Martyrdom and Mission: Why Reformers Died In Their Day, How We Must Live In Ours

This is the tenth and final post in a series with my notes from the Together for the Gospel Conference (#T4G2016) that was held from April 12-14 in Louisville, KY. To see my other notes from the sermons at T4G, click here

Speaker: David Platt                                      Key text: Psalm 51

Listen to the full sermon: Audio (coming soon) || Video

The Reformers remind us that it is right to give our bodies to defend the Bible and the gospel. Even if we don’t die, we mist give our lives to the same task. A theology of danger and martyrdom is not a prominent theme in our churches today. Our views of safety and security are far too often American and not biblical.  Read more of this post

My Top 5 Books of 2015

books2015
With 2015 coming to a close, it’s time for a roundup of the top books I’ve read this year. For an overview of all the books I’ve read this year, just click here. Here are quick reviews of the top 5 books I read in 2015:

  1. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by Jim Hamilton
    Too often, Christians spend so much time studying individual portions of Scripture that they unconsciously neglect to treat the Bible as a book with a central theme. Approaching Scripture from a macro perspective is called biblical theology. In God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Hamilton posits that the theme woven throughout the entire Bible is that God mercifully saves His chosen people through the exercise of His righteous judgment, and in doing so brings glory to Himself. Dr. Hamilton goes book by book through Scripture to demonstrate how it all points to this overarching narrative with the culmination of the narrative being the cross of Christ. The best way to use this book in my opinion is to use this Bible reading plan that will pairs God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement with a daily Scripture reading. By the end of the year, you’ll have read all the way through both, gaining a deeper appreciation for the Bible itself as well as the indescribable creativity and sovereignty of the Author.

    “Without the Bible’s bad news, its good news will have no meaning.” -Jim Hamilton

  2. Real Christianity by William Wilberforce
    It’s amazing how relevant Wilberforce’s book is for Christians today (in fact, one of the marks of a great writer is the timelessness of their work). In Real Christianity, Wilberforce confronts the dangers of cultural Christianity that claims the name of Christ, but fails to actually follow its doctrines, commands, and precepts. He outlines characteristics of nominal Christians and contrasts their lifestyles and beliefs with those of real Christians, who live their lives in pursuit of holiness. As you read this book, you’ll be convicted to examine your own life to see if you have more in common with the nominal Christian Wilberforce describes or the true Christian described in Scripture.

    “Why is it so hard to get people to study the Scriptures? Common sense tells us what revelation commands: ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’–‘Search the Scriptures’–‘Be ready to give to every one a reason of the hope that is in you.’ These are the words of the inspired writers, and these injunctions are confirmed by praising those who obey the admonition. And yet, for all that we have the Bible in our houses, we are ignorant of its contents. No wonder that so many Christians know so little about what Christ actually taught; no wonder that they are so mistaken about the faith that they profess.” -William Wilberforce

  3. Good to Great by Jim Collins
    Good to Great offers a lot of solid advice for building a great organization, regardless of size or profit/nonprofit status. While many of the concepts are broad in scope and may need some adjustment based on your organization and industry, Collins and his team point out some key factors that result in a transition from a mediocre company to a great one. The book emphasizes that lasting change often takes time, hard work, and intentionality to achieve, even if it looks like an overnight transformation from the outside.

    “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” -Jim Collins

  4. How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaffer
    In How Should We Then Live? Schaeffer does an admirable job of showing the progression of Western thought by showing the impact that worldview has on a culture’s philosophy, art, music, and writing. The main objective of the book is to show the necessity of having a Christocentric foundation in order to live a life that has real meaning and purpose. As Western thought has drifted from that foundation, replacing it with other foundations or removing the foundation all together, culture has tended to decline in general. He ends the book by encouraging people, especially Christians, to actively engage the culture to point out worldview inconsistencies and give a strong defense for the viability of a Christian worldview.

    “There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind — what they are in their thought-world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought-world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world.” -Francis Schaeffer

  5. The Sports Gene by David Epstein
    This is an entertaining read for any sports fan. In the Sports Gene, David Epstein travels the world in search of research that shows the factors that set elite athletes apart from the rest of humanity. Along the way, he tackles topics like genetics, training, diet, race, and “nature vs. nurture.” Epstein is honest in the findings he presents and doesn’t shy away from any potential controversy that comes along with some of these more sensitive areas. In the end, Epstein concludes that there is no single “sports gene”, but that athleticism is a complex combination of internal and external factors that contribute to athletic prowess.

Honorable Mentions

I hope that you find these short reviews helpful and that you’ll take the time to read at least one of these books next year. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Happy reading!

Have you read any of these books or do have a book that would recommend reading in 2016? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS: My Top 5 Books of 2013 || My Top 5 Books of 2014

Follow Me: The Command to Disciple

This is the third of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

In this series, we’ve explored what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We looked at Jesus calling His first disciples and saw that the call of discipleship is initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. This involves both belief and repentance. Next, we saw that the cost of discipleship requires loving family less than Jesus, bearing our cross, and relinquishing everything. Even though this cost seems high, what we get in return is infinitely more valuable: the righteousness of Christ.

We’re going to wrap up our “Follow Me” study by looking at one of the first and last things Jesus gave to His disciples while on the earth: the command to make disciples. True disciples of Jesus Christ are supernaturally compelled to make more disciples.

Commanded and Accompanied

READ Matthew 4:19; 28:18-20

Notice in these two passages that Jesus doesn’t suggest that His followers make disciples. He doesn’t highly recommend it. He didn’t teach them the latest evangelism technique or instruct them on how to be a role model. No, Jesus gave them a clear command: “Go and make”. From the very beginning, Jesus intended for every disciples to make more disciples.

It is also important to note that He doesn’t give them this command and leave them to figure it out on their own. On our own, we are destined to fail. That’s what’s great about being a follower of Christ: He doesn’t leave us alone! The commands that Jesus gives His disciples can only be accomplished by the work that He does in them. In Matthew 4, He promises to make them fishers of men while in Matthew 28, Jesus tells His followers that He may be leaving them physically, but He will always be with them in the presence of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit continues to mold and shape us into the image of the ultimate Disciplemaker.

The Motivation for Disciple-making

What then is our motivation to make disciples? Should we do it because we feel guilty if we don’t? Should we do it to check off that box on our Heaven Admission Form? Not at all! Look at the Apostles: they were supernaturally compelled to tell others about Jesus. As a result, not even death could stop them from obeying this command.  Read more of this post

Follow Me: The Cost of Discipleship

This is the second of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

How would you respond if someone asked you: “How do I become a Christian”?

There are two ways to reply when asked this question: 1) Tell someone how easy it is: just acknowledge a few truths about God and then pray a prayer and you’re set! 2) Tell the person that the call to discipleship is a call to die so that they can live.

So, which of these is correct? What does it mean to truly, biblically follow Christ? Does it look different in a third world country as opposed to America? What does it mean to know Jesus and identify your life with His? In other words, what does it mean to be a Christian?

The first lesson outlined the two elements of the call to discipleship (repentance and belief) and then defined the call to discipleship as initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. This lesson will focus on answering the question “What does it mean to follow Christ?”

Three Costs of Discipleship
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus addresses three costs associated with being a disciple:  Read more of this post

Follow Me: The Call to Discipleship

This is the first of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

Jesus first spoke the words, “Follow me” to twelve ordinary men two thousand years ago. They answered the call, leaving behind their families, friends, and jobs, to follow a Man who would give them a new family, new friends, and a new mission.

Ever since that time, Jesus has called out to millions with the same two words: “Follow me.” Men and women, rich and poor, young and old, red, yellow, black, and white have responded to this summons.

But what is Jesus asking us to do when he says “Follow me”? Is it simply to “pray and ask Jesus into your heart”?  Do we just have to gain an understanding of who Jesus is and what He did? Or is it something more?

This series of blog posts will be looking at three components of Jesus’ call to “Follow me”: the call to discipleship, the cost of discipleship, and the command to disciple. Along the way, we will see not only the gravity of what we must forsake in this world but also the greatness of the One we follow in this world. In Him is found indescribable joy, deep satisfaction, and an eternal purpose.

Becoming a Disciple

The first component of following Jesus is the call to discipleship. (Read Matthew 4:17-22)

Two elements of becoming a disciple:

  1. Belief (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9)
    Believing Jesus is fundamental to following Jesus. Becoming and being a disciple of Jesus involves far more than mere intellectual belief in Him (the demons even believe that Jesus died and rose again-James 2:19), but it certainly doesn’t involve anything less than that. Many profess publicly to a belief that they don’t actually have personally (Matthew 7:21-23).
    To believe in Jesus requires an obedience that encompasses trusting the claims He made about Himself, relying on the promises He made to those who would follow Him, and being devoted to the very words He spoke (John 8:31-38, 14:26). As we continue to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1-2), we gain a deeper and deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf.
  2. Repentance (v. 17; Acts 2:37-38; Galatians 2:20)
    On the other side of the discipleship coin is repentance. When someone repents, there is a foundational transformation in the person’s mind, heart, and life. Like the disciples that Jesus called, a repentant man or woman willingly leaves behind their former way of life with its idols, sins, and self-righteousness in order to run to answer the call of a new way of life as a follower of Jesus. For every Christian in every culture, repentance is a necessary element of discipleship.

Discipleship Defined

The call to discipleship is:

  • Initiated by God… (v. 18, 21; John 6:65, 15:16; Romans 9; Ephesians 1; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2)
    There are few doctrines more despised by the prideful human mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. However, this truth is seen over and over throughout the pages of Scripture. Like the nation of Israel in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) and the four Apostles in this Matthew passage, God initiates the call to discipleship. He does so based on His mercy not because of who they are, but often in spite of who they are. Like a Good Shepherd, He goes searching for the sheep that belong in His fold (John 10:1-18). He has to.
  • …Towards Rebels Dead in Sin… (v. 18-19, 21; Romans 3:9-12, 23; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3)
    The reason that God has to initiate discipleship is because in our natural sinful state, not even one person willingly seeks for God. Our identity is too wrapped up in our jobs, family, social status, pleasure, and self-righteousness. In fact, we sin has distorted us so much that the Bible refers to everyone’s natural state as “dead in sin.” Because of this sinfulness, we are under the just wrath of God. The penalty for this sin isn’t determined by our measure of it, but instead the penalty is determined by the magnitude of the one who is sinned against. So our problem isn’t so much that we’ve made bad decisions or messed up, but that we have rebelled against God and as a result are utterly unable to turn to Him.
  • …Unto Adoption as Sons. (v. 20, 22; Romans 8:12-17; Galatians 4:1-7; Ephesians 1)
    Adoption is at the heart of Christianity. God not only takes initiative, He takes initiative towards people in rebellion to Him. His aim isn’t to capture these rebels as P.O.W.s, but to bring them into His very own family so that they cry out “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Before we were even born and while we were lying alone in the depth of our sin, God was planning and working to adopt us.

So then the call of discipleship is initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. The disciple’s journey begins not with his pursuit of Christ, but Christ’s pursuit of him. It doesn’t start with us inviting Jesus into our heart, but Jesus inviting us into His family.  The wonderful love behind this call is entirely beyond our imagination and completely out of our control. Just like Jesus called His first disciples, He has called out to us as well: “Follow me!”

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

For more on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, check out David Platt’s book Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. 

BONUS: Pictures from the 2014 HACM Spring Retreat

Mobilizing God’s Army for the Great Commission

This is the tenth post with my sermon notes from the Cross Conference (CrossCon) that was held from December 27-30, 2013, in Louisville, KY. To see my other sermon notes from CrossCon, click here

Speaker: David Platt                                    Key text: Romans 15:18-21

The picture of missions in the New Testament: some stay and build up existing churches, others go and plant new churches. The ultimate issue isn’t whether we stay or go, but whether we are obedient.

What if God has designed the globalization of today’s workforce for the spread of the gospel to the unreached people of the world?

[Platt goes on to quote Romans 1-8 from memory. Pretty incredible, so go check it out on the video below.]

Romans shows us that the gospel is good and that it is so good it is worth eternal damnation for yourself so that others might have it. If you behold the beauty of Romans 1-8, you bear the burden of Romans 9.  Read more of this post

My Top 5 Books of 2013

books

2013 is coming to an end which means it’s the time of year when every blogger does a year-end wrap-up post of some sort.

Since I like reading, here are the top 5 books I read in 2013:

  1. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots by J.C. Ryle
    By far one of the most impactful books on my Christian faith that I have ever read. Pursuit of personal holiness is one fo the most neglected areas for many Christians today. Ryle skillfully exposits 20 short passages related to holiness and powerfully applies them for his readers. He delves into topics like sanctification, fighting sin, counting the cost to follow Christ, and bringing glory to God in all areas of life. Though it was written in 19th-century England, 21st-century American readers will have no trouble relating to many of the themes he addresses since there are many parallels between Christianity in the two periods. I highly recommend this book to any Christian.

    “Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.” -J.C. Ryle

  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
    As an introvert in an extroverted world, this book definitely resonated with me. Cain provides some intriguing research on the difference between introverts and extroverts (and the complex relationship the two have with each other). She also highlights the strengths of introverts while recommending the kind of work environments that introverts can place themselves in to excel. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, this is a wonderful book that will help you understand, relate to, and lead the introverts in your life.

    “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.” -Susan Cain

  3. Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt
    Nominal Christianity is one of the most difficult challenges for the church today. In Follow Me, Platt makes the case that every Christian should be involved in making disciples in one way or another whether that is evangelism, missions (local or global), or edification of believers (individuals or groups). He outlines what it means to be a Christian and offers a lot of practical application for people to become disciple-makers. Platt also challenges those who claim the name of Christ, but doesn’t have a desire to grow in knowledge of Christ and share it with others, to reexamine if they are truly saved. A great read for Christians of any maturity level.

    “Making disciples of Jesus is the overflow of our delight in being disciples of Jesus.” -David Platt

  4. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
    Ever wonder why some products, ideas, or styles take off and others fall flat? Then read this book. Gladwell explains the three elements that commonly work together to make something “tip” and saturate a group (or groups) of people. With a handful of poignant examples and admonitions, he shows how utilizing these three elements can cause your idea to spread faster than any multi-million dollar advertising campaign. A recommended book for anyone interested in ideas, marketing, or business in general.

    “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” -Malcolm Gladwell

  5. The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God’s Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love by Greg Forster
    Calvinism often gets a bad rap for being overly-intellectual, harsh, emotionless, and cold. Forster’s Joy of Calvinism explores the entirety of Scripture to show that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the Reformed doctrines of God’s grace are a source of immense comfort, motivation, and joy. Forster clearly explains how Calvinism stems from the character of God as loving Father and merciful Judge, framing his discussion around four aspects of God’s love (as opposed to arguing from the five points of Calvinism aka TULIP). Overall, a short and deep explanation of Reformed theology ideal for Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.

    “Few would disagree with the statement that a true Christian is a person who clings for salvation, not to the church; not to the sacraments; not to the Bible; not even to the proclamation of the gospel or the believer’s belief in it; but to the cross and the empty tomb. Calvinism is just the systematic application of this truth in all doctrine, piety, and life.” -Greg Forster

Honorable Mentions:

If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Also be looking for more book reviews (like this and this) in the coming year now that I’m part of BookSneeze and NetGalley. Happy reading!

Read any of these books or have any that would recommend reading in 2014? Tell me about them in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 104 other followers

%d bloggers like this: