Daniel Darling – The Men In Your Church Don’t Need John Wayne; They Need Jesus

jesus-john-wayne

It makes me weep when I think of the staggering crisis of manhood in the culture. There is hardly a negative sociological data point that doesn’t have its root in the failure of men to lives as faithful husbands and responsible fathers. Leaders across the political and ideological spectrum have decried the problem.

To combat the staggering crisis, a manhood movement has arisen in the church. I’m deeply grateful for the work of their leaders and for the curricula and conferences that have called men to follow Christ. I’ve been personally challenged by organizations like Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, Men’s Fraternity and others. I’m thankful for the good fruit of these ministries in families around the world.

But there is a strain of the manhood movement that troubles me. It’s a version of masculinity that makes Jesus look more like William Wallace than the King of Kings. As my wise colleague Joe Carter says, we don’t need a “Jesus who strolls like the Duke, squints like Clint Eastwood, and snarls like Dick Cheney. We don’t need Jesus the cagefighter; we just need Jesus the Savior.”[i] Pastors, as they call their men to faithfulness, need to understand the difference.

The answer to a confused manhood culture is not more chest-beating and MMA, but a very real picture of what a man of God looks like. Young men need to understand that courage is not defined by the size of their gun collections or by the ruggedness of their hobbies. Courage is defined by the willingness to humbly and boldly follow the risen Christ.

Some point to Jesus’s courageous overthrow of the temple marketplace as an example of the sort of fiery, aggressive, impulsive instincts every man should nurture. But before we get our own temple rage on, we need to be reminded that this incident wasn’t a spontaneous burst of masculinity, but a purposeful fulfilling of Jesus’s mission. Jesus was claiming his right to be worshiped as King, cleansing the temple for His Father. This was the next event in salvation history, a necessary move as Jesus made His way to the cross. It was in the temple where Jesus demonstrated His lordship. His rage at the religious profiteers was a demonstration of kingdom justice. Their greed preyed on the poor and prostituted the sacredness of God’s house. Even as He brandished the whips, Jesus was in full control of His emotions. He knew exactly what He was doing.

From this we may ascertain a secondary lesson that sometimes indignation and force are justified. But that’s not the primary message of the text. What’s more, Jesus is no sinful son of Adam. While anger may be a legitimate emotion, raw displays of power are rarely justified. They are almost always carnal. Put simply, I am not Jesus and you are not Jesus. Our anger is always, even on our best days, clouded by our fallen condition. To create out of the temple incident a template for manhood is exegetical folly.

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Daniel Darling – Five Resolutions for a Christian Communicator

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the calling of a Christian communicator. This could be your duties as a writer, wither blogs or books or articles. Or it could be your task as a preacher or teacher, whither in small group, pulpit ministry, or classroom.

To communicate the truth of the good news of the gospel, in any form, is a high privilege and a sober calling. I’m always mindful of James 3, which outlines the seriousness of the calling and the negative and positive effect of the words we craft.

So I came up with five resolutions that we might consider:

1) I will communicate well to serve others, even if I never become famous. To seek a wider audience is not wrong. Ambition, properly exercised under the Lordship of Christ, is not evil and is good. But it may be God’s will that my books never reach the NYT bestseller list. It may not be God’s will that I become a popular conference speaker and pastor a church in the Outreach top 200 list. God may be more glorified in my obscurity and I need to be okay with that, if after my best efforts, I achieve only a small modicum of what we call success. Regardless of the size of my audience, I’m called to fully exercise my gifts. I’m called to serve well those God has called me to serve.

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Daniel Darling – Why Your Spiritual Growth Matters to the Community

Last week I preached a Mother’s Day message from 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9. Paul compares discipleship to the actual practice of a mother nursing her child. In this, the mother is a source of life for her child. So it is that we as Christians, must be conduits of life-giving spiritual nutrition for those around us.

This has a lot of implications for the way we live. First, it matters what we ourselves are eating. A mother who is breast-feeding has to be very, very careful about her diet because what she consumes will then make up the milk for her baby.

As a Christian, what are you consuming? Are you growing yourself? Are you taking in the meat of the Word so you can feed others. You see, there is a progression here. You can’t exactly give a baby a steak or pork chops or pizza. A mother has to take in the food, chew it up, digest it, and then her body produces milk. A baby’s digestive system needs the simple formula that breast milk gives.

When our little Emma was a baby, she had such digestive problems that we had to purchase very expensive formula–$45 a can. It broke down the proteins so finely that it enabled her sensitive system to process it and for her to get good nourishment. Paul’s comparison to a nursing mother and her baby tells us something about the way we grow. We begin, as spiritual infants, with milk. Another Apostle, Peter, picks up this theme:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 (ESV)

Notice Peter’s words. We begin with the pure spiritual milk of the Word—not diluted or polluted–but the pure milk of the Word. Kingdom as children, taking in the very basics, the very pure, refined, simple milk.

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Daniel Darling – Three Kinds of Christians Who Should Always Keep Their Cool

I was struck this week as I studied 1 Peter 4:7-11 as part of our Exiles series at church. I was struck particularly by this phrase: “Be self-controlled and sober-minded.” (v 4 ESV). There are differing ways translators have translated this. HCSB says “Be serious and disciplined.” NASB: “of sound judgement and sober spirit.” NLT: “Be earnest and disciplined.” KJV: “Be sober and watch.”

You get the idea. Christians are to be level-headed. Sober. Balanced. Mature. Of sound judgement. Wise. In control. These virtues should characterize our life, both in our speech, in our online engagement, in our beliefs. And yet there are times, many times, when virtues like this, such as balance, sound judgement, and sobriety are looked at by some as a lack of courage. Or we excuse them with things like, “I’m just speaking my mind.” Or we post half-baked conspiracy theories online or fire them off via email. We buy into ponzi schemes or weird ideas. An election doesn’t go our way and we freak out. We scan the negative headlines and we cower in fear or make goofy, doomsday predictions (or read the latest Christian bestsellers that posit them). But Peter says, “Be sober. Keep your cool. Pray.”

This phrasing is not original to Peter. In fact, in the New Testament you will find three types of Christians who the Bible says should always keep their cool:

1) Anyone looking for Jesus to Return. 1 Peter 4:1: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” Peter says the end is at hand. In my view this means two things: First it means the end of the age is upon us. It was upon the first century Christians and it us upon us. It was coming soon for them and coming soon for us. So, knowing that the end of the age is upon us, how should we act? Should we create newer charts? Should we try to figure out who the anti-Christ is? Should we say historically innacurate things like, “Its as bad as its ever been!.” Should we hide in the basement? No. In light of the end, Peter says, “be sober, be watchful, and pray.” When the headlines turn sour, Christians should be the last people gripped by irrational fear. The second thing this means is that the end is at hand in the sense that the end of the reign of Satan is at hand. The end is the beginning. Christ has defeated sin, death and the curse. The kingdom is here and is coming. So, rather than fear, rejoice. Be watchful. Be serious. Be balanced. And pray. Christians, of all people should not be fear-mongering conspiracy nuts. We should be joyful readers of the news, because we know the end is here and a new beginning is dawning. We know the story. We know a King is coming.

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Daniel Darling – 5 Reasons We Don’t Share Our Faith

Let’s face it. As Christians, we all know we are supposed to share our faith. Most of us have heard countless sermons on the importance of evangelizing. But . . . most of us don’t take the time to do it. Or we do, but not nearly as much as we should. So what’s the problem? Why don’t Christians share the good news of the gospel message?

Looking at my own life, my own disobedience in this area, I’ve found five reasons we aren’t more vocal about telling others what we ourselves believe:

1) We don’t share our faith because we don’t realize we have a mission. The command to follow Christ as a disciple, as an ambassador, as a proclaimer of the good news is just that . . . a command. And yet if we were honest, most of the time we treat our mission in this world as something that is optional. We look at the calling of a Christian, to die to ourselves, to take up the cross, as something we should do, if we have time. We don’t take our mission seriously. Or we think that perhaps this mission was given only to a select few specialists, such as the pastor or the missionary. This is why the world hardly notices a difference between God’s people and the rest of the world. We are so preoccupied with our own well-being, our own survival or success, that we blow off the mission of God.

2) We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand our mission. Even if we want to obey the sending mission of God, we often fail because we misunderstand the mission. Let me explain. I think much of the fear that keeps Christians from sharing the good news of the gospel with their friends and neighbors and coworkers stems from a confusion of two things: method and message. Sometimes we confuse the method with the message. So to evangelize means to dump the entire book of Romans on an unsuspecting mall clerk or it means reciting a memorized spiel of the steps to salvation. But while methods are good–they change with the audience. Paul knew this and so he didn’t necessarily try out the same method on every people group. When we do this, when we put so much confidence in a few Christianese phrases and memorized, out-of-context verses, we end up sounding like a salesman for something we don’t really want to sell. I think much of the fear would go away if we, instead, relied on the Holy Spirit to guide us in each interaction, if we resisted impatience, and worked to build long-term relationships that can one day lead to conversion. What if we were so in love with the gospel message, if we never lost our awe and wonder, if we made it a lifetime study? Perhaps that passion would so fill our souls that it would leak out into every single sphere of life and thus . . . the good news would be less of a canned pitch and more of a lifestyle. The gospel is good news, after all.

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Daniel Darling – The Rhythm of Forgiveness and Repentance

This past Sunday, in our sermon series Teach us to Pray, we looked at this phrase in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Now this phrase of this prayer would be really wonderful if it stopped at “Forgive us our debts.” That’s how most of us pray, if we’re honest. The Bible tells us we enter life with a debt–a massive gap between us and God (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12, among others). Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection erased paid that debt and offers reconciliation with God. Anyone who has put their faith in Christ can pray this prayer with hope, knowing his debt has been forgiven.

But the prayer doesn’t stop there. Jesus says that we’re to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This word “as” is not just a fill-in word here. It’s a real Greek word, hos that means , wait for it, . . . as. So Jesus is saying exactly what we think He is saying, “Forgive us our debts in proportion to the way we forgive our debtors.” And just to be sure we understood what Jesus is saying, Jesus comments on this verse in verse 14—the only additional commentary he offered on any of these requests in the Lord’s Prayer—with this:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, Matthew 6:14 (ESV)

Jesus talked like this over and over again. He is communicating some very hard truths here. They are difficult to swallow. He seems to be saying to us this: you are only forgiven as much as you forgive. Augustine called this a “terrible petition” because in this, we are really praying for God to withhold his forgiveness of us in proportion to how we forgive others. Charles Spurgeon said of this passage that to pray this, without practicing forgiveness is to “sign your own death warrant.”

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Daniel Darling – How God Uses Relationships to Make You Better

Everyone wants to be better. Self-improvement gurus call it, well, self-improvement. Wise people and many in the church call it growth. The Bible calls this process sanctification. And for the Christian, sanctification is not merely the process by which you become a nice, better person. Pretty much all religions and even quasi-non religions do that. Even Richard Dawkins, I’m thinking, is okay with growth.

Sanctification is something deeper, better, richer. The Bible asserts a bold idea that Christians–those who believe, know and follow Jesus Christ–have something deeper going onside them. They have God in them through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christianity, at it’s truest form, is not really about getting better by self-improvement, but about dying to your old self and seeing the life of Christ form in you. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s a supernatural thing. But how does God accomplish this? Or, perhaps a better question, what tools does God use?

Well, we know first of all that the agent of change is the Holy Spirit. And we know that He uses the Word of God to penetrate our hearts, cut us deep, and bring about change. The Word delivered, both in private reading and corporate preaching, brings about renewed thinking and renewed thinking brings about new behaviors, new loves, new affections.

But there is another tool that we often overlook, a powerful factor in sanctification. We change through God-ordained, dynamic relationships. In fact, I might argue that relationships, outside of the Word itself, are the primary instrument by which God changes us. This is why the New Testament is pretty clear that faith in Christ is best lived out in community.

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Daniel Darling – The Grace of Radical Ordinariness

There has been much discussion in the evangelical world about the call to radical discipleship. Perhaps it began with Matthew Lee Anderson’s corrective to books by men like David Platt, Francis Chan, and others. I thought Matt’s piece was very helpful. On other hand, I have also been encouraged by the books and movements Anderson sought to correct. David Platt and Francis Chan and others are right in pushing the American church from it’s lethargy, of echoing Jesus call to radical discipleship.

Where the conversation, I think, is unhelpful is when it devolved into a sort of mockery of some of the radical message. I felt Anthony Bradley’s piece in World was unfair and, at times, snarky and dismissive of genuine attempts at Christian faithfulness. I also disliked Erick Erickson’s piece, which demonstrated a sort of dismissive, broad-brush approach to Christian’s answer the call to go serve Christ in hard places.

The problem, sometimes, with our discussions and our movements is that we embrace some wild, reactionary pendulum swings. I’m disturbed by this. I think it reflects our inability to embrace tension. The Scriptures are full of seemingly competing ideas that are not meant to be resolved or “won.” They are meant to be embraced as they are. One of these is the two , side-by-side ideas that form the basis of the “Radical” conversation.

On the one hand, Jesus calls us to sacrificial, out-of-the-ordinary, commitment to His call. He calls us to suffer and to die. He calls us to give up what is precious. He calls us to be His emissaries to the hard and difficult places of the world, to permeate all corners of the globe with His love.

And yet, we are called to a sort of ordinariness. A sort of faithful, anonymous regular living. We are to fulfill our unique vocations, based on the set of talents, gifts, and opportunities He has given us. We’re called not simply to be pastors or missionaries in far-flung places, we’re called to faithful living at home, in ordinary vocations, because the actual work we produce honors God as the Creator. We reflect Him when we do good work.

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Daniel Darling – 5 Ways Adult Children Can Honor Their Parents

How should an adult grown (presumably married, but not necessarily) child relate to his or her parents? There is a tension in Scripture between obeying the Scripture which says to “leave and cleave” in forming your own adult identity and family (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5) and obeying the Scripture which says to “honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2).

Every family has it’s own rhythm. Every family has its own share of circumstances, from abusive to permissive to annoying, etc. So how one adult child handles his or her parents isn’t necessarily a blueprint for another. Still, the Scriptures seem to indicate an intentional approach to the way we love our parents as adults.

This is a journey I’ve traveled in the last few years. I seem to have endured the typical cycle: being cared for and nurtured by my parents as a child, distancing and forming my own identity as a teen (though still wanting their money and food), thinking my generation will solve all the mistakes my parents made, and finally where I am today: appreciating my parents and figuring out how I can love them better. I’m guessing you’ve traveled a similar road.

As I’ve pondered this important relationships, I’ve come up with five general guidelines for the way adult children should handle their parents. Like most of my lists, this is not exhaustive and I know that after reading this some outraged and enterprising blogger will create a response. So be it. Here’s the list:

1) Always respect your parents, even when it is difficult. By honoring, I think the Bible is saying more than simple respect. But it’s not saying less. I’m amazed at how I hear otherwise good, godly people treat their parents. I’ve been in nursing homes where kids are literally yelling and berating their parents. I realize that sometimes parents are not the easiest people to love, but this is why love is something we do and is not something we feel. Your parents, regardless of their flaws, brought you into the world. They nurtured and cared for you and loved you the best way they can. Give them some respect, treat them with kindness and deference, and realize that one day you’ll be the one with the walker and the really bad elastic pants. You don’t want your kids yelling at you that way, do you?

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