New Year Mercies

By Evan Knies

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

– Lamentations 3:22-23

This year has been tough to say the least. My family has had some trials. My wife’s family has had some trials. At the end of this year, my cousin’s passing was like a punch to the Continue reading “New Year Mercies”

Donald Trump and the Evangelical Vote

By Obbie Todd

For years scholars have debated the validity of “secularization theory,” the idea that, as society progresses, religion will irrevocably lose its authority in the public square and in society as a whole. In his monumental work A Secular Age (2007), philosopher Charles Taylor described this view as the “disenchanting” of the world through modernity, or the draining of the spiritual realm from the material. A generation of Dispensational premillennial Christians raised on the Scofield Reference Bible and Left Behind theology have perhaps unconsciously imbibed this worldview. However others aren’t as pessimistic about the trajectory of our culture. According to ecumenicist Lesslie Newbigin, “There are good grounds for saying that the secularization theory has been accepted uncritically by Christians to justify a social institution.” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 215) Can a developed society actually elevate the role of religion in its political and moral culture over Continue reading “Donald Trump and the Evangelical Vote”

Controversy Among Youth Concerning Jen Hatmaker’s Last Name: Is Jen Hatmaker a Hat maker?

By Rupert Lange

With the current uprising of theological issues concerning Jen Hatmaker’s comments on homosexual marriage, younger people are beginning to read her statement. As a popular icon amongst teenagers and young adults in the church, her views have reached many people of this age group. Although her words were very clear about how she felt on the issue, students still are very confused and concerned about Jen Hatmaker…

As this hot button issue is causing controversy everywhere, students are beginning to wonder whether Jen Hatmaker is actually a hat maker. While her firm stance is becoming a Continue reading “Controversy Among Youth Concerning Jen Hatmaker’s Last Name: Is Jen Hatmaker a Hat maker?”

The Gospel and Institutional Racism

By Colton Corter

Last week was a really, really tough week. Few weeks in recent memory so sharply remind us of the reality of sin and make us long for the return of Christ. Two black men were unjustly killed for apparently nothing more than being black. Five white cops were murdered because they were white cops. The subsequent violence that has ensued has only deepened our wounds. Our nation is torn by the lingering ghost of Jim Crow. Many who thought he had long been dead and gone see the nasty truth that he never really died but has only been hidden.

Tons of sins were revealed in my heart. Anger. Indifference. Prejudice. Being quick to speak and slow to listen. Unbelief. You name it, the seeds of it reside in my heart. Events like those last week open up a ton of questions. Some wonder what we should do politically. Others question what the role of the church is during times such as these. What does the gospel have to do with justice?

One question that is kicked around is with regards to the difference between personal racism and institutional racism. Really it is a question of institutional sin and personal sin. Some worry that we have overly personalized sin and fail to see the gospel implications for societal structures. Others think that personal sin has no public consequence and often we talk right past one another.

While I am not sure the Bible ever promises to transform social institutions, God certainly has promised to abolish racism in one particular institution. That institution is the local church. God is pleased to display racial reconciliation, not primarily in the world, but among His people. Racism, though not to be accepted without raising our voices and shedding our tears, will always exist to some degree in the world. But where racism should not be expected and where racism will one day cease completely is among the people of the Kingdom of God, which is represented here on earth in local embassies called churches.

The Church is an Institution

Maybe you don’t think of the local church as an institution. But the local church is the primary institution that God has invested with authority on earth. The church is ruled by her head, Jesus Christ. Our King has authorized authority for the church that the individual Christian or even groups of individual Christians don’t have. Jonathan Leeman has said that the church is the highest authority for the Christian on earth.

The church exercises its authority by wielding the keys of the Kingdom, binding and loosing on earth as it is in heaven by means of the preaching of the gospel and use of the gospel ordinances. The local church is tasked with affirming what the gospel is. The local church is God’s means for preserving a testimony to His saving work through Christ. Gospel fidelity is the life-blood of the church. The local church also protects the gospel “who.” Congregations affirm who does and does not represent Christ. The church doesn’t make someone a Christian. The church does, however, confirm their claim to have been brought from death to life and justified by the righteousness of Christ through faith.

To sum it up, churches are God’s means to display His glory and holiness. Want to know what God is like? Look to local churches. Want to see the grace of God and the sufficiency of Christ in power? Look to local churches. God has been pleased to display His manifold wisdom to the nations in the local church (Eph. 3:10).

Racism and the Local Church 

The government is also an institution ordained by God, as is marriage or parenting. However, God deals with His church specially. The Apostle Paul does not expect the world to act like the church. As much as he longed for the society around him to be governed by the Spirit in justice and mercy, he wrote to the church (1 Cor 5:12). If we are looking for an abolition tract in the Bible, you won’t find one. But what you also not find is a book indifferent towards the sin of racism.

Far from being colorblind, our God has created ethnicity so that the gospel might transcend those natural lines supernaturally, with His name being praised by every tongue and by every nation. We all began as one race in Adam but Christ is created a new race in His Son by Christ’s penal, substitutionary death. The gospel of justification by faith alone can melt the racist heart, being leveled by the guilt of sin and sufficiency of the cross. Strangers according to the flesh become brothers when they both treasure Christ above all else. The power of the gospel does not abolish ethnicity so that there is absolutely no such thing as race, gender or etc. but brings us into one Christ, those belonging to a new, heavenly culture.

God’s wisdom is not displayed in the local church when racism is allowed to flourish or even if treated with indifference, being swept under the rug. To allow such a sin is contrary to what heaven will be like and is an affront to the holiness of the Lord. Do we denounce racism in the same way as we would sexual immorality or abortion? We should. The heart of racism is a failure to see and savor the glory of God in the gospel. Man is intoxicated by the aroma of his own glory. But when the gospel dislodges us from our imagined placed at the center of the universe, a kind of Copernican revolution takes place and God is seen to be the source of all our good. This then plays out in our horizontal relationships.

It sounds trite, but the gospel is the only way for real racial reconciliation to take place. This does not mean we don’t weep with the hurting and marginalized, nor does it excuse indifference to the pain of the world. It is good as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven to testify to the love of God by loving our neighbor. But we can never somehow transform this world into the Kingdom of God. The local church is where we can expect the Kingdom of God to be manifest, not fully but really, on earth. Gospel congregations are the place where black and white, Asian and Latino (rich/poor, old/young) fellowship with one another in the unity accomplished by our Lord on the cross. This alone severs the root of racism and leads to racial reconciliation with God at the white-hot center.

Is it a cop-out to say that it is the church alone that can model racial reconciliation? I don’t think so. Human institutions (governments, police forces, schools, etc.) are littered by institutional sins because they are made up of individual sinners. As long as people run the institutions, there will be sin. Praise God for His common grace that has given us law enforcement and government. We should lobby for those to be just and when they aren’t we should do all that we can to see that justice is done. But might we also bear witness to the fact that justice is yet to come. One day, all injustices will be repaid and that is horrible news to rebels against God – oppressors and oppressed alike! But justice has been satisfied for all those who would ever repent of their sins and trust in Christ! We haven’t received justice, we’ve received grace.

Churches must be serious about growing in their witness to the character of God. We don’t do that when we allow racism, blatant or subtle, to survive in our midst. God is glorified by the “supernatural breadth” of our relationships. White brothers and sisters, reach out to black brothers and sisters. Listen to them. Weep with them. Rejoice with them. Pray with them. Disciple one another! What binds us is not first a commitment to racial reconciliation but to Christ. However let us take this gospel to its logical and God-exalting conclusions in the local church. Allow the gospel to take its social shape, in membership and ordinary church life. It may seem foolish but that is kind of how God operates (see 1 Cor 1). One day when this institution of the local church passes away, when Christ returns, we will be perfectly reconciled to each other because finally we will be free from our sinning. Long for that day and, today, fight to live in light of that reality in front of a watching world.

God has decisively dealt with institutional racism. May we labor to cultivate what God has created!

Should Christians Watch Movies About Jesus?

By Colton Corter

It’s nearly Easter time and with Easter comes movies about Jesus. From the infamous Passion of the Christ to last Sunday’s Tyler Perry’s semi-live The Passion, many people have tried to retell or portray the greatest story of all time – the best news about what God has done in Christ to save sinners.

But most of these renditions are blasphemous at worst and unhelpful at best. There has long been the discussion about visual representations of Jesus. The larger Reformed tradition has avoided pictures and statues of Jesus, citing the 2nd Commandment and the incident of the Golden Calf in the book of Exodus. Calvin and those who have followed in that stream saw the idolatry of Rome and wanted no part in it. Reformed Evangelicals today normally avoid such representations today if not simply for the fact that they can take away from the spiritual sight of Christ’s glory found in this age only in the gospel. For whatever good could come from such movies or television programs, there are a few major things that I think should cause us to steer clear from enjoying such programs.

1.They tempt us to undermine the sufficiency of Scripture.

Behind the impulse to make such movies is often the desire make the story of Jesus relevant. It is thought that if people could just see what happened then they would reconsider their previous notions about the Second Person of the Trinity. But the cross has always been foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). Our job isn’t to make the gospel more palatable. We cannot improve upon its sweetness. The Holy Spirit takes the objective facts of the gospel and gives us the eyes and the hearts to see them and savor them as our only hope and our highest good.

How does the Spirit do this? Over and over again, God tells us that He brings new life through His Spirit by the written Word of God. It may seem like a far-fetched strategy but we need to remember that it has worked for thousands of years. It was the Word of God that created everything that we see and it is with that same creative power that God creates light in dark hearts (2 Cor 4:6).

Brothers and sisters, it is not a healthy impulse to want to improve upon the words of Scripture. Creating good music and art is a wonderful and biblical thing! However, our main source of life and the hope of the world is found in the Book. God wrote a book! And that Book is able to do all that we need for life and godliness (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:3). Do you want the Bible to come alive? The answer is not to go to Israel and walked where Jesus walked. Neither is the answer to make a movie about it. We must throw ourselves on the mercy of God in Christ and ask that as a consequence of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ, he would by His Spirit open our eyes to see the beauty of Christ. Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17). This is an age of faith, not sight. One day, beloved, we will see Him as He is with our sinless eyes! But that day is yet to come is and our greatest longing. Until then let’s seek Christ where He is to be found: the gospel as found in the Bible.

2. It misses the point of the gospel.

The physical sufferings of the cross were so gruesome that they are hard to imagine. Jesus Christ never, ever sinned. He alone can say that He has loved His Father with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27). His heart was so incredibly sensitive to the sin that was around Him. His very meat and drink was to do the Father’s will of displaying His glory by enjoying it as His highest good! Never was there a least deserving man to die.

But Jesus was not a victim, primarily. When we only focus on the physical death of Jesus then we lose the entire importance of the cross. We lose the gospel. Truth is, a lot of people had died on Roman crosses. It was kind of standard fare. If all that happened in Jesus’ case was that an innocent man was put to death by a corrupt government then we are most to be pitied. But infinitely more happened. Isaiah 53 happened! This innocent One, who fulfilled the Law perfectly on behalf our His people, was executed by His Father according to His predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). The Son of Man came with the express purpose to purchase a people for Himself by paying the penalty for their sin (Mark 10:45). Jesus was not slaughtered on accident or by force but in an act of unfathomably free mercy He gave up the life that no one could take from Him (John 10:18). He died for our sins. “In our place condemned He stood.” Jesus is not some revolutionary who died because he tried to overcome social structures by a code of ethics. Jesus earned a righteousness for His people to be received through faith and satisfied the just wrath of God in His body. Jesus is God.

But you miss all of that with these movies. They leave us with a less glorious gospel, not a more glorious one. The cross and the resurrection make no sense apart from the character, worth and value of God. They make no sense without explaining the cosmic treason that is sin and how the whole world sits under the judgement of a good God because He alone is worthy of our affections. Without the clear call to repent from lesser joys and run to the finished work of Christ to save and satisfy, you don’t have a gospel. Without explaining that God is the prize of the gospel then you leave the world with something less than the end for which God created the world.

Too Picky? 

I only say this out of a concern to see the real glory of Christ hallowed among the nations. To that end, I work for our joy – both yours and mine. The gospel of the Bible, found in the Bible, is far better. The power of God for salvation is found here! This is the Word of God that has given us the greatest gift imaginable – being enabled to glorify the Triune God of the universe by enjoying Him forever. We must stand against error, even sometimes error that is well intended. But we only do so because the light of the glory of Christ is eclipsed by such attempts to make Jesus “cool again.” Jesus is far better than cool, far better than anything that could be shown on a screen!

Jesus is infinitely glorious and beautiful.

Let’s all do the work of an evangelist as we strive together with our local embassy of Christ’s Kingdom to reflect the glories of God in Christ to the world by our words and deeds.