Millennials for Jesus Christ Has Moved!

To all supporters of the Millennials for Jesus Christ blog:

I want to thank you for your prayers and support for the Millennials for Jesus Christ community over the past several months. It’s been a humble pleasure to serve you and the Lord with the content I’ve been enabled to bring so far. And I know things have just gotten started, but I have an announcement: MFJC has been moved and relaunched! You can find the new version of the blog at http://www.millennialsforchrist.com. I’m also running a book giveaway contest to commemorate the occasion. So, please update your bookmark, and spread the word. At some point in the future, I will have millennialsforchrist.wordpress.com simply redirect to the new site.

Thank you all so much, and I look forward to seeing you at millennialsforchrist.com!

In Christ,

Justin Joseph
Founder of Millennials for Jesus Christ

Book Review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (Tim Keller)

The human ego is an expert attention-seeker. How it usually operates is also profoundly unbiblical. It’s unfortunate how western society now insists that low self-esteem is the contributor to most of an individual’s woes. It’s like a daily courtroom battle where you, the defendant, are constantly fighting for the verdict of You’re the greatest! This is the problem that author Tim Keller addresses in his very short book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, comprised of 44 small pages. This review will be short and sweet as well.

Keller references I Corinthians 3:21 – 4:7 as the source material for his message, as the text contains perfectly chosen words to describe how Christians ought to regard our own opinion, and others’ opinions and attitudes about us in light of the identity we sinfully seek to have in the world.

The book highlights four interesting truths about the human ego to explain why it’s so important to forget ourselves and only look to Christ for our ultimate identity. The first is that the ego is empty, because the natural human heart always seeks an identity apart from God. The ego is also painfulit constantly demands an analysis of how you look, feel, and are. The third concept is that the ego is busy, or as I partially alluded to earlier, constantly drawing attention to itself. That because it craves to be filled, you’re tempted to compare yourself and boast about yourself. And finally, that the ego is fragile. Since the ego is always over-inflated, it is always in danger of becoming deflated as a result of the person failing to measure up to his/her own, or others’ standards.

The solution, Tim suggests, is that we imitate Paul based on those I Corinthians verses. Before expounding on the solution, I want to point out that I think Keller would have done well to clarify that opinions can be valuable to consider, such as your spouse’s, or church leaders’. You really can’t just completely ignore people; there’s a lot of wisdom and growth to be gained from taking heed of others’ Bible-based opinions. I understand why that wasn’t approached in the book since it targets self-identity and not how others’ opinions can help you grow in the Lord; I just hope it doesn’t encourage some readers to utterly blow off those in their inner circles.

Getting back on track, in the I Corinthians passage the apostle Paul teaches that he learned to not care about others’ opinions, or his own! Paul learned instead to revere only that of the Lord Jesus Christ’s. Even that of the courts did not concern Paul, since because of Christ the verdict is already in. A great way of describing the gospel is that the performance doesn’t lead to the verdict, but the verdict to the performance. And indeed therein lies the freedom of self-forgetfulness; not allowing yourself to become like celebrity Madonna (whom the book references) who believes she exists in a constant state of mediocrity and must always strive for that next great Wow! accomplishment so everyone will tell her she’s great and wonderful for a little while. But that is not the way of Christ. The Christian’s identity is vertical, not the least bit dependent on anyone of flesh and bone.

That’s the message of The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, a message straight from the gospel of Jesus Christ that we must remind ourselves of daily. Is your tendency to be devastated by criticism? Do the opinions of others keep you up at night? Do you fear honor? Do you need honor?  Can you celebrate coming in second place, and cheer on the winner? Those questions derived from the ego, and more, are handled well in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.

Whom Did You Encourage Today?

I shall risk the assumption that like me, you [my fellow millennial Christian] are tempted to be concerned most about numero uno throughout a given week. You know who numero uno is (you!). Boy do we [naturally] make our days centered on our schedules, our needs, our desires, our feelings…or what? Me, me, me. It’s all about me. A sad reflection of the human heart, no? And when did we last stop ourselves to ponder how truly poisonous this is to the body of Christ? Obsession of self is part of the world’s system. And I certainly don’t ponder these truths as often as I should, but I did when I encountered Hebrews 3:13 recently.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Not the idea.

Not the idea.

Hebrews 3:13 is a straight up imperative for God’s people to encourage each other every single day. As long as the day is today, which it always is…Christians are to exhort one another to resist the deceitfulness of the human heart, and lean fully on the Lord’s grace in the fight against our unique temptations.

How are we doing in this area [millennial] believers? Have you today done anything to encourage a Christian brother or sister? Or are you only concerned about nursing your problems, your agenda, and your needs or desires? Certainly we’re all guilty of doing those things; but God’s word clearly teaches against this [wickedness] (Philippians 2:3-4), and we must repent! Yes, life is hard; no one has failed to figure that out. Jesus Christ assured us it would be over and over in the gospels and through His apostles. But instead of focusing on the chaos [of today, tomorrow, and beyond] that we personally deal with…allow me to challenge you to encourage others as I challenge myself nowadays. And it starts with picking someone.

Whom can you encourage? A brief list of certain people groups [and the individuals that compromise them] to consider is as follows…though of course it is not exhaustive. It is also in no particular order.

  1. Immediate family (spouse, children)
  2. Church leaders (your pastor(s), elders, and deacons)
  3. Church family (the Christians who participate in your local fellowship)
  4. Extended family (in-lawsaunts/uncles, cousins)
  5. Co-workers, non-Christian friends, strangers, etc.

Let’s takes this one step further. Rework the first word of this article’s title: How did you encourage someone today? Or how can you encourage someone today?

A [non-comprehensive] list of ways to accomplish that is below…

  1. Publicly share a Bible verse, lyrics, a [clean] funny, personal testimony, etc, for everyone associated with you on social media. It encourages more than you think.
  2. Revisit #1, but with a specific individual via private/text messages. Ask how you can pray. Ask how they’re doing! Volunteer a personal testimony; invite the same. You might be surprised by the encouraging relationship this can create!
  3. For those that don’t use social media, private messages, etc, do the same as #1/#2 but with an email to someone or a group of folks. Most people use email now, and can use your encouragements!
  4. When did you last dial someone to encourage them? There’s a lost art, eh? Yet I’ve seen first-hand how this warms a believer’s heart!
  5. That person you were praying for earlier today? Let them know you did in-person the next time you meet. What a blessing! What an encouragement!
  6. Whether at someone else’s home, or in yours, spend some time in distraction-free conversation. This is a great ministry for encouragement!
  7. There’s surely a place outside of home, work, and church that you can sit down with someone. Have lunch and encourage a brother or sister!

Will any Christian ever be the perfect encourager? No, but encouraging a fellow Christian in one of your circles is so critical to the healthy functioning of Christ’s body. Neglecting it will suffer you, and those not receiving your admonishment. So, encourage a fellow believer today. Just do it!

Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness (Kevin DeYoung)

Where have all the Christians striving to be holy disappeared to? Why do so many Christians now think it’s old-hat to live a holy life? Somehow it’s become more widely accepted that Christians don’t need to work hard to be like Jesus Christ. This isn’t just a crying shame; it’s depressingly unbiblical. Yet it isn’t surprising, as believers increasingly allow themselves to be absorbed into the world’s system without so much as a second thought. In general, most professing Christians seem to believe that holiness isn’t worth pursuing. The subject has managed to become controversial even, but that didn’t stop author Kevin DeYoung from tackling it in The Hole in Our Holiness. And perhaps best is how Kevin does, as Pastor John Piper quaintly states on the back cover, “This book is vintage DeYoung–ruthlessly biblical.”

Kevin aims to answer three questions in the book:

  • “What does it mean to be holy?”
  • “Why should we care?”
  • “And how can we change?”

Every Christian and every church should ask those questions, and learn the answers well. We must know what it means to be [holy] like God, why it’s critical to care, and what is necessary for us to make progress toward holiness. As written on the book’s inside flap, discussing holiness is more and more important because “too few Christians look like Christ and too many don’t seem all that concerned about it.” Yet after finishing THIOH, I’m refreshed and enthusiastic…not despondent or discouraged, to join DeYoung in what should be the Christian’s response to I Peter 1:14-16.

If you didn’t catch it before, this holiness stuff is controversial. In a world where more and more people, including Christians, call evil good and good evil…Kevin’s arguments and challenges are timely and a necessary wake-up call. At the beginning of THIOH, Kevin compares what he thinks is the general Christian’s attitude toward holiness to what his is toward [outdoor] camping, that it’s for “other people” to do and enjoy. He further suggests that Christians who give up pursuing holiness do so because there seems to be too little return for the investment. Yet any thinking like that about holiness ignores the reality that holiness is the same thing as obeying God! DeYoung even begs us to consider Heaven as a huge reason why Christians should be thirsty for holiness, as Heaven will be a holy place. He asks, “If you don’t like it (holiness) now, why would you then?”

If that isn’t striking enough, the second chapter got me thinking as it lays out the truth that God saves sinners so they will be like Him. And it makes sense, given the explanation [in chapter 7] that Christians are to be who they are….. in Christ! The problem is, as outlined in chapter three, that so many Christians (myself as well) tend to stray toward rule-keeping, generational imitation, generic spirituality, looking for our true selves (silly!), and perhaps worst of all, the world’s system. Instead, as chapter four declares, we should be more like Jesus Christ as the years go by. We should have a life increasingly marked by biblical virtue, and regularly enjoy a clean conscience because we’re in such lock-step with the Savior that our accounts are short with Him and the Spirit’s fruit in us is abundant!

And what of God’s laws (chapter 5)? You can’t really have a conversation about holiness without thinking of the Torah, the Ten Commandments, where God especially describes His character through commands. Yes, Christians absolutely are not under the [Mosaic] law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). However, Kevin makes a very valid point that holiness requires that we know, understand, and obey God’s laws…not as a means to be saved, but to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) You just can’t do that without obeying Him, and we obey by following His laws! You can’t separate love from law, and vice versa. Even the apostle Paul wrote that he wouldn’t have known sin had it not been for the Law (Romans 7:7).

Squirming yet? Well you can relax a bit now. Kevin does encourage us with the fact that Christians actually please God! We don’t do this on our own of course, but because we are in Christ, and God is pleased with Christ, what Christians do is actually capable of pleasing Him! We should remember that [chapter six] point every single day. We should also always remember we can’t do anything, let alone be holy, without the Spirit’s power, the gospel truth, and faith in Jesus Christ (chapter 7). And on the flip side of that, God gave us wonderfully functional minds and bodies so we could work at becoming more holy! Holiness is really a spiritual workout, not something God spoon-feeds us (I Timothy 4:7-8), so it shouldn’t catch Christians by surprise that becoming more holy isn’t exactly easy! Yet the rewards, the spiritual dividends are worth every bit of eternity they’re paid into.

The chapter on immorality (8) could have been its own book. You won’t finish that chapter without experiencing some conviction. And I could go on and on discussing the book, but you probably get the idea of what The Hole in Our Holiness brings to the table by now. We need its every challenge, encouragement, and wake-up call.

Kevin’s message is essentially that holiness requires a close relationship with the Savior (chapter 10). It requires taking seriously God’s demands that we be like Him. And it takes great courage and boldness to practice personal separation from the world and its God-less system (I John 2:16). If you’re a believer that’s convinced it’s time to care more about really following…really obeying the God who created and saved you, please pick up a copy of The Hole in Our Holiness as soon as possible and prepare for an intense look at your heart. You need it, just like I did.

The “No-Touch” Policy

When I was in middle school, the administration instituted a No-Touch policy. I can’t speak to whether or not there was some kind of increase in physical altercations or anything morally inappropriate going on among the members of the student body, but it was decided that touching should be outlawed. You might imagine how all the young folks poked fun at the dictate; I wouldn’t be surprised if the policy actually caused the reverse intended effect. Nonetheless I think there’s a lot of wisdom in such a policy; I actually wish it was something that dating Christians considered more seriously. Ah yes, the always interesting subject of what Christians in pre-martial relationships should or shouldn’t do. Care to know where I stand? Want to be challenged? Ready for a perhaps intense discussion? Whether you’re a man or woman, young or old, even in a relationship or not… I wish to present the platform that the Bible supports the idea of dating or engaged Christians not touching each other.

To touch, or not to touch?

To touch, or not to touch?

Now before diving into my points, I will answer the question that may very well be on your mind already. Yes, Christine (my wife) and I touched before being pronounced husband and wife. But before you come at me with your hypocrisy pitchforks, I readily confess it wasn’t the right thing to do. It also wasn’t exactly serious, but we did touch. Early on though we made an effort to reign in that area of our relationship. I composed a three-page document detailing what I thought were quality principles to govern ourselves by based on what the Bible teaches. Feel free to download the finished product here actually, just know that the contents are by no means perfect; we didn’t follow everything to a T, and you might even get a chuckle or two from what I came up with. I want to direct your focus nonetheless to the first Do not bullet under the first major point, which reads: [Do not…] Touch each other, at all.

dating_rule

I put this together over 3 years ago.

Christine and I praise the Lord that our purposeful compromising hardly went further than leaning on each other’s foreheads while we were doing wedding and honeymoon planning. Are you thinking, “Why’s that such a big deal?” I’ll spend the rest of this article trying to explain my case.

I was floored to read that author Kevin DeYoung agrees with me about having a no-touch [dating] policy in chapter eight of his book The Hole in Our Holiness. We both think that Christians in general don’t give the idea much thought, and especially the millennial generation. Yet the truth is ladies and gentlemen that dating is a mere commitment to find out if you will ultimately become committed. It saddens me so much to see Christians conducting their relationships in the same ways unsaved people do. They hold hands. They hug intimately. They press up against each other. They pet one another. They even kiss. And that’s just what you see in public. I shudder to consider what sometimes goes on in secret. And why is it that parents and the church seem to frown upon this conduct less and less? I suggest that we’ve allowed ourselves to be more concerned about the opinion of dating Christians than the need to hold such Christians accountable to the teaching of Scripture. It’s no secret that more and more young believers are giving themselves over to pre-marital intimacy, and the Lord is not pleased!

Perhaps the number one reason dating or engaged Christians should not touch each other is for the simple fact that they don’t belong to each other. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Someone you’re interested in always belongs to God and is someone else’s child before they’re ever your husband or wife. And I won’t agonize over the semantics of using the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. The fact remains that beginning to date someone doesn’t suddenly make them exclusively yours. And you won’t find any support in Scripture for intimacy prior to marriage. What you do find is verses like I Timothy 5:1-2, below.

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

I know the concept of dating is nowhere to be found in what Paul wrote to Timothy. However, I believe the above verses specifically address the issue of intimacy prior to marriage since all Christians are commanded to regard each other in all purity. This is what God says. So those of you who think pre-marital, intentional touching isn’t a big deal, please explain to me how the last three words of those verses alone ever begin to condone hand-holding, hugging, kissing, or anything else along such lines for dating Christians? Unbelievers engage in those ways because they don’t have a hint of interest in doing things God’s way! But God’s redeemed are different, and thus their relationships should be. What’s more valuable…the opinion someone (Christian or not) has about purity in a dating relationship, or what God thinks of our behavior? I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to fear the One able to destroy the soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)!

I also can’t help but be disappointed when I hear or know of dating Christians that claim they can control themselves. Well, God speaks to the impossibility of that in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Sure, that verse is addressed to Israel, but it rings no less true for any human being…even born-again Christians. Why, when we fallen humans are so quick to rationalize our sin, do we not think there’s something terribly wrong when dating Christians are touching one another? There’s one word to describe the attitude that you can control yourself in a pre-martial relationship where touching is permitted: prideful. And you might as well toss dangerous in there too.

Another thought… Why should a Christian want on their conscience the knowledge that they were at all intimate with someone they were dating, especially if the relationship ultimately ceases? This goes for the guy and the gal. A believer’s job is to help protect the purity of whomever he/she is dating for the sake of the person that will ultimately marry him or her, not to take advantage of him or her. If it actually is you who becomes married to said person…wonderful, but what if it isn’t? Does this reality not cross our minds anymore? There’s plenty of time and opportunity to figure out intimacy after the wedding; God never tells us to try to figure out physical compatibility before-hand. And there’s a reason for that; sex is meant above all else for God’s glory, and second to bless a married man and woman (Hebrews 13:4).

I’ll point out at least one more verse about this subject, Romans 13:14.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

If you’re a Christian dating another Christian, I challenge you to explain how touching your boyfriend or girlfriend is anything other than self-gratification. Allow me to save you the time and trouble; you can’t. And yes, I regret even the forehead-leaning that Christine and I did a few times. I would have never done that with her outside of dating, and I sure wouldn’t have wanted someone else that she might have dated to do so either. Yet somehow it seems when Christians can say they’ve arrived to the point of dating someone, that somehow becomes a license for them to be licentious. It’s as though we think, “Alright, we got to the dating stage; we can do whatever we want now and act like we’re married!” Well, I think I speak for many other Christians when I say it’s great to see a believing man or woman begin dating, as it seems to be a process that more and more avoid nowadays. However, I believe with my whole heart that God isn’t the least bit impressed when couples dishonor the marriage bed by acting as though they’re already there. I don’t need to get into all the obvious physical reactions that take place when people, let alone dating Christians, touch; I’m here to simply plead that you stop if you are…or that you encourage others to stop if you’re observing it. My goal here certainly is not to condemn anybody, but simply to encourage that we get back to pleasing the Lord with our relationships…not ourselves.

My primary motivation for wanting to discuss this touchy subject is because I’ve been there. I’m responsible for making many ungodly decisions in years past, and committing many foolish sins against women. I praise God those sins are under the blood of Christ, but that doesn’t mean God suddenly reels in the necessary consequences. The details of what I’ve done aren’t important, but I understand at least somewhat how a man’s mind operates; and most others are likely similar to me as far as what they would do in the moment. Yet each of those moments in my life was a transgression against a holy God that clearly commanded me to not do what I was doing. This is an impassioned plea for you to wake up and smell the immoral coffee. A hand-hold leads to a hug. A hug leads to more physical closeness. Physical closeness leads to a kiss…and you get the picture. Go ahead and deny; assert that this doesn’t apply to everybody. But I’m not stupid; I know what the Bible teaches and what it says about the human heart. And above all else, God knows everything we do, and surely is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If you’re dating and truly want to please God instead of yourself, I urge you to heed this warning before something awful happens!

Do you still think it is OK for dating Christians to touch? If so, why? How do you react to the Bible verses and principles I pointed out? (There could be many more, mind you.) How about those of you in a relationship? What do you think about all this? Are you perhaps observing dating Christians touching? I’d like to hear from you as well! In the end, in spite of the decisions my wife and I made prior to being married…I will always support a no-touch policy for Christians who are dating. No sin; no regrets.