Archive for February 2012
I recently had a conversation with a student in which I was, as usual, very skeptical – maybe critical. We were talking about the megachurch pastor as not being able to truly make disciples within that model. After my, albeit welcomed, tirade, I took time to reflect on our conversation later. That is when I came to the epiphany that:
in truth, God never meant for His message to be an unmanned communication of words and meaning.
His Scriptures were written by men and delivered to others by those men and their partners in ministry. These writings were by the People inspired by the Spirit and for the People, as the writers were WITH the People. Paul was clear about spending long amounts of time with the disciples. (Acts 14:28) This was normal . . . and not new.
God sent prophets, not just messages from the sky.
God placed priests over them for the connection to God.
In Christ, our Prophet, Priest and King, we see again that God determined that The Messenger, Who IS The Message would be “God with us.” No part of God’s relationship with us or revelation to us was meant to be unmanned – it was never meant to be a message in a bottle.
Now He has sent preachers and teachers and the Body. The Body, like Mr. Morton, walks and talks and loves.
I remember from my evangelism class back in the day in Bible College, principle #2 was that: “The Word of God has self-contained power to bring the sinner to salvation.” I believe this to be true. But the Word is not supposed to be self-delivered, it is supposed to be hand-delivered.
This poses a great problem for us Preachers in the modern, digital age. We have convinced ourselves that filling vending machines is the same as providing a meal; that selling band-aids is the same as comforting a wound; that podcasting is discipleship. This also relates to establishing models of church government, growth strategies and goals that keep a distance between the elders and the people.
Discipleship, which is The model for New Testament ministry- namely, making followers of Jesus- is more than just providing information. It involves Teaching, Training AND Togetherness. This is the formula God has designed and must be followed by all people in all time. Not only have we sought to improve the Gospel in the modern Church, but have sought to improve the delivery as well. We want it all streamlined and sleek.
But, Jesus did not share that notion. He spent large amounts of time with the few at the cost of the masses. He would speak to the masses, but did not entrust himself to them. (John 2:24-25)
Paul did not set up a home office and do quick evangelism and then call that discipleship. As in Antioch, he spent long amounts of time with people: teaching them the Truths of Christ, Training them to live those Truths and share them with others, and being Together with them while they grew.
When we stand back from the people at a distance that cannot be reasonably reached, we fail at discipleship. If we know how long a pew can be away from a preacher before the sound system loses effectiveness, we are failing at discipleship. If we think that recording ourselves, so as to be sent out in digital form to God-knows-who, in God-knows-where IS discipleship . . . we have failed.
Truly, the books and the videos and the podcasts are great and helpful, but they are only one component of three. Stop labeling and sending bottles to 10,000 and go and personally love 10. I promise it will have more effect for God’s Kingdom and bring more glory to His name. And as those to whom you minister with love read the books and watch the videos and listen to the podcast – you can grow with them.
It is no secret that Desiring God ministries, with Pastor John Piper, have been offering all of his books for free in PDF for some time now. Just go to www.desiringgod.org and search for the book you want and then download for free. This can easily be accomplished for eReaders like the Kindle as well.
You can get the Desiring God app for iPhone or IPad and get all the sermons, transcripts, videos and books for free all the more easily. Get it and be blessed!
Our fellowship, Sovereign Christ Church is using John Piper’s Passion of Jesus Christ, or Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die as a 50-Day devotional before Resurrection Sunday (Easter). This is such a rich exercise and I recommend it to everyone. Click the link above to download a free PDF.
After reading Day Three: Christ Suffered and Died. . . To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected, one person asked how His learning obedience and becoming perfect was possible. Here is the answer I gave:
This is an excellent question. In the Book of Hebrews, there are a fair number of complexities. Taking a text from Hebrews and slowing down and asking a lot of questions is wise.
In the passage of Hebrews 5:8-9, there are a few minor things going on, as well as some clarity in how one handles words. Hidden in the Greek, which is of little importance for us in my opinion, is a play on like-sounding words between what is translated “learned” (Greek= emathen) and “suffered” (Greek= epathen). This may have influenced the use of those particular words for the original readers. The meaning though is wrapped up in a bit of a language discussion.
When looking at these Ancient Middle-Eastern languages, we avoid simply looking for a word-for-word translation – as if there is a one-to-one relationship between Koine Greek words and English words. We are tempted to say, “The Greek word ‘X’ means ‘Y’ in English; where The Greek word ‘R means ‘S’ in English”. Rather, we should see the words in what is know as semantic domains, or groupings of somewhat synonymous words that are influenced and flavored by one another – even serving to be interchangeable at times. See here:
for more of a discussion on this and look at footnote number 31. This will be a bit of a thick read, but worth it. Tell me if more questions arise out of it.
So, what I mean is that the definition of the word is often wider than we might think and is often driven by how the word is used, more than a lexical meaning in a language dictionary. This does not mean that the definition is up for grabs. It is just a bit more philological than lexical- that is, how a word is used, its function, can overule a decided dictionary definition.
This is the case with these two words, one more than the other. The word for “learned” carries with it strong connotations of experience. That is, Jesus “learned” the experience of obedience through bodily physical suffering. This is not just a cognitive understanding, but something that He would experience so that He would become for us what we needed. (Hebrews 4:15) Granted, this semantic flexibility is not as flexible as we will see in the word translated “perfected” (teliow), but together, this understanding of “He learned the experience of” is preferred. This is why the intro of “Although He was a Son (of God)” . . . is there. Because He is the Son of God, this discussion might seem a bit unusual.
In verse 9, “been made perfect” is a phrase that also carries the nuances of fulfillment or completion . . . and in some cases maturity (see James 1:4). I believe that is what is at play here- namely, Jesus wanted to do all that fulfills what we needed Him to be by God’s design to be what Hebrews 4:15 says He became for us. This is much like what Jesus said to John the Baptizer in Matthew 3:15. He was to fulfill the plan and be what God had determined. See Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28 on this.
So, Jesus obeyed the Father in the way He always does (John 8:28 & 12:49), yet, here, in the Incarnation and as one who suffers – there is a great mystery here that God can suffer, a mystery which is the Incarnation. He experienced the obedience through suffering (learned) such that He would fulfill or complete (be made perfect) all that was to be completed according to the predetermined plan.
He certainly did not add to His essence or eternal wisdom.