Archive for March, 2015
Editor’s Note: Peter Arndt is a Community Group Leader at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of D.A. Carson’s message from Sunday morning at Clarus, March 22, “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” from Luke 16:19-31.
Dr. Carson began the final session of Clarus 2015 by asking question of this parable: is Jesus saying that a simple reversal takes place in status between this world and the next? While at first glance, it appears this might be the case, but the rest of Scripture denies an idea this simplistic. Wealth in this world does not always result in suffering in the next, e.g., Abraham, Job, and Philemon.
Wealth as a means of self-justification is a major theme throughout the gospel according to Luke, and the rich man in this parable proves himself to be devoted to one master (wealth) and despising the other (God – Luke 16:11-13). He worships wealth as an idol and is blind to the suffering around him. Dr. Carson explained in the society of Lazarus’ day, the rich were to care for the poor, so the rich man failed to meet his responsibility. By not naming the rich man, who seems so important and posh, Jesus is identifying him as eternally not that important. Lazarus means “the one whom God helps,” and while it is initially difficult to see this to be true, by the end of the story, its clear who it is God helps. We can’t make our assessments of who God helps in this life alone—it’s too complex.
Their situation is reversed, in a sense, now eternally as the rich man is suffering and Lazarus is at rest at Abraham’s bosom. The rich man shows no signs of repentance—no acknowledgment of his wronging Lazarus—only a desire to relieve his suffering. Abraham speaks of how the rich man’s suffering is fitting judgment for his life and that his condition is irreversible. He appeals to Abraham to warn his loved ones of this place of torment, thinking incorrectly about what causes repentance in men. Dr. Carson observed that, as far as he can tell, there is not a hint that anyone will ever repent in hell. In this parable there is not a hint of contrition, apology, repentance on the part of the rich man—only the view that his view of the world is right over and against God’s. Just as in this life, in hell, the damned are still trying to justify themselves.
Abraham corrects the rich man by saying it is Moses and the prophet’s words that brings repentance, not messengers from the dead. This remains a poignant lesson also for this current age where men still seek signs—we have the Bible, which is all we need to bring repentance.
Dr. Carson concluded with three theological and pastoral reflections on this passage:
- There is a sphere of rejoicing to pursue,and there is a place of torment to flee.
- The things in which we take so much pride now (wealth, religious privilege, good looks, success and recognition) may actually blind us to our need for grace.
- God has not left himself without witness. We must listen to the witness of Scripture or we are dead.
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus challenges all of us to choose God’s eternal rewards over earth’s temporal treasures, for once this life is over there is no undoing of the consequences.
Editor’s Note: Scott Pilgreen is a lay leader and biblical counselor at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of a panel discussion from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 21, with Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, and David Helm.
Question: Another get-to-know you question. You both have ministries outside the local church. Tell us how those began.
David Helm: Simeon Trust started as a “one-trick pony” on the back of a napkin. Simeon Trust exists to increase pastor’s confidence in preaching God’s Word.
D.A. Carson: The Gospel Coalition started in 2002, when Tim Keller and I began to wonder what it would take to constitute an organization that lay at the centered of Reformed, evangelical Christianity.
Question: How did you come to believe that the Lord was leading you to preach and teach?
David Helm: When I was 17 years old, I was met with the classic fork in the road. I was pegged to be in some form of student ministry leadership, but called my friend and told him that I was out, and I didn’t want to do the faith thing anymore. My friend then began to tell me about the road that I was heading down and that it only ended in death and destruction. Instantaneously, my conversion to Christ was united in a call to lead the church.
D.A. Carson: My dad was a pastor so I don’t remember a time when we didn’t read and memorize Scripture. My attention was on mathematics and science at the university and not much thought on ministry. Then I heard a missionary amongst the poor in Haiti preach on Ezekiel 22 stating that there was no one to stand in the gap. That was my call.
Question: Is evangelism preaching? Or is preaching limited to only Sunday morning pulpit ministry?
D.A. Carson: If you are declaring the gospel, it is preaching even though it may not be expositional. Preaching is not tied to Sunday morning, but one of the main reasons for the church is to sit under God’s Word. However, this also happens in the best family devotions, as well.
David Helm: As preaching pastors, I think that it would be good for us over the next 15 years to find multiple venues for preaching the gospel. We need to find ourselves in more strategic and interpersonal dialogues.
Question: It seems like the sermons in Acts are pretty short. Why do modern preachers preach so long?
David Helm: For one thing, those sermons in Acts are summaries. We don’t have all that was said and preached, we just have the bones and main points.
D.A. Carson: Growing up in French Canada, I can remember preaching for an hour and a half and people still wanting more. There are different cultural expectations and variations in gifting that can contribute to the length of time in preaching.
Question: What in the broader evangelical culture is concerning?
David Helm: I’m not concerned about anything. God knows how to grow and take care of His church and He will be faithful to do so. There is an army of men who are being mobilized in the preaching of the Word, and most of the things that feel concerning end up dying away anyway.
D.A. Carson: In the New Testament, Paul often points out things that were concerning, so it is good to point these things out today as well. Among other things there is a lot of health and wealth prosperity teachings, a whooping up of joy instead of true joy in the Lord, and a rising level of Biblical illiteracy.
Question: What in the broader evangelical culture is encouraging?
David Helm: There is a hunger for the Word of God everywhere. Young people are rising up who are handling the Word incredibly.
D.A. Carson: There is more church planting going on all over the world and not just in white, suburb America. Things are happening in France and Japan that are very encouraging. I am far more encouraged by the spread of the gospel than I was 15 years ago.
Question: Is there possible tension on the one hand for a desire for one’s pastor to preach with more power and clarity and passion but remaining content with whom God has given as your pastor?
D.A. Carson: There is danger is thinking that we should pray for our pastors who are not preaching well. The New Testament model is to pray for things that are working.
David Helm: Appreciate your pastor for the temperament he has, pray that he would be confined and shaken by the text, and pray that he would have a greater command of the text.
Editor’s Note: Tim Bradley is Pastor for Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of D.A. Carson’s message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 21, “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,” from Luke 10:25-37.
Dr. Carson began by stating that while the parable of the Good Samaritan is likely the most well-known parable in our culture, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Many believe the parable essentially teaches “Christianity is all about being nice to your neighbor,” but Carson repudiated this as the main teaching of the parable. He stated that most do not understand the context and therefore misunderstand the parable. In winsome fashion Dr. Carson reflected upon his own father who taught him, among other things, “a text without context becomes a pretext for a proof text.” In light of this Carson explained both the immediate and extended context of the parable, so that we may truly understand Jesus and the hope of the gospel.
The Parable In the Immediate Context
The immediate context is a Jewish “lawyer-theologian” asking Jesus a question in order to “test” Him. The lawyer asks, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He is attempting to discredit Jesus by his question, but Jesus answers the lawyer’s question with a masterful question of His own, which leaves the lawyer trapped. The lawyer knows he does not measure up to the standard given in his own answer, and that he cannot go and do this as Jesus has now told him he must do. In response to the lawyer’s second question, Jesus tells this parable to set up his own next question.
Carson explains there is much context to be understood in the parable itself, especially about the actions of the Samaritan, who got down from his beast to care for the man, took him to an inn, cares for him further, and provides for all his costs of healing and care in order to save the beaten, half-dead, naked man from death and slavery. Carson states Jesus is taking the OT law and forcing it upon the heart. In the end, He asks the lawyer which man in the parable was a neighbor to the robbed man. Being trapped again with the impossibility of this, and having difficulty with even mentioning the Samaritan, the lawyer answers in a general way by stating, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus again tells him to go and do likewise.
The Parable in the Extended Context
The larger context of this parable must be understood by understanding that the book of Luke turns in 9:51, and that from this point in Luke’s gospel Jesus is “on the way” to Jerusalem and the cross. This means that the parable must be understood as being under the shadow of the cross. Jesus’ undeterred determination to get to Calvary and finish His work is critical to understanding this parable. Jesus is saying the ultimate answer to the lawyer’s question is that there is only one thing that is really needed—to become My disciple on the way to My cross. Jesus and His gospel is the answer to the question.
Three Pastoral Reflections
Carson concluded with these three pastoral reflections:
- If we are to think of eternal life as inherited, then we must see clearly that we cannot possibly earn this inheritance.
- Who is the Good Samaritan? Jesus is the one who rescues the dead and damned, pays for it all, rescues them from slavery, and is often hated by the ones he cares for.
- Clearly Jesus expects His followers to live as he does. The gospel of Jesus justifies us, but it also transforms us.
Editor’s Note: Ethan Hester is the Interim Senior Pastor at Grace Bible Church, Las Cruces, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of David Helm’s message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 21, “Preaching: God’s Speech,” from Acts 17:16-34.
Pastor David Helm began his message by reminding us that his addresses at this conference are not sermons but rather two seamless talks (the first in Session 4) on the important subject of preaching the Word. So far he has asked three questions: 1) What is preaching?, 2) What does preaching do?, and 3) What strategies can we learn from the Athenian setting of Acts 17 that all preachers can employ?
As we continue our look at Acts 17 we consider two more questions about Paul’s preaching to the Athenians:
Where Does Paul’s Athenian Discourse Fall In Regards to Preaching? Is it preaching?
We ask this question because there are some who would claim that Paul’s sermon in Athens is a non-Christian sermon. To discern if this is true we first need to recognize the language. The dominant word in the New Testament for preaching is kerysso. But in the second half of Acts a different word emerges euaggelizo which means to bring good news.
These two words for preaching are like the two rings used by a magician, in that they can be put together or pulled apart with no issue. The Athenian discourse of Paul falls into the sense of preaching that is of the second word. It is bringing good news. We must recognize that while Paul’s preaching at the Areopagus doesn’t seem to be the same kind of preaching that we may expect on a Sunday morning, is very much preaching because he is proclaiming the truth of the gospel.
What Can We Learn From This Sermon To Put Into Practice?
There is a debate in missiology as to whether or not or how much we should contextualize in missionary work, yet we see that Paul has no issue contextualizing by helping the Athenians see the truth of the gospel through appealing to their belief in “the unknown god”. While, like Paul, we should find ourselves to be “provoked” by the idols of our culture, we shouldn’t entirely isolate ourselves from understanding the unknown gods around us, that we might use them to point others to Jesus.
Another take away from Paul’s sermon is his command of the grand sweep of Biblical history. We can observe the impact that this understanding and communication of God’s plan and work in history has in evangelism. From this we must ask ourselves how well we can grasp and communicate the plan of redemptive history, and how we might work towards a better command of God’s story.
Finally, Paul’s address at the Areopagus proves its validity from the response of those who heard. They responded in one of three ways: some mocked, some had renewed interest, and some joined him and believed. We should not be surprised when our proclamation of the gospel brings the same range of responses.
Editor’s Note: Marc Wilson is Elder and Rector at St. Patrick’s Church, Las Cruces, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Alistair Begg’s message from Saturday morning at Clarus, March 21, “Preaching In and Out of Season,” from 2 Timothy 3:16-4:8.
“Preach the Word!” This was the clear message from Alistair Begg who blessed those sitting under his teaching this morning at TGC Albuquerque’s Clarus ’15 gathering. What are we to do as our culture turns from God’s revelation to human speculation? How are we to engage those who want spirituality disconnected from any biblical truth? “Preach the Word” was Paul’s charge to Timothy as he contended with similar circumstances in the church at Ephesus.
At a time of transition from apostolic to post-apostolic times, Paul emphasized the important “ministry of reminder” by directing Timothy to continue in what he had learned and convinced of since infancy. That which Timothy was to remember is contained within “the Holy Scriptures” (Old Testament) and able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Jesus. Thus, Paul was passing on the gospel to Timothy at this time of transition, and the “Bible is key to gospel competence.” Timothy was not to deviate from that which equipped him for the work to which Paul charged him. That fundamental charge was, “preach the Word.” Timothy was called to be faithful to the charge of this ministry, and such faithfulness would likely result in sufferings similar to Paul’s (4:6). Begg helpfully highlighted two key aspects of this charge and their relevance for us today.
First, preaching is a Solemn Charge. The solemnity of the charge, as highlighted in 4:1, is with a view to “the Day” in 4:8. This charge involves patiently and carefully “reproving, rebuking, and exhorting” consistently while also being aware of our environment. Even when the “season” is “daunting and discouraging,” we must trust that God’s Word speaks to people in different situations. Whether congregations are “receptive or hostile, dreadful or delightful, tuned-in or tuned-out, growing or dwindling”, the preached Word will consistently meet their needs and fulfill God’s purposes. The preached Word must be our source of confidence. The best preachers are “men who are awed with the charge of their ministry” to preach the Word. There is a great danger for preachers and the people to remain unchanged under the preaching of the Word. Preachers are accountable to God because they are keeping watch over the souls of God’s people, dealing with the eternal dimension of one’s existence.
Secondly, preaching is a Simple Charge. Confidence in God’s Word convinces the preacher that “he does not have to come up with something” to meet the diverse needs of the people because “God has come down with something.” What God has spoken is contained in the Bible. God has spoken His sufficient Word. In quoting AW Tozer, Begg reminds that “we are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not compromise but an ultimatum.” To “preach the Word” is a call for one to “look and live.” Even when the biblical assessment of fallen humanity is unappealing to its hearers, we must remain patiently confident in the Scriptures to reprove, rebuke and exhort knowing there is glorious good news for those who acknowledge their fallen condition and the need for God’s Word. The Bible contains the gospel that makes us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Therefore, whether in or out of season, “preach the Word!”