Dec 212014

Song Of Songs 8:5–14

Talk details

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Dec 182014

Keller_freedomOne of my favorite Tim Keller books is called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: the Path to True Christian Joy. I’ve read it quite a few times and given it away to others quite a few times as well.

The main idea of the book is simply this: sin involves both thinking too much of ourselves and thinking of ourselves too much. The gospel sets us free from this self-absorption because in it we discover Jesus – the one who loves us far more and far better than we can ever love ourselves so we can leave that up to him. Knowing his love for us enables us to get over ourselves (turning instead to Jesus in repentance and faith) and get on with the delight of loving others.

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of the pain and conflict we experience would be overcome if we simply believed and rejoiced in the gospel more deeply. In other words if, through the gospel, we got over ourselves.

But here’s the thing – we’re not very good at recognising our self-absorption. It’s one of the side-effects of being self-absorbed! So this is where the radical idea comes in – we need to get better at spotting self-absorption in each other, lovingly pointing it out and then pointing each other to the liberating news of the gospel.

Is that something you’d be willing to do? Is it something you’d be willing to have others do for you?

Dec 052014

bible reading

I’ve heard some interesting comments this week. Comments that make me wonder how committed we are to hearing God speak when we open the Bible. Comments that make me wonder how much we really believe that the Bible is in fact…

God’s word…

given to us for our good…

so that we can know him…

know ourselves…

and live in relationship with God and each other in light of the truth, rather than in the ignorance of our own “wisdom”.

The comments I’ve been hearing (both first-hand and second-hand) have come up in the context of our Song of Songs series. It’s clear that the first talk produced some pretty strong reactions – both positive and negative. On reflection, the interesting thing is that there were people in very different personal situations at both ends of the spectrum. There were single people, married people, divorced people all saying how great it was that we were addressing such important issues as love, sex & marriage… and there were those who clearly wished we weren’t!

It seems that what really made the difference was how convinced people were that The Bible is all that it claims to be…

“All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16)

Do you believe this? Do you believe that Song of Songs is just as essential as Romans, Genesis or John’s gospel? Do you open the Bible expecting to have your heart and mind challenged and shaped by what you read and asking the Holy Spirit to hit you hard in love with the truth of God’s word?

Or are you hiding behind all sorts of excuses just because you don’t want to change?

Nov 302014

Song Of Songs 1:1 – 2:7

Talk details

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Nov 262014

Straight up: I was quite disappointed by this book.

Teen Sex by the Book got absolutely bucket-loads of attention last year at pretty much every youth camp, youth conference and youth event. The author, Patricia Weerakoon, even made a trip from Sydney to speak at a special event on the North Coast, a bumper crowd went along to listen.

So why was I not so entranced by all the hoopla? In the book itself Weerakoon rightly left no stone unturned, tackling all the ‘don’t go there’ topics for teens and sex but I feel she really missed the opportunity to bring the gospel to bear on the issues. Of course, the book is littered with scripture references, and Weerakoon consistently brings up a biblical viewpoint, it’s abundantly clear that she wants to give a biblical treatment to the topic not just a scientific one, for instance, right from the get-go, the first chapter is entitled ‘What is sex and what does God think about it’. But the thing is: the message of God’s grace for sinners was very hard to find. Weerakoon does on a few occasions refer to the gospel, for example, on page 27 she clearly explains Christ’s work on the cross, and on page 174, she says ‘no one or nothing is beyond redemption’ loosely relating this truth to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  The issue isn’t that she doesn’t believe or mention the gospel, it’s that she doesn’t emphasise the gospel. It’s the emphasis that has a bigger impact than just a few (sometimes vague) words here and there. Do me a favour and read this extended quote by Don Carson on the importance of what we emphasise:

“If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasise again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel.

If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important. You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.

Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow.” (accessed here)

In a bulky 200+ page book the emphasis is definitely not the gospel applied to sex, rather, it’s is all about doing things God’s way and understanding how it all works.

Weerakoon’s book will probably leave Christian teens much more informed about sex related issues (which is a great thing) but what are the chances of it leading to heart change? Slim chance, I think. In regard to this topic what teens need more than anything is a genuine understanding of God’s grace in the death of Jesus. That’s what brings freedom from sin and guilt and the power for real change. As a youth leader for the past 9 years this has been confirmed to me again and again as many teenagers are weighed down by guilt over (usually hidden) sexual sin, there’s shame surrounding it, and a desire to keep it in the dark. Only a real grasp of the length and breadth of God’s forgiveness is sufficient to bring anything more than short term behavioural modification. We don’t just want to teens to go away after reading a book on sex understanding the issues more and convicted to try harder in this area. We want young people to go away with their hearts transformed, to go away loving Jesus more, trusting him more, delighting in his grace more and seeing how he meets their needs in every way.

This lack of gospel emphasis was particularly heart wrenching for me, because as coming from an evangelical publisher, in Anglican Youthworks, there was an opportunity to do so much more than an informative, worth the wait, behavioural change sort of book. Here was an opportunity to to have an informative gospel saturated book about sex and teens that left the reader wanting to worship Jesus in this area of their life.

This book would have been excellent if Weerakoon had consistently brought the gospel of grace to bear on the tough topics she discussed. Instead it left me feeling angry and frustrated that an opportunity had been missed.

If you’re someone who feels differently (or shock horror: similarly) let us know your opinion below.


Nov 232014

1 Corinthians 9:19-27

Talk details

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.