John Piper addresses the question the beginning of evil, pondering the mystery of Satan’s fall. In this he tackles the issue of free will and whether that is an adequate biblical answer.
I pray for revival, Christian revival. But I do not see the necessary conditions for it to occur, barring a miracle of God, which is what a revival is anyway.
The last widespread nationwide revival that I can recall was the so-called “Jesus Movement” of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was a teenager then, already a believer, but the movement affected me greatly in deepening my faith and zeal for the Lord.
In many ways, it was a simple movement. The gospel of salvation was preached, many young people responded, and it stretched across our land to almost every corner. In my town, the movement showed up in conjunction with the movie, “The Cross and the Switchblade” and a coffee house/Bible study run by a couple of local seminary students.
The main reason why I don’t see the conditions right for that now is that more than ever, when the gospel is preached, we have to ask, “Which gospel?” Is it the gospel of the Bible – Creator God, sinful man, sacrificial Savior, repentance and faith? Or is it something else? A “gospel” that appeals more to our felt needs and exhibits characteristics more of therapy than surrender? A “gospel” that promises “your best life now” as if that’s the best the Bible has to offer? A “gospel” that gets people fired up for Jesus without any sense of who he is or what his Word teaches?
This all boils down to a dearth of biblical knowledge, biblical illiteracy if you will. I don’t mean that you have to know a lot of the Bible to come to Christ, but certainly those of us who proclaim the gospel ought to be well-versed, so that those who respond are in fact believing the real gospel about the real Jesus.
One of the marks of the Jesus Movement was its simplicity. We sat in informal circles, sang simple songs (mostly from Scripture), prayed for one another, and studied the Bible together. You would be hard-pressed to find small groups today whose primary purpose is to study the Bible and systematically build our knowledge.
Voddie Baucham has been quoted: “The modern church is producing passionate people with empty heads who love the Jesus they don’t know very well.” By and large, Christians are just not that interested “contend[ing] for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We’d rather sit in our circles and talk about our experiences with no biblical compass to guide us.
Because of this, we are in danger of passing into a kind of “Post-Christian Christianity.” A time where identifying as a Christian means different things to different people and thus means nothing. This is why I believe that before any true revival can take place, we need to recover the place of content in our Christianity.
I am thankful for the voices that God is raising for biblical literacy. Jen Wilkin is doing amazing things targeted for Christian women that is substantial, unlike what is typically marketed to women. For years, Ligonier Ministries under Dr. R.C. Sproul has been engaging believers in content that bridges the gap between the local church and a seminary education. John Piper, before he stepped away from Bethlehem Baptist Church, preached massive sermon series from Romans and Hebrews (I wrote about that here). May their tribe increase.
And then maybe we can have revival.
[This is a post that may get me in trouble from some of my friends. If so, so be it. I am trying to listen and understand more, because I’m finding more and more that the ways I’ve thought about race in America are not always in tune with the reality. May I be ever learning and sympathetic to my brothers and sisters of color.]
If your response to the senseless brutality and killing of George Floyd and other African-Americans at the hands of police or the unexplainable arrests and violence members of the press who are just doing their job have experienced is to say, “There are bad cops, but most are good,” you’re being dismissive. The better question to be asking is, what is it about law enforcement that generates such a wide array of behaviors?
If we think for a moment of law enforcement as an “industry,” why does this industry have so many questionable incidents, particularly toward minorities? Is the problem somewhere in the recruitment and attracting of new officers? Are there lapses in training? Are those in the profession afraid to call out their offending colleagues? Does a profession that is based on power and authority know how to properly wield it?
Consider other industries. My wife works in the long-term care industry. Oftentimes, incidents of negligence or abuse send ripples throughout the entire profession, even to those facilities that were not guilty of bad care.
Back in the 70s and 80s, American car manufacturers were losing the battle to better-made cars from foreign companies. It was widely known that the imports were just better and lasted longer. So the American companies as a whole made some serious commitments to better quality, and the result has been increased confidence in buying a Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler product.
The law enforcement industry is at a similar crossroad. It is not enough to say that most cops are good cops. This is true. But the burden of proof lies with law enforcement to demonstrate that it “gets it” and is willing to take the necessary steps “industry”-wide to hire better, train better, and discipline the ranks better.
The law enforcement profession has a problem. I pray they know this and will take the necessary steps to build trust and confidence.
For the perspective of an African-American friend of mine, see my recent post.
What if we just talk to people, find out their names, and tell them they matter to us? #whatsyourname #youmattertome
Darnell Phillip is a friend of mine, an African-American man. On Tuesday, the day after the murder of George Floyd, he posted these thoughts. This is raw, fresh, and real. At the time, all I could post was the words, “thank you.” His words have stayed with me throughout the week, even as tensions have mounted. I have tried to stay focused in my mind on the single incident, not wanting the unrest and the riots to dilute my sense of shock and horror of that senseless act. His words have further opened my eyes; I truly do not know what it’s like to be a black man in America. I asked if I could share his words, and he agreed. I want all of us to begin to see through the eyes of others.
If you comment, please keep your comments related to his thoughts. If you bring up the riots and how they may or may not discredit or minimize the racial injustice, I will delete your comment. This is not the place to discuss that.
“Today has just been a gut wrenching day. I’m reminded of every time that I have been pulled over by police or questioned by a position in authority. I am reminded that no one had to teach me coping mechanisms of how not to appear to be a threat. I am reminded of how I have changed my body language, altered my tone, dressed differently, or walked to the other side of the street as to give you space and made you comfortable. And why do I do these things? Because this nation has taught black men that the consequences of not doing them can be deadly.
“I think of the ways that we have explained it, the lengths we have gone to demand a voice and a place within this society. When we held back our hand and refused to adopt methods of violence, we were hosed and assassinated. When we decided that we must stand up for ourselves by any means necessary, We were vilified and assassinated. We were ridiculed for kneeling during the star spangled banner when no one else would seek change.
“I remember the ways that my hands gripped the wheel each time I drove through long sections of Southern states anxious that I may have a tail light out and a reason to be pursued. And I could comfort myself with the notion that the South is the only region that I would need to avoid. The South has been the epicenter of black suffering and trauma the effects of which are still prevalent today. But that would only be a delusion. These stories of murder at the hands of those sworn to protect us hail from NYC, Baltimore, Minnesota, as well as New Orleans, Ferguson, Florida and too many other places to name. The fact is that this is an American problem. Not a regional thing. Or a blue or red thing. Or a religious thing.
“The most disheartening thing that I experience is people who claim ‘well, we were not there and it’s easy to make a judgment about a video but you don’t know what he did to provoke that kind of attention.’ Or the way that people will scour a black victims social media to find anything that would suggest that he deserved to die. It sickens me when I think that white supremacists have been arrested after killing in cold blood American citizens while black men have been murdered in broad daylight without resisting arrest. I have no easy answers for those who want to help. There are no convenient ways that we as Americans can begin to set right what is so broken within our own society. It’d be so easy for our conscience to donate to a fund because in our own detached way we could convince ourselves that we were in an active role for seeking change. POC don’t need saviors (in any non-religious sense), but we certainly could use allies. People brace enough to speak up and admit that enough is enough. We won’t have any solutions until we can admit what we as a society have done wrong. Can you see America putting down its pride long enough to make that kind of restitution? Right now to be completely honest it doesn’t seem likely. However, I have been encouraged by the people who have asked I wanted someone to vent to or asked how we can help.”
There is a fair amount of posturing and hysteria online these days. As usual, pastor John MacArthur has a biblical, measured response (originally posted 4/23/20) on the issues facing the Church and Christians in these days. Fair warning – there is a small tipping of his pre-Tribulational views. If you don’t buy into that, don’t let that keep you from this excellent analysis. The first 15 minutes or so covers the questions surrounding the closing of churches on the recommendation/mandate of the State. Theological and pastoral.
The following is a portion of a chapter I have written on Ephesians 1:3-14. It is a part of a book I am writing: Framework: Passages That Teach Theology (working title).
There is mystery in these verses; embrace it! Whenever I discuss the issue of the sovereignty of God with other believers, invariably objections are raised. If God has predestined us for salvation, then what about free will? Why should we share the gospel? Why should I even pray? These are all good questions, but I urge you to pump the brakes a little on those questions and simply meditate on the truths that are plainly stated. “The words speak of a mystery, but words could not be plainer.”
All too often, believers look at a passage like this and immediately go in to denial-mode. “Since I know this is true, then that can’t mean…” And what ends up happening in our thoughts is that the truths about God we see plainly stated are mitigated and softened. And before you know it, we’ve created a mental picture of God that we can be comfortable with but is a distortion of what the Bible reveals.
The closer we come to truths about God, the more mystery there is. We will not be able to “figure it out.” If you can’t reconcile God’s sovereignty with mankind’s being held responsible for their sins, then you’re in a good place! Don’t try to reconcile two irreconcilable truths. Embrace the mystery.
I have a passion for God’s people to know God’s Word. In short, it’s a passion for biblical literacy. That’s not my term; you see it used often. I define it as –
A biblically literate person is able to apply the skills of language, literature, and logic to passages of the Bible, comparing one with another, so that the reader is able to accurately determine the meaning of a passage and to grasp its place in the greater story that God is telling.25 Bible Passages You Should Know, Mark Knox
There are many articles, books, and tools that can help the believer better understand the Bible. David Mathis has written an excellent one on DesiringGod.org. He’s said it so well. Read it. Share it.
I am writing a book, 25 Bible Passages You Should Know. Read about it here.
I’m writing a book.
Yeah, I know; I’m nuts. There are a million reasons why that’s a fool’s errand. But there are a few compelling reasons to give it a go. One is my passion.
I have a passion for the Bible, and particularly that God’s people know it. There is so much error about these days, and it moves so quickly. God’s people are confused, undiscerning. Apollos was “mighty in the Scriptures.” (Acts 18:24) Many today are not.
A number of years ago, I began a list to identify what I thought were the 100 Most Important Passages in the Bible. I’m pretty sure the list is incomplete, but it got me thinking on this theme. If I had to boil down the Bible to its most important parts, what are they?
Now, I know that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) But that’s not to say that we couldn’t point someone to some of the key passages to begin our understanding. Whether it’s the “Romans Road” of the Gospel, or even a solitary verse like John 3:16, we make choices all the time to decide what to study and teach.
So, the idea for the book, 25 Bible Passages You Should Know, was born.
As I begin to work on this book (and hope to complete by the end of 2020), I want to explain some of my thoughts at the outset.
- This book is for the purpose of biblical literacy.
As I said earlier, my passion is for God’s people to know God’s Word, and many don’t. So the focus is going to be more on the content of the Bible than on the application of the Bible. Besides, I believe the better the knowledge of the content, the better the application. Too much writing in popular Christian literature today leads with application. We’ve become a Church full of Christian “How-to” books. While there will be practical implications, this is not a “How-to” manual.
- This is not a book of “favorite passages.”
One of my friends with whom I shared my idea said, “You better put in Isaiah 1; that’s my favorite passage in the Bible!” Well, that’s a great passage, but it’s probably not going to make the cut. I told my friend, maybe volume 2. There are many passages in the Bible that are personal favorites, but in choosing passages, I turned my eye toward those that would give the reader a strong historical and theological framework to understand the message of the whole.
Some of your favorites won’t be there. Some of mine won’t as well. Sorry, Hebrews 12.
- The process of selecting only 25 passages is tougher than I imagined.
Initially, I thought I might complete my mind game from earlier and include 100 passages. But as I imagined how deep I might go with each passage, 100 was just too many. I thought about 13, which is handy for teaching curricula, since 13 weeks constitutes a quarter, and this might fit well for church groups to use as a study tool. I eventually settled on just over 2 dozen as a sweet spot.
My planning board has undergone numerous changes as I move passages from the Maybe Pile or onto the Cutting Room Floor. Just yesterday, I realized that I’d omitted an extremely important passage. Even as I write, the selections will probably change.
I believe in the end I will be moderately satisfied. If Chris Bruno can write a book, The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (2015, Crossway), I can do this.
- I am targeting this book to both new and long-time believers.
This is not a scholarly text. There will be theology, and I’m not avoiding some of the tough questions. But in my ministry with believers, I’ve found many who simply don’t have any grasp on the story and structure of the Bible. Therefore, they lack the ability to study the Word for themselves and are especially susceptible to false teaching.
Therefore, I’m targeting my book to this kind of reader. I hope that a new Christian will be able to absorb the writing without feeling overwhelmed. And I hope that a saint further along in the process will be challenged to thinking more deeply about the Gospel and the story of Jesus.
I anticipate very little analysis of original languages, only so much as is necessary. I won’t avoid theological discussion, but it won’t be every little nuance or questions.
I invite your prayers as I pursue this. I need discipline to write when I’m tired or have other things I want to do. I need wisdom to know what to say and what not to say.
As I finish here, I want your feedback. What passage(s) would you include? It will be interesting to see if yours match mine.
I was reading in 1 Corinthians 14 the other day, and I came to Paul’s words comparing and contrasting speaking in tongues vis a vis speaking in prophecy, one being unintelligible and the other being understandable and therefore edifying to the church. In verse 19, he says, “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand in a tongue.”
Now, I know that Paul is speaking in hyperbole in order to make the point of his preference for prophecy, but my literal mind questioned, “What could you possibly say in 5 words that could instruct?” And my mind answered, “Challenge accepted!”
So, I began to list some 5-word sentences/phrases that are rich in doctrinal truth and teaching, some directly from Scripture and others inferred from the Bible. Any of these would make for some great self-talk or preaching-the-gospel-to-yourself talk.
May these 5 words spur you on to deeper thinking and talk.
In the beginning God created. (Gen. 1:1)
The Lord is my shepherd. (Ps. 23:1)
God sovereignly saves believing sinners. (Eph. 2:1-10)
In all ways acknowledge him. (Prov. 3:6)
All things work for good. (Rom. 8:28) This cannot stand alone, without the surrounding context to show for whom all things work for good – namely, “those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Without those qualifiers, this would be sentimentalism.
I am crucified with Christ. (Gal. 2:20)
God so loved the world. (John 3:16)
There is now no condemnation. (Rom. 8:1)
We have peace with God. (Rom.5:1)
He chose us in Christ. (Eph. 1:4)
He predestined us for adoption. (Eph. 1:5)
Put off your old self. (Eph. 4:22)
We groan as we wait. (Rom. 8:23)
Maybe 5 words is all you need. For all the volumes of books and blogs, 5 words can say much.
What are some truths you can express in only 5 words?