It is time to ask if Christians in North America will more effectively be salt and light than churches were in Nazi Germany.

Yesterday, Dr. Albert Mohler gave a talk at Brigham Young University with the title Strengthen the Things that Remain: Human Dignity, Human Rights, and Human Flourishing in a Dangerous Age — An Address at Brigham Young University. That piece of trivia alone, that Mohler is at BYU, should be enough to persuade you to read further.

Mohler’s point in addressing a BYU audience is not that we suddenly find we aren’t so far apart with Mormonism after all. We are! Rather, he is arguing that in light of an environment increasingly hostile to the gospel, we need to identify areas of mutual conviction. Said another way, religious persecution makes for strange bedfellows.

Mohler’s address is profound. His willingness to stand tall for truth reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s situation in Nazi Germany. When forced to consider how Nazi Germany could happen in a country with a Christian heritage, Bonhoeffer concluded it was because a false gospel had been proclaimed. In his book, Embodying Forgiveness, L. Gregory Jones summarizes how cheap grace undermines everything.

Cheap grace denies any real need for deliverance from sin since it justifies the sin instead of the sinner.  As such, cheap grace offers consolation without any change of life, without any sense of either dying or rising in Christ.… Bonhoeffer concluded that…the Lutheran church in Germany had been unable to resist Hitler because cheap grace had triumphed…. Repentance and confession must be practiced in specific and concrete ways, as part of the larger craft of forgiveness, if they are to result in that truthfulness that empowers people for faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ.  That is why Bonhoeffer stressed the importance of church discipline and why he insisted that forgiveness cannot be unconditional. L. Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness, 13, 19.

Listen to Bonhoeffer’s own words.  Keep in mind that Bonhoeffer speaks as a German.  And, this is his explanation for why the church was so ineffective in standing up against the Nazis:

But do we also realize that this cheap grace has turned back on us like a boomerang?  The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost.  We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition.  Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and the unbelieving.  We poured forth unending streams of grace.  But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was rarely ever heard. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom, ed. Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 310.

If we are to stand against the evil tides of our day, then we must learn to stand tall for the gospel and dispense with cheap grace. It is going to be increasingly necessary to make speeches like Dr. Mohler’s in which we stand tall for the gospel regardless of the cost. This means continuing to champion a biblical view of marriage and calling abortion the murder that it is.

The below clips are inspiring.

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Wouldn’t it be sweet if this happened?

Cornelius Plantinga:

The point is not that our Lord hopes to catch us napping. Just the opposite. He hopes to catch us wide awake, on the job, eager, expectant, readiness is all.

Yet Jesus’ prediction is that we will be surprised. He will come when we least expect him.

Perhaps one day when we are in church?

See also:

The Pastoral Privilege of Telling Our Flock When Jesus Will Return

Wow that Was Quick


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In an interview with Lee Strobel, (see The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity ) Peter Kreeft reflects on the arrogance of atheism:

Atheism is cheap on people, because it snobbishly says nine out of ten people through history have been wrong about God and have had a lie at the core of their hearts.

Think about that. How is it possible that over ninety percent of all the human beings who have ever lived  – - usually in far more painful circumstances than we – - could believe in God? The objective evidence, just looking at the balance of pleasure and suffering in the world, would not seem to justify believing in an absolutely good God. Yet this has been almost universally believed . . . .

So atheism treats people cheaply. Also, it robs death of meaning, and if death has no meaning, how can life ultimately have meaning? Atheism cheapens everything it touches – - look at the results of communism the most powerful form of atheism on earth.

And in the end, when the atheist dies and encounters God instead of the nothingness he had predicted, he’ll recognize that atheism was a cheap answer because it refused the only thing that’s not cheap – - the God of infinite value.

See also:

Ravi Zacharias: Do You Lock Your Doors at Night?

Mike Wittmer: Help for Doubters

The Modest Ambitions of Science


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What Happened During Holy Week?

Chris —  February 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

This year at The Red Brick Church we are working especially hard to see the beauty of Christ as we anticipate Easter. Here is the first of several posts which will help in that endeavor. A lot more will follow.

Justin Taylor (co-author of The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived) has previously posted summaries of what happened each day of Holy Week. Follow the below links to see the relevant biblical texts on Justin’s site.

Justin consulted both the ESV Study Bible and Craig Blomberg’s, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, Second Edition.

Palm Sunday -

  • Jesus, at the Mount of Olives, sends two disciples to secure a donkey and a colt; makes his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem; weeps over Jerusalem.
  • Jesus enters the temple area, then returns to Bethany.

Monday -

  • On Monday morning Jesus and the Twelve leave Bethany to return to Jerusalem, and along the way Jesus curses the fig tree.
  • Jesus enters Jerusalem and clears the temple.
  • In the evening Jesus and the Twelve leave Jerusalem (returning to Bethany).

Tuesday -

  • Jesus’ disciples see the withered fig tree on their return to Jerusalem from Bethany.
  • Jesus engages in conflict with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
  • The Disciples marvel at the Temple.
  • Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse (in which he predicts the future) on their return to Bethany from Jerusalem.

Wednesday -

  • Blomberg notes that, “Nothing that has been recorded can be confidently ascribed to Wednesday of Jesus’ final week.” However, others believe that it is on Wednesday that Satan enters Judas, who seeks out the Jewish authorities in order to betray Jesus for a price.
  • The Sanhedrin plot to kill Jesus.

Thursday -

  • Jesus instructs his Peter and John to secure a large upper room in a house in Jerusalem and to prepare for the Passover meal.
  • In the evening Jesus eats the Passover meal with the Twelve, tells them of the coming betrayal, and institutes the Lord’s Supper.
  • During supper Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, interacts with them, and delivers the Upper Room Discourse.
  • Jesus and the disciples sing a hymn together (probably from Psalms 113–118), then depart to the Mount of Olives.
  • Jesus foretells Peter’s denials.
  • Jesus gives his disciples practical commands about supplies and provisions.
  • Jesus and the disciples go to Gethsemane, where he struggles in prayer and they struggle to stay awake late into the night.

Friday -

  • Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the authorities (perhaps after midnight, early Friday morning).
  • The Disciples all flee.
  • Jewish trial, phase 1: Jesus has a hearing before Annas (former high priest and Caiaphas’s father-in-law).
  • Jewish trial, phase 2: Jesus stands trial before Caiaphas and part of the Sanhedrin. Peter denies Jesus.
  • Perhaps after sunrise, phase 3 of Jesus’ Jewish trial: final consultation before the full Sanhedrin; sent to Pilate.
  • Judas hangs himself.
  • Phase 1 of Jesus’ Roman trial: first appearance before Pontius Pilate; sent to Herod Antipas.
  • Phase 2 of Jesus’ Roman trial: appears before Herod Antipas; sent back to Pontius Pilate.
  • Phase 3 of Jesus’ Roman trial: Jesus’ second appearance before Pilate; condemned to die.
  • Jesus is crucified (from approximately 9 AM until Noon).
  • The sky is dark from noon until 3.
  • Joseph of Arimathea asks permission to inter Jesus in a tomb and does so with the help of Nicodemus (John 19:38-42).

See also the summary from article by B. Corley in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series):

Corley's Chronology of Jesus's Jewish Trial from the IVP Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (854)

Corley’s Chronology of Jesus’s Jewish Trial from the IVP Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (854)

Saturday – See my post, every day is Saturday at the nursing home.

Easter Sunday -

  • Some women arrive at Jesus’ tomb near dawn, probably with Mary Magdalene arriving first.
  • Mary and the other women, instead of finding Jesus’ body, are met by two young men who are angels; one of them announces Jesus’ resurrection.
  • The women, fearful and joyful, leave the garden—at first unwilling to say anything to anyone about this but then changing their mind and going to tell the Eleven.
  • Mary Magdalene likely rushes ahead and tells Peter and John before the other women arrive.
  • The other women, still en route to tell the disciples, are met by Jesus, who confirms their decision to tell the Eleven and promises to meet them in Galilee.
  • The women arrive and tell the disciples that Jesus is risen.
  • Peter and John rush to the tomb (based on Mary Magdalene’s report) and discover it empty.
  • That afternoon Jesus appears to Cleopas and a friend on the road to Emmaus; later Jesus appears to Peter.
  • That evening Jesus appears to the Ten (minus Thomas) in a house (with locked doors) in Jerusalem.

Hoehner’s proposed chronology of Holy Week from the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) is also helpful though it differs in some of the details from the chronology proposed above.

H.W. Hoehner Chronology of Holy Week in IVP Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (120)

H.W. Hoehner Chronology of Holy Week in IVP Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (120)

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Ravi Zacharias is asked, “Why are you afraid of subjective moral reasoning? What are you so afraid of?”

HT: JT

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As I’ve mentioned in recent days – - I am working on an Easter Primer for our church family. I want to include recommendations for hymns that focus on the Cross and the Resurrection.

So far I have the following:

Alas and Did My Savior Bleed

“Here is Love”

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

“Were You There?”

“In Christ Alone”

“Christ the Lord Has Risen Today”

What am I missing? Which is your favorite?

 

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Last week, I posted a basic explanation of the atonement. In summary, the atonement references how sinners can be made right with God.

Earlier this week, I pointed out that in order that we might grasp both the problem sin creates, and the solution for how sinners can be right with God, the Bible describes sin using different pictures including debt, enmity, and crime. See here.

In his immensely accessible book, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, R.C. Sproul stresses that the orthodox Christian understanding of the atonement has involves the ideas of both substitution and satisfaction.

Orthodox Christianity has insisted that the Atonement involves substitution and satisfaction. In taking God’s curse upon Himself, Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s holy justice. He received God’s wrath for us, saving us from the wrath that is to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

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Parenting Links

Chris —  February 11, 2014 — 1 Comment

DSC00039Seize the moment with your children! Soon enough you will long for the days of Legos. And investment now will pay great dividends in the future.

The following links are to short practical posts for parents.

We all want to be written into the story – On telling kids stories
Specific Prayer Gives Particular Encouragement - A strategy for teaching children to pray

Suggested Verbiage for Asking for a Daughter’s Hand

The worst drug is one you give someone else for your own benefit- Do you give your children this drug? How often?
Parents Memorize This Speech – It will help you say “No!”
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The Bible describes sin using different pictures including debt, enmity, and crime. R.C. Sproul  (42) helps us understand how Christ atones for our sin with the following table.

Sin as . . .

Man

God

Christ

Debt

Debtor

Creditor

Surety

Enmity

Enemy

Violated One

Mediator

Crime

Criminal

Judge

Substitute

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Suppose someone encountered the Easter story for the first time. Imagine how overwhelmed he or she would be with all the details. This year for Easter I am working on a primer that will summarize:

  • Places – Where did the events of the Holy Week take place.
  • People – Who was who in the Easter story.
  • Chronology – What happened up to and during Holy Week.
  • Terms – what theology terms do I need to know to understand the Easter story.

This morning I worked on the theological term “atonement.” Below is my attempt to give a simple explanation. How can this definition be improved staying simple and concise?

Atonement refers to the reconciling of God and humanity through the work of God’s only unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:21).  The central aspect of Christ’s atoning work is that that he paid the penalty for his people on the Cross. Theologians refer to this truth as penal substitutionary atonement. Michael Horton summarizes this aspect of the atonement, “Christ died in our place, bearing God’s wrath, satisfying his justice, and reconciling us to the Father.”

Another key aspect of the atonement is that of Christus Victor meaning Jesus won the victory over the powers of sin and death.

In his book, A Community Called Atonement: Living Theology, Scot McKnight motivates us to study the atonement when he explains that the atonements explains how the gospel works:

Christians believe that God really did atone for our sins in Jesus Christ and that God really did redemptively create restored relationships with God, with self, with others, and with the world. Christians believe that this all took place in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and (the silent part of the story) in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The atonement, in other words, is the good news of Christianity—it is our gospel. It explains how that gospel works.

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