30 Seconds On Being Born

When I was born, I was full of disobedience and selfishness and fear. I did the wrong things because I loved the wrong things. And a man can’t change what he loves all on his own. Title of chapter 1 of my biography: Conceived in sin, born sinning.

A really miraculous thing about the news of Jesus Christ is that He can change a man from the heart out. He can kill what’s in him that just won’t die, all the greed and bitterness and cowardice, and then He can raise up something new that’s still somehow familiar, still him.

A bad man must die to be made something new; but afterwards he’s still a man. Cornelius was still Cornelius after the Holy Spirit fell on him. But he was different. Being born again as Christ’s requires a death, but it doesn’t require an annihilation.

I’m different. Apart from Christ I would’ve ended life how I started it, all angry and manipulative and nervous. But this Jesus died and rose to replay that song in the believers, to bid them die and then come up new.

Christ can undo a man to then make him what he should be.

Thanks to Jesus, I got another crack at being born.

And the second one outshone the first.


30 Seconds On the Gospel

There is no greater force for good in the world than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It changes men from the bones out. It alters what they love and why. It makes men right with God so they can in turn be right with their neighbors. It instills reckless love, unshakeable peace, hope that will spend itself to do good, and wisdom that looks like foolishness to every last scoffer.  The Gospel is the very Good News that God, in Jesus Christ, can make us right with Him and can bring us home. There is no greater message. There is no greater hope. And there is nothing that can produce greater joy.  

The Gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is the most revolutionary instrument of good to ever grace our world. It can restore and reclaim what (and whom) nothing else can.   

The Gospel is the very good news our world needs, and has needed ever since Eden.  
All our deepest and truest needs can be met in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

2 Symptoms of the Same Pride

This came up tonight.  

I’ve seen it with eschatology, I’ve seen it with KJV Onlyism, I’ve seen it with the no vaccination movement.  I’ve seen it with beliefs or practices I share, such as the Doctrines of Grace (you might’ve heard of “Cage Calvinists,” so-called because you want to put them in a cage and let them mature) and with home education.  I’ve read and worked with and loved Christians who have a wedge issue, a hobby horse they (a) can’t stop bringing up and (b) must convert others to.  It excites them more than the Gospel.  They are more ready to talk and post and write about it than the Cross or the goodness of Christ or the character of God.  

Not everyone who reads the King James Bible exclusively is what I’m describing here.  Not everyone who is wary of vaccinations, either.  But many are, and here’s what I’ve noticed:  When you dig a little their lives are often on fire.  Marriages are often on the rocks, kids often don’t want to have anything to do with them, many times there’s a history of church hopping and/or inability to maintain long friendships or a history of being difficult to work a job with.  

I remember one co-worker who I really, seriously loved in Christ who would constantly come back to one single issue within his Christian faith.  We gave each other grace and were close and we honestly cared about each other, but that issue, though I would argue is incredibly tangential (not to mention misguided), was paramount to him.  And I’m fairly certain that I was pitiable in his eyes for not seeing the light.  I later found out that his marriage was unimaginably problematic, that he had broken relationships with multiple children, and that he was deeply (and vocally) unhappy and bitter about his church and her leadership.  And then he abruptly and angrily quit the job we worked together.  It’s a pattern I’ve seen, and my conviction is that the two things, the small pet project you absolutely must argue about and the personal life that is deeply fractured, are symptoms of the same virus.  The hobby horse issue that you will not let go and the regularity of broken, unhappy relationships in your life are manifestations of the same bug.  

I think the same virulent strain was in Gnosticism, the early heresy that attacked the Gospel by claiming (among other false things) that there were truer, inner Christians who had secret knowledge that the lesser ones didn’t.  It’s often (though not always, of course) in conspiracy theorists and died-in-the-wool political partyists who view their fellow humans in categories of the enlightened “in” and the foolish or sinister “other.”  It’s a kind of pride that wants to rest in its own perceptive abilities, its own intelligence, its own research and cognition and wisdom.  It enjoys the fact that it is in the minority, because it wants to be one of the few enlightened and superior or, if I can use 2018-speak, “woke” (I hope I used that right; overlook it if I didn’t) It wants to be right even more than it wants to be righteous.  It wants to be vindicated even more than it wants to be justified.  It wants to win even more than it wants to listen.  

I’ve wrestled with pride all my life.  I’m guessing I always will.  But the more I’ve read or listened on podcasts to or interacted with what I’m describing, the more I’ve wanted to protect myself (and the people I love) against this particular kind.  Paul wrote against divisiveness as a man of conviction.  It is good to have rock-ribbed convictions in Christ.  But to be more enthralled by an issue than by God Himself, to love theory more than God or people, to be willing to argue but not have the slightest interest in reconciliation (or even persuasion) but simply in being upheld and proven right and victorious, is a sign of a toxin, a poison down deep in the spiritual bloodstream.  

Something is very wrong with this one who thinks he is very right.  

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

1 Corinthians 1:20-29

1 Corinthians 5

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

It is uncomfortable to talk about in 2018 America, but since churches must be holy and Christians must be holy, churches can’t keep as members professed Christians who are walking in unrepentant sin.  

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul makes plain that he is not pleased that an especially ugly sexual sin is talked about and heard about among these people, this church, and that nothing has been done. “How have I been gone for just a little while and this happens? And you all know about it and haven’t dealt with it! Are you kidding me! Do you not understand what a church is or what Christians are?”

In this rebuke, he reminds us: We are not our own.

Specifically, with Paul rebuking sexual immorality (“porneia”) we see that our bodies are not our own. We are not autonomous kings. But it’as also a part of the broader point Paul makes. In general, Christians are not just free to roam the world and do as we please. We are not people unto ourselves. We are not each our own self-sustaining little Christian ecosystem. The New Testament does not describe individual, lone Christians who are merely accountable to God but to no other humans. By God’s design, I am accountable to my wife, my children, the other elders of my church, the members of that church, and the government of my land (and there are others).
The Bible does not know of an isolated Christian who answers only to God. Like Mark Dever once said, “If you only submit to God, you’re not submitting to God.”

And because Christians are not their own, because Christians are called to be pure and holy, Paul calls on this church to be a church. It must do what churches are to do in the face of flagrant sin from one of their members. 

Notice how strongly Paul felt about putting the man out. He passed judgment even without being there in body, and he wanted this done in the name and power of Jesus Christ. This is not just a helpful suggestion a church is just free to take or leave. Being a part of a church who takes seriously confronting our sin and helping us repent of it is a part of obedient, healthy Christianity. Churches must hold the believers in their midst accountable for unrepentant sin.

It’s also important to know that is not just someone who sins. If that were the case, we would all be put out (1 John 1:8-10). No, this man was walking in sin with no repentance, no turning, no sorrow over his evil actions. He didn’t act like what what he was doing was sin, and he showed no desire to change. So in response to that, Paul is commanding these people who are the church to put him out. 

To put him of the people.  

There is no concept in the New Testament of a church being a place. It is always a people. Paul does not write to Corinth Church; he writes to the church at Corinth. The church is the people; the address is simply where they meet. Churches are people. Not buildings, not geographical areas. If the people disappear, there is no longer a church. If the building grows the church building has merely grown.  

And God has commanded churches to do certain things, including to proclaim the Gospel, the Word of God, and to teach Christians how to live in obedience to Jesus.  Part of what they are commanded to do is to hold their members accountable for their sins. Hesitancy to be plugged in to a local church is a sign of profound spiritual immaturity. Refusing to be accountable and open up your life to fellow Christians is to be content with spiritual adolescence. If you have no one who can confront you on your sin, you are not living mature, healthy Christianity.

It’s also important to see that Paul does not command the Corinthian Christians who make up this church to go out into the city of Corinth and find sinners and tell them they can’t come to the services. Nor does he say to put out admitted unbelievers. In 5:9-13 he actually says not to do that. Instead it’s this man who is in their midst bearing the name of Christian who he says cannot stay in their midst. In v. 12 he says that there’s an inside and an outside, and that it’s the inside they are to judge.

Since Paul says there is an “out,” it follows that there is an “in.” Our church recognizes the “inside,” the “midst” who Paul wants this sort of a man put out of, by having membership. This is where we prayerfully covenant with someone we have good reason to believe is a true Christian who wants to be a functioning part of the body that is Velocity Church. Like wedding vows and wedding rings, we believe it’s an appropriate application of a Biblical concept. In this case the concept is that the church is a group of Christian people, and that a person must be removed from that group if they refuse to repent.  Paul wants this man puts out of the midst of this church, and since churches are people, not buildings, I don’t think he’s primarily interested in the address. It may involve that, but I believe his main focus is to get this man out of the midst of the people, the people who are this church. He wants this man removed from the midst of this people.

You can see Jesus referencing someone who is apparently a professing believer in the midst of a church being treated as one who is not any longer in the body in Matthew 18:15-20. And in 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18 (and the pastoral epistles and elsewhere) we see these depictions of God’s will for the church to publicly say, “This one who was our brother will not repent despite our best efforts, and so he can no longer be treated like a brother.”

And when done right, this putting out is an act of love. And to not do it is unloving. 

One reason that you know that this discipline is loving in that Paul tells the church they ought to have mourned. This is not self-righteous. Church discipline should never be self-righteous or gossipy or snarky. Always remember, discipline is discipleship. It is teaching. It is applying some pain or pressure in order to save someone from greater pain or greater pressure. Paul wants this man’s flesh destroyed that his spirit might be saved. It is unloving to not deal with sin in an area in which you have authority. So it is unloving for the members of Velocity to not deal with sin in Velocity. It is unloving for parents to not deal with sin in their homes. It is unloving for husbands not to deal with sin in their wives. And it is unloving for you not to deal with sin your own heart. 

Another reason you know that this church discipline is supposed to be loving is Paul is hoping that this leads to the man being restored. Paul wants this man removed from the fellowship of these people as a part of the discipline of God that will hopefully restore him to fellowship with them. Paul has committed or handed this man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit might be saved.

And it is loving for the rest of the church. Paul does not want sin spreading throughout a church. He says that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Unchecked, unsorrowful sin among a church’s people is church suicide. His encouragement in v. 7-8 is that we, as a church, really are unleavened. People who are Christ’s really have been made, in at least one sense righteous. They have been clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. 

And so they are to live like it. 

Clean out the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Christ has fundamentally changed the people who make up a church. If this crazy church at Corinth, with all her folly and sin, really was unleavened, then believe me when I say all of Jesus’ churches are! Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Jesus died as a bloody sacrifice for sin. But He did not spill His blood to cleanse addresses. He is not coming back for a Bride made up of church buildings (or church logos or church web sites or cool church names). Jesus shed His innocent blood for people, and those people make up a family called His Church. He has planted little instances, little seedlings of that family throughout the world, and He has cleansed them, and so commands them to live like it.

So how do we worship with sincerity and truth? What does worshiping in sincerity and truth, as opposed to hypocrisy and immorality, look like? I think Paul’s answer to this Corinthian church would be that it is an honest commitment to the Word of Word of God, that it is true heartfelt obedience to Jesus Christ and what He says is good. He would want them to hate sin and what it does (like he clearly does), and to love God and what He’s done (like he does). 

Paul is not here advocating for churches to retreat from sexually immoral (or otherwise wicked) unbelievers. Paul makes a clear line of demarcation, a huge distinction, between people of the world and people who bear the name of Christian. If someone claims to be a part of the brotherhood, then these principles begin to apply, because Christians need to be holy and churches need to be holy. That impulse to purge the world or totally hide from the world misunderstands what the church is. She is not a people meant to stay holy by running from the world, but a people made holy so she can run to the world. She is not a helpless baby meant to be quarantined from the world’s sick; she is a nurse with the only cure that can save them. True, she can’t become sick herself or she’ll be of no use to the dying, but she is meant to go out and offer the cure, not to run from them and hide herself.

But it is those who claim the Name of Christ who cannot be left to unrepentant sin as though everything is fine. We shouldn’t have confidence in our salvation if we are in sin and don’t desire to change. Paul makes clear that there is such a thing as a so-called Christian. V. 11 says, “But actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler, not even to eat with such a one.” And why? Love for the man, love for the church. So that he can be restored to God via being broken (v. 5), and because a little leaven leavens the whole lump (v. 6).  

God loves this man, He loves this church, and for those reasons this man must be put out of their midst.

True love seeks the well-being of the beloved. It wants the one it loves to be whole and healthy and happy. There is no way that you can really love someone, or some group of people, and turn a blind eye to sin. Sin kills. It destroys. It separates from God and it violates others (and even self). If we love our brothers and sisters, we must graciously confront them in their sin. If we love the church, we must remove those who claim Christ but won’t repent. 

Churches: If we love Jesus, if we love the church, if we love each other, we will not tolerate unrepentant sin.   

A Tick On the Clock

If none of the things you want most out of life could be resolved by Jesus coming back, your heart is not calibrated correctly.  

Your heart was designed to commune with God.  It’s in God that you can have the peace and hope and joy that you thirst for.  And when the Son of God returns to make all things right, to judge the still-living and the dead, and to remake all things for His people, those who love Him will get to know Him and be with Him fully, in bodies that will not perish or wear out.  Nothing can be more satisfying than knowing Jesus Christ face to face and forever.  Nothing.  Not retirement.  Not romance.  Not a career.  The greatest prize a human being can have is still to come.  

Much of 21st century American life seems designed to make you forget that there is an eternity, a neverending series of tomorrows that you will either enjoy or endure.  Netflix and soccer practices and Chipotle and heated car seats and Friday nights and Facebook and ESPN all seem to insulate us against the reality that this American life of creature comforts is not the last chapter of anyone’s life.  It is not the way things will always be.  Every human being will either meet Jesus to enjoy Him forever or meet Jesus as judge to face what they deserve for their sins.  The great finish line you should be keeping in your mind is not the date you can withdraw from your 401k but the day you are raised to find Jesus looking back at you.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

Revelation 20:11-21:4

What do you want most out of life?  Creature comforts?  Entertainment?  Peace and quiet?  Financial security?  Sex?  Respect?

Or do you want people to know God?  To see Him glorified?  To enjoy Him?  To see pain and death banished?

We weren’t born into a day and place that make it easy to remember we’ll each die, much less that the world will be destroyed and remade some day.  Ours is a country and culture filled with distractions and amusements.  But despite how satisfying we may find Netflix comedy specials and shopping on Amazon, there is something greater to live for.  The King is coming to fix what is broken and to fill every soul who is His to the brim with joy and peace.  Every moment is a tick on the clock towards the Day when Jesus splits the skies and puts an end to evil and a start to a peace on which the lights will never go out.

Which is why the Bible ends this way.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Revelation 22:20-21

Amen indeed.

60 Seconds On the Nature Of Faithlessness

Faithlessness is a moral problem, not merely an intellectual one.  Put another way:  It is a sin not to trust Jesus Christ.  

When you doubt the Word of God, and specifically when you doubt Jesus Christ, you are sitting in judgment over God.  You are telling Him that He is not to be trusted.  You are replaying the sin of the Garden, where Eve gave into Satan’s question, “Did God really say…?”

To doubt Jesus is to play judge over God.  

And this is why Jesus treats faithlessness as sin, not simply being wrong about a fact, as though one had mistakenly thought that Billings was the capital of Montana instead of Helena.  

And someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.  So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’  And he answered them, ‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?  How long am I to bear with you?  Bring him to me.’  And they brought the boy to him.  And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.  And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’  And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him.’  But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.’  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’

Mark 9:17-24

When it comes to believing or not believing in Jesus, there is a moral problem that must be resolved in a man.  He trusts himself more than God, and he does not want to let go of his sin and his (illusion of) control.  When I witness to a man, I am not just trying to get him to choose one religion over another.  I am trying to get him to lay down his arms of doubting rebellion against the only true God. 

And as a Christian, I myself need to understand that the many times my faith in Jesus wavers, it is sin.  I need to confess it, put it to death by the Spirit, and ask others to hold me accountable in not returning to it. 

This is the nature of faithlessness.  It is harmful, poisonous sin.  

Help my unbelief, Lord.  And forgive it.  

Thankfully I believe He is able to do both.  

60 Seconds Exhorting You Not to Complain

Ultimately, complaining is you indicting God. 

And that is neither a safe nor a wise thing to do.  

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.  Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity?  Curse God and die.’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

Job 2:7-10

When you complain, at least 2 sinful assumptions in your heart are being revealed.  

  1. You believe you deserve better than the thing you’re complaining about.  This is sinful because you are denying God’s pronouncement that you have sinned gravely against Him, and the only thing that you truly deserve is His eternal wrath.  You are indicting God’s goodness.  
  2. You believe you know better than God.  After all, you certainly would not have chosen this thing that happened, which is of course why you are huffing and puffing about the fact that it did.  This is sinful because you are placing your own wisdom above God’s.  You are indicting God’s wisdom.  

For a complainer, the chief problem is not the thing he is complaining about.  The biggest issue at hand is the sin in his heart that his complaining is revealing.  

To complain is to indict God for not being good enough and not being wise enough.  And the fact that we are not right this moment in His Hell, the place our wickedness and selfishness merits, is proof that He is plenty good.  And His rocksteady Word and the fact that in contrast to Him I am a fickle, petty, shortsighted man remind me He darn sure is wise

So the answer to the bitterness and anger and fear and rage that swirl around your complaint is not merely to fix what ticked you off.  That won’t fix the underlying cause.  That’s just treating the symptom.  

Ultimately, the solution you need in the midst of your complaint is repentance, followed by wholeheartedly casting yourself on the mercy and wisdom of the God of Jesus Christ.  You must call your sin sin and then entrust yourself to the undeserved love of Jesus Christ.  

But don’t ever think that getting rid of the annoying or frustrating thing will be the ultimate answer.  

Complaining is the symptom.  

Sin is the disease.