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Heroes of the Faith Part 3: Jonathan, Friends are Friends Forever

FriendsThe story of Jonathan and David from 1 Samuel 18-20 is often preached as if Michael W. Smith’s “Friends are Friends Forever” would be the theme song of the movie. Preachers mine out principles for “How to be a good friend.” This kind of message resonates with many because people are looking for friendship (just look at websites like friendfinder.com). But, is this type of application accurate to the text? Are these sections of 1 Samuel 18-20 meant to teach us about friendship?

I would argue yes. The story of Jonathan and David does teach us true friendship. Yet, most who preach this story miss that one little word “true” friendship. Friendship is not some poem on a greeting card or sappy sentimentality. Friendship is not just someone you hang out with because of common interests. True friendship is deeper than that. True friendship is about covenant commitment. What the story of Jonathan and David teaches us is that true friendship means the cost of discipleship in siding with God’s man! True friendship is about the gospel.

1. True friendship is about covenant commitment.

Jonathan demonstrates true friendship by siding with the anointed one of God. Saul has faltered as king because of his disobedience toward God. As a result, Samuel tells him that the kingdom has been “torn” away from him. In Saul’s place, Samuel anoints a little teenage shepherd to be king. Then, the Philistine champion (“hero”) Goliath challenges the Israelites, but the brave soldiers cower in fear as the Giant taunts them and their God. Only the anointed king will face down the Giant. He does, and he takes his head. David and Jonathan meet for the first time right after this match. Jonathan and his father Saul see before them a young man standing like Perseus in “Clash of the Titans” holding the enemy’s severed head in his hand while blood drips to the floor (Gen. 3:15). Jonathan sees the man who has delivered Israel and replaced him as heir to the throne covered in the blood of his enemy. Instead of jealousy, fear, or anger, the Bible says that at seeing the anointed one of God “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1). So, Jonathan makes a covenant with David, and he takes off his robe, armor, and sword and he gives them to David. Modern critical scholars try to speak of possible homoerotic overtones to this friendship, but that says more about our modern mindset than it does about the biblical situation. They are merely reading back their biases into the text. The giving of the robe is Jonathan’s handing of the kingdom over to David. The robe symbolized kingly authority. That’s why when Saul grabs Samuel’s robe after hearing that he will not be Israel’s king, and Samuel’s robe tears, Samuel says “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today…” (1 Sam. 15:28). When Jonathan hands over the robe it is an act of faith where Jonathan humbly follows the anointed one of God. This would be like Michelle Obama joining John McCain’s campaign, though it is greater than that because Jonathan has just given away his inheritance! He sides with God’s anointed king against his dad.

2. True Friendship is a picture of the Gospel.

Jonathan makes a covenant with David where he makes David promise, “you shall not only show me the kindness of the Lord while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the Lord has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth” (1 Sam. 20:14-15). David makes this covenant with Jonathan even though Jonathan’s dad (family) is trying to kill him. There are at least four episodes leading up to this covenant where Saul tries to kill David or have him killed, and yet David promises to show kindness to Jonathan’s family! Again, we see an act of faith for Jonathan who knows that God will cut off the enemies of the anointed one. It looks foolish for Jonathan to believe this when powerful king Saul with an army at his disposal is seeking the life of a “flea.” He sides with the flea because he knows the power of God is on his life. There is a similar scene when a thief is dying on a cross beside another “criminal” who is gasping for breath. This thief looks at the criminal next to him and says, “Jesus, will you remember me when you enter your kingdom?” How in the world can he expect this executed criminal to bring him into a kingdom? This is an act of faith. And Jesus says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jonathan recognizes the anointed one, even when it seems that the promises are not coming true, and that faith is rewarded. After the death of Jonathan, Jonathan’s lame son, Mephibosheth, is brought into the family of David to eat at his table! When David does this it is not the Godfather’s “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” This is grace! This is covenant love. This is the reconciliation of an enemy who becomes a friend, a brother. This is the gospel! This is the picture of the Lord’s Table where those who were once enemies have become friends and the family of God.

3. True Friendship means the cost of discipleship.

This is exactly what the proverbs say about friendship. Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Saul wants to kill David, and David knows it, but Jonathan does not think that Saul has anything against David. So, David and Jonathan make a deal that Jonathan will find out if the king is angry or not, and then he will let David know. Jonathan goes in to see his dad. What is Jonathan thinking here? Does it ever cross his mind that “all I have to do is tell David that Dad is not mad at him, have him come back to the house, then my dad will kill him, and I will be king over Israel”? All Jonathan has to do is side with his family, and he will have a great reward! But, Jonathan does not do that. He finds out his dad is really angry with David, and as a result his dad does to Jonathan exactly what he tried to do to David, he throws a spear at him and tries to kill his son. Jonathan’s friendship with David does not just cost him his inheritance. Jonathan’s friendship with David costs him his family (which is exactly what Jesus said about discipleship, cf. Matt. 10), and it nearly costs him his life! But isn’t that exactly what the Bible says about friendship and discipleship? It will cost you. James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Jonathan is a true friend because he sacrifices himself and his own comfort for David his friend.

Isn’t that what the Bible says about true friendship? John 15: 13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 “These things I command you, that you love one another. 18 ” If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

What Jesus says about his friendship with the disciples and the cost of discipleship is what happens to Jonathan. Because he sides with God’s anointed, the world (i.e. Saul) does to him exactly what it did to David. Jonathan keeps his loyal friendship with David, even when his life and livelihood are on the line. That is the call of discipleship for the friend of God’s anointed, Jesus Christ. We are called to follow him and love him, even when opposition comes from this age! We are called to befriend, love, and bear up his body.

Jonathan shows a great act of friendship by laying his life on the line for David. But the greatest act of friendship was the One who did lay his life down for his friends in order to reconcile those who were enemies of God! That’s why Solomon, David’s son, tells us about this One, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Jon Akin

The future of the SBC?

cp logoThere are two items that have been released in the last week that, in my opinion, need to be read and thought about. One was an interview that the biblical recorder did with Dr. Akin, the President of SEBTS, and the other was a blog written by JD Greear at Summit Church in Durham.

In Dr. Akin’s interview he touches on the future of the SBC and addresses important issues like regenerate church membership, the bureaucratic logjam that characterizes the SBC, etc. His insights are timely and needed.

Pastor Greear’s blog is about young leaders/pastors in the SBC. He makes some great points that, in the opinion of this “young” Southern Baptist, are right on the money both literally and figuratively. Both need to be read and thought about as we contemplate the future of the SBC.

Jon Akin

Redefining the Fairytale: Which One of Us is Supposed to be Rescued?

 sleeping beautyMy wife and I went to see the new Disney movie "Enchanted" (which at the time was the #1 movie in America). The concept of the movie is that cartoon fairytale characters would stumble into real life in New York City. While the crossing of fairytale characters into real life provided the promised comedy, it also provided something I did not expect, the redefining of the classic fairytale along modern cultural lines. Who knew that gender identity issues would show up in a Disney fairytale? Did you know that the damsel in distress can also be the sword-wielding heroine?

 Here's the basic story: Giselle is a pretty maiden who lives in the fairytale land of "Andalasia." She meets her handsome Prince Edward who sweeps her off her feet and prepares to marry her. Yet, Edward's evil step-mother, Queen Narissa knows this union will remove her from the throne, so she sends Giselle into the real world. In NYC she meets Robert. Robert is a single dad with a young daughter who was abandoned in the past by his wife. Robert has been jaded by his abandonment, so he believes that fairytale notions of love are wrong and things must be taken really slow. Robert wants to ask his longtime girlfriend Nancy to marry him, but his encounters with Giselle quickly cause him to fall for her. Prince Edward heads into NYC to rescue his damsel. This causes Queen Narissa to come to NYC as a dragon to kill Giselle and make sure she never takes the throne…

 There were several scenes that caught my attention. Early on in the movie when attempting to tell his young daughter that he intends to become engaged Robert tries to smooth this conversation over by giving his daughter a gift. She wanted a fairytale book, but instead she received a book about "strong" women like Rosa Parks, Golda Meir, etc. Robert tells his daughter that fairy tales are not real and that he wants his daughter to grow up to be like these women. He says that his girlfriend Nancy is like these women. Almost immediately I was able to guess the conclusion to the movie… Could it be that the damsel will become the hero?

 My fears were realized. When the evil step-mother comes to NYC she turns into a fierce dragon who seeks to kill Giselle. When Robert attempts to stand in the way to protect and rescue his maiden Giselle, the dragon grabs him and begins to climb a NYC skyscraper. Giselle grabs a sword and pursues to which the dragon replies, "what an unusual twist to our story." The dragon then looks at Robert in her hand and says, "That must make you our damsel in distress." Admittedly Giselle does not end up slaying the dragon. She causes the dragon to fall and uses the sword to keep Robert from plummeting to his death. But there is a redefinition of the classic fairytale roles. The fragile maiden in need of rescue has now become the strong sword-wielding heroine, and the leading man has become the damsel in distress in need of rescue. This may be Disney's way of telling women they can "have it all." You can be both the princess who is swept off her feet by a man and the heroine who rescues that man.

 This redefinition is perfectly in keeping with the current cultural trends that confuse gender identity, roles in marriage, and seek to present an egalitarian view of life. My biggest problem with this redefinition is that it corrupts a biblical view of marriage, and a corrupted view of marriage is a corrupted view of the gospel. Peter Leithart says that "G. K. Chesterton was fond of pointing out that there is often more good theology and ethics in fairy tales than in some thick books of theology. In 'Sleeping Beauty,' we have a wonderful picture of the work of Christ on behalf of His church. In Walt Disney's animated version of that tale, Prince Philip climbs a jagged black mountain, cuts through deadly thorns with his sword, and grapples with the dragon-witch to rescue his beloved. A more fitting picture of Jesus' work can hardly be imagined. Jesus appears in the Gospels not as an Oriental guru — a proto-Gandhian proclaiming love and nonviolence — but as a princely Lover, passionately willing to suffer all things to rescue His Bride from her captor (Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power, p. 35)." This prince crushes the head of the dragon and rescues His bride (Eph. 5).

 Though teaching young girls and young boys that there could be valuable lessons to learn from the classic fairy tales certainly has its pitfalls. There are dangers in our girls and boys expecting a fairy tale version of emotional love, "being swept off your feet," looking for "prince charming," etc. Yet, if put in the appropriate context the classic fairytale is certainly touching on something that is true of the way a man should fight for and protect his bride. This should be taught to our young boys and girls because it is biblical.

      My wife and I have a beautiful 16 month old little girl named "Maddy," and we talk often about ways we can train her right now to be feminine. We do not seek to raise her to be fiercely independent. We do seek to raise her as a woman who expects to be taken care of by a man. We talk about how we will deal differently with boys if God blesses us with them. We will let our little boys fall down and pick themselves back up, learn to be tough, learn to be leaders, independent, etc. When Maddy falls down we pick her up, wipe away her tears, tell her it is ok, etc. We will train our boys to take care of women and treat them with respect. We will train our little girls to expect a man to be respectful to them and take care of them. We do this because we believe that marriage roles are a picture of the Gospel. Tom Ascol said at the Building Bridges Conference, "Marriage is to put the Gospel on display. It is a living parable of what God has done in Christ in saving sinners. Husbands, wives you have a role to play in this drama! Wives you get to live the role of the one who gets rescued. Husband you get to live the role of the one who got murdered in doing the rescue." Given this biblical picture it is not surprising that Hollywood wants to redefine the classic fairytale so that the roles are reversed. My fear is that the church is doing it too. Could it be that earlier Disney knew more about gender roles than the contemporary church?
      
      I pray for my daughter even now that she will find a man who will love her and take care of her the way that Christ loves and protects His church. I also pray daily that she will find the Man who scaled the Black Hill "Calvary", took on the thorns, wielded His sword, and cut off the dragon's head while suffocating to death on the cross. He did that to rescue His Bride and present her clean and blameless. May that TRUE adventure story never be redefined!

HEROES OF THE FAITH PART 2: IS SAMSON A JIHADIST SUICIDE BOMBER?

Samson I remember having a conversation with my brothers and a friend of theirs in which the subject of Samson's salvation came up. Their friend exclaimed, "I don't even know if that guy was regenerate!" Of course Samson broke his Nazarite vow on several occasions, made multiple rendezvous with pagan women, cohabited with one, and committed suicide in some vain attempt to take vengeance on the Philistines for "one of his two eyes" that they had put out. Not to mention this guy's temper was out of control! Samson was the Israelite equivalent of William Wallace crossed with Hugh Hefner. So the question comes, "Is he saved? Or is he an Israelite Jihadist suicide bomber?"

 Hebrews 11 says that Samson is a hero of the faith. He was a champion in Israel who pointed us forward to the Champion Jesus Christ! In Samson's day God gave Israel over to the Philistines because of their compromise with the surrounding culture! In the midst of all of this national chaos and strife God focuses His Story on a barren couple, Manoah and his wife. The Angel of the Lord announces a miracle birth to them and says the child will begin to deliver Israel. Samson is born, grows, and it is clear that God is with him. He is anointed with the Holy Spirit. This doesn't mean that he is ready for a TV preaching ministry. Anointing from the Holy Spirit means war! He is a warrior who accomplishes mighty things: rips a lion to shreds with his bare hands, kills 30 Philistines, etc. Yet, all of these mighty things are tainted by his compromise with the enemy culture and its women.

 In spite of the failures in Samson's life he does point us forward to the Great Deliverer. God would deliver his people through 1 man! There was another man whose miraculous birth was foretold by an Angel. There was another man anointed by the Spirit who took on the enemies of God. There was another man betrayed by his own people and given over to pagan oppressors because His countrymen were so at ease with the foreign culture. There was another man whose close companion betrayed him with a kiss for silver. There was another man who was arrested, not blinded, but blindfolded, and made sport of. There was another man who was humiliated by his enemies. There was another man who looked forsaken by God and defeated by His enemies. There was another man whose death crushed the head of His enemies (and ours!)! This man did not suffer for his own sins as Samson did, but for the sins of the world. This man's name is Jesus of Nazareth. He gained a greater victory in His death than he did in his life. Jesus' prayer was the same as Samson's, "Remember me!" God heard that prayer and pulled his Son out of death, crushing the enemies and freeing his oppressed people from bondage to sin. Samson's deliverance pales in comparison to Jesus' deliverance of His people.

 The question comes, "Was Samson a suicide bomber?" No! Did he die deliberately? Yes. He died in the same way a soldier sacrifices himself to gain a victory. This determination points forward to a greater sacrifice, where Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem, determined to go and suffocate to death on a cross to free His people! He said, "No one takes my life from me. I lay it down!" That is warfare. That is a Jihad. This Jihadist does not take the life of innocents. This Jihadist stood in the place of the guilty as the only innocent and drowned so they could be acquitted!

 My brothers' friend stood in amazement with a smile on his face when I told him that Samson was a type of the warrior-savior, Jesus Christ. I stood their in amazement too. I was amazed that sinners like Jon, Paul, Eric, and Samson can hear the words "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I was amazed that someone went to war for us. He was no Hugh Hefner Braveheart with face-paint on. His face was covered in blood! 

Jon Akin 

 

MADDY’S 1ST BIRTHDAY

Maddy

Maddy2A year ago my wife Ashley and I sat in a hospital room looking at an ultrasound of our little girl who was due in 7 weeks. The doctor came into the room and told us something that brought us to tears. She said, "Your little girl needs to be delivered in the next 24 to 48 hours because if you carry her to term she will be stillborn…" There is no describing the fear that set in. My mother-in-law and I took turns holding my wife's hand and putting cold washcloths on her forehead as the tears streamed down her cheeks. This was a little girl who already had a name, Maddy! This was little girl that my wife had carried for 7 months and we couldn't wait to meet. How could this be happening? Maddy was born on July 28, 2006, seven weeks before her due date. She was all of 3 pounds! She stayed in the hospital NICU for 2 weeks growing, maturing, and getting stronger. As we held this little girl (literally in the palms of our hands) we were grateful to God for his provision and protection.

Today is Maddy's 1st birthday! She is a growing, healthy girl who is the delight of her mother and father. She is crawling, playing, walking, and doing all the things 1 year olds do. Ashley and I speak often of how good God has been to us. He has shown us in the face of our little girl His strong arm to provide, protect, and sustain. We are grateful to all who prayed for her.

One of the things we gave her was a Children's Bible that shows how each of the stories of the Bible point to Jesus Christ. We pray everyday that she will grow up and meet the Man of the Book. He is the one who says to her, "Let the little children come to Me and don't hinder them!" He is the one who says, "to these belongs the Kindgom of God." We pray for the day she bows her knee to the king and has a birthday of a new kind.

Jon Akin 

HEROES OF THE FAITH: PART 1, NOAH

Evan AlmightyOur church began a series on heroes of the faith, examining different persons in the Bible commended as heroes in Hebrews 11. I have so enjoyed the opportunity to look at the heroes of the faith and how they point us to THE HERO of the faith, the "author and finisher" of our faith, Jesus Christ! The first hero we preached on was Noah.

The story of Noah has been popularized again and again and again. From Bill Cosby's comic routine to the newly released "Evan Almighty," the Noah story is everywhere, including YouTube. An agnostic girl who calls herself "Hellbound Alleee," posted an entire video talking about Noah's Ark. She explains how ridiculous it is that Christian parents are so concerned with TV content and ratings systems. They buy vchips to censor what their children watch. Then, they decorate their kid's room in Noah's Ark themes and let them play with Noah's Ark toys. She says, "Don't these people have a clue? Noah's ark is not a cutesy children's story about having a bunch of sweet cuddly pets in a big boat. Noah's ark is a horror story. There are dead bodies floating in the water. God is wiping out the human race in judgment. Parents might as well put "Saw II" posters on their kid's walls…"

One of the problems that I have with what this agnostic has to say is that she understands the story better than some Christians do! Now, she hates the story and will not submit to what the Spirit of Christ is teaching her, but there were dead corpses in the water. Noah's ark is a horror story. It is a story of judgment. Unfortunately the world has seen a taste of this kind of devastation in recent years with the Tsunami in 2004 and the Katrina in 2005. We have seen firsthand the carnage of a flood, but imagine it on a global level.

The story of Noah's ark is a story of God's judgment against human sin. God created the world and it was good, but the fall of Adam brought on the realities of sin and death. Human sin increased to the point that God decided to release his hand of judgment in a global flood. One man finds favor in God's eyes, Noah. Too often we see the Noah story in black and white. Noah is the guy in the white robe with the halo around his head, and those who do not heed his sermon are the wicked villains dressed in black with twisted mustaches. That helps us not to be as upset about this story as Hellbound Alleee is. It helps us pass by the fact that a lot of people that many would have felt were basically "good" people drowned, gasping for air as the waters covered them and their families.

Our notions of the biblical characters shield us from the sting of God's Word too often. We think to ourselves "those wicked idiots didn't get in the boat. I would have got in the boat for sure." Yet, these were real people, living real lives, working hard to provide for their families, and all of a sudden it is all swept away! Jesus says that is exactly what judgment was like, like the days of Noah. People were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. They were living life and all of a sudden "boom" the judgment of God fell! Jesus says in Matthew 24 that is exactly the way judgment will be again. People will be living life, doing what they normally do, totally unfazed by the warning of disaster. People will be falling in love, getting married, having children, climbing the corporate ladder, and then BAM! We say, "These people are fools" for not heeding the warning of Noah. Yet, these people had some very good reasons for not getting in the boat, the same way it seems very reasonable to people today not to avoid the judgment to come. After all, we hear the doomsday messages of movies like "The Day After Tomorrow" and Al Gore's documentary on Global Warming, but we don't switch out the Styrofoam coffee cups in Sunday School. We don't trade in our SUV for a Prius. That's exactly what is happening here. It seems reasonable to many not to fear global judgment. In the same way we don't lose sleep at night wondering if the Ozone is deteriorating, most people don't wake up in sweat fearing impending judgment…  We don't live as if the "Ark" is our only hope of rescue! Jesus says these people were just living life, and then like a thief in the night that you don't expect judgment fell. The same is going to be true again! Noah heard the warning and he changed everything.

Noah is righteous, but he is still a sinner (seen clearly by the end of his life in Gen. 9). The writer to the Hebrews tells what was different about Noah, faith! Because of Noah's faith God is going to save one family through the ark and bring a new creation out of judgment. God gives this warning to Noah. Noah is faced with a choice to take God at his word or doubt because this is something he has never seen before. He aligns his life with the coming judgment. Also, Noah preaches (2 Pet. 2:5)! There is a global judgment coming and he is the only one with the message of salvation, so he must share it. We are given the same task. There is a global judgment coming that is going to wipe away every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of the planet. We know it is coming and it is our job to share that warning with others in love hoping they believe and are rescued.

The flood comes. From the flood, to the destruction of Pharaoh's army, to the fish who vomits Jonah, to Jesus' statements that his cross is a baptism, water is pictured as judgment throughout the Bible. 1 Peter 3 tells the church that Baptism is the anti-type of the flood. It pictures the fact that in Christ we have been drowned in the wrath of God and raised to walk in newness of life. That is the message of Noah's ark. Judgment will come, but there is an "Ark" that drowned under the wrath of God outside the gates of Jerusalem gasping hour after hour after hour for one last breath. Three days later the Ark of our Salvation stood up and walked away from death because the message of Noah is that "God is not willing that any should perish" (2 Pet. 3).

Hellbound Alleee is right! The Noah story is a story about judgment. It is horrific. But, it is about a lot more than that! We should weep at this story. We should never contemplate the wrath of God against sinners without tears. But even as it causes sorrow, Noah's story should bring rejoicing on the other side! What Hellbound Alleee misses about this "horror" story is exactly what she needs! It's the side of the Noah story that is captured by the Ark of our Salvation when he said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved!" Let's say a prayer tonight for Alleee that she will one day seek refuge from the coming flood in the Ark that's already drowned in it!

 And as for my little girl playing with Noah's ark toys I'm all for it, because my prayer everyday for her is that Noah's ark will point her to the reality of judgment and the hope of rescue. As she plays with the boat, the animals, and the guy with the long white beard I'm going to tell her exactly what this story is telling her, John 3:16!

Jon Akin  

DEFINING, DEFENDING, OR DE-FUNDING THE CP?

Counting MoneyI recently went to breakfast with a pastor friend. As we were eating we started talking about SBC politics, and so he told me about a couple who had been visiting his church for several weeks. This couple seemed really interested in joining the church. Yet, they told the pastor, "we really love your church and would like to join, but we just can't in good conscience be involved in a church that isn't missions minded." My friend was puzzled because his church is heavily involved in missions. They send out dozens of teams on short term trips, give lots of money to mission causes, and are involved in church plants and mission projects at the local, state, national, and international levels. How in the world could someone charge this church with not being missions-minded? By "missions-minded," this couple had a very specific idea in mind. They held in their hands a report of the state's churches and the amounts they gave to the Cooperative Program (CP). The report said that this church doesn't give any money to the CP.
      My friend was confused. His church does give money to the CP. His church gives money through the state convention. When he began to try and piece together exactly what was going on, this is what he discovered: because his church designates their CP gifts, they don't get credit for "CP" giving. 
      This church was concerned about a particular state Baptist college that doesn't have inerrantists teaching on the faculty, so when they give to the CP they simply ask that none of their money be given to this state college. Because they designate, even what might be considered the smallest of amounts, they don't get credit for giving through the CP (disclaimer: state conventions are autonomous and each determines how they treat CP and other funds). This church does get credit for giving to "Southern Baptist causes," but they don't get credit for giving to the CP. Therefore, in the mind of at least one couple, they are not missions-minded!

 This story is one illustration of a growing debate in the SBC. How should we count CP giving? The Executive Committee (EC) of the SBC was asked by the convention to define CP giving at the 2006 meeting in Greensboro and came back this year with Recommendation #12 which states:

The Cooperative Program (CP) is Southern Baptists' unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries.

    This recommendation did pass, but there was much debate surrounding it. According to this definition, it is only when a church gives a percentage of their undesignated receipts through their state convention that their money is considered part of the CP. Those churches who do not give through the state convention for whatever reason, be it doctrinal or practical, are not considered  churches that support the CP (interestingly, if they give the amount required to "SBC causes" they can still send messengers).

    The EC insisted that this has always been the definition of the CP. In fact, they stated this on at least 3 occasions during the debate. I will paraphrase Dr. Chapman's comments which clarified the definition:

The CP has always been considered a process, a delivery system through the state to the SBC and that is what it is today with or without this definition. It is the responsibility of the SBC as a body in annual meeting to change that process if it deems necessary. Because you have not instructed us to do otherwise we promote giving through the state convention and some on to the SBC…(emphasis mine). Only what comes through the state to the EC is considered CP. There are churches that insist on giving directly to Southern Baptist missions, the CP, when a church insists it is the authority in Southern Baptist life and we are there to serve. We do receive the funding, but it is recorded at the EC as "SBC Causes." It still goes through the CP but doesn't count as CP per se on the books of the EC.

    I want to briefly analyze Dr. Chapman's statements and make a few observations:
   
1) This has always been the definition of the CP, but is just now being affirmed. As Dr. Chapman and Michael Lewis made clear, this recommendation simply codifies what has always been the standard practice. The only thing that has changed as a result of this definition is perhaps people understand the process better (I know I do). What is new with this definition is that the Executive Committee and the SBC as a body have endorsed this definition which has traditionally been driven by the state conventions.

2) I am afraid that too many state conventions take literally his words when he says that churches are to give through the state convention and give "some" on to the SBC. That is exactly why this has become a problem because the "some" is being defined as less and less. The average percentage in recent years that all state conventions have passed on to the CP is between 36 and 37%!
   
3) It sounds like Dr. Chapman is saying "if your church does not want to support the state convention for whatever reason (liberal colleges, keeping too much money in state and not sending enough to our Southern Baptist entities, etc.) we as the EC will take the money, cash the check, use the money in support of the CP but you won't receive any CP credit for it." In other words, your church will be a contributor to "SBC Causes," but not a supporter of the CP!

    It is true that this has always been the definition of CP giving and does not really change anything per se. However, there do seem to be some scary trends and possibilities emerging:
   
     First, the convention is being led to a standard of giving for convention service. Last year at the 2006 meeting in Greensboro a messenger attempted to amend an EC recommendation that urged faithful support of the CP to make 10% a benchmark necessary for convention service. There was an ad hoc committee made up of state directors and EC leaders who originally had this language in the recommendation, but 10% was not in the recommendation when it actually was brought before the floor. The SBC voted down the amendment and voted for Recommendation #7 in the form brought to the floor. This year the EC has taken a smaller bite, but is working their way toward a standard of giving.
   
    It seems that one possible reason for such a recommendation is leverage when one wants to use a church's CP giving as a criterion for nominating officers, committee members, and trustees. It appears the leadership of the EC wants to disqualify for service those who belong to churches whose CP giving is below the nominal standard and motivate all churches to come up to that standard. What this means is: if a church chooses not to give through their state convention or opts to designate their gifts for any reason, then they are painted as not supporting the CP and not being traditionally Southern Baptist. The church's members will not get to participate on boards. If a church's member wants to run for president of the convention, he will be criticized in stump speeches that say you can't spell SBC without the C and the P. This means that solidly conservative churches who are giving large amounts to support cooperation among Southern Baptists will not be able to have their members serve in leadership capacities in the SBC, even though their churches may give liberally to the convention. Many churches choose to bypass giving through their state conventions because they want more money in the hands of our missionaries, seminaries, etc. These churches want less money in the hands of state conventions that fund professors who are wolves in sheep's clothing, leading college students away from the faith. They want less money going towards the "fat" that characterizes how many state conventions operate. They want their money going toward missions, not toward supporting state convention bureaucracies and ambiguously Christian colleges. This trend will mean that members of churches with these kinds of convictions will not be able to serve, even though these churches might actually give to the CP and their money be used by the EC.

      Second, it could mean more state conventions being formed. Bart Barber has already pointed this out on his blog. See here. 
      
      Third, it could mean some SBC churches de-funding the CP! This would happen in some because they want to support SBC causes without supporting their particular state conventions. This is obviously not something that the EC intended with the definition, but it could be a real effect of its definition of the CP. Also, while the EC thought (or hoped) this recommendation would deter the trend toward designated giving, it might backfire with churches seeking other avenues of missionary participation apart from the SBC, rather than going against their conscience.
     
      Finally, this recommendation is pushing our convention further down the road of defining cooperation in terms of money and not doctrine. The biggest problem with this trend and how we currently define cooperative giving is it threatens greatly the return to orthodoxy in our entities! The conservative resurgence fought for unity around doctrine, not program.
     
 This is the bottom line: we need to have a discussion about how we fund Southern Baptist causes. We are not connectional. State Baptist conventions are autonomous from the Southern Baptist Convention. We need to be clear that Cooperative Program giving, which by definition includes monetarily supporting a state convention, may rightly be necessary for one to serve in one's state, but it is not a prerequisite to serving in a leadership position in the SBC. All that should matter for one to serve the SBC, at least from a financial standpoint, is that a church give generously to support Southern Baptist causes. And a church can most assuredly do that without giving through the CP. If we do not settle this issue in the near future, it could potentially lead to some disastrous results in the SBC. Obviously a trend towards more designated giving threatens to undo the CP, so there is little doubt the Executive Committee thought it was defining and defending the CP when it proposed Recommendation 12. It would be a shame if the EC, in their zeal to protect the CP, has led us down a path that ultimately undermines the freedom and ability of Southern Baptist churches to financially support the many wonderful ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

(special thanks to Dr. Greg Wills at SBTS and Nathan Finn at SEBTS for their insight into the workings of the CP)

 Jon Akin

Does Theology Matter?

BibleIt seems that in our current evangelical culture the "does it work?" question or even the "is it cool?" question comes before the "is it right or true?" question. Obviously questions of practicality and theology are essential. The problem is the order. Many rush into the practical or the hip. If the practical starts working or the hip gains a following, then we take a breath and search for the Bible verse, Old Testament Narrative, Proverb, etc. that legitimizes our practice. In an age where sermons are more about "how to's," corvettes, and "come on the journey with me" the question begs to be asked, "Is this the kind of preaching that turned the world upside-down?" When so many are dragged away by pragmatism and pop-cultural fads that are baptized as evangelical, but lead ultimately to liberalism or worse, the question begs to be asked, "Does theology really matter?" The answer must be "Yes!"  Dr. Danny Akin answered that question for his students with a "yes," when he wrote the following:  

 "Theology Really Does Matter"

Theology was once called "the Queen of the Sciences."  Given the way it is treated by many Christians and churches in our day, it perhaps should be identified now as the "court jester."  If it is not ignored all together, it is viewed as ivory tower and esoteric.  Those who love and do theology are not in touch with real people and the real problems and needs of everyday life.  Theology is like bad medicine.  Take as little as you can possibly get away with.

The Church has suffered greatly as a result of this atheological mindset.  As I look across the landscape of the Southern Baptist Convention, it appears that we are at an all time low in our ability to explain what we believe and why we believe.  The sad but tragic fact is we do not love God very well with our minds.

George Barna made the point when he reported that "only 4% of adults [in America] have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision making."  That observation, though sobering, was not shocking.  However, it was his next statement that really got my attention: "Only 9% of born again Christians have [a basic, biblical worldview]." (Barna Update, December 2003). 

The Church has been seduced by the sirens of modernity, and we have jettisoned a word-based ministry that is expository and theological in nature.  We have, in our attempt to be popular and relevant, become foolish and irrelevant.
Skiing across the surface needs of a fallen, sinful humanity we have turned the 'church' into a pop-psychology side-show and a feel-good pit stop.  We have neglected teaching the whole counsel of God's Word and the wonderful theology embedded in that Word.  Too many of our people know neither the content of Scripture nor the doctrines of Scripture.  In too many pulpits, if the Bible is used at all, it is usually as a proof-text out of context with no real connection to what the biblical author is saying. 

The words of the prophet Amos were never more piercing, "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD.  They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it."  Ours is a day when people are more familiar with the story lines of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings than they are the grand redemptive story-line and themes of Scripture.  Too many Christians handle the Bible in a way that is irresponsible, dishonest with the text, and therefore devoid of solid theological substance.

Some fear that the SBC is in danger of being submerged into Calvinist theology.  I am far more convinced the real danger is being swallowed whole by shallow and sloppy theology.  If we will teach our people solid biblical theology rooted in biblical exposition, extreme agendas from any direction will be easily recognized and quickly rejected.

As we study and teach the Bible, we must engage, with a balanced and responsible method, the discipline of theology.  Drawing on classic categories we should ask of every text a series of important and necessary questions:

1. What does this text say about the Bible (and the doctrine of Revelation)?
2. What does this text say about God (also Creation, angelology)?
3. What does this text say about humanity (and sin, our falleness)?
4. What does this text say about Jesus Christ (His person and work)?
5. What does this text say about the Holy Spirit?
6. What does this text say about Salvation?
7. What does this text say about the Church?
8. What does this text say about Last Things?

Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe has sounded a much needed warning in this area.  Considering these sobering words:

  "I don't think the average church member realizes the extent
   of the theological erosion that's taken place on the American
  exegetical scene since World War II, but the changes I've witnessed in 
  Christian broadcasting and publishing make it very real to me.  Radio
  programs that once majored in practical Bible teaching are now
  given over to man-centered interviews ('talk' radio is a popular
  thing) and man-centered music that sounds so much like what the
  world presents, you wonder if your radio is tuned to a Christian
  station.  In so much of today's ministry 'feeling good' has
   replaced being good, and 'happiness' has replaced holiness."
      -(Warren Wiersbe, Be Myself, 301.)

We need, we must have a steady diet of exegetical and systematic theology if we are to be cured of the spiritual anemia that afflicts too many of our churches.  It is my prayer that Southeastern will be out front in dispensing this much needed medicine.

 Danny Akin

“Integrity In Ministry: What God Expects” A Message from Danny Akin

daIt seems that each week brings new embarrassments to the ministry and the cause of Christ in the world. In these times we ministers need a reminder of what God expects of us. Dr. Danny Akin, President of The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, relayed such a message to his students at Southeastern. I believe we can all benefit from it. Here is his admonition:

There is a glaring need for integrity in the ministry in our day.  "We are facing an integrity crisis.  Not only is the conduct of the church in question but so is the very character of the church" (Warren Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, p. 171).  Both outside and inside the SBC, respect for the ministry has fallen perhaps to an all time low. 

A morality crisis exists in the ministry.  An integrity crisis faces the servants of God.  Immorality has reached a pandemic stage in the evangelical community.  The secular media exploits our every failure.  The man in the street pokes fun with jokes depicting ministers as interested only in women, money, power and prestige.  The Church of God reels in heartbreak, confusion and distrust as once respected leaders are repeatedly exposed in sin and shame.  The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is in critical condition.

1. The Cause of the Integrity/Morality Crisis in Ministry

Current problems have been in the making for many years.  The root cause is simply human depravity, sin, and the evil located in the heart (Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:19).  Satan, working in concert with the flesh, has utilized some effective weapons to destroy many men of God.  A secular culture, together with its values, has affected the church more than the church has affected it.  Four specific areas have been especially alluring to those God has called to the ministry.  We must keep our guard up at all times least we fall as well.

1) Materialism is now a problem in ministry.  Many men today are driven not by love of God, but love of money.  They are motivated by self interest.  God wants His ministers to receive adequate provision.  They should not be paupers (1 Cor. 9:7-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).  However, too many ministers view themselves in the model of the corporate CEO rather than a shepherd-servant or pastor-theologian of God's flock.  They lose personal perspective and often find themselves pursuing worldly desires and spending less and less time with their spouses and families.  The fallout has been tragic and devastating.

2) Egotism or pride has also become rampant in our ranks.  Personal power, position, and prestige are often justified by sanctimonious words of "reaching more through bigger and better ministries for Christ."  An important question every minister should ask is, "to who are people drawn as the ministry grows? Me, a particular ministry or the Master?"

3) Exaggeration of accomplishments and even outright lying have also infected the pulpit.  "Ministerially speaking" means nothing more than speaking a falsehood.  "Fudging" the stats to get ahead happens far too often.  If we would regain respect, we must, of necessity, go the extra mile in truthful behavior and honest speech (Proverbs 6:16, 19).

4) Shallow theology and false ideas of spirituality have also led to failure in the ministry.  Biblical exposition is the exception rather than the rule.  Emphasizing holiness and sacrifice are seldom heard.  Feel good/self esteem sermons is the spiritual junk food often served to many congregations.  Because of anemic biblical instruction, many overemphasize legalism on the one hand or emotionalism on the other.  The sad end of all of this is an unstable doctrinal foundation that ultimately will collapse under any significant pressure.

One might raise a question at this point, how is this connected with immorality?  The answer is this:  when a man is consumed with a desire for more in one area (e.g., materialism), it often leads to desire for more in another (sex).  When a man deceives himself into thinking that he deserves and is entitled to the things that often accompany a successful ministry, he may also deceive himself into thinking that accessibility and entitlement to a liaison with a woman other than his wife is his option, maybe even his right.

Finally, and most importantly, if a man is dishonest in one area of his life, he will likely be dishonest in other areas, including faithfulness to his wife and ultimately faithfulness to his Savior.  The causes for such failures can be boiled down to three basics: 1) a loss of a devotional walk with the Savior; 2) a loss of continual meditation in the Scriptures; and, 3) a loss of personal intimacy with one's spouse.

     2. The Cost of the Integrity/Morality Crisis in Ministry
 
The cost of sexual immorality is high, especially for those whose sin has been exposed.  The cause of Christ is harmed and the purity of the Gospel veiled.  One's reputation is permanently soiled and damaged.  In most instances, the fallen one's position is lost, and rightly so.  Many believe, based upon the qualifications for ministry laid down in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, that such a one is disqualified permanently from the office of pastor and leadership in the work of the Lord.  The one who has sinned and repented should be restored to fellowship (2 Cor. 2:5-11), but there is good scriptural evidence that this does not necessarily include restoration to leadership.  Forgiveness from the Savior and the saints is not the same as fitness for service!  Amazingly, the lost world seems to understand this better than the Church.  Could it be, incredible as it sounds, that the world has a higher and more biblically based standard for spiritual leaders than do the saints?

In addition, there is the certain loss of God's blessing and the potential loss of one's God-given family.  These are the harsh realities of the cost of sin.  Sin extracts a tremendous toll.  A few moments of physical pleasure may produce a lifetime debt of shame and heartbreak.  The cost is too great, the resulting pain not worth it.

      3. The Cure for the Integrity/Morality Crisis in Ministry
 
The best cure is always a preventive one.  What can we do to maintain our marriage vows and keep our ministerial commitments to our people and our Savior?  What must you do to maintain your personal integrity?

1) Theologically, we must regain the biblical standard for the man in ministry. 
Four major texts address God's qualifications for service:  Acts 20:28-35; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; and 1 Pet. 5:1-4.  It is essential that we adopt the biblical model as opposed to the secular model.  Spiritual leaders must repent of the sin of failure to follow the biblical pattern of a shepherd-leader and pastor-teacher, and then determine deep within, with fervent conviction and courage, never again to deviate from the divine pattern.  This will mean taking very seriously the charge to be a "one woman kind of man" and to be one "who manages his own household well," and to be one who has "a good testimony among those who are outside" the church (1 Tim. 3:1-7).  It will mean pursuing diligently God's call to holiness and sexual purity (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

2) A man commits adultery because he loses his walk with God and his intimacy
   with his spouse.  This does not just happen in a day but grows gradually over
   a period of time, beginning perhaps with an almost imperceptible slide into an
   environment in which adultery can occur.  Therefore, what must we do
   practically to see that this never happens to us?
   

First, carefully guard your thought life.  Ultimately, the battle for sexual purity is won or lost in the mind (Prov. 23:7; Rom.12:2).  Those things which could erode the thought life must be avoided.

Second, make sure that your best time goes to your wife and family.  To say one cannot be a great pastor as well as a great husband and father is to perpetuate a lie.  Indeed, only great husbands and fathers are truly great pastors in the sight of God.

Third, resolve never to be alone personally or to be involved emotionally with a woman who is not your wife.  Simply stated, if you are never alone with another woman, it is going to be difficult, yea, impossible, to have an adulterous affair.  This principle would include personal counseling and private conversations, even on the telephone.  Emotionally, you are to bond with only one woman and that one woman is your wife.  One might say this is too restrictive, too legislative, too narrow.  So be it!  It is better to be accused of legalistic puritanicalism and maintain marital purity than to be guilty of sexual sin and suffer the embarrassment and disgrace of adultery.

Fourth, remember the cost of sin.  A big, beautiful home may attract my eye, but reflection upon its long-term cost will cause me to continue down the road.  Likewise, I can appreciate an attractive woman, but knowing the cost of getting involved with her will send me on my way to my own house!

Finally, recognize your own vulnerability.  Not one of us is above sexual temptation.  I constantly remind myself and others whom I have the honor of teaching:  The wrong person plus the wrong place plus the wrong time will inevitably equal the wrong thing happening.  The tragic story of David and Bathsheba should never be forgotten.  A man after God's own heart committed both adultery and murder because of his lust for a woman to whom he was not married.  Anyone can fall to this temptation.  All of us are capable of any sin.  Therefore, beware of yourself and take the necessary steps to prevent adultery from even being in your path.  "Flee sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18).

1 Pet. 4:17 says, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God."  God's church is in need of discipline and judgment.  She is sick and dirty, weak and sinful.  Her genuine impact on society is negligible at best if we would be honest.  Perhaps God has decided it is time to clean her up so that she will be as she ought (Eph. 5:26-27).  If this is so, what better place for Him to begin that at the top with His ministers, His undershepherds.

An effective minister must be a holy minister.  An effective church must be a holy, consecrated church.  May our Lord restore respect to His prophetic voices in these challenging days.

 Daniel Akin

Faith of our Father Spotlight: 4 Sons Say Happy Birthday to Danny Akin

Akin MenToday is Danny Akin's 50th Birthday. Many people around the SBC know Danny Akin and his ministry. They know him as President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. They know him as a teacher and theologian. They know him as a faithful expositor of God's Word. They know him as someone with a warm heart for the nations and evangelism. But there are only 4 men who have the privilege of knowing Danny Akin as father, and those are his sons: Nathan, Jonathan, Paul, and Timothy. On his 50th birthday, his sons would like to honor him by telling how he has impacted their lives. The "Faith of our Father" spotlight for January will be on the life and ministry of Danny Akin, beginning with the reflections of his 4 sons.

I am shocked that my Father has lived a half-century. There is no man I admire more than my father. It has been a wonderful privilege to grow up under the instruction and leadership of Danny Akin. Having known so many people who came out of broken homes, I count my many blessings for the guidance and love shown by my father. My father has also provided spiritual direction. He has throughout our lives stressed the importance of being totally devoted to our Lord and Savior. I am immensely grateful for my father introducing me to my Lord. I remember one time riding with my dad in the car and asking him what sort of job would please Jesus Christ, and my dad told me there were many, but that the key was to be willing to do anything that the Lord requests of us. My Dad made the statement "I'd sweep the streets for Jesus." This statement has stuck with me for many years, and I think that it correctly encapsulates in a phrase what I have learned above all else from my father. I love him as a preacher, I love him as a teacher, I love him as a father, but above all I am proud to say that My Dad is a man of God, a man committed and submitted to our Lord Jesus Christ. As I move past a quarter-century of living I pray that I will emulate my father as he emulates Christ. I hope that if I am ever blessed with a son that I will be able to raise him to be a man like his grandfather. Happy Birthday dad. I love you. Nathan Akin

My father is my hero. He is the single greatest man I have ever known. No one has impacted who I am as a follower of Christ, a man, a husband, a father, and a minister more than he. Like Dads are supposed to do he taught me. He taught me to oil a baseball glove. He taught me to throw a baseball. He taught me how to drive a car. He taught me to love my wife Ashley and our daughter Maddy. He taught me how to pray, read the Bible, preach, witness, and how to follow King Jesus. I am so grateful for his leadership in our lives. 1 Samuel paints a striking picture of men set aside for ministry, Eli and Samuel, whose sons were unrestrained from doing evil. Sadly, there are too many illustrations of these stories today. I am grateful for a father who disciplined and trained. I am grateful for a father who loved and spent time with his sons. I treasure the countless Saturdays spent watching football together and talking. I treasure the counsel and encouragement.

Psalm 127:4-5 says, "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate." The beautiful picture of Psalm 127 is of a man who has sons when he is young, so that when he becomes mature his sons are coming of age and can stand with him against his enemies. Our dad has shown us what it means to be a warrior of the gospel. He has taught us to wield the sword of Christ. We now are coming of age, and we stand ready to go to the gate with him. Dad, we have our swords in hand. Love you. Jonathan Akin

Danny Akin is a man who is characterized by his love for the Lord Jesus Christ. All throughout my life, I have seen him yield to whatever it is that the Lord is guiding him to do. His life is evidence that he does not live to please men, but rather to please his Lord. While he is a tremendous preacher, faithful husband, and wonderful father, the thing that stands out the most is his obedience to Christ. Repeatedly I have witnessed him put aside his own agenda and desires to line his passions with that of the Bible and ultimately our Lord Jesus.

No man has had a greater impact on my life than my Dad. His love for Mom has been an example to me as to how I am to love and respect Kari. His discipline and care as a father are characteristics that I hope to one day emulate when the Lord blesses me with a family. His love for God's Word is apparent as he preaches the Bible with as much passion as anyone I know. Most of all, he is a man that walks with God and has surrendered his life to making Jesus' name known to all people. He has shown me how to love the nations. It is with great honor and privilege that I can say Happy 50th Birthday Dad, I love you and appreciate you very much. Paul Akin

My father is a man of the utmost integrity. He has never sought a promotion. He has always taught my brothers and me to be content with where the Lord has placed us. Furthermore, he is a loving, sacrificial, and dedicated father. He rarely missed a football or basketball game of mine or of my brothers. In fact, he would organize his busy speaking schedule around our athletic games. He has always taught us to keep our priorities in the correct order, and he displayed this through his actions.

My father is a faithful husband and minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My mother admires, loves, and adores my father more than any other person. They are best friends, and they illustrate for their four boys what a godly marriage is to be like. He has always put his wife and four boys before himself. Although my dad has taught me so many things, the greatest thing he has taught me is, all that matters is that you please Jesus Christ. My father is my favorite preacher and has taught me how to study, love, and preach the Word of God faithfully. Furthermore, he is my hero and I pray that I will be the same kind husband, father, and man that he has become. I love my father. He is the greatest man I have ever known. Tim Akin

Join us in saying Happy 50th Birthday to Danny Akin. If your life has been impacted in some way by Danny Akin, please share the story or comment with us.

Nathan, Jonathan, Paul, and Timothy Akin