I am far too likable.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” – Luke 6:26

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – Luke 15:19

I don’t feel that I am at all like Christ in these verses. That is probably a problem.

Christianity and (Organized) Teetotaling

About a month ago I visited a message board that I used to post on all the time, it’s mostly frequented by members of my home town’s hardcore and punk community. The conversation swirls predictably around politics, bands, tattoos, show reviews and reminiscing about the mid-90s (my personal favorite topic). Someone posted something regarding the straight edge movement that caught my eye, the poster claimed that it:

[borrows its] ascetic ideology unwittingly from the teachings of early Christianity (asceticism, refraining from worldly activities like drugs and alcohol, the imagery of remaining “pure”, etc.)

I had two reactions, the first being reminded of my high school days when I did claim to be straight edge (lifestyle that strictly abstains from drugs, tobacco, and alcohol – and often other substances such as caffeine)  and I specifically claimed it in relation to my faith. Secondly, I was struck by how mistaken he was about not only straight edge’s roots, but the teachings of early Christianity. I immediately was drawn to Colossians 2:16, 20-23:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink… If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Paul’s teaching in here seems to directly oppose ascetic abstinence based on rules applied externally by a teacher, a philosophy or a rule laid down by a group. The New Testament’s teaching seems to be fully on the side of liberty in these areas – with caveats.

Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand…

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…

It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Rom 14:3-4, 13-17, 21-23

This chapter is one of my favorites because it covers the idea of abstinence from every angle. It speaks to those who feel free to try things, it speaks to those who feel constrained by God to abstain, it speaks even to those who are unsure and those who have a tendency to be enslaved.

How would I boil the passage down? If you feel liberty before the Lord to partake in an activity that is legal, that is consistent with the rest of your life, that is not likely to make someone else confused or be tempted into sin, and not otherwise prohibited by the Scriptures – do it with faith and thanksgiving to God. If you are unsure or convicted that you should not – abstain in faith and thanksgiving to God without judgment on the one who would choose to partake.

Ultimately, there are three Gospel-motivations ties in here: faith, love and liberty. The prime motivation has to be faith – do you trust the Holy Spirit to convict you of what is right and what is wrong and are you actively listening for His voice? Secondly, are you sure that you are caring for the people and community around you and making sure not to trip up those who are unsure about this particular activity? And lastly, are you living your life out of the liberty that the Resurrection of  Christ affords us?

God has called us away from simplistic sets of rules and ascetic methods to ensure our faithfulness and obedience to Him – “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” In Christ we must live in moment-by-moment interaction with the Holy Spirit so that if we are on the cusp of sin we are able to hear His voice and turn from it, but secure that if He does not “check” us that we live in liberty and freedom.

“do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil…”

It is important to point out that the New Testament does call believers to live lives of self-control (2 Peter 1:5-8), free from drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18) and dissipation (Luke 21:34). Also, followers of Christ are called to be obedient to the restrictions and laws of the land that God has called or caused them to dwell in (Romans 13:1).

Piper: How Could God Kill Women and Children? (Video)

For my second video post in a row, I want to share a video from a series where people submit difficult questions to be answered by John Piper. For anyone who follows me on Twitter or reads this blog regularly, you know that I’m a fan of John Piper’s teaching (though I don’t agree with everything he says).

In this video he answers a common question that even I sometimes struggle reconciling. I agree wholeheartedly with how he addresses the question. You need to watch it all the way to the end.


Driscoll: What is the Church? [A09]

First up at Advance09 was Mark Driscoll who is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. From my understanding Seattle is a hard city for the Gospel, people largely view the Church as irrelevant, bigoted and backwards (unfortunately, the caricature is not inaccurate enough).

The title/question is a significant one. It’s important to understand what this messy thing is that we call the Church. Driscoll first covered what differing views throughout history have said, but what was interesting is that there was no written works from 251AD – 1378AD that talked about ecclesiology (the study of the theological understanding of the Christian church) and there is no historically consistent belief on it.

Is it essentially a visible phenomenon which is easy to define, or invisible and undefinable? Is it about apostolic succession or about faith and faithfulness? What if things are done wrong, is it still really the Church as God defines it?

So, May 31st was “Pentecost Sunday” which celebrates what is considered the beginning of the Church, so if that was the beginning what changed on that day that set it apart from the 50 days prior after Jesus had ascended? The Holy Spirit.

Jesus, while he was on earth, was in constant contact with the Holy Spirit and dependent on him for power, Jesus was constantly praying and depending on the Father to guide his steps as well. You’ll see (especially if you read the Gospel of Matthew) that Jesus as a real human was dependent on the Holy Spirit to do anything. So, as he’s preparing to ascend and giving last instructions, what does he tell the disciples? “Wait.”

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5 ESV)

He tells them to wait until they receive the Holy Spirit because if Jesus needed him to do what he did, the apostles would certainly need him all the more. It’s on Pentecost that the Church is born. The Holy Spirit shows up and Peter preaches a sermon in the middle of Jerusalem that convinces 3,000 people that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and able to save every one who believes.

When you look at Peter’s words they’re not all that eloquent, but they’re exactly what was true. Peter focused on Jesus because the Church is totally about Jesus. It is not about a political brand, it’s not about family, it’s not about charity, it’s not about morality, nor power, money, buildings, missions, empire-building, growth, your best life now, hymns or “praise and worship”, missional living or monasticism and asceticism or anything else – it is all about Jesus.

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:32, 33, 36 ESV)

Driscoll said this about those of us in the Church: “We’re a one-song band, and we’re going to keep playing it until we see him again.”

Ultimately, the Church is that which comes in the wake of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If it’s not following those Two (Three, really, since Jesus says that he does everything the Father tells him), it is not the Church.

Finally Driscoll listed (not exclusively) 8 things that mark a real Church that is following God:

  1. Regenerated Church Membership
    • Members whom God is working within.
  2. Qualified Leadership
    • This should illustrate a reality of the Trinity: ontological equality and functional (voluntary) subordination.
  3. Gathering for Teaching/Preaching and Worship.
    • Preaching illustrates the Gospel: God is the giver, I am merely the receiver.
  4. Sacraments Rightly Administered
    • Baptism and communion.
  5. Unified by the Holy Spirit
    • Distinguish between closed-handed (non-negotiable) beliefs and open-handed beliefs & prioritize important things.
    • Centered around Jesus and proclamation of the Gospel.
  6. Discipline for Holiness
    • I’m still not sure what this looks like.
  7. Obey the Great Commandment to Love
  8. Obey the Great Commission to share the Gospel

It’s not just the Church in its gathered state, but when it scatters into the world it is still the Church. It’s where we’re following in the wake of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Spurgeon Day 4

The principle of love has been found to possess very great power over men. In the infancy of history nations dream that crime can be put down by severity, and they rely upon fierce punishments; but experience corrects the error. Our forefathers dreaded forgery, which is a troublesome fraud, and interferes with the confidence which should exist between man and man. To put it down they made forgery a capital offense. Alas for the murders committed by that law! Yet the constant use of the gallows was never sufficient to stamp out the crime. Many offenses have been created and multiplied by the penalty which was meant to suppress them. Some offenses have almost ceased when the penalty against them has been lightened.

It is a notable fact as to men, that if they are forbidden to do a thing they straightway pine to do it, though they had never thought of doing it before. Law commands obedience, but does not promote it; it often creates disobedience, and an over-weighted penalty has been known to provoke an offense. Law fails, but love wins.

C.H. Spurgeon, The Doctrines of Grace Do Not Lead to Sin.