Graduation

The Evangelical, the Damning Statistics, and What To Do About It, Part I

The results are in and they don’t look good. Christianity Today reports on the Sex Lives of Unmarried Evangelicals. The two surveys offer differing numbers, but the conclusion is summarized in this manner:

Bible Reading? Evangelicals who infrequently read the Bible were 70 percent more likely to have been recently sexually active than frequent Bible readers.

Church Attendance? Evangelicals who attend church less than weekly were more than twice as likely to have been recently sexually active than weekly attenders.

Conversion? Of the sexually active singles, 92 percent had sex after becoming“born again.” That’s largely because the average age when evangelicals under 40 became “born again” was 8.

Evangelical statistics have a way of increasing our national Christian guilt, which is something that usually is already mighty high. Furthermore, the numbers usually paint a more pessimistic picture than what is actually taking place. My general principle when dealing with these statistics is to cut the percentage by a third. When the oft-cited “50% of Christian married couples end in divorce” statistic is referenced, this usually means about 35% of Christian married couples divorce. Those original statistics also included Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. A Non-Trinitarian marriage is anything but a Christian marriage.

But however you do the math, the numbers are still frightening. No one can deny that they reflect a weak evangelicalism. It is not that evangelical churches are fully entertainment driven without any substance, but that the substance they offer is not sustaining, and therefore leading our young generations to find pleasure is worldly entertainment. Part of this worldly entertainment is the casualness of the sex culture.

Since this is the case we have responded in the way we evangelical do best: we have over-reacted. We have bought into the “world is against us” slogan and we have acted upon it with zealous fury. We have sheltered our children to the point of stifling their rhetoric and making them miserable spokesmen for the Lordship of King Jesus. On the other hand, we have overly exposed them to the vastness of sexualized culture. By the age of ten they all have their Lady Gaga lyrics as accurately as a Puritan boy his catechism memorized.

What can evangelical churches do to provide a culture that despises impurity and treasures purity?

The remarkable response–according to the statistics– is by focusing on the simple means of grace of Church attendance, Prayer, and Bible reading one reduces dramatically the chances of engaging in fornication. I have stated many times that the evangelical problem is one of prioritization. And what does priority look like in the church? The damning news is that conversion is not enough. For many parents conversion serves as a perpetual moral babysitter. As long as words are spoken affirming the X,Y, and Z of Christian conversion then we are on our way to bringing up pure children. But conversion or its vocabulary are not enough! The evangelical culture has evangelized their children to death, and then they are left wondering where did we go wrong.

Here is a sample quoted above:

Evangelicals who infrequently read the Bible were 70 percent more likely to have been recently sexually active than frequent Bible readers.

Let’s say 50% of this is true. Without going into detail of what this “Bible-Reading” should look like–a worthy discussion to be had–in what ways are churches inculcating their children with the Sacred Scriptures? In other words, what are they doing to instill a desire in our children to drink deeply of the Biblical narrative? Have churches made the Bible so one-sided and narrowly explicated that our children long to escape to a different narrative of the world?

As we affirm Sola-Scriptura, let us also delve into the Scriptures in a transformative way. “Your word is life,” says Yahweh. And this alone is enough to make the point of the study. When one saturates himself in life, then he will find death-like practices abominable.

To echo N.T. Wright, let’s return to a simply Christian view of life. Our understanding of sexuality needs to be transformed by a new understanding of who we are in Christ. Our new creation life is a life that treasures sex in its right context. Further, it sees the life of another human being as sacred, and therefore violating that sacredness–which is what pre-marital sex is–is a violation of life; a profound misunderstanding of the Imago Dei.

The Scriptures and its reading will help us re-shape our view of ourselves and others, but it must be done in a context that perpetuates the reality that the new world brings a new light and this light is filled with redemptive and ethical consequences. Therefore, forsake the works of darkness and drink deeply of the words of life.

*An additional post on “How to read Bible” will soon follow.

Graduation Homily to the Trinitas Class of 2012

The Lord be with you.

For those of us who follow the Church Calendar, we are approaching Pentecost Sunday. How appropriate to exhort you in a time when much of the ecclesiastical world is preparing to celebrate the divine fire poured out by God upon his Church. Pentecost is God empowering an infant Church to grow up in wisdom and maturity. Pentecost is the magnum opus of divine assistance. And you—especially at this crucial stage in your life—are embarking on a similar journey. You are to pursue maturity and wisdom. In many ways, you are infants in your life experience. Yet, you have been given a titanic head-start in your preparation. You have been equipped to see the world through new eyes, to consider ideas and to weigh them by the Word of the Lord, to analyze books, to place truth far above all things, and to consider your Creator in the days of your youth.

You have been protected by fathers and mothers who have given a great deal of time to ensure that you succeed in this endeavor. By God’s grace, you have learned the virtue of gratitude; you have learned that isolationism is the virtue of the devil, and that only a healthy community can provide the type of environment to carry you through life faithfully.

Again, by God’s grace, you have realized what C.S. Lewis so simply observed:

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

So you have come this far by the grace of God; but now what? What can you expect? How are you going to be defined now that you are no longer a student at Trinitas? What kind of people will you be?

Hebrews 12 gives us a simple outline of what you are to embody as you leave this great school.

First, you are called to be fearless. You are not a part of a creation that thrives on fear. Hebrews says that the Old Creation was so filled with fear that even Moses trembled. [At Sinai, there were] the sounds of musical instruments, darkness, a tempest, and the voice of God himself, terrifying to the listeners. But you have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of self-control. So, graduates: be fearless. Be fearless of narratives that hate God. Be fearless of them because the framers of these narratives had to sit on God’s lap before they could argue against His existence.

Be fearless of this world. This world is God’s, and it is filled with his glory. Be fearless of the world by avoiding worldliness, youthful lusts, and ungodliness. Be fearless, and do not tremble at the latest philosophies –for  they will all pass away– and you will be left standing at the end of the day. Though you may be physically and emotionally scarred by the assaults of the ungodly, your name will be added to those who have quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight. Be fearless of all things, but fear God –fear him with a holy passion, because in the fear of Him is the wisdom to be fearless in this world.

Secondly, you are called to holy submission. Hebrews says that you are not to refuse him who is speaking. Jesus is the architect of your faith. He is the one who speaks your orders. He is the captain of  the Christian army, the host of this grandiose gathering, which includes innumerable angels, the elect in heaven, and even God himself.

From the fearful nature of the Old Creation where darkness reigned, you are now members of a New Creation where the brightness of Jesus permeates everything. The First Creation was shaken and it crumbled. The New Creation, under Jesus Christ, cannot be shaken. She has been ordered to act in utter submission to Her Lord.

So, too, you must always submit. And in this submission you are called to die. The more you submit, the more you die that death. The less you submit, the greater the misery of life. Submission to your calling as a Christ-follower is the antithesis of worldly education. True education, godly education—which you have received here at Trinitas—and which you will continue to follow from now on, is training for death. Bonhoeffer said that “Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life.” Your calling is to be a part of this innumerable mass of martyrs, angels, forefathers, and all those who have gone before us, to enter in and to accept with honor the call to die to your longings and passions, and to submit to the One who makes all our longings and passions worthwhile. Rosenstock-Huessy once said: “The martyr does not obtain the victory personally, but his group, his successors, win in the long run.” So, live for future victory.

Finally, Hebrews tells us to live in perpetual worship. And this is crucial. Even if you do not get the first two points, do not forget this last exhortation. Hebrews 12 concludes with these words:

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

What kind of legacy will you leave this world when you are long gone? What kind of legacy will you leave your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, your wife, your husband, your friends, your neighbors? Your intellectual genius will long be forgotten. Your rhetorical abilities to prove X over Y will be forgotten. If you are united to Christ, then at the end of your life, only one question will truly matter: “Have I lived each part of my life in perpetual worship?”  How will you answer this question?  How will you leave a legacy that is substantive, meaningful, tangible, and spiritual for your offspring? You can carry your intellect with you until death. You can carry your wealth with you until death. But if these things are divorced from a life of perpetual worship at work, at home, in playing, in reading, in intellectualizing, in philosophizing, and most importantly, in the context of the Church, I say this with all seriousness: “Your life will be a waste.” But as Paul says,  “I expect greater things from you.”

Let us offer to God acceptable worship, because He is the consuming fire, the consuming Pentecost. And only in Him do we move, and breathe, and have our being. Graduates: Be fearless of what may come. Engage it using all the ammunition you have received. Be submissive to Jesus Christ. Honor him with your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And finally, worship well, so that the One who is a consuming fire may grant you the status of “Good and Faithful Servant.” Congratulations on your accomplishment. Live well to the glory of God.

In The Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Doxology in Redemption: A Homily for the Graduating Class of Trinitas, 2011 by Rev. Robert Looper

Rev. Looper is the senior pastor of the historic McIlwain Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Fl.

Graduation Homily

2011 Commencement Trinitas Christian School

May 26, 2011

            Graduates, this is a service of commencement.  What that means is that, though we are accustomed to viewing graduations as an end, what really is in view is a beginning—the commencement of what God’s inscrutable Providence has ordained for you from before the foundation of the world.

You, your parents—all of us—would like to know what that future is going to be.  We cannot.  But, by God’s grace, we do indeed know precisely what God has willed for you as you “work out” that Providence.  In other words, though we do not know God’s decreed will for your entire future, we do know his revealed will for how you are to live in that future.  This is beautifully stated for us in Romans 12:1 and 2:

 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

The strength of Paul’s plea deserves attention: Παρακαλῶ…ὑμᾶς he pleads.  Most modern translations render this “I urge…you” and for good reason:  Paul is overcome with urgency and passion.  It is often said that Romans 8 is the pinnacle of this letter because of Paul’s soaring declaration of God’s love through Jesus Christ for his people—and it is indeed a breathtaking truth:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39; KJV)

I believe, however, that the pivotal point in Romans is this passage that Pastor Brito and I are tonight commending to you, chapter 12.  This is the “so what” of everything the apostle said up to this point.  These verses and those that follow are what show us that the weighty things he has presented are neither merely academic nor polemic but are vantage point from which you and I as Christians must see what is in reality the only appropriate response to God that we may rightfully consider pursuing.  It is here that the apostle stands in reflection—and then falls into worship:  “I urge you, therefore, brothers…to present your bodies as…a sacrifice.”

This sacrifice is, he says, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν.  You Greek students hear the word λογικὴν and rightly think of our English words, logic or logical.  The New King James renders it well, “your reasonable service.”  The only reasonable, the only logical thing that can be done, Paul says, is sacrificially to present your bodies—and your minds, as Paul says in verse 2—to the living, holy and pleasing service of our God.

But why a sacrifice?  Upon what basis?  For Paul, as indeed in the whole of the Scriptures, there is one point of reference from which this reasonable service draws both its meaning and power:

I urge you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice…

If you miss this reference point as to why offering yourself as a sacrifice is the only reasonable thing for you as graduates, commencing this next phase of your lives, to do—then what you offer will be at risk of blasphemy and idolatry, because it will ultimately be the work of your own hands, that is, the produce of attempted self-righteousness and not a resting in the finished work of Christ, that is, the fruit that that flows from his righteousness given to you.

It is διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ –through, or according to the mercies of God that we are living, holy and acceptable sacrifices.  How fitting that he uses the plural (οἰκτιρμῶν); it is the mercies of God, which are an overflowing fountain flooding the previous 11 chapters of Romans and distilling into in these three words in Romans 12:1:  “living, holy, acceptable.”

It is the mercies of God, accomplished by God’s grace in Jesus Christ that have made you—and all who are united to Christ—living, holy and acceptable to God.  These three are realities because of Christ’s death and resurrection—so that you may in reality pursue what, as Pastor Brito said, you were created to do:  worship God with all your being.  You are indeed his creational joy—and by the mercies of God in Christ you are also his redemptive triumph.

By the mercy of God you are living, dead to sin and alive to God because you have been united to Christ in his death, your sin forgiven; and united to Christ in his resurrection, and sin no longer can claim mastery over you.  Live, then, as a sacrifice, pouring yourself out with all of your heart, soul mind and strength in praise, service and battle—in all that you do—as those back from the dead in the resurrection power of Christ.

By the mercy of God you are holy, set apart by God creationally, as Pastor Brito has mentioned, and set apart redemptively, because of God’s Spirit who has quickened you, fills you, adopts you as God’s child and propels you.  It is by God’s Spirit that you are being transformed by the renewal of your mind, thinking no longer as the living dead in the world think, but with the mind of Christ, as his agents of redemption as a part of the covenant people he has set apart from the world for the world.

By the mercy of God you are acceptable to God—and this, in my mind, is the most amazing reality.  As Paul says in Romans 5:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we havepeace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1, 2; ESV)

This, perhaps even above the others, you must believe:  Christ has made you an acceptable sacrifice; in him God’s wrath against your sin is satisfied and you stand in grace before him as the object of his full delight and joy!  Renew your mind again and again in this truth—he cannot be any more convinced that you rightfully stand before him, because he is the one who has stood you before him—he made you and he redeemed you.

So now, brethren, Trinitas graduates of 2011—I urge you by the mercies of God to pour yourselves out as living, holy, acceptable to God sacrifices into the world he made as the theater of his glory; spend yourself for his glory in your mind, testing all things that you will continue to encounter and that confront you by the Word he has given you.

Revel in the truth that the Spirit of God has promised to renew you by the means of grace that Pastor Brito has mentioned, drinking deeply in worship and communion with him and his people.

And out of this continual renewal give yourself to his praise in your whole body—hands, heart, feet and feelings—so that you declare in the excellence of all that you do that you are both servants of and sacrifices for the One

who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has or ever can see.  To him be honor and eternal dominion.  Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15, 16; ESV).

Doxology in Creation: A Homily for the Graduating Class of Trinitas, 2011 by Rev. Uri Brito

Graduation Homily at Trinitas Christian School

May, 26th, 2011; Reverend Uriesou T. Brito

Students of the Trinitas graduating class of 2011, board of trustees, faculty, parents, grandparents, ladies and gentlemen, the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Graduates, I want to address briefly the kind of life that you are expected to live as you leave this great institution. You have been equipped here to defend the Christian gospel in a way that very few have. Therefore, your responsibility is greater because you have been given much.

As you enter into this new phase of your lives, your duty to become apologists for the faith once delivered (Jude 3) is a duty that befits kings and queens of the kingdom. And this royal duty is most clearly manifested through the praise and adoration of the Triune God. The first mission you have as those sent out into the world is to reveal how highly exalted is the God you serve. Your duty is to ensure that your song of praise is a song that is heard with every word you speak and with every action you take. Your lives must continue to be testimonies that the angelic worship that occurs day and night in heaven will continue on earth. “The songs coming down from heaven are to blend with your song going up from earth.”[1] You are this living sacrifice; this sweet and pleasing aroma of grace in the world.  Your royal song of praise must go on.

And though all celestial bodies, all earthly creatures bow in reverence and wonder at their Creator, as the Psalmist declares, you are the culmination of God’s creational orchestra. You are His greatest creational joy. You were created to be not only human beings, but also doxological beings whose chief end is to glorify God. He is your everlasting telos.  There is no greater joy than exalting the Father, Son, and Spirit in this life. You are the crowning piece to this great Trinitarian masterpiece. God created you so that your lives would become reflections of the life He has shared in all eternity. God created you so that through your eating, drinking, singing, rejoicing, weeping, and loving you will join the unending doxology of creation.

But though the God you serve is exalted above all, transcending all things, He is also near.  He comes to you daily; to Help and Guide through your weekly duties, but He comes to you most gloriously in the gathering of worship on each Lord’s Day.

My exhortation to you as you begin a new part of your journey is to increase your love for Christ’s Bride. St. Paul says that the foundation of this love is in the assembly of the saints in worship. Do not forsake the sacred assembly! Though all of life is sacred, God places a fundamental centrality in your participation, in your communion with brothers and sisters in the faith on the Lord’s Day.

Theology must not be an abstraction. It must be absorbed into your bodies and lived out in the Church and the world.  In the words of Professor John Frame: “Theology is the application of the Word by persons to the world and to all areas of human life.” (p. 79.) You will begin to apply your theology most fully when you see the riches and mysteries of Jesus Christ present in His Bride, the Church.

So, begin this new journey by living your theology in the midst of your assembly in love and honor; by gathering each Lord’s Day with an intense fervor to see the Triune God exalted: to worship the Father as the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth; the Son as Light from Light and True God of True God, and the Spirit, as Comforter and Giver of Life.

May the God who receives all praise and honor cause you to be men and women who delight in nothing more than to see all of creation singing the eternal song of praise.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1] Charles Spurgeon, Treasure of David.