The Problem of Not-So-Sinful Second-Generation Christians

Happy friends

Our church’s liturgy includes a confession of sin near the beginning of every Sunday morning worship service. This week, our pastor borrowed the words of John Calvin’s Strasbourg Liturgy. Calvin’s confession ends on a note of hope, asking God to “blot out our sins and stains… producing in us the fruits of righteousness and innocence which are pleasing to You,” but it takes a hard road to get there, mourning that “we are poor sinners, conceived and born in iniquity and corruption, prone to do evil, incapable of any good, and in our depravity we transgress Your holy commandments without end or ceasing.”

Such grim language feels out of touch with the cotton-candy religiosity of our culture, but we use it because it reflects how the Bible speaks of sin. It was not Calvin but God who warned through Jeremiah that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer 17:9). It was not Calvin but God who inspired Paul to declare that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). The Bible is not shy about calling us sinners, nor about declaring sin damnable apart from the grace of God, so Bible-believing churches teach the same. But unless we’re careful, these scriptural truths can make the gospel feel less urgent, less relevant, for those who grew up with all the advantages of a Christian family and a Christian community and struggle to see themselves as desperately wicked sinners.

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Thursday Roundup (9/7/17)

Thursday Roundup

It’s been awhile since I had a Thursday Roundup post! I’ve had some changes in the last few months, as Leah and I had our first child in June and we also started planning for me to go to seminary to pursue my M.Div. in Fall 2018. I’m excited about the potential of a seminary degree to enhance my ministry work, but for the moment I have less time for publishing here at DavidVogel.net as I work a second job to save up for seminary. I hope to settle into more regular (though significantly reduced) schedule here over the next few months, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this somewhat abbreviated Thursday Roundup.

Nearly all cults somehow diminish or deny the divinity of Christ, and an effective response often requires a careful look at proof-texts we sometimes take for granted, so this week’s video digs into Paul’s teaching about the nature of Christ in Philippians 2:6. The links of the week include “fake news” about early Christianity, watching Game of Thrones, praying through trials, asking forgiveness, loving our gay neighbor, the importance of a pastor’s character, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

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An Internet Pastor Is Not All the Teaching You Need

Listening to a sermon on headphones

The Bible is quite clear in its expectation that being a Christian is a community experience. From the Lord’s Prayer’s appeal to “Our Father who is in heaven,” to Paul’s frequent references to the church as a single body with Christ as the head, to the institution of the Lord’s Supper as a shared, communal sacrament, the Scriptures take it for granted that our faith entails horizontal relationships as well as vertical. And not just any sort of relationships, but relationships within an organized local church. So Paul considered it a matter of utmost important to appoint elders over local congregations (cf Acts 14:23, I Tim 3, Titus 1); the same local congregations to which he collectively addressed his epistles. The author of Hebrews made it even more explicit, warning his readers against “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some” (Heb 10:25).

The Bible expects—or rather, directs—that the normal Christian life is a life embedded within a local church body. That is particularly important for us to remember in our individualistic American context, with an internet full of rich, compelling, biblical preaching available for streaming to our heart’s content. When I can listen to Tim Keller or Sinclair Ferguson with the click of a button, why bother with a local church where the preaching is (let’s face it) probably not as good?

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Work Will Trump Family Time (Unless We Fight It)

Man with phone at work

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say, I’m gonna be like you, dad
You know I’m gonna be like you

I first heard Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle” when I was a young boy, and even then I felt the poignancy of the lyrics, with the understated sadness of the closing verse as the now-grandfather is brushed off by his grown son. “And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me / He’d grown up just like me / My boy was just like me.” As I’ve become a man, then a husband, and now a father, the song has stuck with me as a reminder of the terrible danger of prioritizing success in every area of life except the one which is especially my own to steward, to cultivate, and to love: my family.

I still vividly remember having lunch with a prominent figure in Christian publishing and asking him for any insights into how to care for one’s family while working in a ministry field where there is always one more good thing to be done before you wrap up for the night. This elderly, godly man replied, with tears in his eyes, “Don’t be like me.” He had learned his lesson the hard way, amid the ruins of his first marriage.

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Thursday Roundup (6/22/17)

Thursday Roundup

Today’s video takes a closer look at Paul’s odd statement in I Timothy 2:15 that women will be “saved through childbearing.” The final podcast episode on Dr. Willie Parker’s Life’s Work considers how a boy who wanted to be a pastor grew up to be an abortion apologist, and draws out some lessons for us all. And the links of the week cover singleness and intimacy, the dangers of ignoring God’s design for marriage, expository preaching, encouraging your pastor, understanding the Bible, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“Some Christians seem to do little but pray for new spiritual blessings, apparently oblivious of the fact that God has already blessed them in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Others lay such emphasis on the undoubted truth that everything is already theirs in Christ, that they become complacent and appear to have no appetite to know or experience their Christian privileges more deeply. Both these groups must be declared unbalanced. They have created a polarization which Scripture will not tolerate. What Paul does in Ephesians 1, and therefore encourages us to copy, is both to keep praising God that in Christ all spiritual blessings are ours and to keep praying that we may know the fullness of what he has given us.”
~ John Stott

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Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

Raiders of the Lost Ark scene

There is a famous scene in the first Indiana Jones movie in which Jones, fresh off a fast-moving battle against a dozen attackers, is suddenly confronted by one more adversary: a massive, sword-wielding warrior. The director had planned a final, climatic fight with Indiana’s whip pitted against the sword of his opponent.

Instead, Harrison Ford simply pulled out a hidden pistol and shot the huge swordsman in the chest.

Ford knew his character was too tired to play around in that scene. He needed his best weapon against a dangerous adversary.

Being a Christian in a fallen world means you and I are also surrounded by dangerous adversaries, but too often we start the fight by tossing away our most powerful weapons. The problem is ultimately one of faith. The Bible calls us to arm ourselves with righteousness, faith, and prayer, but these don’t look very impressive arrayed against the world’s wisdom and power—so we throw down the weapons with “divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Cor 10:4) and snatch up the world’s shiny tin swords.

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Thursday Roundup (5/25/17)

Thursday Roundup

Today’s video responds to the atheist argument that “I can be good without God.” The podcast episode asks whether a fetus is a person in our continuing survey of Life’s Work by Dr. Willie Parker. And the links of the week talk about the local church, unspoken prayer requests, wasting your life by following your passion, “doing history wrong,” and much more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“If [God] were not wrathful against sin, we would question whether He is personally good. What would it mean for Him to say that He is committed to oppose evil if He refused to judge it?”
~ Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence

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Some New Developments

Light on the road ahead

I wrote my first post for this blog back in November 2008. I had recently begun teaching logic and Christian worldview to homeschooled students and the blog was just a hobby hosted on my business website. A few years later, in 2013, the blog got its own home at DavidVogel.net. A couple years after that, I published my first book, The Truth With Love. Then, last summer, I got the chance to devote a couple days per week just to writing and podcasting here. (To those friends whose generosity made that possible, you know who you are. Thank you, more than I can say.)

I am now excited to announce the next step in God’s developing plan: Lord willing, I’ll be going to seminary next year!

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Thursday Roundup (5/11/17)

Thursday Roundup

Today’s video looks at whether Revelation’s 144,000 are who Jehovah’s Witnesses say they are. The podcast continues our survey of Dr. Willie Parker’s Life’s Work, taking a first look at a key question: “What is it?” And the links of the week look at patience and liturgy, mentoring and discipleship, the debate over sexual morality, Trump’s religious liberty executive order, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“The great doctrine of the second advent has in a sense fallen into disrepute because of… this tendency on the part of some to be more interested in the how and the when of the second coming rather than in the fact of the second coming.”
~ Martin Lloyd-Jones

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Bible ‘Contradictions’ and the Goldilocks Principle

Goldilocks

One of my first dates with Leah was a rafting trip on the Nolichucky River back in the summer of 2012. If you ran into me at church today and I was feeling talkative, I might tell you about how I enjoyed guiding our raft down the river, showing her the sights and hoping she was impressed that I kept us above water through the dangerous whitewater of Quarter-Mile rapid. Then I might talk about how I enjoyed the drive home with her afterward, talking about everything and nothing in particular.

But supposing you had rafting on your mind after talking with me and mentioned it to one of my friends from church, you might be puzzled. My friend would tell you that our whole church went on that rafting trip on the Nolichucky in summer 2012. He might casually mention that the Nolichucky is such a challenging river that we had to have professional guides; no self-guided boats allowed. And he might mention feeling sorry for me and Leah when he noticed that we ended up in different vehicles for the drive home.

Now you’d be confused, so you might ask another of my friends. He would say he remembers that trip vividly, because he enjoyed driving back home with me, Leah, and Leah’s sister, whom he ended up marrying a few years later. He might also mention how skilled his raft’s professional river guide was and how he had wished he could direct the boat, even though it wasn’t allowed.

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