Sovereignty in 140 Characters

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Can you capture some of the mystery and majesty of the sovereignty of God in 140 characters or less? It’s like trying to capture the wind in a thimble. But give it a shot. It will force you to be concise and precise in your doctrine.

So here’s how it works:

  • Today’s doctrine is THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.
  • If you use Twitter, post a Tweet that explains this glorious doctrine. Put the tag #systheol on the Tweet so others can find it.
  • If you don’t use Twitter, leave a comment explaining God’s sovereignty in 140 characters or less.

Let’s do it.

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The Incarnation On Twitter

Last Friday I invited my Twitter friends to explain the glorious incarnation of Christ in 140 characters or less. Here are some of my favorite answers:

By @jxd:

Jesus=Word Who was God & was with God & humbled Himself & took on flesh. Fully God/fully man. A must 4redemption.

By @steeejei:

the Eternal becomes finite, the all-Glorious in human flesh, the unseen becomes seen, what the prophets longed for revealed to us.

By @JoelofCydonia:

The Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent is confined to one body, at one time, in one place to give his glory to beggars.

By @concisetheology:

Infinite glory births finite story. Born with skin, borne our sin.

My absolute favorite was by @EMcTwitty:

The ever eternal fills a lifespan. Invisible, infinite glory is revealed. Inexhaustible self-sufficiency hungers, thirsts, tires.

Thanks to everyone who participated. You can see all the responses by clicking here.

Let’s do it again tomorrow.

The Power of Gospel Preaching

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An overlooked evangelism opportunity is inviting people to church, for Christ’s power is present when his people gather (see Monday’s post).  Another reason to invite people to church is that God has designed preaching as a means of salvation.

…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God… And this word is the good news that was preached to you (1 PE 1.23, 25).

When God’s living word, the imperishable seed of the gospel, is preached,  it causes people to be born again.

The gospel has intrinsic power to give life to dead hearts.  Like when Jesus called “Lazarus, come forth” to the dead man in the tomb and Christ’s very word injected life into him.

Paul says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” …So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ  (RO 10.14-17).

In other words, saving faith results from spiritual hearing, which God grants to people through the preaching of the gospel.

God has ordained preaching to be a means of salvation.  “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”  (1 CO 1.21).

So any time you can, invite people to church where they can hear the gospel preached, and many will be born again by the imperishable seed of the word.

photo by patricia soransso

Why Bother With Preaching?

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Why should we bother with preaching anymore?

I mean, come on, this is the 21st century. People aren’t into listening anymore. This is the age of conversation, of opinions, of open sharing. Preaching is so one-dimensional, so limited, so non-Facebook-like. People need something more interesting, more interactive. Something that lets them connect with God and others at the same time. You can’t post comments on a sermon.

Does anything good really come out of sermons?

Yes. Emphatically yes.

1 Timothy 3:16-17 says:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

But aren’t these verses just speaking of Scripture in general? Can’t I get all the benefits of scripture by sitting at home and reading my Bible?

No. You can’t get all the benefits of scripture through private bible study.

In the very next verse, Paul says to Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

Is it an accident that Paul links the effects of God’s word to the preaching of God’s word? I don’t think so. The true preaching of God’s word always gets things done in our lives. By the preaching of God’s word we are reproved and corrected. We’re exhorted and trained in righteousness. We’re equipped to do good works for the glory of God.

This equipping, correcting, reproving, and training happens in a unique way through preaching that doesn’t occur through personal Bible study. Don’t get me wrong, personal Bible study is absolutely indispensable. But so is preaching.

If we don’t hear God’s word preached, we won’t be properly equipped to serve God. We desperately need the correction, reproof, equipping, and training in righteousness that comes through preaching. I want to serve God at maximum capacity.

So I need preaching. And so do you.

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+photo by Brent Nelson

Invite Them To Come In

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You may not always be able to share the gospel with someone, but there’s an often overlooked opportunity to evangelize that’s so easy even a caveman can do it – invite people to church.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says there is a “mysterious element in the life of the Church.  What is this?  It is what our Lord was suggesting, I think, when He said, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst.’  It is not a mere gathering of people; Christ is present…There is something in the very atmosphere of Christian people meeting together to worship God and to listen to the preaching of the Gospel.

“I remember a woman who was a spiritist, and even a medium…She was sitting in her house and she saw people passing by on their way to the church where I happened to be ministering in South Wales.  Something made her feel a desire to know what those people had, and so she decided to go to the service, and did so.  She came ever afterwards until she died, and became a very fine Christian.  One day I asked her what she had felt on that first visit, and this is what she said to me…She said, ‘The moment I entered your chapel and sat down on a seat amongst the people I was conscious of a power.  I was conscious of the same sort of power as I was accustomed to in our spiritist meetings, but there was one big difference; I had a feeling that the power in your chapel was a clean power.’  The point I am making is simply this, that she was aware of a power.  This is the mysterious element.  It is the presence of the Spirit in the heart of God’s children, Gods people, and an outsider becomes aware of this.”  – from Preaching and Preachers

A few years ago, a young Buddhist woman attended our church.  As soon as we began to worship, she began weeping.  The same thing happened two weeks ago to a Christian couple who came for the first time.  I believe in both cases, they were experiencing the presence of Jesus.

So invite your friends to church.  Invite your classmates and co-workers.  Give your waiter a church invitation – and be sure to leave a generous tip.

photo by ninaL (Grazyna Letellier)

Systematic Theology on Twitter

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Several months ago the guys at the 9Marks blog had the great idea of asking readers to put the gospel into Twitter format (140 characters or less).

Wouldn’t it be great to do that with other great doctrines of the Christian faith? The glory of the scriptures is that they’re so simple a child can understand them, yet so profound we’ll never fully grasp them.

So here’s how it works:

  • Today’s great doctrine is THE INCARNATION (Jesus becoming a man)
  • If you use Twitter, post a Tweet that explains this glorious doctrine. Put the tag #systheol on the Tweet so others can find it.
  • If you don’t use Twitter, leave a comment explaining the incarnation in 140 characters or less.
  • I’ll post my favorites in a future post.

As John Piper says:

I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

Let’s flood the Twitterverse with the glories of Christ.

Find me on Twitter here.

Only A Fool Wouldn’t Ask

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Why is it that so many people (including myself) make so many foolish decisions? Why do people get entangled in messy relationships, sticky job situations, and dire financial crisis?

Often it’s because they don’t ask others for counsel. Wise, God-honoring decisions are made in the abundance of counsel.

Proverbs 15:22 says:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

I’m a big fan of having my plans succeed. If I want my plans to succeed, if I want to honor God, if I want to walk in God’s will, I must surround myself with many advisers.

One of the primary ways that God reveals his will is through the wisdom and advice of other godly men and women. God created us to need other people. We have gaps in our knowledge. We don’t see everything clearly. We get fuzzy on what really matters. The advice of others fills in the gaps, brings clarity, and cuts through the fog.

God reveals himself and his will through others.

When you’re facing an important decision – a new job, relationship, church, etc. – bring it before others. Talk to men and women who are wise. Ask those who are older than you and have more wisdom. Discuss it with your parents and pastor. Ask your close friends who know you well.

Take the position of a learner. Don’t arrogantly assume that you see everything clearly. Ask them:

  • What Biblical principles apply to my situation?
  • Is there anything I’m not seeing clearly?
  • What would you do if you were in my shoes?
  • Do you have any concerns with my decision?

The consequences of acting without counsel are serious. Plans fail because of a lack of counsel. Relationships, jobs, and church plants have all disintegrated because of a lack of counsel.

Plans succeed in the soil of many advisers. Find God’s will for your life by asking for the counsel of others.

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+photo by brtsergio

Overcoming The Paralysis of Indecision

gps-by-jobriga

Sometimes discovering God’s will seems like searching for the Holy Grail.

We pray.  We get counsel.  We ponder, draw mind maps,  write pros and cons, and are still unsure.  Afraid we’ll make a wrong turn, we sit in the car in life’s driveway, paralyzed by indecision.  Good thing Proverbs 3:5-6 is taped to the visor:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

First of all, we must trust God whole-heartedly.  God has promised to counsel us (see yesterday’s post).

Next, we must acknowledge the sovereign Lord.  Don’t boast about moving to the Big Apple to open a gourmet bagel stand and get rich, but say, “If the Lord wills, I will live and sell bagels”  (cf. James 4.13-15).

Then get going.

Once we’re on the road, God will make straight our paths – like a GPS.  As long as I’m sitting in my driveway, my GPS is silent.  But once I pick a destination and go, it can “recalculate” and direct me in it’s formal British accent – “In point 2 miles, turn left.”

When Jesus saved me, I was in my twenties,  and had no idea what to do with my life.  I had an art ed degree, but no desire to teach.  I couldn’t think of any job I’d enjoy.  I was paralyzed by indecision.  But praise God for my Mom, who told me I didn’t need a heavenly vision but should just pick a direction and go, trusting God to correct my course when necessary.

So I did the scary thing I’d been avoiding: I decided. I’d go back to school and take the steps to teach art at a university – if I lived and the Lord willed.

Along the way God made a slight course correction – he made me a pastor (I’ll tell you the story another time).  I never could have predicted that.  I’d simply started moving and God recalculated: “In point 2 miles, become a pastor.”

Paralyzed by indecision?  Agonizing over God’s mysterious will?  Pray and get counsel.  Then trust, acknowledge God, pick a direction and start moving.  He’ll make straight your paths.

photo by jobriga

Discovering the Will of God (Pt. 2)

The Path

What does it take to discover God’s will for your life?

And when you’ve found it, how can you be sure that you’ve found it? Will you feel a burning sensation in your chest, like some sort of divine Vick’s Vapor Rub? Will you have an unshakable sense of peace? Will you see a sign from heaven?

Maybe. Probably not. I wouldn’t trust the chest-on-fire experience anyway.

So how do you get on the path of finding God’s will? It starts with the assurance of God’s character and word. In Psalm 32:8 the Lord promises:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Finding God’s will begins with the assurance that God will lead you.

God isn’t hiding his will from you. It’s not something to be discovered by putting out fleeces (if I get a phone call in the next ten minutes, then I know it’s God’s will), or feelings, or supernatural signs. Finding God’s will starts by knowing that God desires to lead you.

And usually God leads us to make decisions through the normal processes of prayer, seeking the counsel of others, and then going forward.

Does this mean that we’ll never experience peace in our decisions or have a strong sense of God leading us? No. Many times we will. But we shouldn’t depend on these experiences. Ultimately, our assurance of finding God’s will is rooted in God’s promises to us.

God wants to lead you more than you want to be lead.

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Discovering God’s Deep, Dark, Mysterious Will

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“I don’t know what God wants me to do with my life.”  “I’m not sure I’m in the center of God’s will.”  “What if I miss what God has for me?”

Christians often talk about God’s will like it’s the rare and elusive Blue-Tailed Eastern Moon Moth that might suddenly flit out of the forest the moment they set their nets down, and escape them forever.

We wish God would just speak audibly to us.  “Go to art school and become an Abstract Expressionist,” “Move to Mozambique,” or “Marry Lou Lou.”  We want signs in the sky or in the grease stain on the driveway.

But if we pray and trust him, God promises to guide us.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (PS 32.8).  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1.5).

Simple.  Ask and you’ll receive.

We make God’s will so complicated.  Like the young engaged man who asked me:

“What if I marry the wrong person?”

“Are you attracted to her?” I asked.

“Yeah!”

“Did you pray about the relationship?”

“For weeks.”

“Did you get counsel?”

“From my pastors, parents, and D.A. Carson.”

“Does she have godly character?”

“If she were any more godly she’d be raptured.”

“Then she’s the one for you.”

“But what if we get married and someone else comes along who’s more attractive?”

“It will probably happen.  But the one you marry is the one God has for you.”

God’s will isn’t a deep, dark mystery we have to solve.

He isn’t playing hide and seek or throwing out red herrings to throw us off the track.  “Aha!” we can almost hear him saying, “You thought I was calling you to be a nurse, but I really wanted you to teach music.  Now you’ve got to settle for plan B.”

Here’s how to know God’s will.   It’s sitting on your coffee table.  Or in your backpack.  It’s there in your Bible.

Sorry to be so unspectacular.  But knowing God’s will is just this simple:  Open Bible.  Read.  Do what it says.  In fact, at times the Bible comes right out and says, “This is God’s will.”  For example:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor (1 TH 4.3-4).

Here’s God’s will: grow in holiness and purity.  Don’t selfishly use others.  Increase in self-control.

But that sounds like effort.  Like raking leaves.  We’d rather pull God’s will from a fortune cookie than do the hard work of sanctification.  Here’s another verse:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 TH 5.16-18).

Learn to pray and praise God in every situation and he’ll let you know if you should move to Mozambique.  Lay down your life for others and he’ll direct your career.  Take care of the depth of your character and Christ will take care of the breadth of your ministry.  Read your Bible, pray, devote yourself to a local church, serve, share the gospel any way you can.  Jesus won’t let you miss his will.

photo by Stuck in Customs