Blog Posts by David Mathis

The Tragic Hypocrisy of Joyless Calvinism

David Mathis

Gospel wakefulness. That's Jared Wilson's term for the Christian's experience of treasuring Jesus more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly than ever before. For some it happens at new birth. For some it's a gradual dawning over time. And for many, it's a kind of spiritual quantum leap, almost like a kind of sanctification warp speed. You'll want to learn more. . . .

So join us this…

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Daily Confession and a Burlier Church

David Mathis

John Frame:

We need more Christians who will lead lives of repentance, for repentance always challenges pride. 

If you're coming to God daily to confess to him how much you have sinned, you will find it hard to pretend that you are holier than everybody else. You'll find it hard to put on airs, to pose as the perfect Christian.

When others accuse you of sin, you won't immediately jump…

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Trick or Treat? It's Martin Luther

David Mathis

It was October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. He wanted to debate the sale of indulgences with his fellow university professors. He wrote in Latin, but a nameless visionary translated the theses into German, carried them to the printing press, and enabled their dispersion far and wide.

Luther ended up with more than he bargained for, but he proved to…

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Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission

David Mathis

What if a crisp October wind blew through “the way we’ve always done things” at Halloween? What if the Spirit stirred in us a new perspective on October 31? What if dads led their households in a fresh approach to Halloween as Christians on mission?

What if spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all things included Halloween — that amalgamation of wickedness now the second-largest commercial holiday in the…

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The Next Step: Disciple a Few

David Mathis

Maybe you attended a missions conference. Or read a book or article. Or heard a life-altering message. Or perhaps best of all, you were turned upside down by personal interaction with a fellow Christian. For the first time, you’re seeing that we are all “sent.” Every Christian is called to live on gospel mission. Whether God is lighting a new fire in you for “living sent” where you already are,…

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"Bring the Books With" — A New Recommended List

David Mathis

As you head back to school, or out to visit a friend or family member—or perhaps as you leave the National Conference in Minneapolis—take a cue from the apostle Paul and bring some good books with (which is a quintessentially Minnesotan way of saying it).

The Time Is Short

In 2 Timothy, the grizzled gospel-carrier knows he’s nearing the end of his days on earth. “The time of my departure…

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9/11 — The Day Death Became Real

David Mathis

C. S. Lewis's words from his classic essay “Learning in War-Time," written during World War II, captured some of the powerful effect 9/11 had on those of us living half a century later.

There is no question of death or life for any of us, only a question of this death or of that — of a machine gun bullet now or a cancer forty years later. 

What does war…

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Boomers, Millennials, and the Growing Tension: Nine Lessons in Generational Dynamics

David Mathis

The first of the Baby Boomers are turning 65 this year, just as their generational progeny, the so-called “Millennials,” are hitting their thirties. With one massive generation approaching retirement, while another even larger group seeks to establish itself in the adult world, it’s a recipe for generational tension.

The Boomers were born in the post-WWII birthrate “boom” from 1946 to about 1965. After this significant two-decade spike, there was a…

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Getting the Accent Right: "Not of . . . But Sent Into"

David Mathis

In. . . but not of” — are you familiar with this popular phrase? It captures a truth about Jesus’ followers. We are “in” this world, but not “of” it.

In. . . but not of.” Yes, yes, of course.

But might this pithy slogan give the wrong impression about our (co)mission in this world as Christians? You see, the motto seems to give…

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Avoiding Smarty-Pants Theology

David Mathis

Bible teachers have their more sophisticated ways of saying, "Nanny nanny boo boo." 

And perhaps we Calvinists are especially susceptible to this temptation to pump our team more than focusing on biblical truths.

We would do well to track with John Frame's observations and maybe adjust our attitudes accordingly.

Frame writes in Evangelical Reunion:

[I]t is not hard to convince people of Calvinistic teachings when you avoid using Calvinistic…

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The Fairy Tale of Universalism

David Mathis

Universalism is the view that in the end all humans—irrespective of whether they reject the gospel in this life—will be saved.

In the book Whatever Happened to Hell?, British evangelical John Blanchard writes these memorable words about universalism:

Universalism originated in the Garden of Eden when Satan brushed aside God’s warning and assured Eve, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). . . .

All the ways to hell…

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Fitting to Fulfill All Righteousness

David Mathis

John the Baptist has a point when he objects, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). But there’s more going on here than he first realizes.

Here’s Don Carson on what Jesus means in Matthew 3:15 in responding to John the Baptist, “Let it be so now, for thus it is filling for us to fulfill all righteousness”—

Jesus affirms, in effect,…

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Top 5 Books Read in 2010

David Mathis

In reflecting back on 2010 at year’s end, here are what I’d call “the top 5 books I read” (in order of author’s last name):

 

Gospel in Life by Tim Keller

It’s not a typical read-it-on-your-own book, but specially designed for small-group study. Our weekly small group tackled the 8 sessions together this Fall. Each session has a “home study” (nice way of saying “homework”) and a 10-minute video lesson…

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Anhypostasis: What Kind of Flesh Did Jesus Take?

David Mathis

. . . [Being] in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men . . . (Philippians 2:6–7)

At Christmas we celebrate that Jesus became human that he might save us. Without ceasing to be fully divine, he took on full humanity.

But what kind of…

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Footnote Gem: Humanity’s Need for the Gospel

David Mathis

E. T. is back—at least he’s made a brief reappearance in this footnote gem from John Frame.

In his chapter “Christians in Our Culture” in The Doctrine of the Christian Life, Frame writes,

Steven Spielberg’s character E. T. is, I think, a genuine Christ figure: recall the themes of preexistence, growth, teaching, miracle, healing, death, resurrection, and ascension. Spielberg denied this parallel, but in my view it is objectively…

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Changing a Church Culture

David Mathis

In the sixth and final session of the Trellis and Vine workshop, Col Marshall presented 13 ideas for changing a complicated and programmatic church culture into a culture of disciple-making:

  1. Set the agenda on Sunday. The public ministry of the gospel and the Scriptures is essential.
  2. Teach “the ministry of the pew”—that everyone can minister to everyone, and they can come to the weekly gatherings on the lookout for…
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Spiritual Parenting

David Mathis

After yesterday’s afternoon of small-group evaluation and discussion, we started Day 2 with another teaching session.

Col Marshall led us through 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:16 and pointed to how Paul himself was a trainer of ministers—a discipler of disciplemakers. Three key points Col highlighted from the text came under the headings 1) word, 2) prayer, and 3) parenting.

First, Paul’s ministry was word-centered—shaped and powered by the gospel and the…

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The Biblical Vision of Christian Ministry

David Mathis

We're at Bethlehem's North Campus for the first of a 2-day Trellis & the Vine workshop with Col Marshall and Tony Payne (authors of the book by the same title). We found out at the beginning of this morning's session that there are attendees here from not only the 5-state region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas) but also as far as New Hampshire, south Texas, and Oregon.

Tony…

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31 Years Ago Today: Piper Called to Preach

David Mathis

It was October 14, 1979—31 years ago today—when John Piper first felt “irretrievably called” to enter the pastoral and preaching ministry. Justin Taylor told the story well a year ago on the 30th anniversary.

Here’s how John remembered October, 1979, in his 2002 sermon “The Absolute Sovereignty of God” on Romans 9 (quoted on page 33 of For the Fame of God’s Name:

[It was] the fall of…

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Critiquing the Left—And the Right

David Mathis

We commended Darrin Patrick’s new book Church Planterbefore, but here’s a particular word for the preface, titled “Why Focus on Men?” It may be one of the best short articles on biblical manhood now available.

Below are a couple paragraphs that give the flavor of Patrick’s even-handed perspective—an approach that critiques both the left and the right, and thus steers clear of both the liberal and conservative…

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The Cross: Not a Terrible Monstrosity

David Mathis

A great quote from T. F. Torrance in his article, "The Hypostatic Union" (36, paragraphing mine) —

It is important to see that if the Deity of Christ is denied, then the Cross becomes a terrible monstrosity.

If Jesus Christ is man only and not also God, then we lose faith in God and man.

We lose faith in God because we could not believe in a God who allows…

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If Billy Graham Had Been a Pastor

David Mathis

Billy Graham once was asked, “If you were a pastor of a large church in a principal city, what would be your plan of action?”

In the modern-day classic The Master Plan of Evangelism (which has gone through over 100 printings since it was first published in 1963), Robert Coleman reproduces Graham’s response, perhaps a surprising answer to many:

I think one of the first things I would do would
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The Wine Jesus Drank

David Mathis

Twice Jesus was offered wine while on the cross. He refused the first, but took the second. Why so?

The first time came in verse 23, “they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” William Lane explains,

According to an old tradition, respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death in order to decrease their sensitivity to the excruciating pain…

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The One Who Stills the Seas

David Mathis

 Why were Jesus' disciples so wigged out when he stilled the sea? Already afraid of the great storm, you'd think they might have been calmed by Jesus' calming of the waves. But it seemed to have the opposite effect. Mark 4:41: "And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?'"

The disciples now seem to be…

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