Sunday, December 25, 2016

Salvation Has Come

Psalm 98 (LXX)
Sing a new song to the Lord
    for He did wondrous things;
His right hand and His holy arm
    saved peoples for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
    He revealed His righteousness in the sight of the Gentiles.
He remembered his mercy to Jacob
    And His truth to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth saw the salvation of our God.

Shout aloud to God, all the earth;
    Sing and greatly rejoice, and sing psalms;
Sing to the Lord on a lyre,
    On a lyre and the voice of a psalm;
With trumpets of metal and the sound of a trumpet of horn,
    Shout aloud before the Lord our King.

Let the sea be shaken and its fullness,
    The world and those who dwell in it.
The rivers shall clap their hands together;
    The mountains shall greatly rejoice;
For He comes to judge the earth;
He shall judge the world in righteousness,
    And the peoples with uprightness.

This psalm is beautiful, telling of God’s mighty hand and powerful working to bring salvation, but one is left wondering of when it speaks.  Is this celebrating the Red Sea crossing? or perhaps Gideon’s victory over Midian? or maybe Sennacherib’s defeat before Hezekiah?  Perchance it may be a general song of victory to be sung whenever the Lord saves His people.  Whatever occasion initially prompted the psalm, it always looked forward to God gaining the victory on behalf of His people.

“Nativity” by Peter Paul Rubens
While feats of provision, strength, and warfare generally garner a joyous response, perhaps none was more grand.  Consider the responses early in Jesus’ life from the heavenly host (Lu 2:13–14), shepherds (Lu 2:17–20), the priest Simeon (Lu 2:28–32), the prophetess Anna (Lu 2:38), and wise men (Mt 2:10–11).  Jews, Gentiles, and the heavenly host joined in praise over the birth of this Child.  Though counter-intuitive, the promised salvation (Mt 1:21; Lu 2:11) initiated when the Son of God emptied Himself, took the form of a bond-servant, and came in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7) would far outweigh any military or political campaign.  This combat would end in utter defeat for sin, death, and the devil; and with every foe vanquished, He will reign with righteousness and His kingdom enjoying perfect peace and rest.

You have made known to us, O Lord, Your salvation, causing to spring up for us the plant of peace, and we shall no longer wander in error.  You have made known to us, O Lord, that You have not unto the end overlooked Your servants; neither have You, O beneficent One, forgotten entirely the works of Your hands.

For out of Your compassion for our low estate You have shed forth upon us abundantly that goodness of Yours which is inexhaustible, and with Your very nature cognate, having redeemed us by Your only begotten Son, who is unchangeably like to You, and of one substance with You; judging it unworthy of Your majesty and goodness to entrust to a servant the work of saving and benefiting Your servants, or to cause that those who had offended should be reconciled by a minister.  But by means of that light, which is of one substance with You, You have given light to those that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, in order that in Your light they might see the light of knowledge; and it has seemed good to You, by means of our Lord and Creator, to fashion us again unto immortality; and You have graciously given unto us a return to Paradise by means of Him who separated us from the joys of Paradise; and by means of Him who has power to forgive sins You have blotted out the handwriting which was against us.

Lastly, by means of Him who is a partaker of Your throne and who cannot be separated from Your divine nature, You have given unto us the gift of reconciliation and access unto You with confidence in order that, by the Lord who recognizes the sovereign authority of none, by the true and omnipotent God, the subscribed sanction, as it were, of so many and such great blessings might constitute the justifying gifts of grace to be certain and indubitable rights to those who have obtained mercy.  And this very thing the prophet before had announced in the words: No ambassador, nor angel, but the Lord Himself saved them; because He loved them, and spared them, and He took them up, and exalted them.… Hence, for the future, a joyous festival is established for us of the race of Adam, because the first Creator of Adam of His own free-will has become the Second Adam.  And the brightness of the Lord our God has come down to sojourn with us, so that we see God face to face, and are saved.

Methodius, Oration Concerning Simeon and Anna 8

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christ Is Born, Glorify Him

“Annunciation to the Shepherds” by Berchem
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  (Lu 2:10-14)
Christ is born, glorify Him.  Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him.  Christ on earth; be exalted.  Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth.  Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.  Christ of a Virgin ... Who does not worship Him That is from the beginning? Who does not glorify Him That is the Last?  Again the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar.  The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, let it see the Great Light of full knowledge.  Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.  The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front.  The shadows flee away, the Truth comes in upon them.  Melchizedek is concluded.  He that was without Mother becomes without Father (without Mother of His former state, without Father of His second).   The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled.  Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him.  O clap your hands together all you people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, Whose Government is upon His shoulder (for with the Cross it is raised up), and His Name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father.

Gregory of Nazianzus, On the Theophany 1–2

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sanitizing False Doctrine

Back in November, Bob Hiller wrote a piece at The Jagged Word entitled “Airbrushing Beth Moore” in which he discusses the advertising ploy of creating a sanitized persona in order to sell products.  This is a common way to move product by creating a false notion that by following through with her (or any person’s) materials, the reader will soon resemble the false impression displayed on the product.  The idea of self-improvement strokes egos: I can do it because the author says I can.  Hiller rightfully questions this tactic by noting that everyone involved in the production of the material is a sinner.  The impression floated to entice the buyer—physically, psychologically, and spiritually—is nonexistent.  I agree with Hiller’s assessment, but another aspect to this needs to be mentioned.  False doctrine is being airbrushed.

On the local church level, when someone wishes to make a mark on a social issue or just target a niche market, he or she will investigate the need, formulate a message around that need, and construct a presentation.  In order to be effective, something new needs to be stated and properly packaged.  Novelty attracts.  Crowds form and embolden new, novel doctrine, and the cycle continues.  Publishers do similarly.  To promote and sell materials for authors, they allow (and even encourage) questionable doctrine in their publications.  Poor, bad, and destructive doctrine is disseminated in order to stimulate discussion of the ideas and author notoriety.  Colleges and seminaries are not immune as professors attempt to make a name for themselves.  While all this provocation sells more units to the public and puts people in the pews, it also can have a deleterious effect on Christ’s Church.  Ideas have consequences.  Whatever the initial intent for the novel teaching, the end cannot be measured in the level of appeal but in faithfulness to the Savior and what He taught us.

What are we seeing from current teachers and preachers?  Mysticism is especially popular.  Everybody is suddenly being spoken to directly by the Holy Spirit (or unholy spirit) to say and do spiritual things that are otherwise nonsensical or even unbiblical.  Parishioners are encouraged to seek God (or god) within themselves to better understand the truth.

The Bible is neglected or demeaned.  Paraphrased versions of the Bible are used more than a solid translation.  Music no longer teaches truth, but an experience.  Teachers are asking their listeners to think less in objective truths and more in subjective, relational patterns.  Doctrine is taught in broad, sweeping terms having various meanings depending on the hearer.

What is the effect?  Denominational bodies and local churches see the tide of popularity and begin to wonder if all this hoopla might be the answer to their problems.  Christian conferences assemble speakers that stir the emotions but teach nothing that lasts.  Instead of evaluating the doctrine and practice against the Word of God, these organization take a pragmatic approach hoping for something to stick.  It never does, so the cycle continues for the next thing.

There is an old, familiar saying that if something is new, it is probably wrong.  This is never more true than when applied to the holy things of God.  Let’s sanitize the right things.  Keep doctrine and practice true and pure.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Unwanted Offer, Unwelcome Source

The country of Judah was in a dismal state.  Ahaz had taken the throne and was leading the nation into great wickedness, even offering his own son to be burned (2 Ki 16:2–4).  During his reign, Israel and Syria had joined forces and conspired to overthrow Jerusalem and place it under Syrian control.  As would be expected, Ahaz, with all Judah, feared the coming armies.  Before the attack could be mounted, Isaiah went to Ahaz with a message of hope and peace: nothing would come of this.  On top of this good news was a warning call: If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all (Isa 7:9).  The only certainty of a firm foundation was in national repentance.

To sweeten the deal, God gave Ahaz the opportunity to name any sign as surety that the promise would be fulfilled:
Ask a sign of the Lᴏʀᴅ your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.
The offer was remarkable.  Whatever Ahaz could conceive was his to ask.  His response?
I will not ask, and I will not put the Lᴏʀᴅ to the test.
This sounds rather pious, making Ahaz appear to suddenly humble himself before the Lord, however, such is not the case for two reasons.  First, Ahaz was apostate.  He had nothing but contempt for the God of Abraham and Moses, as evidenced by his worship practices.  An offer from YHWH would be admitting he had been entirely wrong—not a pleasant place to find oneself.  Second, Isaiah’s response exposed the king’s attitude:
Hear then, O house of David!  Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
Isaiah levels his aim at the entire nation of Judah. It has been bad enough that people are wearied by the pretense of being faithful.  How do they think it possible to pull the same stunt on God Himself?  Also, notice the change in language: from “Lᴏʀᴅ your God” in the offer to “my God” in the rebuke.  The prophet communicated further that the True Ruler over Judah was giving a sign, whether or not Ahaz liked it.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
Besides the amazing birth, Isaiah makes known that, unlike the nation, this child will know the difference between good and evil and will choose appropriately in the face of impending disaster and see a beginning of normalcy from the destruction.  As for the united Syrian-Israeli invasion:
For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.  The Lᴏʀᴅ will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!
Within a short time the feared invasion would come and many be carried away (2 Chr 28:5–8).  Ahaz and Judah deserved everything that came, but it did not serve His purposes to deal with Israel.  Something far worse was promised—an Assyrian invasion.  God sent His prophet with an unwanted promise to an ungrateful king and people, yet within the act we see divine grace and mercy.  The Lord condemned Judah’s wickedness, but He also promised to restore after the impending invasion and gave fair warning of future events.  In doing so, Judah was given every opportunity to see the faithfulness of their Deliverer with a view to repent and wholly turn to Him.

Some centuries later, God repeated the process with a twist.  The people had largely neglected the Lord and His Word.  The rulers of the people cared more for their system of governance and piety than had been divinely delivered and expected.  He sent a prophet but one more than a prophet, a son but one more than a son.  He sent Himself.  The Word of God came to His people to declare a message of great tidings to all people.  Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom and called for repentance, warning of the destruction that would meet them.  He came to His own, and they did not receive Him.  Indeed, the leadership sought to destroy Him.  Within this atmosphere of hostility, He continued the mission on which He was sent for the benefit of mankind.  A greater danger is yet coming, the final judgment and eternal damnation.

The offer is still unwanted and the source unwelcome, yet we continue sharing the need for repentance from sin and the glorious gospel found in our Lord and Savior.  May we continue faithful to the task.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

The next time you want to tweak your worship service, consider some input from godly men of the Reformation.  Give greatest thought and care to ensure what you add or change does not actually distract or detract from the Gospel.

When there are useless, foolish displays, that are profitable neither for good order nor Christian discipline, nor evangelical propriety in the Church, these also are not genuine adiaphora, or matters of indifference.

But as regards genuine adiaphora, or matters of indifference, we believe, teach, and confess that such ceremonies, in and of themselves, are no worship of God, nor any part of it, but must be properly distinguished from such as are, as it is written: “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).

Therefore we believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has, according to its circumstances, the good right, power, and authority (in matters truly adiaphora) to change, to diminish, and to increase them, without thoughtlessness and offense, in an orderly and appropriate way, whenever it is considered most profitable, most beneficial, and best for good order, Christian discipline, and the edification of the Church.  Moreover, how we can yield and give way with a good conscience to the weak in faith in such external adiaphora, Paul teaches (Rom. 14) and proves it by his example (Acts 16:3; 21:26; 1 Cor. 9:19).

Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration X.7–9

Friday, December 16, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.  (Heb 1:1-4)

Gerrit van Honthorst, “Adoration of the Shepherds”
Truly, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  This at least the blessed Paul intimates here also, in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Hebrews.  For since as it was likely that afflicted, worn out by evils, and judging things from that perspective, [the recipients] would think themselves worse off than all other men,—he shows here that they had rather been made partakers of greater, even very exceeding, grace; arousing the hearer at the very opening of his discourse.… And the expression, “In times past,” and this, “In the end of the days,” shadows forth some other meaning:—that when a long time had intervened, when we were on the edge of punishment, when the Gifts had failed, when there was no expectation of deliverance, when we were expecting to have less than all—then we have had more.

John Chrysostom, On the Epistle to the Hebrews 1

Jan Brueghel the Younger, “Creation of Adam”
In this way the divine apostle in several terms brought out the reality of the begetting, the oneness in being, and the shared eternity of the Father and the Son.  Since the divinity transcends all understanding, and it is impossible to bring out in one single image the mystery of the true doctrine of God, the preachers of the truth are obliged to do so by many.… Blessed Paul called Him “Son” to show Him to be different from the Father in regard to personhood; he spoke of Him as “creator of the ages” to bring out in these ways His eternity and called Him also “brightness of glory” to indicate by this His shared eternity and the sameness of being, the brightness being of the nature of the fire.  He added that He is “stamp of His nature” to bring out both things at the same time, that He subsists of Himself and that He reveals in Himself the paternal characteristics.  He adds also something else: “upholding all things by the word of His power.”  He not only made everything but also directs and guides it.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Interpretation of Hebrews 1

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hope in Hopelessness

There are seasons of life when we feel hopeless.  Loss of health, home, income, or family can come in pounding waves or together in a tsunami leaving our lives in desolation.  When these times come a natural reaction is to lay blame on the doctor, teacher, employer, family member, friend, and especially God.  While there are circumstances working beyond our control that work against us, sometimes we are to blame and must bear the consequences of our own sin.  During those low points, we also seek for antidotes to relieve the stress and pain.  Any glimmer of hope will do.  Some even seek out God, who providentially guides it all, to ask
Why, O Lᴏʀᴅ, do you stand far away?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?  (Psa 10:1)

How long, O Lᴏʀᴅ?  Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?  (Psa 13:1)
Or to cry out
Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
    forsake me not when my strength is spent.  (Psa 71:9)
As difficult as this is on an individual level, what happens when calamity strikes a nation or people group?  And worse yet, what if they willingly brought it on themselves?  A review of history shows that the fall of a nation usually comes from within.  Policies and practices necessary to maintain good order are neglected or abandoned for the sake of pragmatism, preference, or expediency.

Judah and Israel were both in a state of spiritual decay when Isaiah exercised his prophetic ministry, delivering a torrent of divine condemnation beginning with Jerusalem.  His earliest assignment after receiving the call to preach was of a forthcoming Assyrian invasion resulting in the destruction of Israel, though Judah would be preserved.  To the reader after the fact, this would not appear to be a hopeless situation, but in the denouncement to King Ahaz, the Lord had already made clear that they were on an identical path as their northern brethren and the surrounding nations that would receive due judgment.  Though the present brought uncertain conditions, the future discipline of a holy God was fixed.  They were in a hopeless position as much as a frog in gradually heated water.

In the face of doom, a ray of hope shines however.  As a promise of the Lord’s covenant with King David, Isaiah foretells of a king who would reign seemingly forever (Isa 9:6-7)—the ultimate golden age—describing it in terms of utter justice, righteousness, and peace as no other has accomplished or could better (Isa 11:3-10).  This could only be because of who this person is and of what stuff he is derived.  The prophet gives that:
And the Spirit of the Lᴏʀᴅ shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ.  (Isa 11:2)
Here we see a complete package in this seven-fold description of the Spirit, and only God is sufficient as the source and enabling.  In this prophetic section, then, we see the fullness of the Godhead in action as Eusebius of Caesarea wrote:
For in these things the whole fullness of deity of the only-begotten God is signified, concerning whom the Evangelists say: “from His fullness we have all received,” and the apostle: “For in Him all the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell bodily.” … In Him the Spirit of God dwelt, and it is concerning Him that that the apostle said: “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” … One is not to understand these many spirits as entities separate from one another.  Rather just as we understand the same word of God to be “light” and “life and resurrection” and a myriad of other things according to one’s reflection on Him, so also we should understand … all these titles as referring to the one and the same Word who proceeds from God and rested on Him who descended from the root of Jesse and from David according to the flesh.  (Commentary on Isaiah 11)
What then is our hope in times of hopelessness?  It is better to ask who—our Lord Jesus.  We do not yet see the consummation of Isaiah’s vision.  The world, the flesh, and the devil still are at work.  The outward man still is dying.  Sin still works in our members.  Yet in spite of this, Messiah reigns in justice and righteousness.  He hears our cause and will judge rightly.  He binds up the broken-hearted, brings peace, and gives rest.

Hold fast to the promise: Surely, I am coming quickly (Rev 22:20).  Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.  (2 Thess 2:16-17)

See how by the method of prayer he stirs up their mind, giving them the unspeakable care of God for pledges and signs.  “Comfort your heart,” he says, “in every good work and word,” that is, through every good work and word.  For this is the comfort of Christians, to do something good and pleasing to God.  See how he brings down their spirit.  “Which gave us comfort,” he says, “and good hope through grace.”  At the same time he makes them also full of good hopes with respect to future things.  For if He has given so many things by grace, much more things future.  I indeed, he says, have spoken, but the whole is of God.  “Establish”; confirm you, that you be not shaken, nor turned aside.  For this is both His work and ours, so that it is in the way both of doctrines, and of actions.  For this is comfort, to be established.  For when anyone is not turned aside, he bears all things, whatever may happen to him, with much long-suffering; whereas if his mind be shaken, he will no longer perform any good or noble action, but like one whose hands are paralyzed, so also his soul is shaken, when it is not fully persuaded that it is advancing to some good end.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Thessalonians

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What Does American Evangelicalism Believe?

The title is not a trick question.  What do evangelicals believe?  Can we nail this down?  Some might point to the multi-volume The Fundamentals edited by A. C. Dixon and later by R. A. Torrey.  The 90 essays contained therein provide a thorough understanding of Scripture in early twentieth-century evangelicalism, but can we consider the work to be accurate today?  What about a pared-down list similar to those found on websites or the following list of essentials by Matt Slick at CARM:
  1. Deity of Christ
  2. Salvation by Grace
  3. Resurrection of Christ
  4. The Gospel
  5. Monotheism
  1. Jesus is the only way to salvation
  2. Jesus’ Virgin Birth
  3. Doctrine of the Trinity
With these essentials in hand, are we any closer to determining what American evangelicals actually believe?  I have often quipped that the belief system of any local assembly can be reduced to a mathematical function: f(x) = x + 1.  In other words, for any number (x) of congregants, there is x+1 number of belief systems or opinions.  And if they actually compare notes with one another, the number grows exponentially: f(x) = (x+1)y where y is the number of interactions.  Overt facetiousness aside, how accurate is this?

With the prevalence of postmodern thought in Christianity, personal belief systems have increasingly become the norm.  In October of this year, I referenced a recent article illustrating heretical beliefs held by self-professed evangelicals.  Believers have taken a pragmatic approach to doctrine that resonates with their current situation.  Individualized Christianity runs rampant.

Church leadership is not without fault.  In March of this year, in an examination of evangelical response to the presidential election, Marsha West of Berean Research summarized a series she wrote in 2011 with the following:
Several years ago I penned a piece that I hoped would help explain the downgrade in the Church. I thought supermarket shopping would be a clever way to paint a word picture. In my piece I pointed out that there’s a “diabolically inspired supermarket of truth and error in the postmodern Church.” So take a stroll with me, once again, up and down the aisles as we shop for the ingredients to make Syncretism Stew….
Aisle 1-Mysticism Madness;
Aisle 2-Charismatic Confusion;
Aisle 3-Pentecostal Pandemonium;
Aisle 4-Enlightened Emergents;
Aisle 5-Purpose-driven Pragmatism;
Aisle 6-Secular Strategies…to suck in seekers;
Aisle 7-Twelve-steps…to “group think”
Aisle 8-Preposterous Pop Psychology
Aisle 9-Discernment Disintegration
Aisle 10-Predatory Pastors.
On and on it goes.
And I added this reminder:
The Body of Christ trusts its Shepherds to feed them healthy nutritious foods, yet many of them are literally starving their sheep to death! A diet of “Bible Light” does not nourish the soul – it causes spiritual malnutrition! A shepherd’s job is to lead the flock in Christian life and faith. (Source)†
One byproduct of this shift has been an adherence to other or additional sacraments.  Within Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic systems, there are seven well-documented sacraments (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, ordination, and matrimony).  Evangelicalism is known for two ordinances (baptism, the Eucharist), but in practice this has changed.  American Evangelicalism also has what have effectively become seven sacraments: praise & worship, decision, self-help, service, quiet time, small groups, and clean living.  Matthew Garnett at In Layman’s Terms introduced these some time back and rebroadcast them on his podcast of October 16 this year.  In a nutshell, Garnett helps us realize that though some of these things are not bad, they have become the metric by which spirituality is measured: if you are not actively involved in all these things to an arbitrary satisfactory degree, then you must not be spiritual.  You may not even be a Christian.  The only solution is a Protestant purgatory wherein well-meaning pastors and parishioners pound you with the Law into you fall in line with the group standard.  The result is that you become twice a son of the devil as they, shipwreck your faith, or cope by inventing your own spirituality—all commonplace occurrences.

Whatever initiated the maelstrom, it has continued largely unabated, dragging whomever comes close into the abyss.  There are multitudinous metaphors to help us understand that there is something solid on which we can depend—foundation, rock, anchor, tower, bulwark to name a few—promised by the only One with power and authority to save and keep—I Am, Ancient of Days, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He Who promised is faithful.  What the Bible says, believe, teach, and do.

I cannot tell you how many times pastors and teachers have altered Bible quotations and definitions of Greek and Hebrew terms to fit their theology.  I cannot tell you how many times believers are confronted with Scripture and say they do not care.  Just stop.  Stop being relevant.  Stop being nuanced.  The solution is obvious yet must be constantly repeated.  Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, neither nonchalantly nor with glitz, glamor, and funk.  Pray for daily bread and daily forgiveness, not seed offerings and audacious faith.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, not the pastor’s vision and 10-year plan.  Make disciples by baptizing and teaching, not by bait and switch.

Maybe rightly dividing the Word of God and preaching Christ and Him crucified are out of vogue, but there is no other solution to our need.  It is the one given to us.  Teach and learn the creeds.  Teach and learn a catechism.‡  Stop sipping at the shallow rivulet of new and trendy, but instead imbibe at the deep waters of what has been tested and tried that we might run the race and finish the course, looking to the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

*  I am uncomfortable with the primary/secondary designations he gives.  They can be misconstrued, and the latter three can be subsumed in the former.  However, he carefully defines his use of the terms.

†  I recommend reading that series: “Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity” (part 1, part 2, part 3).

‡  I did not specify which catechism because of the diversity of my readership, but I gladly recommend both Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms.  You also would do well with the Heidelberg Catechism.