Jared Wilson – Confession as Idle, Lustful Babbling: 5 Errors

The greatest temptation in Christian communities is to avoid confession altogether, to maintain the facade, the uneasy stasis of staying right near the surface and never getting too deep, too real, too honest with each other. But on the other side, another temptation, perhaps not as great but just as real, is what often happens in place of real confession. We might call it “confession as performance.” Here’s an insightful piece from Bonhoeffer’s invaluable Life Together:

[A] danger concerns the confessant. For the salvation of his soul let him guard against ever making a pious work of his confession. If he does so, it will become the final, most abominable, vicious, and impure prostitution of the heart; the act becomes an idle, lustful babbling. Confession as a pious work is an invention of the devil. It is only God’s offer of grace, help, and forgiveness that could make us dare to enter the abyss of confession.

Again, let us not steer clear of real gospel confession with our brothers and sisters. The Bible commends it too much for us to safely avoid it. But Bonhoeffer has touched on something important here, something I’ve witnessed in a few small group settings. The safe space for confession can be taken advantage of, in a way. Here are some ways we might exploit and pervert the confessional act:

1. We treat the confession itself not as an act of repentance but mainly of catharsis. This is the employment of cheap grace. Basically, we’re not looking so much for the grace that frees and empowers us but the opportunity to “get something off our chests.” At least, until the next opportunity.

2. The confession becomes a self-indulgent “pity party” session. It is not about receiving the word of forgiveness in the gospel from our brethren and walking in that freedom but about occupying their ears to satisfy our need for attention and soaking up their consolation. It’s not the gospel’s embrace we really want, in other words, but some pats on the back.

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Ron Man – The Primacy of the Word in Worship

The Word of God is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian, containing as it does God’s revelation of his Person, his will and his ways. The Word needs to be pored over, ingested into one’s mind and heart, meditated on, and acted upon. It is a unique and precious repository of spiritual truth and guidance and encouragement. There is no aspect of the life of the church or of the individual believer that should not be tied to a scriptural mooring and infused with biblical substance (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Bible is indeed 
”a lamp unto my feet, and a light 
unto my path” (Ps 119:105).

When Christians gather for
 corporate worship, it is logical that 
the Word of God should play a 
central and dominant role. For 
since worship involves focusing our
 thoughts and hearts and voices on 
the praise of God, in response to
 his self-revelation and his gracious
 saving initiative, we of course need
 that view of God which the Word gives us if our worship is to be “in truth” (John 4:23-24). Our worship can only duly honor God if it accurately reflects what he reveals about himself in his Word.

The Word Neglected

That said, the astounding observation has been made as to how little use is made of Scripture in the worship services of most evangelical churches. The irony of course is that those who claim most strongly to stand on the Bible have so little of it in their worship. While the sermon of course takes a prominent role in our services, even preaching consists mostly of talking about the Scriptures (often after reading just a very few verses). It must be said that liturgical groups (whether on the more liberal or the more conservative end of the spectrum theologically) have probably ten times as much actual Scripture in their services (because it is built into their liturgies) as most evangelical free churches!

In too many of our churches the entire first part of the service consists just of music, and no Scripture is read at all. This author has experienced this often in both traditional and contemporary services: the problem is pervasive. It would seem crucially important for people in a service, believers and unbelievers, to hear (and/or see printed in a bulletin or flashed on a screen) verses of Scripture chosen to give a clear signal that: “We have come to worship God. The Word is how we know about God, and therefore it is the foundation for all that we do here and for our understanding of why we have come together.” Without hearing such a declaration, worshipers make the faulty assumption (consciously or unconsciously) that we invite ourselves into God’s presence, when in actuality it is only by virtue of his invitation (and his opening the way through the work of Christ) that we may come before him at all.

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Scott Redd – Christ Is Not Just Another Theme in the Old Testament

I am increasingly hesitant to use the phrase “finding Christ in the Old Testament” (or Pentateuch, Psalter, or Wisdom Literature, and so on). It seems to imply that the person of Christ is merely a theme among others to be mined from the Old Testament alongside other themes such as justification, resurrection, or the like.

The second person of the Trinity made incarnate is, of course, more than simply a theme of God’s self-revelation in the Old Testament Scriptures. He is the culmination of God’s self-revelation in all of history, the perfect embodiment of the godhead (Col 2:9). To a certain extent, we could say that the quest to find Christ in the Old Testament is analogous to the quest to find Thomas Jefferson in Declaration of Independence. Christ is everywhere throughout the Old Testament. It speaks of him explicitly and implicitly, in promises, patterns, types, hints, and images. Through these various ways the Old Testament reveals and anticipates the richness of his character: his work, his life, his glory, his hope, his might, his love, his suffering, his wisdom, and so much more, and it does this all before the historical event of his incarnation.

The OT witness to Christ is as rich and varied as are all of the functions he performs. When evangelicals talk about Christ in the Old Testament, they tend to look for images, patterns, or outright anticipations of Christ’s work of substitutionary atonement. Of course, Christ’s work as once-and-for-all sacrifice is central to the Christian hope for salvation, but it only gets at part of the distinct and lordly character and work of the Son of God himself.

In fact, the New Testament claims that Christ fulfills the Old Testament in many ways. Just to name a few, Christ is:

• Old Testament covenant Lord (John 8:58; see also kurios as title for Christ)
• Sovereign eschatological king (Rev. 21:22)
• Key actor in creation (John 1:1-5 [Genesis 1])
• True Israel (Matt. 2:15 [Hos 11:1]; John 15:1-17)
• The temple of God (John 2:19-21)
• Restorer from exile (Matt 3:3 [Isa. 40:3; Mar 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23])
• Final and authoritative prophet (Heb 1:2)
• Heir to the world (Heb 1:2; Ps 2:8)
• Sustainer of his people in wilderness (1 Cor 10:4 [Exod. 17:6])
• Foundation of human salvation (Acts 4:11 [Ps. 118:22])
• Wisdom teacher par excellence (Matt 12:42 [Luke 11:31])
• The very wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23)

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Mark Dever – Why was it necessary for Christ, the Redeemer, to die?

Since death is the punishment for sin, Christ died willingly in our place to deliver us from the power and penalty of sin and bring us back to God. By his substitutionary atoning death, he alone redeems us from hell and gains for us forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and everlasting life.

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David Morlan – See the Gospel of Luke from the Outside In

Studying the Bible with other believers can often have an insular effect that’s unhealthy and, according to Luke’s Gospel, unbiblical. From beginning to end in his Gospel, the Gentile physician spotlights the surprising work of the gospel in those thought to be “outsiders.”

Luke articulates Jesus’ story as accessible to the unknowns, the outcast, the lost, and the hopeless. For example, Jesus recounts the stunning embrace of the returned prodigal and embittered response of his “righteous” brother, displaying his desire for irreligious and religious alike to turn to him in repentance. We see Jesus’ invitation to Zacchaeus—the hated tax collector eavesdropping on Jesus from the outside—and the grumbling response of the crowd on the inside: “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” We witness Jesus look with compassion on a reviled yet repentant criminal hanging on the cross next to his. Despite being the final moments before his death, Jesus takes time to give the criminal an astonishing promise—a scandal that remains today. Examples like these abound throughout the Gospel of Luke. In short, Jesus constantly challenges Israel’s “insiders” by highlighting “outsiders” transformed by the gospel. He desires transformation in both camps.

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