Posts Tagged ‘Mark Driscoll’

Sermon 02-05-17: “Are We Committing Spiritual Murder?”

February 15, 2017


Jesus’ uncompromising words against anger in today’s scripture puts us on the defensive: “Yes, in most cases, anger is sinful and unjustified, but not in my case!” We often feel perfectly justified in our anger. What if we’re wrong? What makes anger sinful? What do we need to overcome anger in our lives?

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:21-26

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Big game today. Passions are running high. Even churches are getting into the spirit. Some of you may have seen on “Fox 5” news report that the St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Carrollton posted the following message on their church sign: “Even Jesus rose up. Rise Up, Falcons.” I know the pastor there! Then, the church sign in front of First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs reads, “God has no favorites, but this sign guy does. Go Falcons!”

Remember those happy days before the Super Bowl?

Remember those happy days before the Super Bowl?

And I’m excited, too. In fact, this week I even let myself get into an online argument about the Super Bowl. It started innocently enough: A Facebook friend posted his prediction for a Falcons victory. He said he really thinks the Falcons are going to win. And I replied to his comment—voicing my agreement, and offering a few reasons why I thought it would happen. A lot of it has to do with our team’s offense. And then one of his friends—someone I don’t even know—replied to my comment: “It’s easy to have a great offense against teams that don’t have a defense.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 11-16-14: “Treasures in Heaven”

November 20, 2014
My cat, Peanut, obviously doesn't worry about much.

My cat, Peanut, obviously doesn’t worry about much.

In our culture today, greed, like pride, has become a “respectable” kind of sin, which we too easily tolerate. In today’s scripture, however, Jesus tells us that this sin, far from being respectable, is so harmful that it has the power to distort the way we see everything else in life. It prevents us from loving our neighbor the way we should. In this sermon, I share a couple of specific things we can do to free ourselves from enslavement to money and possessions.

This is the second of three sermons on stewardship.

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:19-34

Audio-only this week. Click the play button below or right-click here to download audio file.

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

In the news last week, we learned that Robert Plant, the former lead singer of Led Zeppelin, turned down a contract from business mogul Richard Branson that would have paid him and the two surviving members of the band around $300 million to reunite and tour.

Three-hundred million dollars!

That’s a lot of money to turn down, isn’t it?

If I were Robert Plant’s pastor, I would give him some advice. And I would love to be Robert Plant’s pastor, especially if he tithes. But I would tell him that our Lord might be calling him to bury the hatchet with his former bandmates, to go on tour for a few months, and make $300 million.

You might say, “Wait a second, Pastor Brent, you’re a preacher. You’re telling me that the Lord would be O.K. with Robert Plant making $300 million?” Read the rest of this entry »

Erring on the side of grace with Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans

August 4, 2014

One of the commenters on my previous post defended Rachel Held Evans, who drew negative inferences about Mark Driscoll’s character today from comments he posted to a church message board 14 years ago. I wrote the following in response:

The 14-year-old comments are relevant, you say, because they show how deep-seated Driscoll’s problems are, which help us understand why he is unable to change, even though he repeatedly tries to change—or says he does.

In Driscoll’s small defense, however, he has changed—in the sense that he isn’t saying the same things today…

You would counter this by saying, “Ah, but he is saying the same things today, and let me tell you why.” But that can’t be true. If he were saying the same things today, why are these comments noteworthy? What need is there to dredge them up? They offer no new insights. It’s the same old story. In which case, just judge the man by what he says now.

If, however, his 14-year-old comments are actually worse (maybe much worse) than what he says today (the shock value of which is what inspires RHE to blog about them in the first place) then doesn’t it stand to reason that he has changed? At least a little? In which case, isn’t it unfair to bring this old stuff up?

You and RHE can’t have it both ways, can you? He’s changed or he hasn’t. And I think that is Dr. Peoples’s main point too.

Both my commenter and Held Evans believe that Driscoll’s comments reveal how crazy the man is. As I’ve since learned, however, based on what he himself wrote about them in a 2006 book, Driscoll would agree that these comments made him seem that way. He said that his posts “got insane” and that he was “raging like a madman.” He continued: “This season was messy and I sinned and cussed a lot, but God somehow drew a straight line with my crooked Philistine stick. I had a good mission, but some of my tactics were born out of anger and burnout, and I did a lot of harm and damage while attracting a lot of attention.”

Aren’t these the words of someone who is genuinely sorry for his sins? On what basis do we have to doubt his sincerity? He didn’t have to reveal to the world that he was “William Wallace II” in the first place, in which case the 14-year-old comments would have never come to light.

But now they have, and I feel sorry for him. As I said in the comments section of my previous post, if someone published a video of us (or, worse, transcribed our thoughts!) during our worst moments 14 years ago—or five years ago, or last year, or last month—whose life could bear the scrutiny? What would people infer about us? “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?”

If I believe Driscoll at his worst 14 years ago makes him some kind of monster, how do I know I’m not? How do you know you’re not? Or have we not come to grips with how frighteningly ugly our sin really is?

Regardless, since Held Evans and I both posted on the subject, Driscoll issued a more extensive apology for these comments, which Christianity Today reported.

In his Friday apology, Driscoll noted that, in his 2006 book, he used the forum posts as an example of “something I regretted and an example of a wrong I had learned from.”

“The content of my postings to that discussion board does not reflect how I feel, or how I would conduct myself today,” he told his church members Friday. “Over the past 14 years I have changed, and, by God’s grace, hope to continue to change. I also hope people I have offended and disappointed will forgive me.”

Can we Christians please err on the side of grace?

Sympathy for the devil? No, Ms. Held Evans, just for Mark Driscoll

July 31, 2014

I don’t have the book in front of me, and if I did, I probably couldn’t find the quote. But about 25 years ago I read something by St. Francis de Sales in which he warned against judging others. He said something like this: we cannot say for certain that anyone is a thief, liar, or adulterer just because they’ve stolen, lied, or committed adultery in the past. Why? Because we are unable to look into their hearts at this moment and see what’s going on. Only God can. When we judge, however, we presume to have this God-like ability.

We must always, de Sales says, give our fellow sinners the benefit of the doubt that they’ve changed.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily apply this principle to the criminal justice system or our national defense policy, I think it’s a good principle for our personal lives. Indeed, I think it gets to the heart of Jesus’ words against judging.

With this in mind, you can imagine what I think of this week’s popular blog post by Rachel Held Evans entitled “Inside Mark Driscoll’s disturbed mind.”

How does Held Evans know not simply that Driscoll can be a boorish jerk at times, or that he believes things with which she strenuously disagrees—but that he has an “ugly heart,” that he has a “disturbed” and “troubled mind,” and that he “needs counseling”? Because of some recently unearthed comments that he posted pseudonymously to his church website 14 years ago.

Fourteen years ago.

By all means, at 31, he was old enough to know better, to be smarter—heck, to be a better human being! But is it fair to judge the man today based on what he said or did 14 years ago? Suppose that 14 years ago (or five years ago, or last year, or last month) someone secretly filmed or taped you at your worst. How would you look? What conclusions would people reach about you as a person right now? And would those conclusions be fair?

Driscoll has recently apologized for some of the very things that Held Evans doesn’t like about him. Is it impossible to believe that the Holy Spirit can actually change someone’s heart?

It’s hard to miss the irony when this same Rachel Held Evans complained in a post just two days earlier about her own critics, asking, “What do you do when religious people respond to your questions by calling you names? By mocking you? By casting you out?”

Held Evans doesn’t get many dissenters in the comments section of any of her posts, but she got at least one very smart one—a theologian and apologist from New Zealand whom I read named Glenn Peoples. He wrote:

I say this with not the least bit of hope that it will do any good, and I’d like to be wrong.

You say that there’s no excuse to be had because of “youth,” because he wasn’t even a youth. Fair enough. And yet, the very reason this needs to be pointed out is because you are aware that this was some time ago now, and you know that Mark – even though you evidently do not like him or what he says – no longer says things. He has “grown up,” even if you think he should have known better even then.

You say “I’m as sick as everyone else of talking about this guy.” But the truth is that you’ve spent many words criticising him. However, until now you’ve been criticising him for the person he is – or at very least the person you take him to be – now. Why then do you need, now, to give coverage to this gold nugget, this scoop that someone has uncovered, this smoking gun of how much worse Mark was years ago? Is it because you think he has regressed to that old self?

How is this not just a Christianised version of the British tabloid? yes, Mark has been a jerk and confirmed some male stereotypes in the process. There’s a certain stereotype about girls and gossip too.

Ponder the reactions you are now getting. One woman has said, in effect, that she has been concerned about mark for some time, but now she has seen THIS! As though this represents how bad he has gotten. But it doesn’t, does it?

I’ve criticised Mark in the past and have no problem with those who do. But this? This does not help your own reputation any more than it helps Mark’s.

Keep it juicy, RHE. Apparently it’s the thing now.

Why is Mark Driscoll’s voice stuck in our heads?

September 2, 2013

As I try to do in every sermon I preach these days, I brought yesterday’s sermon, which focused on Luke 6:37-42, back home to Jesus’ victory on the cross. I said that one way we can avoid hypocrisy and be transparent to others is by remembering who we are:

Remember that you are a sinner. Saved… redeemed… a child of God… by all means! But still a sinner. We have no reason to hide this fact from one another. Why? Because Jesus himself took that giant wooden beam sticking out of my eye and the giant wooden beam sticking out of your eye and had himself crucified on it. We have nothing to be ashamed of because Christ took our shame away and nailed it to the cross! We have nothing to feel guilty about because God took our guilt and nailed it to the cross.

(Thanks to Tim Keller for the part about Jesus’ being crucified on our wooden beams.)

I concluded the sermon with the following paragraph:

Every sin we’ve ever committed or will ever commit, every shameful thing we’ve done or will ever do, everything we’ve done to hurt ourselves and other people—God took these things away from us and nailed them to the cross of his Son Jesus. So we don’t have to be guilty or ashamed anymore. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Who cares if other people condemn us for our sins and failures and shortcomings? Who cares if we condemn ourselves for our sins and failures and shortcomings? Although we got to stop doing that too! But who cares because the only One whose opinion of us matters tells us, “There is now no condemnation. You are a beloved child of God.”

I left a loose thread in this paragraph: “Who cares if we condemn ourselves…?” Note to self: say more about this in a future sermon.

Judging and condemning others is a huge problem for most of us (and I related yesterday’s sermon to the controversy surrounding Miley Cyrus), but what about our sinful tendency to judge and condemn ourselves? For me, that’s at least as big a problem.

When I preach, I’m always, in part, preaching to myself, but yesterday’s message was one that I especially needed to hear. In Christ, God doesn’t condemn me. Why do I so often condemn myself?

Jason Micheli, a fellow United Methodist pastor and blogger, picks up this same theme today in a sermon posted on Scot McKnight’s blog. He begins:

Who is against us? Who will condemn us?

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

For the Apostle Paul, they’re rhetorical questions.

They’re Paul’s way of implying that if you sense any ambiguity about the answer, if you feel any uncertainty about the conclusion, then you should go back to chapter 1, verse 1 and start over.

In his sermon, Micheli is reacting to a recent sermon by Mark Driscoll called “God Hates You”—which sounds pretty horrifying, although I have no interest in listening to it to find out. I like this part a lot:

Even though you’d never say it in a sermon, you tell yourself that surely God’s fed up with you for the mess you made of your marriage or the mistakes you made with your kids or the ways your life hasn’t measured up.

Even though you’d never dream of saying to someone else ‘there’s no God will forgive that’ that’s exactly what you tell yourself when it comes to the secret that God knows but your spouse doesn’t.

Even though there’s no way you’d ever consider saying it to someone else, you still tell yourself that there’s no way your faith is deep enough, commitment strong enough, beliefs firm enough to ever please God.

Even though it would never cross your mind to say to someone else ‘God must be angry with you for something…God must be punishing you…’ many of you can’t get that out of your mind when you receive a diagnosis or suffer the death of someone close to you.

God hates you. God’s fed up with you. God’s sick and tired of you. God’s suffered long enough with you.

I can’t think of one of you who would let a voice like Mark Driscoll’s into this pulpit on a Sunday morning.

And yet I can think of a whole lot of us who every day let a voice just like his into our heads.

Micheli blogs over at Tamed Cynic.

Sympathy for Mark Driscoll

March 14, 2012

As I’m no admirer of John Piper, I’m even less so inclined to appreciate his louder, more boorish little brother Mark Driscoll. Having said that, I don’t even disagree with what Driscoll said about marriage in a recent appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan show.

I don’t watch any TV news, cable or otherwise, but surely even octogenarian Larry King at his worst wasn’t as deaf to his guests as Morgan appears to be. Get a load of this exchange, in which Morgan tries to get Driscoll to agree with him that lack of “tolerance” is really the biggest problem facing our country. (Morgan has homosexuality in view, naturally. One wonders if Morgan, a Catholic, would be as antagonistic toward Pope Benedict on the issue, were he to appear on his show.)

Driscoll, by contrast, argues passionately that broken marriages and children growing up without fathers is a much larger problem. (Even in my limited exposure to Driscoll, I know that this issue is close to his heart—and more power to him, I say.)

MORGAN: I don’t hear many pastors, at least Catholic ones or Christian ones, ranting about those guys. All they want to rant about are gay marriage in loving, monogamous relationships with a — with one other person who just want to have the same right to get married as I do as a straight guy.

DRISCOLL: Yes, for me, I hammer those guys like a pinata on Cinco de Mayo. That’s really –

MORGAN: Oh, come on.

DRISCOLL: — like a pinata on Cinco de Mayo. That’s my sweet spot, young guys who don’t get married, they take advantage of women, they sexually assault, they’re addicted to porn, they’re irresponsible. I mean, for the first time in the nation’s history, a woman is more likely to be in church, college and the workforce than a young single man.

And there’s sexual assault, sexual abuse, abortion, children born out of wedlock. Forty percent of kids go to bed without a father. I mean to me, if we’re going to talk about, you know, what’s really harming the country –

MORGAN: You see –

DRISCOLL: — that’s a big issue.

MORGAN: Well, I agree with all that. But I also think what is harming America right now, like many countries around the world, is just a fundamental lack of tolerance and respect for people who may not share your personal values. You know, I just think that pastors like you, funny enough, are in a great position to trail blaze a bit, you know, to take this great book and bring it slightly kicking and screaming into the modern era a bit.

Ask me what I think of Morgan’s assertion that the Bible ought to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era…

A few “tough texts” sermons starting this Sunday

August 18, 2011

Don't forget Vinebranch is at two times now: 8:30 and 11:00. Come early, come often.

After agonizing over how to finish off our 12-week sermon series on Romans (understanding, of course, that we could take a year and not finish Paul’s letter), I’m relieved to have a new plan. My original plan—to cover a little of chapter 9, chapter 10, and chapter 12 (using the suggested Revised Common Lectionary readings)—doesn’t work for me anymore. By which I mean it wouldn’t work for the congregation.

Romans 9-11, which is virtually ignored in mainline Protestant churches, raises too many challenging questions to breeze by it. So, this Sunday, I’m covering Romans 9:1-5, and talking about the difficult question that Paul raises: What about ethnic Jews who aren’t Christians? I know what we all want to say about our Jewish friends: Our differences don’t really matter. The Jews have one perfectly good covenant with God, and we Christians have another.

And I would want to say that, too, if I believed it were in the vicinity of what Paul has been arguing for eight chapters of Romans, or what he focuses on in particular in chapters 9-11. But it’s not. And since, as a good Methodist, I am prima scriptura, I want to be faithful to the Bible more than anything.

So this Sunday, I’m talking about the problem of unbelieving Israel in the context of Romans 9, but I’m going to challenge the congregation to think more broadly about the problem: Do we really believe that what God accomplished in Jesus Christ through his life, death, and resurrection is for the whole world—indeed, for all creation—or is it only for the billion or so people in the world who call themselves Christians?

In Romans 9:1-5, Paul expresses great anguish for “his people,” ethnic Jews who don’t know the saving love of God in Christ. Do we, among our circle of friends and family, have that same passionate concern for our people, whoever they may be? If so, how is it reflected in our actions?

So that’s “Tough Text #1,” and it’s this Sunday.

Next Sunday, August 28, I’ll be dealing with another troublesome question raised by Paul in both Romans 8 and 9, that prickly word (and concept of) “predestination.” This sermon will be more topical, but I will focus on those passages from Romans that are used as proof-texts for important tenants of Calvinism.

The strongest, most conservative version of Calvinism, sometimes called the “neo-reformed” movement, which is enjoying a surge in popularity among followers of John Piper and Mark Driscoll, elevates God’s sovereignty so high that human free will—not to mention, in my opinion, love alongside it—becomes meaningless. Calvinism also emphasizes double-predestination, which means that God chooses who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. If this sounds harsh to us non-Calvinists, it’s only because we fail to grasp that since everyone deserves hell, the fact that God spares some from it is to his glory. (Such is my revulsion that I struggle to even type those words!)

Don’t worry. I’m not going to get in the nitpicky details of Calvinism, but I do want to rescue these Romans passages from the hyper-Calvinists. What is Paul really saying in context and what does it mean for us today? Avoiding the issue seems irresponsible. If we Methodists—whose founder, after all, was an outspoken opponent of Calvinism—fail to talk about it, our people will only hear popular preachers and teachers in the media talk about it, and what they say often contradicts what we believe.

Finally, on September 4 and 11, I’m going to preach about a religious issue that’s been in the news recently: heaven, hell, who goes there, and why. I’ve read Rob Bell’s controversial new book, Love Wins, and some of the book’s critics. I’ll bring that into the discussion.

But do I also have to read that best-seller about the little boy who goes to heaven and comes back to talk about it? Maybe… Ugh!