Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ category

The Gospel Alphabet: N is for Narrative

December 25, 2011

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M 

In his book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, J.I. Packer has a chapter entitled “The Gospel as of First Importance.”  In that chapter, Packer discusses the pastoral and formational applications of the Gospel.  Many are familiar with the quote from Tim Keller that “the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life; it is the A through Z of the Christian life.”  Packer writes,

“In that spirit we offer the following ‘Gospel Alphabet’–twenty-six pastoral and formative reasons why the Gospel must retain primacy as the content of Christian education” (108).

This week, we come to the letter “N”.

N is for Narrative

We must ever study the Gospel because it is the apex and summary of the great narrative of God’s redemptive activity in the world.  It is into this Story that we have been called.  In an age when many deny the existence of a single metanarrative that applies to all persons it is more crucial than ever that we know the biblical narrative and tell it faithfully to others, asking God to convince hearers as we do so that this is their Story as well.

Communities of Light, Part 1 (Biblical Theology)

September 27, 2011

God is light.

I’m not sure we have probed into the depths of that profound reality. I’m not trying to sound abstract or philosophical. The Bible is clear to explain that God is light (1 John 1:5).  He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 5:16) and is considered as “the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  All of this speaks of God’s character and domain of existence.  He is brilliant in all His holiness, perfect in all His righteousness, and absolute in all His attributes.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, and in the same manner sin cannot stand in the presence of God.

In the beginning, God’s first work in creation was a reflection of His character.  God who is light made light out of darkness.  He took what was “without form and void” and stamped His nature upon it with four little words, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:2-3).  Where there was chaos, there was clarity; where there was emptiness, there was the presence of His character.

God created Adam and Eve to walk in the light of His presence.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were to bear God’s likeness, exercise dominion over all He created, and enjoy the presence of God in the protection and provision of His creating and sustaining Word.  But as you know, the serpent threw darkness upon the light of God’s Word, sowing doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve regarding God’s good purposes for them (“Did God really say . . .?”).  The darkness of doubt bore fruit in the sinful rebellion of Adam and Eve, and darkness moved from doubt to guilt and shame as they hid themselves from the presence of God (Gen. 3:8).  Since then, mankind is born in a state of sin and separation from God in what the Bible describes as the “domain of darkness.”

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True and Better

May 30, 2011

I’ve already plugged this awesome excerpt of Tim Keller in the past, but it’s worth posting again.

[vimeo 23642755]

Why Biblical Theology Matters for Church Leaders

May 15, 2011

Dustin Neeley recently sat down with Mark Dever and asked about the importance of biblical theology in the life and work of pastors and church planters. I appreciated Dever’s response.

Getting Out by Tim Keller

May 2, 2011

From the 2011 Gospel Coalition National Conference. Tim Keller’s message on Exodus 14. EXCELLENT.

[vimeo 22669720]

Have You Viewed “The Story”?

September 9, 2010

My friend Dr. George Robinson put me onto this back in February, and I am really encouraged to see it get a lot of traction in recent months.  The Story is a tool focused on the big picture of the Bible–Scripture’s metanarrative–the story of Scripture laid out in creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.  For a long time, gospel presentations were exclusively categorical and based on systematic theology (God, man, sin, Christ, response), such as in the Roman Road, Evangelism Explosion, and Four Spiritual Laws.  What are finding today, however, is that the starting point has changed with an ever-increasing disconnect between the church and post-Christian society.

I recall one time David Wells saying in a conference that we cannot start with John 3:16 in sharing the gospel today; instead, we must start with Genesis 1:1.  And that is what The Story does.  Taking the approach of biblical theology, The Story doesn’t just talk about God, sin, and Christ, but it helps answer the questions of why and how things came to be the way they are today.  A postmodern culture with fewer and fewer people understanding the nature of God and sin due to their pluralistic worldview need a new grid or framework through which the gospel can be rightly understood, and biblical theology through the story of redemptive history explains that.

That is why I am encouraged to see gospel literature like 2 Ways 2 Live and The Story come out in recent years.  They are helping to connect the story of the gospel to the stories of people’s lives by showing them the overarching story of God in Scripture.  Take a moment and read The Story for yourself and watch the video below where men like David Platt, Alvin Reid, J.D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, Scott Thomas, Elliot Grudem, and George Robinson share why they are encouraged by this new evangelistic tool.

The Bible Is NOT About You

August 26, 2010

For the past seven weeks, I have been leading a group of men in our church through Tim Keller and Ed Clowney’s class on Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World. The 35 MP3’s are available for free on RTS iTunesU, and a PDF of the class notes are available as well.  I have also been supplementing the men with articles, chapters, and essays on Christ-centered preaching from Chapell to Greidanus to Goldsworthy to Spurgeon.  It has really be a lot of fun to learn together how to expound Christ, apply Christ, and adore Christ in our preaching.

Below is a video which is a good summary of what Tim Keller means by Christ-centered preaching, followed by a summary transcript of the audio excerpt.  Do you, preacher, make your message all about Him? Are you, Christian, satisfied with Christ-less messages?

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The Jesus Storybook Bible

September 8, 2009

NolanJSBBYesterday was an especially exciting day for the Brister family. No, we didn’t do anything out of the ordinary for Labor Day.  What happened was we finished the Jesus Storybook Bible for the first time.  God has used this little resourced by Sally Lloyd-Jones to turn our times of family worship as the most exciting time of the day for our son.  During this time, Nolan (now 19 months) has a good beginning understanding of the story of redemption where Jesus is the hero who rescues sinners with His never-failing love.

The time it takes to read each story is just right for his age, and together with prayers, singing of hymns, and occasional catechism questions, we enjoy a sweet time of roughly 15 minutes learning about Jesus and worshipping him.  As his father, to know the joy (however superficial) my son has in reading the Bible and singing to Jesus makes me really happy.  In fact, this morning my wife had a doctor’s appointment, so I stayed home to keep the boys.  What did Nolan want to do? He went for his bible, and we began again with reading the introduction and singing “The Gospel Song.”

What was all-the-more encouraging was to hear (on Twitter) several other fathers finished up the JSBB with their children–one of them the same day!  If you have not checked it out already, I encourage you to consider the Jesus Storybook Bible.  Next month, they will be rolling out with an all-new deluxe edition, including an audio narration of the stories.

You can also check out the new website for the Jesus Storybook Bible where you can also download free samples of the audio narration as well as view some of the stories in PDF.  I agree with the exhortation of Tim Keller who said the following:

“I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian–from pew warmers, to ministry leaders, seminarians and even theologians! Sally Lloyd-Jones has captured the heart of what it means to find Christ in all the scriptures, and has made clear even to little children that all God’s revelation has been about Jesus from the beginning–a truth not all that commonly recognized even among the very learned.”

With the help of the Jesus Storybook Bible, I am praying that my sons learn of Jesus, and having learned of Him, find Him a great Savior of great sinners and treasure Him as God’s precious gift to us.

Biblical Theology for Church Members

March 12, 2009

For the past couple of weeks, I have been teaching through What Is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile, and last week we broke down the second mark – a biblical theologian.  One of things I have been doing on our church blog is to provide some resources on the various issues or doctrines we have been studying.  This past week, I posted several on biblical theology that I thought you might be interested in checking out.  Here they are:

* Getting Introduced to Biblical Theology
* Books on Biblical Theology
* Why Biblical Theology Is Essential to the Life of the Church
* D.A. Carson on Defining Biblical Theology
* Shai Linne on the Greatest Story Ever Told

The third mark is “gospel saturated” so I hope to write several posts to help fuel a gospel-saturated vision for life in every church member.  If you would like to catch these posts as they go up, you can either subscribe to the RSS feed or if you are on Twitter, you can follow Grace Baptist on Twitter.

This Week at Sowing Grace (4)

December 1, 2008

The following posts were made available at Sowing Grace this past week:

Sunday: Paul’s Prayer to the Roman Church
Monday: Monday Is for Membership: Biblical Theologian, Part 2
Tuesday: “Holy Wordliness” (Cultivating Community Contacts, Part 5)
Wednesday: Thanksgiving Break
Thursday: Thanksgiving Break
Friday:  Thanksgiving Break
Saturday: Thanksgiving Break

You can subscribe to the Sowing Grace feed or check out the site for more information and upcoming posts.

Kostenberger on the Church’s Mission in the 21st Century

October 8, 2008

Andreas Kostenberger, on his blog (which is also available in Spanish!), recently shared twelve theses for the church’s mission in the 21st century.  Often when we hear of the church’s mission, it is couched in a pragmatic discussion, focusing on methodology to the neglect of theological reflection.  Kostenberger’s excellent theses, I believe, should serve as contours in future missiological study and practice. Here are his theses:

(1)   The church’s mission-in both belief and practice-should be grounded in the biblical theology of mission.

(2)   Reflection on the church’s mission should be predicated upon the affirmation of the full and sole authority of Scripture.

(3)   The church’s mission should be conceived primarily in terms of the church’s faithfulness and responsiveness to the missionary mandate given by the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Scripture.

(4)   The church’s understanding of its mission should be hermeneutically sound.

(5)   The church’s mission is to be conceived ultimately in theocentric rather than anthropocentric terms.

(6)   The church’s mission, properly and biblically conceived, is to be trinitarian in its orientation, but not at the expense of neglecting the distinct roles of the three persons within the Godhead.

(7)   The contemporary context of the church’s mission, while important, ought not to override the church’s commitment to the authority of Scripture, its need to be grounded in the biblical theology of mission, and the understanding of its task in terms of faithfulness to the gospel.

(8)   The church is the God-ordained agent of his mission in this world today.

(9)   The way in which the kingdom of God is extended in this world today is through regenerate believers acting out their Christian faith in their God-assigned spheres of life: the church, their families, their workplace, the societies in which they live (Eph 5:18-6:9; 1 Pet 2:13-3:7).

(10)  There is no true lasting social transformation apart from personal conversion through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

(11)  Human organization does not necessarily entail a lack of acknowledgment of God and his initiative in mission.

(12)  The church’s task today is to nurture, renew, and plant churches composed of a spiritually regenerate membership and constituted in keeping with the biblical teaching regarding church leadership.

I would love to see a discussion started on these twelve theses.  Kostenberger has recently written some excellent works, including Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: The Trinity in John’s Gospel (which I am currently reading).  I encourage you to check out Kostenberger’s works.  My hope is that we could see a more robust commitment to ecclesiology wedded to an unrelenting resolve in missiology that is grounded in a theocentric vision where God’s glory is the goal.

Take a moment and read the entire article.  It will be well worth your time.

Witnessing at Work: Sacred vs. Secular?

March 25, 2008

Continuing in our series on missional work, Jason Meyer chimes in to address the false dichotomy with a biblical-theological approach. More contributions to come, but for now, consider Jason’s response.

Christians tend to see things in pieces and miss the big picture. This inability to see in a panoramic way leads to many false dichotomies and dualisms. I think recovering a full-fledged biblical worldview would help put the pieces together into a more coherent whole, which in turn would eliminate much of the spiritual schizophrenia that Christians in the workplace often feel.

Many Christian authors are turning to a creation, fall, redemption model as a biblical grid for understanding all of life. Although this grid is useful in many ways, I will focus on three benefits for the sake of the question we are addressing today. First, it allows one to share the gospel in a structured way by answering the three essential questions that many people keep asking: (1) where did we come from [creation], (2) what went wrong [fall], and (3) what is the solution [redemption]. Second, this three-fold grid also functions as a tool for analyzing the worldviews of others, like those with whom we work. Contending worldviews must attempt to answer these same three questions and so Christians and their co-workers can compare and contrast their answers and assess how these answers stack up next to the reality that they see all around them. Third, it is not only useful for explaining the gospel in our personal evangelism at work, it is also useful for understanding a Christian perspective on work itself. I would like to spend a few moments explaining this third benefit.

Many Christians think that our sole objective is to receive salvation and share the plan of salvation with others. Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth offers some staggering statistics that solidify this common stereotype. She notes that research polls identify the strength of evangelical convictions in these areas. An overwhelming percentage of evangelicals believe the authority of the Bible, and the necessity of personal salvation and evangelism. However, she also noted that no one polled (not one person) could articulate a distinctively Christian mindset toward work. Christians typically thought in terms of infusing the secular with the sacred by praying at work or having a Bible study. When pressed further, Christians talked in vague terms about the importance of honesty and morality at work. Now let us be clear: these are all good answers in and of themselves. But they fall far short as complete answers. Can Christians glorify God at work even in those moments when they are not explicitly telling others about Jesus or praying with them?

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Blue Collar Theology 22: Recent Biblical Theology Resources

March 24, 2008

Over the past month, Southern Seminary (where I attend) has had some excellent lectures on Biblical Theology, and they have been kind to not only provide the MP3 of each lecture, but you can also download the lectures in PDF format. The lectures are from Graeme Goldsworthy (2008 Gheens Lectures) and Jim Hamilton (Julius Brown Gay Lecture).

Graeme Goldsworthy

>> “The Necessity and Viability of Biblical Theology” (MP3) (PDF)
>> “Biblical Theology in the Seminary and Bible College” (MP3) (PDF)
>> “Biblical Theology and Its Pastoral Application” (MP3) (PDF)

Jim Hamilton

>> “The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel” (MP3) (PDF)

Of course, the only thing I would like to ask Goldsworthy to speak on is “Biblical Theology for Blue Collar Christians.” Maybe we can work that out later. 🙂

Note: The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT) Summer 2006 volume is focused on Biblical Theology, with articles from Stephen Wellum, Tom Schreiner, Graeme Goldsworthy, Jim Hamilton, Peter Gentry, and Mark Seifrid. I highly recommend you check it out. Two of the articles are available online to download:

Preaching and Teaching the Whole Counsel of God” by Stephen Wellum
Preaching and Biblical Theology” by Tom Schreiner

Elemental Evangelism, Part 2

October 11, 2007

Picking up where I left off yesterday, I want to continue with elements three and four of what I am calling “elemental evangelism.”

3. Apologetical

As I begin to build a relationship with unbelievers, I piece together their worldview which is based on presuppositions they hold (whether they realize that or not). I have unbelieving friends who are atheists, agnostics, deists, New Age, Hindu, and Roman Catholic. However, many of the people I talk to have only a nominal understanding to what they believe. The purpose of me being apologetical is not to win an argument with my unbelieving friend; rather, I want to win them to Christ! In order to do that, however, I want to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-6). My goal is to gently but convincingly deconstruct their worldview and expose their presuppositions as dangerously false and perilous. Lest we forget, we are in a spiritual war where our enemy uses the schemes of this world and his lies to “blind the minds of unbelievers” (2 Cor. 4:4). In this war for their souls, the mind plays an integral part, and I make it my goal to present biblical arguments to dismantle their presuppositions (control beliefs) so that they no longer control their thinking anymore.

I should mention here that being merely apologetical is not evangelism, as Mark Dever is correct to assert in his new book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. However, apologetics plays an important, preparatory role in getting to the gospel message. If we neglect or minimize this part of exposing the folly or error of their beliefs, there is a real possibility that they will syncretize the Christian message to their beliefs and will continue to be a barrier to understanding the gospel.

4. Doctrinal/Biblical

After deconstruction comes reconstruction. We must lay a foundation based on the biblical narrative of God, creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. This metanarrative, or big story which explains all other stories, replaces the old understanding of life, man, God, salvation, etc. This is why biblical theology (the discipline) is so important. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of systematic theology, but systematic theology builds on biblical theology. For instance, I cannot talk about sin, depravity, and eternal punishment for sin unless I first talk about God (character), creation, and the Fall. We are living in a day where the categories of sin and justice are no longer in the post-Christian mind. Focusing on the biblical narrative and God’s work in redemptive history creates a framework and re-establishes the categories that have become diminishes or discarded through postmodern influences. The error in so many gospel presentations or plans of salvation comes when the fail because they have the wrong starting point. We cannot begin with John 3:16 but rather must start with Genesis 1:1. We cannot jump into a discussion about theological truths without establishing a grid through which they are to rightly understand them. Therefore, the reconstruction entails not only the substance of their thinking but the structure of it as well.

I am also a big fan of teaching and explaining doctrines in my evangelism, and there is considerable biblical warrant for stressing doctrine in our evangelistic practices. Take for instance the parable of the soils. Of the four soils where the seed was planted, only one brought forth lasting fruit. What was the difference? Jesus explained, “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it” (Matt. 13:23). All four heard the word, but only one understood it. So what is the goal of the evangelist if you want to be fruitful? It is to so present the gospel that unbelievers understand who God is, why they are guilty and condemned through sin, what God has done for them in Christ, and how they are to be saved. Last year, there was a coworker who I had shared the gospel with almost a dozen times. The week before she received Jesus, I spend an hour Wednesday night before work explaining the doctrine of justification by faith and why good works could never save her (she came from a Roman Catholic background). Thursday night I spent an hour talking about regeneration and how the Holy Spirit works to convict us of sin, draw us to Christ, and give us new life. On Friday night, I spent another hour explaining to her what biblical repentance and saving faith is and why this responsibility of turning from sin and turning to God was her responsibility. Sunday night after church, my wife and I took her out for dinner where we talked about the great exchange and the substitutionary atonement of Christ.  The next day she came to Christ.

I recognize that the opening of their eyes is solely the work of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit. However, God has ordained a means and instrumentality through the proclamation and impartation of God’s truth revealed in Scripture. The glorious gospel is so rich, enlivening, powerful, and experimental (to use the old Puritan vernacular) that we cannot begin to plunge its depths. Investing our times and energies in understanding the gospel and the doctrines therein becomes a fountain that overflows with joy inexpressible and full of glory. I am reminded of what Tom Wells says in his book on missions: those who know God best are most equipped and responsible to speak well of him (my paraphrase). The greater we know God and his gospel, the more equipped we are to share Jesus with others and the more responsible we are as well.

Part three of this series will deal with elements five and six, namely confrontational and pastoral.

Like Shepherd, Like Sheep

September 19, 2007

While meditating this week on the phrase “patiently enduring evil” (2 Tim. 2:24), I was led the Sherpherd/sheep imagery of Jesus and His followers. In John 10, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). But how or in what way does His sheep follow Him. Where do they go?

Well, in at least two places we find in Scripture that His sheep follow Him in suffering and in persecution. Consider the following passages:

Of Jesus (“Shepherd”)

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
1 Peter 2:21-23

Of Christians (“Sheep”)

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Peter 4:19

Again,

Of Jesus (“Shepherd”)

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.

Isaiah 53:7

Of Christians (“Sheep”)

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Romans 8:36

In the first couplet, both the Shepherd and the sheep experience suffering and in response “entrust themselves/souls” to the Father (“Him who judges justly”/faithful Creator). In the second couplet, both the Shepherd and the sheep are described as sheep “to be slaughtered.” Did not Jesus say, “Remember the word I have spoken to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20)? Health and wealth prosperity preachers would have us believe this is not the case. They want Christians to grab for the benefits of this world when Jesus said to expect persecution from the world. Health and wealth prosperity preachers will tell you that God wants to make you rich and wealthy while the Son of Man had no place to lay his head because of his commitment to preach the gospel of the Kingdom (Luke 9:57-62). Indeed, Christ has left us an example to follow in His steps, and the cadence of cross-bearing Christ-followers is one of inexpressible joy mingled with great suffering that will one day be swallowed up with the glories to come. Let us be like our shepherd, patiently enduring evil and entrusting our souls to the Father whose providence is over all. Let us hear His voice and follow Him wherever he leads, for nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus!