Archives For Theological Convictions

Corporate Confession

Greg Strand – September 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Many Evangelical churches do not often include a time of corporate confession as part of their weekly services. This is, I believe, a weakness of our gatherings.

Most of our service – singing, praying, greeting, sermons, etc. – reflects an overrealized eschatology. We speak and respond and expect as if the kingdom is already fully here. The emphasis is on the now of the kingdom. Much of the sharing of life together reflects the now of the kingdom, as if troubles and trials are unexpected, and marriage and parenting are all perfect. What this creates is a false exterior and a heavy heart because it does not match reality. There is seldom a place to share hurts and pains and struggles. It is as if there is no not-yet of the kingdom.

And yet we know doctrinally and experientially that we live in the not-yet-fully-realized kingdom. There is sin, ongoing struggles of sin, suffering, trials, lament, etc. In the midst of these existential realities, God’s kingdom has truly broken in, and the way in which we live in and through these matters reflects the now of the kingdom. The kingdom is truly here, even though not in full, and the presence of the kingdom is manifested in the way we live under the Lordship of the King, the Lord Jesus, and the way in which we live a life of faith and trust.

And yet, the kingdom is not yet here fully. We await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to make all things right, and all things new, when there will be no more sadness, sorrow, weeping. But not yet.

The strong bend in most Evangelical churches is to emphasize the newness of the kingdom, which is right, but they do so at the expense of the not-yetness of the kingdom, which is wrong. Too many have imbibed too much of the prosperity gospel, or an Americanized version of the gospel, and not enough of the true, biblical gospel.

In every corporate gathering, there ought to be a confession and manifestation of the now of the kingdom, where we hear and see manifestations of the work of God in our midst. But there will also be manifestations of the not-yet of the kingdom, where we hear and see manifestations of life in this fallen-redeemed-not-yet-glorified world, and yet in the mist of that reality the now of the kingdom manifests in a life of trust, crying individually and corporately, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Hab. 3:17-18). This is why the early church cried, and we ought to pray regularly, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!

In this link you will see an example of a corporate confession: A Corporate Confession of Faith Based on the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount Repentance is not only the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s life that bears fruit in confession of sin and profession of Christ resulting in new spiritual life (Mk. 1:14-15), repentance is also a mark of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, a bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8). It is important we live and lead a life of repentance.

Might this be one resource of helping you to do this. It is through repentance that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20). May it be so!

 

The Gospel: Professed and Practiced

Greg Strand – September 13, 2017 Leave a comment

“The gospel which we possess was not given to us only to be admired, talked of, and professed, but to be practiced.” J.C. Ryle

This expounds the commitment of Evangelicals through history. One of the more recent manifestations of this was the Evangelical Awakening in Europe in the 18th-19th centuries.

More recently, and not just with the EFCA, this captures what we have been talking about for quite some time. Although Evangelicals have been saying it, and are committed to it, the final statement has been limited in its scope of application. Racial reconciliation is one of those limitations.

We need to remember that when we address patience, or being long-suffering, we will live with a tension. For the white or majority community, some are coming to realize these limitations in application. They need some time to figure this out and work through what this means. It is important this be done in community, and not just with other majority folk.

For our brothers and sisters in the minority community, they have generally suffered long and experience some racial fatigue. How many times do they have to go through fits and starts, how often do they have to hear public and corporate repentance, both of which are good and right, but they are waiting for the next step, the costly and sacrificial step of love lived out and “practiced.” And, as noted previously, a vital way to do this is in community, to engage in dialogue together in the context of relationships.

May God give us the wisdom, grace, kindness, patience and courage to speak and live the gospel.

Please plan to join us at our upcoming Theology Conference, where we will address the theme, “The Gospel, Compassion and Justice, and the EFCA.”

Although the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville is history, the implications of the rally have carried on. Ripples and reverberations have continued. In the wake, many questions have been raised, and many have been awakened or reawakened to the racism that still exists. This was blatant. This event has also caused one to ask the question about whether or not there is implicit racism within, and what must be done about that in light of the one new humanity in Christ created by the gospel.

I stated a couple of weeks ago, if people were unfamiliar with the alt-right before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, most now know. The alt-right exemplified blatant racism, consisting of white nationalists, white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other racists. As I wrote then, I repeat again: the alt-right is anti-God and anti-gospel.

Below I have compiled some of the specific responses to the alt-right, along with a brief summarizing quote from the author. The first and third resources explain who and what the alt-right is. Carter’s, the first, is a brief FAQ, while Ashford’s, the third, is a helpful and insightful four-part series.

The second listed resource is a 30 minute interview Mark Galli, CT, has with George Hawley, the author of the forthcoming book, Making Sense of the Alt-Right.

The fourth, and final, resource consists of the specific statements made in the SBC Resolution “On The Anti-Gospel Of Alt-Right White Supremacy.”

I read an article today in which the author, who has followed the alt-right for some time and written about it extensively, claims that the alt-right “seems to have changed irrevocably after the parade of Nazis and the killing of an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia.” Although the author does not state what has “changed irrevocably,” I assume the movement, as little as it is, was seen for what it is, and most have been repulsed by its message and behavior. It would be a good thing, a gift from the Lord, if it would cease to exist. Our prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10) reflects that reality.

I include these resources because it is important to be educated, informed and equipped to respond to these kinds of movements that undermine and deny basic biblical truths and the essentials of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joe Carter, The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About the Alt-Right

The alt-right—short for “alternative right”—is an umbrella term for a host of disparate nationalist and populist groups associated with the white identity cause/movement. The term brings together white supremacists (e.g., neo-Nazis), religious racialists (e.g., Kinists), neo-pagans (e.g., Heathenry), internet trolls (e.g., 4chan’s /pol/), and others enamored with white identity and racialism.

The alt-right seems to have a particular disdain for gospel-centered Christianity. . . . Some on the alt-right (such as Vox Day) claim that Christianity is a “foundational pillar” of the movement. But what they mean by Christianity is often a heretical form (Day rejects the Trinity) a racialized version of the faith (e.g., the Kinist movement), or “religion as culture” (Spencer says he is both an atheist and a “culture Christian.”). The true religion of the alt-right is white identitarianism, which is why the SBC accurately considers it an “anti-gospel” movement.

At the core of the alt-right movement is idolatry—the idol of “whiteness.” In building their identity on shared genetic traits the alt-right divides humanity and leads people away from the only source of true identity: Jesus Christ.

The alt-right is anti-gospel because to embrace white identity requires rejecting the Christian identity. The Christian belongs to a “chosen race” (1 Peter 2:9), the elect from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 7:9).

CT’s Quick to Listen Podcast (30 minutes), What the Alt-Right Tells Us About Christianity and Politics

“The alt-right is now mostly ignoring the religious question,” said George Hawley, the author of the forthcoming book, Making Sense of the Alt-Right. “That sets it apart from earlier far-right movements. Obviously, the KKK presented itself as an explicitly Protestant movement. … The alt-right seems to be of the view that Christianity is becoming marginally irrelevant, at least in American politics, and as such, it seems to be largely avoiding the subject.”

Hawley joined assistant editor Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli on Quick to Listen this week to discuss the true influence and popularity of this community, its connection—or lack thereof—with Christianity, and what role the church could play in fighting its message.

Bruce Ashford’s four-part series, An Evangelical Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right

[This] serves as a sort of evangelical conservative’s guide to the alt-right. The series summarizes alt-right ideology, profiles its leadership, answers frequently-asked questions, provides a theological critique of the alt-right, and applies that critique to American politics.

The alt-right movement is neither Christian nor conservative, but it claims to be conservative and often claims to be Christian. That fact, taken together with its emergence as a significant voice in American politics and public life, should cause Christians to educate themselves about the movement and be prepared to give a gospel-centered response. I hope this four-part series will be helpful toward that end.

The Anti-Gospel of the Alt-Right (Part 1): Introduction to Alt-Right Ideology

The Anti-Gospel of the Alt-Right (Part 2): A Profile of 5 Alt-Right Leaders

The Anti-Gospel of the Alt-Right (Part 3): A Response to FAQs about the Alt-Right

The Anti-Gospel of the Alt-Right (Part 4): An Evaluation of the Alt-Right

We should fight racism tooth and nail, from the pulpit, the press room, and the public square.

In his wisdom, God caused his Son—our Savior—to be born in a Middle Eastern Jewish body. Christianity sprouted in the Middle East, but from there, Christianity exploded into Asia and North Africa, and to Europe and North America, and now, finally, across the face of the earth. One day our Savior will return to consummate his reign as the righteous king. He will be worshiped by a vast multitude of humanity, unique in their ethnic heritages but unified in their religious identity as children of the King.

Until that time, the church’s task is to serve as a preview of that coming kingdom. We can do so by recognizing that our primary identity is religious (referring to Christ, the object of our worship) rather than racial (referring to our ethnic heritage, or combination of ethnic heritages); by affirming that God creates all people in his image and likeness; by declaring that God’s Son shed his blood on behalf of the whole world; and by loving and valuing our “neighbor” even when our neighbor is ethnically different.

SBC Resolution: On The Anti-Gospel Of Alt-Right White Supremacy

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

Most have heard the story of the rally-turned-protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12-13. For those unfamiliar, officials in the city were planning to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. The Alt-Right scheduled a rally in opposition to these plans to move the statue. With protests and counter-protests, the rally turned into chaos and violence, with 1 person dead and 19 injured in its wake.

If people were unfamiliar with the alt-right before this rally, most now know. The alt-right consists of white nationalists, white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other racists. Over the course of the couple of days associated with the rally, marchers carried Tike torches, a Nazi flag and some gave KKK hand gestures. It is critical to say: the alt-right is anti-God and anti-gospel.

After so much has been said and written, is it even necessary or worthwhile to add something more. I believe so, which is why I respond.

First, it is important for me to speak as part of our EFCA family. This is not a global or universal statement, even though I bear that in mind. Rather, it is a statement made by one family member to another.

Second, I speak as a white majority in the EFCA. When we address issues from a biblical and theological perspective, any and all have something to say. We are all seeking to understand and apply the truth of the Scriptures. And yet, depending on the issue we are addressing, or to which we are responding, there are some who may need to initiate by speaking out first.

Over the past decade, Alejandro Mandes, All People Executive Director, and I have learned this (and continue to learn!) and attempt to live it out in practice. Although we are in agreement on the biblical, theological and even pastoral response to an issue, on most all people matters, he needs to be the lead voice, and I need to affirm and support his voice, as he articulates that biblical response pastorally. It also works the other way. There are some things in which I may need to be the lead voice, and he affirms and supports my voice, as we together stand on God’s Word.

This is one of those instances where I believe it is imperative that I, as a white believer, who is in the majority, needs to speak to this issue. The gospel creates “one new humanity” (Eph. 2:14-16), a family that manifests a new community, a community created by God that exists to bring glory to God. That is what we believe, that is what we proclaim, that is what we live.

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On this date, July 26, 1833, three days before William Wilberforce died, friends informed him that a bill to abolish slavery had passed its second reading in Parliament, which meant it would pass.

Wilberforce, in reply, stated, “Thank God, that I should have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give twenty millions sterling for the abolition of slavery!”

Wilberforce had virtually given his entire life in Parliament working for the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire, 40 years and up until his retirement in 1825. When he retired, his goals had come short. He would have to wait another 8 years to experience its abolishment.

Lessons: (1) Gospel-centered ministries and missions are right, and they are worth giving our lives to. (2) Although all gospel-centered ministries are right, some are called and gifted to lead the way as theses ministries are undertaken, while all are to be engaged in one way or another. (3) Many of the ministries to which God calls us will live long after we have completed our ministries, and some long after we have been ushered into glory, which means it is important we are and remain grounded in the gospel, and we have a longer view of God’s work in the world.  

Wilberforce had not always been opposed to slavery. His conversion was the ground of this change. In fact, after his conversion he wondered if politics was the best arena in which to serve the Lord. Through the help and guidance of others, including John Newton, he believed it was indeed a place he could and would serve the Lord. Although slavery was not the only issue he took up in Parliament, it was one of the most important.

Lessons: (1) Being given new life, one receives a new heart, which results in new loves – loving what God loves – and new hates –hating what God hates, new passions and new callings. (2) Although the vocational calling may be the same as prior to one’s new spiritual birth, the motivation changes. It is no longer personal kingdom building. Instead, everything one does is done in the power and strength God provides, and it is done by his grace and for his glory, leaving an aroma of Christ. (3) When we both give and receive counsel, remember God calls first to himself, captures the converted, and then pours them out to serve in his name and for his glory. For Christians there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular, as everything one does is as onto the Lord, all done in his name, by his grace and for his glory, which includes vocational ministry in the church and vocational ministry outside the church.

One of those providing counsel to Wilberforce was John Wesley. In 1791, a mere week before his own death, he counseled Wilberforce regarding the call, cost and compulsion to work toward the abolishment of slavery, writing,

Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Encouragement and Exhortation: May we commit and recommit to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News, and may we also commit and recommit to its entailments, racial reconciliation, a manifestation of the gospel.