Salvation and the Mission of God: Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax, David Platt, and Frank Page

tgppanel_sanssbc_620x349

On June 10th, 2014, at The Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Stetzer, Frank Page, David Platt, and Trevin Wax discussed the topics of salvation and the mission of God.

  • Does one’s belief on the extent of the atonement affect their understanding of mission and the offer of the gospel?
  • Can two Christians disagree on soteriology and partner in ministry?
  • Does the order of salvation affect how one does evangelism?
  • When it comes to the theological particulars of salvation, what is the difference between compromise and cooperation?

We hope you are encouraged and challenged by the audio of this important discussion. Below are Ed and Trevin’s reflections on the discussion.

6 Tips for Small Group Discussion

medium_5120100

My friend Jeremy Maxfield recently wrote this post for the Explore The Bible blog, enjoy.

Yogi Berra once said, “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”

Most groups have one of two problems when it comes to meaningful spiritual conversation: discussion can feel like pulling teeth or herding cats. Either people won’t talk, or they won’t stop talking about things unrelated to the Bible study.

Leading a meaningful conversation that engages the hearts and minds of people takes practice. But healthy discussion can be the difference between people going to a group and growing througha group. A life-changing discussion has the following characteristics.

Everyone participates. Encourage everyone to ask questions, share responses, or read aloud. Discussion isn’t one-sided. Seek balance.

No one dominatesnot even the leader. Be sure that what you say takes up less than half of your time together. Ideally, good questions will result in group members speaking at least twice as much as the leader. Politely redirect discussion if anyone dominates.

Nobody is rushed through questions. Don’t feel that a moment of silence is a bad thing. People often need time to think about their responses to questions they’ve just heard. They may also need to gain the courage to share what God is stirring in their hearts. Give room for others to move—including the Spirit.

Input is affirmed and followed up. Always point out something true or helpful in a response. Don’t just move on. Build personal connections with follow-up questions, asking how other people have experienced similar things or how a truth has shaped their understanding of God and the Scripture you’re studying. People are less likely to speak up if they fear that you don’t actually want to hear their answers or that you’re looking for only a certain answer.

God and His Word are central. Opinions and experiences can be helpful, but God has given us the truth. Trust Scripture to be the authority and God’s Spirit to work in people’s lives. You can’t change anyone, but God can. Continually point people to the Word and to active steps of faith.

Ask for action. Discussion is the starting point. Action is the goal. Ask people how they need to respond to what they have heard. Based on what they’ve said, what will they do?

Pay attention to these 6 things during your next group discussion. If your desire is to see lives changed, intentionally engage each person with the truth of God’s Word.

photo credit: Susan NYC via photopin cc

The Ten Commandments

10-Commandments.851x315

I have enjoyed The Gospel Project’s summer study – God’s Way: A Journey Through the Ten CommandmentsWith every study we run a corresponding blog series as an additional resource for churches and groups using The Gospel Project. Here is the series on the Ten Commandments.

  1. Daniel Davis – Do not have other gods besides me
  2. Aaron Armstrong – Do not make an idol for yourself
  3. Micah Fries – Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God
  4. Mark Rooker – Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  5. Jani Ortlund – Honor your father and your mother
  6. Mary Jo Sharp – Do not murder
  7. Jeremy Pierre – Do not commit adultery
  8. David Jones – Do not steal
  9. Jason Duesing – Do not give false testimony against your neighbor
  10. Tim Brister – Do not covet

I also wrote one post on Jesus and the Ten Commandments for this series. Enjoy.

Russell Moore on The Kingdom of God

Russell Moore, the president of the The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, explains the significance of God’s kingship and the foundational nature of God’s Kingdom to all of Christianity. This video is from Ministry Grid, a video based leadership development platform for the church.

Pastoral Care and Sexual Abuse

Counseling

This was origionally posted at Pastors Today

I am a pastor, not a licensed counselor. However, it does not take long in the context of pastoral ministry to see that clergy are often the first people approached when someone in the church family has an issue needing counsel and care.

As the spiritual shepherds of congregations, pastors are viewed as trustworthy authorities and granted the privilege of caregiving in various life situations. Yet many pastors are unprepared to properly counsel or care for people going through the most difficult of life circumstances.

What should a pastor do when a congregant confides that he or she has been or is being abused sexually?

What should a pastor do when someone in the congregation exposes instances of sexual abuse involving others?

When is it appropriate to break confidentiality?

Understandably, confidentiality is crucial to a trusting relationship between a pastor and parishioner. The church member’s confidence in the confidentiality of a pastoral counseling session significantly contributes to the environment of trust and the freedom to share. However, as pastors we must be clear about the limits of confidentiality when a situation might call for disclosure and the involvement of civil authorities.

This is why it is important to communicate the exceptions and limits of confidentiality even in the context of pastoral care. Pastors should seek to minister in adherence to proper legal and ethical requirements in these situations. When entering into such relationships we cannot assume that the ones seeking care understand these concepts and implications. Conversations occurring within the context of pastoral care are only confidential to the extent provided by the law.

“Confidentiality is the promise to hold information in trust and to share it with others only if this is in the best interest of the counselee or sometimes in the interest of society.” –Gary Collins, Christian Counseling

In most states it is required by law to report sexual abuse, both physical and psychological (Horrace Lukens, Christian Counseling Ethics, 45). In instances of sexual abuse, the breaking of confidentiality to government authorities falls in the best interest of the pastor, the one seeking care, and others who may be in harm’s way. It is our pastoral duty to protect others. Even the most trained professional counselor cannot make exact predictions as to future violations of an offender.

The better part of wisdom acknowledges the nature of sin and the probability that such instances can and most likely will occur again. The high recidivism rate among child molesters would strongly affirm this. It is important to protect the welfare of the abused and others by seeking civil justice in such situations.

While the laws that govern confidentiality and privilege vary from state to state, in cases of sexual abuse, it is wise to call the police. The civil authorities have a responsibility to investigate such claims. Pastors must acknowledge that two authorities need to be involved: The government authorities have a responsibility to deal with this at the civil level (Romans 13:1-7), and the local church has a responsibility to deal with this at the ecclesial level (Galatians 6:2).

As Boz Tchividjian recently said in an interview with Ed Stetzer, “We need to let the God-created civil authorities who are experts in investigating these types of situations do their God-ordained work and investigate the situation and make a determination.”

As pastors we need to minister to people who have been sexually abused. Part of that ministry involves seeking justice in the situation but also committing to caring for the abused over time. We need to allow victims of sexual abuse to share their stories, trusting that we will care for them patiently and lovingly as they process their emotions and responses to such wicked abuse. We are called to care for the hurting as tangible representatives of God’s love. We need to let those under our care know that while we are a broken human expression of that love, they have our “attention and care while we are together and prayers while we are apart” (Gerald May, Care of Mind, Care of the Spirit, 121).

All of us long for the day when wicked acts such as sexual abuse will be no more, and that day is coming, and with it the justice of God against all the sins of man. But until that day, let us point to Jesus who heals the deepest wounds of the soul.

As pastors, let us seek justice for and strive to provide compassionate and competent care for those who have experienced sexual abuse.

Resource Recommendations

How To Recognize Our Arrogance

10-Ways-to-Recognize-Our-Arrogance

“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18, HCSB).

Chuck Lawless recently posted these “10 Ways to Recognize Our Arrogance” at Thom Rainer’s blog. I found it challenging and convicting, and wanted to share it here. Use these potential markers of arrogance to avoid such a fall.

1. You believe few people are as smart as you are.

Not many people actually say these words, but honest leaders must admit they sometimes think this way. Some reveal this thinking by their ridicule of anybody else “not quite up to my level.” Others assume they should be part of almost every discussion, regardless of the topic. If you assume few people can teach you anything, that assumption should cause you to evaluate your heart.

2. Your first reaction to negative is to be defensive or to cast blame on others.

If anything adverse (e.g., a lack of growth in the organization, a divided leadership team, a failed program) is always somebody else’s fault, you might see yourself as above such declines. In Jim Collins’ words, you may join falling leaders who explain away negative data and “blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility.”

3. Titles matter to you.

Check your signature line on your email. Look at your company’s letterhead and website. Read the bio you send to others who have invited you to speak. Consider your reaction when someone introduces youwithout noting your title. Think about how you introduce yourself. If your title has become your first name, you’ve crossed the line.

4. You assume your organization cannot fail.

The bottom line for you is this: your organization cannot fail because you don’t fail. You are intelligent enough to figure out the solutions. Your track record is so filled with successes that failure is unimaginable. And, even if your organization struggles, you can simply replace your co-workers; after all, you are convinced that finding people who want to work for you will not be difficult.

5. Not knowing “insider information” bothers you.

Arrogance is characterized not only by a belief we know almost everything, but also by a desire to know the “scoop” before others do. The most important people, we think, deserve to have the details first. If you get frustrated when you’re not in the information’s inner circle, you may well be dealing with arrogance.

6. You are disconnected from your team members.

Developing genuine relationships with employees is difficult as an organization grows. If, however, you see your team members more as cogs in a system than as valuable partners – or worse yet, if they perceive you view them that way – you may be haughtily operating as “a steam engine attempting to pull the rest of the train without being attached to it.”

7. Spiritual disciplines are secondary, if not non-existent, in your life.

Disciplines like Bible study, prayer, and fasting are more than simple Christian practices; they are obedient actions of persons who recognize their need for a strong relationship with God. If you are leading externally without spending time with God privately, you are leading in your own strength. That’s sin.

8. No one has permission to speak truth into your life.

Leaders who fall are often not accountable to anyone. Few of us are fully self-aware, and all of us deal with a heart that is “more deceitful than anything else” (Jer. 17:9).  Feedback is critical, particularly from those who can test whether we exhibit the fruit of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26). If no one plays this role in your life, your lack of accountability is likely evidence of pride.

9. Other people see you as arrogant.

Take a risk – ask others what they really think about you. Talk to the people who report to you. Interview those who formerly worked with you, but then took other positions. Be specific in asking, “Do I ever come across as arrogant?” Even the most emotional (and perhaps exaggerated) responses likely reveal some level of truth. Hear it.

10. This post bothers you . . . or doesn’t bother you.

If these words bother you, you may be coming face-to-face with reality in your life. If they don’t bother you, you may be failing to see the arrogance that characterizes all of us.

27 Blog Posts on The Atonement

agnus_dei_lamb_of_god-400

With the release of The Gospel Project’s study on the atonement titled “Atonement Thread“, I organized a series of blog posts centered around the same theme theme. In total, 27 blog posts on the importance of the atonement.

The atonement, as taught in the Bible, calls to mind the unfathomable love of God to send His Son to take away our sins. The atonement proclaims the amazing grace of God to cover over our sins with the precious and perfect blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Whether you realize it or not, the doctrine of the atonement has very practical implications for your day to day Christian life.

The Atonement and the Christian Life

The Doctrine of the Atonement 

The Atonement in the Old Testament 

10 Tips For Leading A Small Group

groupsmatter_logo_white

Groups are absolutely essential to the health and mission of a church. They are likely the starting point for community, discipleship, and service in your church. In fact, recent research shows that people involved in groups are healthier spiritually than those who aren’t. People in groups read the Bible more, pray more, give more, and serve more. Simply stated: groups matter.

What happens when groups gather also matters. I found Rick Howerton‘s list 10 Practices of Great Small Group Facilitators helpful. Here are his very practical suggestions.

  1. Do ice-breakers that everyone participates in and that build individual trust and team unity.
  2. Affirm each person when they speak, especially early in the group’s life.
  3. Draw everyone into the conversation. When there is a person who seems slow to jump into the discussion, graciously ask their opinion or request their input.
  4. Be relaxed yourself. A relaxed facilitator creates a relaxed environment.
  5. When asking the group to speak of a sensitive life issue or situation, be the first to tell your story.
  6. Involve your apprentice when possible.
  7. Talk less than 30% of the time.
  8. Converse with those in your group between group gatherings.
  9. When you don’t know the answer to a question asked of you, say you don’t know but that you’ll try to find out and that you’ll get back to the group with the answer to the question.
  10. React to delicate situations/moments with grace and sensitivity.

This list origionally appeared on ChurchLeaders.com

Jesus and the Ten Commandments

10-Commandments.851x315

This post origionally appeared at The Gospel Project blog in a series on the Ten Commandments. 

For too many Christians the Ten Commandments are impossible imperatives. While we would affirm that God’s commands are good, they seem to bring nothing more than a moral burden that crushes us under the weight of God’s holiness. Our difficulty with the Ten Commandments can be resolved by understanding the aim of God’s law in the context of redemptive history. Furthermore, when we fail to see the context in which the law was given, we tend to overlook the relationship of the law of God to the grace of God.

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me…I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. –Exodus 19:4; 20:2 (HCSB)

These are the words of the God of Israel to Moses as he stood on Mount Sinai and looked back at what God had done for His people, how He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. It is important to remember that when God gave the Israelites the law, their status as God’s people had already been established.

Since Israel was given a new life after God delivered them out of Egypt, the law functioned to show Israel what this new life was to look like. And the laws given at Sinai were not arbitrary but stemmed from the character of God and His original purpose for humankind in creation. The purpose of Israel’s obedience was to reflect God’s nature to the world around them as a concrete expression of their devotion to God. The same is true for Christians today; God’s law establishes a separate and unique identity for God’s people.

However, the history of Israel (and our own hearts) confirm that the ideals of God’s law cannot be achieved without God’s divine intervention. The Ten Commandments expose our sinful motives and behavior for what they are, namely, transgression of specific commands. And we know from experience that the Ten Commandments do not have the power to transform us or liberate us from the power of sin. So, the law is like a teacher who shows us God’s holiness, our sinfulness, and our need for salvation. And the needed divine intervention ultimately comes through Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the gospel.

By faith we receive the gift of Jesus’ law-keeping, which was perfectly achieved on our behalf, and in Him we become righteous. Therefore, we uphold the law by turning our backs on our own warped efforts to keep the law and by putting all our confidence and trust in the One who satisfied all the laws demands on our behalf (Romans 3:31). Thus, when one is saved through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, they are released from the power of sin and the condemnation of the law. In salvation we are given new hearts to know and understand God’s order for creation. The spirit of rebellion against the authority and rule of God is replaced by a spirit of obedience. Gospel-driven internal motivation replaces external moral constraint (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 11:19-20, 36:26-27).

Therefore, God’s law is still authoritative and necessary for Christians today. Jesus did not so much replace the Old Testament law as make explicit its proper application to the heart and not just external behavior (Romans 6:14, 8:1-4). Jesus’ idea of obedience moves beyond religious observance, focusing not only on the things we do but on who we are (Matthew 5–7). Only the gospel changes the heart and can lead to lasting change in our lives.

You will remember that when asked by one of the religious leaders to identify the greatest commandment in all of the law, Jesus replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. –Matthew 22:37-40 (HCSB)

In many ways, Jesus’ response summarized the heart of the Ten Commandments. The first four of the Ten Commandments have to do with our relationship to God, while Commandments six through ten addresses our relationship to one another. Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus is the true Israelite who perfectly loved God with all of His heart and perfectly loved His neighbors (Luke 22:42; John 15:13). The Old Testament law pointed to Jesus Christ and is only properly revealed in Him (Romans 8:3; 10:4; Galatians 3:24).

In fulfilling the law through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus enables us to attain righteousness greater than that of religious obedience. Jesus has delivered us from a slave master greater than Egypt—that of sin and death. Jesus was crushed under the weight of our sin so that we could be free to obey God’s commands. Our gospel-empowered desire to obey God’s commands creates a separate and unique identity for us as God’s holy people sent out in His name into the world. Those who love God will express their love for Him in obedience and missionally in their love for others.

In response to what Christ has done, knowing that our status as God’s people is secure, we submit to the words of Paul, who declared in Romans 12:1, “by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.”

4 Suggestions on “Sharing the Gospel” from Matt Chandler

In a recent interview with Bob Smietana for Facts and Trends Magazine, Matt Chandler offered four practical suggestions for teaching Christians how to share their faith.

1. Get the gospel right.

Strategy doesn’t matter if churches don’t get their message right. And people can’t share the gospel if they don’t know it. “Get the gospel message right,” he says. “And then be confident in that message. Not in your delivery but in the message. Here’s what we do—we love well and we share the gospel.”

2. Admit your faults.

Self-righteousness is one of the biggest turnoffs for nonbelievers, says Chandler. Don’t pretend being a Christian makes you superior to other people. “If you really understand grace, it’s not us and them,” he says. “It’s us. The ground at the cross is flat. The gospel of Jesus Christ has set me free to not pretend that I am perfect in front of you.”

3. Don’t try to scare people into following Jesus.

Chandler’s not afraid to talk about hell. He says it’s an “awful reality” that can’t be avoided. But avoiding hell isn’t the main message of the gospel. “If hell is how you are trying to motivate people toward heaven, then you have missed a key component of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ,” he says. “Namely He has justified us, sanctified us, and is adopting us as sons and daughters. You have missed the entire delight piece—where God delights in those He has rescued.”

4. Focus on the gospel instead of arguments about non-essentials.

Chandler tries to steer clear of arguments over issues like creation, evolution or the age of earth, where he’s not an expert. “If you think you don’t have all the answers,” says Chandler, “Just say ‘I don’t know. But here’s what I do know—Jesus changed my life.’ A passionate belief in Jesus Christ that has changed your life is still the best apologetic.” Remind people their job isn’t to save nonbelievers. Instead, they need to share the gospel and let God do the work. “I have tried repeatedly to lay out the reality that it is God who saves,” he says. “God saves. That takes the pressure off of people.”

To read the whole article, click here.