31 December 2013

Truth without winsomeness

I came across this video yesterday, which has apparently gone viral.  Someone had posted it on their Facebook page and so I watched it. Something about it didn't sit quite right with me. Briefly, this boy was stopped at a traffic checkpoint screening for drunk drivers. He filmed the interaction, without the consent or knowledge of the police.  If you haven't seen the video, watch it and then consider my comments below.

First, to my knowledge, this young man was defending his constitutional rights. I do not know for sure, but it appears that he went into this situation with the explicit intent to have a conversation, or altercation, with these police officers about his constitutional rights and to film it. Further, I have no reason to suspect that he is wrong, though I did not look up the specific laws.

What didn't sit right with me was how this young man approached the situation. Although he was apparently speaking and defending truth, he approached the officers in a confrontational manner. I grant that he did not raise his voice, but it was clear that his intent was to be right, which clearly agitated the police officers. His failure to comply with them, while perhaps legal by the letter of the law, was not winsome. Had he complied, he would have been gone in two minutes.

There is an important lesson here for Christians. Like the young man in the car, we stand on the side of truth and we have a responsibility to defend and proclaim that truth. However, we must do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). As evangelists, if we get angry, we lose. If the person we are talking to gets angry, we lose.

If you need to grow in this area, I would strongly encourage you to read Greg Koukl's Tactics.

Also, review, and practice, the Ambassador's Creed on a regular basis. According to Koukl, a Christian ambassador is: ready, tactical, honest, dependent, reasonable, clear, humble, patient, fair, and attractive and presents truth with knowledge, wisdom, and character.

30 December 2013

Book Review: Future Grace

John Piper's Desiring God was probably one of the most influential books in my life, if not the most influential. Since reading it, I have consumed several other Piper books, the most recent being Future Grace (1995). 

At its base, this is a book about sanctification, but not sanctification in our own power. Rather, Piper camps on God's promises and particularly His promise to be gracious to us, not only in the past but also in the future. 

Piper intentionally built this book around 31 chapters so that it could be read over a period of a month. I began that way, but found it difficult going. When I sped up and read it as it came, I found a much deeper appreciation for the book. Piper applies his notion of future grace to a wide variety of issues in the Christian life. However, his chapters on despondency, lust, and suffering were the finest chapters in my opinion. It seems to me that Piper's writings on suffering should be required reading for the Christian (watch the video below for an idea).  His chapter on suffering from Desiring God knocked me off my feet. This one was nearly as strong. 

The only real drawback that I see was that this book is a tad repetitive. Though I suspect Piper was intentionally repetitive around the theme of future grace, as the central thesis of the book, it sometimes came across as redundant. I am not entirely sure why I felt that way, but I did. 

Future Grace is a good book for someone wanting to understand the role of grace in the process of change and sanctification. 

29 December 2013

John Newton: On Controversy

I came across this post at the Ligonier blog. It is excerpted from a letter by John Newton to a fellow minister who wanted to challenge another for his lack of orthodoxy. Ligonier may be right when they encourage us to read and re-read this letter. Here are a few highlights, but I would strongly commend the whole letter. 
  • As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.  This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.  
  • If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit.  The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual.
  • Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.
  • Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good.  They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.  I hope your performance will savour of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.
  • yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it.  Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value.
  • If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves.  If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands.