DeYoung: A prayer for Mercy

“This was my pastoral prayer from yesterday. After hearing from several people in my church who asked for a copy of the prayer, I decided to post the video and a transcript of the prayer here on my blog.

‘O great God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who created all things, the God above all gods, the God who was, and is, and is to come, the God who never changes, the God who never slumbers nor sleeps, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. More than 100,000 lives lost in this country alone. We hear of new cases, new hospitalizations, new deaths each day.

Lord have mercy.

In the last three months 40,000 million Americans have entered the ranks of the unemployed. Many who still have a job are scared. Others are anxious, depressed.

Lord have mercy.

As states re-open some cities and neighborhoods, even some families and churches, are sniping at each other over masks or no masks, re-open quickly or re-open slowly, COVID is worse than you think or this has been a massive over-reaction.

Lord have mercy.

As Christians, we have grieved to be separated from the people we love and care for. We have been forced to give up meeting together for a time. So much about ministry seems harder, more uncertain, less fulfilling. We don’t fully know when normal will return, or what normal will look like, or what to do in the meantime.

Lord have mercy.

On Monday, a white police officer in Minneapolis put his knee on the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes, murdering a black man made in the image of God, while three other officers did nothing to stop the injustice.

Lord have mercy.

The anger and fear and pain felt in the black community isn’t prompted by this one incident alone. It comes out of the legacy of slavery, and Jim Crow, and too many times where power and force were used against them in ways that are evil and unjust.

Lord have mercy.

Every time we witness another tragedy like this we know it makes the difficult and honorable job of law enforcement almost impossible. Many police officers–risking their lives to serve and protect–will suffer unfairly because of actions done a thousand miles away, actions they condemn, actions outside their control.

Lord have mercy.

And now we see dozens and dozens of our great cities are torn apart by senseless destruction and violence. Businesses have been burnt down. Grocery stories destroyed. Neighborhoods ruined. Lives threatened or lost.

Lord have mercy.

You have our attention. O God, give us ears to hear. What do you want to say to us in your word? What should we do? What needs to change? How can we help?

Let us do as our own Catechism instructs us and obey the sixth commandment by preserving the life of ourselves and others, but resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any. Let our lives be marked by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness, peaceable, mild, and courteous speeches and behavior. Let us forbear with others and demonstrate a readiness to be reconciled, and a patient enduring and forgiving of injuries. Let us comfort the distressed and protect and defend the innocent (WLC 135).

We pray for justice for the murder of George Floyd. We pray for those living in utter chaos and darkness in Minneapolis and St. Paul, or facing the loss of property or loss of life in Atlanta, Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Louisville, for facing rising tensions in Oakland, San Jose, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, and here in Charlotte. We pray for repentance for those who sinned against George Floyd, those who have responded in sin, and those of us–perhaps all of us–who have harbored sin in our hearts toward those who seem to be on the other side, part of the other team, those who vote for the other party.

We pray for whatever necessary reforms might give hope and healing and and dignity and the feeling of safety fo our black brothers and sisters, especially here in our church. We pray for bravery and safety, and fortitude for our law enforcement officers, especially here in our church. We pray for the Mayor of Charlotte, Vi Lyles and CMPD Police Chief Putney. Give them wisdom, strength, integrity, grace as they lead through these difficult days.

We pray for our political, religious, and civic leaders. May they be humble, honest, measured, principled, open to good ideas wherever they come form, self-sacrificing, disciplined, courageous, and compassionate. Where we have such leaders may we listen to them and follow them. Where our leaders do not exhibit these qualities, help them to change and repent. We seek the peace of our city and all the cities of this great country.

We weep. We lament. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope.

May gospel beauty rise from these smoldering, literal ashes. May truth triumph over lies and grace conquer lawlessness. May your people be one as you, O Father, and your Son are one. May the church–the body of Christ, the bride of Christ–rise up as an example of love and with a message of salvation for a weary and war-torn world. Give us grace to serve you, O God, and, if necessary, grace to suffer for what is right. Give us the peace and health and safety we do not deserve. Give us the reformation and revival we need.

Lord have mercy.’”

-Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, board chairman of The Gospel Coalition, and assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has authored numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have eight children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, and Andrew.

-https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/a-prayer-for-mercy/

Satan’s Simple Plan

haunted-house2

“The devil really only wants one thing from you”

-By Kevin DeYoung

What does the devil want to do with you?

Does he want to haunt your house? Not likely. You’d write a bestselling book or become a reality television star. Make your head spin around? You could make a lot of money showing off that trick. Get you to carve a pentagram into your leg? Nah, not the sort of behavior that draws a big following.

So what does the devil really want from you?

He really only wants one thing: he wants to keep you from Christ.

He wants to make you selfish. He wants you to live for your ambition. He wants you to live for your addiction. He wants you live for your ego. He wants you to live for anyone or anything that’s not Jesus. As long as he keeps you from Christ–from the true and living God–he doesn’t care how it happens. Make you sick like Job or rich like Uzzah, just so long as you forget your Creator in the days of your youth. He will be the accuser of the brethren in one breath and the lying spirit who says “peace, peace” in the next.

What does the devil want?

He wants you to believe the lie that you are okay without a savior. He wants you to think that the form of godliness counts for something even if it does not have the power. He wants you to suppress the truth in unrighteousness and exchange the truth about God for a lie. He wants you to love the world and ignore the Word. He wants you to be happy or sad or scared or complacent or hungry or full, anything that gets you focused on something other than union and communion with Christ.

When you become a Christian you turn from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). And when you live as a Christian, the devil will do all that he can to get you to turn back to the way things were.

What Must We Leave Behind?

by Kevin DeYoung

What must we leave behind if we are to follow Christ?

The simplest answer is that we must leave behind idolatry. That’s the very first commandment—you shall have no other gods before me. They don’t have to be obvious representations of the divine; they don’t have to be stone or wood or marble. There are all sorts of gods: education, athletics, marriage, choice, power, self-expression, beauty, achievement. Whatever you give your whole life for, there’s your idol.

If only I had ______ then I would be happy.

If only I had ______ I’d be worth something.

If only I had ______ I could truly live a fulfilled life.

Whatever you put in the blank, that’s your god. That’s what you are living for. That’s what you worship. Marriage may be in your blank, or your dream job, or better parents, or better kids, or fewer pounds, or more influence. Many of these are good desires, but they must not be ultimate. They are not meant to be gods.

What might a Jerusalem Council like the one in Acts 15 say to us? What might God be requiring us to give up as disciples of Christ? What might a Spirit-inspired council say to the hard-charging corporate guy who sees everything and everyone as a means for his advancement? What might it say to the woman obsessed with beauty and status, living from tabloid to tabloid, from gossip to gossip? What about the college student who lives for the party scene? Or the “good” college student, who thinks he has to get good grades and go to grad school?

This may all seem like normal life, but it is not normal Christian life. Remember, worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange.

Christians are not going to look like everyone else. They are not going to do what everybody else does. They will stand out. It’s hard to carry a cross without leaving some baggage behind.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/12/18/what-must-you-leave-behind/

The Importance of Simplicity in Preaching

by Kevin DeYoung

John Witherspoon, in his Lectures on Eloquence, with wise words on the importance of preaching with simplicity:

“Another character which should distinguish pulpit eloquence is simplicity.

Simplicity is beautiful everywhere; it is of importance that young persons should be formed to a taste for it and more disposed to exceed here than in the opposite extreme, but if I am not mistaken it is more beautiful and the transgressions of it more offensive in the pulpit than any where else. If I heard a lawyer pleading in such a style and manner, as was more adapted to display his own talents than to carry his client’s cause, it would considerably lessen him in my esteem, but if I heard a minister acting the same part I should not be satisfied with contempt, but hold him in detestation.

There are several obvious reasons why simplicity is more especially necessary to a minister than any other.

(1) Many of his audience are poor ignorant creatures.

If he means to do them any service he must keep to what they understand, and that requires more simplicity than persons without experience can easily imagine. It is remarkable that at the first publication it was a character of the gospel that it was preached to the poor. In this our blessed master was distinguished both from the heathen philosophers and Jewish teachers, who confined their instructions in a great measure to their schools, and imparted what they esteemed their most important discourses to only a few chosen disciples.

(2) Simplicity is necessary to preserve the speaker’s character for sincerity.

You heard before how necessary piety is, which is proper parent of sincerity, in the pulpit. Now it is not easy to preserve the opinion of piety and sincerity in the pulpit when there is much ornament. Besides the danger of much affected pomp or foppery of style, a discourse very highly polished even in the truest taste is apt to suggest to the audience that a man is preaching himself and not the cross of Christ.

So nice a matter is this in all public speaking that some critics say that Demosthenes put on purpose some errors in grammar in his discourses that the hearers might be induced to take them for the immediate effusions of the heart, without art, and with little premeditation. I doubt much the solidity of this remark or the certainty of the fact, but however it be, there is no occasion for it in the case of a minister, because preparation and premeditation are expected from him, and in that case he may make his discourses abundantly plain and simple without any affected blunders.

(3) Simplicity is also necessary as suited to the gospel itself, the subject of a minister’s discourses.

Nothing (is) more humbling to the pride of man than the doctrine of the cross; nothing (is) more unbecoming that doctrine than too much finery of language. The apostle Paul chose to preach “not with the words which man’s wisdom teaches” (1 Cor. 2:13)—and again, “not with excellency of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1), which though I admit that it does not condemn study and sound knowledge, yet it certainly shows that the style of the pulpit should be the most simple and self-denied of any other.”

If the choice is preaching in such a way as to be thought intellectually and rhetorically impressive or preaching in a manner as to be understood, we must always choose the latter over the former. In preaching, clarity is king, and simplicity is his servant.

-Kevin DeYoung, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/05/01/the-importance-of-simplicity/

Christ is Superior – Part 2

by Kevin DeYoung “God has spoken by his Son, and this Son is superior to all persons, heavenly beings, institutions, rituals, and previous means of revelation and redemption. That’s the big idea in Hebrews 1:1–4 and throughout the book. Christ is superior: To Angels (chs. 1-2) To Moses (ch. 3) To Joshua (chs. 3-4) To Aaron (ch. 5) To Abraham (ch. 6) To Melchizedek (ch. 7) To the old covenant (ch. 8) To the tabernacle (ch. 9) To the high priest (ch. 10) To the treasures of this world (ch. 11) To Mount Sinai (ch. 12) To the city we have here on earth (ch. 13). The Son is our Great Superlative, surpassing all others because in him we have the fullness and finality of God’s redemption and revelation.”   -Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2014), 49.

Christ is Superior – Part 1

by Kevin DeYoung

“Christ is the superior and final agent of God’s redemption and revelation. The writer of Hebrews, drawing form Psalms 2 and 110, makes seven affirmations to this end:

1. The Son is the heir of all things (Heb. 1:2b). Everything culminates in Christ. The mission work of this age is to bring Christ what rightfully belongs to him.

2. The Son is the creator of all things (v. 2c). Though the second person of the Trinity is not mentioned by name in the creation account, we see in Genesis that God created by the action of his divine speech. This word spoken is to be identified with the Word who later became incarnate.

3. The Son is the sustainer of all things (v. 3a). Every proton, electron, every compound, every particle and planet, every star and galaxy is upheld by his powerful word.

4. The Son is the revelation of God (v. 3a). He is the manifestation of God’s presence, not merely a reflection of the divine glory but the radiance of it. He is the exact imprint of God, same in essence and nature. Christ shows us God as he truly is.

5. The Son made purification for our sins (v. 3b). He took away the stain and guilt of sin, not just as a shadow of greater things to come (like the former sacrifices) but as the substance of all that has been prefigured.

6. The Son sat down (v. 3b). Just as a mother sits down at the end of the day because the kids are finally in bed and the kitchen is clean, so Christ sat down at the right hand of God because his work had been accomplished. The enthronement was complete (Ps. 110:1) and the priestly task completed once for all (Heb. 9:25-26).

7. The Son, therefore, has become much superior to angels (v. 4). He is superior to these heavenly messengers because God’s final word has been spoken through him. None will come after him. Our great salvation has come–confirmed by signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit–and it shall never be surpassed (2:1-4).”

-Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2014), 47-48.

 

Four Essential Characteristics of Scripture

By Kevin DeYoung

Sufficiency: The Scriptures contain everything we need to know for knowledge of salvation and godly living. We don’t need any new revelation from heaven.

Clarity: The saving message of Jesus Christ is plainly taught in the Scriptures and can be understood by all who have ears to hear it. We don’t need an official magisterium to tell us what the Bible means.

Authority: The last word always goes to the word of God. We must never allow the teachings of science, of human experience, or of church councils to take precedence over Scripture.

Necessity: General revelation is not enough to save us. We cannot know God savingly by means of personal experience and human reason. We need God’s word to tell us how to live, who Christ is, and how to be saved.

God’s word is final; God’s word is understandable; God’s word is necessary; and God’s word is enough.

-Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2014), 44.

What Would Jesus Bake?

Helpful thoughts from Greg Beale and Kevin DeYoung

“As Christians continue to debate to what extent they can be involved with gay weddings, advocates for participation as no-big-deal have been hurrying to the Gospels to look for a Jesus who is pretty chill with most things. It’s certainly great to go the Gospels. Can’t go wrong there. Just as long as we don’t ignore his denunciations of porneia (Mark 7:21), and as long as we don’t make Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John our canon within the Canon. For Jesus himself predicted that the Holy Spirit would come and unpack all the truth about the Father and the Son (John 16:12-15). The revelation of the Son of God was not limited to the incarnation, but included the pouring out of the Spirit of Jesus and the subsequent testimony written down by the Messiah’s Spirit-inspired followers.

But even if we were going to limit ourselves in ethical matters to only those things Jesus said, why doesn’t anyone talk about the letters to the seven churches? Grab a red-letter edition of the Bible and you’ll see: Revelation 2-3 is all crimson. They are letters from Jesus. To be sure, this Jesus warns against losing our first love, but he also rebukes several churches for being too cozy with the culture. Pergamum countenanced false teachers who encouraged sexual sin (Rev. 2:14-15). Thyatira was too tolerant of a Jezebel-like woman leading people into sexual immorality (Rev. 2:20-21). Many in Sardis had soiled their garments with the world (Rev. 3:4). Compromise was in the air, and only some of the Christians could say they didn’t inhale.

What did this compromise look like? We can’t be sure, but Greg Beale–who has written the best scholarly commentary on Revelation–suggests that, at least in part, the compromise had to do with participating in the festivals put on by local trade guilds. Christians who worked in professions belonging to these guilds were put in a precarious spot. Would they go along with the run-of-the-mill idolatry associated with the feasts? Or would they opt out and risk losing their livelihood, their respectability, or worse.

Beale explains:

‘This was no mere issue of indifferent things and matters of conscience, as some propose was the case in 1 Corinthians 8. Perhaps token public acknowledgments to Caesar are in mind or participation in pagan festivals, or even both, since all the guilds formally recognized Caesar’s deity. (Polycarp was accused of being a “puller down of our gods, teaching many not to sacrifice or worship” [Martyrdom of Polycarp 12:1-2].) In particular, what may be included are trade guild festivals involving celebration of patron deities through fests and sometimes immoral activities. Refusal to participate in such activities could result in economic and social ostracism (cf. 1 Pet. 3:11-21). Therefore, there was much pressure to compromise. And just as Israel was influenced to fornicate both sexually and spiritually, the same was true of Christians in Pergamum.

Like Balaam, this was a group of false prophets who were encouraging participation in idol fests by teaching that such permission was permissible for Christians. We may speculate, as have others, that this course of action was rationalized by thinking that it was only an empty gesture that fulfilled patriotic or social obligations and was legitimate as long as Christians did not really believe in the deities being worshiped. And, like Balaam, they probably also believed they would be blessed for their prophetic instruction (cf. Num. 23:10).

Part of the false teachers’ effectiveness, perhaps, lay in their sincere belief that they were teaching correct doctrine; while possible, it is unlikely that they were intentionally trying to deceive the church. Of course, their teaching would ultimately dilute the exclusive claims of the church’s Christian witness to the world, which was still the church’s strength. Perhaps part of the motivation for the teachers’ attitude was the threat of economic deprivation, which may have facilitated the comparison with Balaam, since the original narrative and subsequent reflections on it associate his deceptive motives with financial gain. (NIGTC, The Book of Revelation, 249)’

Granted, the issue in Asia Minor was not baking cakes for same-sex ceremonies. We shouldn’t think Revelation 2-3 was written to solve our controversies. But we shouldn’t assume they have nothing to do with our controversies either. High pressure social obligations, rationalizing participation as only an empty gesture, popular teachers urging permissiveness, the threat of social and economic ostracism—sounds familiar. Maybe our problems aren’t so new. Maybe the Bible isn’t so unconcerned with the parties we make possible. Maybe Jesus wouldn’t bake that cake after all.”

-Keven DeYoung, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/02/27/what-would-jesus-bake/