YOLO is Anti-Gospel

Over the past year, it seems like the letters YOLO have taken over. Whether on facebook, twitter, or whatever other forms of social media exist, YOLO is popping up everywhere. Some of us writing this blog had to look it up. If you’re still living under the perverbial nerd rock, YOLO stands for “you only live once.” It’s the mindset that has quietly pervaded our society for years, but in recent days has become a proud motto, not just of the teenage generation, but all age ranges. The most disheartening thing about this new catch phrase is that it’s a part of Christian circles, just as much as it is a part of non believers. In this blog, Carter and Nathan weigh in on YOLO and the danger this mindset threatens believers.

Carter – One might argue that this is an innocent phrase that simply means carpe diem or work hard for the days are short. Well that may be what it means, but its not innocent. Why? Doesn’t it produce a working spirit? Or at least one that realizes the frailty of life? I mean after all does not Scripture say, “Lord, teach us to number our days”? Surely knowing that you only live once would produce in you exactly the Christian attitude of righteous living that we need. Right?

Wrong.

It is not focus on this life at all that produces righteous living.YOLO only produces an attitude that whatever fun things you want to do on this earth you better get it done soon! We develop bucket lists which are nothing more than a declaration saying, “My hope for joy or enJOYing things is here, on this earth, in this ONE life.” The biggest questions people have about heaven are as follows; Men want to know, will there be sex, and women want to know, will we know each other? Because of these fears, we live our lives focused on what we can accomplish, “while we still have time”.

I John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, we are now God’s children, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

What gives us the inspiration to live christ-like? It is the fact that scripture promises that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. One day we will be made like Jesus! We will co-heirs with him, in a kingdom where all things are made new and set right. Jesus said he came to give us life, and that abundantly! Heaven is not the end of life…it is true life. What spurs us to live righteously is not that you only live once, but that this one life is an everlasting one.

Nathan- As I have watched the YOLO mentality sweep through social media, I have continually thought of Biblical figures who’s lives fell into ruin because of a YOLO attitude. From Genesis to Revelation we see pictures of humanity giving into YOLO. The men and women of Noah’s day, the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanites, and the list of evil men and women goes on and on. But there’s another interesting aspect of humans and YOLO. The righteous fall prey to it as well. Take for instance a certain man said to be a man after God’s own heart.

One day, when he should have been doing his job, this man after God’s own heart went up to the rooftop and began scanning the kingdom. His eyes stopped just a few rooftops ahead as destruction in the form of a beautiful woman bathed. He wanted her. Forget his wives, his children, this woman’s husband. He wanted her. He was the king. He got her and she became pregnant. The story unravels from there. Her warrior husband was taken from the battlefield and brought to her, but being a righteous man, wouldn’t sleep with his wife while his colleagues were still fighting. So the king had him killed. This king, this man after God’s on heart is David. He was never the same after that day on the rooftop. Destruction filled his household.

Years later, Solomon, David’s son was said to be the wisest man to ever live and he was also quite wealthy. We read about his earthly pursuits in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon lists everything under the sun that offers happiness and pleasure, but in twelve chapters he concludes that is the wrong attitude. YOLO doesn’t stand. It’s destruction. His conclusion is both simple and hard in this world: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

There you have it. Yolo isn’t biblical. It’s not the call of the believer. Fear God and keep his commandments.

 


Like a Thief in the Night

Today began a new chapter in my ministry. I began serving at First Baptist Church in Fort Smith, AR as the Associate Minister of Missions. This past week, I packed up my belongings, said goodbye to some dear friends, and changed from an on-campus student to a long distance one. All of those are difficult things, but the Lord had called me to this new journey, so I went, without much questioning, actually. I was expectant of the things the Lord would teach me over the next months and years in this new ministry calling. I did not expect a trial so quickly.

Sometime between Sunday night and the early morning hours of Monday, someone broke into the minivan we had rented to haul some of my things, and stole my television, a box of books, and a box of pictures. At first I was enraged, later I was just really sad, but now, truthfully, I’ve been pointed to Christ. I’ve learned several lessons, but one thing that has rested at the forefront of my mind is the idea of experiencing trials before a watching flock.

It’s easy to get up and preach Matthew 5:38-42, but it’s difficult to live it out. But, be warned, brother pastor, the way you live preaches just as much, if not more, than what you say. Now listen, I did not say, “preach the gospel and use words when necessary.” Gospel proclamation should be the top priority. What I did say is that your life sends a message. As a pastor, minister, lay leader, or whatever, how you live out Scripture will send out a message to your people. If we’re inerrantists, and we should be, then we have to live like it. I have to believe my Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. I have to believe that he works all things out for good. I have to believe he gives and he takes away. I have to believe that he is the greatest treasure I have.

Do I want my priceless pictures back? Yes. Do I wish I still had my television? Yes. Am I sad that all my John Piper books got stolen? Yes. Has it ruined my life? Absolutely not. So, when the trials come, cling to Christ. Point your people to the cross. Let them see you rely on the Lord. Don’t be a wuss, there’s time to be angry, there’s time to mourn. But your emotions do not nullify the sovereignty of God, so don’t confuse your people with your life responses.


The Sufficiency of Scripture

I’m reading a book about Scripture, and the author gives this definition of the sufficiency of Scripture:

“Because of the ways in which God has chosen to relate himself to Scripture, Scripture is sufficient as the means by which God continues to present himself to us such that we can know him, repeating through Scripture the covenant promise he has brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.”

About this definition, he explains, 

“It does not replace a living, dynamic relationship with the Lord with the study of a book. Instead it asserts that the Lord who wants to create living relationships with people comes to establish those relationships through the Scriptures.”

These are both worth meditating on. His point is, at least in part, that God has given us the Scriptures to reveal himself to us, so that we might know him in them. Thus, we do not approach the Bible as a book to be analyzed, but as a source of cultivating the covenant relationship we have with God in Christ.
 
Let me encourage you, as you read your Bibles, don’t simply study them. Instead, seek to know God in them. Ask, “How is God revealing himself in this text? How is he making himself known here?” One simple practice that helps with this is to pray before reading the Bible, “Lord, open my eyes to how you have (already) made yourself known in this text, that I might see myself and my life in light of who you have revealed yourself to be.”

“Jim Crow is dead. Jesus is alive!”

Those words were tweeted by Dr. Russell Moore today in response to Fred Luter’s election as the first African-American president to the Southern Baptist Convention. So far, I have teared up every time I have heard them or said them to someone else. But why? Why is a white 26 year old from Alabama crying over today’s proceedings at the Southern Baptist Convention? The short answer is, “Jesus is alive!”

As co-author of this blog, I’ll take the opportunity, however, to give you the long reason. I was born in Birmingham, AL. There isn’t a square mile in the state that isn’t stained with the horror of racism and the sacrifice of the Civil Rights movement. Moreover, I come from a long line of white men who hated black men.

As much as I am Alabamian, I’m Southern Baptist, maybe even more. I was Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred, and when I die I’ll be Southern Baptist dead. As some have said, they were my tribe, so to speak. I identified with them culturally, morally, and philosophically. When I began to read my Bible and understand it, I became Baptist in my theology. I grew up in a Baptist church. I was a Royal Ambassador, never missed a vacation Bible School, and can’t dance to save my own life. I went to a Baptist university, served with the Baptist mission board (the International Mission Board), and attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am Southern Baptist.

But what does that mean? Well, in 1845, at the inception of the Southern Baptist Convention, it meant two things. The first was a desire to plant churches in the South, which the Northern Baptists within the American Baptist organization refused to do. The other was a desire to send missionaries who were slave owners, which the Northern Baptists, rightly, refused to do. Thus a split occurred and dark heritage was born.

Today, the grace of God overcame that heritage. The Lord has given the Southern Baptist Convention Fred Luter as the man to lead us for the next year, and, hopefully, two years. Fred Luter’s ancestors were slaves. They weren’t even thought of as human, much less Southern Baptists. He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.

Is Fred Luter’s election as president the end of our good work? I sure hope not. I hope it’s the beginning of a long line of Southern Baptist presidents that represent that childhood song we all know: “red, and yellow, black, and white.” I think it does represent change and grace. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the gospel: changed by the blood of Jesus, who gives grace to wretched sinners like us.

And that’s why I can’t stop tearing up. Jesus is alive and the shackles of slavery are broken. Only God can take a racist, blind convention of churches and give them a descendent of slaves as their president. Sola Deo Gloria!


Lion Hunting

The two figures stood silent in the tent. The king thought the boy foolish for not wanting his armor.

David let the armor lay at his feet anyway. Instead he looked straight into Saul’s eyes and said,

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

This is an incredible story-within-a-story. As I read this recently I was caught off guard by what the Lord challenged me with. This is a picture of pastoral ministry. Let’s look together as I ask myself again the questions scripture has already asked me.

1) Am I ready to go after the sheep…?

There are many times in ministry where the answer is no. There’s that one family. There’s the complaining mother, the angry father, the crazy aunt, the 15 year old boy who causes trouble in the youth group, and that’s not to mention the emails of gossip and prejudicial mess that are received on a weekly basis. When they falter, or want to leave the church because the episcopal church down the road, “has better music”, our first instinct is not to go after them. It is easy to forget that we as shepherds are called to watch after the sheep, and as Christ commanded and exampled, to go after the 1 instead of being relieved we still have 99. This is war, and the enemy is going to continue to take sheep. We must go after our sheep. It is messy…but then again, this is war.

2) Am I ready to fight the enemy…?

Did you catch what David did? Let me repeat it just in case. He chases the lion down and kills him by grabbing his beard and apparently slapping the beast. Are you kidding? He appears as if he has no fear. However, I do not believe this is due to a lack of belief in the lions power. No, it is because David is ready when the lion comes. As a minister of the gospel, I must be ready each and every day. After all, the Enemy is prowling around seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). How do I prepare? Our brother Peter tells us that as well; we are to be self-controlled and alert. My ability to fight for my people is dependent upon my willingness to submit to the Holy Spirit, and live a life that is becoming more like Christ. Quick lines and catchy phrases will not save your lamb from the lions jaws. Indeed the armor of Saul will not prepare you for the divorced father who starts crying in your office, nor the 16 year old girl who is considering abortion. Only the breastplate of righteousness can prepare me for such a fight. My personal holiness is a must.

Am I ready to give God the Glory…?

Notice that David’s concern in this and the surrounding story is God’s Glory. This is perhaps the most difficult part for me. I’m pretty sure if I killed a lion by grabbing his beard and whopping him upside the head, I would face major temptation to toot my own horn. In ministry this can be deceiving though. We work endlessly, vying for an ear to listen, for someone to have that lightbulb go off. Hours in prayer and study of the Word because we do want to “go after the sheep” and “fight for them”. Yet, we must be willing when the successes come, to praise God and give him the Glory, ALONE. If our success stories in ministry are capped with anything that starts with “I”, then we have missed the point. It’s not about what we changed, or did differently or the program you followed, or the curriculum or idea you came up with. We must be willing to say with David, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” If we do not fight for the captain of the hosts and are not ready to give him glory in the victory, then our fight is both in vain, and full of prideful conceit.

 Sometimes I forget that I am also a Soldier. 


Sparks from the Tongue: Words Matter

In the past few days I have had 5 blog ideas, all of which were reactions and none of which were well thought out. Some of them could have gotten me in trouble. By the grace of God, none of them were typed out. What has come from those thoughts though, is the reminder that words matter. Read what James says in 3:1-12. It’s shocking.

The most shocking and uncomfortable verse for me and in light of our goal with this blog is 1. “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” As one who’s mouth is constantly a stumbling block, that’s disturbing, if not damning. Below I want you to think with me about just two areas in which our words matter most.

The Gospel: Without words, there is no gospel. God Almighty has revealed himself to us in his Word. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The gospel is articulated in words. (Dr. Mohler’s sermon from T4G on this). People will not, and I submit cannot, come to salvation without words. Speak the gospel, and do it well.

Leading the Flock: When you get up behind the pulpit, what you say matters. When you talk to your people in the hallways of your church’s meeting place, what you say matters. When you weep and mourn as your people traverse through the valley of the shadow of death, your words matter. The way you respond to your wife, kids, brother pastors, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and enemies matter. You will be judged with greater strictness, and words matter.

There are countless other areas in which our words matter, but those two haunt me. If you’re calling is to the ministry, I hope they haunt you. I hope you think about your words and the way you articulate the gospel, doctrine, and every conversation that bounces off your tongue. For the record, I’m not writing from a viewpoint that says, “I’ve got this down.” I”m writing from a viewpoint that sees the blazing fires my tongue has sparked. So pray with me, brothers and sisters, that our tongues would speak the truth and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and not spew the fiery darts of Satan.


Reflections on T4G

This time last week I was over an hour into a three day conference that I had no idea how much God was going to do in my life. I could probably spend a large portion of the rest of the day giving you a recount on certain things that I learned, thought, experienced, and came away with. I’ll spare you and give you just five highlights and one exhortation.

1. T4G was birthed from the relationship between Al Mohler, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and Ligon Duncan. Over the course of the conference they were unashamedly outspoken and grateful for their gospel centered friendship and heart for each other. The Lord has graciously given me this in several guys, but particularly the two I share this blog with. Neither were there. Both were chastised.

2. All 9 (yes, that’s right) sermons were piercing to the core, but the Word from the Lord Ligon Duncan gave from 1 Kings 19 left me unable to stand up. Go here and listen to it.

3. As mentioned in #1, the conference came from the relationship of those 4 men, but particularly in their conversations following other conferences. The Lord blessed me with such an opportunity on Wednesday night in an IHOP with Josh Wester, Seth Woodley, and Les Hughes. They are great brothers, and we ate pancakes late into the morning discussing God, ministry, and congregations.

4. The best picture of heaven I have ever experienced was the singing of 7500 people, mostly men, on the last night of T4G. I thought I was going to be taken up into the highest heavens. Here’s Dr. Mohler’s video of it from the 2nd row.

5. I have 30 books in my bedroom floor that I got from the conference. 20 of those were free. The other 10 were 40% off. So, I spent less than $40 and got 30 books. Yes, Lord!

6. T4G 2014 will be April 8-10 in Louisville, KY. If you are a pastor, church leader, or theological student you need to make every effort to attend. There is no more encouraging, uplifting conference for the shepherd’s soul. If you want to know more, listen to this year’s audio/video or ask one of us 7000 + that were able to attend.


Harry Potter and the Gospel

I remember when the email came.

I was 12 (yes email did exist, barely, but yes…). It went something like this…

“CHRISTIANS EVERYWHERE!!! Be Cautioned. A Series of Children’s Books, Harry Potter, has been released to the general public.”

The email went on, but it’s message was clear.

If you let your children read these books, you are not only inviting witchcraft and sorcery into your home, you are directly tempting your children in sin and the worship of Satan himself.

My friends, that is a bold claim. Many churches and organizations have renounced such statements especially since the end of the series. However, many Christians still are unsure, and unsettled in whether or not reading them, would be to open the door to sin or at the very least, criticism from fellow church members.

Let us look at authorial intent. If we cannot do at least that, then we are simply being lazy.

I’ll be blunt.

Harry Potter does not support witchcraft or Satanism any more than C.S. Lewis supports the idea that animals talk.

What you have in Harry Potter, is a magical realm, much like in Narnia. The difference, and perhaps confusion in Harry Potter, is that this Magical realm come in direct contact and contains consequences for the “real world”. This, however, is easily understood by reasoning that a “world in which there is also a magical world” is NOT OUR WORLD.

The magic in Harry Potter is clearly neither good nor bad. The author makes that obvious.

So with these things dismissed, we are left with quite what it was intended to be from the beginning

A STORY.

A story, that much like any other is full of suspense and action, love, intrigue. In fact, what will come as a shock to some people, the story of Harry Potter, is much more similar to the story of the Gospel than are most secular works of art. It would take a short essay or book to example out all the ways in which this is the case but I think this particular paragraph will do for now.

There once was a dark and sinful world, in the control and under siege from an evil enemy. Everyone lived in fear. But then, amid the darkness, there was a child born in a small town. The evil one came and tried to destroy him immediately but was unsuccessful. He tempted him later, trying to make the child his servant. As the boy grew, he grew famous throughout the land, and when he reached adulthood he went into an all out battle against the enemy. In the end, he laid down his life on behalf of all his friends, in order that they might live. Somehow, miraculously he came back to life and defeated the enemy once and for all, saving all the people.

Am I talking about Harry Potter or the Gospel?

My point to all this is that we should not be afraid of stories. There are of course things that are inherently evil, and you should not participate in ALL THINGS. However, we should not react in fear of something that sounds suspicious to us. We should at least be willing to interact with it. Augustine taught us that we should “take that which is good from the world, acknowledging that all good comes from our Father”. There’s a reason why Harry Potter reminds us of the gospel. J.K. Rowling was made by the same Maker that we were, and has a mind which cannot escape the thematic elements of our existence (i.e. sin, fear, saving, redemption, sacrifice).

We have a greater story than Harry Potter, but you need not be fearful of it.

In conclusion, read this quote from G.K. Chesterton.

“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.” – G.K. Chesterton


What is the Mission of the Christian?

 

I’ve been doing some thinking about the question, “What is the mission of the church?” This is a complicated issue, to be sure, but whenever I’m pastoring, I want to be able to lead my people to faithfully fulfill the purpose for which God has redeemed us.

As I’ve started thinking through this a little, I thought I’d post a few thoughts and get some feedback. This particular post has less to do with the church as a whole and more to do with individuals. I think that any way you look at it, asking what the mission of the universal Church is inevitably leads us back to the individual. God has a purpose for the universal Church, to be sure, and he will accomplish those purposes, but identifying her purpose is not the same thing as identifying her mission.

However, since the universal church is nothing more than the sum total of all individual Christians, can we, by looking at what Scripture tells us is the mission of the individual, infer what the mission of the Church (universal) is? (The next step is then to ask how these relate to the mission of the local church, but that’ll be for another day)

What is the mission of the Christian?

So, the question at hand is “What is the mission of the Christian?” And the answer I would give to that is something like this:

  • [a] to grow into a mature disciple of Christ (holiness, doctrine, affections),
  • [b] to live as a mature disciple of Christ (proclaiming the kingdom in both word and deed), and
  • [c] to make disciples of Christ

Yes, I know. They’re all connected. You can’t grow into a mature disciple that doesn’t “do,” and you can’t just “do” without having the right heart and doctrine behind you’re “doing.” Likewise, you can’t consider yourself to be mature if you are not reproducing yourself in other disciples, nor can you reproduce yourself if you are not yourself mature in both the [a] & [b] senses.

So, what do you think? What’s good? What needs to be added or taken away? I appreciate your feedback.

[Note: By “mission” here, I do not necessarily mean “chief end,” as in ‘to glorify God and enjoy him forever,’ or that type of thing. I’m more talking about what Christians are to be doing. If it would make you feel better though, you are welcome to add “To glorify God by growing…living…making…” I’m down with that.]


CHURCH AS COMMUNITY – (Part 1) Community and Identity

This is Part 1 of a series of posts entitled “Church as Community.” Collectively, these posts will explore the various implications of the biblical truth that the local church is, by definition, a community to which believers belong. You can review the Introduction to the series here.

We’re busy. I get it. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the chief of sinners in this area. But seriously, it’s ridiculous how much stuff is going on. It doesn’t take rocket surgery to note that we live in a culture that celebrates individualism and hinders true and deep relationships from forming simply because there’s so much happening. So how do we get everything done that needs to get done and still have time to do church well?

I submit that one of the deepest-rooted problems in the Western Church today is that we are trying to do just that. Whether or not we ever admit it, most Christians think of church as one of the things on the calendar. It is something to be done. It’s an item. No, it doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a joy, but there’s something fundamentally wrong when church is something we do or are even a part of, rather than who we are. Consider Ephesians 2:14-19:

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (ESV)

As future pastors, one of the great challenges we will face is getting people to stop doing church. We will be fighting all the schedules, jobs, activities, and yes, sports allegiances that occupy our people’s time and affections as we try to help them understand that foundational to the Christian life is the Church. This is not because it offers them anything—though it does—nor because it is helpful for their marriage and family—though it is—but because the church was woven into the marrow of our being the moment Christ covered our sin with his blood. In doing so, he brought us into his family and gave us a new identity.

Because community is an identity issue, it’s also a maturity issue. If we find ourselves in love with theology and God’s Word but not in love with the Church—longing to be with her, to serve her, and to build her up—then we are in some sense immature believers. There’s no other way to put it. If we identify ourselves more with our work, our city, our socio-economic status, or our sports team more immediately and more practically than we do the church, we have a maturity problem.

Pastors, when you’re leading your people to grow into maturity, help them ask the identity questions: Who am I? What is the church? How do those things go together?

True community will flow from biblical answers to these questions.