John begins his first epistle by speaking of Him who was from the beginning, God the Son, who became manifest by taking to Himself true and full humanity. The invisible became visible. The Word that was with God and was God “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes…and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—
1 John 1:1, NKJV
God is spirit and has no body. John makes that point in the closing verse to his Gospel prologue: “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). He reinforces that fact in his epistle: “No one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12). But that does not mean we cannot perceive God.
Scripture makes it clear that God has revealed Himself, both in creation and His word (e.g., Psa. 19). Paul will make the case that the essence of God is conspicuous in what He has made (Rom. 1:19-21). As the existence of an exquisite painting reflects the glory of talented painter, so the evidence of a vast, ordered, complex, majestic creation displays the glory its Creator.
John, however, points to another way in which the invisible God reveals Himself. After telling us that no one has ever seen God, he goes on: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). When Philip asked Jesus to show His disciples the Father, Jesus pointed to Himself: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
You Might also like
By Matt Ng — 11 months ago
Anything we hope to accomplish in our stirring one another up to love and good deeds, our bearing one another’s burdens, our hospitality to one another, our exhortation of one another, or our serving one another—can only flourish by the power of God.
In the life of the believer, there can be tendency to make a spiritual to-do list of the “one-another” commands—the fifty-nine or so phrases sprinkled throughout the New Testament that characterize our Christian responsibility of love toward one another, literally signified by the words “one another.” Given both the sheer number of them and their varying difficulty to apply, remembering all of these responsibilities we have for others in the church—let alone living them out faithfully—seems a task impossible for even the most mature believer. Thus, the one-anothers become a to-do list of recurring responsibilities, with some consistently lived out, some pursued when convenient, and yet others neglected.
The one-anothers form a crucial category of instruction for the life of the church that reflects the Christlike love we are to have for each other, enumerating elements of care for one another in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:25), bearing the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the church (Gal 5:22–23), and ultimately forming a testimony of the Gospel to the world (John 13:34–35). In and of themselves, the one-anothers are filled with action: we are to love, care for, serve, bear with, bear the burdens of, teach, comfort, encourage, pray for, confess to, be kind to, stir up, and exhort one another—to name a few. That’s a lot to do.
Amidst this plethora of church life to-dos, there are a few underlying actions that are constantly running in the background—simple actions that are integral to the one-anothers as a whole. What goes on in our hearts and minds when the church is living out the one-anothers like it should? How exactly should we embark on this intimidating endeavor of devoting ourselves to the one-anothers? Here are 4 actions that set a foundation for a life committed to the one-anothers:
1. The one-anothers give.
As responsibilities of love that are centered on others in the body of Christ, the one-anothers are inherently a giving endeavor. When you live out the one-anothers, you give of yourself: your time, your attention, your rights, your preferences, or your resources. You make a conscious decision to let go of whatever it might take in order to best love, serve, or care for someone else. The idea that because you are a follower of Jesus, you would divest of yourself to benefit others (and not just as a tax-deductible good deed for the day), is a radical concept in a world that measures in net worth, uplifts self-worth, and revolves around you. But that’s exactly what we are called to in the one-anothers—a lifestyle of giving, that others would be benefitted, encouraged, and helped, and the body of Christ built up.
The basis for this kind of selfless giving is our Savior’s own giving of Himself, even unto death (Phil 2:3–8). In His example, we see a mindset of service toward one another such that you “consider others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). Beyond being the ultimate example for the kind of humility that is fixed on serving and loving others, the truth is that this redeemed mindset is also “yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).
Thus, enabled by the Spirit and given the mind of Christ, we can give like He gave and die to ourselves like He died, all for the benefit of others around us.
Whether it’s giving up your rights to hold something over someone when we forgive one another (Eph 4:32), giving up your entitlement to your opinions and preferences as you pursue living in harmony with one another (Rom 15:5), or giving of yourself in terms of emotion, effort, or resources as you seek to love others earnestly from a pure heart (1 Pet 1:22)—the one-anothers give.
2. The one-anothers listen.
How can we most helpfully care for one another, bear one another’s burdens, comfort one another, or pray for one another? We must listen. We must be keenly aware of others’ actual struggles, sorrows, burdens, and needs. We must therefore, with our ears, seek to understand others in order to appropriately and selflessly carry out our responsibility of love for one another. The kind of listening integral to the one-anothers is admittedly different from the kind of listening we first think of in Scripture (that of listening to God and His Word), but all species of listening share the common posture of humble receptiveness.
By Greg Morse — 2 years ago
We seek to do the church good while hoping others do more good than we ever could. Threats become brothers to us again when we learn to long for others’ success where we have failed, when we long for others to take God’s people across the Jordans we never could. When we begin to pray, “Feed the sheep by any hand.” This love for Christ’s bride shakes us free from posturing for her attention and admiration. We play our parts, knowing that loving her is loving him, as Jesus himself reminds us: “Pastor, leader, minister, do you love me? Then shepherd my lambs” (John 21:15–17).
I often need to check myself as to whether I am placing the emphasis on “the Lord’s ministry through me” or “the Lord’s ministry through me.” I suspect most pastors and leaders know what I mean.
The weed grows quietly. How are my articles doing? How is my small group maturing? How is my book selling, my podcast rating? Are my Sunday-morning prayers especially encouraging? Is my preaching, my marriage counseling, my evangelistic effort particularly effective?
I am not talking about the holy ambition proper to a minister who loves souls and the glory of Christ (Romans 15:20). I am talking about a self-congratulatory spirit that pats oneself on the back and thinks better of the work simply because it is his. I am talking about tangled motives. The silent smirk or sunken shoulders. The slipping of some glory into one’s pocket. The temptation captured in John Bunyan’s response when someone told him he had preached a delightful sermon: “You are too late; the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.”
The success of others, even close friends, can reveal the drift. The warm sensation that washes over when they excel in the area where your strengths also lie. The gnawing suspicion, the feeling of threat, the envy, the bitterness, the embarrassment, the self-pity. Instead of rejoicing that God has advanced his own name and benefited souls, all is not well simply because the eternal God chose to use them instead of me.
The temptation stands to full height, however, when others succeed in the very place that we have failed. Someone else takes the people higher than we could climb, leads them farther than we could walk. We, like Saul, have conquered our thousands, yet the people sing of another who has conquered his ten thousands. We are the lesser light. The comparison drove Saul mad. He hurled a spear at David to kill him (1 Samuel 18:10–11). What is our response?
We might pray, however much ministry still lies ahead of us, that we have the shepherd’s heart that Moses did in his final days.
Looking at the Promise
Let’s appreciate the difficulty facing Moses at the end of his ministry. After Moses had “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”; after he had chosen rather to be “mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24–25); after bringing Egypt to its knees, leading Israel through the Red Sea, climbing Mount Sinai, and wandering for decades in the wilderness, his journey ends overlooking — but not overstepping — the boundary to the Promised Land.
Old age, you may remember, did not bar the prophet from the land of milk and honey. “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (Deuteronomy 34:7).
By J. Chase Davis and Matt Patrick — 4 months ago
Written by J. Chase Davis and Matt Patrick |
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Today if you visit an Acts 29 church, you can’t be sure what you will experience. You might experience the promotion of trans ideology, a woman preaching in the pulpit during worship services, the teaching of critical race theory…that America was founded on lies and racism which has set up a system of white dominance. Or, you may experience a faithful pastor trying to do the best he can with little support or oversight from his primary church affiliation.
For this is what it means to be a king: to be the first in every desperate attack, and last in every desperate retreat, and when there is hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.“The Horse and His Boy,” C. S. Lewis, 240.
Leading a Christian organization for the past few years has been difficult. The church is in desperate need of courageous men to lead in such times of tribulation. Sadly, this has not been the posture of many evangelical leaders.
The American evangelical landscape has lately experienced the pains of the Big Sort. Christians are self-sorting according to various religious and political convictions that reflect broader national trends. Regardless of the reasons for such a sorting, whether it be the idolization of politics as some might claim, or simply the natural result of broader cultural trends, the evangelical Big Sort is in full swing.
An example of these trends is the Acts 29 Network, a network of approximately 700 churches, which projects a niche expertise in church planting. Founded in 1999 by David Nichols, of Spanish River (Presbyterian) Church alongside Mark Driscoll, who eventually became the primary leader, Acts 29 discovered its market position in the midst of the nascent and now fractured Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR) movement.
Acts 29 was always committed to gospel-centered ministry, complementarian theology, missional innovation, Spirit-led pneumatology, and Calvinist soteriology. However, the scandal-plagued organization has failed to meet the needs of the hour with grace and truth. Churning through leaders and tolerating trans ideology in pulpits, this once strong church network has outkicked its coverage, losing the moral clarity our times of disorder and particular depravity demand and the courageous conviction it once possessed. Constant board turnover, network realignment, and bloated bureaucracy speak to an organization building the plane as it flies rather than instilling confidence and stability in its member churches.
Our church joined Acts 29 in 2011. At the time we were already on the ground in Boulder holding worship services for our church plant.
For young church planters, joining Acts 29 was attractive because of the access to influential voices within the YRR movement such as Darrin Patrick, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Sam Storms, Steve Timmis, and Ray Ortlund. The benefit of joining Acts 29 wasn’t monetary as they did not give money to church planters at the time. The benefit was found in the trusted relationships based on theological alignment and the credibility the brand provided. It was like joining a trade organization or guild so that you could put the logo of the network alongside your brand ensuring credibility and gain access to people and conferences which could help you plant a church. Not to mention, the network was the “it girl” of church planting. Mark Driscoll was being discussed in the New York Times, Darrin Patrick was going on Fox and Friends. These guys seemed to have two things that don’t normally go together, a commitment to biblical fidelity and an attractiveness to a wide audience. What church planter wouldn’t want to join their network?
Over time the focus of the network shifted. Rather than lauding the glorification of God in all things through a rich commitment to the historic Christian faith and church planting, Acts 29 began to talk less about theological convictions and more about cultural diversity. As busy church planters, much of this didn’t catch our eye. We were glad to be part of the club and assumed the best of the talented leaders directing the network.
That changed in 2020. There were four events which led to a slow erosion of trust.
First, the sudden firing of Steve Timmis under the claim of “abusive leadership” based on a hit piece from Christianity Today seemed suspect. Whether there were biblically justifiable reasons to dismiss Timmis is unknown, since to this day, the network has not shared any investigation which would justify arriving at such a conclusion. When one network leader was asked what abusive leadership is, his reply was simply “Anytime a leader misuses power.”
Second, COVID created a confusing and at times contentious environment amongst churches in the network. Some stayed closed and others stayed open. Acts 29 provided pragmatic opinions on the best practices for churches but offered little theological instruction surrounding the importance of churches remaining open.
Third, our friend Darrin Patrick took his own life. Darrin was a recent friend to our church and a former board member of Acts 29. His own life unraveled as he had a moral failing and falling out at his own church plant. Darrin’s experience was emblematic of broader problems in evangelicalism in dealing with once-famous pastors who were voted off the island.
Fourth and most significantly, with the death of George Floyd, churches in the network became deeply divided and did not receive clear leadership from Acts 29 central staff and regional directors regarding biblically sound approaches to this matter. Acts 29 executive chairman, and former president, Matt Chandler, blamed the church for making BLM necessary. Vice president of church planting, Tyler Jones, proclaimed that those who have been silent regarding racism are walking in unrepentant sin. Acts 29 itself parroted worldly talking points about systemic racism. On a network call for pastors, the Director of Pastoral Care stated that “America has designed a system where white folk always win…This system sprung up from the church…My prayer is that God would use our generation of pastors…to dismantle it with the gospel truth.” One former board member, and current Acts 29 pastor, Leonce Crump, referred to the revolutionary war as an insurrection. He went on to say, “God is always standing on the side of the disenfranchised, marginalized and the oppressed” all while claiming to be neither left nor right. Furthermore, claiming that if we don’t participate in BLM, we will dishonor the heart of God and that we must be anti-racist. In an interview with Acts 29 pastor Guy Mason, pastor Crump said “Blood, violence, and hypocrisy are the soul of this nation.”
All of this led us to begin asking earnest questions to restore trust and build unity within the network and our own church. We have had over a dozen phone calls over the last three years with vice presidents, former board members, and other leaders in the network to seek clarity on doctrinal and financial matters. As part of their membership in the network, churches agree to give 2% of their annual budget to the network to further their mission of planting churches (think of them as member dues). If our church was going to support church planting in this way, we wanted to ensure that the churches that were being planted were not worldly.