The Tithe That Binds, part 2

Having presented the case that Old Testament tithing is no longer binding as a law for New Testament believers, I thought it important to lay out further the principles, or patterns, of giving that saturate the New Testament.  I will also be writing a third and final part that will answer the most common objections that I have encountered in my ministry.  As stated in part 1 of The Tithe That Binds:  “While tithing is no longer a law to be obeyed, it certainly remains a principle to be applied.  Whatever our view on tithing, the binding principles behind the giving of tithes is strongly reaffirmed in the New Testament: faith, sacrifice, and worship.”

Rather than a continuation of a total tithe of 23.3% (Num.18:21-24; Dt.14:22-27; Dt.14:28-29), the New Testament presents giving based on the principles of faith, sacrifice, and worship.  (These are certainly not the only principles, but they are the prevailing ones).  These three principles were also present in the Old Testament economy, but they have taken on an even more profound importance under the New Testament.

1)  Faith: True New Testament giving is first of all an act of faith.  Both sacrifice and worship are impossible without faith in God.  When we give out of obligation, guilt, or greed (hoping to get something from God), then the purpose of giving is lost.  The reason we give is to joyfully see the work of God carried on, lives changed, provisions given, and God glorified.  The purpose of giving is to turn our naturally stingy hearts into generous hearts.  Indeed, we are to give joyfully or not at all.  Paul’s word to the Corinthian Church, though he doesn’t actually use the word “faith,” is a reminder of how our giving is really an indicator of the quality of our faith.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8—The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

2)  Sacrifice: Sowing bountifully not only requires faith but also sacrifice.  By its very nature, faith hinges upon giving up something in order to gain something better.  For example, real faith in Jesus for salvation hinges upon giving up our self-perceived “right” to rule our own lives (otherwise known as sin) in order to gain forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  That hinge is what the Bible calls repentance.  There is no faith in Jesus without repentance, nor is there repentance without faith in Jesus.

Like salvation, the giving of money to the Lord’s work through the local church requires sacrifice on the part of believers.  We see a great illustration of sacrificial giving in the early church in Acts 4:32-37.

Acts 4:32-37— Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

The principle of sacrificial giving is founded on an even more encompassing principle: Christ sacrificed it all (His very life) that we might have a better standing with God.  Hear what the writer to the Hebrews says:

Hebrews 8:6-7—But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

3)  Worship: The New Testament is clear that God is to be valued above earthly possessions because God is the Creator, worthy of all of our attention and adoration.  A realistic view of possessions includes the acknowledgement that earthly things will fade away but God and His gospel are eternal.

Matthew 6:19-20—“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Jesus commands us not to treasure earthly wealth in the place of what is most valuable, namely God.  Once we see possessions as we should, then we will be free to give to the church with the right motives (Matt.6:19-24).  One way that we do this is through the giving of money to a local church as a part of our worship of God.  Let’s state it clearly:  Giving is an act of worship, just as much as singing, praying, and hearing God’s Word.

In the New Testament, there is no law on giving but one: Give!  Give in faith.  Give sacrificially as God leads you by His Holy Spirit.  Give as an act of worship of a God who has sought us and bought us by the blood of His Son.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

The Tithe That Binds, part 1

We assume too much.  Sometimes we assume we know things that we really don’t know.  Sometimes we assume that others understand us when they really don’t.  When it comes to the Bible, we often assume we know what it says and what it means.  This is especially true regarding its teaching on tithing.

Many Christians assume that the New Testament teaches them to give a tithe of all of their income to the local church.  For many of us, this idea has been engrained from our earliest days.  Thankfully, some have assumed less than others and have at least studied the New Testament for themselves and believe they have found evidence that tithing is still binding for Christians today.  But upon closer examination, I am convinced from the New Testament evidence that the tithe is no longer a law to be obeyed by believers.

Four References with No Substantial Proof
If the tithe were still binding for New Testament believers, then one would think that there would be clear and ample evidence.  But there is not.  Granted, the New Testament talks about the use of money, the love of money, and the giving away of money all over the place.  When it comes to the tithe, however, there are but four sections of New Testament Scripture that mention it, and two of those are one verse in length and parallel accounts in the Gospels at that (Matt.23:23/Lk.11:42; Lk.18:12; Heb.7:1-10).  The question before us is whether or not these four references teach that Christians are required to give a certain percentage to the local church.

The references to tithing in the Gospels simply affirm that Law-abiding Jews are certainly expected to be tithing just as they would be expected to keep the kosher food restrictions and stone people caught in adultery.  Ironically, in both Gospel sections Jesus is actually rebuking the Pharisees for their legalistic understanding of tithing.

Regarding Hebrews 7:1-10, many tithe-advocates drive their stake in the ground here.  While I admit that this text has more flesh on the skeleton than the examples in the Gospels, Hebrews 7 still lacks clear evidence that the tithe is binding.  In the context of Hebrews 7, we must understand that the writer is striving to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus over the Levitical priest—Jesus is a better High Priest than the Levitical one, just as Melchizedek was too.

The point is not that tithing is reaffirmed as binding for Christians.  The point is that all of the temple-related regulations, such as tithing, were fulfilled by Christ.  There is no longer any need for the temple, priests, or sacrifices of any kind.  Therefore, there is no longer any need for tithes to “pay” for the upkeep of the temple or the needs of the priests.  The tithe, like circumcision, was an Old Testament Law that was temporal in nature rather than eternal (like “love your neighbor” or “do not murder”).  Even though the tithe in Hebrews 7 is traced back to Abraham before the Law, so is circumcision.  And practically all Christians agree that the pre-Law practice of circumcision is no longer binding.

All or None
Here’s the thing.  If the tithe is still binding, then we must obey the law of tithing to the letter (Gal.3:10-14; Jas.2:10).  True tithing would look more like this:

1)  Old Testament tithes were only on food, drink, and livestock (Lev.27:30-33).  Today, that would mean, in addition to bringing 10% of our income to the church, we must bring 10% of our livestock and fruits and vegetables from our gardens into the church, or else sell 10% of them and bring that money.

2)  Actually, it would be closer to 23.3% because obeying the letter of the Law means that we must give all three Old Testament tithes (Num.18:21-24; Dt.14:22-27; Dt.14:28-29)—20% each year and 10% more every three years.  It is possible, however that tithes two and three (Dt.14:22-27; 14:28-29) are really one—tithe two simply being given to the poor and indigent every third year.

3)  We should stop expecting all Christians to tithe since a few groups were also exempt from tithing—namely the Levite, sojourner, fatherless, and widow (Dt.26:12).  Some would say non-farming occupations were also exempt.

Based on this evidence (and the lack of evidence in the New Testament to the contrary), Christians are free to give less than 10% of their income to the local church, or Christians are free to give more than 10% of their income to the local church.  While tithing is no longer a law to be obeyed, it certainly remains a principle to be applied.  Whatever our view on tithing, the binding principles behind the giving of tithes is strongly reaffirmed in the New Testament: faith, sacrifice, and worship.  While I do not expect nor desire conformity for all Christians on this issue, I do pray and desire that we be unified despite our differences.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

Why We Homeschool?

There is nothing like those awkward moments in conversation to remind you of the importance of knowing why you do what you do and believe what you believe.  Why we homeschool our children has to be one of the top items on the list!  Most people mean well, but the awkward questions and comments can sometimes be trying.  Then you have those obnoxious folks that are flatout rude.

Nonetheless, Sarah and I have what we believe to be some very solid reasons for home educating our children.  But before I share them, let me make a qualifying statement: We do not believe that homeschooling is for everyone, and neither do we look down on others because they choose to have other people educate their children.  With that said, here are the primary reasons that we home edcuate:

1)  We believe that God has directed us to homeschool.  It is not for everyone, but it is for us because God has called us to it.

2)  We believe that we can provide a great education for our children through one-on-one instruction and more specialized curriculum that fits the individual child, increasing the likelihood of personal excellence.  We like that our children are able to study at their own skill level rather than that of the average child in a classroom.

3)  We believe that we can provide a more physcially and spiritually safe environment for our children, specifically in these crucial years.

4)  We believe that we are responsible for reducing negative peer pressure and creating healthy opportunities for appropriate socialization through the Church, homeschool co-ops, enrichment classes, etc.  The debate over “socialization” continues to be the most misunderstood aspect of homeschooling.  What many seem to forget is that homeschooling done right is far more socializing than your average school system.  Being confined to one building, a few classrooms, and one group of children year after year is not nearly as sociable as meets the eye.  This is not even to mention what kind of socializing is taking place (early exposure to vulgarity, sexuality, drugs, disrespect for authority, etc.).  Our children, however, have greater freedom to explore the real world through more frequent field trips, grocery shopping, nature walks, hospital visits, and other such experiences.

5)  We believe it is a more efficient use of time and money.

6)  As a family in the ministry, the frequency of moving can be greater.

7)  We love the flexible schedule!

8)  We love being with our children!

While we believe that God expects followers of Jesus Christ to be “salt and light” in a distasteful and dark world, we also believe that God expects Christian parents to “train up a child in the way that he should go” and gradually release them into the frying pan of the world rather than dropping them in before they are ready.

Now that these are in official print, hopefully I will have a better answer for those who wonder, “Why do you homeschool?”

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

3 Reasons I’m a Posttribulationist

I have been a posttribulationist now for 12 years.  Back then, I would not have seen such a transition from my pretribulationist past coming, but it happened.  I can say with all confidence that it happened because I was convinced from Scripture and not some fly-by-night T.V. personality or fanciful author.  I can also say with all assuredness it happened despite it being among the more infamous views in my own evangelical circle.

First,  I want to affirm the non-dogmatic status to which all mainline eschatological views should be viewed.  Whether we end up being pretribulation, midtribulation, posttribulation, premillennial, postmillennial, or amillennial, we should all be able to get along as long as we all affirm that Jesus Christ will literally return one day to deliver His people and judge those who have not trusted Jesus.

Second, I want to admit that not all 3 of my reasons for being a posttribulationist carry equal weight.  Some may be stronger than others, but I believe each one is rooted in Scripture.

Without further ado, I am a postribulationist because . . .

1)  It is the most contextual view:  This means that posttribulation better allows individual texts and even entire books to speak for themselves without bringing in undue baggage from other texts.  This is especially true regarding Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians.  For example, let’s take a look at 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-10  Now concerning  the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  2 For you yourselves are fully aware that  the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then  sudden destruction will come upon them  as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  4 But you  are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  5 For you are all  children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.  6 So then  let us not sleep, as others do, but let us  keep awake and  be sober.  7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk,  are drunk at night.  8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober,  having put on the breastplate of  faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  9 For God has not destined us for  wrath, but  to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (ESV)

Based on the context of these verses, we see that the topic is the Second Coming of Christ because it speaks of destruction coming upon unbelievers (v.3).  So whether pre-trib or post-trib, all should be agreed.  But not only will unbelievers be present on the Day of the Lord, but the Church will be too.  According to Paul, the Thessalonians will not be surprised by “that day” (v.4).  It is not that the Rapture occurs some 3.5 or 7 years before “that day” because Paul is certainly calling the Thessalonains to be vigilant (vv.5-8).  If the Thessalonians are going to be in heaven with Jesus, why would Paul even mention this?  Why would he call them to be vigilant and discerning about the times?

2)  It is the least complicated view:  Even a pretribulationists must admit that the posttribulation view is the simplest, especially if understood from an amillennial perspective.  Occam’s razor proves often true:  The simplest solution is often the correct one.  Even in the 1 Thessalonians 5 passage above we see this to be true.  A posttribulationist reads these verses and simply concludes: Jesus is coming back at a time unknown to believers and unbelievers, but it will occur on “the Day of the Lord,” a day on which unbelievers will be destroyed but believers will be delivered from God’s wrath.  No charts or timelines necessary.  No further complexity need be inserted.

3)  It is the most covenantal view:  Posttribulation maintains a closer relationship between God’s Old Testament people and God’s New Testament people, affirming that the Church is the New Testament fulfillment of all that we find in the Old Testament.  This means that the New Testament Church is made up of both Old and New Testament believers, and there should be no separation within God’s people along nationalistic or genealogical lines.  And this does not amount to “replacement theology” in which some would say that the Church has replaced Old Testament Israel.  Rather, I would term it “fulfillment theology” (Rom. 2:28-29).  While greater multitudes of Jews may believe on Jesus as the latter days draw nearer (Rom. 11), this does not automatically necessitate a literal “time of the Jews” in which the Church is missing.  After all, to be a follower of Jesus means you are a part of His body, the Church.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

God Has Spoken

God has spoken.  Of all the things that the Christian believes, he must believe this.  The controversy, however, swarms around the question of how has God spoken.  Historically, God’s people have believed on the Scriptures as God’s primary means of speaking to them.  We are talking over 2,000 years of hearing and reading the Bible (keeping in mind that the earliest believers only had portions of the canon of Scripture, which was completed in the late first century A.D.)

From the beginning, Satan was a liar and the father of lies.  That is the first thing we learn of him in the Bible as we find him selling his elixir to Eve. When it comes to the reliability of the Bible, many professing Christians today have swallowed the ancient venomous brew of Satan.   As a part of a major, conservative, Baptist denomination, I have been surprised at how many individuals I have had to counsel on this subject.  I’m not talking about general questions or confusion.  I’m talking about people who say things like, “Writers in the New Testament were only giving their opinions when they were writing.”

I have literally spent hours attempting to answer such objections to the simple statement, “The Bible is God’s word to man and not simply man’s word about God.”  It is to the point that many local churches do not even examine a ministerial candidate’s basic theology or view of the Bible.  This results in churches placing people in ministry positions that have no solid foundation of truth because the source of authority of these candidates is themselves.  Unfortunately, I know of more than one person who has served or is serving in important ministry positions who do not believe in the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible.

Some are tempted to say at this point that people like me are splitting hairs or making a mountain out of a mole hill.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Let me be very clear at this point: Believing God’s word to be God’s word is a matter of life and death.  Because this is such a serious matter, I want to share a few reasons, along with biblical citations, why I believe the Bible is a trustworthy collection of writings and why disbelieving it puts a person in danger of eternity in hell.

1.  The Bible contains self-claimed authority:The Bible itself claims to be authoritative truth from God.  So either the biblical writers are looney liars, or they really were recording God’s truth.  In essence, God’s credibility is at stake (2 Tim. 3:16).

2.  The Bible contains eyewitness testimony: From Moses to John (that is Old Testament to New Testament), the Bible is full of eyewitness testimony.  For example, the Gospel of John is written by a man that claims to have seen, heared, and handled Jesus, not to mention experienced the ministry of Jesus firsthand.  Can you imagine witnessing the dead being raised to life, the deaf given hearing, and the blind given sight?  Can you imagine seeing some 20,000 people fed with only five loaves and two fish?  Again, either John and the other biblical writers were looney liars, or they are giving us a subjectively objective account.  By subjectively objective, I mean that God allowed them to use their own personality, style, and perspective in writing, yet everything that is recorded is exactly what God purposed for them to write (Jn. 21:24-25; Acts 1:16; Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pt. 1:20-21; 3:2).

3.  The Bible brings spiritual life: There is no spiritual life apart from hearing the truth contained in the Bible.  A person in the darkest jungle may have an awareness of God and His moral law, but that person cannot be right with God through this limited awareness.  The gospel of Jesus must be read and/or heard for salvation to come to a person whose spirit is dead to God but alive to sin (Ps. 119:130; Acts 26:15-18; Rom. 10:12-15; Eph. 4:17-19; 2 Tim. 3:15).

4.  Reading the Bible requires faith: The words recorded in the Bible are ludicrous to the unbeliever.  God’s word is not meant to be purely logical, and there are innumerable paradoxes and stories that defy logic.  Yet, that is the very nature of God’s truth.  God’s truth only “makes sense” to those who have been given life by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  God’s word is meant to reveal who God really is and who we really are in relation to Him.  Believing that God is holy and pours out wrath on unrepentant, unbelieving sinners requires faith that we don’t have.  Believing that we are sinners incapable of producing a righteousness that pleases God also requires a faith that we don’t have (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 12:3; 14:23b; Php. 1;29; Heb. 3:12).

5.  Faith includes belief in God’s providence: Providence is the teaching found in the Bible that describes God’s will being worked out in every detail of the created order, from a flock of birds that fill the sky to a single bird feather that falls to rest on a blade of grass.  God works all things according to His good pleasure.  If God is so involved in the minutest detail, would He not ensure that the Bible is wholly inspired, infallible, and inerrant?  Yes!  He would and He has (Ps. 115:3; Matt. 10:29-31; Col. 1:17)!

There is no way in this article to answer all of the objections and mention all of the intricacies of the debate over the Bible.  But the things that have been noted are sufficient to make the point that the Bible is God’s Word to man, and the only proper and saving response to His Word is belief.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta

Confessions

I am thankful for the kindness of God in allowing me to read Saint Augustine’s Confessions.  I can say that it has impacted my understanding of God and of myself as much as any other book that I have ever read (aside from the Bible mind you).  I only wish that someone would have clued me into this great treasure many years ago because it would have been helpful in so many spiritual battles.

One of the first things I noticed as I began reading is Augustine’s utter awe of God.  Not one sentence in this book spoke of God flippantly.  Rather, God was held in the highest esteem, yet it was done without any hint of legalistic rigidity.

There is one thing evident above all others: Augustine had been changed by the sovereign grace of God, by the life-giving Spirit of God.  Whereas he was once enslaved to sexual promiscuity and man-centered philosophy, God awakended him to new life.  As he sat in a garden contemplating his spiritual state, he heard a voice of a child from a nearby house chanting, “Pick up and read, pick up and read.”  So he did, and in the providence of God, Augustine opened to Romans 13:13-14, which said, “Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts.”  His often quoted conversion is recorded this way:

“I neither wished nor needed to read further.  At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart.  All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.”

Later in the book Augustine described his conversion this way: “You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.  You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.  You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you.  I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.  You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”

These kinds of statements in the Confessions about the grace of God in salvation through Jesus Christ bring the Christian reader to a point of worship.  It would be hard to imagine how a genuine believer could read such words and be unmoved.  To think back and remember how God calls sinners like me out of darkness into spiritual light humbles me and brings me to worship God for His work of salvation.  My earnest prayer is that any reader of this article would read the testimony of Augustine and that God would do the same in them.  May He turn dark hearts to light!  May He turn light hearts to ever brighter lights!  May He show every reader that no good thing lies within us, and that we need Him more than our next breath!

Well, time and space would not permit me to share the numerous quotations that set my soul soaring and those that brought me to the depths of the valley, but suffice it to say that this book is worth the read.  It takes a little while to get used to reading a fourth-century document like this, but if you pick up a good translation of it, this will help immensely (I read the Oxford World’s Classic printing translated by Henry Chadwick, and it was excellent).  Also the last two or three chapters are quite philosophical in their approach to the topic of time, so be aware of that as well.

Aside from these cautions, “Pick up and read, pick up and read!”

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta

What Is the Gospel?

I recently read a great little book titled What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert and published by Crossway.  In the same way he introduced his book, I introduce this book review with stating the obvious: You would think that answering the question, what is the gospel?,  would be easy for those professing to be Christians.  Gilbert noted, “It’s like asking carpenters to sit around and ponder the question, What is a hammer?” (p.15). 

Therefore, Gilbert’s book addresses a serious question for Christians to ponder, indeed the most serious of all questions.  If we get this one wrong, then it is a matter of eternal life or death.

In eight short chapters, Gilbert addresses the question, what is the gospel.  Chapter 1 begins by pointing inquirers to the Bible as our only sure hope of truth and authority.  The remaining chapters highlight what we find in the Bible that are inseparable pieces to the gospel puzzle.

Chapter 2 affirms God as the righteous Creator of man.  As such, God has Creator-rights over man and demands holiness from those who have been created in His image.

Chapter 3 affirms man’s sinfulness by both nature and choice.  As such, man is completely unable to initiate any step toward God.  Rather, God must take the first step of spiritual birth referred to as regeneration in the Bible.  Gilbert noted, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is full of stumbling stones, and this is one of the largest.  To human hearts that stubbornly think of themselves as basically good and self-sufficient, this idea that human beings are fundamentally sinful and rebellious is not merely scandalous.  It is revolting.” (p.51).

Chapter 4 affirms that Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior of mankind.  He is the long-awaited Messiah, fully God and fully man.  He lived the righteous life that man should have lived.  He died the horrendous death, enduring the wrath of God, that sinful man deserved.  He was raised from the dead victoriously as the first-fruit of resurrection.  He nows sits at the right hand of God the Father making intercession on behalf of His people.

Chapter 5 affirms the only appropriate response to the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection: faith and repentance.  Faith is relying on the truth of the gospel and the promise of eternal life to all who believe this truth.  Faith is relying on Jesus to secure a righteous verdict from God on our behalf.  Faith alone in Christ alone without any insulting human effort added is the simple message of the gospel.  Repentance is the flip-side of faith.  To believe in Christ is to turn from sin, and to turn from sin is to believe in Christ.  Repentance is not a life of sinless perfection, but it is characterized by a life of warring against sin, no longer living at peace with it.  As Gilbert stated, “We declare mortal war against it and dedicate ourselves to resisting it by God’s power on every front in our lives.”

Chapter 6 affirms that the gospel is really a command for all people to repent of sin and believe in the King who is building His kingdom.  The gospel is a call to live for the King now and to live with the King one day in His consummated heavenly Kingdom.

Chapter 7 affirms that the gospel must be cross-centered or it is no longer good news for anyone.  While the cross is offensive to many and a stumbling-block to others, it remains the only hope for those who are being saved.  By the foolishness of the cross, Christ put to death sin for all who believe on Him alone for eternal salvation.

Chapter 8 affirms the utter power of the gospel to save sinners to the uttermost.  From repentance and faith, to resting and rejoicing in Jesus, to loving fellow Christians, to loving lost sinners enough to call them to Christ, to longing to be with Jesus in heaven, the gospel has the power over us for God’s glory.

And so I end with this plea to my fellow Christ-lovers: proclaim the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God’s glory alone.  And to any unbeliever that may be reading this I plead with you: turn from your sin that is leading you to eternal destruction and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for your deliverance.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

A few months ago I read Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, which was written by John Piper and published by Broadman & Holman.  As to be expected, Piper has produced yet another God-glorifying text on a most important issue in the American church.  In the opening chapter, he highlights what the pastor ought to be and then questions how closely evangelicals are adhering to this biblical standard:

“I think God has exhibited us preachers as last of all in the world.  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but professionals are wise.  We are weak, but professionals are strong.  Professionals are held in honor; we are in disrepute.  We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle, but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill-clad and homeless.  When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:9-13).  Or have we?”  (p.2).

The book contains thirty chapters, mostly short, in which Piper exhorts American pastors strengthen areas of pastoral minsitry that he believes have languished in recent years.  Because of the lengthiness of any attempt to addres every chapter, I am going to choose my favorite quotes from various portions of the book and simply quote them.  In doing this, I hope to unobscure Piper’s own words and allow him to speak on his own behalf.

  1. Chapter 1: Brothers, God Loves His Glory–“Why is it important to be stunned by the God-centeredness of God?  Because many people are willing to be God-centered as long as they feel that God is man-centered.  It is a subtle danger.  We may think that we are centering our lives on God, when we are really making Him a means to self-esteem.  Over against this danger I urge you to ponder the implications, brothers, that God loves His glory more than He loves us and that this is the foundation of His love for us. . . .  God’s ultimate commitment is to Himself and not to us.” (pp.6-7)
  2. Chapter 4: Brothers, Live and Preach Justification by Faith–“If you work for your justification, what you are doing is trying to put God in your debt.  And if you succeed in getting God to owe you something, then you can boast before men and God.  If you worked for justifcation and you succeeded, you would not get grace, but a wage.  God would owe it to you.  And when you got it, you would be able to say, ‘I deserve this.’  And that, Paul says, is not what Abraham did.” (p.25)
  3. Chapter 6: Brothers, Tell Them Not to Serve God–“What is God looking for in the world?  Assistants?  No.  The gospel is not a help-wanted ad.  It is a help-available ad.  God is not looking for people to work for Him but people who let Him work mightily in and through them.” (p.40)
  4. Chapter 7: Brothers, Consider Christian Hedonism–“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” (p.45)
  5. Chapter 8: Brothers, Let Us Pray–“Oh, how we need to wake up to how much ‘nothing’ we spend our time doing.  Apart from prayer, all our scurrying about, all our talking, all our study amounts to ‘nothing.’   For most of us the voice of self-reliance is ten times louder than the bell that tolls for the hours of prayer.” (p.55)
  6. Chapter 12: Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker–“Where pastors can no longer articulate and defend doctrine by a reasonable and careful appeal to the original meaning of Biblical texts, they will tend to become close-minded traditionalists who clutch their inherited ideas, or open-ended pluralists who don’t put much stock in doctrinal formulations.  In both cases the succeeding generations will be theologically impoverished and susceptible to error.” (p.84)
  7. Chapter 16: Brothers, We Must Feel the Truth of Hell–“When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the gospel passes from good news to simply news.” (p.116)
  8. Chapter 19: Brothers, Our Affliction Is for Their Comfort–“When Paul says to the Corinthians that his afflictions are for their comfort and salvation, he implies that there is a design and purpose in his sufferings.  But whose design?  Whose purpose?  He does not design and plan his own afflictions.  And Satan surely does not design them to comfort and save the church.  Therefore, Paul must mean that God designs and purposes his pastoral afflictions for the good of the church.” (pp.139-140)
  9. Chapter 21:  Brothers, Don’t Fight Flesh Tanks with Peashooter Regulations–“Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn’t look like one.  Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.  Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.  Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.  Alcoholics don’t feel welcome in the church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in the church.” (p.155)
  10. Chapter 23: Brothers, Tell Them Copper Will Do–“The person who thinks the money he makes is meant to mainly to increase his comforts on earth is a fool, Jesus says.  Wise people know that all their money belongs to God and should be used to show that God, and not money, is their treasure, their comfort, their oy, and their security.” (p.168)
  11. Chapter 28: Brothers, Focus on the Essence of Worship, Not the Form–“It will transform your pastoral leadership in worship if you teach your people that the basic attitude of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with your hands full to give to God but with your hands empty to receive from God.  And what you receive in worship is God, not entertainment.” (pp.238-239)
  12. Chapter 29: Brothers, Love Your Wives–“Loving our wives is essential for our ministry.  It is ministry.” (p.246)

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta


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