Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart

“If there were a Guinness Book of World Records record for ‘amount of times having asked Jesus into your heart,’ I’m pretty sure I would hold it. By the time I reached the age of eighteen I had probably ‘asked Jesus into my heart’ five thousand times…” So begins Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear. I can certainly identify with this statement. As a young college student, I was perplexed by an evangelist who came to the church I attended and preached repeatedly that one’s assurance of salvation was based upon his recollection of the time that he asked Jesus into his heart as Savior. If any of us could not remember, we were encouraged by this evangelist to rush to the front of the church when the altar call began, ask Jesus into our hearts, and then record the date in the front of our Bibles. If doubts should ever again arise, we were to turn to the recorded date and the doubts would quickly disappear. If, in fact, we were actually saved to begin with, the activity would not hurt anything. No harm, no foul – and the evangelist would get to add us to his growing number of decisions for which was responsible. I suspect that many people raised in fundamentalist churches can testify to similar experiences.

Greear reminds us that this kind of thinking moves the basis of assurance from what Christ accomplished for us to some accomplishment on our part. Scripture teaches us that the basis of our salvation is firmly fixed on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He describes salvation as “a posture of repentance and faith toward the finished work of Christ in which you transfer the weight of your hopes of heaven off your own righteousness and onto the finished work of Jesus Christ.” This “present posture” of repentance and faith is “better proof [of a point in time decision] that a past memory.”

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart is a great resource for those who may have been exposed to irresponsible teaching in the name of evangelistic zeal. It is also a helpful reminder for those who struggle with the idea of an eternal salvation (aka eternal security) in the very real context of those who appear to fall away. At less than 125 pages, it is a quick, but profitable read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Library Thing as part of their Early Reviewers Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Conviction to Lead

Of the making of books on leadership, there is no end. It has almost become its own genre. This is not a bad thing, for whether the leader is made or born, all need help with the assignment. Albert Mohler has entered the discussion with his latest book, The Conviction to Lead. Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is not immediately known as a John Maxwell or Steven Covey type of leadership guru. He is best known for his theologically astute commentary on culture and Christianity. However, in The Conviction to Lead, he has given an outstanding treatment on leadership from a Christian perspective.

In the realm of pastoral ministry, evangelicalism is often divided into opposing ideas. There is the entrepreneurial pastor/leader that sees his main task as leading and building a church in ways similar to a CEO of a successful corporation. Others view pastoral responsibility in the shepherd/theologian model, eschewing leadership as a secular pursuit beneath the dignity of the pulpit ministry. Dr. Mohler sees that there is value to be gleaned from both models. His goal is “to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership” (p.20).

This book is a “must read” for everyone in any position of leadership in a Christian organization. That it comes from one who has over 2 decades of significant leadership under his belt and who is also one of the premier theologians of our day is commendation enough.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Jesus Scandals

Was the life of Jesus scandalous? According to David Instone-Brewer it was. In the context of modern scandals like we see on the news it wasn’t, but certainly it was in the minds of 1st century Jews and pagans who were not prepared for the claims of Christ. According to Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jews and a scandal to the Gentiles.

Instone-Brewer takes the reader back into the culture of first century Palestine and examines the life and ministry of Jesus in that context. His dubious birth claims, his questionable associations and his unorthodox teachings – all accepted by moderns who have had 2000 years to examine them – were quite scandalous to those early hearers.

The Jesus Scandals is divided into 3 sections, all dealing with how the message and ministry of Jesus was viewed as radical in the context of his life and culture. The first section is called “Scandals in His Life” and it covers such things as his questionable birth, his life as a single man when marriage and family were the norm, and his shameful execution as a common criminal.

Section Two is called “Scandals among Jesus’ Friends.” In this part, one reads of those people with whom Jesus’ associated. The Pharisees continually harangued about the cadre of people who were attracted to Jesus. That Jesus would associate with such people was a scandal in itself.

Section Three is “Scandals in Jesus’ Teaching.” These are perhaps the “scandal’s” with which most of us are more familiar. During his ministry, Jesus taught on a variety of topics, all which seemed to contradict the teaching of the Pharisees and confound and amaze his hearers. Some of these include divorce and remarriage, dishonesty, cursing, and “the unpardonable sin.”

The Jesus Scandals reminds us that his teachings are still scandalous and becoming more so as our culture embraces pluralism and postmodern ways of thinking. Jesus brought a radical message that when understood is still scandalous.