I recently read J.I. Packer’s Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God. Great book! Though the latter half seemed to drone on a bit for my liking.
But here are some highlights discussed:
- divine sovereignty and human responsibility are both clearly affirmed as Scriptural truths
- we can’t fully grasp/understand how they coexist
- but we must affirm they simultaneously exists nonetheless
- Paul’s evangelism was energized by:
- seeing himself as a commissioned representative of Jesus the Lord
- seeing his main task as teaching truth about Jesus the Lord
- ultimately aiming to convert his hearers
- By extension, Paul’s evangelism underpinnings apply to all Christians
- The Gospel Message is:
- about God
- about sin
- signs of true conviction of sin:
- awareness of wrong relationship with God
- conviction of specific sins you have done
- conviction of your general sinful character
- about Christ
- don’t present Christ’s Person apart from His saving work, or His saving work apart from His Person
- a summons to repent and believe (simultaneously)
- Why should we evangelize?
- love/glorify/obey God when He tells us, for instance, to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20).
- love of neighbor
- if someone was literally in a house burning down, wouldn’t you want to help them if you could?
- How should we evangelize?
- use any method that faithfully represents what is said above
- How can divine sovereignty and evangelism go together?
- God’s sovereignty in changing someone’s heart does not alter any of the nature and duty believers have to evangelize
- God’s sovereignty in changing someone’s heart gives us our only hope for success
The following is a paraphrase of points D.A. Carson makes to assert Jesus is the unique Son of God (fully God and fully man) in The Gagging of God (1996), pp. 257-260:
- John 1:1-3, 14, 18 – Jesus = Creator and Revealer
- Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2 – Jesus brings together God and human beings
- produces unique “Son of God” (Luke 1:35)
- Old Testament foretells 2 strands of redemption: (1) God Himself comes down to rescue His people; (2) God sends “David” his servant (i.e. Messiah) to rescue his people – Jesus’ birth and life show both.
- Rev. 4-5 – He receives the worship and homage due God alone
- Jesus explicitly called “God” – John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Titus 3:4-5
- Heb. 1:1-3 – Son = God’s last word and radiance of God’s glory; exact representation of God’s being
- Heb. 2 – simultaneously Christ’s humanity is true and necessary
- Paul routinely takes Old Testament verses about God and applies them to Jesus
- Peter does the same (1 Pet. 3:14 cf. Isa. 8:12-13)
- Col. 2:9 – “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”
- Revelation – links “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb”
- Jesus’ parables – He self-identifies with figures who are reserved for God in the Old Testament
- John 8:46 – Jesus asks, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”
- astonishingly clear conscience
- John’s gospel shows Jesus calling Himself the “I am” – which refers only to God (see especially John 8)
- John 5:23 – all should honor the Son as they honor the Father
- “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him”
- In humanity, “genuine greatness is associated with a certain unawareness of greatness;” or someone gradually becomes “an arrogant poseur”
- In contrast, Jesus displays astonishing authority (e.g. Matt. 7:28-29) while being known for his gentleness and humility (11:29). “For all that he goes to the cross, he sees himself as the focal point of history.”
- Jesus insists John the Baptist is the greatest person born of woman (greater than Abraham, greater than David, greater than Solomon, Isaiah). Why? He was announcing Jesus’ arrival (Matt. 11:9-11a)
- the least in the kingdom is greater than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11b). Why? because they see, know, and announce Jesus with greater clarity.
- Imagine someone saying that the person announcing them as a speaker is the greatest person in existence just because they announced you!
- Phil. 2:5-7 – But Jesus, “BECAUSE He was in the very nature God, [THEREFORE] did not consider equality with God something to be exploited, but made himself nothing”
- The “astonishing quality of Jesus’ love”
- Matt. 23 – utters the sternest denunciations while weeping over the city
- He speaks of hell and judgment, but also provides a way of escape
- He operates as a “man among men” and finds followers among the wealthy (like Zacchaeus), but also loves children, poor, oppressed, handicapped, unclean, outcast
- all of this is similar to God in the Old Testament
- his love brings Him to the cross
- N.T. writers get excited about His love just thinking of Him (e.g. Gal. 2:20).
- Christian maturity is measured by a believer’s experiential grasp of Christ’s love (Eph. 3:16b-19)
- Jesus’ coming ushers in the kingdom (Mark 1:15), and “among you” (Luke 17:21)
- shown not least in Jesus’ power against darkness (Matt. 12:28; cf. Luke 10:17-20)
- this is somewhat hidden from others at the time (compared to yeast, performing its silent work, for instance)
- people are called to follow Christ, believe in Him, believe the good news that the reign of God is present, even though the evidence in the natural world is still ambiguous and disputable
- kingdom is in conflict with powers of darkness – final victory occurs at cross
- it was the hour of darkness’ power (Luke 22:53), but also accomplished Christ’s atoning work
- His disciples must pray for the consummation of this kingdom (“Your kingdom come; your will be done…”) Until that time, Jesus reigns
- Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted O.T. chapter in the N.T. – includes “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet'”.
- Before the Jews, Jesus insists He is coming back – using Psalm 110 and Dan. 7 – “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:62)
As you may have noticed, I’ve been lately thinking and praying about what Jesus looks for in churches. So I set out to consider what makes a healthy church according to the New Testament alone. Here’s what I came up with (but I’d really love other insights you all might have on this):
Healthy Churches Look Like…
- People seek formulas and rules. God establishes principles.
- God alone causes growth and fruit.
- Ultimate Goal: corporately become Jesus’ likeness
Traits of Healthy Churches (in no particular order):
Led/Empowered by Holy Spirit
- Offices: (1) Elders, (2) Deacons
- Ministries (Eph. 4:11)
- Oversee meetings
- Teach/preach publicly
All members contributing
- 5 ministries
- 9 Holy Spirit gifts
- God-given talents
- At church meetings
- Includes singing
Devotion to God’s Word – Scripture
- To learn, obey, teach others
- Heart of Scriptures: gospel – to be known and communicated by all
- Teaching includes singing
- Includes singing
- Scriptural accountability/discipline
Meet Sundays (and beyond)
- “One another” meetings where all are able to contribute
- “Apostolic” meetings – only a 1/few ministers
Fellowship around Jesus/Gospel
- Often over meals
Meet physical needs of church (and beyond)
- Elders and deacons oversee
Reproduce themselves to 4th generation (and beyond)
- Through evangelism
- Through discipling in areas listed above
A while back I wrote this paraphrase of Romans 1-8 (meant for people with little to no Bible background). Please pass to others who want to understand Christianity but find it difficult to read the Bible:
Here is my chapter-by-chapter summary of Judges (as well as a final summary and points to obey).
Judges by chapter:
- victory for tribes that worked together, not as much for others
- 1:24-26 – gives new meaning to a person of peace
- Israel rebelled –> God withdrew their success; Israel cried out –> God raised up a judge to deliver
- After Israel rebelled and called out to God, He raised up Caleb’s nephew (Othniel). Rinse and repeat with Ehud of Benjamin.
- Deborah-Barak-Jael defeat Israel’s oppressor.
- Deborah-Barak sing over their victory
- Gideon begins as God’s leader
- 6:25-27 – it is clear that “honoring your father” does not mean doing everything he wants and likes, but honoring God the Father ahead of earthly father where they are in conflict
- Gideon defeats Midian with 300 people by God
- Gideon completely defeats the enemies, but falls into idolatrous practices. Israel has rest for 40 years.
- Abimelech (son of Gideon) takes control of Shechem; but the infighting was great and he was killed.
- Aside: is 9:2 the precursor to the pastor?
- Israel again rebels; Gilead is ruled by foreigners and the rest of Israel is heading that direction.
- Jephthah delivers Gilead from Ammonite oppression. Daughter is sacrificed in a hasty vow.
- Aside: Here again we see the incredibly high value Israel holds toward vows. We can argue the ethics of this particular vow, but the point remains that when they pledged to do something they saw it as sin not to do it (even at great cost). I think this should challenge us.
- Jephthah’s rule is challenged, but he perseveres. Other judges also rise up (notably, they often seem to be marked by large families).
- Aside: I think it’s profound that those perceived best leaders tend to have large families – maybe we should take heed to that as we think about building up spiritual families; those who truly build up others who build up others with character and integrity (starting with their own households) are the best suited to lead the church.
- Samson supernaturally born a nazarite and promised deliverer.
- God used Samsons infatuation with a Philistine woman to bring a small blow to the Philistines.
- Samson increasingly terrorizes the Philistines: kills 30, inflames 300 foxes, kills 1000: becomes Israel’s judge 20 years.
- Samson’s lust brought his capture; but self-sacrificial death was his greatest blow to Philistines. He judges Israel 20 years.
- Micah, his family, and the traveling Levite all serve God contrary to His protocol.
- the compromise spreads to Dan (who take Micahs idolatry by force)
- 18:19-20 – scary when considering “church growth”…we’d love to see ourselves multiplied but need to caution against multiplying idolatry in our hearts
- A Levite’s concubine is raped (leading to death) by Benjamites as they were heading home. –so many horrific things here – wow
- Israel defeats Benjamin in difficult battle (by working together).
- Aside: struck by parallels to this story and Sodom/Gomorrah – even the smoke burning toward heaven is the same.
- Israel helps remnant of Benjamin acquire wives to rebuild their tribe.
Summary of Judges
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (21:25). Further: God showed mercy in raising up some judges as the people repented.
For Brian to Obey
- Set holiness to the Lord as higher priority than “ministry/output”
- Come “like Jael” when confronting the world – a soft approach that brings in heavy life-changing truth
Here is my chapter-by-chapter of Joshua (as well as a summary and obedience piece at the end).
Joshua by Chapter:
- God instructs Joshua: success depends on learning and following my Scripture.
- Personal challenge: I’d prefer to rest and relax more in this life, but the mighty men from the 2.5 tribes needed to help their brothers find rest BEFORE they could rest. God is showing me the same: He showed me rest in Him earlier, so now I need to be spent in this life helping others find rest. Then we can rest forever with Christ in heaven.
- Rahab, because she received and guarded Gods messengers and message, found salvation for her and her family. Namely, by staying inside the scarlet-covered dwelling during the time of Gods judgment.
- Gods presence led the way for Israel against Jericho. Like Moses, Joshua led them through the waters by Gods miracle. For us: don’t be hasty in following the Lord, but wait on Him to make sure we correctly assess what He is doing/saying (especially in new territory).
- 12 stones taken from the Jordan and set up in Gilgal as a memorial.
- Israel’s new beginning: circumcised, new food source, Angel of God appears
- Israel, by God-Joshua’s leadership, destroyed Jericho, but spared Rahab and her family.
- Israel suffers loss because of Achan’s hidden greed. I’m struck that it continually says “Israel sinned” though it was only 1 man. It shows that if 1 member of the Christ suffers, we all do. I also like that Joshua tells Achan to praise and worship God by (implied) telling the truth. We have cheapened worship to only being about singing some songs, instead of a life devoted to God (including our tongues).
- A purified Israel now defeats Ai through ambush; continue obeying Moses’ commands.
- Nearby Gibeonites deceive Israel into hasty covenant they are bound to under God. New insight for me: perhaps their ego contributed to the deceit (they believed they were so famous that far away nations wanted to covenant with them out of fear)
- God gave Israel miraculous success over southern portion of Canaan
- God gave Israel miraculous success over northern bulk of Canaan
- Summary of Israel’s victories while Moses-Joshua led
- Moses divided land East of Jordan to 2.5 tribes
- Caleb inherits Hebron where giants dwelt.
- Judah receives their territory
- Joseph’s sons get their land. I’m continually struck that they had to fight for their territory. Caleb welcomes the challenge, but Manasseh not so much. To the degree they took it easy, they inherited that much less land. No one got a free ride.
- See #16
- the last 7 divide the land, Benjamin starts
- 18:8-10 – my grandma used a similar strategy: 1 of us would cut up the candy bar, the other brother would choose which part they want. The point being, we make more fair portions if we know others might receive the portion we create (:
- 18:28 – Was Jerusalem in territory of Benjamin or Judah?
- Six remaining tribes received land; Joshua received land.
- Six cities of refuge appointed.
- Levites received their shared land. Then God saw that it was good and rested / gave them rest.
- 2.5 tribes return home; make provisions for future generations to serve God
- Joshua’s benediction: obey and honor God/His word and God will continue to give
- Joshua appeals to leaders to follow God; writes his additions to the Law; dies.you success. Disobey and God will fight against you.
God through Joshua leads Israel to overtake, divide, and settle in Canaan.
Don’t rest until I help secure rest for my brothers.