I am excited to see my colleagues’ publication of, Standing Firm: The Doctrinal Commitment of the Moody Bible Institute (Moody Publishers, 2019). I hope that readers will find that at Moody we still align ourselves with orthodox truth. Contrary to rumors published this past spring, we have not made any sort of doctrinal slide. All of our professors fully embrace the inerrancy of the Scriptures of the OT and NT and live out the truth of the gospel contained therein.
Standing Firm also is a good text for personal or group study of the truths Christians believe from Scripture. It is a good, easy-to-read work for firming or reaffirming your understanding of Christian doctrine.
In yesterday’s MBI Bible Department chapel, Dr. John Goodrich asked me what books would I recommend a student majoring in Biblical Studies read before graduating. In the shortness of time, I mentioned this list:
- Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation, because Hirsch used to believe meaning is stable.
- Johnson, Expository Hermeneutics, because Johnson built a model for interpreting Scripture based on Hirsch’s theory.
- Ward, Planet Narnia (also Kindle), and both the Narnia series and the Space Trilogy series by Lewis, because Planet Narnia is a great piece of literary criticism that also will help one learn to discern meaning in texts.
- Ellison, The Invisible Man, because it is apropos for the divided American society in which many Biblical Studies majors will serve. (Kindle)
- Meade, Teaching Hearts, Training Minds or Comforting Hearts, Training Minds, because many of them will begin families of their own one day and need a resource to help disciple their children, and in discipling their children they also will see a good text and method for discipling church members in theological truth.
- As many Christian classics as one can (including those in the Catholic tradition), because we should know our own classics and interact with their enduring ideas.
To this list immediately I would add Carson’s, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, The Gagging of God, Exegetical Fallacies, The Intolerance of Tolerance, and The Gospel of John , because Carson is all about rightly reading Scripture and engaging culture with the gospel, and Packer’s, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, because personal evangelism should be one of the ends of teaching and learning Scripture and we should do it in the truth of God’s grace.
An exhaustive list would be too long for a blog post.
Dr. Eric Mason’s Founder’s Week sermon, “Seeing Through the Lens of the End,” is powerful, bold, and poignant for this time in American society. He preaches the gospel of grace, and courageously applies it to the American Dilemma.
I hope Pastor Mason will gain other opportunities for evangelicals in every corner of the country to hear this message. I was blessed tremendously by this word.
Spring Registration is OPEN for the Spiritual Leadership Academy Course, Engaging Scripture Deeply. If you live in Chicagoland, join us!
I encourage you to invite and bring your Sunday School Class, Bible study group, small group, and/or ministry leadership team too. This course is for everyone!
Texts for the course: Ephesians (Stott) and Ephesians (Redmond). I selected Stott’s commentary because I want to demonstrate the role of using a tool in studying deeper, not because Stott offers an exegetical commentary (which he does not). But going deeper does not require the use of an exegetical commentary, if deeper involves more than intellectual inquiry. Leave the Greek exegetical work for the course professor to explain. Stott is sufficient for our learning together. I will be providing elections from Ephesians in the ESV Study Bible too.
In hermeneutics class at MBI yesterday, one of my students proposed that Jonah received mercy via the fish appointed by God as God’s response to the prayers of the mariners:
Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.”
By rescuing Jonah, the Lord answered the prayers of the mariners–that they would be free from the blood of Jonah. I agree with this proposal by the student.
The mariners, who have called on the Lord—who was revealed to them by the prophet, themselves receive mercy through throwing the prophet to his death in the waters. Therefore, their prayers are answered as part of their response to the gospel (in cryptic form in the OT). The Lord is answering the one prayer of unbelievers he has bound himself to answer.
I so enjoyed my time today with the teachers of Salem Baptist Church! What an exciting group of teachers! The people of Salem are blessed richly to have so many people interested in becoming better expositors of the word of God.
As we worked our way through Romans, I was reminded of just how significant Christ’s work of justification is for us, especially in 3:21-26.
Justification is the forensic act by which a sinner comes to stand before God as righteous both actually and declaratively. The righteousness God provides is an alien righteousness—it comes from outside of the sinner rather than from within. By “actually,” we mean the Scriptures teach that the sinner is constituted righteous by having Christ’s righteousness imputed to him. By “declaratively,” we mean that Scripture teaches that the sinner is declared righteous before God as a judge in a courtroom declares the status of a criminal.
In declarative justification, the Judge makes a declaration: The sinner is declared righteous although the sinner is guilty.
Declared righteousness differs from judgment in the Western judicial system in the following: It is not simply an (1) acquittal (to rule not guilty), (2) a pardon (to forgive someone of an offense), (3) an exoneration (to free someone from accusation, blame, or responsibility), and that (4) it is based upon absolute truth. This stands in contrast to the Roman Catholic view, in which justification includes the expulsion of indwelling sin, the positive infusion of divine grace, and the forgiveness of sin. For Rome, justification is the infusion of new virtues after the pollution of sin has been removed in baptism. In Catholic teaching, the grace of justification can be lost, but also can be regained by the sacrament of penance.
Imagine walking into a courtroom in an orange jumpsuit with your hands and feet shackled, and with two Federal Marshals flanking you, because you are guilty of crimes. There is fingerprint and video surveillance evidence, eyewitness and your possession of tools used to commit crimes, and you have made an uncoerced confession. You are guilty. Yet, with all of the evidence stacked against you, the judge renders a verdict: “I declare you righteous [even though you are guilty.]” God, the Judge of all the earth, makes this declaration for sinners on the basis of the righteousness of his Son alone. This is the work of justification; this is mercy; this is reason to shout and to praise our Savior.
The Need for Love Today
The Moody Theological Seminary—Michigan 2016 Commencement Address
© Eric C. Redmond, 2016
Grammy Award winner Stevie Wonder, on his Songs in the Key of Life album, explores the highs and lows that make up life. It includes memorable hits like “Sir Duke,” “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” and the socio-economic critique, “Village Ghetto Land.” The 21-song, 2-volume Motown set won record of the year in 1976, was 57th on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Albums of all Time list in 2005, and was voted Top Album of All Time by Yahoo’s Music Playlist Blog in 2008.
One of the most famous works on the album is the first song, “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” You might be familiar with it first two stanzas:
Good morn or evening friends / Here’s your friendly announcer
I have serious news to pass on to everybody
What I’m about to say / Could mean the world’s disaster
Could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain
It’s that Love’s in need of love today
Don’t delay / Send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ round / Breaking many hearts
Stop it please / Before it’s gone too far
The force of evil plans / To make you its possession
And it will if we let it / Destroy everybody
We all must take Precautionary measures
If love and peace you treasure / Then you’ll hear me when I say
Oh that / Love’s in need of love today.
Wonder presents a rather novel thesis in the song. The status of love between and among people is at the point of critical need, such that it could end the world as we know if we do not turn to morn over the situation right now. Hatred in the world and “the force of evil” plans to destroy everything, already breaking the hearts of many. Everyone must take precautionary measures by sending “Love” all of the love you and I can so that we can rescue our world. Wonder ends his urgent call by saying, “Just give the world love.”
As we have continued to enjoy this melody for the last 40 years, it would seem that no one took the responsibility to lead the way to strengthen the place of love in the world. The force of evil led us through two gulf wars, and the increases in global terrorism and human trafficking. Many more hearts are breaking daily, as evidenced by the climb of the divorce rate in the west, the number of children in foster care systems, the increase of absentee fatherhood, and the rise of a millennial generation that rejects commitments to a relationship largely because they have not seen a so-called committed relationship work, or because they were harmed by the guise of one in their growing-up years.
The rhetoric of our public discourse continues to degrade into personal slurs like “Lucifer in the flesh” rather than offering respectful disagreement over conflicting ideas. Even the disappearance of cards that say “I’m sorry” from the racks of greeting card displays shows that mending fences is passé. Instead of mending, it is easier to block people from a social media page, or to cloak hate in group posts, texts, and emails while saying everything except the name of one’s object of scorn. Yes, our world is in greater need of love today than in a previous day. Before hate wins in your home, your town, your nation, and your world, someone needs to step up to the plate, accept Stevie Wonder’s challenge, and show us the way of love.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the congregation of Corinth 1900 years before Wonder recorded Songs in the Key of Life, the hatred in their world had spilled into their baptismal pool. Divisions and disregard for the religious health of their fellow members clouded their judgments on small matters. So great was their apathy that they called for curtailing sex in marriage – (?) – while they applauded an adulterous affair among their members. Yet rather than suggest that congregants take their ills to the municipal courtroom (or court of public opinion), the Apostle Paul told this church that the number one thing they needed to do is love—but not with just any love, but with the acts and feelings that are the love of Christ.
As graduates of MTS, certainly you are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 and its placement in the middle of the discussion on the role of supernatural gifts within the local assembly. Even you who are not seminarians or church goers are familiar with lines of the chapter that have become part of American cultural literacy: “Love never fails,” and “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13 is a popular piece for readings at weddings. The literati among us also know Jonathan Edward’s classic, Charity and Its Fruits, with its final chapter, “Heaven is a World of Love,” is an exemplary Puritan exposition of this very passage.
What is not so popular or familiar, however, is the character of the love Paul reveals to his hearers. This love excels all of the supernatural gifts within the congregation of Corinth, and of every congregation. This love also excels all concepts of love we promote in the world—from the puppy-love of two children who first begin to notice that “Yuck!” affection for the girl or boy in class, to the one-night stand of two colleagues, to the 1960’s anti-war slogan, “Make love not war.” It is far greater than the new parental love that removes the word “No” from teaching children ethical parameters, and offers much more than the marriage alternative now codified in Obergefell. v. Hodges. Paul’s love is more than gaining warm tingly feelings, making people happy on the inside, or keeping you from being alone when you come home from work. Warm-fuzzies and recreational partnerships will no more address evils in the world than will building an Iron Curtain-like fence along America’s southern border; every day Evil tells us where we can take the warm-fuzzy fences of our lusts and our visions of Presidential grandeur.
No, what Paul proposes is much greater, and more powerful than any wall, dropping of bombs, or embargo, and it is more powerful that the hope most people have of finally experiencing “real love” one day. This love has an enduring quality: It “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” in verse 8. It doesn’t throw in the towel when caring for a love one’s terminal disease curbs our fun for years on end. It doesn’t drop out of parenting when nothing will bring a wayward or rebellious child to reform or reconciliation. It envisions a brighter future for the addicted spouse when there are no promises of light at the end of the tunnel. It has hope for the daughter who has become a cutter and thrown away her full-ride to college, and continues to act on that hope because the daughter’s turnaround is within the realm of “all things.” Our world needs this enduring love.
This love is more excellent than operating in self-serving passions. It is beyond thinking firstly of one’s own personal comforts, one’s own desires, and one’s own promotion. Instead verses 4 – 7 tell us this love is “patient and kind,” which means love acts with patience and kindness consistently. This “love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” Real love does not smart-off at me in the store because a worker does not like me changing my order as a customer (as someone did to me recently). It does not curse at teachers who are authorities in their classrooms, neither does it try to get in the last word in every argument, and it certainly does not plan to “go up one side and down the other” of a person, or do-in or undo anyone. This love and rudeness in any form cannot coexist in the same person. This love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing,” which includes not laughing at, minimizing, taking advantage of, or ignoring the wrongful treatment of any person. Instead, Paul says this love “rejoices with the truth.”
Love intends to conquer base passions and decrease self so that the church can be the very presence of Love on earth. This is who we are to be—not simply believers intent on having nice friendships, a few prayers, and time of study. The goal of all of our shepherding, preaching, teaching, counseling, singing, praying, fellowshipping, and meeting together for business matters is that we love one another, and that our love so displays the power of Christ in lives that the world takes notice of our uniqueness in society and comes to us to seek this love—love that comes only from calling on the name of the Lord.
When we see that love is more than feeling, and is selfless actions for the greatest good of others, it puts personal, social, and all moral evils into perspective. The Black Lives Matter movement is an issue of love: Lethal use of force would not have a twinge of prejudicial association, and protests would not devolve into attacks on law enforcement, because all sides would be looking for selfless solutions with endurance and hope rather than acting out of impatience and fear. The Flint water crisis is a matter of love: We need officials who do not cover up wrongdoing for the sakes of their jobs, but who, instead, consider what is kind towards its citizenry and make sure their own happiness rests in being truthful.
Even a man being knocked out in a Chicago street, robbed of his possessions while down, and then run over by a taxi while people watch and do nothing is a matter of love—not simply of sympathetic feelings toward one who is down, but it is someone having the courage to step up in the situation at risk of life, fending off pilferers, and identifying the culprits. The ethos that denigrates righteous reporting as “snitching” is the getaway driver for moral evil, and only will stop the car in the face of the lawman known as Love.
This is so, because love not only is about selfless acts and feeling toward others. Love is about a person, for Paul is personifying love. Love cannot be patient or kind; people are patient and kind. So if real love—the love you long to experience, the love that should characterize every Christian worker and every member of a church, the love that should be the evaluation grid of our ministries at the end of each day, and the love that is stronger than legislation (for even where structural justice is needed, its legislation cannot change hearts)—if real love sat in our pews Sunday to Sunday, it would have all the features of the actions of love. It would show the world what it means to stand in the very presence of God the Father for all of eternity, for, as Paul says, through love we will “see face-to-face” rather than “through a glass darkly,” and through love we will “know fully even as [we are] fully known.” The only person who has shown that love daily in full measure is Jesus.
Jesus is patient toward our sin and kind toward transgressors. Jesus did not envy people’s accomplishments or looks, or boast of his divine abilities to the detriment and shame of others.
Jesus was not arrogant or rude when people accused his momma of being a whore and spat on him—things that would have been causes for fights for the rest of us. Rejection by his own people did not make him irritable or resentful for leaving his glory in heaven to come down to them.
The narrative of Jesus’ life cuts through wrongdoing in the temple and made Zacchaeus pay back stolen money fourfold—something many white-collar crooks in the modern world need to do. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). Jesus rejoiced in the truth.
Surely when he went to the cross to die in the place of our sinfulness before God, experienced and satisfied the very wrath of God in our place, and then got up from the grave by defeating death with his righteousness, he bore for us all things, he believed for us all things, he endured for us all things, and he hoped in us all things.
You sir, you ma’am who came to celebrate a graduate, should put your hope for experiencing real love in Jesus. Only he has the power to forgive you of your lack of acts of love, and to overcome eternal death for you so you can enjoy real love in this life and the life to come. Only his love working in you can transform the pride that rules your marriage into meekness so that his love also can create the bedroom experience—the love—you really want nightly, or sustain you in a marriage when selfless sexual love is absent. Only by knowing the fullness of his love can we let go of bitterness over dashed hopes and hatred of those who have abused and misused us unjustly, and find a life of joy and peace. Ask your graduate to show you the way to this real love that comes only through knowing the Christ.
Yes, the world is in need of love today.
It needs love to permeate everything within the church so that we can mend hearts and keep evil at bay.
Don’t delay; send yours in right away.
Love is the heart-fixer;
Love is the hate-stopper;
Love is the hope-giver;
Love is the evil-defeater.
MTS 2016 graduates, go love the people you serve with the actions and feelings of our Savior.
Make sure you, and your ministry, just give the world Jesus.
 Wonder, Stevie. 1976. Songs in the Key of Life, vol. 1 & 2 vol. 1 & 2. Los Angeles, CA: Motown.
 1 Cor 7:1-5.
 See http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-bartender-death-lawsuit-0421-20160420-story.html, accessed April 30, 2016.
 1 Cor 13:12.
Today I had the pleasure of speaking at the Moody Pastors’ Workshop on the campus of Moody Theological Seminary (MTS; MTS offers a fully-online, fully-accredited Master of Divinity degree [M.Div], and is one of only a few seminaries to do so). I presented two talks on reaching men in the church. The talks intended to go beyond the discussions in Where Are All The Brothers? by offering practical strategies for evangelizing and discipling men. I enjoyed my time with incredible speakers and participants.
I also spoke on the air on Equipped with Chris Brooks. Brooks is Campus Dean of MTS and Pastor of Evangel Ministries, Detroit. I am grateful to Pastor Brooks for hosting me for both events.
Below is a draft of summary notes of the two talks I gave—notes I promised to the participants. Also listed are links to the resources I mentioned during the talks, as well as a link to my title mentioned by Pastor Brooks. Thank you, MTS, for giving away copies of my men’s book to the participants, and for making it available by mail to registered participants who were not able to obtain a copy at the conference.
Introduction: By the term “reaching men,” we mean two things: (1) Evangelizing men who outside the church, or at least getting them into the church for a worship service or to a men’s event hosted by the church or other ministry; (2) providing discipleship opportunities for men within the church (e.g. professed believers) who do not seem to desire to do anything more than the easiest tasks within a local congregation.
Thinking about Scripture: What made men loyal to David—not just any men, but great men (1 Chron 11:10-47)? What made men follow Jesus? What made men follow Paul across the world even when, with Paul, they faced beatings, shipwrecks, and the like (2 Cor 11:22-33)?
Theological and Spiritual Assumption: Men are not really men until they become redeemed men. The vision God has for men in the Bible is to become redeemed men. This includes things like learning to express and seek forgiveness, developing patience, exercising courage as an act of righteousness, growing in emotional endurance, and investing in their own children with more than money. Every time we ask a man in church to do a type of service, we are asking with the assumption that the man has a disposition transformed by Christ—transformation of heart, mind, soul, spirit, motives, goals, intentions, emotions, and thinking (wisely rather than foolishly). We assume we are talking with someone who desires to honor Christ and prioritize the Gospel. Having the Gospel at the center of a life is the starting point for reaching men.
Five Things to Consider When Trying to Reach Men in a Greater Way
- Set the highest standards for the men that you approve to lead your people. Men naturally look to follow men who look like heroes, generals, and star athletes, not men who appear to be weak. Jesus was meek, but did not appear to be weak. He took on the religious establishment without fear. He spoke about being willing to die—to lay down his life—with absolute confidence. The men leading your men can lead other men to be gentle, but such men cannot do so if they appear to be weak. Spiritually strong men do not allow other men’s money, physical strength, or power in society to intimidate them. Do not fill an opening for a men’s leader simply with a male body. Do not give honor to fools (Prov. 26:1, 8).
- Challenge men, and also be committed to men. If it is worth doing a men’s ministry, it is worth having a pastoral staff member, elder, or deacon who is fully committed to it to run the ministry. If you are involved as the pastor, whether it is a large group ministry or one-on-one discipleship, clear your schedule of obstacles to the meeting and preparation times. Give your best preparation to men’s discipleship. You may have to cut out some ministry tasks in order to give focus to men’s discipleship. However, it will be worth it because the men will sense your commitment to their growth and the ministry. They will sense the value of the ministry to you as integral to their own success.
- Use larger circles to bring men into the church; use smaller circles to deepen men. Do not get it mixed up or backwards. The men’s thing that looks like a fishing trip, an event to fix women’s cars for free, or a really good meal masquerading as a men’s prayer breakfast is a prime event to which to invite the unchurched man who would not otherwise go to church. Make the topic of conversation about life in general or things common to all men. Remove the threat of being overwhelmed by theological jargon and/or a “public invitation” or “altar call” that many unchurched men fear or disdain. Talk about things like wisely investing money, marriage (in general), the ups and downs of the local sports teams, or politics. While the unchurched men are at this event, mention the upcoming “class” on the church and politics, or the forthcoming sermon series on being a godly man in the home. The unchurched man can make a decision on whether or not to explore the deepening event. For men in the church, however, the large-group event will excite men, but it will not deepen In contrast to women, who tend to talk more freely and speak with more emotions in the open than only anger—for anger, unfortunately, is the one emotion men feel free to express before people without fear—men, who tend to be less talkative than women, will not disclose anything negative or insufficient about themselves in a large group, unless a man already is very mature in Christ. You must create small arenas of safe discussion in order to challenge men to reveal areas that need more submission to Christ’s Lordship. This includes making the men’s group appear to be elitist—that everyone cannot get in, and there is a waiting list. Make men hunger to be part of something in which it seems that only the best of men can participate. Then walk men through a curriculum related to growth.
- Whatever you want a man to do, show him exactly what you want him to do; do not simply tell him what to do, but show him exactly what to do. If you want men to lead their families in family worship, show them the elements of leading their families in worship. Structure your discipleship meetings to resemble a family worship time. Give a man the tools necessary to lead his family in worship. Go over the structure, tools, and content for a year. In this way a man will feel fully adequate when he begins leading his family in worship; he will be confident that he can complete his task. Similar can be said of asking a man to lead a discipleship group, teach a class, pray in public, or mentor another man or younger man. Make sure men do not feel inadequate, ill-equipped, or that they will be embarrassed before others if they try to live the Christian life in fullness.
- A man will open up to another man about his own weaknesses and spiritual need, but only after it clear that the hearer will not judge him critically, and that he is free to say whatever he needs to say without any recrimination.
Curricula related to Growth
Starr Meade, Teaching Hearts, Training Minds
Starr Meade, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds
Lifeway, 33 Series
Navigators, Design for Discipleship (Book 1 listed in the link; seven books in the series)
Navigators, Growing in Christ
Eric Redmond, Ephesians: A 12-Week Study
Items related to the new LBGT climate
Christopher Yuan, Out of a Far Country
Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting
Todd Wilson, “Mere Sexuality” Sermon Series
I just received notice of the publication of Timothy Gloege’s, Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism (The University of North Carolina Press). Here is the publisher’s description:
American evangelicalism has long walked hand in hand with modern consumer capitalism. Timothy Gloege shows us why, through an engaging story about God and big business at the Moody Bible Institute. Founded in Chicago by shoe-salesman-turned-revivalist Dwight Lyman Moody in 1889, the institute became a center of fundamentalism under the guidance of the innovative promoter and president of Quaker Oats, Henry Crowell. Gloege explores the framework for understanding humanity shared by these business and evangelical leaders, whose perspectives clearly differed from those underlying modern scientific theories. At the core of their “corporate evangelical” framework was a modern individualism understood primarily in terms of economic relations.
Conservative evangelicalism and modern business grew symbiotically, transforming the ways that Americans worshipped, worked, and consumed. Gilded Age evangelicals initially understood themselves primarily as new “Christian workers”–employees of God guided by their divine contract, the Bible. But when these ideas were put to revolutionary ends by Populists, corporate evangelicals reimagined themselves as savvy religious consumers and reformulated their beliefs. Their consumer-oriented “orthodoxy” displaced traditional creeds and undermined denominational authority, forever altering the American religious landscape. Guaranteed pure of both liberal theology and Populist excesses, this was a new form of old-time religion not simply compatible with modern consumer capitalism but uniquely dependent on it.
I would love to read this work while I am enjoying an American Church History class at my church on Sundays. However, it will have to go into the summer reading pile.