essence of faith is to transfer our focus entirely from self to Christ.

Before Paul came to faith he used to take himself very seriously.  He would spend his time building and making known his spiritual CV:  Circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel… (Phil 3:5ff).  But when he came to see Christ as the gift of righteousness from God to be received by faith he counted that whole self-focused, CV-building, take-myself-very-seriously Pharisaism as dung!  Total crap! (Phil 3:8).  (And if we don’t like those words maybe we need to lighten up and stop taking ourselves so seriously!)

Now he just wants to be found in Christ (Phil 3:9).  The old Paul is dead, crucified with Christ (Rom 6:3ff; Gal 2:20; 6:14).  And he entrusts every judgement about himself into Christ’s hands:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor 4:3-4).

In the (half-remembered) words of Tim Keller, Paul is basically saying “I don’t care what you think of me, I don’t even care what I think of me.”  Paul has been so liberated by Jesus from self-focus, he knows his life is hidden with Christ in God – that’s where his true life is (Col 3:1-4).  And he refuses to be drawn back down into navel-gazing.

So that’s what I basically mean when I say, Take God seriously, Don’t take yourself seriously.  Be released by Jesus into happy dependence.  Then you can roar with laughter and not worry about what a goof you look. Then you can make fun of yourself and all your ridiculous self-salvation projects.  Then you can hold everything else lightly because you know that you yourself are gripped by the triune God.

I admit that this can all sound quite radical because we tend to think that spiritual people are very serious people.  And the more spiritual, the more serious.  Well that’s true for every human religion.  But the gospel of Jesus is utterly different.  And it’s the one power to liberate us from the slavery to self and truly release us into the joy of the Spirit.

More on not being too earnest.

More on Comedy and Christianity

Read Full Post »





How are we one with Jesus?

Vine and Branches  John 15:4-5

Head & Body / Groom & Bride  Ephesians 5:25-30

Ruler and rulers  Revelation 2:26-27

Priest and People  Hebrews 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 7:23-28; 9:23-28; 10:11-14

Champion and Army  1 Samuel 17

Seed of Abraham  Galatians 3:16,29

Son and sons  Galatians 3:26

Anointed one(s)  1 John 2:20


The Privileges of Oneness with Jesus

His Status
His Inheritance
His Family



If you asked the non-Christians you know ‘What is the Christian life all about?’, how would they respond?

How does Oneness with Jesus shape our understanding of the Christian life?


Becoming One with the Son of God  John 1:12-14:

How does someone become a Christian?



People often say “I wish I had your faith!” What’s their understanding of “faith”?
How can people “have faith”?


A Sentence Up Your Sleeve…

“That’s what I love about being a Christian…”



  1. Sometimes people worry that offering Jesus “for free” will lead Christians to be careless about “doing good”. Given what we’ve been discussing, what would you say to that?
  2. Often we worry that we’re not clever or knowledgeable enough to share our faith. How does this teaching give us hope in our evangelism?
  3. What do you love about being a Christian? How could you drop this naturally into conversation?


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »