Archive for July, 2011


Does this apply?

I heard this week that Harvard Business School claim that 95% of people don’t know how to apply a principle. My quick internet search has failed to turn up anything to confirm the claim, but the source is trustworthy (Ray Galea) and in my experience seems likely.

If this is true, what does it mean for us? It means that Bible teachers of all kinds need to work hard at application. There’s the principle, but we now know that 95% of people can’t do anything with it until I put some flesh on the bones.

So it means, we need to put flesh on the bones of our application, so that people understand. That can come a number of ways. You could give numerous examples in all sorts of different contexts, to show how the principle might apply. You could explore one example very deeply, to show how you go from principle to application. But to stop at just the principle is to give 95% of people a pleasant thought that probably won’t impact their life. (Of course the Holy Spirit works through the Word to change people’s hearts to be more like Christ. But that’s never an excuse for our slackness. That’s a comfort in our weakness).

Paul is a great illustration of this principle. Look at the book of Ephesians, for example. The first three and a half chapters trace through theology and principles that flow out. The remainder of the book puts those principles into concrete practice. We need to do the same. Application is hard work, but it’s essential to see lives changed.

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What do you think is the biggest danger in churches today? Is it a lack of clear Bible teaching? Is it a lack of evangelism? Not thinking big enough? Irrelevancy? Urgency? Passion?

These are all good options, but I think the biggest danger for churches today is, and always has been, sin. Sin is the biggest danger. Sin ruins relationships, cools zeal, douses prayer, relegates Bible reading and robs us of the good that God has for us. As we pray for churches, lets pray for ourselves and each other that we will be putting sin to death in us.

Rom 8:13 “for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. “

Jesus the Pride Fighter?

Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity” (Mark Driscoll)

I heard Driscoll make a comment very similar to this in a sermon once. The point he was making is that we should look at Jesus in his glorification (what he is like now in heaven), not in his humiliation (what he was like on earth). Revelation 19 paints the picture that Driscoll is leveraging off above. Jesus is more like a cavalry officer than a pride fighter, though. He does have a tattoo, has flaming eyes, a sword tongue, wears a robe dipped in blood and rides a white horse. Needless to say this is a very different picture to the Gospels. But is it a case of either or? Are these pictures of Jesus really so different?

There are glimpses of Jesus’ glory through the Gospels that run in the same vein as this Revelation picture. The Transfiguration comes immediately to mind (Mt 17, Mk 9, Lk 9). On the mountain Jesus turns as bright as the sun giving the disciples retina burn as they watch him talk to Moses and Elijah. Unsurprisingly, they were terrified. In John’s Gospel, when they come to arrest Jesus, he merely speaks and they all fall over (Jn 18:6).

So was Jesus acting in weakness when really he had great strength? It depends what you mean by weakness and strength. You see, we tend to think of exercising power over others as a display of strength, but Jesus shows us a new kind of strength. He exercises the strength to serve others at great personal cost, even his own painful, shameful death. This may look like weakness, but Paul reminds us that it is in fact great strength. “… we preach Christ crucified… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:23-24) This same picture can be seen in Revelation. John is told, “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah”, who has the power to open the scroll and bring about all that God purposes in the universe, and what does he see? “A Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”. (Rev 5:5-6)

So Driscoll has a point. Jesus is mighty and powerful. But that doesn’t mean we style ourselves after a pride fighter, or a cavalry officer. We style ourselves after Jesus in his humble service, because in this is the strength and wisdom of God.