Tag Archives: Jesus

Who Do You Think You Are – Review

whodoyou300x250Seeking and defining our identity is a universal pursuit. Everyone wants to be viewed as hip or refined, mature or rebellious, trendy or classic, or any variety of adjectives and combinations. The point is that we all want to be defined by something, and we all want the right to determine that definition. That’s why we pursue degrees, careers, and reputations for the prestige of their titles – titles that ultimately disappoint or fail. This is exactly the problem that Pastor Mark Driscoll addresses in his newest book Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA).

Driscoll the Writer

Driscoll has a unique writing ability. He can quote the Bible, dead theologians like Martin Luther, and movies like Memento and Fight Club without skipping a beat. He also combines two different Christian writing styles in this book. WDYTYA is a plea for people to find their identity in Christ – non-Christians for the first time and Christians as a new habit. In that regard, it’s a great topical teaching. However, it’s also an easy-to-read expositional commentary on the book of Ephesians.

If you’ve read any of Driscoll’s other books you’ll notice that this one is significantly different. I’ve read almost all of them and have watched him progress as a writer. His earliest books are very raw, honest, funny, and Jesus centered. His next several books are thoroughly theological, yet practical and engaging, and still Jesus centered. The main similarity in WDYTYA to his other books is the fact that he illustrates his teaching with weighty, sometimes heart wrenching, stories of people from Mars Hill Church. It’s also definitely still Jesus centered.

Most of his books have had a very specific audience: church planters and pastors, victims of abuse and hardship, people who are curious about exploring Jesus, and married people – in no particular order. WDYTYA, by Driscoll’s own admission, was written to the broadest base of people of all his books. It’s definitely a book that a person with no biblical understanding could pick up and enjoy, and one that a seasoned seminary professor could benefit from.

Strengths

There were a handful of chapters in WDYTYA that I particularly enjoyed. Chapter 5, “I am Appreciated,” was one of my favorites. Have you ever told someone that they gave a great message, sang beautifully, or explained something particularly well at church only to have them say, “it’s all the Lord?” I have, and I find it frustrating, but always felt bad for finding it frustrating – which made it all the more frustrating.

Driscoll points out that Paul thanked the Ephesians for the work they did for God, and didn’t expect them to shrug off his gratitude. Driscoll says, “while it may sound spiritual to say that everything that happens is solely by God and that we can take no credit and deserve no appreciation for anything we do, it’s unbiblical and ungrateful.” He then goes on to say how important it is to appreciate people who work hard for the sake of the gospel, “It’s grievous when, out of the good desire to reserve all glory for God, we forget to also appreciate those through whom God works.”

Chapter 7, “I am Reconciled,” was probably my favorite chapter in the entire book. One of the goals of the chapter is racial reconciliation, so church leaders who read WDYTYA should pay especially close attention to this chapter. Despite many advances that the American Church has made, we are still very segregated. For the sake of time, I’ll leave you with one quote, “our cultural differences may distinguish us, but they do not define us and should not divide God’s people or allow them to accept the social structures and idols that wrongly divide people.”

Points of Contention

There are definitely parts of WDYTYA that will rub some people wrong. For instance, if you’re an Arminian, you won’t like a 4 paragraph section of Chapter 4, “I am Blessed.” If you’re a cessationist, or even a cautious continuationist, you’ll feel uncomfortable during parts of Chapter 10, “I am Gifted.” Finally, if you’re a die hard Driscoll fan (like I am), you may not find this to be his most engaging book. Sometimes that’s the downside of writing a good book that can reach a broader audience. That said, it’s an excellent book, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

By way of housekeeping, I should mention that I got a free advanced ebook copy of Who Do You Think You Are? as a member of the “Who Do You Think You Are? Street Team.” Writing an honest review of the book was an expectation for members of the Street Team – one I am glad to uphold. That’s enough of my thoughts, you should click here and buy a copy for yourself … now.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Why I’m (almost) Apolitical

Republican vs. Democrat 2012

Republican vs. Democrat 2012 (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

It’s definitely election season. Every other Facebook post and TV commercial is declaring the glories of one candidate and the atrocities of another. Some people love this season, others hate it. In college, I was fascinated by politics. I was a history major so it lined up well with my studies. The tension and the competitive nature of it was thrilling for a 21-year-old aspiring intellectual. However, over the last few years I’ve gotten less and less interested in politics.

To avoid misunderstanding, let me clarify. I care deeply about many of the issues politicians champion. I vote, and am glad to do so. I believe freedom is one of the greatest things America has going for us right now, even though I think we abuse it. The difference is that I put virtually no hope in the political process. There are several reasons why, here are 3:

1) Politics Makes Enemies out of My Mission Field

I have one overarching goal in life: to see lots of people meet Jesus. Any other goal in my life is simply a building block of that larger one. This takes building relationships with people who don’t know Him. Most non-Christians are going to disagree with my political views because they have entirely different goals. If every conversation with a non-Christian friend turns into a political debate, I’m wasting time that could be used building the relationship, or talking about Jesus.

Those debates would do little more than push away the very people I’m trying to reach. I’ve watched a lot of debates. I’ve watched politicians debate on TV. I’ve watched friends debate the merits of their favorite candidate. Never once have I seen anyone put their faith in Christ as a result of one of those debates.

2) Jesus Never Talked Politics

Jesus paid his taxes and said everyone else should too. Peter and Paul both said to obey the government, even the wicked governments they lived under (that sanctioned the murder of Christians). Paul even took it to the next level and said to pray for them. Peter once said “we must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29 ESV) but that was because they were ordered to stop talking about Jesus on their own time. So unless the government forbids you to talk about, and follow Jesus, that doesn’t apply to you. That’s about as political as the New Testament gets. If the New Testament doesn’t address politics anymore than that, I have a hard time doing it myself.

3) Jesus Wouldn’t Fit in any of the Political Parties

I grew up believing that the Republican party was virtually an extension of the church. To be fair, it was largely because Republicans were far more likely to be pro-life (a position I still hold firmly) than were the Democrats. It was an admirable move that many evangelicals made to stand up for the rights of the unborn. After all, aren’t we called to care for the least of these?

However, over time, an underlying belief that the Republican party was God’s party grew and grew. It may have been largely unstated, but it was there nonetheless. In the Old Testament, when Joshua was on his way to “attack” Jericho, he was approached by an angel. He said, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The angel said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-14 ESV).

This angel didn’t want to be associated with Israel anymore than the people of Jericho. Even though Israel was God’s covenant people, they were no more perfectly aligned with the nature and character of God than a pagan nation that did not know Him. If that’s how God responded to Israel as they began to conquer Canaan, why would he get anymore excited about a particular American political party?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Worldview

Can’t Touch This – Part 10

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gnostic “Gospels”

In the early 2000’s, popular books like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown lead people to doubt the Bible. These books teach that the early church leaders and Emperor Constantine intentionally took certain books out of the Bible in order to consolidate power and to omit things about Jesus that they wanted to conceal. Many of the reasons this is a faulty historical argument are outside of the scope of this article. However, The Da Vinci Code asserts that books such as the “gospels” of Philip and Thomas should be included in the Biblical canon. This is false for many reasons.

These books are known as the Gnostic gospels, because they teach a set of beliefs called Gnosticism. Among other things, Gnosticism taught that Jesus did not have a physical body, which directly contradicts biblical books like 1 John and the first chapter of the Gospel of John. The Gnostic gospels present two clear problems. The first problem is dating. They are believed to be written in the second or third centuries AD, whereas it is widely accepted that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written in the first century AD. The biblical canon was completed during the first century. So no one believes that the gospels of Peter and Thomas etc. were written by Peter or Thomas. These books were written, or at least completed, after the alleged authors had died.[1]

The second problem is that they include odd writings that are not reflected, or alluded to, in any other reputable writings. For example, the gospel of Thomas ends with the statement, “Simon Peter said to them: ‘Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said: ‘Lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself a male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’”[2] Statements like this are both odd and completely inconsistent with the Bible, therefore they should not be included as part of scripture.


[1] Darrell Bock, The Missing Gospels (Nashville, 2006), 4-9.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, 1994), 67.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics

Can’t Touch This – Part 7

Sacro Monte di Crea; The finding of the empty ...

Sacro Monte di Crea; The finding of the empty tomb of Christ, statues by Antonio Brilla, 1889 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women as witnesses

In 1st century Rome, the era in which the New Testament was written, a woman’s’ testimony was not widely trusted. In fact, a woman’s testimony was inadmissible in court. However, all four gospel accounts unapologetically credit women as the first witnesses to the resurrection.[1] Mark and Luke even give women credit for being the eyewitnesses of his burial, probably so that they could authenticate where His body was laid.[2] If all four canonical (authorized and accepted) Gospel accounts were edited to make them look more credible, men would have been written in as the original eye witnesses, but they weren’t. The only reason Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have given women credit (and that they maintained the credit throughout church history) is that they really were the first eyewitnesses. No one would have gambled on the doctrine (teaching) of Jesus’ resurrection by attributing women as the first witnesses if they weren’t. The doctrine of the resurrection is too important. In fact, Paul said it is the most important doctrine of all.[3]

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics

Can’t Touch This – Part 6

The Arrest of Christ with the kiss of Judas an...

The Arrest of Christ with the kiss of Judas and Apostle Peter cutting the ear of Malchus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus’ Followers Look Bad

Aside from history and archaeology, there are other reasons the Bible’s manuscripts are worth trusting. One of the most obvious is the way that the Bible is written. Early church leaders, who could have edited or destroyed the originals, left glaring accounts of their weaknesses untouched. The writings also use witnesses and proofs that the culture at large would not have accepted. The only reason for any of those to have been written, and remained intact, is that they are exactly what happened.

The apostles, especially Peter, are frequently portrayed in a poor light in the Gospel accounts. None of the disciples seemed to understand who Jesus was or what He was about.[1] They tried doing things on their own and failed because of a lack of faith and poor spiritual discipline,[2] they got into an argument on which one of them was the greatest,[3] had hard hearts,[4] tried to stop people from doing good works,[5] ran children off for trying to see Jesus,[6] abandoned Jesus at His time of greatest need,[7] and doubted that He came back from death.[8] Some of them even doubted His resurrection as they looked at His resurrected body and listened to Him talk.[9]

It didn’t matter how close they were to Jesus, they still didn’t understand Him. His top three disciples once tried to set up camp on a hilltop, instead of going on the mission He was about to send them on[10] and two of them asked for a promotion they didn’t deserve.[11] Even when Jesus was under tremendous duress and needed some friends to pray for Him, they fell asleep instead.[12] Peter, one of the three, rebuked Jesus to His face. He told Jesus that He was wrong when He said He was going to die,[13] was violent when Jesus was peaceful,[14] complained about the way Jesus said he would die,[15] and pretended like He didn’t know Him when strangers asked – simply because he was afraid.[16]

Jesus’ 12 disciples weren’t the only ones with less than exemplary records. For example, Mark, who wrote the gospel of Mark, got an early opportunity to be a missionary with Paul and Barnabus.[17] For some reason, he bailed out on Paul and Barnabus. Later on, he wanted to rejoin their mission. Barnabus wanted to let him back in and Paul didn’t. The argument got so heated that Paul and Barnabus stopped working together.[18]Mark, a biblical author, could have influenced the record of himself in Acts. He could have complained that Luke wrote about his flaws – but he didn’t.

Enhanced by Zemanta

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics

21st Century Apollos?

There’s a good chance you’re one of the 13 million+ people who has seen the video below. If you haven’t, take the next 4 minutes to watch it:

The poet’s name is Jefferson Bethke and there’s no denying that he loves Jesus. He doesn’t stop there: he loves the church, wants to care for the poor, and follow Jesus with his life. I watched another video of him on YouTube speaking to Middle School students. He was honest, vulnerable, and his theology is pretty solid. He’s building a platform, and he’s using it to make much of Jesus.

Criticism

As you might expect, he’s had criticism from all over the place. The first I saw was shared by a friend on Facebook who hated the video. This blogger totally blasted him from the point of view of a cynic who hates the gospel. That’s to be expected, and I’m not upset at a non-Christian for not liking Bethke’s video. However, I believe many will find it appealing enough to at least ask questions.

Then I saw some criticism that was far more frustrating. A well-respected Christian blogger went through his poem with a fine toothed comb and nitpicked every phrase he said. Any time Bethke said something that was remotely wrong, or could simply be misunderstood, this blogger criticized him – sometimes harshly.

One of his biggest criticisms was Bethke’s use of “religion” as a catch-all word to explain self-righteousness and hypocrisy within the church. Granted “religion” is a neutral word in the Bible, in American culture it works to describe our man-made (and pitiful) attempts to please God with works righteousness. What might seem like sloppy theology here, is actually good contextualization.

I’m all for good theology. I study it in my spare time. I believe understanding the nature and character of God is vital for a believer, and I don’t think Bethke would deny that. However, I also understand that prose is different from poetry.

Prose seeks to carefully define and explain points of truth. Poetry seeks to use the beauty of language to illustrate truth. Both are important and good. In this video Bethke is not speaking as a master theologian through prose, he’s proclaiming the beauties of Christ as a poet.

Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila

Is the theology in Bethke’s poem perfect? No. I don’t think he would claim it is. However, I think the way some evangelical bloggers have virtually attacked him is more dangerous.

In Acts 18:24-28 a famous new preacher named Apollos pops onto the scene. He was passionate and good. He knew a lot about Jesus, but was missing some critical information. When a couple named Priscilla and Aquila heard him they wanted to help, but they didn’t do it by telling everyone the problems with his theology. They approached him, talked to him, and helped him be more accurate.

What was the result? “He greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:27b-28 ESV).

Better Response

The Resurgence was the one group I saw respond to him appropriately. First they posted his video on their site saying it was “pretty good.” Then their director approached him, encouraged him, said they wanted to support him, and offered to send him some study materials. What a refreshing response.

I’m praying for God to raise a lot more Jefferson Bethke’s who look for creative ways to make much of Jesus. Men and women who meet culture where it is and bring people to Jesus. I also pray God brings along more people who will encourage and support those Jefferson Bethke’s – instead of criticizing them. Which one are you?

Enhanced by Zemanta

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, Gospel, Worldview

The False Gospel of Santa Claus

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m one of those parents. I told both of my children that Santa Claus is make believe as soon as they could say his name. It’s been an interesting process. At 2 years old, both of them have tried to convince Stephanie and me that he’s real. Their arguments weren’t very persuasive, but I applaud their efforts. Once a stranger in Wal-Mart tried to convince Noah that Santa was real and he kept looking at her funny. When she walked away defeated he turned to Stephanie and said, “Mommy, does she really think Santa Claus is real?” I think he felt bad for her.

Before you think I’m the meanest dad ever for spoiling my kids’ fun I do have my reasons. (1) I cried when I found out Santa was make believe. It was like having someone kill your favorite uncle without giving him a proper funeral. I would rather my children not go through that. (2) Stephanie and I work hard to provide for our family and buy our children gifts. I’m not real keen on a fictitious fat man getting the credit. (3) I’m working really hard to convince my children that Jesus is real, even though they’ll never see Him in person in this life. Doing the same thing for someone who isn’t real makes me a little uneasy. I don’t think it’s wrong to tell your kids that Santa is real, it can be a lot of fun for the family. It’s a matter of conscience, not black and white right or wrong. Our consciences simply haven’t permitted it.

It turns out there’s another awesome reason to let your kids in on the secret early that I never thought about. Santa Claus preaches a false gospel. Here’s what I mean. A couple weeks ago we were all in the family minivan and Noah said something profound out of nowhere. He said, “I’m glad Santa isn’t real, because sometimes I’m mean, and if Santa was real I would never get presents.”

He had a point, sometimes he is mean. For that matter, so am I. I’m frequently mean (some of you already think I’m perpetually mean for not letting my kids believe in Santa), I’m almost always selfish, and despite my job as a campus pastor I sin all the time. If getting good gifts depended on my performance I would be lucky to live in the slums. The very essence of the good news of Santa Claus is: “If you behave and are very good you will get good gifts. Remember, I’m making a list and checking it twice. Are you naughty or are you nice?” So what’s really cool is that my 5 year old prefers the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the false gospel of Santa Claus.

The True Gospel of Jesus Christ

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the exact opposite of the good news of Santa Claus. The Bible tells us that our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” If we’re hoping to impress God enough with our performance to get anything from Him we’re in bad shape. Instead, because we’re deceitful, not good. And because we can never do anything to please God, Jesus became our substitute. One verse I never seem to get tired of is 2 Corinthians 15:2 that says, “for our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (ESV). The only way to be good is to be found in Christ.

God has his own list, it’s called the Lamb’s book of life. People written in that book are expected to good things, but those are done from salvation, not for salvation. In other words, Christians are created for good works, not from good works. Many of us are like young children, trying to be good enough to please God so that we can get presents. But we’ll never do it, not without Jesus. So the very essence of the good news of Jesus Christ is: “You’re not good, but I am. Trust me, believe me, and I’ll take your sin and give you my righteousness. I’ll write you down on my list, and I’ll never blot you out … even though you’ll still be bad. I know you’re naughty, but I’m perfect, and my Father will see My perfection when He looks at your flaws.”

So whether you tell your kids about Santa or not, I hope you have a great Christmas. But I hope you’re lifting Jesus higher than Santa. I hope you and your children remember the gospel of Jesus Christ all year long. I hope to see your name on the same list mine is on … the Lamb’s book of life.

Enhanced by Zemanta

4 Comments

Filed under Gospel