You Love to Hate Mark Driscoll

driscoll1I hesitated to write anything on the whole Driscoll debacle. Largely, I do not necessarily feel that there is much more to say than what has been said. I never followed Driscoll that closely. I never listened to his sermons, read his books, visited the Mars Hill blog, or really paid much attention to him until recently. I was not crushed to see him fall.

Let me clarify that last statement. I am saddened to see a prominent face in Christendom fall in such a hard way. I am saddened to read of the persistent sin that was never really addressed and confronted in a biblical manner (even by Acts 29 and his Board of Elders). I am saddened that no one heeded the early warnings that were offered up by people like John MacArthur. I am also deeply burdened for those who have been affected by this whole thing – yet namely, for the damage this has caused to the gospel, as it seems Mark continues to avoid repentance.

However, I am not crushed. I wish him well and hope to see repentance, but the writing was on the wall for years. We are now simply seeing the hidden fruit of all of this incredible baggage.

I am not surprised in any of this because I see this to be indicative to the nature of many within the church. We really want to be relevant, edgy, sexy, and hip. We want that rough pastor who speaks ignominiously of the Songs of Solomon. The young, restless, and reformed crowd loves controversy. Heck, one of their favorite trademarks is their ability to argue unceasingly over topics they are largely ignorant to.

It is these people in particular that I write to today. I have seen pastors and layman alike use demeaning and domineering language in the midst of a debate with one another – and then post on Mark Driscoll.

I have seen a call to observe the Sabbath (“…because you can say a big ‘F-you’ to everyone who asks you to do something, even your professors!”); young men call old men fools; old men argue right back with the young man; people outright lie about a circumstance in order to gain the empathy of total strangers; people complain that their wife isn’t having sex with them enough – yet in the next breath asking for prayer because they “struggle” with porn or speak crassly of their wives; people who admittedly troll a thread just to be divisive; people using Facebook groups as “sounding boards” because they can’t speak to their elders about such things – because what they are wanting to teach is false doctrine…

You see: if you are bearing these qualities, you love to hate Mark Driscoll – but you are just like him. You play these silly little games that are antithetical to what being a Christian is all about, claiming “grace upon grace,” all the while trampling upon the blood of Christ. You offer a tripe commentary on how he should have been removed from the pastorate long ago (to which you are absolutely correct) – yet take little time to examine yourself in sober judgment to see how easy it is to ascend to the same place and fall just as hard. Big tree fall hard.

I am disappointed in seeing a theologically rich, historical resurgence to the Reformed faith filled with punk kids who think they need “an edge” because the gospel has an edge. No. The gospel is edgy enough as it is – and it isn’t sinful. You won’t need to add salt and pepper to that bad boy in order to get people upset – all you must do is preach Christ crucified.

Calm down and reform – into a grown man. Let the Word cut. If you do the cutting, you’re just going to slice an ear off.

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Go Where the Argument Takes You

When I am left to myself, I think. I can’t watch television, I can’t play a video game, and I can’t even read sometimes. I try to mindlessly scroll through Facebook, read a few articles, watch a few videos on YouTube (most of the time of people doing something stupid, and in turn, getting hurt). So what? What makes this so special from every other individual on the planet? Well, it doesn’t. The truth is, as individualistic as we all try to be – we have a common thread. Humanity.

Within that framework, there are the obvious differences. Some are born men, some women, and some try to switch up that order through gender reversal; some are straight, some are gay; some are black, others white; yet some are at a random point along this fluctuating scale. But the common thread remains the same. We are all human.

Many I know would argue that showing true humanity comes through accepting others as they are. Let them lead their own lives – after all, whom does it hurt? If I say God, I am bashed for utilizing guilt to soften the heart. If I tell people that God intervened for the elect, I am chastised for not only saying that God intervenes (for who needs intervention if they’ve done nothing wrong), but also for saying that God wills who will be saved. How can a “perfectly” moral being choose whom He will save? By the very definition of man – that is immoral.

If I preach from the Bible, I am labeled arrogant. After all, how arrogant is it that the Christian lays claim to the source of all truth? Not only this, but how does the Christian say such a claim is substantiated only using the scriptures? Is this not circular reasoning? Who am I to claim that there aren’t other ways to spirituality than Jesus Christ? Who am I to say that there is absolute truth when the array of Christian denominations has so many different interpretations on the bible?

Truthfully, these are all excellent questions. These are all questions I have spent years developing a defense to – but most just don’t care to hear it. The real question behind all of this is not if I can answer them successfully, but if I really believe God at His Word. For most of the world this is an incredulously idiotic notion. Truth be told, the scriptures make some outlandish claims.

Yet that is just it. The scriptures make some incredible claims. They do teach that homosexuality is a sin; that gender is not flexible – but a gift to be rejoiced in; that premarital sex is sinful; that deceit, malice, hypocrisy, loose living, drunkenness, and divisiveness qualifies one as wicked. The scriptures do teach that humanity, as one cohesive unit, is damned; God has wrath insurmountable reserved for those whom He calls “sinners”.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

The bible makes some outlandish claims. The amazing thing is that far too many think they are able to avoid these issues. In doing so, they have already decided where they stand. Some still think they can muddy these claims, or soften the blow a little bit by focusing on the bits that make us feel warm. In doing so, they have already decided where they land. Some take these claims and twist them, or add to and subtract from them. In doing so, they have already decided where they land.

At some point, we must be willing to go where the argument takes us. If you declare that you love God – and you actually do, you will be shown to despise the operating systems that this world embraces and employs. If you declare that you hate God, you will be shown to despise those whom love God. There really isn’t much of a middle ground.

Just wrap your mind around that for a bit, all of it. The bible sure makes a ton of outlandish claims. As you and I share the common bond of humanity, especially the capacity to think and reason, I implore you to think. Right now you are either in Christ or not.

I can appeal to you in a manner befitting Pascal’s wager, imploring you to risk it and embrace the bible in faith for the sake of possibly being right so as to avoid punishment, or, I can trust that God is sovereign – and that this will serve to confirm as a witness to any who read it; this witness, of course, being one that either procures a seed to salvation from the Lord, or procures a testimony for judgment.

I earnestly do hope for the former.

True Religion

This will be the final post in this series. In the last post, we briefly examined the destruction that the tongue is capable of. While James does not limit destructive speech solely to that which is spoken in unrighteous anger, we must see that all that is said in unrighteous anger is destructive. Our words have power to build up the church or to lay waste to it. We shall either love our brethren, or we shall tear them to pieces and consume them. For those within the church – we have no excuse to remain indignant toward one another, nor to exhibit a lack of self control. Remember, our actions and words will build the testimony of our faith. Can we say, “Come follow me as I follow Jesus?”

Even if the angry man can recite sound doctrine, he still lacks the necessary self-control to protect the church, his family, and his own soul. As James puts it, he lacks “true religion”. As Proverbs 25:28 shows, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” The sheer lack of protection from invading forces leaves all those within his wake to be devoured, not only by the angry man – but Satan, as he is a lion constantly seeking whom he may devour. The wise man continually builds up those around him, hedging protection through the proclamation of the Word of God – yet also abiding in the Fruit of the Spirit in order to evidence “true religion”.

While it is natural for the carnal man to abide in sin, it is not natural for the one following Christ. He is no longer dead in his sins due to the redemption found in Christ. Not only this, but through the power of the Spirit, we are able to put sin to death in our lives. For the sake of unity within the body of Christ, we ought to pursue peace. This is not some psycho-therapeutic ritual in which we count to ten, go for a walk, or perform any other outlet in order to calm down. No. We strive to walk in the Spirit because the law of the flesh no longer binds us.

Quite simply, it is a matter of obedience to do what we are called to do.

Obedience may not always be easy, for we know that it does not come naturally. We are sown in sin and inclined to perform sinful deeds. However, we are new creations in Christ if we have called upon Him for salvation and submitted to His Lordship. We know that He is faithful. We know that He alone gives power where we are weak. We know that it is His will that we repent from our sins and turn to Him each day for fresh mercies.

If you are an angry person, you cannot do it alone. This is specifically why we gather with the elect: that we might know our sin and come to repentance, having faced rebuke and correction. Where there is a broken and contrite heart; where there is remorse and godly sorrow, there is pleasure in Him to forgive us in Christ.

Lay aside all pride and come to the One who can make the crooked straight. Lay aside all pride and receive the correction of the saints who desire earnestly for your repentance and continued faith, hating even the garments tainted with sin.

 

Closing Prayer: Father, forgive us this day for our sins. We thank You that You were so utterly pleased to crush your Son for us – that as a church we may stand before You, pure and blameless through Christ alone. Father, our hearts know greed, envy, strife, maliciousness, backbiting, slander, and lust. Father, our hearts know hatred, deception, lies, murder, and covetousness – for we once practiced these things. Your word says that those who make a practice of such things cannot inherit the kingdom of God; that we cannot obtain the crown of righteousness.

Remind us of the sacrifice that Christ has made, that we not act as the Pharisees who sat and boasted of their cleanness, but may we beat our breasts as sinners. Cause us to draw near through Your Son, by Your Spirit, that we might be sanctified in truth and know graciousness, patience, kindness, forbearance, and longsuffering – for against such things there is no law. Fulfill in us Your promises in Christ that we might walk in an upright manner representing the gospel and the fullness of the deity of Christ – that He has come and conquered sin; that He has come to set the captive free. Cause us to rejoice in the cross of Christ and the everlasting hope we have in His resurrection, and by this, put the sin of anger to death. It is in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

In the Heart of the Angry Storm

The scriptures declare to the one residing within habitual, unrighteous anger: you are a fool. Yet the most disastrous consequence to foolishness is not the folly, or the label thereof – but the devastation such folly brings upon the eternal state of one’s soul. One cannot claim Christ as Lord and remain in bondage to the oppressive master that binds the angry soul.

The angry man stands to lose so much more than reputation, his control over things, his relationships, and his privileges. This tormented man stands to forfeit his soul if repentance is not sought with the entirety of his being. This is evidenced most clearly in the face of his confrontation – for if he despises correction, he despises wisdom; if he despises wisdom, he despises his own soul – for the one whom mocks wisdom will indeed fall victim to his own desires. He shall return to his folly like a dog returns to vomit to lap it up.

As the sluggard, the habitually angry man declares, “I will repent tomorrow! I will, in time, turn from my ‘anger problem’” or he declares, “I have no anger problem!” – yet he does not know the hour at which his soul shall be demanded for retribution; he does not note the brevity of life. In the hardness of his heart, which is so hell-bent in the wisdom of his own eyes, the angry fool makes mockery of the redemption given through the blood of Christ.

In a final act of folly, he denies his sin, returning to dust; having renounced the very One whom gave him life and purpose. In a final act of folly – his true master is revealed. In the final act of folly, he takes upon the fullness of calamity in wrath insurmountable, wrath unquenchable. In foolishness, he gave himself over to the insatiable lust of anger, bitterness, and strife.

Upon that day he shall cry for wisdom and she shan’t be heard; he shall seek her to no avail; he shall grasp at the wind, seeking her hand – yet shall not lay hold to it. If only the fool would have turned and accepted his reproach, having borne the shame and godly sorrow exhibiting true repentance!

There is no wisdom in the fool who vents his unrighteous anger. There is no prudence in the fool who shows his annoyance at once. The wise hold back their temper and overlook an insult. The wise, having grasped wisdom tightly in their bosom, have yielded to patience and discernment. If we are God’s people, we are marked out, as Ephesians 4:2-3 says, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

How might the angry soul preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace if he knows not peace? Proverbs 18:6-7 shows that “The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouth invite a beating. The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.” Do we think that the angry soul only brings strife to himself? Do we think that his words will only be a snare to his own life? His words cause vast devastation to all that surround him. A snare set to trap will catch any who tread upon its path. Why else do we see Solomon warn his son in Proverbs 22:24-25 to “not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.”

The angry person stirs up conflict; the hot-tempered person commits many sins – yet the one who is patient calms a quarrel. My brothers and sisters – we have no room for the angry man to remain angry within the church. We have no room for the angry man to remain angry within his household. The nature of this sin is so devastating that all in his wake will be destroyed and consumed by his anger.

His words do not serve to build up – but to demolish. His words do not overflow from love, but of bitterness. His children are afraid to come to him with sins they wish to confess. His wife is afraid to come to him with petitions and concerns. Men avoid him, knowing there is no wisdom found in him. He is a constant, brewing storm – and all around him are walking within the eye of it, waiting for the hurricane to commence.

It is no small wonder that James brings such attention to one’s speech in chapter 3, which we will take a look at more closely in the following post.

Anger Abounds in the Heart of Fools

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As I begin this series, I would like to open it with a word of prayer:

Father, may you wash us again this day by your Word – may you convict our hearts that our minds may be set and renewed by the faithfulness of your Word proclaimed; that we might walk unto it as a lamp unto our feet, as a guide to life, for Your Word is utterly sufficient. Cause us to bask deeply in the richness of your mercies revealed to us – yet also Your firm truths. These truths are hard, yet nonetheless, utterly beautiful and transformative if we humble ourselves. Allow Your Spirit to move, as only it can, causing faithfulness and repentance among God’s people. It is in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The scriptures account to several mannerisms by which one can be labeled a fool. A fool willingly forsakes the marriage covenant to go into the house of the whore (Proverbs 6:32, 7:22); he declares, “there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1); he reviles and mocks God (Psalm 74:18, 22); he eats the bread of idleness (Ecclesiastes 4:5); he uses many words and speaks in folly (Ecclesiastes 10:14; Proverbs 12:23); he reveals his foolishness to all (Proverbs 13:16; Ecclesiastes 10:3) because he only delights in giving his own opinion (Proverbs 18:2); he spreads slander (Proverbs 10:18); he takes no council (Proverbs 12:15), despises wisdom (Proverbs 23:9), and speaks nonsense, only being inclined to wickedness and the practice of ungodliness. The fool speaks error against the Lord (Isaiah 32:6).

Surely, Solomon gives weight to continually pouring out the stark difference of the wise man and the fool. In earnestness, he diligently teaches his Son the path of wisdom so that he might avoid the foolish and the wicked. Though the literary structure within the book of Proverbs contrast the way of the wicked against the wise (the fancy word for this is Chiasmus), one must see that this structure is designed to move the reader in the direction of instruction.

Whether or not the reader heeds such instruction is of no bearing upon its contents, for the principles are timeless. Rather, the instruction exhibits the consequences of either route one takes in life. For the wicked: destruction. For the wise: a wreath of wisdom, symbolizing longevity of life. We see the father pleading for the sake of pursuing righteousness and wisdom, starting with the fear of the Lord.

Thus, it seems problematic to address one’s folly without properly addressing the root of their folly. Primarily, for one to address foolishness with any hope, we must engage them with the gospel. We must engage them on the most basic level to encourage genuine transformation and repentance, lest we instill within them the damnable hope for wisdom without the fear of the Lord.

This does not diminish the need to address each case of foolishness abounding within the individual – but it highlights the necessity and the pertinence of making the gospel the primary vehicle through which we address their folly. Once the gospel is received and the person exhibits fruit of salvation, we must quickly address instances of foolishness in light of that salvation. Thus, effectual change from folly to wisdom starts with a foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and repentance flows from that same saving grace.

It is at this point, under the assumption of one’s claim of salvation, that we will examine one particular manifestation of sin within the fool: unrighteous anger. In other words, it is an anger that is not born from a concern to how God is violated – but with how self is violated. There is a place for righteous anger – it is good. But the line drawn between righteous indignation and sinful anger is hairline thin, for even the man in righteous anger can quickly move to unrighteous anger if he does not exhibit self-control. He will sin in his anger if it grows root to bitterness, becomes concerned with how he is affected, or he speaks rashly.

In the following days, Lord willing, I’ll be unpacking more on the nature of the angry fool.

Disciplining My Father

I drove to my parent’s house asking only one thing: that I would be blameless and approach my father in humility. I was recalling the advice of my pastor whom I had met with just two days previously. After reading emails and listening to my explanation, he advised that I firmly and swiftly deal with it, reminding me to approach my dad in respect, love, and even temperament, yet unflinchingly in dealing with his sin.

I pulled into the driveway and what ensued was an hour and a half of angry and accusative speech at me; he didn’t have any problems with sin and how dare I judge. I came home in a blur and vomited as soon as I walked in the door.

Over the next several weeks, I would talk with him briefly. Each time I did not let the issue of his sin die. He would not repent; therefore, I would not relent.

That’s when he had a heart attack.

I vividly remember seeing my father lying in the ICU; my mother and sister in tears assuring him things would be ok. He looked at me but couldn’t speak, though his look almost assured me that he didn’t want me there.

My mom pulled me aside and begged me to let things be. “Time will heal all wounds,” was the conventional wisdom given. She told me that life is too short. My grandparents called and also begged that I would let things go. “We are to love one another,” was the wisdom given by them.

What both my mother and grandparents never realized was that time does not heal anything. Time only allows the heart to grow hardened and for sin to go unchecked. Secondly, better is open rebuke than hidden love (Pro. 27:5); at some point you have to stick the knife in (Pro. 27:6) and exercise discipline to those in the faith (Matt. 18:15-20). It is never easy nor joyful, but utterly necessary.

I spoke to my father again a few times after his hospitalization. He understood that there was still a rift in our relationship because I did not bring my children or wife to see him. Within the week of his hospitalization, I called to wish him a happy birthday.

We spoke for about 2 minutes before the conversation went back to the issue of sin. He had asked that we come to visit, and I told him still that we needed to reconcile and he needed to repent before that could happen. He yelled at me again, called me a fool once more, and told me, “I hope you have a nice life. I wouldn’t even expect Christmas cards in the mail for you or the kids.”

Two days went by and I didn’t hear from either of my parents. On the 17th of December, I worked as usual and received a phone call from my mom. I ignored it, thinking that it was just too much for me to handle while working. Immediately, I got another call that I answered hesitantly.

My dad had died from a massive heart attack.

I remember my anger bubbling when looking at my father’s corpse on the floor. I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at him. Here was a dead man that I couldn’t reconcile with. Here was my father who willingly went to the grave clutching tightly to his sin.

Yet what I remember more was the great love poured out from all the members of my church. I remember being gently rebuked by my pastor as I confided in him, thinking wrongly that there was no redemptive moment in everything that happened. He and the elders affirmed what I had done, as I made nothing secret through the process. I remember the sovereignty of God in the midst of my heartbreak; He was not surprised by me not finding reconciliation with the man whose affections I so desperately wanted restored.

Few things in my life have been as hard as the day I went to confront my father. The details of his sin are not necessary, nor all the interactions we had during the confrontation, but the story itself is vital. It was vital in seeing church discipline worked out personally; it would work wondrous things within my own heart to conform me into greater likeness to Christ.

It would confirm in me the immediate demand for repentance when being confronted. It would draw the dividing line of the gospel and confirm how I view God and His church. It would be one of the most agonizing things to have transpire in my life – yet it would also truly exhibit how great our sovereign Lord is.

It was the day that I stepped out in faith to obey God’s Word and I did not find the blessings of reconciliation I expected and coveted. What I found was a blessing all the more wonderful.

What I found was the supreme love of Christ displayed in the hope of the gospel in a hopeless and utterly devastated world. What I found was the supreme love of Jesus Christ in His church as they ministered to me through sharing in my sufferings. The foremost of those in His church, which blessed me beyond measure, was my wife who lived up to the meaning of her name, “faithful.”