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Tim Challies

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February 24, 2015

We are witnesses today to a massive culture shift. Things we used to hold sacred are now subject to mockery; evils we would never even have dreamed of are now regarded as normal and beautiful. And everywhere we look, Christians are on the front lines—whether they like it or not, they are on the front lines. They are on the front lines of the battle between traditional marriage and same-sex marriage; they are on the front lines of the battle for life in the womb; they are on the front lines of the battle against sex trafficking and pornography. Wherever our culture delights in evil, Christians are attempting to speak with clarity and authority.

David Platt has observed this culture shift and in his new book calls upon Christians to ensure they will not stand idly by. Counter Culture is, according to the subtitle, a “A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography.” Platt calls on Christians to wade into the cultural battlefield and to represent Jesus.

He begins with the gospel. He believes that the gospel is meant to compel the Christian to take action, saying “the gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity, and it provides the foundation for countering culture. For when we truly believe the gospel, we begin to realize that the gospel not only compels Christians to confront social issues in the culture around us. The gospel actually creates confrontation with the culture around—and within—us.” The gospel creates confrontation through its most outlandish and offensive claim:

[T]the most offensive and countercultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty. Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in his love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from his lordship will suffer everlasting death.

With the gospel foundation in place, Platt sets out to draw attention to some of the most pressing issues of our day, and to show “how the gospel moves Christians to counter all of these issues in our culture with conviction, compassion, and courage.”

The heart of the book is a chapter-length examination of several major culture concerns: Poverty, same-sex marriage, racism, sex slavery, immigration, abortion, persecution, orphans and widows, and pornography. In every case Platt outlines the issue, shows how the gospel speaks to it, and then calls the Christian to action. He is a gifted writer and storyteller and often interweaves the chapters with tales of people he has met and situations he has encountered in his many travels. He is also a gifted theologian, and draws both deeply and accurately from the wells of Scripture. Inevitably some will wonder how this book compares to his bestselling book Radical, and I would say it has all the passion and intensity, but with far more nuance.

In the end, his call is both strong and convicting. Early in the book he lauds Christians for the ways they have already countered culture, but expresses this concern: “On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.” He is exactly right, and in this book he brings needed balance, dwelling not only on issues that will earn applause, but also the issues that will earn criticism or even persecution.

Platt believes that “[t]he greatest way to achieve social and cultural transformation is not by focusing on social and cultural transformation, but by giving our lives to gospel proclamation.” I agree entirely. His hope for our generation is this: “May it be said of us that we not only held firm to the gospel, but that we spoke clearly with the gospel to the most pressing issues of our day.” Counter Culture will equip you to do that very thing.

Counter Culture is available at Amazon or Westminster Books.

February 24, 2015

A Young Earth - Steve Ham: “I do believe the Bible gives ample justification for calculating the age of the earth at around 6,000 years and for seeing six normal 24-hour days in the week of creation.”

A Plea for Sanity - Mike Wittmer offers a plea for sanity at a time when people’s lives and businesses are being ruined for decisions they are making about their clientele.

Jesus Flips The Switch - Here is a good illustration that makes a good point.

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief - Justin Taylor offers a crash course on Karl Marx.

Reading in Print - “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.”

Powerhouse in a Petticoat - “Meet the heart of William Wilberforce’s abolitionist movement.”

Hope can see heaven through the thickest clouds. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks

February 23, 2015

I want to be good at good. In fact, I want to be an expert in good. At least, I do when I’m at my best. But in moments of introspection I see a real interest in evil as well. These desires battle within me, the desire to fill my mind with good and the desire to fill my mind with evil.

As Paul came to the end of his great letter to the church in Rome, he gave some final instructions and warnings about false teachers and their ability to deceive believers with their flattery and smooth words. And then he warned the Christians “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b). J.B. Phillips paraphrases it well: “I want to see you experts in good, and not even beginners in evil.”

I guess Paul knew there might be a temptation for those Christians to grow so concerned about evil, that they would spend all their time studying it. They would assume that the best way to guard their faith would be to obsess about false, evil doctrine. But inevitably, their study of evil would lead them to think evil thoughts and even do evil deeds. Evil is powerful that way—too powerful to be immersed in for any length of time. And so Paul warned them, in the face of waves of false teaching and other dangers, to focus the best of their attention on what is good and pure and lovely. They should study the truth and then allow what is false to stand out in contrast.

We can take Paul’s instruction at face value: as a plea to avoid obsessing about false doctrine. John MacArthur applies the text in this way: “Don’t study false doctrine, don’t study sin, don’t study error, stick with the truth and godly obedience.” It is well and good, I think, to have some familiarity with some of the most common false teachings and false teachers. We do well to know why we are not Mormons or Roman Catholics or why we believe same-sex marriage is wrong. But it can be dangerous to immerse ourselves in false teachings and false teachers. It can be dangerous to assume that we need to have a deep understanding of error in order to hold fast to what is true.

I think we can expand Paul’s instruction as well, to think about the way we live. Are you an expert in good? Or are you an expert in evil? Are you known for your interest in what is good? Or are you known for your interest in what is evil? Think of what you read when you’re browsing online. Think of the books and television you enjoy. Think of your last 100 Facebook posts. Do you love good, or are you mesmerized by evil?

John Stott says this: “To be wise in regard to good is to recognize it, love it and follow it.” Do you recognize what is good, and find that it stirs your heart, and motivates you to pursue it? Do you love to tell others about the good you have seen, the good you have learned, the good you have done? Stott continues: “With regard to evil, however, he wants them to be unsophisticated, even guileless, so completely should they shy away from any experience of it.”

Enjoy what is good, not evil. Watch what is good, not evil. Ponder what is good, not evil. Dream of what is good not evil. Read what is good, not evil. Use social media to celebrate what is good instead of bemoan what is evil. Most of all, do what is good, not evil. And consider John Piper’s plea: “O how many pangs you young people will spare yourselves if you don’t make any beginning in evil. There is evil enough in your own heart for Christ to deal with. You don’t need to burden him with more.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock

February 23, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung ($0.99); Wellness for the Glory of God by John Dunlop ($1.99); The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper ($1.99); Imagination Redeemed by Gene Veith ($2.99); What Is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert ($2.99); Tactics by Greg Koukl ($1.99).

A Plea For Gospel Sanity in Missions - I regard this as a very important article. Aubrey Sequeira writes about overseas pastors who are deceiving North Americans into supporting their work. Make sure you read to the end!

Whose History Is It Anyways? - Does historical accuracy really matter when it comes to film? 

You Are My Son, and I Love You - Timy Brister: “As a Christian who believes the gospel should permeate every area of my life, there are more and more blind spots that I’m learning to see more clearly.”

The Shaming of Lindsey Stone - “When a friend posted a photograph of charity worker Lindsey Stone on Facebook, she never dreamed she would lose her job and her reputation. Two years on, could she get her life back?” (Note: There are a few bad words in interviews.)

The Necessity of Expository Preaching - Derek Thomas explains how expository preaching is a necessary corollary of the doctrine of the God-breathed nature of Scripture.

3 Reasons We Must Not Forget the Psalms - Just like the headline says…

The more I learn about God, the more aware I become of what I don’t know about him. —R.C. Sproul

Sproul

February 22, 2015

This week I read some of Richard Sibbe’s work The Love of Christ and was struck by an excerpt from one of his sermons in which he writes about the presence of Christ in and among his people. Here is how he wants to encourage you:

What a comfort is this to Christians, that they have the presence of Christ so far forth as shall make them happy, and as the earth will afford. Nothing but heaven, or rather Christ in heaven itself, will content the child of God. In the mean time, his presence in the congregation makes their souls, as it were, heaven. If the king’s presence, who carries the court with him, makes all places where he is a court, so Christ he carries a kind of heaven with him. Wheresoever he is, his presence hath with it life, light, comfort, strength, and all; for one beam of his countenance will scatter all the clouds of grief whatsoever. It is no matter where we are, so Christ is with us. If with the three children in a fiery furnace, it is no matter, if ‘a fourth be there also,’ Dan. 3:25. So if Christ be with us, the flames nor nothing shall hurt us. If in a dungeon, as Paul and Silas were, Acts 16:24, if Christ’s presence be there, by his Spirit to enlarge our souls, all is comfortable whatsoever.

It changeth the nature of all things, sweeteneth everything, besides that sweetness which it brings unto the soul, by the presence of the Spirit; as we see in the Acts, when they had received the Holy Ghost more abundantly, they cared not what they suffered, regarded not whipping; nay, were glad ‘that they were accounted worthy to suffer anything for Christ,’ Acts 5:41. Whence came this fortitude? From the presence of Christ, and the Comforter which he had formerly promised.

So let us have the Spirit of Christ that comes from him; then it is no matter what our condition be in the world. Upon this ground let us fear nothing that shall befall us in God’s cause, whatsoever it is. We shall have a spirit of prayer at the worst. God never takes away the spirit of supplication from his children, but leaves them that, until at length he possess them fully of their desires. In all Christ’s delays, let us look unto the cause, and to our carriage therein; renew our repentance, that we may be in a fit state to go to God, and God to come to us. Desire him to fit us for prayer and holy communion with him, that we may never doubt of his presence.

February 21, 2015

Carl Trueman has wise words about Bondage to Pornography. “One would not allow alcoholics to have the last word on liquor licensing laws or crack addicts on drug policy. Yet when it comes to sexual morality, that is the kind of world in which we now live.”

This is a good one: Spurgeon on Christians who Rail Against the Times

Michael Wittmer writes about Rejoicing in Lament.

You have heard of the florist who has been sued because of her decision not to provide flowers for a gay wedding. Here is her response to the Attorney General’s offer.

To Shill a Mockingbird shows that lots of people are trying to figure out where this sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird came from.

Thanks to RPTS for sponsoring the blog this week with their article Where Professors Learn.

What I appreciated most about this article on Church Splits is the comparison to a split atom.

Take a saint, and put him into any condition, and he knows how to rejoice in the Lord. —Walter Cradock

Cradock

February 20, 2015

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by a first-time sponsor: Zoe Clothing Company: Christian Apparel For the Whole Family. Here is what they say about their company:

Zoe Clothing Company is a Christian design company based out of Los Angeles, passionate about merging the truth of God’s Word and the beauty of thoughtful design into clothes that matter. Our desire is to be a vessel by which men and women can express with their style what they hide in their hearts, and our hope is for the light of Christ to shine brightly in the world as our customers seek to be lamps in darkness, cities set on hills.

Our shirts are printed with hymn lyrics and Bible verses that demonstrate the beautiful gospel message with which God has illumined our lives. Whether it’s telling the world that we are pilgrims living in a place that is not our home, or reminding our children that they are precious in His sight, we hope our clothes aid in your witness to the world!

There will be 5 winners this week, and each winner will receive 1 shirt of their choice.

Zoe

Enter the Draw

All you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.