Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Gospel for all of Life 2

Here are some notes from two seminars I did here last weekend for various leaders of various ministries. The overall title was 'Far-reaching Discipleship: The Gospel for all of life' and the sessions had the very simple aim of trying to expand everyone's concept of what being and making disciples involves. Session 1 had argued that the gospel is centred upon Jesus' Lordship.

Session 2: Because Jesus is Lord, discipleship is deep and wide

Matthew 28:18-20
The logic of the great commission - because Jesus has all authority, go and disciple. The job of making disciples is to be as all-encompassing as Jesus’ Lordship is (all authority - all nations - all that Jesus commanded). All-encompassing Lordship mean all-encompassing discipleship.

1. Discipleship is wide

A. Every Nation
The bible speaks expansively of the number of the redeemed. Jesus’ kingdom will be the biggest the world has ever known.

B. Every Person
As long as someone denies that Jesus is Lord the work of making disciples continues.

2. Discipleship is deep

A. The Whole Person
2 Corinthians 10:5 & Deuteronomy 6:4-5. No part of us is off-limits to the gospel.

B. The Whole of Life
No sacred-secular divide. No neutral zone. No closet Christianity

Examples of areas we usually don't think of in this way: Politics, Culture/Art/Music, Work.

The gospel of Jesus’ Lordship should shape how we think about and how we do everything.

This changes the way we read the bible/ the questions we ask. What does the bible tells us about architecture, psychology, medical biology, greengrocery, chewing gum, fashion, beer, the environment, weather, dentistry, playing the oboe, fishing, parenting? We should expect the bible to speak to all of these areas.

Everything belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ and until everything is organised and ordered under him and his ways, then it is not ordered correctly.

3. Conclusion and Expectations

The gospel is moral, cultural, global. So, therefore, is discipleship.

Progress is real. Therefore expect it, pray for it, plan for it.

Progress is progressive. Therefore be patient (God is).

The Gospel for all of Life 1

Here are some notes from two seminars I did here last weekend for various leaders of various ministries. The overall title was 'Far-reaching Discipleship: The Gospel for all of life' and the sessions had the very simple aim of trying to expand everyone's concept of what being and making disciples involves.

Session 1: The gospel is about the Lordship/rule of Jesus Christ.

1. How Jesus summarised the Gospel – The Kingdom of God

The gospel is about the kingdom of God. In and through Jesus, God is ruling in such a way as to sort out creation, defeat death, save his people, destroy his enemies

Mark 1:15
Isa 52:7
Colossians 1:14-23
1 Corinthians 15:22-26

2. Ηow the NT authors summarised the Gospel - ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’

Romans 1:1-4. Jesus is the Christ and Son of God from Psalm 2. He has inherited the rebellious nations of the world and rules over them. “Jesus Christ our Lord” is Paul’s summary, which is repeated throughout the NT (e.g. Mark 1:1, John 20:31, Acts 2:36, Acts 16:31, 1 Corinthians 12:3, 2 Corinthians 4:3-5, 2 Timothy 2:8, Romans 10:9 and Philippians 2:11).

In the gospel God is saying to the world “Jesus Christ is Lord”

3. Key events of the Gospel

NT authors also highlight some key events in their gospel summaries. Jesus' Lordship is never far in the background.

Cross = establishing his reign, populating his kingdom. Revelation 5: 9-10

Resurrection = declaration of Jesus’ Lordship/Sonship. Romans 1:4

Ascension = installation as ruler of the universe. 1 Peter 3:22, Ephesians 1:20-23

4. Summary

The Gospel is a declaration of regime change.
The gospel is God’s declaration to the world that Jesus Christ owns this world and everything and everyone in it. This is good news because his Lordship involves sorting creation out by defeating sin, saving his people, destroying death, crushing his enemies.

5. Brief implications

So what does all this mean? Some starters:

Faith involves personal allegiance
If the gospel that we’re asking people to believe that 'Jesus is Lord' then faith involves a change of allegiance, swapping sides, yielding to Jesus the Lord.


Faith results in obedience
We can’t really believe the gospel message that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ and go on as if he’s not.


We must say no to pitting 'mission' against 'maturity'
The same gospel that says Jesus Christ is Lord drives us out into the world and compels us to deep ever deeper roots into Christ.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Final Semester

2008 is here. Semester 2, year 3 begins today. While fighting off the mild panic (I only have x number of weeks left to make the most of this important phase in training for ministry) here's what I'll be studying:

The Doctrine of Salvation. Does what it says on the tin. Doctrine, plenty of it, and about salvation.

Psalms. Final attempt to get my Hebrew at least functional amidst immersion in the bible's hymn-book.

Puritan Models of Ministry. Learning from the heirs of the reformation. Last year's module handouts can be found here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

10 on the Law

One of THE single most important theological and pastoral issues is the relationship between Christian living and the law.

Here's ten words giving some of my reasons why I reject an absolute antithesis between law and gospel and some sort of summary of how I think we should relate to the OT law.

1. The law was never intended as a system of meriting salvation. In fact, the sacrificial system and priesthood at the centre of the law were about grace, forgiveness, propitiation.

2. One way of summarising the gospel is 'Jesus Christ is Lord.' This means immediately that the concept of 'law' (i.e. commands you really must obey) is included within the gospel itself. I can't say I believe that Jesus is Lord and then totally willfully persistently ignore everything the Lord wants me to do. It just doesn't make sense.

3. Then, add to 2. the fact that obedience to Jesus Christ is often described using commands from the Old Testament law (yes, modified and transformed by the salvation-history context)...

4. ...then add to 2. and 3. the fact that the Christian's love-response to Jesus Christ is described as fulfilling the law...

5. ....then add to 2., 3. and 4. the fact that Christ himself thought he was fulfilling the law in his life and in his teaching....

6. ...and what do you get? I think you get the idea that the Christian is, although not under the law (i.e. we don't live under the Mosaic administration of the covenant, we are not living between Sinai and the cross, but between the cross and eternity), under Christ, but, that being under Christ means being under someone whose commands are the fulfillment of the law.

7. In other words Christians should relate to the Mosaic law in the same basic way that we relate to all of the Old Testament - through Christ. The law comes to us, not in exactly the same way it did to the Israelites as they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, but transformed, renewed, changed, by the fact that the law has found its climax in the life and work and revelation of Jesus Christ the Lord. The law is for us because it speaks of Christ, by showing us our need of him by exposing sin, by helping us fill out the content of what obedience to Christ looks like, etc. The law is there to instruct and train us in righteous living.

8. Point 7. will look quite different depending (in part) on the law in question. The way I approach the food laws of Leviticus will look quite different to the way I approach 'do not murder' but in neither case can I write off the law as irrelevant to Christian living, nor can I simply lift the law straight out of the Old Testament without reflection on the fact that Christ has brought things to a climax.

9. 'Spirit vs. law' is ultimately a non-starter too, since the Spirit writes the law on our hearts.

10. Were the writers of psalm 19 and psalm 119 simply off their heads, or were they the worst sort of pharisaical legalists? Or could it be that for the living-by-grace Christian the law is a great friend since it communicates the wise requirements of our loving and holy King?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Til we have built Jerusalem...

I've never noticed before that in Isaiah 40:9 it is Zion/ Jerusalem that is the herald of the good news of the end of the exile.

I think this paves the way for the church on earth, not just as gathered in heaven, being considered 'Zion', since it is the church as gathered on earth that proclaims the good news of Jesus' exile-ending cross and resurrection.

It seems to me that this might help a little bit with the apparent 'tension' between the OT and NT perspectives on mission. Isaiah 2:1-4 views mission as the word going out from Jerusalem and bringing people in to Jerusalem. However, the NT sees the word going out from Jerusalem, sure, but it seems to stays out, creating localised congregations everywhere it goes. Where is the vision of the nations being brought into Jerusalem? Answers include

1. Jesus 'is' Jerusalem - the word draws people to him.

2. The new Jerusalem 'is' Jerusalem, the word draws people to this heavenly city.

To which I can now joyfully add a third

3. The Church on earth 'is' Jerusalem. The word goes out from her and draws people to her.

I don't think this says anything new at all. But I like this way of thinking about it since it helps us to see that mission work isn't just something that takes effect in the heavenlies, but also something that is manifested on the earth. We really do gather people to Zion, the community gathered around Jesus on earth (as it is in heaven). We might even say that part of experiencing salvation is experiencing the church as she is now on earth.

Which tells us something we all knew all along anyway - church-planting is part of the fufillment of Isaiah 2. Great.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Today I received an email from a major distributor of Christian books. They were emailing to advertise their extensive selection of bibles. The email was titled 'Your Bible, Your Choice' and included the following list of the different types of bible they sell:

By Translation
By Occasion
Large Print
For Men
For Women
For Infants
For Children
For Tweens
For Families
For Academics
For Your Valentine

A visit to their website revealed this list only told part of the story. In fact you can choose your bible according to size, colour, season, or your favourite doctrine (I'm curious as to what a 'Spirit-filled life bible ' actually is).

I can't decide whether the fact that this makes me feel uncomfortable is a good thing or whether in actual fact I'm turning into a grumpy so-and-so.

Is the list above evidence of something fairly healthy (say, getting the word of God to as many people in as many ways as possible) or something rather more rancid (say, the adoption within evangelicalism of all that smells bad about individualism, consumerism and the worship of choice, and a me-centred desire to have even God Most High speak to me on my terms)?

Answers on a post-card (of your choice of colour, size, picture, message, gender, season...)

Friday, January 11, 2008

The importance of being humble

One of the things I've come to see over the last three years is that some of the things that I didn't think mattered that much, really really do matter.

But all of this is not to say that everything matters to exactly the same degree or at the same time. David Field is passionate and persuasive about covenant infant baptism, but here he is explaining his personal experience of fellowship in a baptist church and the baptism of his own children.

It's a reminder to people like me (who arrived at college fairly convinced paedobaptists, and are now really really convinced and keen to advocate and teach it for the sake of Christ) of the need for patience, gentleness, respect, love and never being more exclusive than Christ is. As I finish semester 1 of my final year, and really do start to look forward (in both senses of the phrase) to the next stage, it seems extremely important to remember that.

Also available at Dr Field's blog are the essay questions I'll be selecting from for semester 2's Puritans module.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why do we have lions?

More from Doctrine revision...

- Creation is there to reveal God. It's why creation exists.

- This includes the words of the bible, which are themselves a part of creation, and talk about God with created words which reference other parts of creation ('God is a rock').

- So, one of the things we can say about creation is that God made it this way so that the bible could say what it does say in the way that it says it.

- So, why do lions exist? Because of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:5).

From revision for the Doctrine of God exam...

Why is communication possible? Because God is a Trinity.

1. All speech is somewhat analogical (when I say 'dog' to you, there's enough similarity between the picture of a barking beast in your head and the same picture in my head that I'm signifying by the word 'dog' for us to meaningfully communicate, but my 'dog' and your 'dog' are not exactly the same thing).

2. So all speech requires a world where things reflect other things.

3. Only a God who himself is a reflection of himself could create a world full of reflection (otherwise, where'd he get the 'idea' of reflection from if it didn't somehow exist within himself 'before' he made the world).

4. Only a trinitarian God can be, within himself, an eternal reflection of himself (the Father reflects the Son and so on).

5. People who believe in a divine Monad (Islam, Judaism) have no basis for communication. They are unable to account for why we have a world where communication is possible, or why human beings communicate.

[6. So, unless you believe in the Trinity, you might as well keep quiet :) ]