Saturday, January 28, 2012

Helpful Comments on "Radical"

David Platt's book Radical (much like Chan's Crazy Love) has seemingly spread like a wildfire through conservative Christian circles. And rightfully so. His urgent call to true discipleship, passionate evangelism, and compassionate missions is a necessary message to our often laid-back, comfortable churches. I was certainly blessed, convicted by his strong words.

However, something hasn't quite sat right with me as I've marinated on the book's message and what it means for a young married (American) guy, pursuing lay ministry in my local church while pursuing a career to provide for my family as well. I've felt that my "ordinary" life was almost condemned by his words. Can I be a career guy with a house and a dog (yellow lab, please), serving my local church and still be a Christian? (Note: I'm still not sure if this is because of Platt's words or my wrestling with them).

Enter in a very helpful review by Kevin DeYoung. DeYoung is careful to highlight the many strengths of Radical while humbly warning of its weaknesses and potential mis-applications. Even better, DeYoung seems to have "younger evangelicals" like myself in mind. He also allows Platt to respond to his criticisms, making this a very helpful and balanced article, one I highly encourage you to read if you've been impacted by the book; if you don't have the time to read the whole thing, I've pasted the most penetrating comment below:

"I don’t worry for David’s theology, but I worry that some young Christians reading his book might walk away wondering if a life spent working as a loan officer, tithing to their church, praying for their kids, learning to love Christ more, and serving in the Sunday school could possibly be pleasing to God. We need to find a way to attack the American dream while still allowing for differing vocations and that sort of ordinary Christian life that can plod along for fifty years. I imagine David wants this same thing. I’m just not sure this came through consistently in the book."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So, is it a sin to be rich?

In conservative Christian circles, we push hard against the idols of materialism. And rightfully so, since the love of money is "a root of all kinds of evil" and "you cannot serve both God and money" (1 Tim. 6:10; Matt. 6:24). But, I have noticed in our circles (and, frankly, sometimes in my heart) a tendency to look down on wealth as though it were an inherent evil. Sometimes, it seems that we view being rich as a sin in and of itself (even though we'd never say this!)

The Bible is loaded (pun intended) with teachings about money, wealth, and riches. One such applicable passage is found in 1 Timothy 6. In verse 17, Paul tells Timothy (a younger pastor) how to address the rich, by writing, "As for the rich in this present age..." There is no doubt about whom he is speaking. Loaded people. Big wigs. Fat cats. If there ever were a great time to blast the inherent evil of wealth, this would be it! Paul does not teach that riches are sinful; rather, his instruction tells us some of the temptations that arise with having wealth, and how to worship God as a rich person. Let's check out his instruction.

"...charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."

We can sum up this instruction with 3 simple ways to worship God as a rich person (note that the instruction does not say "Become a poor person").
Be humble, for riches will tempt you to boast in your accomplishments and base your soul's worth on your net worth.
Be hopeful in God, for he gives you all good things to enjoy, including your wealth, but more importantly, your salvation.
Be helpful, for riches tempt you to place value in your portfolio, and not in freely blessing others with the blessings God has freely given you.

Piper once tweeted, "The only difference between a rich person and a poor person is the amount of money they have." And the Bible would agree. It is not a sin to be rich; it is a sin to allow riches to breed pride, self-sufficiency, and selfishness rather than humility, gratitude, and generosity.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

God Hates (a certain type of) Religion

There has been much action in the blogosphere over the spoken word video that claims "Jesus hates religion." I don't really want to get into a criticism of it, as I generally like it and find it impassioned, gospel-centered, and thought-provoking.

This discussion though did call to my mind a passage that rebukes self-righteous, skin-deep, rituals-but-no-heart religion. And from the way God talks about it, you can certainly claim that he hates it.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
“When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause."
(Isaiah 1:11-17 ESV)

God's contempt for skin-deep religion jumps off the page. He is so "weary" and "burdened" by these religious rituals, gatherings, prayers, and activities that he will "hide his eyes" and "will not listen." "Enough!" God says, "My soul hates this!" God hates religion that is mere lip-service, religion that is all external going through the motions. I find it convicting that God doesn't seem to rebuke their theology, but rather, that their theology has not penetrated their hearts.

Let's not leave these words and judgments from God as something only aimed for Israel, something that he would never say to the modern church. Therefore, it's fitting to ask, what would God's reaction be toward our church activities? Would he say "Why do you even gather? I've had enough of this!"? Would he say, "Stop praying, stop singing, stop taking communion, just stop!!"? Or would he say, as he said to the church in Philadelphia, "I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." (Rev. 3:8). The last thing I want to be is a gathering that God's soul hates.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Don't judge me!

Matthew 7:1- “Judge not, that you be not judged."

You may have heard the above verse quoted a time or two. Generally, this verse is used in order to prove the point that we as Christians should not judge others. People may claim that we shouldn't judge sin, we shouldn't judge right & wrong, truth & falsehood.

While it's true that we are not the ultimate judges by any means- God is- you may be surprised to learn that this verse is not teaching that we shouldn't judge at all. Whaaaat?!

Jesus here does not teach that judgment in and of itself is wrong; rather, he teaches that hypocritical judgment is wrong. He goes on to say...

"For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Matthew 7:2-5

Jesus clearly teaches that, once we've done business with God concerning our own hearts & issues by "taking the log out of your own eye", we then may lovingly help others out by "taking specks out of their eyes." You see, while some people say that we shouldn't judge others at all, others are trigger-happy and judge at the drop of a hat. Jesus abhors both extremes and teaches that we must "judge with right judgment" (John 7:24).

So, we must not always refrain from passing righteous, God-centered,and loving judgment. But at the same time, we must be much quicker to pass judgment on ourselves.