Christians should celebrate their new relationship with American culture, knowing that the gospel will no longer conform them to culture but distinguish them from it, said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, during the Gheens Lectures at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 18-19.
“Increasingly, the most basic affirmations of Christianity are themselves seeming strange and odd in American culture,” Moore said. “This is actually good news for the advance of the kingdom, the future of the gospel, and for your ministries in 21st century America.”
“We can be Americans best if we are not Americans first,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in a March 19 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Moore preached from 2 Chronicles 7, including verse 14, which Moore called the “John 3:16 of the American civil religion.” This verse says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Moore recounted his experience as a cub scout, when he heard a pastor who did not believe the Bible urge him to have faith in God to be a good American. Moore said this vague, patriotic moralism is very different from true Christianity.
Christians grow in love for their neighbors as they grow in grace and obedience toward God, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said to nearly 600 junior and high school students at Boyce College’s Renown Youth Conference, March 13-14.
Christianity is this: “We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind,” Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. A Christian’s identity is established as one who loves God, but Christians cannot do this by themselves.
Preaching from Matthew 22:34-40 in which Jesus gives the greatest commandment, Mohler observed several aspects of the passage.
The soul, he said, is the seat of character in the Bible, and it is no accident that humans are emotional creatures. Next, a person’s strength is God-ordained to subdue the earth, he said. And loving the Lord with the mind gives Christians an intellectual responsibility. Christianity is based on a truth claim, so Christians should never let anyone tell them to throw away their mind.
Finally, Mohler discussed the last and, in Jesus’ words, the greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“One of the most basic human sins is to define and divide the world between those who are like us and those who aren’t like us,” he said, noting that loving neighbor does not come naturally to Christians.
“Increasingly, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, in obedience to Christ who has saved us, we then love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind,” he said. “And we then — everyday of our lives — as those who follow Christ, those who believe in him and have been saved from our sins, as those who are being conformed to the image of Christ, we love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Rick Holland, pastor of Mission Road Bible Church in Village, Kansas, preached two general sessions at Renown. He preached from 1 Peter 2:11-12, encouraging students not to underestimate the power of the threat within them: their lustful flesh. “You are your greatest threat,” he said, referring to Christian growth and sanctification.
He then gave three motivations for fighting against fleshly lust.
First, Christian citizenship demands the fight against sin, he said, encouraging students to strive for holiness, as God is holy. To help Christians battle against the flesh, Holland noted three parts of the gospel: facts, theology, and response. He asked whether students will believe Jesus was and is a historical figure, whether they will believe those facts are significant, and whether they will respond in repentance to Jesus’ call to fight sin and strive for holiness.
Second, Holland said, fleshly lusts provoke a passive attitude toward the fight against sin. If a person claims to know Christ yet knows nothing about the battle, there is a problem, he said. Holland warned students to live carefully in the fight, remembering that the most dangerous word is “enough.” Christians can never read enough, evangelize enough, or pray enough to save themselves. Only God through Christ can do that, he said.
Fruitful evangelism also motivates the fight. The battle within Christians affects those around them. And when “you’re living your faith in a godly, winsome way, it will impress even the most skeptical critic. But that will only happen out there when we understand the battle in here.”
Dan DeWitt, Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary, also led a general session, “Finding and Following Jesus in and through the Mess.”
He preached from Hebrews 12 and also reviewed Old Testament pillars of faith that Hebrews 11 records. Every biblical hero is flawed, he said, except one: Jesus. DeWitt observed several parts in the passage: God’s purposes will stand even when good men fall; Christians do not need to put leaders on a pedestal; God, even when he uses sinful people, does not cancel the consequences of sin but Christians should also celebrate God’s work in other believers despite their sins; and faith is based on God’s character and not Christians’ abilities.
Christians need to drop the weight of sin, cast-off sin, run the race set before them, and fix their eyes on Jesus keep them from growing weary, he said.
The conference also featured seminary professors and breakout sessions about various topics in worldview and Christianity, aimed to help students think critically about the world around them and the issues they encounter.
Audio and video from Renown are available online at sbts.edu/resources.
Living out the Christian life is only possible through church unity, said Ben Stuart, executive director of Breakaway Ministries in College Station, Texas, during a March 12 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Spirituality is always worked out in the context of community,” he said. “Christ’s likeness cannot be achieved individually.”
Preaching on Philippians 1:27-30, Stuart argued that fighting sin is impossible on one’s own. Both the Philippian church and the modern church were meant to be mutually encouraging and unified, traits which make up effective gospel communities, he said. Without unity, little of value is accomplished for the kingdom.
Christian suffering is part of God’s power, plan, and purpose for the universe, Florida pastor Ken Whitten said in a March 10 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The sovereignty of God and the sympathy of God do not conflict,” said Whitten, who has served as pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, for 25 years.
Preaching from Job 38-41, Whitten observed how suffering serves the purpose of God, even when the pain seems pointless or unbearable. Such suffering is a part of the Christian life and identity, according to Whitten. Job complained against God when he experienced suffering, but Whitten said this was the wrong response.
“Often, we treat homosexuality as if it’s a kind of self-contained issue on its own, and we don’t quite know what to do with it because we’re not anchoring it in what the gospel tells all people to do,” said Allberry. “Jesus says all of us need to repent and believe in the gospel.”
Allberry is associate pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Maidenhead, United Kingdom, and author of Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction. He shared his testimony, including his struggle with same-sex attraction, and lectured about Christian engagement with homosexuality in a series of lectures hosted by Boyce’s Center for Gospel and Culture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Leading evangelicals discussed the nature and consequences of the gospel at the 9Marks at Southern conference, Feb. 27-28. The conference featured Mark Dever, founder of 9Marks and pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The integrity of our claim to love God is intended to be confirmed by our membership in the local church,” said Dever in a session on the local church’s role in proclaiming the gospel. “Lose the church, lose the gospel.”
The gospel is not simply a message the church proclaims, it will affect the way Christians live, Dever said.
Churches need generational and ethnic diversity to display the gospel, pastor Brian Croft said in a Feb. 24 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Croft, senior pastor at Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and senior fellow for the seminary’s Mathena Center for Church Revitalization, addressed whether future pastors should plant or revitalize churches. Croft suggested sinful reasoning can affect either decision.
Church planting usually seeks to reach young people, while revitalization generally involves pastoring older Christians who have attended a dying church for many years. Croft said he fears that men decide which to pursue based on which group they would rather serve. A young man might choose to plant a church because he is not patient with older people or to revitalize an established church because he wants a stable income.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will now offer both D.Min. and D.Ed.Min. degrees in Applied Apologetics to ministry leaders for equipping their churches to confront current issues and reach people with the gospel, school officials recently announced.
“Apologetics remains indispensable for biblical ministry, therefore, the study of apologetics should be regarded as fundamental in ministry preparation,” said Ted Cabal, professor of philosophy and apologetics. “No one obeys our Lord’s Great Commission to evangelize without apologetics.”
The D.Min. degree is a 32-hour program and the D.Ed.Min. a 46-hour program, both designed to be completed in 36 months. The doctoral programs include modular courses offered in the winter and summer terms.
An increasingly secularized American culture sees evangelism based on the exclusivity of the gospel as a threat, said two Southern Baptist seminary presidents in a Feb. 10 panel discussion at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The school hosted the panel with President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as part of Southern’s Great Commission Focus.
“In the eyes of many, a belief in the particularity of the gospel is a threat to world peace,” said Mohler.
Mohler specifically referenced the recent National Prayer Breakfast, where President Obama said religions that claim to be the only way to God are dangerous. Mohler mentioned that William Saletan, agreeing with Obama, wrote on Slate.com that Islamic terrorists and exclusivist evangelicals were in the same category.