Friday Briefing 21 (4 June 2021)

How Does the Cross of Christ Make Sense of the Kingdom of God? Jeremy Treat writes, “Countless books on the kingdom hardly mention Christ’s cross. Volumes on the cross ignore Jesus’ message of the kingdom. The polarization of these two biblical themes leads to divergent approaches: cross-centered theology that focuses on the salvation of sinners or kingdom-minded activism that seeks to change the world. . . . . It’s as if we are left with a choice between either a kingdom without a cross or a cross without a kingdom; this false dichotomy truncates the gospel and cripples the church.” But these two themes are wonderfully integrated in Scripture. Treat explains how.

Mourning the death of a dwelling place Hayden Hefner writes, “Several years ago, my wife and I purchased our first home. Several weeks from now, we will lock the front door for the last time. . . . . . . . locking the front door for the last time will feel like a sort of death. It is the fading away of a physical reminder. It is the death of a dwelling place. But, he writes, ”The death of an earthly dwelling place reminds us we have a new and better homecoming . . . .

A tale of two liturgies Matt Merker writes, “We should see the church’s worship service—the whole thing, not just the sermon—as a mass discipling activity. . . . . Since the gathering is such a powerful corporate discipling tool, we should treat liturgy with care. ”

One Thing I Did Right in Ministry: “I Started a Book Table” Tom Ascol writes, “One of the first things that I did when I became pastor of the church I now serve was to start a book table where good books at discounted prices were made available to our congregation.” Ascol explains how books have strengthened discipleship in his congregation.

How Does the Cross of Christ Make Sense of the Kingdom of God?

Jeremy Treat writes, “Unfortunately today, many Christians either cling to the cross or champion the kingdom, usually one to the exclusion of the other. Countless books on the kingdom hardly mention Christ’s cross. Volumes on the cross ignore Jesus’ message of the kingdom. The polarization of these two biblical themes leads to divergent approaches: cross-centered theology that focuses on the salvation of sinners or kingdom-minded activism that seeks to change the world. Whole churches or movements are built on one idea or the other. It’s as if we are left with a choice between either a kingdom without a cross or a cross without a kingdom; this false dichotomy truncates the gospel and cripples the church.“ Treat asks how these two central themes of Scripture came to be pitted against each other and comments, “We need a better way forward than “kingdom versus cross.” And it’s not enough to merely seek “kingdom and cross,” as if these were two competing values that need to be held in tension. The key is not balance, but integration. And that’s exactly what we find in Scripture, an unfolding narrative that weaves together atonement and kingdom like a crown of thorns, fit for a crucified king.” After briefly tracing this narrative, he concludes, “The kingdom comes in power, but the power of the gospel is Christ crucified.”

Read the whole article HERE. This article was published in the August 2019 issue of the 9Marks Journal, an issue entitled The Heart of the Gospel: Penal Substitutionary Atonement. This issue contains 23 articles, including J.I. Packer’s classic lecture entitled What did the Cross Achieve: the Logic of Penal Substitution. You can download the entire issue free of charge, either using the link on the left-hand side of the page containing Treat’s article, or from the page HERE. Dr Jeremy Treat is the author of The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology (the publishers page is HERE) and Seek First: How the Kingdom of God Changes Everything (the publishers page is HERE).

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Mourning the death of a dwelling place.

“Several years ago, my wife and I purchased our first home. Several weeks from now, we will lock the front door for the last time. If I’m being honest, the thought of selling our little home makes me sad. This house has been the backdrop and base camp for some of the most memorable and formative moments of our life together. . . . . . . . locking the front door for the last time will feel like a sort of death. It is the fading away of a physical reminder. It is the death of a dwelling place. He comments, “having a home is a good thing. Home is God’s idea. . . . . We were not made for walking away from home.” In his conclusion, he writes, ”The death of an earthly dwelling place reminds us we have a new and better homecoming—one not subject to peeling paint, weather damage, or financial foreclosure, but designed and built by the Lord (Hebrews 11:10).”

Read the whole article HERE.

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A tale of two liturgies.

Justin Taylor shares an excerpt from Matt Merker’s book Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People (published by Crossway; the publisher’s page is HERE).

Matt Merker explains, “Many theologians have called the order of service a “liturgy.” The Greek term leitourgia referred to work done for the good of the public. When used in the context of a church gathering, “liturgy” refers to the “work” or ministry of exaltation and edification for which God gathers his people—or better, that God himself performs in and through his people.” He writes, “For me, liturgy refers to the order of the worship service, particularly how it reveals and reinforces the nature of the service itself. ” Merker points out: “We should see the church’s worship service—the whole thing, not just the sermon—as a mass discipling activity. . . . . Since the gathering is such a powerful corporate discipling tool, we should treat liturgy with care.” Merker shows how this works in practice by taking two contrasting orders of service, from the gatherings of two different churches. These churches have congregations of the same size, use the same musical instruments and have the same theological beliefs. But their liturgies are different, in ways that are significant. His first example is an order of service typical of many evangelical churches. The second is an example of a gathering at a Presbyterian church in Brazil. Merker then notes four weaknesses of his first example. One of these relates to prayer and the public reading of Scripture. Merker comments, “this order of service leaves two of the most essential elements of corporate worship out to dry: prayer and Scripture reading. There is no other Scripture reading in the service, aside from what the pastor might read in his sermon. And the prayers serve as transitions, not as substantive elements of worship in their own right.”

The message to take away is this: if key elements of the order of service are missing, or if the order of service is disjointed or theologically weak, the worship service is less glorifying to God, less effective in building up believers, and less able to communicate the Gospel message to unbelievers in the congregation. Through the prayers, the Scriptures being read, the preaching, the hymns and songs, through baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we should, as Merker writes, “strive to fill our services with the life-giving water of the Word of God.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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One Thing I Did Right in Ministry: “I Started a Book Table”.

Tom Ascol writes, “One of the first things that I did when I became pastor of the church I now serve was to start a book table where good books at discounted prices were made available to our congregation. . . . . . . . within a matter of months we had a table full of good titles for sale as a fixture in our foyer. Within a year or two, the “Book Table” became a line item in our budget and the church adopted a policy that if anyone who wanted one of the books but could not afford to pay, he or she could have it in exchange for a promise to read it. I often recommend books both publicly and in private conversations. When someone takes my recommendation I try to follow up in a few weeks to ask what they think of the book, what they are learning or if the book has raised any questions for them. That has led to some very fruitful conversations and opportunities for ministry.”

Ascol concludes, “Through the years I have seen good books supplement the ongoing preaching and teaching ministry of the church, encourage personal and spiritual growth, help with counseling, equip for ministry and help people develop a growing love for truth. . . . . So I would encourage every pastor to start a book table if one doesn’t already exist in the church he is serving. That is one thing that, by God’s grace, I did right early in my ministry.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The Friday Briefing 20 (1 March 2019)

How contemporary worship music is shaping us—for better or worse Matt Merker writes, “Now that contemporary worship music has become not only a major feature of evangelical identity in North America but also a multimillion-dollar industry, it’s worth asking an often neglected question: How does contemporary worship music shape us? Monique Ingalls, assistant professor of music at Baylor University, tackles this question in her book, Singing the Congregation: How Contemporary Worship Music Forms Evangelical Community. . . . . Rather than proceed with a traditional book review, it may be more useful to my readers to share some ways in which Ingalls’s work has prompted my own thinking. So here are four areas of reflection, which I invite you to consider with me.”

Christian life: learning from the Battle of the Atlantic – we can only win the spiritual battle if we fight for our devotional life John Stevens writes, “I have just finished reading Jonathan Dimbleby’s excellent book The Battle of the Atlantic . . . . . . . . The Battle of the Atlantic was the unsung campaign of the war. . . . . There were few dashing heroes and much hard slog. But it was the crucial battle, because every other battle depended upon it. We need to make sure that we fight the crucial battle to maintain our spiritual health and vitality if we are to prevail in the spiritual war in which we find ourselves.”

Typology: what it is and why we need it David Schrock writes, “. . . Christians going back to the early church have rightly seen (and looked for) ‘types’ of Christ in the Old Testament. But at the same time, questions have arisen to ask: What is a type? That is the question I want to answer today in broad and simple strokes. . . . . for those just getting acquainted with the idea, I want to introduce typology as simply as I can.”

5 lessons Jordan Peterson has taught the Church Esther O’Reilly writes, “A year ago, I had no idea who Jordan Peterson was. . . . . As I watched Peterson’s status rocket rise, it became a social experiment in itself to watch how Christians reacted to it all. It seemed that they either really, really liked Peterson or really, really did not like him.” She asks, “Is Peterson getting something right that the Church has been getting wrong? It’s easy to run down a list of things Jordan Peterson could learn from the Church. But could the Church learn something from Jordan Peterson? Bearing in mind that The Church is not a monolith, and thus any attempt to answer these questions will over-simplify, I think the answer is yes. I didn’t come up with twelve rules, but here are five.”

God’s metrics Nick Batzig comments, “God’s metrics are not our metrics. The way in which we seek to measure fruitfulness and faithfulness is often quite skewed.” He asks, “What ought a faithful ministry look like?”

The Power of the Cross (Oh, To See The Dawn) Here is a suberb and moving hymn about Jesus’s sacrificial death for us, written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty.

How contemporary worship music is shaping us—for better or worse.

Matt Merker writes, “Now that contemporary worship music has become not only a major feature of evangelical identity in North America but also a multimillion-dollar industry, it’s worth asking an often neglected question: How does contemporary worship music shape us? Monique Ingalls, assistant professor of music at Baylor University, tackles this question in her book, Singing the Congregation: How Contemporary Worship Music Forms Evangelical Community. Focusing on the decade from 2007 to 2017, she examines modern praise through sociological lenses.”

He comments, “. . . the main value of Singing the Congregation is its thorough description of the world that contemporary worship music has created. For that reason, even if musicology is a new field for you, I recommend this book to pastors, worship leaders, and anyone else with an interest in the modern worship movement—fans and critics alike. . . . . Ingalls’s focus is on worship music as sociological phenomenon, so there is little here in the way of theological interaction with worship lyrics. Still, Ingalls’s in-depth account of how contemporary worship shapes evangelical life proves the axiom that ‘the medium is the message’. In other words, contemporary worship music not only reflects evangelical values and convictions about how to engage with God, it also profoundly influences those values and convictions. . . . . Rather than proceed with a traditional book review, it may be more useful to my readers to share some ways in which Ingalls’s work has prompted my own thinking. So here are four areas of reflection, which I invite you to consider with me.”

Read the whole article HERE. Matt Merker serves as an elder and pastoral assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He writes congregational hymns, including He Will Hold Me Fast. His music website is HERE.

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Christian life: learning from the Battle of the Atlantic – we can only win the spiritual battle if we fight for our devotional life.

John Stevens writes, “I have just finished reading Jonathan Dimbleby’s excellent book The Battle of the Atlantic which I received as a Christmas present. He makes a compelling case that the battle to defeat the U-boat menace in the North Atlantic was the most important campaign in the Second World War, since it ensured the supply of food, fuel, raw materials and arms to the UK and Russia. . . . . However, despite the crucial importance of this “battle” – which was really a sustained four-year campaign – it does not receive the attention given to other allied victories such as the Battle of Britain, or El Alamein.”

Stevens applies this to our Christian walk. He comments, “The Battle of the Atlantic is a reminder to us that some battles are ultimately more important than others. Offensive warfare cannot be maintained unless the supply lines on which it depends are maintained. . . . . The Battle of the Atlantic was the unsung campaign of the war. . . . . There were few dashing heroes and much hard slog. But it was the crucial battle, because every other battle depended upon it. We need to make sure that we fight the crucial battle to maintain our spiritual health and vitality if we are to prevail in the spiritual war in which we find ourselves. If you have neglected your personal devotional life and church commitment take drastic action now.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Typology: what it is and why we need it.

David Schrock writes, “In yesterday’s sermon on Numbers 20, we ran into something known as typology. As it has been variously defined in church history, typology occurs in the Bible when an historical person, event, or institution—in this case a water-giving rock—foreshadows the coming Son of God. As with Exodus 17, this life-giving, water-streaming rock is a type of Christ, at least according to the apostle Paul. Writing in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul recounts a number of events in Israel’s history (see vv. 1–13), including this rock. . . . . . . . Paul makes the stunning claim that the Rock was to be identified with the Lord, and since Christ is the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6), the Rock is to be identified with Christ. Two verses later, he adds, “Now these things took place as examples (typoi) for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (v. 6). Most versions rightly translate typoi as “examples” but you can see from the Greek word that the examples Paul has in mind were types, a word he uses elsewhere to relate Adam and Christ (Rom 5:14), a word Peter uses to speak of Noah’s baptism (1 Peter 3:21), and a word used in Hebrews to relate the tabernacle on earth with the one in heaven (Hebrews 8:5).”

Dr. Schrock continues, “On the basis of passages like these, Christians going back to the early church have rightly seen (and looked for) ‘types’ of Christ in the Old Testament. But at the same time, questions have arisen to ask: What is a type? That is the question I want to answer today in broad and simple strokes. . . . for those just getting acquainted with the idea, I want to introduce typology as simply as I can.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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5 lessons Jordan Peterson has taught the Church.

Esther O’Reilly writes, “A year ago, I had no idea who Jordan Peterson was. Like many people, I got my first inkling after That Debate went viral. I was entertained, but I didn’t understand what I was watching. If you had told me then that this Canadian psychology professor was embarked on nothing less than a decades-long quest to rescue Western Civilization from the pit of nihilistic despair, I would have assumed you were joking. But Jordan Peterson, it seems, was not. As I watched Peterson’s status rocket rise, it became a social experiment in itself to watch how Christians reacted to it all. It seemed that they either really, really liked Peterson or really, really did not like him. . . . . Fortunately, some Christian engagements were balanced and thoughtful.” O’Reilly provides links to a number of commentaries by Christians on Jordan Peterson that she especially enjoyed. She makes special mention of Paul VanderKlay, a pastor who, she says, has “attained a level of understanding that the bite-sized book reviews and quick takes I’ve seen can’t touch.”

O’Reilly comments, “It is a myth that all of Peterson’s fans are young men, angry or otherwise. . . . . However, young men—particularly quirky, introverted, intellectually curious young men—do form a large percentage of his base. It hasn’t escaped people’s notice that this is precisely the demographic the Church has not been reaching, or worse, has been losing. Yet VanderKlay has said in interviews that he “could not have asked for a better men’s ministry” than the influx of men he has been regularly meeting to discuss Peterson’s work and its religious connotations. Men who would never attend a Bible study are suddenly beating down Paul’s virtual and real-life door to have conversations about God, Jesus and the Bible.”

O’Reilly asks, “Is Peterson getting something right that the Church has been getting wrong? It’s easy to run down a list of things Jordan Peterson could learn from the Church. But could the Church learn something from Jordan Peterson? Bearing in mind that The Church is not a monolith, and thus any attempt to answer these questions will over-simplify, I think the answer is yes. I didn’t come up with twelve rules, but here are five.”

O’Reilly’s points out five imperatives demanding the Church’s attention today. By way of example, one point she makes concerns teaching in the local church. She points out that the Church ”must satisfy the intellectually curious”. In her discussion of this, she says, “The Bible says we are to love God not only with our hearts but with our minds. Church should equip us to do both. The intellectually hungry should not go away unfed. Bible studies should not offer milk when people are silently begging for meat. Pastors should be well-read, not only in theology but in great literature, in poetry, in history. Highly educated church members with the gift of teaching should be connected with young people craving what their anemic public educations are not giving them.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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God’s metrics.

Nick Batzig writes, “God’s metrics are not our metrics. The way in which we seek to measure fruitfulness and faithfulness is often quite skewed. . . . . The fruitfulness of a Gospel ministry is never observed in total in the here and now. . . . . While the fruit may not always be evident in the here and now, Paul insisted that there is a day coming when “each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor”. What ought a faithful ministry look like?”

Batzig comments, “. . . those who are faithful will build with the persistent preaching of Christ crucified, sound doctrine, prayer, the sacraments, church discipline, a loving and holy Christian community and biblical worship and evangelism. . . . . It’s easy for those laboring faithfully to become discouraged when they look over at other churches and see how much more quickly they seem to have grown. It is much more difficult for them to remember that everything is merely scaffolding; and, one day God will reveal what sort of materials were used in the building.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The Power of the Cross (Oh, To See The Dawn).

This is a superb hymn written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Townend writes, “The song paints the picture of that Good Friday when Christ was tried, beaten, nailed to a cross, suffered and died, and the chorus tries to explain the significance of it all. Then the last verse effectively paints us into that picture, for it is our name written in His wounds.” The lyrics and other information are available on Stuart Townend’s website page for this hymn HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in quotations from other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.