The price Jesus paid does not mean you’re worth that much to God.

Have you heard something like this… 

Look at the price God paid for you; His own son! God wouldn’t sacrifice his son for something worthless would he?! Therefore we must be immensely valuable to God!

The crux of the idea of this; God’s primary motivation in sending Jesus to die is because you are personally worth that sacrifice, you are worth that price. The trouble is… you’re not. No one is worth the death of God the Son, the Eternal One. Especially not one of God’s enemies!

So if God didn’t sacrifice Jesus because we’re worth it, why did he do it? Well, first, because of his gracious love. 

But you will say, “Aha! We must be worth something to God for him to love us!” But no! It’s not gracious love if we’re worthy of being loved. If we’re lovely in any way then God’s love ceases to be gracious. 

But doesn’t God care about us, and doesn’t he know the number of hairs on our heads? Yes… but does he care because out hair is worthy to be counted? No! He cares because he is a caring God. He’s a God who cares for things that are not worthy of his care.

That’s what God wants us to know above everything else; he is the God who loves the unlovely, who saves the not-worthy-of-saving, who adopts the useless, who justifies the wicked.

And that’s why the death of Christ is “worth it” to God… that “price” was what it cost to show that he is gloriously gracious.

So, he didn’t send his Son to die because we’re worth it, he sent his Son to die because being known as amazingly gracious is worth it.

Repost: ‘Doing Theology’ is smashing

Exegesis (using sound biblical context of God’s unfolding plan) gives us certain theological ideas; Sin, Death, Love, Atonement, Creation, Humanity, Suffering, Eternity, Jesus, Life, Responsibility, Sovereignty, Power, Spirit, Law, Satan, Time, Guilt, Sex… these are all just topics that you can gather data on – from the bible – and summarise into an intelligent sentence. But that’s not ‘doing theology’ – yet. It’s just good, biblical (systematic) exegesis.

But take one of those ideas; any of them. imagine it as a locomotive steaming down the tracks… then take another one of those ideas; and imagine it on the track, steaming head-on towards the first…

Collide them… imagine the engines disintegrating into each other…

What form do they take? What becomes of them? What necessary truths must we hold as a result of believing A and B together?
That’s doing theology. And that’s where most of our early church fathers, and our reformed forebears did such great work. They showed what the bible said, and they argued the corollary was necessary.

So, go and do some theology.

Repost: Abstract and Concrete Ideas in Church

We came across this idea a few years ago… that most churches (ours included) were generally pretty good at communicating two sorts of things… Abstract Theology, and Concrete Details about Church. (Abstract means concepts and ideas, whereas Concrete means times, dates, locations, what to bring, etc.)

So we were good at explaining ideas like Justification, and at the same time, telling people when the next event would be on and where it would be.

But that left two areas of communication largely vacant; Concrete Theology (Behaviours, Habits, Actions) and Abstract Details about Church (Why church exists, what type of church we want to be, How we think about our programs and why we do some things and not others).

How do you see your ministry going at communicating in all 4 of these areas?

Do you think of justification as an insurance policy?

An insurance policy and justification both have a pretty similar outcome. Both start with me being in the wrong and both end with me in a returned-state; perfected. The debt is paid off, the car/holiness is restored as though it never happened, you know… justifiedjust-as-if-it-hadn’t happened.

But God’s justification (and the faith that is associated with justification) is not like an insurance policy. Imagine I crashed my car into my Insurer’s CEO’s car… I can do one of two things… I can a) grab my insurance policy and say, “Look, I’ve taken out a policy that says you will make everything ok and pay off my debt!”, or b) I can ask the CEO to forgive me based on his personal mercy.

Being a Christian is latter, not the former… we just happen to know the CEO is a very very gracious guy!

We must be careful not to let our acceptance of God’s promises become the basis of our assurance. God’s promises are the expression of his character – God himself (made known in Christ) is the basis of our assurance; not “our acceptance” or “our faith” in His promises.

Or, to put it another way; don’t think of your faith as eternal-insurance, rather think of God’s grace as eternal-assurance.

Reblog: Empty bucket theology

Some people have complete ideas in their heads, some people have fuzzy ideas in their heads, and some people have “empty buckets” when it comes to certain ideas.
All of these people have things they need to change… “Complete theological concepts” will always have things that need to be uncovered, undermined and re-understood. “Fuzzy theological concepts” need to be sharpened, and strengthened, and built.
But what do you do with “empty bucket theological concepts”?
The first thing is to pick it when you see it. The type of conversation you have with an empty-bucket is very different to a fuzzy or complete.
But when you do see it, it’s gives you an opportunity for great joy in simply filling a bucket with God’s thoughts. There’s nothing to take out, change, alter; just fill.
The best possible outcome is watching them fill their own empty bucket as they read God’s word. So help them do that.

The dangers of “desert island” theology

Desert-island theology is when you try to reduce a theological question down to its basic elements. This can be a really helpful activity for thinking clearly, however it need to be taken back into context. Some examples:
What is marriage? Well, if a single guy and single girl found themselves stranded on a desert island, couldn’t they make promises to Other and get married and have sex and it not be sin? Sure. At its most basic level marriage is two people in a covenanted relationship. But that doesn’t mean you and your girlfriend are married when you promise to live each other and decide to have sex. You’re not on a desert island!! The basic principles are not the only ones.
What about church? If two people find themselves on a desert island, and they read the bible and pray – yeah, it’s their church! But when you refuse to be part of a local group that has authorities and support, you’re ignoring Jesus’ people.
Desert island theology is a helpful tool for identifying important elements of ideas, but those ideas should never be left on the island.

A theology of Attention

In the new age of digital media, where a movie can be copied/transmitted/watched for next to no cost, we begin to see what was always the underlying commodity: Attention. Peoples’ attention.
Apparently I have your attention now, though I might lose it by the end of this sentence… No? Soon then.
Although, what is attention?
It’s more than what your eyes land upon, because it has to do with what your mind does with that image or sound or experience. Attention is a state of mind.
We see this in the words we use to describe attention: we pay attention, give it, we command it, we grab people’s attention and hold it, and we loose it. We often speak of kids wanting it or trying to get it.
Is there a theological grid behind how we think about attention. Are you being Christian with the attention your giving things?

Unfortunately, behaviours dictate theology

It would be nice if people developed their personal beliefs from the Bible, and only from the Bible. But that’s just not the world we live in.

The reality is that people have experiences, they make choices, they have behaviours that they like doing. And its these pre-existing behaviours that end up influencing, shaping and even defining what they believe about certain things. The classic example is the adulterer who says something like, “I believe God is all about love. God doesn’t want me to be in a loveless relationship. I believe God’s put this other person in my life to experience the joy he designed me to have”. These people don’t think they are pretending. They honestly believe these things to be true. They will even defend them from the Bible.

You do this. I do this. We all let our cherished behaviours dictate and shape our beliefs about God.

How do you respond to someone who does this? Well, neither their behaviours or their interpretation of the Bible are “moveable”. Maybe the best bet is to help them be open to the idea that they have let their behaviours define their theology. Open them up to the heart of the error, and pray for God to graciously soften hearts.

Contentment isn’t gained, it’s realised

If you’re waiting for something to happen before you’re content, you’ll be waiting a long time.
If you expect that you’ll be content when you have that ‘thing’ that you think you really need, that expectation will never go away.
Contentment isn’t gained. It doesn’t come to you. It doesn’t arrive as an added bonus to certain things in life.
Contentment is realised. Contentment is a realisation that you don’t need other things, that you don’t have to wait for something to happen.
Christians should be great at this… because we’re the only ones who have reason to be content… we have the living God as our daddy through his grace rather than through our worth.
We, of all people, should realise that we don’t need anything else. We should be killing it in the contentment department.
So why aren’t we?

Remember you’re dealing with two worlds

Both worlds are connected, both worlds influence each other. God is sovereign over both, and he created both. But even so, be careful not to confuse these worlds or imagine links between them that aren’t there. I’m talking about the Spiritual world and the Fallen world. God is over both, but they are different worlds, and have different “rules”.

Stressed? Sick? Be very, very careful suggesting that is anything more than the effect of living in the fallen world. In fact, without a direct and specific word from God, I’d consider it downright dangerous to suggest they are Spiritual attacks.

Event or Ministry didn’t go well? Ok, there’s going to be elements of the fallen world in that, and elements of the Spiritual world in that. Don’t lump it all in either one or the other. Maybe you just didn’t plan or execute very well, or maybe Satan is hindering people coming along. Work on what you can work on, pray for it all. And then pray for everything you can’t influence.

The challenge is to keep all the options on the table and at the same time keep the spiritual things and the fallen things in separate piles.

MTS, the doctrine of election and the gold rush

Have you ever considered the similarity between the line, “There’s gold in them tha’ hills” and Jesus saying to Paul, “I have many people in this city” (Acts 19:10).

During the Australian gold rush periods, thousands of people left their jobs, their houses, their careers because they were convinced there was gold in them tha’ hills. It was there. Sure it would take some digging, it would be a sacrifice but it would be worth it. It wasn’t just the farm hands who left. Accounts tell us that lawyers, police and judges got up and left, didn’t turn up for work, they just left for the fields. They trusted there was gold to be found and joy to be had.

Isn’t that what the wonderful doctrine of election should do for us? There are people whom God has chosen living in your city. God will save them because he has determined to before the beginning of time. And yes, you could sit back on your lounge chair and say, “Well if God’s going to save them then he doesn’t need me!”. God will save them without your help if that’s your attitude. He’ll just give someone else the joy and privilege of being part of their eternal transformation.

That’s the amazing thing… God has chosen his elect to be saved and then God calls us, invites us, to be part of his work. And even more, he allows us to share in the joy and glory of seeing people saved. Remember how Paul said, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy!” (1Thess 2:19-20). So Jesus called them his “people” and Paul calls them his “glory”.

Friends, there are Jesus’ elect in the streets, towns, buildings around us. They will be saved through SOMEONE preaching to them. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that!?!

Keen? Come chat to us about doing MTS at Hunter Bible Church. Come to Spur and think about giving away your life so that those who God has ordained can have eternal life.

Don’t mistake newlessness for growthlessness

Its really exciting hearing something new; that feeling of having your brain blown and being knocked off your feet as you realise how Jesus transforms your view of the world. We should always thank God for those moments, and look forward to more (Eph 2:7)

It is worth realising they can become addictive; we find ourselves searching sermons and blogs for that next “hit” of awe in the gospel like we had last time.

But a common problem is for young Christians (around uni age) who have come from basic youth groups and now have that brain-blast experience every week or so.

They begin to think that sensation is normal maturity. They think that what the normal Christian life is meant to feel like. They think having their world rocked is what it means to be spiritual. They think newness is growth.

But its not. In fact, it can be far from it.

The problem hits when they’ve spent 4-8 years being taught the bible, and the sermons never seems to rock their world any more, and they think they’re having a “dry-patch”, they think there’s something wrong with their walk with God.

And that’s when they’ve found the normal Christian life. Endurance, perseverance, trust and simple prayer in the face of hard times.

Dual church membership #1 – Nothing about it

So I’m going to share some thoughts on the topic of dual church membership; the idea of trying to be part of two local expressions of Jesus’ family at the same time. I’ll do it over a few posts tagged #dual-church-membership.

First, lets just be frank and say the bible doesn’t address it directly. And that means we have to make sure we know what type of discussion we’re having…

1. We’re having a pragmatic discussion. Whether or not to be part of two local churches is by in large going to come down to asking what is wise? What serves the most people? What allows me to honour Jesus most?

2. We’re not just having a pragmatic discussion. God’s word is all we need to be thoroughly equipped for every good work in life. There will be important themes and theological trajectories that need to be seriously taken into account.

But it’s worth asking, why isn’t there anything in the bible about it?

What’s wrong with fortune cookies, birthday wishes & santa?

Jealously. That’s why they’re wrong. Because God is a Jealous God.

When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? (Is 8:19)

Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God (Dt 6:14)

You cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? (1Cor 10:21-22)

Like a husband would be (rightly) jealous if his wife treated another as her husband, God is rightly jealous when we – his people – treat other things as God.

But what does it mean to treat something as “God”?

God is the author of the future. He wants to be the one, the only one, we consult about the future. The moment you put any trust in fortune cookies, star signs futures, even stock market predictions, you’re arousing God’s jealousy.

God is the determiner of the future. He is the only one who we should appeal to for our wishes. It terrifies me when I see Christian parents telling their kids to blow out candles and make a wish. Its superstition. It teaches kids that (a) there’s some strange power in the candle, and (b) they shouldn’t go to God for their secret prayers. (Don’t believe me? Without any leading from you, ask your kids “How do you make sure your birthday wishes come true?”)

God is the giver of fortunes. He is the pleasure of our hearts. He is the joy of our souls. When we look to any other person, and especially any other magical being (like Santa), we arouse God’s jealousy.

Once again, the question we need to keep asking is, “What does God think about what I’m doing?”

The wrong end of the “election” stick

I get why people find the doctrine of election hard. But I think they make it harder than it is, because they start from the wrong end of the stick.

The doctrine of election tells us more about God, than it does about us.

Think about it, what’s the point of God telling us that he elects some people to eternal salvation, if he’s also not going to make it really obvious who he has and has not elected? In other words, when most people hear that God predestines people, their immediate question is, “Well am I one of the elect?”

But that’s one of those silly questions. Its like asking “does my vote matter?” at the polling booth.

God goes out of his way, many times, in his word, to tell us that he’s an electing God. He’s a God who’s grace is not determined or swayed by our efforts. Its a doctrine about HIM, far more than it is about YOU.

So what does that mean? It means we approach the living eternal God not on the basis that he has elected ME, but on the basis that HE elects some. So if you’re facing the God who elects from eternity past, what are you going to say?

I’d suggest you say something like, “Sovereign lord, you would be completely just and good to punish me eternally… but please don’t. Please have mercy on ME.”

And that’s when you’re also reminded that the electing God is the merciful God, who keeps his promises to forgive those who come to him.

Don’t depend on your elected-state… depend on your electing-God and his eternal character displayed in his Son.