All posts by Uri Brito

About Celebrities Leaving the Faith

Dear friend,

I am sure you are hearing about all these celebrities abandoning the faith. Some say it’s the contradictions in the Bible. Well, rest assured that supposed contradictions in the Bible have been addressed ad infinitum in the last 2,000 years of Church History. Contradictions only exist if someone denies that God is all-powerful and if they deny that the Spirit inspired men to write accounts that preserve the integrity of their humanity and their perspectives on events. Assume someone says, “Hey, I can’t believe a man would live in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights. That’s just impossible.” In this case, he is denying that God is all-powerful. After all, if God created the world out of nothing, then for a sea creature to swallow a Hebrew prophet is actually a playground miracle in God’s repertoire.

If someone says, “But the Gospel accounts are different from each other.” In this case, they are denying the humanity of the authors. If these authors wrote identical accounts, then we should be skeptical. But they added their individual nuances to the narratives which prove indisputably that we are dealing with a reliable source.

I say all these things because when someone leaves the faith because they cannot “reconcile,” for example, Judas’ death in Matthew and Luke, they are actually using such silliness to justify some kind of moral and ethical decision they have made and the Bible is used as a scapegoat for their validation. Ultimately, what they really want is a way out of obeying God and following Jesus. The road to the cross can be difficult; self-control is hard; repentance is not for the weak. So, why not use the fallibility of God’s word to make a case for your fallible actions, they think.

Don’t be sucked into this chaos! Those who leave Jesus are leaving true life. You keep pressing on! The cross leads to an open tomb!

Sincerely,
Pastor Brito

A LayMan’s Introduction to Theology

Bad Theology

Bad theology has severe consequences in our culture. The statistics tell the truth: young men and women are leaving the Church after they leave home. They have been fed a steady diet of pizza and party theology. In his 2005 book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Christian Smith writes:

The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, religious beliefs and practices, and its place in their lives. The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what they call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.

This description doesn’t simply lead to bad theology, but to disastrous personal and corporate consequences. The worldview described is informed by the latest trends, and not by the text. Their authority is not the voice of Yahweh (Psalm 29), but the voice of man-made reason.

In order to avoid this, parents and parishioners need not think of theology as a scary word, rather we need to embrace our role as theologians and seek to think more deeply and consistently about the world God made and our responsibilities in it.

One Agenda of Theology

Where do we begin to do the important task of theology? If you pursue a seminary education, you may be overwhelmed by the many types of theologies available to study. There are departments of Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Pastoral Theology, Liturgical Theology, Sacramental Theology, and so on. The list continues to increase because the Bible is so vast and God’s revelation is so glorious that there will be always new areas to pursue as an academic.

But for our purposes, since most of you will not pursue the pastorate or the goal of being a seminary professor, we want to consider theology at its most basic level. And I say basic not because it is easy, but because we are dealing with the fundamentals of our faith.

There are levels of importance when it comes to discussing theology. One writer summarized it best:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.

In other words, there are things that are of primary importance. These are issues worth fighting and even dying for in our day. They are essentials: The Trinity, the death, burial, and physical resurrection of Jesus, and other matters contained in our great creeds are essential issues. But there are also issues of secondary importance. And because they are secondary does not mean we should not discuss them and have vigorous debates over them, but it does mean that we should allow a certain amount of liberty on these topics. A classic example of this is the debated topic of eschatology. Do you subscribe to a dispensational view of the end of the world or a covenantal view? There is no doubt that these issues will have an effect on how you think about the world and the future, but these are not salvific issues. No one will be saved because of his belief in postmillennialism unless he is also trusting in Christ alone for his salvation.

When you no longer think you can be pure

Dear friend,

I have been fairly open about my concerns for the sexual problems in our culture, especially in the evangelical church. After all, judgment begins in the house of God. I spoke recently about the pressures young Christian ladies face (and let us not forget the godly men) to view sex as just an ordinary act in any relationship. “Purity before marriage is a Puritan thing, antiquated, fit for a legalistic society,” they say.

I want you to oppose that mindset at all costs, but I also want you to know that purity is not defined by one consequential sin. In other words, if you have lost you virginity due to naivete or deceit or for any other reason, you are not therefore branded with an impurity mark forever. This would be the most anti-Gospel message one could ever hear. Your purity is given by Jesus who is altogether pure. He died for all your impurities. So, acknowledge your sin to God. Seek wisdom from those who most care for you. Seek counseling and accountability as a young couple, or perhaps move to better relationships or remain single for as long as it takes. But don’t allow those mistakes to take you to dark places. Yes, there may be consequences. And why wouldn’t there be? Your body is the temple of the Third Person of the Godhead! However, it’s not what you did that will define you, but how you choose to deal with that decision that purifies you or leads you to more impure acts.

I know adults who had terribly impious and immoral college years, but they have learned from those mistakes and now live fruitful lives filled with joy. So, I want you to be aware of how both of these ideas function. The value and goal of sexual purity are good and beautiful, but to idolize such things and to treat those who have failed to maintain those goals as secondary citizens is…let’s say, impure.

So, treasure purity. But purity is not a once-for-all thing, it’s more like sanctification. Impurity should propel us to repentance which should propel us to purity in life and with one another.

I hope this helps balance the conversation in a positive way.

Yours truly,
Pastor Uri Brito

When Tempted to Approve of Homosexual Relationships

Dear friend,

It is a hard saying in our culture, but homosexuality is a sin. It is so clear that the entirety of biblical revelation negates the very possibility of a man and a man or a woman and a woman being together sexually or for any romantic purposes. In the culmination of history, Christ marries the Church. That fact is sufficient biblical theology to make the case since that relationship is the primary pattern of human history from the Garden to the Resurrection of the Dead.

But you are tempted to endorse such relationships because they are close friends. They are kind and gracious; they even are careful to respect your Christian beliefs. You feel yourself when you are with them and their sweetness has taken you to a completely emotional place where you can’t stand with the historic church but must support their decision to love one another. After all, what kind of human being would you be if you didn’t support this cause?

I don’t wish to impugn the character of these friends. I am certain they are kind to their neighbor and even serve the poor with greater fervency than many Christians. But I urge you to think as God would have you. Any virtues you may see in these people that compels you to support their lifestyle–which is incompatible with the Christian view–is a form of deceit. Don’t allow “niceness” to inform your view of the world. It may appear nice and innocent to like an Instagram photo of a sweet homosexual couple, but remember in doing so you are making it harder for them to know and face the truth. C.S. Lewis opined about niceness once. He said:

“A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world — and might even be more difficult to save.”

When you endorse their way of life you are endorsing the theology of niceness. Jesus did not die for the sake of niceness. He died to change our niceness to God-honoring men and women who give our wants and desires over to Jesus’ flesh, not our flesh. After all, if we did whatever our hearts and flesh desired, then Jesus’ blood and righteousness were in vain. Think about these things carefully.

Sincerely,
Pastor Uri Brito

When your boyfriend is pressuring you to have sex

Dear friend,

You shared with me that your college boyfriend is pressuring you to have sex. He doesn’t do so explicitly, but his questions and tone leave no doubt in your mind. He is constantly looking for opportunities to be alone with you in his dorm room. You know this is wrong, but you “like him too much to end your relationship with him.” It’s likely you will not be persuaded by me or anyone else at this point that you ought to leave him for someone who actually wants your well-being. But you know what is true. Sex is good and right, but when you remove it from the marital bed it’s deceiving and fleeting.

Let’s assume for a moment that you love Jesus, but at the same time, a multitude of counselors are saying “Stay away! Stay away!” But you succumb to the temptation and have sex with him. As a Spirit-indwelt person, you will wake up the next morning with something called shame or guilt. It’s the way redeemed humanity function when they act against their Lord, and even more so when it comes to the sin of giving your body to someone who is not your spouse. At that point, you have two options: either to wake up from your slumber and come back home to the affection of your parents and friends (there is still redemption; in fact, lots of people have come back home when things seemed impossible. Prodigals still come back home, but not all prodigals do) or you dig deeper into your sin and one night of sex becomes lots of nights. If you choose the latter, the more you give yourself away the less likely you are to find refuge in Jesus; the more you will look for refuge look-alikes.

And there is more: if you don’t listen to the wise voices around you, you will be imprisoned to the only voice who tells you what you want to hear and that voice is from the man who has already used you, which means he will not speak truth into your life. Furthermore, if he was able to persuade you to violate the sacredness of your body, then he will persuade you to forsake what you know to be true, good, and beautiful.

In sum, if he wants your body now, he will want your soul and your feelings and your desires and everything else.

I beg you: Come home! Let’s talk and meet and think through a better way. Jesus is greater than your fears and more lovely than the man you think loves you.

Sincerely,
Pastor Uriesou Brito

A Primer on the Gospel

We cannot exhaust the beauties of the Gospel, but we can provide a bigger picture of the Gospel than what is typically presented in the Church today. The hope is that we would grow ever more grateful for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the Gospel?

First, the Gospel is about Christ. The clearest Bible passage is found in I Corinthians 15 where the Apostle Paul says, “The Gospel, which he preached, is about Christ and his death and resurrection.” In Romans 1, Paul says he declares a Gospel about the Son, who was descended from David. Later in Romans, Paul makes a powerful connection between the Gospel and Christ’s incarnation. The Gospel must be about Christ. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Christ embodies the Gospel in his life, death, and resurrection. Everything that makes the Gospel beautiful is beautiful because of Christ. So when we think about the Gospel, one fundamental facet of it, perhaps the most central of them all, is that the Gospel is about Christ.

Let’s unpack that a bit more.

The word “Gospel” is not just a word we use in the Christian world. In fact, the word was used in the ancient world for various reasons. For example, the word Gospel was used when Caesar would have a Son, or if he won a great military victory, or a new Caesar ascended the throne – the proclamation of that news was called gospel, and his heralds would announce the gospel in all the empire.

The Christian community adopted this language to proclaim a different message; not a message about Caesar, but a message about Christ. The Gospel is about Christ because Jesus Christ is King. The most basic confession of faith is Jesus is Lord. The Gospel is good news because it announces what God has done in Christ.

Secondly, the Gospel is about History. One pastor put it this way: “The Gospel was planned in eternity, and executed in history.”[1] The passage we read today from I Corinthians 15 says that the Gospel is a historical event. The late Christopher Hitchens was once interviewed by a liberal pastor. The pastor asked him, “Christopher, why do you keep debating these radical Christians? “What do you mean by radical?” the famed atheist inquired. The liberal pastor said, “Well, I mean those Christians who believe the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event. I am a mainline pastor. I don’t believe that Jesus rose literally as the Bible says.” This is where I think Hitchens shined. He told this liberal pastor: “The reason I debate these so-called radicals is because they actually believe in the historical claims of Christianity unlike you.”

If you do not accept that the Gospel is what God has done in history, then you might as well pack your liberal suitcase, close the church doors, and never again refer to yourself as a Gospel minister. Every time you come to Church on Sundays and confess the Nicene Creed you are making historical claims. What does the Creed say? “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate.” Now, Pilate was not a high-ranking political figure. He was a mid-level bureaucrat. The Creed and the Bible mention him because it’s a way of anchoring the Christian Gospel in history.

Thirdly, the Gospel is about the Church. In our definitions of the Gospel, this is one area where I am convinced many simply overlook or miss altogether, which means they are proclaiming an incomplete Gospel.

You see, the Gospel is never just Jesus and “me,” it’s Jesus and “we.” The Gospel creates a new community.[2] The Gospel gives us a new way of being human. And the way we can be most human is by proclaiming the institutional Church as integral to the Gospel from beginning to end.

Far too many Gospel presentations leave the church out altogether. The Gospel becomes only about “How do I get saved’” So let me phrase this provocatively to make my point. It’s not, “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” but “God has a wonderful plan for his Church.” If you want to be a part of that wonderful plan, then be a part of the Church. The Gospel is most clearly seen within the gates of Zion where we meet together as a people. It is in her that we hear the word and taste of the Gospel in bread and wine.

Therefore, when we talk about the Gospel, we are talking about a lot more than simply how I was saved or where I am going to go when I die, but we are talking about the Person and Work of Christ; we are talking about the historical realities of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and we are talking about the Church.

What we are trying to communicate as a Church is a powerful Gospel that encompasses so much more. We are teaching a Gospel that transcends the claims of Nero or Pilate. We are proclaiming a Gospel from another world; a Gospel that came down in human flesh, suffered under Pontius Pilate and gave himself for the Church. A Gospel that says less than these things is still the Gospel, but it is a weak Gospel. Most of the problems we have with the Gospel today is that we have found our pet doctrine, and we tell the world, “Unless you believe that the Gospel is only about this, then you are forsaking the Gospel.” But the breadth and depth of the Bible teach us that the Gospel is more than one mere idea. The Gospel is the promise that our Lord and King, Jesus, is calling us to participate in something greater than ourselves. And this is good news! Believe this and rejoice!


[1] Rich Lusk. Sermons at Trinity Presbyterian. I generously took from Rich’s brilliant sermon. You can find his sermons here:
http://trinity-pres.net/

[2] Lusk.



Genesis 3 Parenting

Dear friend,

I have so enjoyed our conversations on parenting. I do think parenting is always more profitable done together. I am sharpened by your comments and I hope you find benefit in what I say. I do, however, want to follow up on a few thoughts, if I may.

The entire premise of parenting is based on a theological truth: we are all fallen. However you parse it out, we are fallen from feet to forebrain; belly-button to bones. Since this is the truth, we have a whole lot of work to do; not the kind of meritorious work, but the kind of work with grace-saturated breathing. What this theological reality means is that the way to raise healthy children is by having a clear picture of their unhealthy natures as sons and daughters of Adam. While we should have a robust picture of Psalm 127-128 and the role of positive redemptive parenting (more on this in another letter) we also need to have a robust picture of Genesis 3. The parental picture is incomplete without considering the effects of our first parent’s failures.

If our parenting forgets Genesis 3 due to a faulty starting point or naive optimism, we will certainly idolize our children overlooking their little deceits as acts of cuteness, treating their good grades as acts of godliness, and their disrespect as acts of self-confidence. Therefore, we need to be ever aware that their endeavors are filled with glimpses of the fall. They too will find alternative voices more appealing than Yahweh’s.

For this reason, we need to be in a constant exercise of remembrance with them: remember you are dust and to dust you shall return; remember you are sinful and you need a Savior; remember you are prone to wander and you need to be found in Christ.

I will have more to say on this later.

Yours truly,
Pastor Brito

INdwelt by the Psalms

Dear friend,

You should read the Psalms like a balm for your soul. I don’t mean work your way through it like a textbook, I mean to dwell in it like a home. Athanasius spoke of the psalms in such poetic terms that he seemed almost hypnotized by its marvel. For him, it “yielded special treasure” again and again. It was like a “garden that grew every kind of fruit.” Further, the Psalm writers were so indwelt (there is that word again) by the Spirit that they couldn’t help but to speak and sing of the harmonious message of all the Bible that Israel’s God reigns forever and ever.

You have probably heard me talking about singing the Psalms and at this point, if I make another reference to singing the psalms I am afraid you will unfriend me or curse me with imprecations. So, I will spare talking about how psalm-singing changes and forms us into better human beings, flourishing in the poetic garden of Yahweh; I will spare you the talk about how singing the Psalms heal our souls in times of grief, and I will spare you the conversation about how singing the psalms with friends bind us together in a more profound way than anything I’ve ever seen. Again, I don’t want to bother you with my fascination for the Genevan Psalms. I simply don’t want you to think about how the psalms frighten demons in the Bible. That would be too much to talk about and as I said, I don’t want to be that guy that annoys people with all this psalmic talk. It would be too much for you to bear such a friend. So, I won’t say any of those things.

Your friend,
Uri

Cage Stage Calvinism

Dear friend,

You may remember there was a term they used for folks like us in our college days: cage-stage. I still recall the enthusiasm that ran through my veins when I first came to the doctrines of grace. I had so much faith in my own abilities and arguments, but the Calvinism business crushed the quick Sunday School answers I always had ready. But then you would think that it would humble me deeply. But it actually had the opposite effect. I was just telling you that story recently because it reminded me of how quickly a theological truth can turn on its head. Think about it: we affirmed as kids (I mean we were only 19) that God was absolutely sovereign over all things, even our wills, and furthermore, that his power to save is incontestable and irresistible. And then once we came to that remarkable biblical truth we wanted the whole world to come to the same conclusion overnight. They called it “cage-stage” because our zeal was too great, even arrogant at times.

But thankfully, we had enough sense to come to our senses. Even better, I had the opportunity to tell all my friends how idiotic I was and how deeply sorry I was for offending them. So, you see how I feel when I see these folks on Facebook alerting the world that they either accept their interpretation of Romans 9 or face mortality in ignorance all their days. I know they don’t put it that starkly, but that’s how I read it, and I already drank the kool-aid 20 years ago.

So, here is the statement I propose to those who have just read their first R.C. Sproul, John McArthur, or Michael Horton book and are persuaded beyond a shadow of a doubt of those interpretations of the Bible:

By the grace of God, I intend to live as if the doctrines of grace are true in my life, and not just in theology books.

I will to the best of my ability to contend for these truths with gentleness and humility.

I will use my social media platform to invite fruitful conversations and to not humiliate or score cheap points against those who hold to other positions.

I will affirm that those who hold to alternative viewpoints love the Bible as much as I do and may often see truths that I overlook.

I will affirm that respect in Christian dialogue is often more important than shouting truth or losing friendships.

I will remember that harshness repels and the Gospel draws us near to one another.

Brother, feel free to pass this on to that young friend if you see any value in this.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Brito