Category : Soteriology

(CT) Theologian Jack Deere Went Through Hell to Come to Faith

Mere paragraphs from the conclusion of his story, Deere is not saying, “This was something I dealt with,” but “This is something I deal with.”

This rawness is rare in the church today. We are often told by leaders that they sin, but Deere’s memoir is refreshingly full of his sin. It is not gratuitous in any form. We never get the sense that he wants to gain our pity or empathy to manipulate us into thinking he’s better or worse than he is. He is simply factual (to our knowledge) and unapologetic to his reader, while increasingly more repentant toward those against whom he has sinned—God foremost among them.

In a world where, all too often, leaders present themselves as one-dimensional characters (primarily speakers, teachers, pastors, musicians, or writers), Deere shows us we are irreducibly complex beings. Our bodies matter. Our souls matter. Our minds matter. Our emotions matter. Our histories matter. These together form the whole of who we are, and any true ministry we do out of the whole is going to be wholly complex. Otherwise, it will be anemic, one-dimensional, and devoid of power. Deere recognizes this now. But it took hell to get him there. I haven’t even mentioned the half of it in this review.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Children, Christology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Marriage & Family, Soteriology, Suicide, Theology, Violence

Kendall Harmon’s 2018 Maundy Thursday Sermon

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Atonement, Christology, Holy Week, Ministry of the Ordained, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

His Damnation our Liberation, His Defeat our Victory

It so happened that in this man Jesus God himself came into the world, which he had created and against all odds still loved. He took human nature upon himself and became man, like the rest of us, in order to put an end to the world’s fight against him and also against itself, and to replace man’s disorder by God’s design. In Jesus God hallowed his name, made his kingdom come, his will done on earth as it is in heaven, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer. In him he made manifest his glory and, amazingly enough, he made it manifest for our salvation. To accomplish this, he not only bandaged, but healed the wounds of the world he helped mankind not only in part and temporarily but radically and for good in the person of his beloved Son; he delivered us from evil and took us to his heart as his children Thereby we are all permitted to live, and to live eternally.

It happened through this man on the cross that God cancelled out and swept away all our human wickedness, our pride, our anxiety, our greed and our false pretences, whereby we had continually offended him and made life difficult, if not impossible, for ourselves and for others. He crossed out what had made our life fundamentally terrifying, dark and distressing – the life of health and of sickness, of happiness and of unhappiness, of the highborn and of the lowborn, of the rich and of the poor, of the free and of the captive. He did away with it. It is no longer part of us, it is behind us. In Jesus God made the day break after the long night and spring come after the long winter.
All these things happened in that one man. In Jesus, God took upon himself the full load of evil; he made our wickedness his own; he gave himself in his dear Son to be defamed as a criminal, to be accused, condemned, delivered from life unto death, as though he himself, the Holy God, had done all the evil we human beings did and do. In giving himself in Jesus Christ, he reconciled the world unto himself; he saved us and made us free to live in his everlasting kingdom; he removed the burden and took it upon himself He the innocent took the place of us the guilty. He the mighty took the place of us the weak. He the living One took the place of us the dying.

This, my dear friends, is the invisible event that took place in the suffering and death of the man hanging on the middle cross on Golgotha. This is reconciliation: his damnation our liberation, his defeat our victory, his mortal pain the beginning of our joy, his death the birth of our life. We do well to remember that this is what those who put him to death really accomplished. They did not know what they did. These deluded men and women accomplished by their evil will and deed that good which God had willed and done with the world and for the world, including the crowd of Jerusalem.

–Karl Barth (1886-1968) from a sermon in 1957

Posted in Christology, Church History, Holy Week, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology

Fleming Rutledge’s Sermon Monday at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama–The Defense of the Defenseless

You may find the mp3 there. You may read a lot more about Fleming Rutledge here.

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

Fleming Rutledge’s Talk at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama on the problem of Evil

You may find the mp3 there–take the time to listen and ponder it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Can we Learn to understand repetance as a gift of God’s grace (Psalm 51)

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Trevin Wax–The Call to Repentance and the Championing of Grace

“We’re losing the nerve to call people to repentance.”

That’s what a retired pastor recently told me, expressing his concern that while the next generation loves to champion the unconditional love and grace of God, rarely does their message include Christ’s call to repentance. Younger pastors, he said, want to meet people where they are, in whatever mess they’re in, and let the Spirit clean them up later. God will deal with their sins down the road.

But in the Gospels, Jesus seems much more extreme. His good news was the announcement of God’s kingdom, and the first word to follow? “Repent!” No wonder Jesus didn’t tell the rich young ruler to walk with Him for a while until he stopped coveting. No, He got to the root of an unrepentant heart when He said, “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor.” In other words, Repent. Turn around.

“I’m cheering for the next generation,” the pastor said, “but I feel like an ogre for stressing repentance all the time….”

Here’s where we so easily take a wrong turn. Wherever did we get the notion that the call to repentance is opposed to the championing of grace? When did truth and grace get separated? Or repentance and faith?

To think that the message of grace and the call of repentance are opposed to one another is to miss the beautiful, grace-filled nature of what repentance actually is. The call to repent is one of greatest expressions of the love of God.

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon) [emphasis mine].

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon from Saint Michael’s, Charleston–What is the Gospel (John 3, Ephesians 2)?

The link is there and you can listen live or download the audio depending on your preference.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

Roman Catholicism’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith releases Placuit Deo, a Letter To the Bishops On Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation

1. “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (cf. Eph 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4). The deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation”.[1] The teaching on salvation in Christ must always be deepened. Holding fast to the gaze of the Lord Jesus, the Church turns toward all persons with a maternal love, to announce to them the plan of the Covenant of the Father, mediated by the Holy Spirit, “to sum up all things in Christ, the one head” (Eph 1:10). The present Letter is intended, in light of the greater tradition of the faith and with particular reference to the teachings of Pope Francis, to demonstrate certain aspects of Christian salvation that can be difficult to understand today because of recent cultural changes.

II. The effect of current cultural changes on the meaning of Christian salvation

2. The contemporary world perceives not without difficulty the confession of the Christian faith, which proclaims Jesus as the only Savior of the whole human person and of all humanity (cf. Acts 4:12; Rom 3:23-24; 1 Tm 2:4-5; Tit 2:11-15).[2] On one hand, individualism centered on the autonomous subject tends to see the human person as a being whose sole fulfilment depends only on his or her own strength.[3] In this vision, the figure of Christ appears as a model that inspires generous actions with his words and his gestures, rather than as He who transforms the human condition by incorporating us into a new existence, reconciling us with the Father and dwelling among us in the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 2:18). On the other hand, a merely interior vision of salvation is becoming common, a vision which, marked by a strong personal conviction or feeling of being united to God, does not take into account the need to accept, heal and renew our relationships with others and with the created world. In this perspective, it becomes difficult to understand the meaning of the Incarnation of the Word, by which He was made a member of the human family, assuming our flesh and our history, for us and for our salvation.

3. Pope Francis, in his ordinary magisterium, often has made reference to the two tendencies described above, that resemble certain aspects of two ancient heresies, Pelagianism and Gnosticism.[4] A new form of Pelagianism is spreading in our days, one in which the individual, understood to be radically autonomous, presumes to save oneself, without recognizing that, at the deepest level of being, he or she derives from God and from others. According to this way of thinking, salvation depends on the strength of the individual or on purely human structures, which are incapable of welcoming the newness of the Spirit of God.[5] On the other hand, a new form of Gnosticism puts forward a model of salvation that is merely interior, closed off in its own subjectivism.[6] In this model, salvation consists of improving oneself, of being “intellectually capable of rising above the flesh of Jesus towards the mysteries of the unknown divinity.”[7] It presumes to liberate the human person from the body and from the material universe, in which traces of the provident hand of the Creator are no longer found, but only a reality deprived of meaning, foreign to the fundamental identity of the person, and easily manipulated by the interests of man.[8] Clearly, the comparison with the Pelagian and Gnostic heresies intends only to recall general common features, without entering into judgments on the exact nature of the ancient errors. There is a great difference between modern, secularized society and the social context of early Christianity, in which these two heresies were born.[9] However, insofar as Gnosticism and Pelagianism represent perennial dangers for misunderstanding Biblical faith, it is possible to find similarities between the ancient heresies and the modern tendencies just described.

Read it all (emphasis [except for he heading] is mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Roman Catholic, Soteriology, Theology

Albert Mohler–Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is)

We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone. Moralism produces sinners who are (potentially) better behaved. The Gospel of Christ transforms sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of God.

The Church must never evade, accommodate, revise, or hide the law of God. Indeed, it is the Law that shows us our sin and makes clear our inadequacy and our total lack of righteousness. The Law cannot impart life but, as Paul insists, it “has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” [Gal. 3:24]

The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

Hell will be highly populated with those who were “raised right.” The citizens of heaven will be those who, by the sheer grace and mercy of God, are there solely because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Moralism is not the gospel.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) A Billy Graham Sermon–The Sin of Tolerance

One of the pet words of this age is “tolerance.” It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life. We have applied it too often where it does not belong. The word “tolerant” means “liberal,” “broad-minded,” “willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one’s convictions,” and “the allowance of something not wholly approved.”

Tolerance, in one sense, implies the compromise of one’s convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues. Hence, over-tolerance in moral issues has made us soft, flabby and devoid of conviction.

We have become tolerant about divorce; we have become tolerant about the use of alcohol; we have become tolerant about delinquency; we have become tolerant about wickedness in high places; we have become tolerant about immorality; we have become tolerant about crime and we have become tolerant about godlessness. We have become tolerant of unbelief.

In a book recently published on what prominent people believe, 60 out of 100 did not even mention God, and only 11 out of 100 mentioned Jesus. There was a manifest tolerance toward soft character and a broadmindedness about morals, characteristic of our day. We have been sapped of conviction, drained of our beliefs and bereft of our faith.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, Evangelicals, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon-The God who Works at the Bottom of the Drain (Jonah 3, Mark 1)

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

CS Spurgeon–‘the gospel which Christ preached was, very plainly, a command’

I shall commence by remarking that the gospel which Christ preached was, very plainly, a command. “Repent and believe the gospel.” Our Lord does condescend to reason. Often His ministry graciously acted out the old text, “Come, now, and let us reason together; though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as wool.” He does persuade men by telling and forcible arguments, which should lead them to seek the salvation of their souls. He does invite men and oh, how lovingly He woos them to be wise! “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He does entreat men. He condescends to become, as it were, a beggar to His own sinful creatures, beseeching them to come to Him. Indeed, He makes this to be the duty of His ministers, “As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ’s place, be you reconciled to God.” Yet, remember, though He condescends to reason, to persuade, to invite, and to beseech, still His gospel has in it all the dignity and force of a command; and if we would preach it in these days as Christ did, we must proclaim it as a command from God, attended with a divine sanction, and not to be neglected except at the infinite peril of the soul! When the feast was spread upon the table for the marriage supper, there was an invitation—but it had all the obligation of a command—since those who rejected it were utterly destroyed as despisers of their king! When the builders reject Christ, He becomes a stone of stumbling to “the disobedient.” But how could they disobey if there were no command? The gospel contemplates, I say, invitations, entreaties, and beseeching—but it also takes the higher ground of authority. “Repent and believe,” is as much a command of God as, “You shall not steal.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” has as fully a divine Authority
as, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Think not, O man, that the gospel is a thing left to your option to choose or not! Dream not, O sinners that you may despise the Word from heaven and incur no guilt! Think not that you may neglect it, and no ill consequences shall follow! It is just this neglect and despising of yours which shall fill up the measure of your iniquity. It is this concern for which we cry aloud, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” God commands you to repent! The same God before whom Sinai was moved, and was altogether on a smoke—that same God who proclaimed the law with sound of trumpet, with lightning, and with thunder, speaks to us more gently, but still as divinely, through His only begottenSon, when He says to us, “Repent and believe the gospel.”

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon).

Posted in Church History, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) David Tubbs+Gregory Thornbury–Finding Faith at Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash recorded “At Folsom Prison” 50 years ago, on Jan. 13, 1968. The live album transcended the usual categories of popular music and ultimately sold more than three million copies. Cash’s willingness to play for a crowd of convicts fit with his outlaw image, but the venue choice reveals something crucial about his Christian beliefs.

Raised in Dyess, Ark., Cash became a Christian in 1944, when he was 12. Throughout his life, he showed an ardent desire to live according to the Gospels. But Cash was no paragon of Christian virtue. Stardom and the demands of his profession, especially the relentless travel, presented him with countless temptations. He could not resist many of them.

Cash’s struggle became particularly acute in the 1960s. He dealt with drug addiction and marital breakdown, and several brushes with the law only made his situation worse. While this drama hurt his career, it also gave Cash an acute sense of his vulnerabilities and enabled him to empathize with the prisoners in Folsom, Calif. As Robert Hilburn noted in his 2013 biography, “Cash knew what it was like to be in jail, to stand before his loved ones in handcuffs, and to walk through the seedy parts of town in search of drugs.”

Cash saw the Folsom concert as an opportunity to redeem himself.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Music, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Soteriology

Rob Sturdy’s sermon (from this Morning) on the Baptism of Jesus: How exactly does the Trinity unsin us (Mark 1:4-11)?

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

You may read more about Rob’s ministry there.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology: Scripture