In light of recent announcements of a couple of well-known Christian influencers announcing their abandonment of the faith they once professed, I hope to have some comments of my own in the next few days. In the meantime, Cogent Christianity has posted an extended quote from John Cooper of the rock band Skillet. Very insightful thoughts from a well-known musician. Think I’ll have to become a Skillet fan.
When we discuss the sovereignty of God in salvation, an
objection is usually quickly raised. “If God has determined who will be saved,
why should we bother to evangelize and preach the gospel, if it’s going to
happen anyway?” Such a question, while understandable, exhibits a deficient
knowledge of both the Bible’s teaching and the doctrine of sovereignty itself.
As the 1689 London Baptist Confession states, “As God hath
appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath, by the eternal and most free
purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.” (Chapter 3, “Of
God’s Decree,” paragraph 6, emphasis added) God has ordained that he will save
the elect by the preaching of the gospel, and not apart from it. We read in
Romans 10: 14-15a, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not
believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And
how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach
unless they are sent?”
Paul final question in that series takes the sovereign work
of God back to the very sending of the messenger. We don’t often ponder
this, that the Sovereign Lord is working not only in the calling and saving of
the elect, but also in the sending of those through whom the gospel is
When Jesus saw the crowds that his preaching and healing
were drawing, he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the
laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send
out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37) I’ve often found this
fascinating. Why didn’t Jesus just say that the workers are few, so GO! Why did
he instruct them to pray for the Lord of the harvest to SEND workers? As I considered
this recently, it became clear to me that the emphasis here is that God is the Sovereign
Lord of the harvest, and this includes not only the reaping of elect souls but
also the very sending of the messengers.
Paul echoes these thoughts in 1 Corinthians 3:5: “What then
is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord
assigned to each.” The Sovereign Lord has not only chosen his elect but also
assigned those through whom the Word is preached.
This is an amazing truth and so necessary for our thinking. It is only in this way – that God is sovereign over every step in the chain of redemption – that we can maintain the glory going to Christ. If we only understand the ends being foreordained but not the means, then we rob God of his glory. And God will not share his glory with another. (Isaiah 42:8)
So ponder these truths. Praise the Sovereign Sender, who in
his grace appointed the preachers, the parents, the Sunday School teachers, the
youth pastors, the friends who would boldly proclaim the gospel to you and reap
Question: Who in your life was instrumental in bringing the
gospel to you? Have you thanked them? Have you thanked God for them?
Inasmuch as this blog at times becomes advisory – whether of leadership, productivity, or the like – it would be easy to think of my writing as in the genre of “self-help.” And while some of the things I write share similarities to self-help literature, my articles are intended to look at the various topics from a biblically-informed world-view.
That said, “self-help” would not be an apt description for my writing. This leads me to commend to you a wonderful article from Desiring God by Greg Morse, entitled “Trade Self-Help for God-Help.” This article embodies the perspective I share when considering issues that could better our lives, a perspective that puts God and Jesus Christ clearly at the center.
I recently went to the movies with my daughter-in-law to see “Yesterday,” a tale of a struggling musician who, through some twist of fate, finds himself in some kind of alternate reality where he’s the only person who knows who the Beatles were. He proceeds to introduce the world to the music of the Fab Four as if it’s his own. Comedy and conflict ensue. We enjoyed the film; it’s a fresh premise in a summer of adaptations, sequels, TV-to-movie offerings, and no less than three live-action Disney remakes. Plus, I have spent the last couple of days getting reacquainted with the Beatles catalogue.
Which, for me, is to say, I found some albums on Spotify.
You see, in one of those unusual quirks of my personal history, I own NO music
by the Beatles. For someone whose life has been marked by the music on my
various radio stations, turntables, tape decks, and CD players, it seems
unthinkable that I would not have any Beatles in my possession.
Except, it’s not that unthinkable, when I delve into my
early history. This whole re-immersion has caused me to ponder my upbringing
and engagement with rock-n-roll. The “what if the Beatles didn’t exist” premise
of the movie is closer to reality for my childhood. The Beatles may as well not
have existed in my household. No Beatlemania there. My dad would scoff at those
“long-hairs” as beneath him. No chance to catch the Ed Sullivan appearance that
was so defining for many of my peers; no sir, we went to church on Sunday
nights. When I purchased a couple of packs of Beatles trading cards, my mom let
me know they were not welcome. And when John Lennon famously proclaimed that
they were more popular than Jesus, well, if he’d announced that he was the Anti-Christ,
it wouldn’t have been any more reprehensible.
This is not to say that my childhood was overly-repressive
or joyless. I was, after all, saved by the aforementioned Jesus during one of
those Sunday night services that caused me to miss the end of the 4:00 football
games and the Ed Sullivan show. I suppose Beatlemania arrived in my life well
before the more independent and rebellious times of my junior high and high
school years. So, I was more or less obedient to my folks and never learned to like
Plus, my parents, though flawed as all are, were simply trying to live out their beliefs in a world that didn’t always embrace our Christian faith. I can’t fault them for that.
H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture identifies several ways that Christians have attempted to engage the authority of Christ when facing the culture around them. My folks were clearly in the “Christ against culture” camp. Things like drinking, smoking, and certainly rock-n-roll were vestiges of the secular city and were entities to be opposed as a Christian.
I’ve come to see Christ as the Transformer of Culture. There are
certainly evil things in the world, but I’ve lost the “anything that is not
Sacred is to be disregarded” mindset. In the common grace of God, John, George,
Paul, and Ringo can produce something truly human that might just touch my soul
in a way that can only be described as divine. So, I’m listening…and thinking.
Excuse me, Sgt. Pepper just ended. I need to “Get Back” to where I once belonged.
For a more complete discussion of Niebuhr’s book and the Christ and Culture debate, go here.
After many years of wanting this set, I was finally able to pull together used hardcovers from Amazon. I can’t tell you how much of an influence Francis A. Schaeffer was/is to me. Perusing these texts affirms their relevance even today. So much of his vocabulary has entered my own. “the God who is there,” “infinite-personal God,” “the mannishness of man,” “upper-story,” “space-time Fall,” “abnormal world.” So many others. The first piece I read of his long ago was the little booklet, “Two Contents, Two Realities.” This awakened in me a love for philosophical thinking that hasn’t quit. A giant in the 2nd half of the 20th Century, most evangelical believers have little idea of the debt we owe to this saint.
Have you read Schaeffer? What are your favorite books? Which concepts influenced you?