Category: preaching

Alistair Begg Probably Has It Right . . . . But

With my love in the Lord Jesus,
Alistair Begg

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A great short read by Alistair Begg, and he probably has it right.  Notwithstanding, his sermons on the Sabbath and this post probably aren’t changing the practices of most believers, pastors, or churches.

Why?

Perhaps because we are not as spiritually malleable as we think and say we are!

As a matter of fact, many churches have canceled the evening service,  with the “shepherd’s approval,”  if not instigation!   The Lord’s Day now becomes “Our Day” around noon!   And then some pastors decry what is happening in our culture and society — shamelessly!

 
 

1. From Begg’s Sermon . . . 

Now, we can highlight this in a number of ways. Let me do so by quoting from the Civil War. I think it’s the Civil War, isn’t it? Stonewall Jackson? General Jackson is a legend in American history. Any of you who have read of Jackson will know that he was a man of extreme principle and character. At the very heart of this was his conviction of faith in Jesus Christ. And his extreme rigorous character attached itself also to the observance of the Sabbath. And writing in his biography, his widow says,

And writing in his  biography, his widow says,

Certainly he was not less scrupulous in obeying the divine command to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” than he was in any other rule of his life. Since the Creator had set apart this day for his own, and commanded it to be kept holy, he believed that it was … wrong for him to desecrate it by worldly pleasure, idleness, or secular employment, as to break any other commandment of the decalogue. Sunday was his busiest day of the week, as he always attended church twice a day and taught in two Sabbath schools! He refrained as much as possible from all worldly conversation, and in his family, if secular topics were introduced, he would say, with a kindly smile, “We will talk about that to-morrow.”

He never travelled on Sunday, never took his mail from the post-office, nor permitted a letter of his own to travel on that day, always before posting it calculating the time it required to reach its destination ….

One so strict in his own Sabbath observance naturally believed that it was wrong for the government to carry the [mail] on Sunday. Any organization which exacted secular labor of its employees on the Lord’s day was, in his opinion, a violator of God’s law.[2]

And so his life was marked by a rigorous obedience to the law of God.

Now, loved ones, here’s the question: Is this quote from Jackson an anachronism? In other words, if Jackson was right, where does that leave us? ’Cause if we’re right, most of us, he was wrong. But one thing is for sure: we’re not both right. So we need to go to our Bibles, then, and determine who approximates to the instruction of God’s Word closely. Is it us, in our libertine rejection of the Lord’s Day, or is it Jackson, in his rigorous obedience of it?

The Bottom Line When It Comes To Church!

The bottom line when it comes to church is — the sermon!

Church attendance reflects the pulpit!  We see that reality when a congregation knows that so-in-so is speaking tonight or next week.  You will see attendance go up or down based on the sermonic expectations. [1]

As I listen to Alistair Begg, I am reminded again how crucial effective preaching is in ministry.

There is a reason those like Pastor Begg are so oft listened to by so many, and it is because not all preachers/teachers are effective.

I use the word “effectiveness” and not “successful” for a reason.  We are called to be effective communicators because there are situations where one is effective but not successful.  The field of endeavor is a challenging and complicated place to be successful–  if “successful” means having a meaningful impact.  There were situations where Paul was not very successful, but he was effective.

Some like to say that they are preaching to an audience of one — and that is accurate regarding the content of what is being said.   We are called to preach what the Scriptures teach, not what God’s people would like to hear said.

Nevertheless, the truth is that none of us are preaching to only that audience.  Rather, we work hard at message preparation because we know that there is an audience beyond that One.

Some preachers, like Alistair Begg, are consistently excellent — highly effective!  They are clear, thought-provoking, insightful, easy to listen to, and concise.

AND . . . . there are preachers-teacher who are far from effective!

There is a continuum ranging from . . . .

“consistently great – repeatedly great – really good – good – adequate – mediocre – poor – bad -terrible.”

. . . and there is a test by which to evaluate where one is on that continuum!

— “Retellability” —

Are there those who “retell” what was said?

Are there those who remember, repeat, or “retell” what was said?

That is why Alistair Begg’s sermonic clip has gone viral!

What was so effective said by Alistair Begg challenged, moved, explained, clarified, and/or captured a truth worth retelling one’s self . . . .

. . . . and “retelling” others — “You have to listen to this!”

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1. Church attendance may also reflect what is happening in church life.  When serious issues are front and center, as is the case with many SBC churches, attendance is also affected. Dissatisfaction with decisions and leadership also impacts attendance.

Add to that, the presence of a good youth program, the variety of opportunities to serve, other spiritually beneficial programs (such as AWANA / Senior Saints / VBS), personal relationships, and pastoral care and concern.  These, and others, all impact attendance to varying degrees and age groups.

Response:

“I kinda understood churches were for mutual encouragement and exhortation, not simply recieving from a single teacher, professional as they may be. I suppose I am in need of finding the purpose of the church as I read the New Testament”

My Response:

I understand your viewpoint and appreciate it — I totally agree — and should have said what I have often said — there are two wings on the church airplane, preaching and fellowship.

No preaching/teaching, it is not a church, it is merely a social gathering.

No fellowship, it is not a church merely equal to streaming.

Both are as basic as you can get to be called a NT church.

Let me go on to say that no matter how great the fellowship is in any restaurant, if the meal is lousy I’m not going back and investing my time or money in a meal I find continually bland to terrible.

“The bottom line” — not the only line —  has to be the preaching and teaching of God’s Word which also preaches and teaches fellowship and improves the fellowship.

But great fellowship will not improve the preaching/teaching!

I can be part of making fellowship, fellowship — but I can’t do much about bad preaching.

Nevertheless, your point is well taken and I will add this to the bottom of my post!  It is a point worth making!

Twisted – Pt.2

This is but one example of where we are today when it comes to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the local church. [1]

No shepherd would ever think that way about his flock during Bible days, just the modern shepherds of our day. Paul’s vision was that he was willing to do all he could — to just win some! Paul worked and labored hard (I Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 4:3) because he understood that his work was more than preaching; but was to spread and grow the church across the then-known world.

To dismiss or marginalize “means” is another one of the twisted positions that characterize today’s preaching.  It is said different ways . . . .

  • We are just trusting God alone to provide.
  • Nothing can give you joy, peace, or satisfaction outside of Jesus.
  • There is no joy or happiness in our circumstances.
  • You need to lean on God, not people, to get you through the rough times of life.
  • You don’t need medication; you need Jesus!
  • Rely totally on the Lord!  You need nothing else!
  • Husbands and wives, you trust God to meet your needs.

Oh yes, every one of those statements could be and should be clarified to make them biblically accurate.  But this kind of bumper-sticker theology posted, taught, and preached latently brushes aside “means.”

Trusting God alone to provide does not mean we don’t work, and work hard to provide for our family, to establish an effective ministry, to raise our children, to develop an effective local church ministry, et al.

I know, those who make such statements don’t mean to deny that!  Really!  These kinds of statements are typically followed by a hardly AMEN from fellow pastors and congregations — with little serious thinking as to what is being repeatedly propagated as Bible truth.

The Lord has not only ordained the ends, but he has ordained means.  The created world and the laws that operate demonstrate that reality.  Oh yes, it is all held together by His power — but that does not mean that the laws which operate are being supernaturally commanded to operational status every millisecond.  Can the Lord controvert those laws?  Absolutely!  That is called a miracle.  Pregnancy and childbirth are not miracles. It can be and was with the birth of Jesus.

Wealth is not a miracle.  It can be, as Jacob finally admitted (Genesis 31).  But there are means to wealth (Proverbs 24:3ff). We are never to trust in the power of wealth, but it does have power, as many wicked men have come to know.  Yet the Lord can remove that power in a moment (Psalm 73:18)

Poverty is not the curse of God.  It can be, but there are means that accompany poverty (Proverbs 24:30).

Medication is not evil or sinful.  It can be.  But it is a means the Lord uses to stabilize us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Our whole being was affected by the Fall.  We are lost spiritually, but the Fall has also impacted us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Does it make a difference to experience a beautiful day, soft breezes, mild temperatures, and an awesome location?  To say that circumstances are not part of our joy or happiness [2] is to deny what we, as real people experience.  Are there hot-hot, rainy, miserable, or cold to the bone days that are unpleasant?  I do not enjoy those days!  I can still say . . . “This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice in it.” [3]  Let me assure you — the new heavens and earth will be a beautiful place and absent these miserable and terrible physical circumstances of earth — for a good reason!

Husbands and wives, you are the means God has ordained to meet your wife’s or husband’s needs. That does not mean that you are the only avenue, but you are a significant and meaningful part of His means! As children and parents, we are the means the Lord has provided for our parents and children. That does not mean that God does not provide directly and indirectly as well. But the clear and repeated pattern is the Lord, “along with you” — is the means.

Sanctification is not only progressive, but it is part of our personal responsibility.  Does the Lord work in our hearts?  Absolutely!  But we also work on our hearts.  God chose David out of the flocks for a reason (Psalm 78:72).  He rejected Saul for a reason.  Sanctification is not parallel to justification — all by God’s grace!  We work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), never our justification.  Sanctification is not passive; it is active!  Go “passive” and see where that leads!

Can the Lord fight for us?  He has, and He does.  But men and women died fighting in real battles!  He can slay an army overnight, and has!  But He has also roused and raised up men and women to fight with sword and shield. In those fights, wives were widowed, and children lost their parents!

David hid from Saul for a reason!  The reason was not that God could not protect David had he shown up at the palace dinner table.  Upon Saul’s death, David called upon his men to learn the bow, not because only such a proficiency could or would save the lives of men.

Men come to know the Lord because of His established means — our prayers, our lives, our testimony, and the words of Scripture.  Yet, the Spirit blows where He will!

This tendency to play down “means” is part of the theological-ideology of the present-day Calvinistic and New Calvinist movement.  It runs parallel with the warping of God’s sovereignty!  

The false implication is that God works via some supernatural aura that descends from above to meet the needs of people — and His special people.  He can, and He does do that — and more so — and less so — throughout the Bible (Judges 6:13). Nevertheless, there is no mystical cloud that naturally descends from heaven that replaces God’s ordained means when we have been given the means and ought to have the will!

Work, and work hard to establish and strengthen the local church and its people!  There is a reason that some churches, ministries, youth groups, and/or activities do not show real growth!  Don’t put the aggregate responsibility on the Lord, as if that is His will.  Not to point out that our ministries are in America, not in an occultism-laden land.  God created a world where growth is a natural principle of life and of all things that are living.

Laziness comes at a price; the price is a lost world, the ministry, meaningful growth, and the needs of God’s people.

Unless the Lord makes it clear otherwise, we are called on to do all we can and should as a spouse, parents, workers, witnesses, pastors, members, citizens — and as lights in an unjust and twisted world.

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1. Put that together with this, if you can . . . .

It sounds like “leading” and “preparation” matter.

Why not let God alone make SB proud? Just preach the Word, feed the flock, and proclaim the Gospel!

Justice – Part #2

Podcast LINK

Attorney Matt Martens joins host Marty Duren on this episode to talk about systemic injustices in the US legal system.

Matthew Martens has worked both as a federal prosecutor (9 years) and as a criminal defense attorney (11 years). His cases have ranged from capital murder, drug trafficking, firearms violations, and child pornography, to securities fraud, mortgage fraud, voter fraud, and public corruption. He has tried more than two dozen cases across the country both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He is currently a partner in the Washington, DC office of one of the world’s largest law firms. Matt’s first book, Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (Crossway), is due out in early 2023.

Podcast LINK

https://uncommontarypodcast.com/2022/04/12/matthew-martens-systemic-injustice-the-bible-and-the-us-system-ep96/

You can follow him on Twitter @martensmatt1.

Justice

Matthew Martens has worked both as a federal prosecutor (9 years) and as a criminal defense attorney (11 years). His cases have ranged from capital murder, drug trafficking, firearms violations, and child pornography, to securities fraud, mortgage fraud, voter fraud, and public corruption. He has tried more than two dozen cases across the country both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He is currently a partner in the Washington, DC office of one of the world’s largest law firms. Matt’s first book, Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (Crossway), is due out in early 2023.

“How is it possible when it comes to criminal justice in the US we have two opposite camps? One cries ‘defund the police’ & the other ‘more law & order.’  My conversation with Matthew Martens is enlightening. Have a listen and learn.” — Jen Oshman

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“When it comes to criminal justice we have two opposite camps in this country: one side cries “defund the police” and the other side demands more “law and order.” How is it possible to have two very different perspectives on the same criminal justice system? And how should Christians be grappling with the way justice is currently carried out in our country?

On this episode we hear from Matt Martens who is a criminal lawyer, a graduate of Dallas Theological seminary, was a federal prosecutor for 10 years, has written for the WSJ and WaPo and is currently writing a book entitled Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (forthcoming with Crossway in 2023). Martens has a unique and qualified perspective with his robust background in both theology and both sides of our legal system.

From a theological perspective, Martens says Jesus not only declares us just, but is making us just. Meaning the gospel is not only about our individual salvation, but also our sanctification and how we live amongst one another. Part of preaching the gospel is seeking justice in our midst.

From a legal perspective, Martens says many Americans just don’t know how our system really works. He says there are outrageous injustices built into the system that the average person simply doesn’t know about. He wants to change that through his presence online and in his forthcoming book.

Two primary reasons we don’t see our criminal justice in a unified way, Martens says, are because we have varying degrees of education about our history as a nation and varying degrees of knowledge and experience with how our justice system currently operates.

Have a listen and learn. Martens covers a ton of both history and present realities. You’ll hear about how our criminal justice system was organized after the Civil War and how some of those practices remain today; how jury selection can have a huge and unjust impact on the accused; how both our bail and plea bargain systems coerce innocent people to confess guilt to crimes they did not commit; the realities of a broken policing system that leaves many crimes unsolved and prevents victims from experiencing justice; and more. Martens closes this episode by telling us what you and I can do to seek justice in our own localities.” — Jen Oshman

Podcast LINK —  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/all-things/id1449943664?i=1000548574978

You can follow him on Twitter @martensmatt1.

Baseball Rules For Ministry: Tie Goes To The Runner!

When a teacher spoke to me about one of my children, I knew this; her words were the truth about the situation! That wasn’t just a nice platitude or an “old school” mentality — but “far more.”  It was an operating principle!

The “more” was that as the church pastor and administrator of the Christian school, I knew it took something meaningful for a teacher to come to me with an issue! If it was important enough for a teacher to step up to the bat, then it was right to give it serious attention! If there was even or ever a tie, it went to the runner — the one who felt strong enough about a concern that they felt they should at least make it to first base!

Pastors know this, or at least should know this unless they find some lopsided consolation in thinking otherwise . . . .

There is an immense amount of natural grace
given to a ministry leader and/or the pastor(s) of local church ministry!

. . . . and for various reasons — and for good reasons.

  • He is their pastor!
  • They voted on and called their pastor to their ministry.
  • His position and title rightfully matter to God’s people.
  • He ministers to them from the pulpit about godly living.
  • God’s people believe that they ought to be careful and cautious when speaking about ministry leaders or their pastor(s).
  • “There is no perfect pastor or perfect church.”
  • The shepherd is over the flock.
  • We want to believe, and we ought to believe, that the pastor(s) is an honest, good, and godly person.
  • God’s people want to believe the best about their leadership.
  • The pastor is working with a wide variety of people with varied opinions.
  • “Success” is a quieting agent.
  • If he has been there for years, whatever differences there were/are, are no longer that significant.

If ministry leaders or pastors read the above list, they are feeling fairly good right now!

“Yes, heading up a ministry and/or being a pastor isn’t an easy job! People need to cut some slack when it comes to being critical. We are working hard at ministry and doing the best we know how with such a diverse span of individuals and families — no less in today’s culture!”

For all those reasons — and more — there is a lot of grace extended to ministry leaders and pastors! Not, “there ought to be a lot of grace extended,” but there is!

God’s people are typically, overwhelmingly, and exceptionally hesitant to do much more than mildly “bleat” about a decision, action, or regarding their shepherd.

There are biblical truths and principles that genuinely support being gracious and kind towards those in leadership!

The difficulty is that those truths and principles can also be used as a cloak to hide behind. That is why the list seemingly gets longer and longer when it comes to present-day examples of ministry wrong-doing!

Examine the all too numerous and varied cases of ministerial wrong-doing, and you will see how the truths and principles of Scripture were used to ward off legitimate criticism. A few — and often too few — people were speaking out because there is a lot of grace given to ministry leaders and pastors!

There are clear biblical truths that are legitimate guidelines for church behavior . . . . .

  • be slow to speak and quick to hear
  • speech seasoned with grace
  • the fruits of the Spirit
  • patience, kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another
  • Matthew 18
  • salt and pure water from the same fountain
  • and many others!

However, they can be, and are, also used to quiet and/or evade criticism — even legitimate criticism or serious wrong-doing! [1]

It is difficult to go to a ministry leader, deacons, and surely one’s pastor to address an issue of concern!

When that happens, the concern needs to be genuinely acknowledged.

Beyond that, there needs to be some serious listening and attentiveness about the concern because, like the teacher, the employee or member has been debating whether to step up and go to bat, to speak up — or to stay on the bench and out of the lineup, or even out of the game!

It has been a hard decision for even the most plainspoken because, like all of us, their lives are also about relationships. They understand that there may be, and usually are, repercussions from speaking out and addressing a situation. The official referees and even your other players have been known to turn on you and they know that then — It’s game over!

Even the most outspoken and forward understand the relational risks regarding their ministry or church! They live their lives around family, work, and the church! Their ministry and/or the church is where they live a good part of their lives!

Any believed “tie” ought to go to them, the runner.

If they decided to go to bat, they should get the presumption that there is something worthy of a fair and genuine discussion.

As they try to make it to at least first base, not only should the time and effort be given to them to make their case, but the legitimacy of their concerns ought to be seen as “safe” for an honest evaluation!

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1. The proof is far too obvious and repeated when it comes to pastoral wrong-doing — case after case continually shows up on today’s landscape! The Scriptures warn about that phenomenon because that is exactly why and how wolves are able to hide as sheep. They quote the Bible and use it as a cloak. They make it appear that they are just being biblical and seeking to be like Jesus!

When called out, they use biblical truths and principles as a cloak — Matthew 15; I Thessalonian 2:5; John 15:22; I Peter 2:16!

The biblical truths and principles are biblical! But they can be and are used to silence and/or cover!

They . . . .

  • are not lazy — just patient and watchful
  • were not unloving — but are like Jesus, who called out the money-changers
  • were not unfriendly — just trying to be careful
  • are not indifferent — just seeking to be discerning
  • are not greedy for gain — just planning & thinking ahead
  • were not stingy — just being frugal
  • are not covetous — just want to use it/that for the Lord
  • were not uncaring — just walking circumspectly
  • did no wrong — but prayed about it
  • are not evasive — but like Jesus, suffering the wrong
  • were not sinfully angry — it was just righteous indignation
  • did not lack a heart for the lost — but trusting God to direct / to open the door
  • did not overlook or ignore needs — they were merely redeeming the time
  • were not a respecter of persons — just trying to give honor where honor is due
  • have not been immoral — just misunderstood / judge not

Mac Arthur / Piper / Your Pastor: There is a theological-ideology in play!

More About Jesus - Hymnary.org

The Hymn is titled, “More About Jesus” [1]

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fulness see,
More of His love who died for me.

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fulness see,
More of His love who died for me.

2

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.

3

More about Jesus; in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

4

More about Jesus; on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of Peace.

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There is a distinct theological difference, that has significant implications, between “More” and “Total.”  Over recent years, and up to 2022 there has been no lack of books, sermons, articles, and blogs on the theme of “Commitment” or “Total Commitment,” or “Totally Committed.”[2]. When you read the same books, you think the same thoughts!

First of all, I understand the concept of being committed to Christ.  Who would argue the position that a believer should not be committed to our Lord?  Just ask Peter!

But yes. . . let’s ask Peter — and the disciples . . . .

Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.”

I have always been taken back by the hymn, “Are Ye Able!”

 “Are ye able,” said the Master,
“To be crucified with me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“To the death we follow Thee.

Refrain:
Lord, we are able.
Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us,
Like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance
Above us shall be
A beacon to God,
To love, and loyalty.

Totally Committed — Who? — “The sturdy dreamers answered, To the death we follow Thee.”

“Lord we are able” — Who would say that knowing what we know today?

It is not that they were not sincere, but that they were unable, as are we!  Peter learned that when he stepped outside of the boat and began walking.  As he saw and felt the water and the waves, he began sinking.  What happened?  He lost his spirit of total commitment!  Like we would have!  Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!

While a righteous and desirable goal, that goal is unreachable this side of heaven, even with those who walked with Christ for three years on earth and witnessed what we ourselves wish we could have seen with our eyes. [3]. It implies the possibility of total sanctification on this side of glory.

While there will be areas that we may claim to be totally committed, there will always be areas that we are not.  Even in the areas in which we believe we are totally committed, given the right circumstances, we will fail, as did the disciples.  He that thinketh he standeth, take heed!

To hold that up as an attainable goal is not only unrealistic but unbiblical and perhaps even dangerous. [4]. We believe that the Scriptures teach progressive sanctification and another day and another place of final glorification.

More, More About Jesus! — THAT is the realistic, biblical, attainable, and righteous aim of God’s people!

“Total Commitment” is a leaky boat that some do not even personally recognize they themselves are in.  Some actually believe and/or preach as if their boat has no leaks!  It leaks as they preach!

The truth is,
all boats are leaky boats!

As previously stated, there is a theological-ideology that promotes such an unbiblical and damaging vantage to God’s people.  It is centered on an ideological framework that marks men like John Mac Arthur (Lordship Salvation), John Piper [5], Dr. John Street [6], and the new Calvinistic movement. [5]

It is unhealthy to preach glibly about being total commitment and thereby leave the impression that such is an attainable goal this side of glorification.  It is destructive, not productive! To speak about total commitment in one area of life, no less in all of life, is hurtful, not helpful!

  • better
  • greater
  • improving
  • growing
  • put off / put on
  • crucifying the old man
  • confession / repentance
  • reaching forward to the goal
  • that I might obtain
  • put my body under subjection
  • stronger
  • striving
  • race with patience
  • add to your faith
  • more faithful
  • MORE

. . . . . are the words that capture the Christian life.

“Progressive Sanctification” — That has been the historic position of Bible-believing Christianity!

If you want people to feel down and discouraged – ride that horse you think is a thoroughbred.  I say it’s a nag, and it will leave people far short (guilty and dispirited ) of where they could and should be in their Christian life!



1. https://www.songlyrics.com/savannah-ellis/more-about-jesus-lyrics/

2. https://www.growingchristians.org/devotions/total-commitment/
https://unlockingthebible.org/lifekey/a-totally-exclusive-commitment/

Total Commitment


https://thebiblechristian.com/?p=1454
https://www.bibleoutlines.com/blog/luke-923-27-the-total-commitment-involved-in-discipleship

What is Total Commitment?


https://gewatkins.net/examples-of-commitment-in-the-bible-a-study-on-pauls-commitment/

3. Even after the resurrection, they struggled with boldness, with total commitment (Acts 4:29)!  Peter struggled with hypocrisy out of fear (Galatians 2).

4. Who Is John Piper, by Barnabas Piper

5. Listen to these words!
John
 Piper: “My life’s commitment is to talk about the Bible in such a way that fake Christians feel fake — so that they can be saved.”

Is that really our “life’s commitment” as pastors? Our life’s commitment as pastors is far broader than that singular goal!  Nevertheless, Piper and other pastors have that as their goal as well, and those who listen will see that it is low-hanging fruit, week after week.

Genuine Christians also end up feeling fake when it is this kind of “all-or-nothing” kind of Christianity that people must measure up to in order for them to believe they are saved.  No surprise when people lose their children to this kind of false standard of sanctification!  Ask Barnabas Piper!

John Piper: “I am part of the New Calvinism, and feel a fatherly responsibility to continually speak into it dimensions of truth that I think it needs to hear. As a part of the New Calvinism, I have a debt to pay to Westminster Seminary and the lineage of Reformed theology that you represent. There would be no New Calvinism without you.” — John Piper
https://reformedforum.org/john-pipers-twelve-features-new-calvinism/

6. John Street heads up the counseling ministry of GCC and Master’s Seminary.  It is the same theological-ideology that is reflected in the third counseling video cited in this link.  Street expects a 4-year-old girl, who is being sexually assaulted to come to the place in her life where she understands that what has happened is from the hand of God — Glenda’s Story.  He makes the argument based on Psalm 119 — It is good that I have been afflicted.  He also makes his argument from the life of Joseph, who was hated by his brothers and sold into bondage, as if that is to even be compared to being sexually raped as a 4-year-old.

David’s “affliction” was not the sexual trauma experienced by a child, but exactly what the word “affliction” means in the context of Psalm 119 — to be humbled, put down, or distressed.  God did not afflict Glenda, as God personally and directly afflicted David out of His faithfulness (Psalm 119:75).  If Psalm 119 applies to Glenda, then God would then be the author of terrible wickedness!

I am certain that Joseph did not start out where he ended.  Joseph ended with – “God meant it for good.”  I am certain that Joseph had his good days and his bad days, and over time, he had more good days than bad.

None of God’s people jump to spiritual maturity, but we get there over time and through continual and continued spiritual growth!

Who Is John Piper – By Barnabas Piper

“Barnabas Piper:”

Barnabas Piper is one of Dr. John Piper’s two sons. His interview with RNS speaks loudly about what went wrong in the Piper household, and apparently, a lot went wrong with both Barnabas and his brother Abraham.[1] [2] [3]

Religious New Service [interview]: What is one thing people would be shocked to learn about the Piper household?

Barnabas Piper: Depends on who you ask. Those who are huge fans might be surprised to know that our family has a lot of tensions and quirks. We have dysfunction and conflict. We don’t always get along very well. It’s not the idyllic repository of peace and knowledge they might have painted a picture of in their heads.

Much more has already been written about all that has taken place in the Piper home. It’s not a pretty story, and I have little to add other than to highlight two insightful and often overlooked comments made by Barnabas Piper. One involves theology, and the other revolves around child-rearing.

#1) Theological

Religious New Service: What is one thing people would be shocked to learn about the Piper household?

Barnabas Piper: Depends on who you ask. Those who are huge fans might be surprised to know that our family has a lot of tensions and quirks. We have dysfunction and conflict. We don’t always get along very well. It’s not the idyllic repository of peace and knowledge they might have painted a picture of in their heads.

Religious New Service: A while back, your dad rather publicly enacted church discipline on your brother, and even excommunicated him from the church. Did you support this at the time?

Barnabas Piper: I understood. “Support” might be a bit too strong because it was too sad to be supportive of. My brother at that time was not a believer, by his own admission. So it was a case of removal from church membership after years of trying to restore him. Also to say my dad did the discipline isn’t quite fair. It was a decision by a board of elders. In all, I understood why it happened based on the church’s membership standards, but I always felt the sense that it had to do with the “manage your household” criteria out of 1 Timothy too. And that made it feel like something unique to a family in our position.

^

It was both comments — “at that time was not a believer . . . . trying to restore him,” that came across so strange. Barnabas is speaking about his brother’s behavior as a “young man.” Abraham’s ex-communication took place at the age of 19. Now, Abraham was either a believer or not a believer at a point in time. [4] He was either a rebellious believer at the age of 19 or he was never an actual believer in the atoning work of Christ. He was either a professor of saving faith, or a possessor of saving faith at the age of 19. Therefore, Barnabas seems to be saying that “at that time” when he was 19, he was not a believer.

However, you don’t “restore” someone who was never a believer. “After years of trying to restore him” implies that he was a believer and that he needed to begin living as a believer.

“After years of trying to restore him” is an odd way of speaking about salvation or coming to Christ. But it is not an odd way for some who hold to the theological ideology of Dr. John Piper — “Calvinism.”

It is one thing to say some only profess Christ, and later come to the realization they never were actually believers in the work of Christ for them on Calvary. That is not “restore.” That is putting one’s faith in the work of Christ and being “born-again.” for one’s salvation. The wording used by Barnabas does not fit that scenario.

There have been numerous articles on whether a “5-point Calvinist” can actually hold to the doctrine of eternal security. Merely google the numerous articles — “Calvinism Eternal Security” – which address this issue. There is a reason for the endless list of articles that appear — the Calvinistic teaching of “The Perseverance of the Saints.” [6] [7]

Barnabas Piper clearly understands and reflects his father’s position and teaching about Saving Grace – or not so saving Grace! [8]

^

#2) Child-Rearing

Religious New Service: What was the biggest negative you experienced growing up in the Piper household? . . . 

Barnabas Piper: The biggest negative was not connecting with God in a personal way. My dad’s view of, and relationship with, God is so big and so powerful that it looked like the only way to come to God. But it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I was out of college and things kind of fell apart for me that I encountered God’s grace and the person of Jesus in a profound way on my own.

What Barnabas Piper states about his rebellion against his parents and home life is instructive! It highlights at least one of the causes accounting for what is sometimes seen by members of a local church.

As stated by Barnabas Piper, some pastors “lose their children” because of their theological ideology. Some pastors see life and living through “Calvinist Glasses” that allow for the possibility of constructing an unreachable high and holy God. The message sent and received is that if a believer loves God anything less than they do, anything less than total commitment, there can be no relationship with Him. No matter what your age, situation, background, growth, the period in life they found Christ, or lifelong experiences — if you don’t desperately love Jesus for all that He is — AND NOW —  you have woefully fallen short of what it means to be a Christian — and you may not even be saved!

With that approach, the average “Joe” just can never measure up. The choices are – love God desperately and be satisfied in Him alone, or fly coach, be second class —at best — maybe you are not a Christian at all. There is little to no room for real struggle, ups and downs, less than “all our hearts.” It is all or nothing!

There is little room for progressive sanctification — experiencing great success in one area and significant struggles in another, periods of dryness and periods of great communion, times of severe struggle and times of great victory, for periods of great service and periods of hindered service, et al.

^

While I stated the other revolves around child-rearing, it also revolves around preaching and teaching. The impact of what Barnabas Piper describes is not only about him personally, but it goes well beyond the walls of his home.

When a pastor, such as John Piper, infuses this type of thinking in his home, be assured it is also taught in the local church setting. As people pick up on this “pastoral home tone,” it infects other families with that same all-or-nothing level of Christian living!

Insecurities and doubts intrude after a sermon and throughout the weeks that follow. Those sitting under a pastor’s ministry began to absorb the same tone and attitude. They may begin to wonder why they feel so different about their relationship with Christ. No longer is our understanding about our relationship with Christ as Dane Ortlund [7] so warmly states . . . . .

“[Justification] is the most counterintuitive aspect of Christianity, that we are declared right with God not once we begin to get our act together but once we collapse into honest acknowledgement that we never will.”

“Intercession is the constant hitting ‘refresh’ of our justification in the court of heaven.”

“Christ turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness…to avert his gaze from our sins.”

“Christ continues to intercede on our behalf in heaven because we continue to fail here in earth. He does not forgive us through his work on the cross and then hope we make it the rest of the way.”

“Our prayer life stinks most of the time. But what if you heard Jesus praying aloud for you in the next room? Few things would calm us more deeply.”

~ “Gentle And Lowly” Chapter 8

Why? Because a God who is unreachable and may no longer really like us anymore, no less love us, is the tone of sermon after sermon. The spirit felt is that maybe we can never attain and be totally committed as we sincerely pursue — and as some claim, they themselves have attained, from the pulpit!



P.S.

Barnabas repeatedly cites how many PKs he has spoken with around the country. He speaks of how many PKs have fallen away, and how many live their lives for Him. Whether Barnabas Piper’s experience accurately reflects the PK world, I have no way to assess it. While I have seen PKs rebel against the home life of their parents, my experience says that it is not as typical as Barnabas Piper would like to suggest and thereby increase his comfortability with his own response.

Ruth and I raised four PKs. I made it clear to our family that I would leave the ministry before watching any of our children rebel against all we believe and I preach. If I can’t sell a love for the Lord at home, then I will not sell it to others.

I want to say THANK YOU to the hundreds of PKs who were examples in the church to other families, fellow teens, and their brothers and sisters. Thank you for being than youthful example, and surely for those and others who struggled in the arena, fought the good fight (and it is a good fight), and were not bitter, but enjoyed the ministry, along with mom and dad! 

A special thanks to our four PKs! 

When mom and I die, we are leaving behind four more soldiers to take our place, and 13 engaged or in training should our Lord tarry!

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

1. https://faithit.com/marriage-is-over-barnabas-piper/

2. http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/11/19/barnabas-piper-pushes-back-at-john-piper-on-divorce-and-pastor-david-derksen-writes-a-grace-filled-book-on-divorce-and-infidelity/

3. https://churchleaders.com/news/394762-not-desiring-god-john-pipers-son-criticizes-his-upbringing-to-925k-tiktok-followers.html

4. Becoming a believer takes place at a point in time. That is why it is called “born-again,” compared to marriage/wedding, spoken of as “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” and illustrated by the thief on the cross — “the guy on the middle cross said I can come.” [5]. We are then called on as believers to live out that new birth, that union with Christ, our salvation, and the declaration that nothing can now separate us from the love of God which is found iin Christ Jesus.

5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xk9wgJBoEd8

6. There are many who are “Calvinistic” in that they question one or two of the five points — the “L” and the “P” of T-U-L-I-P. They do not hold to or significantly divert on the “Limited Atonement” and “Perseverance of the Saints.”

7. Those who are “5-Point Calvinists” in the full sense hold to Calvin’s understanding of the doctrines of grace. Likewise, their preaching reflects the tone and spirit of Calvinism. There is a repeated emphasis on the possibility of not really being a Christian and even the hint that you may have lost your position in Christ. I say hint, because with some, the sermon is fogged up with affirmations that they are not saying what they are saying — They are not saying you can lose your salvation, but it sure sounds like that is what they are saying!

Dane Ortlund’s book “Gentle and Lowly “is so popular because it is such a contrast to such preaching found across America’s pulpit today!

8. If you want to see the double talk, reconcile these statements . . . .

“It follows from what was just said that the people of God WILL persevere to the end and not be lost. The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified. No one is lost from this group. To belong to this people is to be eternally secure.”

Our faith must endure to the end if we are to be saved. . . . Obedience, evidencing inner renewal from God, is necessary for final salvation. . . .There is a falling away of some believers, but if it persists, it shows that their faith was not genuine and they were not born of God. . . . The fact that such a thing is possible is precisely why the ministry of the Word in every local church must contain many admonitions to the church members to persevere in faith and not be entangled in those things which could possibly strangle them and result in their condemnation. God justifies us on the first genuine act of saving faith, but in doing so he has a view to all subsequent acts of faith contained, as it were, like a seed in that first act.”

Link: To the full PDF by John Piper On Perseverance of the Saints