Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Discernment

What Is the Will of the Lord?

‘Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is’ (Ephesians 5.17)

Paul is not messing around when he speaks to the Ephesians. They are to know that ‘the days are evil’; in other words, time is short. Once they realize that, there is only one appropriate response: Figure out what really matters.

That’s why Paul says, ‘Understand what the will of the Lord is.’ Because, really, there’s not a lot of time to mess around with things that don’t matter.

But can we talk about ‘the will of the Lord’ for a minute? Because typically in North American evangelical contexts, we refer to ‘the will of God’ like it’s some existential, mystical path for our lives that we need to discover. It’s behind door number three… or two… whichever I choose, I just hope I get to ‘live in God’s will.’

We think it has something to do with what job we take, where we buy a house, whom we marry; this determines if we’re ‘in God’s will.’ Sometimes we talk about it like it’s a secret for unlocking the good life where there is nothing but ease and blessing, as if it’s some kind of fortune-cookie sweet-spot with the Divine.

But do you know what Paul is getting at by the phrase ‘the will of the Lord’ here? He’s talked about it earlier in the letter. In the working of his plan to forgive sinners, through the redemption of Christ, he has made ‘known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth‘ (Ephesians 1:9-10).

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In a Perfect (Blog) World

Lately, as we’ve been working our way through Genesis 1-2 at church, I’ve been thinking about life in a perfect world. What would it be like to work without ‘thorns and thistles’? What would it be like to be married without conflict? What would it be like to know the physical manifestation of the presence of God as the whole of creation becomes his dwelling place?

Those types of questions can seem be very hard to answer; they seem so far from reality that it’s hard to even imagine.

Here’s something else that’s hard to imagine: What would it be like in a perfectly Christian blog world? To try to conceive of such a thing, I think we’d have to develop a framework from the basics. What is the main business that Christians are to be about in general? If we know that, we can apply it to blogs.
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The Faithfulness Fallacy

Some Background

A little while ago John MacArthur did a series of posts critiquing the ‘Young, Restless, and Reformed’ movement. Needless to say, it created quite a stir.

Those who disagreed with MacArthur argued that he was using sweeping generalizations that were unhelpful and uncharitable and that his tone was unloving and combative. We felt scolded as if by an absentee father who hadn’t invested in us, but stopped by to spank us anyway.

The response from those who sided with MacArthur was, by and large, ‘He has pastored faithfully for 40 years, you need to listen to him.’ To be sure, the response was more than that, and included biblical justification of gaining wisdom from elders, etc. In the end, I argued that the responsibility remains on the younger ones of us to make sure we’re listening, even if we’re not being addressed as we’d like.

History Repeats

Isn’t it interesting how history seems to repeat itself? Recently James MacDonald came under fire for his public schmoozing with TD Jakes. One of the responses to the criticism that I’ve heard has been this: ‘James has faithfully pastored for 30 years, has led Harvest, sent out church planters, and people have been saved! Let’s show some respect!’

Both times (with MacArthur and MacDonald) the defenders of these public figures appealed to past faithfulness as a defence for present action. That’s worth noting.

Ad Hominem by Any Other Name

In logic an ad hominem attack is when you criticize a person rather than their idea. What I find fascinating in both of the above cases is that the defence being used is actually ad hominem. In other words, rather than defending the actions or ideas of the person which have drawn the scrutiny, the defenders of these individuals have resorted to speaking about the men themselves. But who the men are and what they have done in the past was never the issue.

On Balance

We need to attempt to avoid extremes. On the one hand, wisdom acknowledges the experience of the aged and proven faithful:

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendour of old men is their gray hair (Prov 20.29)

Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old (Prov 23.22)

And we must ‘walk’ with those who have a proven track record of faithfully displaying wisdom:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Prov 13.20)

That being said, we must not pre-judge a matter based on past faithfulness or wisdom alone. Whether it is MacArthur, MacDonald, Don Carson or Tim Keller — or any of the heroes of that faith for that matter — we must hear a matter out fully, weigh the opposing views in the balance and prayerfully seek wisdom.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Prov 18.13)

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him (Prov 18.17)

And let’s not forget that it was the youngest witness of Job’s sufferings who had heard all the others speak first, who finally answered with wisdom.

Berean Honour

While we must honour those who have laboured before us and for us, the simple truth is that we do not biblically honour them if we do not weigh the wisdom of their words and actions against God’s word. No matter how faithful a man has been in the past, he is still a man, and still in need of ongoing correcting and perfecting this side of eternity. We must show them love, respect, and the benefit of the doubt, but we must never turn a blind eye to present unfaithfulness simply because we’ve witnessed past faithfulness.

I hope the people of Grace Fellowship Church would honour me and honour God in this same Berean way.

Tim Challies’ Admonition to Toronto Pastors

pastor-train-your-church-to-think-biblically-toronto-pastors-fellowshipYesterday was the March meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship–and it was a blessing!

Friend and fellow church-member, Tim Challies, brought the charge, ‘Pastor, Train Your People to Think Biblically!’ The audio and text are now both available online. Click here to check out the paper and the mp3.

Here’s an excerpt:

I think we ought to pause to draw out this point just a little bit. One of the areas where discernment most often goes awry is in this area of speaking truth with love. Those who emphasize discernment are typically able to voice the truth; it is love that is far too often lacking. Many ministers, and perhaps even you, can testify to the damage done to churches in the name of discernment. Just recently pastor James MacDonald wrote that he has seen more damage done to the church by Christians with the gift of discernment than by anyone else. Many ministers have erred themselves in this regard, emphasizing truth at the expense of love. It is here that we should remember the Bible’s injunctions to remain childlike. We can go back to 1 Corinthians 14:20 and see Paul’s exhortation to “Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” When it comes to what is evil, we need to remain as little children, being innocent toward all evil things. Too many people who emphasize discernment spend inordinate amounts of time seeking out evil, dwelling upon evil, all in the name of refuting it. There is great danger in filling our hearts and lives with what is evil. So as you train your church in discernment,  do so in a way that encourages and edifies rather than in a way that tears down and destroys.

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