Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Catechism #16

Q. Who is the Redeemer of mankind?
A. The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the Son of God, became man.

As we have previously seen, when Adam and Eve chose to sin against God they invited in the curse that leads to death and separation from God. The only way of escape for mankind is through redemption.

After the first sin God killed an innocent lamb and used its skin to make a covering for our first parents. That act was a perfect foreshadowing of the redemption to come—an innocent lamb was sacrificed as a substitute so that the guilty party could be covered.

Years later, when the nation of Israel was in slavery in Egypt, God sent the Ten Plagues to persuade Pharaoh to let His people go. The tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, was a horrific event that was the culmination of years of rebellion and idolatry in Egypt. But God, in His mercy, still gave each family a way out.

God said that if each family would take a spotless lamb, kill it, and apply its blood to the doorposts of their house, then God would pass over their house. This event became known as the Passover, and is celebrated in Israel every year.

Each year at Passover a spotless lamb would be sacrificed for the nation, and God would let the guilty party go free because of the substitute lamb.

Years later, God came to earth in the form of a man named Jesus; He lived a perfect life, and was therefore a spotless substitute. When John the Baptist saw Him, he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

When Jesus died on the cross He became the great substitute, bearing the sin of the guilty party—the whole world—and becoming the once and for all sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:10). Now, whoever will look upon the Lamb of God and trust in that sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins can go free. God will place our sin upon Jesus, and place the righteousness of Jesus upon us.

That is how Jesus Christ became the Redeemer for mankind. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Catechism #15

Q. By what sin did our first parents fall from their original condition?

A. Our first parents’ sin was eating the forbidden fruit.

The first sin we see in the Bible was in the eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve. But as we saw last week, there are sins of commission and omission. The eating of the fruit was an act of commission—a sin that was committed in the Garden of Eden.

But before Eve ever took her first bite, a few sins of omission occurred that led up to the sin of commission. First, notice that it was Eve, not Adam, that did all the talking with the serpent in Genesis 3. Yet it was Adam, not Eve, who was created as the spiritual leader of the family. For whatever reason Adam abdicated his role as the spiritual leader and stood silently by as Eve ate the fruit. After Eve’s bite, she gave it to Adam, and he ate it too.

Not only did Adam omit his role as leader, Eve omitted her trust in the goodness of God. Not only did she misquote God when speaking with Satan, but she bought the lie that God did not want her eyes to be opened to the fact that she was a god.

(Still today some miss the truth of this passage and believe that we are born as gods and just don’t realize it yet. Jesus called Satan “a liar from the beginning”, and the first words we see from Satan in Scripture is this lie to Eve)

If Eve believed that God is good she never would have believed what the devil said. A good God has rules that are for our good, yet Eve questioned that. Her decision to eat the fruit was not based on hunger or wanting to try a new fruit; it was motivated by her distrust in the goodness of God.

Most sins that we commit today are based on an omission in the goodness of God. Deep down we buy into the lie that God’s rules and ways are not good for us. If we trust that God is good then we would obey Him more.

Do you trust that God is good? If so, keep His rules, because they are for our good.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Catechism #14

Q. What is sin?

A. Sin is disobeying or not conforming to God’s law in any way.

Sin is a word that is used a lot in our churches. “That is sin,” we tell people. Or, “Don’t do that—its sinful.” Sin is failure to conform ourselves to God’s law, or simply put, it is disobeying God.

We like to tell the children at church that sin is anything we think, say, or do that makes God unhappy. I know the thought of an unhappy God is unpopular these days, but it is true. Do you think sin makes God happy? Do you think He is neutral toward sin? That only leaves one alternative.

Both Testaments are peppered with verses that refer to or allude to God’s wrath toward sin. The Old Testament recounts stories of God’s wrath on display toward the complaining and idolatry of Israel; the New Testament tells us “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness (sin)…(Romans 1:18).”

God loves us, but He hates sin.

There are two ways we can sin: we can either commit an act (commission) or fail to commit an act (omission). I Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from fornication.” According to this verse, fornication is a sinful act that we commit, either in our minds or with our bodies.

But failure to do something we know to be right is also sin. James 4:17 tells us, “To him that knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” When we choose not to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), choose to not to meet a need when we have the means (I John 3:17), or choose to rob God by withholding our tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8), we are sinning by omission.

Sin is a part of our human nature that has been here since the curse. We will not achieve sinless perfect while on earth, but that should not keep us from trying to sin as little as possible.

What shall we say then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who have died to sin live any longer in it?

Romans 6:1-2

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mark Driscoll, Apology Accepted

In 2011 I wrote a blog about Mark Driscoll. As stated before, the purpose of the post was for the education of those who were seeing quick soundbites of Driscoll, but who did not know about his crudeness, foul language, and what I believed to be disrespect towards our Lord.

The blog was Driscoll in his own words, citing him with page numbers from his own books.

Since November 29th, 2011, I have received many angry messages from the comment section and through email. Eventually I quit responding to them because they were all the same: telling me how no one is perfect and that Driscoll may have changed since those books were written.

My response was always the same. If he has changed, he will apologize and we will see a changed man.

Why did I want him to apologize? Not because I feel I am owed one (I'm certainly not), but because the apology is symbolic of his acknowledgment of the need to change.

Well Mark Driscoll has apologized via an open letter on social media. He admitted to having been an "angry-young-prophet" and said those days are over. I am posting his lengthy apology in its entirety, but I want to make two points before I do.

First, his apology is accepted in my book, but the proof is in the pudding. As trust must be earned back, he will have to earn his way back through consistency. He apologized for the anger, but not necessarily for the language. But the fact that he apologized is refreshing, and it shows humility. My hat goes off to him for that. I will probably continue to disagree with him on many issues (such as alcohol and some of the subject matter in Real Marriage), but time will tell.

Second, I want to reiterate that I never intended to be a "Driscoll-basher." I have prayed for him for years. He reaches untold thousands of people, and I want them to be reached for Jesus. I am far from perfect myself, and I was never throwing rocks from my glass house. I just wanted people to know more about him than the 10-second soundbites.

Here is the apology from Driscoll:

Dear Mars Hill Church,
Thank you.
I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.
For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.
As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.
In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.
In the past few years, we have also made significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church. This has been difficult, but long overdue. The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it. Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton have also joined me as Executive Elders. They have been very helpful in getting my team and me to the most unified, loving, and healthy place we have ever been. I really love our church, and I see where it was unhealthy, where it has gotten healthier, and where we can continue in that path. I am very encouraged by where we are and where we are going.
However, this process has required a lot of changes, and admittedly we did not handle all of these changes equally well. We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.
First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.
Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.
When I was a new Christian at the age of 19, God spoke to me and told me to do four things. Today, I see that calling as: Love Grace and our family, Preach the Bible Train leaders (especially men), Plant churches. Other things may be good, but I do not have the time or energy for them right now. My family and our church family need me focused and energized, and that is my deep desire. Therefore, I will be spending my energies growing in Christ-like character by grace, staying connected to Grace and our kids, loving and serving Mars Hill Church which continues to grow, teaching the Bible, and serving Christian leaders through such things as blogs and podcasts at Resurgence. Starting this fall, I will also be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in Bellevue to invest in young leaders. For a season, I want to pull back from many things in order for us to focus on the most important things: glorifying Jesus by making disciples and planting churches as a healthy, loving, and unified church, with our hands on the Bible and our eyes on Jesus.
To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.
I will also be doing much less travel and speaking in the next season. In recent years, I have cut back significantly, but I will now cut back even more. I have cancelled some speaking events, and I am still determining the best course of action for a few that I’ve committed to, as they are evangelistic opportunities to invite people to salvation in Jesus Christ, which is something I care about deeply. I will be doing very few media interviews, if any. Also, I’m communicating with my publisher to determine how to meet my existing obligations and have a much less intense writing schedule.
Personally, I find this all relieving. The pressure and pace has increased every year since I started in 1996. I don’t want to be burned out or angry, and I want to become more like Jesus every year. I want to teach the Bible, love well, and run at a pace to finish my race many decades from now. My health is actually in the best place it has been in recent years. I have a skilled and unified team that loves you and can handle more responsibility, if I can free up the time and energy to love them and invest in them. Grace and the kids are doing very well, and my family is still my joy and priority. This year we will have three of our five kids as teenagers, and our oldest will be a senior preparing for college. I don’t want to miss this season, as these are years I can never get back. If I am going to err, I want it to be on the side of guarding too much time and energy for family and church family rather than not enough.
To be clear, these are decisions I have come to with our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ. I believe this is what He is asking of me, and so I want to obey Him. The first person I discussed this with was our first, and still best, church member, Grace. Her loving agreement and wise counsel only confirmed this wonderful opportunity to reset some aspects of our life. I want to publicly thank her, as it was 26 years ago this week that we had our first date. She is the greatest friend and biggest blessing in my life after Jesus. When we recently discussed this plan to reset our life together, late at night on the couch, she started crying tears of joy. She did not know how to make our life more sustainable, and did not want to discourage me, but had been praying that God would reveal to me a way to reset our life. Her prayer was answered, and for that we are both relieved at what a sustainable, joyful, and fruitful future could be. As an anniversary present, I want to give her more of her best friend.
I have also submitted these decisions to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. They have approved of this direction and are 100 percent supportive of these changes. It’s a wonderful thing to have true accountability and not be an independent decision maker regarding my ministry and, most importantly, our church.
Lastly, if God would lead you to pray for me, the Scripture he has impressed upon me this past year or two is 1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As I get older, I am seeking to increasingly love our people as I do my own children in order for our church to be a great family, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With the Father’s affection,
–Pastor Mark Driscoll

Catechism #13

Q. Did our first parents remain as they were created?

A. Left to the freedom of their own wills, our first parents sinned against God and fell from their original condition.

Adam and Eve were created as perfect beings who did not know sin, suffering, or sickness in any way. That was God’s original intention, and for an unknown amount of time our first parents lived in the perfect Garden of Eden.

Everything changed the moment that Eve chose to disobey God and take a bite of the forbidden fruit. It wasn’t so much the act of eating the fruit that got them into trouble, but the willful choice to question God’s goodness.

God had made clear to the first couple that in the day they ate of the fruit, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17); this did not usher in an immediate death like with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), but rather introduced the process of death and decay. For the first time in history things began to wear out, which would eventually result in death.

The life that you and I are familiar with is far different than the one Adam and Eve knew in Eden. We live in a world where heartbreak and hunger run rampant; we see murders and mayhem, death and disease, wars and wreckage. These things come as a result of the Fall. We will one day die because of sin: “For by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and death passes upon all men, for all have sinned (Romans 5:12).”

This is not the world that God created and called very good; this is a world destroyed by sin and the subsequent curse. But take heart: God has made a way to rescue us from this sinful planet, and even now Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for those who are His children (John 14:1-6), where we will live with God free from the curse of sin.