You Can Trust Your Bible

“Very critical alert!” These really scary images have been going around social media recently. “You can’t trust your Bible!” they implicitly (and in some cases explicitly) shout. “It’s being corrupted by—” well, that’s part of the problem. It’s unclear who’s supposed to have corrupted the Bible, but apparently it’s happened.

In actuality, it’s not actually worrying at all because it’s asking the wrong question. This is a very long post about how you can indeed trust your Bible. But before we deal with the question they should be asking, let’s consider what the NIV and other modern translations are trying to accomplish from omitting these verses, if that were indeed what happened.

The Inscrutable Agenda

  1. If they were trying to advance some gay agenda (as this meme spuriously implies), why wouldn’t they remove, for example, Romans 1:27? What do they gain from trying to throw doubt upon this teaching of Christ that is not only preached elsewhere, but attested to by His very life and death? What do they gain from removing a verse that speaks to His love and grace?
  2. So do these verses represent a core doctrine of the faith? Well, kind of. By which I mean, yes, but not exclusively; it’s also in Luke 19:10 and John 3:17. So if Zondervan was trying to change the Bible and remove some core element of doctrine, why would they leave it intact in two other places? Why just these two verses?
  3. Further, If they were trying to remove these verses from the Bible, why did they include it? That’s right, it’s actually there; in footnotes for this verse in almost every published version of the Bible, the “omitted” words are actually included verbatim.

In short, if they were trying to remove a concept from the Bible, they chose poorly and did a remarkably bad job of it. And they’ve continued to do a remarkably bad job of it for almost 50 years now, apparently, as the NIV has undergone multiple revisions and I can’t find evidence that any further verses have been “removed.”

The Shady Publisher

Now, let’s see about the claim that this is some ploy by a secular publisher. It’s true that the NIV is published by HarperCollins, but it’s untrue that it’s not published by Zondervan; in fact, Zondervan was acquired as a subsidiary of HarperCollins in 1988, and remains a separate but wholly owned entity of the parent company.

This may seem semantic, but Zondervan does appear to enjoy a certain measure of autonomy from its parent company. Further, the change appears to have been made before the acquisition; if you’ll notice the timeline, Zondervan was acquired by HarperCollins four years after the publication of the third revision of the NIV to not include this verse.

Further, it’s disingenuous to suggest that HarperCollins is some liberal outfit trying to destroy good conservative people. HarperCollins is itself owned by News Corp, which was founded by Rupert Murdoch as the publishing arm of the same company that runs Fox News. News Corp has been spun off from its parent company, but is still run by Murdoch, well known as a profoundly conservative man.

Finally, while Zondervan publishes the NIV in the United States, the version has other publishers worldwide. Biblica themselves, the translators, publish the Bible digitally, for instance.

The Right Question

I said above that this meme is insinuating the wrong question. What I meant by that is that we shouldn’t be asking “why were these omitted from the NIV (and ESV, and almost all other modern versions)?” but “Why were they added to the KJV?”

The fact is, in the 17th century when the KJV was being translated, they didn’t have manuscripts as reliable as we have now. The manuscripts which include these verses are hundreds of years older than the manuscripts which don’t, and we’ve only found those manuscripts in the last few hundred years of archaeology. The Textus Receptus, which was a Greek version of the New Testament used by the King James translators for the Authorized Version, was assembled and collated by the scholar Erasmus only about a hundred years before the KJV began translation. The documents from which it was sourced are themselves also not original, dating largely from the fourth and fifth centuries; and Erasmus’ published version was “adjusted” to more closely match the Latin Vulgate version.

In the nearly half-millennium since the translation of the King James version, archaeology has exploded as a field of study. We have more examples of the Word of God available to us than ever, and by and large, they all say the same thing. Further, the New Testament manuscripts and fragments we have access to now are, in some cases, less than a century separated from the life of Christ and, when taken in context as a whole along with the Textus Receptus, can be seen to represent Scripture, preserved by God and handed down throughout the ages.

Kept Pure In All Ages

Most confessions and creeds hold that the Bible is God-breathed and infallible in its original manuscripts; the Westminster Confession, to which my church and I hold, agrees. I would further assert that, just as none of us individually are the people of God, but all of us together are, the whole of Scripture has been preserved as a community of texts through which we see what God originally inspired the authors to write.

But the 1611 KJV was not an original manuscript; it has longevity, and it is valuable, but it is not infallible. It shouldn’t be considered the source or arbiter of textual criticism, and this meme makes a mistake on that point.

Most Christian Biblical scholars also believe that, while God hasn’t inspired any further Scripture, He does protect the Scripture he already wrote. This meme makes a further mistake there, in assuming that the publishers of the Bible are more powerful than the Author of it and can stymie His will.

In the end, it seems we just reckon with a simple choice: did a hyperconservative chief executive order a publishing company he didn’t own to make make a liberal change in a version they didn’t author to two Bible verses which don’t change doctrine in any appreciable way for no apparent or discernable reason, and then maintain that deception until some random person on the internet noticed? Or was it just a mistake in the manuscripts available in 1611 that we discovered in the 350 intervening years between the KJV and the NIV?

The bottom line is, you can trust your Bible in most widely-available modern versions. It’s been independently verified by people smarter than this random guy on the internet, and it’s been protected by the God who wrote it.

Resolved toward Reconciliation

Historically speaking, the Church has done some pretty crazy and ludicrous stuff.  Last week, one part of it repented of a crazy and ludicrous season in their history.

So, I’m a member of a Church.  That church is a member of a Presbytery.  That presbytery is a member of a Denomination.  And during the 44th General Assembly that was held last week, that denomination – the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) – adopted an overture that has historic ramifications for the people under its care.

Historic Wounds

The PCA has a storied past going back to the beginning of the Civil War.  The Presbyterian Church in the USA denomination split along regional lines when war broke out, with the Southern members forming what was then known as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America.  With a name and history like that, you can imagine their thoughts on race and reconciliation.  But in 1973, responding to concerns over theological weakness and abandonment of orthodoxy, as well as ordination of women, the PCA split from the denomination in a meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, while their parent denomination (now renamed) joined what would become the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  The newly-formed PCA affirmed the Westminster Confession, Reformed doctrine, and the Book of Church Order; but they did not distance themselves from the historic actions and attitudes of their parent denominations.

In fact, they issued a letter with their desire to be a “continuing church” as the denomination formed.  “We have called ourselves ‘Continuing’ Presbyterians because we seek to continue the faith of the founding fathers of that Church,” they said.  They truly intended to carry on the tradition of faith that they believed the PC(U.S.A.) was abandoning.

And, unfortunately, that meant taking on themselves the mantle of guilt for a great many racial wrongs.

The Road to Reconciliation

In 2002, the 30th General Assembly addressed one of those things; namely, slavery.  To paraphrase: “The heinous sins attendant with unbiblical forms of servitude stand in opposition to the Gospel, and we confess our involvement in these sins.”

It was a rather monumental step for a historically Southern, formerly confederate denomination to have taken.  But in the view of many, it was not enough.  Because, while slavery may possibly be the blackest mark on the United States’ spotty human rights record, it is not the only one in which Americans are complicit.  The Civil Rights movement, which became the environment from which the PCA was born, sought to address another dark mark upon the history of the United States; but while it made great strides, the massive racial dissent that have broken up in the years and decades since that movement prove that the Civil Rights movement did not in fact complete its work.

The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner have brought this incompletion to a boiling point in our nation; and at the 43rd General Assembly, the PCA resolved to study racial reconciliation for the following meeting.  That was last year, and the 44th General Assembly took place in June of 2016.

Repentance to Reconcile

The final document that the Overtures Committee sent to the floor of the General Assembly was approved with stunning unity; 90% of churches in the PCA affirmed the language gladly.  The full text is below, but the bottom line is that the PCA is repenting and seeking forgiveness for their actions; for not only failing to pursue racial unity, but also actively working against it.  It recommends church discipline be exercised against members and churches who have obstructed reconciliation or continue to do so.

It’s a surprising move for a denomination with such deep roots in the “old South.”  And I think it is a Godly move.  But someone who is more closely affected by this overture, Jemar Tisby of the Reformed African American Network, said of the resolution, “For those present on the evening of June 23, 2016, it may have been one of the most refreshing times in the denomination’s history.”

As a black person in an overwhelmingly white branch of the church, I have to constantly evaluate whether I’m truly welcome here or not. A strong statement repenting, not just of racism generally, but the more recent lack of vocal support for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement, is necessary because silence about the matter tacitly communicates either support or indifference. Now I can confidently say that the PCA is both aware of and remorseful for its historic connections with racism, especially from the mid-20th century to the present.

Jemar Tisby,

I’m grateful for that, too; even as a white man, I do not want to be associated with an organization that is indifferent toward – or even supporting of – racial inequality, whether tacitly or openly.  As an organization, it is important that we have a strongly-worded, definitive statement repudiating and repenting of the actions of our organization in the past and present.  It’s a good start, at least.

Resolution Is Not Enough

But Tisby goes on to say that this is not a done deal.  We must continue pursuing repentance and reconciliation in this area as in every area of sin to which we are prone.

[H]aving this overture in the records only helps at first. The actual lived experience of ethnic minorities in churches and presbyteries will prove whether the denomination is truly ready to make room at the table for historically under-represented groups.

Jemar Tisby,

The first steps toward that have been taken in Overture 43.  But, beautifully, Overtures 44 and 45 take the next steps; establishing a Unity Fund to financially aid the raising up of minority church leaders in the coming years, as well as a study committee to pursue diversity in the leadership of the PCA.  In my opinion, these aren’t merely lip-service reactions; they’re repentance-motivated steps toward true reconciliation.

Of course, this is not the end of the story.  We must continue pursuing reconciliation as individuals and as churches.

Moving Forward

Sadly, the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile happened within the short weeks after the vote, and our response to these actions as a church will determine whether we have been moved by the resolution that the PCA adopted on June 23.  This is the time which will decide whether we have been affected by this overture; whether we are truly repentant or simply affirming of a resolution that “makes us look good.”  This is a time to support the black community, to come around them in sadness and support, and to pursue justice alongside our brothers and sisters of other races.  For we are more like other believers of a different race – with whom we will worship God forever in the presence of the angels – than we are even with our family, if they are unbelievers.

I pray that this will be the a time of real reconciliation, and that we will repent without ceasing of our involvement in all injustice; and particularly of racism.

Praise God that He has made us in His image.

Recommended Reading:

“Reflections from a Black Presbyterian on the PCA’s Overture on Racial Reconciliation”, by Jemar Tisby

PCA General Assembly #30: Overture 20 (2002)

PCA General Assembly #44: Overture 43 and supporting documentation (2016)

“2016 PCA General Assembly: Moving Forward Together”, by Richard D. Phillips

In the coming years, the PCA will be tackling the role of women in ministry, having established a study committee in General Assembly 44.  You can read more about this OTHER historic event on this site.

PCA General Assembly #44: Overture 43 and supporting documentation (2016)

Overture 43

from Potomac Presbytery
“Pursuing Racial Reconciliation and the Advance of the Gospel”

Whereas, the 43rd General Assembly considered a personal resolution on racial reconciliation and referred the matter to the 44th General Assembly, so that lower courts could perfect and propose a resolution encouraging “heartfelt repentance”; and

Whereas, in the 1973 “Message to All the Churches,” the founding generation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) expressly declared our denomination to be the “continuing church” of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), saying, “We have called ourselves ‘Continuing’ Presbyterians because we seek to continue the faith of the founding fathers of that Church”; and

Whereas, the formation and identity of the PCA was shaped through the honorable and courageous commitment of our founding denominational leaders and churches to be faithful to the Scriptures in doctrine and in practice, and these convictions remain with us to this day; and

Whereas, during the Civil Rights period, there were founding denominational leaders and churches who not only failed to pursue racial reconciliation but also actively worked against it in both church and society through sinful practices, such as the segregation of worshipers by race; the exclusion of persons from Church membership on the basis of race; the exclusion of churches, or elders, from membership in Presbyteries, on the basis of race; the teaching that the Bible sanctions racial segregation and discourages inter-racial marriage; the participation in and defense of white supremacist organizations; and the failure to live out the gospel imperative that “love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10); and

Whereas, the vestiges of these sins continue to affect our denomination to this day and significantly hinder efforts for reconciliation with our African-American and other minority brothers and sisters by: often refusing to lay down our cultural preferences so that these brothers and sisters might feel more welcome in our churches; not sufficiently encouraging minority culture brothers into leadership within our General Assembly Committees and Agencies, presbyteries, and churches, as evidenced by our history; failing to lovingly confront our brothers and sisters concerning racial sins and personal bigotry; and failing to “learn to do good, seek justice and correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:17); and

Whereas, the 30th General Assembly adopted a resolution on racial reconciliation that confessed “heinous sins” connected with unbiblical forms of servitude, but did not deal specifically with the racial sins committed during the much more recent Civil Rights period, which betrayed the visible unity of all believers in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22), the command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), and the image of God in all people (Genesis 1:27); and

Whereas, God has once more given the PCA a gracious opportunity to show the beauty, grace, and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through confession and through the fruits of repentance: such as, formative and corrective discipline for racial sins; in understanding and appreciation of minority cultures; intentionally establishing interracial friendships and partnerships inside and outside our denomination; renewing our church’s commitment to develop minority leadership at the congregational, presbytery, and denominational levels; and encouraging a denomination-wide vision for and commitment to a more racially and ethnically diverse church in obedience to the Great Commission; and

Therefore be it resolved, that the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America does recognize, confess, and condemn these past and continuing racial sins and failure to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures in accordance with what the Gospel requires; and

Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly praises and recommits itself to the gospel task of racial reconciliation, diligently seeking effective courses of action to further that goal, with humility, sincerity and zeal, for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel; and

Be it finally resolved, that the General Assembly urges the congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America to make this resolution known to their members in order that they may prayerfully confess their own racial sins as led by the Spirit and strive towards racial reconciliation for the advancement of the gospel, the love of Christ, and the glory of God.

Adopted unanimously by Potomac Presbytery at its stated meeting, March 19, 2016
Attested by /s/ RE Charles D. Robinson, stated clerk

Overture 43 Amendment

Therefore be it resolved, that the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of corporate and historical sins, including those committed during the Civil Rights era, and continuing racial sins of ourselves and our fathers such as the segregation of worshipers by race; the exclusion of persons from Church membership on the basis of race; the exclusion of churches, or elders, from membership in the Presbyteries on the basis of race; the teaching that the Bible sanctions racial segregation and discourages inter-racial marriage; the participation in and defense of white supremacist organizations; and the failure to live out the gospel imperative that “love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10); and

Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of past failures to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures in accordance with what the Gospel requires, as well as failures to lovingly confront our brothers and sisters concerning racial sins and personal bigotry, and failing to “learn to do good, seek justice and correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:17); and

Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly praises and recommits itself to the gospel task of racial reconciliation, diligently seeking effective courses of action to further that goal, with humility, sincerity and zeal, for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel; and

Be it further resolved, that the General Assembly urges the congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America to make this resolution known to their members in order that they may prayerfully confess their own racial sins as led by the Spirit and strive towards racial reconciliation for the advancement of the gospel, the love of Christ, and the glory of God; and

Be it further resolved, that the 44th General Assembly call the attention of churches and presbyteries to the pastoral letter contained in Overture 55 as an example of how a presbytery might provide shepherding leadership for its churches toward racial reconciliation; and

Be it finally resolved, that the 44th General Assembly remind the churches and presbyteries of the PCA that BCO 31-2 and 38-1 provide potent and readily available means for dealing with ones who have sinned or continue to sin in these areas.

Pastoral Letter

From the Mississippi Valley Presbytery; available from this site, or mirrored here.

BCO 31-2 and 38-1

From the PCA Book of Church Order

It is the duty of all church Sessions and Presbyteries to exercise care over those subject to their authority. They shall with due diligence and great discretion demand from such persons satisfactory explanations concerning reports affecting their Christian character. This duty is more imperative when those who deem themselves aggrieved by injurious reports shall ask an investigation.
If such investigation, however originating, should result in raising a strong presumption of the guilt of the party involved, the court shall institute process, and shall appoint a prosecutor to prepare the indictment and to conduct the case. This prosecutor shall be a member of the court, except that in a case before the Session, he may be any communing member of the same congregation with the accused.

When any person shall come forward and make his offense known to the court, a full statement of the facts shall be recorded and judgment rendered without process. In handling a confession of guilt, it is essential that the person intends to confess and permit the court to render judgment without process. Statements made by him in the presence of the court must not be taken as a basis of a judgment without process except by his consent. In the event a confession is intended, a full statement of the facts should be approved by the accused, and by the court, before the court proceeds to a judgment. The accused has the right of complaint against the judgment.

PCA General Assembly #30: Overture 20 (2002)

from Nashville Presbytery
adopted by the PCA, 30th General Assembly, 2002, 30-53, III, Items 14 – 16, pp. 262 – 270.

“Racial Reconciliation”

Whereas, the Scriptures portray a covenantal pattern of both celebration of our rich heritage and repentance for the sins of our fathers; and,

Whereas, our nation has been blessed even as we have repeatedly addressed iniquity, redressed injustice, and assessed restitution for our inconsistent application of the ideals of truth and freedom; and,

Whereas, the heinous sins attendant with unbiblical forms of servitude-including oppression, racism, exploitation, manstealing, and chattel slavery-remain among the defining features of our national history; and,

Whereas, the issues surrounding that part of our history continue to shape our national life, even creating barriers between brothers and sisters of different races and/or economic spheres from enjoying unencumbered Christian fellowship with one another; and,

Whereas, the aftereffects of that part of our history continue to be felt in the economic, cultural, and social affairs of the communities in which we live and minister;

We therefore confess our covenantal involvement in these national sins. As a people, both we and our fathers have failed to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the laws our God has commanded. We therefore publicly repent of our pride, our complacency, and our complicity. Furthermore, we seek the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters for the reticence of our hearts, which has constrained us from acting swiftly in this matter.

As a people, we pledge to work hard, in a manner consistent with the Gospel imperatives, for the encouragement of racial reconciliation, the establishment of urban and minority congregations, and the enhancement of existing ministries of mercy in our cities, among the poor, and across all social, racial, and economic boundaries, to the glory of God. Amen.

  1. That Personal Resolution 6 be answered by reference to the Assembly’s action with regard to Overture 20. [See 30-53, III, 14, p. 261.] Adopted.

Whereas, the Presbyterian Church in America was formed to preach and teach the truth of God’s Word with the desire that its members would practice and live by the truth and as we are a young denomination meeting together for our 30`h Annual General Assembly, we want to thank God for the enabling grace to do this as well as we have done it and confess that when and where we have failed it is our fault and because of our sin; and

Whereas, we acknowledge that corporately as a denomination and individually as members of the Presbyterian Church in America we have sinned, (Romans 3:23), and

Whereas, we acknowledge that along with our many other sins, we may have corporately or individually sinned by slighting or offending a brother in Christ, and we as the people of God are called on in Scripture to repent of our sins as God reveals them to us by His Holy Spirit (Rev. 3:19, Acts 16:19-20, Luke 5:32, & II Cor. 7:10); and

Whereas, we recognize that each one of us must repent for our own sins as God holds each of us accountable for them (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 14:12, Jeremiah 31:2930, Deuteronomy 24:16), and

Whereas, we also recognize that Scripture establishes precedents for the confession of the past sins of others without assessing personal responsibility for those past sins to the confessing party (Neh. 1:5-7, Neh. 9:13, Daniel 9:4-19), and

Whereas, we recognize the dangers of sins of omission as being grave as those of the sins of commission (James 4:17, Psalm 51:16-17, Proverbs 21:3, Luke 12:47), and

Whereas, God’s Word warns strongly against mistreating or not loving a Christian brother (I Corinthians 6:8, I Thessalonians 4:6, James 4:11-12), and

Whereas, we recognize that some have in the past, by commission and/or by omission, offended and slighted their brothers and sisters in Christ (I John 1:8-10), and

Whereas, we desire that all members of the Presbyterian Church in America conduct themselves first as the people of God – without favoritism, prejudice or partiality (Leviticus 19:15 & I Timothy 5:21), and

Whereas, we desire that all members of the Presbyterian Church in America not only show love for their brothers but that they actually have love for their brothers in their hearts (I John 4:21, Hebrews 13:1, Psalm 133:1 & John 13:34-35), and

Whereas, we desire the blessings of God Almighty upon the work of our churches and of our denomination, and fear His withholding those blessings due to a lack of personal repentance for sins committed against our brothers in the Lord (Proverbs 10:22 & Proverbs 24:23-25), and

Whereas, we want as a denomination and as individuals the blessings of being used of God to see souls saved and the work of His kingdom furthered therefore we strive to be obedient to God; and

Whereas, we recognize the need for the work of the kingdom to progress wherever the descendents of Adam are to be found and desire the work of the kingdom to grow as the lost are saved (Matthew 28:18-20 & Acts 1:8),

Therefore, we–the undersigned do humbly ask this 30th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to resolve,

That, every member, Teaching Elder, and Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America be urged to examine themselves in the light of Scripture and by the leading of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit to determine if there be any unrepented of and unconfessed sins of partiality, favoritism, or prejudice (Lam. 3:40 & II Cor 13:5), and

That, if any such sins be discovered, either present or past, that these sins be admitted to and forgiveness sought from God and from those brothers so sinned against (Matt 5:23-24), and

That, the Presbyterian Church in America, at the denominational, local church, and personal levels, be encouraged to continue and/or begin to search out the lost wherever they are and lovingly and powerfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in culturally relevant and meaningful ways as God leads by His Holy Spirit and gives the wisdom to understand (II Tim 4:5 & I Peter 3:15-16), and

That, the Presbyterian Church in America seek to lead the way denominationally in racial reconciliation, regardless of color or ethnic background, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for the glory of God (Col. 3:23-24 & I Cor 10:31-11:1).

Commentary available on The Aquila Report.

Full text of all overtures available here.

Our Advocate, the Holy Spirit

Ben Reed’s sermon at Redeemer Indy on February 21 was another incredible message.  Speaking from John 14:8-31, he reminded us about the Holy Spirit: our champion and our advocate.

“Our Advocate, the Holy Spirit” was delivered on February 21, 2016, at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN by Ben Reed.

Thesis and Outline

“The Holy Spirit is a precious gift.  Run to Him!”

  1. The Problem: Misdirected Affections
    1. Our misdirected affections are built on fear.
      1. In Peter: fear of insignificance
      2. In Thomas: fear of ignorance
      3. In Philip: fear of missing out
      4. This is not life-giving; survival is the goal of fear.
        There is no fulfillment to be found here.
    2. Jesus addresses our fear directly in verse 18:
      1. “I will not leave you as orphans.”
      2. Jesus sends us an advocate.
  2. The Solution: Our Advocate, the Holy Spirit
    1. There is a legal connotation
      1. A lawyer is ethically bound to do whatever is best for you.
      2. Your lawyer is always for you—even if you were guilty and deserve death.
    2. More than just legally: the Spirit…
      1. Dwells with us (v16-17)
        1. “He” – The Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force.  (You can’t have a real relationship with a force)
        2. Relationships are important to show us where our blind spots are.
        3. He doesn’t get disappointed in our metrics and statistics and decide to “go on to holier Christians”
        4. He is not distant or passive – he indwells with us, actively.  He…
      2. Champions for us
        1. Intercedes for us according to God’s perfect will
        2. Empowers us with strength and refreshment from God
        3. Emboldens us to learn and speak
        4. “Groanings too deep for words” – approach God, even when you don’t know what to say.
      3. Helps us remember (v26)
        1. Brings us memories of truth (see children’s question below)
        2. Stir up a desire to glorify God through us, leading to obedience
        3. Reminds us of Christ’s salvation
        4. Pushes us to Repentance: lies get pushed away, and truth unites us to Jesus and to others.
  3. The Action: Run to the Spirit
    1. Don’t waste any time!
    2. As we run to Him, our clarity of Him increases.
    3. How to run to the Spirit:
      1. Through the Word.
        1. Difficult!
        2. The Spirit will use it to bring healing, conviction, comfort, and life.
        3. He will meet you there.
      2. Through Worship.
        1. A temperament and lifestyle of worship
        2. The Spirit uses worship to turn us around so we can live as we’ve been called
      3. Through Prayer.
        1. For others
        2. For your own memory!
  4. Quit trying and start collapsing
    1. The Spirit reminds us to be a newborn in our Father’s arms: nothing else matters to a newborn
    2. Fight for expectant, bold, free, life-changing prayer in your community
      1. Yes, it’s weird…of course it’s weird! (we serve a dead guy who’s alive again).
      2. Ask the Holy Spirit for one person to go to, pray for, and be present with. (encouraging a community of broken prayerfulness.

Bulletin Discussion Questions

  1. The apostles are concerned about Jesus leaving. Even though he promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with them, he must constantly remind them that he will not leave them as orphans. What are ways that you live like an orphan? Are there ways that you live as if God has forgotten you?
  2. This Lenten season we are talking about the affections of our heart. The Holy Spirit helps those affections be focused on Jesus by reminding us of things like the truth of God’s word, our adoption as children of God, and the joy of our salvation. Are there examples in your life where the Holy Spirit has reminded you of these good things? Are there places in your life where you are ignoring the Holy Spirit as he tries to remind you of the truth?
  3. Spend some time praying for each other. Pray that the Holy Spirit’s voice would be loud and clear in your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit would help you tear down the walls you have built in your heart.


Sometimes when we are going through a hard time, we suddenly remember a story from the Bible, or a song from church, or we just remember that Jesus loves us. That’s the Holy Spirit reminding us of those things. Are there examples in your life where the Holy Spirit reminded you of something good like that? Did it help you to remember those things? Share those with your friends and your parents.

The Highest Affection

lastsupper-wideToday’s sermon at Redeemer Indy, given by Jeff Nottingham, was one of my favorite sermons in recent memory.  Based out of John 13:31-14:12, it’s a beautiful and heart-stirring message about our affections that get in the way of loving Jesus, and I commend it highly.

“The Highest Affection” was delivered on February 14, 2016, at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN by Jeff Nottingham.

Thesis and Outline

“We need to make Jesus our highest affection, because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

  1. Peter’s Interruption: “I would lay down my life for you.”
    1. Affection: significance.
    2. Jesus’ response: “Will you lay your life down for me?  No, will lay my life down for you.  You will deny me.  But I will still prepare a place for you in my Father’s house.”
    3. Make Jesus your highest confession and affection.
  2. Thomas’ Interruption: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going.”
    1. Affection: knowledge.
    2. Jesus’ response: “You know the way.  Its me!”
    3. We are not those who possess Biblical truth.  We are those who are possessed by it.
    4. Thomas’ unfair nickname: “Doubting Thomas”
      1. Jesus wants to hear Thomas’ doubts!
      2. John 20: Jesus will draw Thomas close and prove Himself to Thomas – not to dismiss, but to cure Thomas’ doubts.
      3. Do not leave Jesus untested and somehow wanting.  He desires that we “taste and see.”
  3. Philip’s Interruption: “Show us the Father, and it will be enough for us.”
    1. Affection: personal experience.
      1. Experiencing God is good!  But Philip misses the fact that he has been experiencing God for the past three years.
      2. When we begin seeing the spiritual disciplines as mundane, or hold the method of experience in higher esteem than God, we are falling into the same trap as Philip.
    2. Jesus’ response: “You’ve seen me, my miracles, my love.  You’ve already seen the Father.  The love with which the Father has loved me, that is the love with which I have loved you.”
    3. The reality of the Trinity is your greatest joy.
  4. What does this do for us?
    1. “The Expulsive Power of our Highest Affection”
      1. Jesus can and does expel all lesser affections.
      2. “I don’t think I’ll ever hate my sin enough to stop sinning…Loving Jesus?  That’s another story.”
    2. Layers of tradition can desensitize us to the love and affection of Jesus.  But it’s uncomplicated!  Jesus’ love pulls me away from my evil.
    3. “Jesus does not merely point out the way, and speak the truth, and restore the life.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.”
  5. How should we respond?
    1. Meditate on and be with Jesus.
    2. Let us reacquaint ourselves with Him.  Talk about Him and His work.
    3. Take time to pray – even “one-line prayers.”

Bulletin Discussion Questions

  1. We all have too much deep affection for our own significance (like Peter), or our own understanding (like Thomas), or our own experience (like Philip).  Remember, our significance, our understanding, and our experience are in fact good, created things in and of themselves, but we take them too far; we “ultimatize” them.  The Lord Jesus can re-direct each of these deep affections towards himself.
    1. What is a specific example from your life right now where you can ask Jesus to replace your deep affection for your own significance with a deeper affection for his significance?
    2. Or, replace your deep affection for your own understanding with a deeper affection for his understanding?
    3. Or, replace your deep affection for your own experience with a deeper affection for his experience?
  2. Jesus teaches us about himself in this passage that he is the way, the truth, and the life.  Please share with your group what one of those mean to you.
  3. Jesus calls us to love other Christians with the same love with which he loved us.  Which denominations, groups, or “flavors” of Christ-followers today would you rather distance yourself from than love with that kind of love?
  4. What is a practical way that the Lord can re-direct this deep affection of yours (your significance, your understanding, or your experience) into a deeper affection for the significance, understanding, and experience of Jesus?


Jesus is the only way to live with God forever.  What kinds of things would you like to do with Jesus forever?