New Testament Challenge, Introduction

Here are the published notes for Sunday’s talk at Cityview.

The Big Idea: Jesus is the New Testament Challenge!

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”  John 1:29

1. Getting to know someone requires their self-disclosure.  When we talk about getting to know God in the Christian worldview,  we speak of  the self-disclosure of God.  We can know only what God reveals about Himself.

“The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.”  Psalm 98:2

Creation                                             ALL POINTING TO JESUS CHRIST.
History of Israel
History of the Church

2. The Christian Worldview accepts the Bible as God’s revelation of Himself and what He is doing in the world.  The Bible is the primary documents from which we see WHO Jesus Christ is and see WHAT He is doing in the world.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  John 5:39-40
3.  Our challenge is to treat the Bible as inspired, trustworthy, true, and
authoritative Word of God and therefore to adjust our lives accordingly.

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it
says.”  James 1:22

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman
who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word
of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

4. The Word of God comes with benefits.

“The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in all he does.”  James 1:25

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  1 Peter 1:22-25

5. Get to know Jesus through the Word of God.

A.  Read it.

I commit to take the New Testament Challenge.
I will read the New Testament through in 83 days.

When:  _________________________________
Where:  _________________________________

B.  Apply it together.

I will be a part of a Growth Group.
My group meets on ____________ at __________PM.

C.  Pray it.   This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if
we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know
that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.   1 John 5:14-15
D.  Share it.  See Mark 4.
E.  Receive Jesus as Lord.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him
who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has
crossed over from death to life.  John 5:24-25

the gospel coalition 2009 talks on-line

The Gospel Coalition has made audio and video of the talks and some of the workshops from last week’s conference available on-line.  You can scroll down the schedule and pick the one you would like to listen to.  I heartily recommend Timothy Keller on idolatry and John Piper on courage.

the Word of God as a campfire

I hate it when British Columbia has to enact a fire-ban at campsites in the summer.  While I completely agree with the reasons, I grieve the loss of one of the best parts of camping:  gathering with everyone around the fire at night.  I love the warmth, the laughter and fun, the “smoke follows beauty” comments, the story telling, and of course the smores.  Usually a few people move off into the night and head to bed, but a few of us will stay around the last and hottest coals, stoking the fire and sharing about what matters most to us in life.  I wish the church’s public habits of the Word were as magnetic and interactive, lively and refreshing, hot and reflective, relational and fun.

I have been following Ed Stezer’s blog and interview with Andy Stanley regarding Communicating for a Change and the ensuing comments with interest.  I believe the debate on what constitutes genuine preaching–expository and/or topical misses the point.  No matter the technical approach taken to preaching, we miss the point if the Word of God does not become the fire calling us into the very presence of God.  Our experience in the church of the  Bible should be the Word of God as campfire.

My favorite commentary on 1 Thessalonians, To Thessalonians with Love, by John D. Hendrix, was given to me by a campus minister at the University of Georgia after we processed what it meant to be in ministry with people and with the Word of God.  In the introduction Hendrix identifies the problem that I feel Andy Stanley is trying to get at in our preaching and the experience of the Church with Scripture.  Hendrix believes that “the Christian’s relationship to the Bible is in trouble.”  In fact he uses the term alienation to describe the situation.

Many Christians are attached to the Bible by an invisible ten-foot pole which joins them and keeps them apart.  The pole has been constructed through years of the dry, lifeless recounting of biblical material unrelated and irrelevant to the deep needs of the heart.  In this strange and bizarre position, the Christian maneuvers–swinging, punching, jabbing–keeping others away but unable to bring the living Word any closer….

I have listened to the message of the churches.  How does the Word of God do its “work” in personal and corporate church life?  I have listened for that through countless sermons, Bible Studies, small group discussion, and personal conversations.  And there is the strange silence.

There are moments of reflection which are vaguely connected with a biblical phrase, sentence, verse, or book.  Many discourses have the appearance of drawing from the biblical text.  But, in reality, they are topical exercises, a cafeteria of “junk foods,” full of artificial preservatives and additives, providing no nutritional value and an abundance of hyperactivity.  I have been listening for the transforming moment when a body of Scripture (a unit, paragraph, or text) actually touches the inner depths of a personal struggle.

It is simply not there.  Or it is a private experience that it cannot be expressed in a way that is helpful to others.  The Bible is primarily a public book to be read, proclaimed, and interpreted in the presence of others.  Like most of Paul’s letters, 1 Thessalonians is directed to a church.  Bible study loses much of its force unless it is spoken and heard in the company of God’s people.

I am not addressing the issues of inspiration, interpretation, and inerrancy.  I am addressing the issue of intimacy–personal and interpersonal closeness to the biblical text in daily life.  Unconscious alienation from the Bible is present in churches of all theological persuasions….

The crucial question remains in how intimately we deal with the text.  No matter how much lip service and respect is given to the biblical text, it still remains distant from the lives of many people.  In our most crucial specific life situations, we find Scripture irrelevant, unhelpful, or unapproachable.  We have neither the tools nor the time to learn it.  Our training has given us an appreciation for Scripture without the sills to access to it.  I am looking for a warm friendliness with Scripture, an increase in intimacy and closeness, a lively presence of Scripture in the midst of our life together.

(selected paragraphs pages 13-15, To the Thessalonians with Love: An Interpersonal Commentary on 1 Thessalonians, by John D. Hendrix, Broadman Press, 1982.)

Now that is a huge excerpt from Hendrix but I hope you are getting the picture.  Perhaps the preacher’s or the Bible study teacher or facilitator is job is to release the power of Scripture as a campfire.  In our often rainy setting building a campfire requires some planning, some protection, some work.  But the rewards are immense.  Perhaps the first thing a preacher or communicator of God’s Word must do is meet God in the burning coals of Scripture and be convicted in heart and transformed in deep places in order to gather people and apply the unfamiliar warmth of Scripture to their familiar patterns of life.  (Isaiah informs this picture; see Isaiah 6.)

Really I don’t care if the communicator of Scripture frames the fire of God’s Word by topic or by verse as long as the communicator rightly honours the voice of Scripture by giving due diligence to the text and to the people gathered around the campfire.  After a year of experimenting with Andy Stanley’s approach as presented in Communicating for a Change I can honestly say that the good skills of exegesis are better accompanied by story-line created by Me, You, God, You, We.  When I started using his communication strategy I felt like I was learning to ride a bike for the first time.  But now the pattern has energized my preaching and has enabled me to help other young communicators get a handle on delivering the warmth of God’s Word to others.

your personal needs are fuel for temptation

Sunday at Cityview in the Integrity Test series we explored another reality that we have in common with Jesus:  temptation.  The text was Luke 4:1-13.  There we see Satan tempting Jesus by tapping into His personal needs.  You can listen to the message at the Cityview site later this week.  The notes are below:


The Big Idea:  Your personal needs are fuel for temptation.


1.    Temptation is not sin.  It is a reality of the spiritual life.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.  Luke 4:1-2

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Ephesians 6:11, 16


2. When you have become a follower of Jesus, temptation is about making you un-godly, less trusting of God, less useful to God, and less influential in the kingdom of God.

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21

3.  Temptation targets our “neediness” in order to displace our devotion to Jesus.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.    James 1:13-15

Jesus’ Needs               His Response
vs. 2        Hunger            Trust God for provisions.
vs. 5-6    Success           Worship God & serve Him only.
vs. 9-12  Significance  Don’t test God to prove you matter to Him.


4.  Temptation can be defeated.

 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

Our Needs                The Way
Physical                       Choose dependence & trust on/in Jesus.
Finances & Time       Choose devotion to Jesus & His Kingdom.
Emotional                   Choose dedication to Jesus’ ways.

Jesus passed the integrity test in regard to temptation, over and over and over.  You and I do not.  We need a Saviour to give us grace.  We need to repent of what has become habituated patterns of sin in the realm of temptation.  We need His strength to face temptation daily.

We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21