I am grateful for Kevin DeYoung’s update on the Young, Restless and Reformed crowd/network/resurgence/movement/whatever and for his influence generally. I am grateful for this entire phenomenon we are witnessing, which I believe is a wonderful work of God in our time. It is certainly not a natural state of affairs, to be expected and taken for granted. It is a precious stewardship from the hand of the Lord. Our responsibility is to parlay it into more, for the blessing of the next generation. Thank you, Kevin, for serving us to that end.
I only wish to add a thought to the third of Kevin’s three “challenges ahead.” I will also propose two other challenges not listed there. I am not implying that Kevin doesn’t respect these matters. But no one post can say everything.
Kevin asks searching questions about our understanding of sanctification. Let me add: For those churches who affirm the third use of the law, how can that theology be pursued without inadvertently counteracting the freedom of the gospel? In the practical reality of a church culture, how can that theology avoid feeling like constant church discipline? In what ways can a church who embraces the third use of the law be an experience of freedom that feels like freedom? A question that is never far from my mind, in view of Romans 8:2 and Galatians 5:1, is this: Do our churches look like people who have been freed from anything? How does God want us today to “remove every obstruction from my people’s way” (Isaiah 57:14)? How can our authoritative pursuit of true holiness tend toward a generation of people so unleashed from everything damning that they become like “calves leaping from their stalls” (Malachi 4:2)? Unless our holiness is also an experience of freedom, we cannot expect to see the flood of converts we long for and pray for.
And let me propose two further “challenges ahead.”
One, how will we hold together for the long haul? The more we work together and the better we get to know one another, the more we will disappoint each other. Given human weakness, this is inevitable. What will hold us together when we see something alienating in another, five years from now, ten years from now? I am not talking about erosion of theological convictions. I am not talking about blatant sins. I am talking about the pervasive impact of sin upon us all, which we experience in the personal annoyances which so often complicate otherwise fruitful disagreements — for example, church growth strategies, ways of translating the Bible, and other valid questions. How can we safeguard our relationships and partnerships so that we don’t fragment into aloofness? Obviously, it is essential that we stay low before the Lord, preserve a sense of theological proportion, and strive for humble self-awareness. But can we talk about this together? Can we agree on general strategies for pressing through pain into even deeper unity, for the Lord’s sake? Do we have relationships that need gentle repair right now?
Two, how will we avoid the disaster of success by the power of the flesh? If it is possible – and I believe it is – for us to “succeed” in the Lord’s work not by his wisdom and strength but by our own brains and abilities, then we must guard against ourselves, not just our sins but also our strengths. If the Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way, what is our plan for prayer together, beyond perfunctory prayer? Are we agitating with one another, and with the Lord himself (Isaiah 62:6-7), for the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus in ways that go far beyond our own capacity for impact? Reformed people should, by the force of their own principles, be the weakest, the humblest, the most prayerful — and the most optimistic. Even if we could succeed on our own, we wouldn’t want to. What makes us happy is being caught up in what only God can do. That is indeed what we are witnessing in this phenomenon we call Young Restless and Reformed. Let’s follow that vector together. I cannot believe we would ever regret costly investments in this way.