February 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’d like to update you on 2 things: 1. The state of my RUF account and what’s needed. 2. What Holly and I have decided to do after my internship is over.
Let’s start with the fun stuff.
We’ve been blessed to have several opportunities present themselves for future endeavors. After many late night conversations, prayers, and meetings with mentors we’ve decided to attend Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We’ll be moving at the end of June and I’ll begin summer classes in July. We are very excited about what the future holds and where the Lord will lead us! Personally, attending seminary is a dream come true! I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity and I plan to take full advantage of it. Please pray for us as we continue ministering here at Belmont and as we make plans for transitioning to Westminster.
As far as my RUF account is concerned, I’m maintaining but we’re barely above water. I dipped into a slight deficit at the end of December and I was able to raise enough to keep us from going further into deficit although not totally out of one. I will need approximately $7,000 to make through the end of May, which is the conclusion of my internship. As time has gone on it has become more difficult to find new donors, typically who you start is more or less who you finish with. I’m very thankful for the help you’ve given thus far, but I do need your help to finish out.
You may visit www.ruf.org to make online donations with debit cards and credit cards. Click on the “support RUF’ icon and fill out the online form. After filling out the form you may select which field staff you would like to designate your gift to — Chase Stephenson | Belmont RUF
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at email@example.com or 615.295.0097
Thank you all!
December 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
During the month of December I’m going to focus my efforts on support raising. Holly and I only have one more semester here with Belmont RUF and we’d like to finish strong. My account is currently pretty low and I need to raise approximately $10,000 to to make it through the end of May, when my job concludes.
As you consider year-end giving, I ask that you consider helping us! We’ve been so blessed by many of you and we can’t continue to do this without your continued support! If you’re interested in giving please visit the link below and follow the directions.
As a reminder all gifts are tax deductible and Reformed University Ministries is a 501(c)(3).
You may visit www.ruf.org to make online donations with debit cards and credit cards. Click on the “support RUF’ icon and fill out the online form. After filling out the form you may select which field staff you would like to designate your gift to–in this case, you’ll select my name (Chase Stephenson – Belmont Intern).
If you have any questions feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 615-295-0097.
Thank you all so much and I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
December 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
Friends, Family, Brothers, Sisters, Wife (that’s you, Holly) and well-wishers,
I’m reporting from a local coffee shop close to the campus of Belmont, amidst the loud clamoring of cramming for finals! It’s hard to believe that I’ve only got one more semester here! I mean, seriously, the time has FLOWN by!! We’ve made some great friends and we love Nashville and our Belmont buds–I can’t imagine the eyes staying dry upon our departure…
I’m not going to go into any detail at the moment (I’ll post more on this later), but Holly and I are currently sifting through what the Lord may have for us next. Ultimately (Lord willing) we’ll end up at seminary, but we’re also considering an opportunity to study apologetics and do college ministry in England for a year before we go to seminary. You can pray for us as we weigh our options and move forward!
That being said, for now we’re still in Nashville working with students at Belmont. I’ve got roughly 6 months left in my internship with RUF and we’ll need your continued support and prayers to make it through. I’ve sent out letters updating each of you of my financial status and what is needed to make it to June.
I know it’s been a long ride, but we ask that you finish strong with us! We can’t do this without the help of each of you! I’ll focus more towards support-raising during the month of December so I can hit the ground running when stud
ents return in early January. Our overall goal is approximately $10,000—we ask for your help!
Thanks from the Stephensons! And Merry Christmas!
p.s. You can give online at www.ruf.org/donate/. Just make sure you select my name (Chase Stephenson-Belmont Intern) in the staff member drop down list.
October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
Many months ago (:/) I promised more pictures of RUF stuff—well, here you go! These pictures are from various events we’ve held and also some events put on by Belmont University. They range from Belmont student worship services and student activity fairs to RUF large groups, RUF small groups, and other random events we’ve held. There’s even a picture of me and some of the guys recording part of the new Indelible Grace album in some famous studio here in Nashville… according to Belmont students, Bob Dylan recording some songs there! 🙂 Anyways, I hope you enjoy the pics! Please leave comments and thanks again for you prayers and support!
August 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s been a bit since I cranked up the ol’ blog, so I thought I’d give her a few turns.
Here’s some pictures of this past week’s events! Stay tuned, for there is much more to come over these next few weeks!
This is me and some of our RUF leaders the morning of our RUF leadership retreat! *Excuse the grimace of the 1980’s frontman on the right… (all love, Wes)
Below is another pic with me and one of RUF leaders and dear friend of mine! We call him Mags. Mags hails from the show-me-state and is an aspiring singer/songwriter!
It wouldn’t be an Belmont RUF event unless there’s a hymn sing! This is us singing some of the newly tuned hymns that will be on the new Indelible Grace album!!! You’ll definitely want it! Buy it.
This is me, Kevin and some of our RUF guys at the church fair that Belmont holds for incoming students. We represented the local PCA churches in Nashville—we had a table setup with lots of information about all the PCA churches in Nashville.
Come back and see us. Pics from the pancake breakfast, activity fair, and small groups are forthcoming!
July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
I ‘unofficially’ met my goal as of this past week! This means I’m out of deficit! Which means I get to keep my job! WOOHOO!!! I’m waiting to hear back from RUF to make sure everything is o-k, but I’m confident we’re good to go!
For now, I’ll continue raising support until I meet my goal for the year—I need roughly $17,000 to make it through the entire year. I’m pretty sure I’ve already chipped away at this amount, but I’m waiting to get my officially numbers back from RUF. I should know something within the next week or two.
As for RUF here at Belmont, our summer meetings have been going well! We’re going through the traditional theological study of the ‘ordo salutis.‘ That’s latin for ‘order of salvation.’ We’ve entitled our study ‘Our Great Salvation.’ You may have read the sermon I recently posted on repentance, which I preached 2 weeks ago… Essentially each week we’re covering a different topic—justification, sanctification, election, repentance, etc…
Tonight we’ll here from Vanderbilt RUF campus minister Stacey Croft as he teaches on sanctification! You can for pray that!
If you’d like to hear the audio of my sermon, let me know. I can’t post it on the blog, but I can send it to you via email.
Again, thank you all for your help and prayers!
July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
Hello! Well, here you go! I preached this sermon this past Tuesday at Summer RUF. This was my first time preaching… nerves were high, anxiety higher, but ultimately I came out alive! I have my wonderful wife, Holly, to thank for answering my endless musings each night as I went through my studies! Glad I married someone smarter than myself! So, in sense, I guess this is Holly’s first sermon too ;)! I’d love feedback, if you’re in to that kind of thing. Hoping for no heresy, but I get a few practice shots before it really counts :)! After seminary my excuses will unfortunately dwindle… kidding! Thanks again for all your prayers and support! Enjoy:
Welcome everyone! Thanks for coming out and joining us as we go through our series entitled “Our Great Salvation.” Essentially the goal of our summer is to delve into the different processes by which God by brings us unto himself. Tonight we’ll be discussing our paradigm for repentance and if it aligns with what the bible has to say.
Who here has heard of guy named Thomas Kuhn? Thomas Kuhn wrote a very influential book entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. As I think back on Kuhn’s approach and insights in that book, I find him helpful in our current position. You see Kuhn coined this term “paradigm shift.” A paradigm shift, according to Kuhn, is when a set of foundational principles upon which we think are replaced by a new, more convincing set of foundation principles. I’m obviously caricaturing Kuhn, for those of you who are familiar with him. But our goal is to borrow his approach, so you get point. We’ll be accurate enough. As I studied and prepared for my sermon and read different books on repentance, I realized that we define repentance in ways that seem to pose problems logically and biblically. I mean, If the bible is all about grace (which is what we always hear in RUF) then why does the bible tell us to repent? If Jesus’ actions have been what we’ve been pointing to all along, then why now do my actions play a role? This is why I believe we need a “paradigm shift,” as it were, with our beliefs on repentance. We need to somehow make sense of what the bible is trying to say to us. To borrow another word from Kuhn, I think we have thoughts/beliefs about repentance that are incommensurable (or incompatible) with the gospel itself!
On one hand, our view of repentance is too small—we simply view it as turning from those things God says we can’t do… We only define repentance in terms of negation; and I would argue we need to broaden the scope of repentance because I think the Bible does! We need to think of it in terms of what God would have us do!
On the other hand, we often see repentance in terms of a status and not in terms of a relationship. I’m sure each of you have that one (probably several) sin that if you could just stop doing, God would be happy. Or you might experience God in the way you once did as an “on fire” Christian. We see repentance as a way to keep God happy, as a way of staying in “good-standing” with God. But, friends, if the Christian life is fundamentally about entering into a saving relationship with God, then repentance must viewed in that context! Not as the back and forth game wherein repentance is what “gets us back to God.”
Now, it’s one thing for me to claim that we have faulty views of repentance, and that our views need a “paradigm shift,” as it were. So what does the bible have to say?
Let’s turn to Romans 2:3-4… Paul writes, “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Or, again, here in Isaiah 30:15, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling, and you said, ‘No! We will flee upon horses’; therefore you shall flee away; and, ‘We will ride upon swift seeds’; therefore your pursuers shall be swift.”
Both passages describe repentance in very interesting ways. In Romans Paul says God’s kindness lead us to repentance and in Isaiah we read that repentance has a restful component to it. Now, are you thoroughly convinced when you’re engaged in that one sin mentioned earlier that God’s kindness toward you in that moment is what leads you to repentance? Or also that repenting of that one sin is restful? I would argue that not too many of us would have had these terms in our definition of repentance!
The Romans passage tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance! Not guilt or shame or worry. But, the kindness of God. You see, here Paul is addressing the “moral elites” if you will. These individuals prided themselves on their fine-tuned moral compass. And in the latter verse, Paul specifically address the Jews who thought their covenant relationship with God and the blessing that came along with it, somehow meant that they were O-K and need not trust in Christ. Hence Paul’s pointed and slightly condescending question, “Do you presume…?” In fact, if you follow the logic of the verse, not acknowledging and responding to the kindness of God as the source for your repentance is a damnable offense!!! You see, Paul sees this as the difference between believing in the true Gospel and a false one! There’s only one authentic motivation for repentance unto life—the kindness of God. There’s no doubt that true repentance results in a holy hatred for one’s own sin and therefore a turning from it! But that’s not what motivates it! If you only see God’s anger towards sin without seeing His kindness toward sinners then having your sin exposed will not lead to repentance but to either bargaining with God or trying to hide from Him in a new way – like playing hide and seek. The mercy, kindness, and long-suffering of Jesus is what truly makes us loath unrighteousness and unholiness! If you take Jesus out of the equation then it’s just a claim from an impersonal God. An arbitrary ruler, if you will. But God doesn’t act in that capacity; he’s a loving God, who walks with his people and cares for his people. He’s a God who enters time and space and dies for his people so that they may have life! And repentance is about life that is real, life in relationship with God.
Again, when we look at the Isaiah passage we see a similar type response. Israel, in fear of being attacked by Assyria, wants to create an alliance with Egypt to help defend their borders. God, earlier on in the chapter, calls Israel to trust in the Lord, the secret of their strength! The irony here is that Israel not only doesn’t trust in God’s promises, but they turn back to very land that once enslaved them!! The land that God delivered them out of slavery from! And how does God respond to their actions?? What does He say they should have done? He says they should repent and rest!
You see, both of these passages speak of repentance in relational terms, not in terms of status. Real repentance flows from real relationships. The Romans passage tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance; a quality and characteristic of God that one only knows through a relationship! Moreover, it’s a kindness toward sinners! We’re already in “bad-standing” with God, and yet he still moves us by His kindness! So, an attempt to up your status with God is unbiblical and illogical according to this passage!
And what about Isaiah? What is meant by repentance as resting? How can repentance be restful? You know, it really took me some time to think about what is meant by rest. And, honestly, there’s probably multiple ways approach this concept, but here’s what I think it means: We’re always sinning (if you hold to the orthodox views of sin and fallen human nature, this necessarily follows). And if we’re always sinning, this means that we’re always repenting or always in need of repenting, which serves as a reminder of the expansive and holistic state of our sinfulness, and therefore as a reminder that salvation is not of ourselves but is from the Lord. So, the essence of repentance is turning toward God, but why? Why do we turn toward God? Because it is he who saves, he who forgives, he who makes new, he who redeems, and he who justifies! You see, if repentance serves as a reminder of our neediness because of our inability, it necessarily follows that all of life is looking unto God and his promises for the hope that is within us! The hope that proclaims God’s work will be accomplished! In this way repentance is rest! It’s a sigh of relief that God is in control!
What about our second point? What do I mean by saying we view repentance too narrowly or too small? I would bet that most of us think of repentance as only turning from those actions, thoughts, or feelings not of God toward God. Or, in layman’s terms, simply turning from sinful stuff, and toward God. Now, I don’t want to dispel this notion. There is an aspect of this in repentance unto life. After all, the Westminster Confession has very similar language. But, I think repentance shouldn’t just be viewed in the negative—as simply the act of not doing certain things. I believe it’s also to viewed in the positive—as something that cultivates and lives out the purposes for which you were created! Repentance isn’t just about what you shouldn’t do; It’s what about what you were made to do!
I think if we look in the creation account in Genesis it points us in the right direction.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the
birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and
over every creeping things that creeps on the earth.’ So God created
man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male
and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to
them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and
have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the
heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
So, in the beginning God created all of this stuff. He created the stars and the universe and galaxies. He created the animals and insects; plants and peas. But the highest of all his creation was humans; namely Adam and Eve. God created both Adam and Eve with purpose and intention—in short, he created them to be image bearers of himself, live in communion and harmony with himself, and subdue the earth. There are two things here: one, we’re to live in relationship with God and, two, we’re to carry on his purpose as image bearers by subduing the earth alongside other image bearers. Now, this is what we were created for and this is what we’re returning to. The fall severed all of this intentionality and order. What we were suppose to be has been perverted!
I had a bit of an “ah-ha!’ moment while contemplating this concept and reading Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I was struggling with making sense of a Gospel of Grace, with a Jesus who took my place and counts as my righteousness, and with the notion of repentance. You see, I couldn’t understand (logically) if my actions had any significance at all. And it wasn’t until I read these words by Calvin that everything began to piece together for me:
“In one word, then, by repentance I understand regeneration (or sanctification),
the only aim of which is to form in us anew the image of God, which was sullied,
and all but effaced by the transgression of Adam.”
Something just clicked for me while reading this! This is the primary goal of repentance and sanctification! You see, this is how the bible broadens the scope of repentance!! God still has a plan for your life! Jesus dying for you and becoming your substitute, as it were, doesn’t mean that a bunch of little jesus’ will be running around in heaven, and all the while God is just hoodwinked, not realizing that it’s actually you underneath the disguise. No! Christ died and took your place so that YOU may walk in newness of life and with the one whom you were intended to walk with! You weren’t living at all until this happened! Biblically, that is the case! When we think of repentance as a renewal of the image of God in us, we must think of it proactively!
Let’s go to the bible, wherein ultimately we’ll find roots for this. 2 Corinthians 2:18
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,
Are being transformed into the same image from one degree of
glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Who is the “we all, with unveiled face” Paul’s referring to? It’s Christians; it’s believers, who see the Glory of God, namely the cross in this instance. And what does Paul say Christians do? They behold or gaze (continuously) the glory of the Lord, or Christ crucified, and it continuously transforms them into the the same image! What is the image Paul speaks of? The Image of God! Repentance is believers who, having been unveiled by the Holy Spirit, cast there eyes on the glory of their Savior—namely, the cross—and let it transform them back into what they were created to be! Again, what was distorted by the fall, is now being made new by the power of the cross of Christ!
Let’s look at another passage: Ephesians 4: 22-24.
“…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Paul is urging the Ephesians to be renewed in their minds and sharpen their minds, as the ESV commentary says, by “thinking in new and right ways” while meditating on the truths of God’s Word. This action or process, along with many others, is considered to be in the new self—hence Paul’s mandate to “put on the new self.” But what does the passage say the new self is? If we have a new self, what is it? Paul’s answer: it’s the likeness of God; or the Image of God. So, once again, we have this notion of Christians being renewed into the image of God. One interesting addition this passage states is that the likeness of God consists of true righteousness and holiness. Why is that so important? What’s the significance of that? Well, to me, that just adds more power to the punch! It tells us where we’re headed and what we’ll be like! Once we reach Glory, we’ll be made fully and truly righteous and hoy!
Finally, we have our passage in Colossians:Colossians 3:10
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
And, once again, we have more of the same language. Here, Paul refers to the new self as being renewed after the image of the creator. By Christ’s death and resurrection we have been made new; we have been set free from the bondage of sin; we have fundamentally changed! Sanctification, if you will, is the process of recognizing this fundamental change and living in it, albeit not fully complete and recognized until after this life.
So how does this help us practically? Do I tell my friends I have divine-like qualities and perhaps I just need to walk around believing I’m sort of quasi god? You may be thinking, there doesn’t seem to be a really obvious connection between these truths and how it affects our daily lives. But, I would argue it has HUGE implications for how you live your life!
Number one, this tells us repentance is looking at God rather than ourselves! If repentance is unto a renewal of the image of God in us, how will we know what this image is or what it looks like if we’re constantly looking at ourselves and what we’ve done?? If you’re not looking at God for repentance, you’re looking at yourself and in what you can do or have done. And that, my friends, is idolatry at its finest! This is the very antithesis of the Gospel! Remember our passage in Corinthians? And how Christians are changed and formed into the image of God by beholding and gazing upon the image of God. Look at the last sentence: “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” What is “this”? It’s the Christian being made new by beholding Christ and him crucified! In all of the passages the Christian is being transformed into the fuller image of God by looking at the image of God! Moreover, this comes from the Lord, which leads us to my next point!
This tells us repentance doesn’t qualify us for grace! Repentance is from the Lord! It is granted by God! So, in essence, it is God’s that enables us to repent! If repentance is restful, then it’s because we know the work is accomplished! It will be completed! We just sang these words in Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me! I can’t think of a better way to put it:
“Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill thy law’s commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.”
It’s not about convincing God with your tears or emotionally moving with your zealousness to “stop!” You won’t get very far in your efforts… At least, I know I didn’t. It’s actually the exact opposite: It’s God’s grace that qualifies you for repentance.
Finally, this means that literally everything in the Christian’s life is a returning to and a renewing of the image of God in his or her life. Some of you are familiar with the famous reformer Martin Luther. He began his famous 95 Theses with the statement, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “repent,” he willed the entire life of the believer to be one of repentance.” In other words, all of life is repentance. I don’t know if he actually intended it the way that I’m using, but I think it’s applicable nonetheless. Do you realize now that repentance isn’t just you refraining from “bad” stuff?? It’s literally ALL OF LIFE! If we look back at the creation account in Genesis do we see God primarily giving Adam and Eve orders of what not to do? No!! We see God defining what it really means to be human! He defines our “image-bearingness” if you will! He tells us how to truly live! And if repentance is intended to return us to Eden, as it were, then we need to start thinking of it as cultivating the image of God in us! This is why we have passages in the bible that tell us to do everything unto the Lord! Whether you’re a doctor or own a lawn business. Whether you practice law or practice basketball.
Take heart, my friends, and know that faith in the finished work of Christ is where repentance begins and ends! Only in this way can repentance truly be restful. And only in this way can we truly experience the kindness of God.