Archives For Christianity

Perspectives in Post-ChristendomLast week, I brought up the new posture of Christianity in post-Christendom and how we re-enter culture in a subversive way to advance the kingdom of God. Before I jump into the paradigm and practices in post-Christendom, I believe it is important to give a little perspective.

In the little diagram above, I lay out 5 different categories for unbelievers. I contend that, with the shrinking of Christendom, there is an increase in paganism. In other words, when non-Christians are categorized according to their position/stance regarding Christianity, there are far more today in the -3 to -5 categories than there is in the -1 and -2.

To be clear, everyone to the left of the center line is what the Bible calls “lost” and outside Christ. There are no degrees of lostness. Either you are saved or you are lost. The difference is twofold: access and attitude. The further to the left you go, the less access non-Christians have to the gospel and the more likely the attitudes are strongly antithetical to the Christian faith. While the two are not necessarily intrinsic to each other, they are often connected (e.g., someone who could have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and not necessarily be opposed to it, and someone could be strongly opposed to Christianity and had considerable access to the gospel message).

Acknowledging that these descriptions are not exhaustive, they are however an attempt to provide distinctions between non-Christians as I have studied and spent time with them in a post-Christendom America.

Continue Reading…

Share Button

You Are My Son, and I Love You

Tim Brister —  February 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

Today was the start of baseball season in Southwest Florida. After opening ceremonies, my two boys played a double header as part of the festivities. It was the first time my 5 yr old son to go head-to-head with the pitching machine. At his first at-bat, he surprised himself with a line drive past the third baseman, and I was super excited and proud of him. The following three at-bats did not fare too well as he struck out all three times.

As someone who has always been highly competitive, I always want my boys to do excel in whatever they do, including playing baseball. The downside to that, and the temptation I have struggled to avoid, is responding to them based on their performance. If they perform well, they see the pleasure of their dad. If they make mistakes and struggle, they hear the disappointment of their dad (“c’mon son!).

As a Christian who believes the gospel should permeate every area of my life, there are more and more blind spots that I’m learning to see more clearly. When it comes to baseball, I realized that my sincere attempts to make them better players was not honoring the gospel. My response to them was based on their performance (good works), and their identity as a baseball player was more dominant in their thinking than being my sons.

Today, I started to make a change and repent of this legalistic approach to coaching my boys. I want my boys to know, more than anything else, that they are my sons, and I love them. And that love is not based on what they do or do not do, but because of who they are. They are mine. So every time they get ready to play the game, I pull them aside and have a talk with them. Before when I stressed a litany of techniques, I am learning to look them eye-to-eye and tell them, “Son, I am so proud of you. No matter what happens, how well you play today does not change how much I love you and delight in being your dad. I just want you to have fun and enjoy the game.” After a kiss on the forehead, I sent them off to do their best, and the smile that begun on my face transferred to a shy grin on theirs.

Continue Reading…

Share Button

“Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah”

As I came across Joshua 7 in my devotional studies, there was something particular that stuck out to me in how God dealt with His people. The story has to do with the sin of Achan who took the items devotion for destruction and made them his own. God made it known to Joshua that there was sin in the camp, but the way it was discovered says something about how God’s people lived in community.

According to Joshua 7:16-18, the people of Israel was addressed on a tribal basis. From within the tribe, the various clans were evaluated. From within the clans, the families were accounted for. And from within the family, the individual (Achan) was discovered to be the one who had sinned.

According to Joshua 7:11, God says “Israel had sinned,” and all the references were in third person plural (they/them). But it was the sin of Achan alone, right? But God saw Achan in the context of His covenant people, Israel. And the way God was going to deal with the individual was through the fabric of Old Testament community. In the Old Testament, it was impossible to be a person without a family, without a clan, without a tribe, and without a nation. People knew you in reference to who you belonged to. You were known by your heritage and tradition, by your roots. Your past was a vivid remembrance and present reality every time they mentioned your name “Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi (family), son of Zerah (clan), of the tribe of Judah (tribe).”

I have reflected on that in the context of Christianity today in the West. It appears that we are living in a culture where that identity in community is just the opposite. Today, you can be a Christian without a family, without a clan, and without a tribe while still claiming to be a part of the nation. Identity is related to the individual alone to the point that little to nothing transcends a unique blend of a la carte spirituality. When someone covets or lies or steals, that individual Christian has no accountability or authority for their lives. Whether they live worthy of the gospel or completely out of step, who knows? It’s their life, and it is lived without mutual submission or any degree of nearness so that blind spots, patterns of disobedience, or idols of the heart can be exposed. And somehow this has not only become acceptable but the norm today. There is sin in the camp, but the Achan’s are without a tribe.

Continue Reading…

Share Button

In the first post, I talked about 11 different aspects of society used a filters or barriers to form or foster community. I argued, “In order for a gospel community to be counter-cultural, we first have to assess what we are encountering in the culture. How does culture and society determine how community is formed and fostered? What are some of the guiding principles and motivations behind its formation?” If part one addresses the external schema of society formation, this post addresses the internal driving forces influencing how and where we fall out in our version of societal segregation.

Dick Keyes, in his chapter “The Idol Factory” (in No God but God) takes about the construction of idols in our lives. He makes the distinction between “near” and “far” idols. Near idols are those that are more specific, superficial and concrete, such as career, spouse, possessions, etc. Far idols, on the other hand, are “farther” from the surface of things and go to the root of why we do what we do. They get to the “sin beneath the sin” and are also referred to as “source” or “root” idols.

Continue Reading…

Share Button

This past April, I had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with Jefferson Bethke while in Louisville when he shared this Spoken Word at Southern Seminary.  You may remember him from this video. He’s a faithful brother representing Christ well. I commend this video to you, the paradox of Christianity. Indeed, “you only live once,” but the best way to live is dying to self and losing our life in Christ.

Check it.

Share Button

For the past couple months, I have been teaching a class on disciples making disciples at Grace. I was prepared yesterday morning to teaching on the importance of law and gospel in the Christian life, but I decided to make a last minute change to address what I called “Politics, Patriotism, and Making Disciples of Jesus.” I figured in light of Independence Day (prospect) and the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare (retrospect), it would be timely to address this issue.  Needless to say, it was lively, fun, and one of the most engaging hour-long discussions we’ve ever had.

I decided to address this topic not only because of the timeliness of the issue but also the need to have a formative, proactive approach to addressing politics from a gospel-centered framework. No new Christian trusts Christ without a past, without presuppositions or convictions, and this includes politics, culture, and view of God and country. Of the potential things that can drive a person’s identity, politics ranks among the top, so a church committed to disciple-making cannot be ignorant or indifferent in helping new Christians (and old!) understand civil responsibilities and political involvement.

Continue Reading…

Share Button

At the very heart of the Lord’s Prayer is the petition, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Like so many other familiar passages of Scripture, I fear that there are myriads of truths that fail to be apprehended due to our contemptible satisfaction of superficial understanding.  Such has been the case for me regarding these petitions of our Lord.

One of the remarkable things I’ve been learning lately is how the gospel interconnects kingdom come and the Father’s will being done on earth.  The gospel intertwines this petition precisely because the response these realties demand are that of repentance and faith.

Whenever Jesus preaches about the kingdom, the action invariable associated with it is to repent.  The arrival of His kingdom means the removal of your kingdom.  The arrival of His reign means the surrender of your rights.  His position on the throne of your life necessitates the crushing of all idols and rivals to Him as Lord and King.  With the inauguration of the kingdom in the life of a believer, there is a corresponding denunciation of the kingdom we had built with ourselves at the center.   Simply put, when the King is present, our rights are absent.  We repent. We look away from ourselves.  We turn from our rebellious, treasonous ways. We renounce all our self-righteous deeds.  We gladly submit and surrender our lives to His sweet sovereignty as the one who alone has the right to govern our lives.

Continue Reading…

Share Button

Recently, Tim Keller spoke at The Veritas Forum at UC Berkeley and addressed the question of Christianity and other religions.  Check out this short video where he answers whether all religions are equally right.

Share Button

Twitter Is Not Real

Tim Brister —  May 20, 2010 — 12 Comments

Don’t get me wrong.  I really enjoy using Twitter, and the past two years of “tweeting” has done a lot of good for my soul.  But still, Twitter is not real.

It is not real for the simple reason that people are very selective on what they choose to tweet, and how many of the people you follow are willing to tweet their real lives?  When someone just got in an argument with their spouse and asked for forgiveness, who tweets about their need for forgiveness and prayer for repentance?  Christians, especially pastors, are prone to tweet about the successes or fruit from their labors, but who tweets about seasons of struggle, emptiness, or barrenness in their soul? Let’s face it.  Twitter resembles more of a collection of high school yearbook quotes than the book of Psalms.

The beauty of the Psalms is that it is uncensored reality from the lives of God’s people.  There are shouts of praise next to laments of “how long, O Lord?”  There are moments of seeking the face of God and extolling his infinite worth (you are my portion, whom do I have but you) and there are moments where it seems God has abandoned them in despair.  The full range of emotion and experience is expressed in the Psalms, but on Twitter, you get the veneer of virgin skies unfamiliar with the storms of life.

So my caution to all my friends on Twitter, be careful.  Don’t believe what the updates are telling you all the time.  It’s not real.  There are thousands if not millions of updates that go unannounced that, were we to know them, would change the “face” of Twitter.  If King David were tweeting today, my hunch is that many people would unfollow him because many of his updates wouldn’t sound good enough to be retweeted.  But that’s the difference between Twitter and the real world.  God saw David’s heartfelt confessions good enough to be recorded in Scripture and has resonated with saints throughout the generations.  So while your last Twitter update may resonate for the next minute, it is good to reminded that reality is not grounded in momentary novelty.

Share Button