A Message for Discouraged Ministers
Dr. Ligon Duncan writes about this message by Dr. John Piper:
Discouraged ministers and Christians, here is a sermon you need to hear. "The Sadness and Beauty of Paul's Final Words" by John Piper, preached at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Piper gives seven riveting, biblical, pastorally comforting and encouraging truths about Christian ministry. And if you have ever been let down or betrayed by Christians, and have been tempted to leave Christ because you've been left or bruised or abused by Christians -- Christians in your congregation, even close Christian friends -- then Piper has some words that may just give you the hope you need."
“Comfort for Christians!” By James Smith
“He will certainly accomplish what He has decreed for me–and He has many more things like these in mind!” Job 23:14
The trials of time were appointed in eternity. He who chose us unto eternal life–also planned the path by which we are to reach it! Nothing ever happens to us by ‘chance’.
Our little trials,
our great troubles,
our heavy crosses,
our painful losses–
are all a part of God’s plan!
Nor did He plan afflictions for us merely haphazardly–He planned them because He saw that we needed them. He intended to make them rich blessings to us.
Every cross is a mercy,
every loss is a gain,
every trouble is a blessing,
and every trial is a seed of joy!
We shall be better in the future–for what we suffer now. If we sow in tears–we shall reap in joy. A wet spring will introduce a glorious harvest. Many of our present tears will crystallize into pearls–and will be an ornament to us in glory!
And not only so, but the same love which planned our trials–also provides strength to bear them. Our choicest comforts will flow from them. Time reveals what God planned in eternity–and eternity will reveal what God had in view in all the trials of time!
Let us, then, bear our afflictions with patience, and seek grace to honor God in all that we suffer, as well as by all that we do. If we keep our eye fixed on glorifying God–He will order and arrange everything that happens to us, so that it shall work for our good. Nothing shall by any means hurt us. The darkest clouds shall bring showers of blessings; and our sharpest pains shall only introduce us to the sweetest joys!
Gracious Lord, help me not only to submit to Your appointments, but to be pleased with them–so pleased that if the turning of a straw would alter them–I would not turn it! Oh, give me grace–to rejoice in my afflictions!
“So that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them!” 1 Thessalonians 3:3
Judgment According to Works
When all has been said and done, the peoples will all be judged according to their works (Rom 2:6). That's you and me and everyone. With winnowing fork in hand God will separate the wheat and the chaff, which will go into unquenchable fire. Only perfect obedience to the law will measure up and be declared just ... so it is certain that wrath and fury awaits those who trust in themselves. But to you who have been mercifully united to Jesus Christ, your works will be judged to have been perfect (Rom 8:14; Heb 5:7-9) and there will be no more shame forever on that Day, but when we see His face, only eternal felicity.
The 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell
A good word about humility in light of disasters.
"...those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13 1-5)
Therefore (because you are no better than they), humble yourselves, put away your self-righteousness and do not boast over your neighbor. The mercy of Jesus Christ is the only hope for any man. Only as we approach skeptics with this kind of humility that our only standing before God is his mercy, as beggars pointing other beggars to bread, as sinners leading other sinners to Christ, as those who recognize they have a log in their own eye removed by grace, yet sensitive of our weakness and Christ's strength, can we have the most impact on people for the gospel. As long as we are arrogant when we point out our neighbors' immorality with the law - then we have missed a great opportunity for the gospel.
Jesus is saying that no amount of religion or good works can save you. You and your whole city are no better than the persons who suffered this fate. There is no hope whatsoever to be had in yourselves and, as such, all need a Savior from the outside. Repent of trusting in your good works and your boasting over your neighbor, as if you were better. We are all responsible for natural disasters, suffering and the death that overtakes us all. Skeptics need to repent of their immorality but perhaps even more importantly, religious people need to repent of their morality. The number one characteristic of those whom Christ has intervened is that the word of God will shatter their self-complacency and cause them to renounce their self-righteousness. Those in whom God has done a work of grace are convicted of their woeful, guilty, and lost condition, apart from grace. This true view of self, continues throughout the Christian life as the first order of business. If not, and If I think I am better than my neighbor, or more moral, and therefore, by extension, somehow more deserving, then I have forgotten that it was mercy alone which saved me and mercy alone which keeps me there. Thus the more grounded we are in the knowledge of God's mercy toward us, the easier it is for us to maintain humility among our neighbors, regardless of how depraved we may be tempted to think they are.
"Don't give me doctrine, I just want to follow Jesus"
When someone says, "Don't give me doctrine, I just want to follow Jesus", what they are really saying is "give me law, not gospel. Give me more imperatives and less indicatives. I just want something practical." But how is this any different than Mormons or theological liberals? Fact is, we need a Savior, not just a moral example.
You could not have believed the gospel of Jesus Christ without knowing its contents. You did not just follow a generic Jesus. To be saved you understood that you had no self righteousness of your own and you trusted in Christ's finished work... which included His living the life you should have lived and dying the death you deserved. This is doctrine. The idea of simply "following Jesus" is requiring more demands of the law because you are looking for Jesus to tell you something you can do. But you need the gospel, not merely law, to be saved or to grow in grace. Indeed following Jesus springs out of a renewed heart. As Christians we only follow Jesus when we know Who we are following and as such we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily.
The Spirit first first brings an elect soul face to face with Godâ€™s holy Law, for â€œby the law is the knowledge of sinâ€ (Rom. 3:20). It condemns and curses him because it demands perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed. Next, the Spirit brings before the soul the precious Gospel where the law's demands are perfectly met by Jesus Christ. The Spirit so works in his heart that He appears to him to be the most glorious object in the world; and so rests entirely upon His finished work.
No one is suggesting that we have right doctrine but do not follow Jesus, but the imperatives (Commands) always spring from indicatives (what Jesus has done). Look at Ephesians for example. The first 3 chapters are pure doctrine... - "this is what Jesus has done for you". Chapter four (4) then says THEREFORE, "live like this". But the opposite is not true Biblically... right doctrine does NOT flow out of right living.
To those who squirm at the word "doctrine" it simply means "teaching" - the Bible is full of teaching from start to finish. It does not matter if your church never used the word. Your eyes were opened an you believed because the Holy Spirit gave you understanding of the gospel and the teaching or doctrine in the Bible that Jesus is not just a moral example, but a Savior. You could not have been saved unless you FIRST understood the doctrine about these teachings about what Jesus did for you . You could not have been saved simply by saying "I am going to obey Jesus".... that is moralism --- and no one is saved by obeying the moral commands of Jesus. They will damn you if you trust in them.
But anticipating your criticisms, let me also declare that a simple reciting of doctrine without a changed heart has no value. Having pride is how good your doctrine is would mean that they have not yet grasped the most basic doctrine that we are saved by grace ALONE. Such a tragic misapplication of the doctrine we have learned denies Christ because it is trusting in something else (how good ones doctrine is). but again, the opposite is most often true in this day and age ... that many people will say, "I don't want doctrine at all, I just want to follow Jesus." This is to want only instruction for practical living by giving them law.... and to shun the teaching of the gospel altogether. This is the root of all cults and heresy.
Most of the people who say "I don't want doctrine" are usually the same people would say in the same breath "just give me something practical from the Bible"- and what they mean by this is that they want instructions about WHAT TO DO... rather than hear about what God has done for them in Christ. The phrase 'Jesus follower' places the focus on my following and the moral imperatives of Jesus. "Theological Liberals" and Mormons are characterized by their sermons on moral instruction - not the priority of Jesus as God the Savior. While people in the above cults all say they want to follow the Bible, but look closely because they only want the LAW part of the bible because that is practical for me. They don't want to hear about the gospel part of it because it is doctrinal and, more importantly, it strips us of all hope in ourselves and places our hope in Another.
A Challenging Suggestion
Back in 2009 Ligonier Ministries hosted a Conference for Pastors and Leaders called "Pillars of the Christian Faith." It was described in the following way:
"While always initiated and empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit, history tells us that the most powerful periods of church renewal and reformation follow the efforts of Christian leaders to teach the Word of God accurately. These gifted teachers held in common a solid grounding in the essential truths of the prophetic and apostolic writings, the foundation upon which Christ builds His church. Christian leaders today must likewise be established in these biblical truths if the church would enjoy a new reformation.
In Ligonier Ministriesâ€™ 2009 Ministry Leadership Conference, â€œPillars of the Christian Faith,â€ Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, and R.C. Sproul seek to equip you for effective, biblical leadership based upon the essential truths of the Christian faith."
The sessions were as follows:
A Man of Two Questions
â€œThink over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.â€ 2 Tim 2:7
MESSAGE TO SELF:
You may be armed with an inspiring quote, found a good phrase you might use as a punch line, you might have heard a great story that is sure to â€œwowâ€ the people, you might have up to date facts and figures at your disposal that might possibly be shocking or even frightening, but certainly, enlightening; you might have a file of pithy quotes showing how the great thinkers of the church have seen the issue; yes, you may have all of this and more, but remember this, when you step into your office to study the word of God, you enter what for you is sacred space.
Of course, it may not be seen that way to others, but it has to be this way for you. There should be no discussion or debate on this. This is the time when you pour out your heart to God, pleading with Him to open up the text of the Bible to you. This is where you declare your total dependence on the Holy Spirit, even though He might use your study habits as a means to opening up your understanding. This is the place where the man becomes the man of God. Alone with God, your gaze is heavenward in heart, while your eyes peer downward at the text of the Bible in front of you.
Remember too that all of hell trembles as you enter this place. Hell fears the proclamation of the word of God as no other thing in this world. You wrestle not with flesh and blood but against hostile unseen forces seeking to distract you from your calling. Hell has no fear of a joke; of a punch line; or an insightful quote, but hell trembles when a man of God proclaims the word of God. If the devil cannot stop you in public, he will seek to win the war in private, distracting you with a million other things and a million other affections.
So knowing that there is both heavenly and hellish interest in what you do in your study, settle it forever. This is a sacred place to you. Its a place where you are unreachable (and those close to you know it) unless there is an emergency. Your phone is off. There are no earthly distractions. Outside the study, you have all the time in the world for people â€“ your family especially; but inside, you have entered, what is for you, the very holy of holies.
Your task is not complicated but amazingly simple â€“ to please the audience of One.
How exactly do you do that?
You know the answer, but let me remind you once again. Your task is not first to think of how to communicate truth; how to say it with passion, how to communicate in such a way that people can identify with it.. no, no, no, a thousand times, no. That is important. God offers no rewards for the boring preacher. Yet communication is a secondary matter. That comes later.
Your first priority is to ask (and then answer) two simple questions:
(1) What does the Bible say?
(2) What does it mean by what it says?
Live Where the People Are
You're reading this, which means you have access to the internet. You might even own a computer and have the internet piped into your home at lightning speed. This "simple fact" indicates that you are wealthy, comparatively speaking. Maybe "middle" or "upper-middle class" wealthy.
Do you think most people are like you? Do you think most of your neighbors are in your socio-economic class? Do you think most of the people in your town or city can afford to eat and drink where you like to eat and drink? Do you think they own their homes? Do you think they have "disposable income?" Do you think they regularly get on a plane for their vacation? If you do, I challenge you to think again.
Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology
Apart from union with Christ, ministry is cast back upon us to achieve. This is a recipe for failure, for we all fall short of the glory of God. The understanding and practice of pastoral work in this case is a burden too heavy to bear and follows a path that denies the gospel. We do not heal the sick, comfort the bereaved, accompany the lonely, forgive sins, raise up hope of eternal life, or bring people to God on the strength of our piety and pastoral skill. To think that these tasks are ours to perform is not only hubris, but also a recipe for exhaustion and depression in ministry (45).
The effect [of developing â€œan imitative rather than a participatory approach to ministryâ€] is to cast the pastor back upon his or her own resources â€“ thus it can be defined as pastoral Pelagianism, a ministry by works rather than a ministry through grace (xxx).
The professional pressures on ministers today are immense. At the level of practical theological argument, the case can be made that to understand the burnout rate among ministers and the lack of vocational fulfillment that many experience we must also recognize the decision we may have made to turn away from this theological and practical foundation for ministry in general, and preaching in particular. [That foundation being, as Barth wrote, that the sum and substance of all pastoral work is the declaration of Him who proclaims Himself.] We must consider this turn because it signifiesâ€¦the introduction of a countergospel basis for ministry and means here that preaching becomes something we do, something that we must make effective. Preaching becomes the minsterâ€™s burden, a new law, the consequence of which is a kind of ministerial Pelagianism in which there is now a strictly human, albeit religious or churchly, criterion of success. Bluntly put: this turn means that it is up to the preacher to make preaching effective (158-60).
The Complaining Christian
"Do you have a father?" Genesis 44:19
Standing at my window one day, while the cholera was raging in London, I saw two corpses carried by, followed by one little child, walking alone next to the coffins, with a few neighbors behind. That child was now an orphan. Both parents had been carried off by the pestilence. The sight of that child produced deep emotions, and awakened painful sympathy in my heart.
I was led to think of the sorrows and privations of orphanhood, and then of the happiness of the Lord's people to whom Jesus has said, "I will not leave you as orphans." A believer can never be an orphan! He has an ever-living, ever-loving, ever-present Father! But many of the Lord's people do not realize this, therefore they do not live and act under its influence.
There are believers who are always complaining of their circumstances:
They are worked too hard. They are tried more than others.They have such a vexing family. They have such a demanding job. They have such financial losses. They have no end of things to vex, harass, and distress them!
Complaining Christian, "Do you have a father?"
If so, had your Father anything to do with fixing your lot? Did He place you where you are? Is He wise? Is He good?
Has He ever told you, that all things shall work together for your good? Does He know what is best for you?
Has He left things to 'chance'â€”or has He arranged all in His own infinite mind, and does He work all by His unerring providence? If He doesâ€”then are you justified in complaining?
Have you any real cause to complain?
Will it better your circumstances?
Will it please your Father?
Will it any way help you?
If not, leave off complaining, and "having food and clothing, let us be content with these!"
Seek grace from God, that you may . . .
do all that is required,
bear all that is sent, and
endure all that is to be sufferedâ€”to His glory!
by James Smith
If you're a Christian, you might have noticed by now that you have a tendency to forget the Gospel. Like the people of Israel constantly forgetting the many wonders wrought by the Holy One who delivered them out of Egypt, we too forget the historical work of God on our behalf and in our lives. It's particularly disturbing when we forget the work of Christ on the cross, and live in fear of God's displeasure rather than by faith in his love. In fact, I'm frightened by how often I actually forget the Gospel entirely. Is there something wrong with me?
Good Days and Bad Days
"Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace....Pharisee-type believers unconsciously think they have earned God's blessing through their behavior. Guilt-laden believers are quite sure they have forfeited God's blessing through their lack of discipline or their disobedience. Both have forgotten the meaning of grace because they have moved away from the gospel and have slipped into a performance relationship with God." - Jerry Bridges, http://bit.ly/1bnrPf
God Directs the Means
"All is God's, and the blessings we enjoy are on loan from Him. He is the great landlord who has leased them to the sons of men. God has given the earth for us to occupy and enjoy, but also gives a particular allotment for each man's portion. These things do not come by chance, by the gift of others, or by our own industry, but by the peculiar designation of God's providence. Whatever avenue they come, by donation, purchase, labour, or by inheritance, they were sent by God. He directed the means to get them to us. The hearts of men are in the hand of God, and it was God that prompted them to be kind to us and become instruments of his providence to nourish us."
(Manton, Works 1:149-154)
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What is Forgiveness?
Dan Hamilton in his book, Forgiveness, explains it thus:
"If a careless friend breaks a lamp at my home, I will forgive him. That means I will not make him buy a new lamp. I have set him free from the penalty of sin. He is free to go because I say. "I release you from your debt. Go and leave your chains behind"
Forgiveness means to cancel, and the penalty is what we cancel. No one can make us take action against the offender. We cannot be forced to collect from someone who has destroyed our property. No law says that we must stop speaking to one who has slandered us. We are free in forgiveness to renew renewed relationships - as friends and co-workers and family and lovers.
But when the offender has walked away, rejoicing in freedom, we are not finished. We have dealt with the penalty, but the damage remains. There is still a price to be paid.
The lamp is still broken; our reputation is still ruined; there is still a loss to absorb in life. Who will pay for it? I cannot collect money for the lamp from a third party. If I did. I would not be canceling the penalty but merely transferring it to someone else. I have no choice. I must pay for it myself.
A lamp is easy to price and pay for. But what about damage that is intangible, unpriceable, irreparable? broken relationships? Ruined reputations? Shattered bodies?
"Taste and See that the LORD is Good!"- Edwards on 'Bonum Utile' and 'Bonum Formosum'
ESV Isaiah 6:3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
ESV Revelation 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
How do we increase in our love for God as His people? How do we seek to desire God above all things and join with the angels in singing: â€œHoly, holy, holyâ€ both day and night?
We must taste and see that the LORD is good. As Jonathan Edwards taught in â€˜The Religious Affectionsâ€™ Part III, we must not only have an abstract sense of the taste of Godâ€™s holiness and beauty, but we must have knowledge of it for ourselves by the Holy Spirit.
Edwards said that as we may have an understanding that honey is sweet, it is much different to have an experience of actually tasting the honey and knowing first hand and experientially that the honey is sweet.
ESV Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Edwards wrote in â€˜The Religious Affectionsâ€™*: â€œA true love to God must begin with a delight in his holinessâ€¦.
The Cross Centered Life
Here is an excerpt:
The Most Important Truth Is the Easiest to Forget
TIMOTHY'S HANDS TREMBLED as he read. He almost cradled the letter, as though his gentleness with the parchment would somehow be conveyed to its author, now chained in a cold Roman dungeon.
The letter came from the apostle Paul; it would be his last.
For years Timothy had pushed the thought of losing Paul out of his mind. Paul had been like a father. A friend and mentor who guided and instructed the young pastor. How could he minister without Paul's reassuring words, his confidence, his prayers? But now, Timothy knew Paul's death was imminent.
"I am already being poured out like a drink offering," Paul wrote, "and the time has come for my departure" (2 Timothy 4:6).
Timothy read the closing lines of the letter through his tears. But then he stopped and pushed them away abruptly. How could he wallow in grief when his old friend faced death so boldly?
Maybe this has been said before; people listen to too many online sermons. Sure, the problem is probably limited to reformed-ish churchgoers, but that's the tank I swim in, so it seems like everybody. I've noticed a few damaging side effects that I would like to share with you, maybe to encourage you to listen to less online sermons, but at least to help you use your "I've Heard All of Piper's Sermons for Seven Years" Powers for good and not for evil. I'll be brief.
Our Faith and God's Grace
God justifies the ungodly by Christ through faith so that it may be by grace ALONE. God gives salvation as a free gift. But our redemption is infinitely valuable for it was purchased by the precious blood of his Son. Yet God gives it to the undeserving freely, apart from any conditions. â€˜Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.â€™ (Isaiah 55:1).
But why is it that faith corresponds to grace? It is because the saving grace that works genuine faith in the heart can finally say,
I am unworthy sinner; I am helpless and powerless; I plead guilty and I have no defence; My righteousness are filthy rags; I merit Godâ€™s wrath, condemnation, hell!Faith despairs of self, but faith does not despair of God! Faith fixes its gaze confidently upon the Lord Jesus Christ, saying,
You are worthy, for you shed your precious blood on the cross; You are powerful, for you arose victorious from the grave; You are gracious, kind and compassionate; You promised rest to all who come to you; So Lord, be merciful to me a sinner. I am your sin, you are my righteousness. May I never boast save in the cross of Christ my Lord; And forever glory in the grace of God.
Note: Faith looks away from itself and its own resources and places its trust in Christ alone for salvation. It is Jesus Christ plus nothing that saves us. Even our faith and good works must spring from a renewed heart.
"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." Eze 36:25-27
As evidenced by this passage, and many others, that it is by the Holy Spirit within us that we EVEN have the faith, or the strength to do, believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock; It reveals that the assistance of grace does not even depend on the humility or obedience of man since it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, ... "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). So Christ purchases, not only the opportunity for His people to be saved but makes certain they are saved by doing all for them that they are unable to do for themselves, including granting them understanding and the faith to take hold of the promises.
"...flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).
John Hendryx and Dr Joseph Mizzi
Christian Giving Is Worship
God made us, sustains us, and lavishes us with good gifts. He loves us and gave his only Son for us. Our response of praise can and should be expressed through giving. The supreme reason to give away our money and possessionsâ€”the motive that permeates all other motivesâ€”is to worship God. Like a precious cut gem gleaming in the sunlight, every facet of Christian giving should reflect the glory of God's grace. The immediate beneficiaries of Christian giving are earthly, but the One who receives honor from each gift is in Heaven. It is nothing to hoard, to indulge, to beautify ourselves. It is divine to lay down all that we are and all that we have as a tribute at the feet of the King of kings.
Read through the Bible in 50 Weeks
There are many existing plans for reading through the Bible in a year. Some have you reading from four places in the Bible every day. Some go through the Psalms and/or the New Testament twice. This one is meant to give you weekends off, be late with that New Year's Resolution, allow for temporary backsliding, and take you very simply through the Old and New Testaments simultaneously. And if you absolutely must be legalistic about it, I even gave you checkboxes.
Would You Grow in the Grace of the Fear of God?
Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A MURMURING AND REPINING HEART, for that is not a heart for this grace of fear to grow in. As for instance, when men murmur and repine at God's hand, at his dispensations, and at the judgments that overtake them, in their persons, estates, families, or relations, that their murmuring tendeth to destroy fear; for a murmuring spirit is such an one as seems to correct God, and to find fault with his dispensations, and where there is that, the heart is far from fear. A murmuring spirit either comes from that wisdom that pretends to understand that there is a failure in the nature and execution of things, or from an envy and spite at the execution of them. Now if murmurings arise from this pretended wisdom of the flesh, then instead of fearing of God, his actions are judged to be either rigid or ridiculous, which yet are done in judgment, truth, and righteousness. So that a murmuring heart cannot be a good one for the fear of God to grow in. Alas! the heart where that grows must be a soft one; as you have it in Job 23:15, 16; and a heart that will stoop and be silent at the most abstruse of all his judgmentsâ€”"I was dumb, because THOU didst it." The heart in which this fear of God doth flourish is such, that it bows and is mute, if it can but espy the hand, wisdom, justice, or holiness of God in this or the other of his dispensations, and so stirs up the soul to fear before him. But if this murmuring ariseth from envy and spite, that looketh so like to the spirit of the devil, that nothing need be said to give conviction of the horrible wickedness of it. - Excerpt from The Fear of God by John Bunyan
Helpful Links 9-17-08
Fads, Schemes, And Gimmicks - The Spurgeon Fellowship Winter 2008
Essays from Art Azurdia, Sinclair Ferguson and James Sweeney on methodology and defining evangelicalisms boundaries in ministry.
A Prolegomenon To Biblical Exposition by R. Kent Hughes - two excellent lectures which should be required for all pastors. Introductions . . . Illustrations . . . Transitions . . . Outlines . . . Conclusions. The acquisition of communicative skills seems to dominate present day discussions of preaching. But before a preacher ever seeks to master certain techniques he must be mastered by certain convictions. What are the foundational presuppositions indicative of a biblically informed commitment to preaching?
The Book of Leviticus - major update to the Leviticus sermon manuscripts page at Monergism.com. Anyone studying or preaching through this book will find this a great resource.
Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World (35 Free Downloadable MP3 Classes) by Dr. Edmund P. Clowney and Dr. Timothy J. Keller- Requires iTunes.
Difficult Questions, Certain Answers (.pdf) by Nathan Pitchford.
Many Reformed folk often ask for good gospel presentations. Here's one. Its a Reformed, Redemptive Historical Gospel Tract
Comfort in the Precious Promises of God
God calls us to such radical obedience to His law that, if we are honest, we should dispair of all hope from ourselves to accomplish what He demands of us (Rom 3:20). Left to ourselves we cannot rise above the source of the fountain of who we are by nature - a poluted well. We, therefore, do not need improvement, but a totally new heart that would desire obedience to our Lord. For all believers this has occurred (past tense). It is the grace of God in Christ that we now have a heart which delights in obedience. Apart from the Holy Spirit we continue in darkness since we are nothing in ourselves, but in Christ take courage and note the glorious promises of God in Ezekiel:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. - Ezekiel 36:25-32
My Sin Makes Me Worry If I am Really Saved
Once in a while I will receive an email like the following from someone who is worried that some sin they have committed may have crossed the place of no return to God's favor.
Visitor: Even after I was sealed for the day of redemption, I still have sinned against God. I continue to fight addicting sin(s), and though most of the time I defeat the sin, sometimes I foolishly give in to it. I'm so sorry that I have given in to foolish and sinful lusts, and all I want to do is to cast away those actions forever, and to be forgiven, and sin no more. But I don't know if I am saved anymore, because I have really been scared that my repentance is not true, because I have again sinned, and that God has cast me away. Please help me, because I am very scared. I want to be forgiven and be different.
Response: Your sin is not greater than Christ's grace and work. Having been united to Christ, the Spirit of adoption can come to you no more with a Spirit of bondage and fear because in Christ you no longer stand in your own sins, merit or performances, but are clothed in His righteousness. Becaue of Jesus you are already on the other side of justice and it can no longer have you (Rom 8:1). No condemnation for you in Christ for the full justice of God has been satisfied. Christ's once for all sacrifice means there is no longer necessary a sacrifice for sin year after year (as in Leviticus) but now His atoning work is sufficient for all time for you before God. Remember, you can neither attain, nor maintain, your right standing before God. You never did and never will, for sin cannot disolve the covenant which God has graciously granted you in Christ. Now as always, our only hope is Jesus Christ. When God justified you, He did not then, and does not now, look at you but rather, at the covenant He made with you in Christ. Consider, when God made the covenant of grace with Abraham, God made Abraham sleep and God himself walked through the divided animals and so promised to take on Himself the punishment if Abraham did not fulfill his side of the covenant. And so it was, the seed of Abraham (that's us) all failed to keep the covenant and so God Himself came in the flesh to fully bear up the punishment we justly deserve for not keeping our side of it. Jesus Kept it for us. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves, from our side. We are justified for His sake, not for anything God sees in us or will see in us.
This is a compilation of my previous posts on obedience. If you would like to download the printable PDF, here it is.
Good Friday: Life in the Blood
The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. [Leviticus 17:11]
Today is the Day of the Cross. I've never heard anyone contest the historicity of the death of Jesus on a crossâ€”the historicity of his resurrection, yes, but not his death. The crucial question is not whether it happened. Rather, it is whether his death had any unique significance. Is Good Friday simply a memorial day for the loss of another good man? Or does it mean something more?
The original application of Leviticus 17:11 was in ancient Israel, with regard to animal sacrifices. People sinned, and, in order to be received by a Holy God, they had to make atonement for their sins. So they slaughtered dumb animals like bulls and goats as substitutes for themselves so they could survive God's presence.
Now, there's a problem with this. And it's not the kind of problem where you feel like you should call the Audobon Society because they practiced cruelty to animals.
We Wouldn't Make This Up
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, â€œUp, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!â€
The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, â€œWe shall all be dead.â€ So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. [Exodus 12:29-36]
There are a lot of people in this world who want very badly to believe that God is a God of love. Indeed, the Scripture says quite literally that God is love. But that's interesting, because Exodus 12 makes it clear that God kills babies out of anger. This is not the kind of thing you make up if you're trying to sell the "God is love" idea to people! It's tremendously hard for us to understand God's wrath and love together, but the Scriptures demand that we try.
When God Refuses to Correct
"The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod" or, "The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes" by Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.
"The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives." Heb. 12:6
There cannot be a greater evidence of God's hatred and wrath--than His refusing to correct men for their sinful courses and vanities! Where God refuses to correct--there God resolves to destroy! There is no man so near God's axe--so near the flames--so near hell--as he whom God will not so much as spend a rod upon! "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline." Revelation 3:19 God is most angry--when He shows no anger! Who can seriously meditate upon this, and not be silent under God's most smarting rod?
Growing in Grace & Conscious of Sin
Due to a rising sense of sin, many genuine Christians, as they grow in grace, may occasionally have doubts arise as to the assurance of their conversion. We can feel that grace is declining when our awareness of inner corruption is growing. Our pride, our lusts and other corruptions swell up in our breasts and so we wonder if our conversion is real, or at least wonder where God is in all of this. Rather than being comforted, we feel extraordinary discomfort. We become worried and irritated and wonder how it is that we feel guiltier than ever.
What is Most Savory to Your Soul - Christ or the World?
It brings me great sadness to report that a person whom I once considered a dear brother has gone apostate from the faith. With joy we used to go together to the house of the Lord, yet he has now chosen a life of corruption over Christ. After many admonishments from brothers he has shown no interest in parting with his idolatrous lifestyle and even attempts to justify it with religion, citing that the Bible does not really mean what it says. At this point I can only mourn and pray that God grant him repentance.
But to this it makes me all the more earnest to contend for what we have, for the rich blessings we have in Christ:
Earnestly contend for heaven, dear Christian, for Christ is too precious to part with on ANY terms. By God's grace stand resolved to make war on all that stands between you and heaven. Use the talents Christ has given you to make religion your main business, to spend and be spent for Him. And by the renewing work of the Spirit, do not neglect to take up arms against the rebellion in your heart because some among us in the pews ... would have heaven but also have their sins, for they do not mean to part with them. They would have heaven's rewards and yet hope God would leave them alone in this life. They would co-mingle with the saints of God and outwardly put on heavenly garments but whose hearts are full of hypocrisy, deceiving others and themselves. This issues forth from the heart of a swine and not of a saint ... for he would choose to wallow in the hog's dung of his carnal pleasures, rather than dwell in heavenly mansions with Christ. Without having uttered a word, the lives of men tell us what they think and say in their hearts.
Guidance of the Word and Spirit
In general, God guides and directs His people, by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of His Holy Spirit, who enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures.
The word of God furnishes us with just principles, and right apprehensions, to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct. Those who study the Scriptures, in a humble dependence upon Divine teaching, are taught to make a true estimate of everything around them, and are gradually formed into a spirit of submission to the will of God. They thereby discover the nature and duties of their several situations and relations in life, and the snares and temptations to which they are exposed.
The word of God dwelling richly in them, is a preservative from error, a light to their feet, and a spring of strength and consolation. By treasuring up the doctrines, precepts, promises, examples, and exhortations of Scripture, in their minds, and daily comparing themselves with the rule by which they walk, they grow into a habitual frame of spiritual wisdom, and acquire a gracious taste, which enables them to judge of right and wrong with a degree of
readiness and certainty, as a musical ear judges of sounds. And they are seldom mistaken, because they are influenced by the love of Christ, which rules in their hearts, and a regard to the glory of God, which is the great object they have in view.
The Lord, whom they serve, does not disappoint their expectations. He leads them by a right way, preserves them from a thousand snares, and satisfies them that He is and will be their guide even unto death.
- John Newton
One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, â€œWhy do you strike your companion?â€ He answered, â€œWho made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?â€ Then Moses was afraid, and thought, â€œSurely the thing is known.â€ When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.
Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, â€œHow is it that you have come home so soon today?â€ They said, â€œAn Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.â€ He said to his daughters, â€œThen where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.â€ And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, â€œI have been a sojourner in a foreign land.â€ [Exodus 2:11-22]
Moses had the best life imaginable in this world. He had all the privilege, prestige, and comfort of the royal household of the greatest nation on earth at the time. And he threw it all away in order to identify with slaves, to become a refugee. He chose alienation and exile over acceptance and luxury.
Grace Fuels Ethics
Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, â€œWhen you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.â€ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, â€œWhy have you done this, and let the male children live?â€ The midwives said to Pharaoh, â€œBecause the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.â€ So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, â€œEvery son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.â€ [Exodus 1:15-22]
Probably one of the first things you think when reading this text is: "Wait a secondâ€¦ the midwives told a lie. That's bad, right? But it helped them out, so does that mean it's okay to lie to accomplish good?" This is a confusing ethical dilemma, and the essence of it is familiar to many of us. Is it okay to break the law of God in order to bring about "the greater good?" Does the end justify the means, when the means are obviously sin in themselves? If my boss wants me to conduct business dishonestly, and threatens my job security if I don't comply, should I do it? What if my marriage or the lives of my children depend on it? Do I lie to get ahead in life, or preserve my life, or even to preserve the lives of others? Do I cheat, steal, or otherwise go against God's character and expressed will, because the outcome will be better than if I don't?
The source and remedy for conflict
Found on the web - an excellent article regarding understanding the root cause and dealing with conflict, by C. J. Mahaney, based on James 4:1, 2 here.
Children of the Day
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, â€œThere is peace and security,â€ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
"The day of the Lord" (5.2) is a strong theme in Scripture. Paul has much to say about this Day in his letters to the Thessalonians, the Day when Jesus Christ will return at the end of history to judge the living and the dead. The Greek word parousia (coming or presence) occurs six times in these two short letters with reference to the Second Coming, which is a quarter of the total usages in the New Testament.
Generally speaking, the Old Testament references to the Day of the Lord were not comforting thoughts (Is. 13.6, 9; Jer. 46.10; Ezek. 30.3; Joel 2; Amos 5.18-20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1). The Day of the LORD (YHWH, God's covenant name) is a day of judgment against sinâ€¦ the sins of the nations and the sins of God's people. Doom and gloom. Wrath and destruction. Great and awesome and unendurable.
Musings on Boldness
Why live boldly as a Christian? Why speak and act in a way that offends people who don't want to be confronted with God's truth? Most of us are to some degree people-pleasers, avoiding confrontation, flattering and cajoling, generally speaking and acting in a way that gets us ahead in life by not offending others, by saying things they want to hear. Self-preservation and self-advancement make us slaves to the ears of others. They won't kill you if they like you. You might get a raise, romance, or respect if you keep telling them what they want to hear. But if you tell them they need to be forgiven for their sins, otherwise God's wrath abides on themâ€¦ you might not get very far in life.
Some don't really care what others think, and speak their minds freely. Usually they are just obnoxious, not wanting to be bothered with concern for others. But how can we escape "people-pleasism" (the fear of men), yet still care about others? How can we be bold to proclaim that which people hate to hear, yet do it out of love?
We start by believing that our true preservation and true advancement come from God through the Gospel. People might leave us poor and abandoned and dead on the side of the road because they don't like our message. But in Christ we are rich and alive, in sweet communion with God for eternity. His kingdom and reign are over all the earth (and beyond), and we inherit all things through Christ. When we see that everything truly precious to us does not depend on what others think of us, but is hidden with Christ in God, untouchable, unassailable, and guaranteed to us forever on his bloodâ€¦ then we can find freedom from the fear of men. When we believe that the Gospel is the best thing that ever happened to us, and that no threat can separate us from God's love through Christ, we can fearlessly and boldlyâ€”with gentleness and affectionâ€”proclaim that same Gospel to others in need, whether they like to hear it or not.
The Saint's Call to Arms by William Gurnall
William Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armour is on our top 10 list of books on the Christian life and spirituality. IMHO, It is a book that belongs on the bookshelf of every disciple of Christ. Here is an excerpt:
"...not only the Christian's first strength to close with Christ is from God, but he is beholden still to God for the exercise of that strength, in every acÂtion of his Christian course. As a child that travels in his father's company, all is paid for, but his father carries the purse, not himself, so the Christian's shot is discharged in every condition; but he cannot say this I did, or that I suffered, but God wrought all in me and for me. The very comb of pride is cut here; no room [is left] for any self-exalting thoughts. The Christian cannot say, that I am a saint is mercy; but being a saint, that my faith is strong, this is the child of my own care and watchfulness. Alas, poor Christian! who kept thine eye waking, and stirred up thy care? Was not this the offspring of God as well as thy faith at first?
Musings On Endurance
One could think of "suffering" as the experience of pain without hope. Such pain is hard (impossible?) to bear. However, with hope, the experience of pain becomes enduranceâ€”waiting it out, holding fast. If one has a reason to endure the pain (whatever it is), then perhaps the pain itself becomes more bearable.
Lack of control seems essential to pain, which is unendurable if one has no hope of Another in control, a light at the end of the tunnel. Prayer is a giving up of the need for control, which is not to make the pain go away, but to acknowledge it more truly. Prayer made in light of sure hope is the best way to endure pain. Such hopeful prayer is the vehicle of trust in, intimacy with, and gratitude toward the One who gently superintends all our pain.
Not Pursuing Justice
Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, â€œThis man said, â€˜I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.â€™â€ And the high priest stood up and said, â€œHave you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?â€ But Jesus remained silent.
We have a tendency to rabidly pursue justice for ourselves, and to ignore when others are wronged or oppressed. That's why we look at Jesus' silence in the face of death-by-false-witness, and wish we could yell at him to defend himself. It just isn't right that a man who has done nothing wrong wouldn't stand up for himself, especially when he's facing certain death because of his silence. So Jesus is weird. We knew that.
Circumstances are very good at revealing our hidden idolatries. We all have God-given desires and so our desires are a good thing in themselves. But these desires become idolatry when they become inordinate. That is, when they take precedence over God and His providence in the specific circumstances of your life. For example, at the office we now have a couple of employees at Monergism.com. There is nothing the matter with wanting the Internet connections to be working for everyone here so they can be productive. But I remember one day when the computer connections went down and information was irretrievably lost that I boiled over in anger and wanted to throw my computer off of a high building. I even raised my voice to the computer (an inanimate object) and had some angry words for it. But here I was displaying natural human instinct to believe that I was the sovereign of the universe, so in doing so I sinned by trying to steal God's glory by being more than a little discontent at the unfolding of His plan. In such situations, we are either worshipping God, something else or ourselves. Instead I should remind myself beforehand each day that God is sovereign so "if the Lord wills I will do this or that..." for God may very well have had something else in mind for you [me] that day, something contrary to your good desires.
No Hope Outside of Christ by Paul David Tripp
The following is an excerpt from Paul David Tripp's excellent book,
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands
"The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)
"This is what God has been working on. All of history has been moving toward this one moment." God had not forgotten or lost interest in humanity. Since that horrible fall into sin, he had been bringing the world to this day. What looked pointless and out of control was, in fact, the unfolding of God's wonderful story of redemption, which reached a crescendo with the coming of Christ...
The question is, "The time has come for what?" Jesus is announcing the nearness of the kingdom of God. It is a quiet way of saying, "I am the King of kings and I have brought the power of my kingdom with me."...
In our self-absorbed culture, we need to see the grandeur of this kingdom. We cannot shrink it to the size of our needs and desires. It takes us far beyond personal situations and relationships. The King came not to make our agenda possible, but to draw us into something more amazing, glorious, and wonderful than we could ever imagine. Perhaps the best way to understand the grand purpose is to eavesdrop on eternity. In Revelation 19:6-8, the great multitude of the redeemed stands before the throne and, like the roar of rapids, exclaims:
Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."
Think about what they are singing. It is not, "I got my that job! My marriage was fantastic! I was surrounded by great friends and my kids turned out well." It is not, "I defeated depression and mastered my fears." Two things capture the hearts of the assembled throng:
I often feel like I'm running around in this life trying to prove myself to someone. I want to be the smartest, funniest, most likable person that you know. If you tell me about someone else being smart, funny, or likable, I'll probably get jealous and try to think of ways to tell you that in fact I am smart, funny, and likable. And you don't want to see me when we're talking about spirituality.
I'll do almost anything to avoid bearing the brunt of jokes, insults, or accusations: even if they're true. If something I say or do gets me into trouble, I'll try to spin it so that someone else ends up looking worse. If you tell me it looks like I've been gaining weight, I'll quickly inform you that in fact I have been working out recently, and it's probably muscle you're noticing in those chins.
It could be that I'm trying to protect myself against losing something important to me. Or it could well be that I've lost that something, and I'm trying to get it back. Or maybe it's that I'm trying to get something I never had in the first place.
The Bible teaches that we should do good things rather than bad things, and that we should do them from good motives like loving God or loving other people. The Bible condemns bad motives (selfish pride, envy, lust, etc.) along with bad actions (boasting, murder, adultery, etc.).
But good motives and bad motives frequently produce the same good actions. Selfish pride can produce upright behavior; envy can help you provide well for your family; lust can produce chivalry. These actions are all condoned by the Bible, but the motives behind them are strongly condemned.
So what do you do when you are aware of both good and bad motives at work in you to produce the same good action? This is a real dilemma, because it happens most of the time a Christian does anything at all. You truly love your wife and want to treat her to a special evening, and you really want others to see this trophy on your arm at the most expensive restaurant in town... so do you still take her there? If you do, your ego is fed, which is bad. But your wife feels loved, which is good.
Resolved: To Remember The Gospel
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 6:12-16
Galatians being my favorite book of the Bible, you can imagine how alarmed I was when I read on the inside flap of Ryken's commentary that "Galatians was written for recovering Pharisees." A Pharisee is simply someone who thinks he or she can be "good enough," whether before God, others, or him- or herself.
Galatians has to do with two big, churchy Bible wordsâ€”justification and sanctification. Justification basically means "becoming right with God." Sanctification basically means "becoming a better person." (Theologians, please stay off my back for using simple terms we can all understand.) Pharisees are always mixing up justification and sanctification. Historically and practically most Christians have had great difficulty holding these two ideas in proper perspective. It would make my day if I could help equip you to do this just a little better.
The Gospel Versus Accountability Groups
Let me begin by saying that your definition of "Accountability Groups" [from here on, AGs] may differ from what I'm talking about here, and that's okay. I'm just going to examine a particular aspect of AGsâ€”one which much personal experience has led me to believe is pervasive in Evangelicalism todayâ€”but it may not be a part of your experience of AGs. So bear with me.
I meet weekly with a small group of men from our church who struggle with sexual addiction. When I was introducing the new quarter, which saw the addition of a few fellows to the group, these were some comments I made:
I am not interested in fighting one sin by using another sin. What good is it to strengthen our pride in order to overpower our lust? Why would we want to use guilt or the fear of man to make progress in freedom and holiness? Will feeding the flesh in one area to starve it in another really bring us closer to God and godliness? These methods are not The Gospel Method, and if we preached them to each other, we are not servants of Christ (Gal. 1:8-10).
What in the world am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about the tendency of people in AGs to prod each other toward apparent holiness by unbiblical, non-Christian, anti-Gospel methods. These methods are not just unhelpful, they're actually harmful to true holiness.
There are a lot of times when I feel like a pretender, and I'm afraid someone's going to find out all about me and realize I've been faking this whole Christianity thing. I'm just guessing here, but there are probably a lot of Christians who feel the same way, like they're barely scraping by in life without doing something drastically and publicly evil. And there's a fear that, if others found out they felt this way, their world would explode with shame. They're fearfulâ€”as am Iâ€”of being caught as fake Christians.
If you're one of these people, I've got bad news for you. And good news.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist . . .
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, â€œDo you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.â€ John 13:3-4, 12-17, ESV
This passage contains one of the very few instances in the New Testament wherein Jesus is set forth as an example after which believers are to pattern their behavior. Historically, a major problem in the Church has been the reduction of Christianity to the question, "What would Jesus do?" If we can just imagine how Jesus would behave in specific situations, we can mimic himâ€”no problemâ€”and live better lives... right?
Is it Wrong to Confess Your Sin?
Bob George says on the basis of 1 John 1:9 that we should not confess our sins because they were already forgiven us at the Cross. Does 1 John 1:9 apply to the Christian or to the non-Christian? If to the Christian, in what sense does God forgive our sins? Wasn't the issue of the Christian's sins settled at the Cross?
Bob George's doctrine that Christians should not confess their sins to God is totally unbiblical, his interpretation is unsound, and those who follow his teaching cut themselves off from an important means of grace: prayers of confession of sins.
I have actually done a fair bit of work with 1 John 1:9, and I can confidently assert that it applies to believers. I have included below an adapted bit of commentary I wrote on this verse (a small portion of a research paper that I wrote on 1 John 1:7b-2:2). It is somewhat academic, so please forgive the style (I have done my best to make it comprehensible without totally rewriting it). I'll provide a summary at the end for you (in case the language is a little too thick to follow easily), as well as some additional comments (if you want, skip straight to these comments to get the main point of the argument).
Learning from People with Bad Theology
I don't know how many times I've heard something like this: "So-and-so believes such-and-such, so I'm not going to read any of his books!" The idea, I think, is that if someone believes something wrong in one area, then you shouldn't rely on what he or she has to say in other areas. Apparently the one bad area taints the rest of it all.
So, for example, N. T. Wright's ideas about justification earn him a boycott from reformed Christiansâ€”or at least his books don't get a decent recommendation, even the ones that have nothing to do with justification. Or, for another example, Robert Capon gets quoted on a reformed website, and emails fly in demanding that the quote be removed because of Capon's views in an entirely different area than that which the quote addresses. Nevermind that the quote in itself was a brilliant illustration of the Gospel!
[I wish I could write a whole book about this problem, but no one would read a blog entry of that length. So I'll keep what I have to say concise, knowing that much more explanation could be given in support.]
Recovery After Sin by Dr. Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)
Extract from "Excellency of the Gospel above the Law" by Richard Sibbes
What is the way, after we have had boldness and sweet familiarity with God, and it hath been interrupted by sin? how shall we recover ourselves?
Surely, to apprehend our sins to be pardonable in Christ, and that God is an everlasting Father, and that the covenant of grace is everlasting, and that there is mercy in Israel for this thing; and the conceit [conception] of mercy must work our hearts to grief and shame. That is certain; for mark in the gospel, â€˜Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden,â€™ Mat. xi. 28. He calls us when we find our consciences afflicted and tormented. â€˜He came to save that which was lost,â€™ Mat. xviii. 11. By the blessed power of the Spirit, the blood of Christ is as a fountain â€˜for Judah and Jerusalem to wash in,â€™ Zech. xiii. 1, and the â€˜blood of Christ purgeth us from sin,â€™ 1 John i. 7; and Christ bids us for daily trespasses ask pardon, Mat. vi. 12. Daily therefore conceive goodness in God still, an everlasting current of mercy; and this must work upon us grief and shame, and recover and strengthen our faith again. For Godâ€™s children, after breaches, arise the stronger rather than ever they were before. But this only by the way. We see here how Godâ€™s glorious grace is conveyed to us, and what is wrought in us to apprehend it, a spiritual eye to see it, in the glass of the gospel, and â€˜with open face we behold it,â€™ we may go boldly to the throne of grace.
â€œThe Works of Richard Sibbes,â€ published by Banner of Truth, 1979. Vol. iv, p. 254.
How are you doing spiritually? by Pastor John Samson
A few weeks ago I was approached by a young man at the end of a Church service. He confided in me that his spiritual life had lost much of its initial luster, and that he was groping around in something of a fog-like daze. "To be completely honest with you pastor," he said, "my devotional life is the pits. Is there anything I can do to get my spiritual life back on track."
I wondered exactly how to respond to him. Of course, there are many things I could have said. Yet, what I did say may be something of a surprise. I feel sure my answer was a surprise to the young man.
I responded with a question of my own. "What books are you reading right now?"
Reformed Premarriage, Marriage and Divorce Policy
Reformed Premarriage, Marriage and Divorce Policy (.pdf)
Elder Training for Church Discipline, and Care of Members
Director of Biblical Counseling - Derek R. Iannelli-Smith
This guide has been compiled for the benefit of those involved in Pre-Marriage, Marriage and Divorce Counseling or considering involvement in this ministry. It has always been the desire of the leadership of the church to develop a curriculum guide for counselors. This is a first attempt to do so. We expect it to be modified and updated, and assume it will be adapted to each counselorâ€™s gifts and style. Over the years many couples have participated in this ministry. For those couples embarking on their first counseling journey, invariably the question is askedâ€¦â€OK, what do we do now?â€ This guide has been put together to help answer that question. Perhaps even the â€œveteransâ€ will find this information helpful.
Note: I have not personally read through the whole document so this is not necessarily an endorsement for everything you read here but considering that it might be widely used in the PCA I thought it important to post...
Thoughts on Spiritual Depression
Anyone who has ever felt rolling into his soul the black clouds of depression, who has gone in an instant from the passionless peace and contentment of the mundane to the paralysis, the hopelessness, the feeling of drowning in meaningless and despair that constitutes the essence of the black beast Depression, will know well the subject about which I hope to say a few words. It may appear superfluous even to consider a topic which appears so inexplicable and insoluble; and the feeling of pointlessness, far from being ameliorated, may well be strengthened in those who, having once known the sweet joy of fellowship with Christ, and being still convinced intellectually that a Christian above all ought to be joyful â€“ who can bring to their minds ten thousand reasons why depression is not reasonable or sensible for themselves, but all to no practical avail â€“ to these brothers and sisters in Christ, the reality of depression may seem a thousand times more inexplicable, and hope for a lasting solution in this life may seem a thousand times more impossible than it is for those whose depression comes amid a Christless existence. The baffling unreasonableness of their malady, combined with the overwhelming guilt which comes from knowing that their lack of joy does despite to the great sacrifice of Christ, by which he purchased every reason to rejoice, tends to a downward motion, by which, in every passing moment, the sea of crass despair is plumbed to new depths of horror and blackness of soul. To you I write these words, not as one expostulating from the outside, but as one who has tasted the bitterness and who has found that the power of Christ is able to give a fresh taste of something sweet and all-but-forgotten on the other side of the valley. By Godâ€™s grace I have known the comfort which our Father is able to give in the midst of depression; and I am now able to say with the apostle Paul, â€œBlessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of Godâ€ (II Corinthians 1:3-4). Everyone to whom I am speaking (you know who you are), take heart! It may be that God has left a tiny spark in an area of your heart that you had long considered cold and dead. In his time, he will blow upon it, and cause to flame up anew the passionate joy of knowing Jesus. This will be as dear and wonderful to you as new life from the dead; which indeed, in a figure, it is.
The Humble and the Proud
Last evening before going to sleep I was reading to my wife the following excerpt (of chapter 5) out of Thomas Boston's classic The Crook in the Lot: Or the Sovereignty and Wisdom of God Displayed in the Afflictions of Men. My wife and I found it to be so edifying that we thought I should share it with you. While the ol style English is a little antiquated, if you can get past that, it will bring light to your soul in a way contemporary authors simply fail to do. Meditate on this and let it change your perspective for it gives us a view of God's providence that us moderns have often let slip from our consciousness. If you dont have it, this is a book that deserves a permanent place on your bookshelf. - JW Hendryx
"Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud "â€”Prov. 16:19.
Could men once be brought to believe that it is better to have their minds bend to the crook in their lot, than to force the crook to their mind, they would be in a fair way to bring their matters to a good account. Hear then the Divine decision in that case: "Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. " In which words
First, There is a comparison instituted and that between two parties, and two points in which they vastly differ.
1st. The parties are the lowly and the proud, who differ like heaven and earth. The proud are climbing up and soaring aloft; the lowly are content to creep on the ground, if that is the will of God. Let us view them more particularly as the text represents them.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Pt. 1 & 2 by Rev. C. R. Biggs
The Revelation of Jesus Christ
Revelation Chapter One
Revelation 1: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
The Book of Revelation is God's Word to Us!
The Book of Revelation is a book that is either misunderstood and avoided, or it becomes a book where Christians become overly preoccupied or imbalanced in their study of it. An ocean of ink has been spilled in attempts to interpret the book rightly, and there have been a variety of interpretations, particularly with regard to issues such as the Millennium (Is the Millennium referred to in Revelation 20 literal or symbolic?), the time of Christ's return, as well as many other issues.
Some wise teachers in the past have avoided preaching or writing on Revelation altogether, and many Christians today avoid reading it because it is very confusing to them. In the next few studies, I want to attempt by God's grace to write on what is clear from this book and to remind us as Christians that there is a blessing that goes along with the reading of the book (Rev. 1:3). The next few studies will be from chapter 1 of Revelation, a very foundational and important chapter for interpreting the remainder of the book.
I do not presume to have all the answers for this challenging, as well as important book, but I do know that it is part of the God-breathed, infallible, and inerrant revelation of God to man. The Book of Revelation is part of what God has given us for the people of God to be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He has given it to us in Holy Scripture to rebuke, encourage, correct, and strengthen us. He has revealed Jesus Christ in this book so that we might have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-10). Therefore, for all these reasons, it is important for us to try and understand this book as Christians.
Pietistic Vs. Biblical Sanctification
How many of us try to clean ourselves up before approaching the Lord's Table, as if there were some degree or level of purity that we could reach that would make us acceptable to God? The command to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself should be sufficient to make you recognize your utter inability to do so. In all likelihood, the thinking that we have to make ourselves right and acceptable before God before he will accept us probably derives its origin from the influential but flawed theology of Pietism. For what man could ever clean himself up enough to make himself acceptable to God? And if he could clean himself up to that degree, then what further need would he have of a Savior or the nourishment of the Lord's Supper? He would be self-sufficient. The whole point of both the gospel and the Lord's Supper for Christians is to continually recognize our own spiritual bankruptcy and dependency on the grace and promises of Christ.
In his letter to the Galatians Paul asks Christians who were in danger of thinking they could add to Christ's work or make themselves acceptable by some other way, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3). No, this is folly, because what God still wants from us as Christians is a broken Spirit, one which still recognizes its own moral and spiritual inability and complete need of God's grace to move on. One that says, "have mercy on me, I am insufficient for the task.". Anyone who thinks, therefore, that they can approach the Lord's table with a pure undefiled heart are really missing the point of the gospel.
Relax From the Stresses of Life
"Young man! Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap!" These words were spoken to me by a seasoned man of God as I started out in Christian ministry, and were a complete shock to my system. I think this elderly minister could see my tendency towards being driven to go, go, go in the cause of Christ, and not take the time to give sufficient rest to my body. Over the years, I have learnt to appreciate the great wisdom found in this statement, though I must admit it has not come easily. I naturally want to just keep on going. The short reflection on this theme (below) comes from Rick Renner, who pastors the Good News Church in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union. He has ministered a number of times at our church and has always been a blessing. Specifically, the article comes from his book "Sparkling Gems from the Greek." Perhaps it is a word in season for you. It really is O.K. to rest sometimes.
- Pastor John Samson
RELAX FROM THE STRESSES OF LIFE
by Rick Renner
And to you who are troubled rest with us. - 2 Thess. 1:7
If you have been under a lot of stress, pressure, and anxiety lately, I think Paulâ€™s words in 2 Thess. 1:7 are meant just for you! Read carefully, because youâ€™re going to find real encouragement and instruction today that will help you find peace in the midst of trouble.
When Paul wrote the book of 2 Thessalonians, the believers in the city of Thessalonica were undergoing horrifying persecution. The persecution in this city was worse than it was in other places because Christians were being hunted both by pagan idol worshipers and by unbelieving Jews who detested the Gospel message. As a result of these threatening conditions, members of the Thessalonian church were suffering, and some even paid the price of dying for the Gospel. However, in spite of these afflictions and pressures from outside forces, this congregation refused to surrender to defeat.
The Sin Problem
I recently received the following note from a brother:
"I am a relatively new believer (a little over a year, start: Oct. 2004), and while GRACE abounds, while CHRIST ATONED, while GOD CAN NOT BE ANYMORE PLEASED WITH HIS PEOPLE (IN CHRIST) THAN HE IS NOW, I am NOT comfortable with accepting that I will be a sinner until the Day of Glory. I can not cope with the fact that sin will be a part of my life until I die, and that this is somehow alright, because of CHRIST atonement, and the Father's wrath completely poured out on the SON. Everytime I sin, as a man, ESPECIALLY EVERY TIME I "SIN", I simply can not go to the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4), confess/repent, say Amen, and then have a heart that says, "alright, let's keep moving, can't stop, can't slow up, got to keep "Pressing Into the Kingdom (Edwards)." For me, its more like, "why keep fighting this foe, this foe you can't see, can't feel, can't touch, can't get a grasp on! Why keep fighting, to lose more times than you win! Why fight!"
I was wondering, if you might be able to recommend any specific articles on this site that deal with this. I know its a big task to ask for one, two, or three specific articles, but I am struggling here. I need to know, "how does the believer in CHRIST, accept his status of redeemed sinner, justified sinner, so that his hatred of his sin, does not result in his hatred of himself?" If you can help John, thanks. If not, then at minimum I praise GOD that you had a heart to listen to a stranger pour out his struggle, and did not reject him. Thanks again, Grace and Peace."
The Conjoining of the Spirit with Word and Sacrament
How is faith formed is us and how are we to nourish and continue that faith which the Holy Spirit effectually created in us?
The child who is conceived by his parents must also be nourished by them with food and then brought up in discipline lest his physical and mental growth be stunted. Likewise the faith which the Holy Spirit initially formed in us must also be nourished. Unless the life once quickened in us by the Holy Spirit is daily nourished by the means appointed by God, faith will wither and struggle, and not bear healthy fruit.
And just what are the appointed means God has given? The Word and the Sacraments. (1) The Preaching of the Word. We nourish the faith the Spirit begat in us first by assembling together with other Christians to hear the word of God preached to us. This is the ordinary means the Lord works faith in us, a means which He has promised to bless and bind Himself to. (2) The Administering and Receiving of the Sacraments which Jesus commanded us to partake of "till He come". The greater the frequency of being united to Christ through the sacrament of the Lord's Table the more our faith will receive nourishment. We should make it a habit to often come together, as did disciples, who "continued in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayers" (Acts 2:42). This is the means they used to nourish and augment their faith that Christ had begun in them (Phil 1:6, 1:29).
Christian - Rest in God's Sovereignty by Pastor John Samson
"Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; - Isaiah 46:9-10
"When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that God is God. We affirm that God is something more than an empty title: that God is something more than a mere figure-head: that God is something more than a far-distant Spectator, looking helplessly on at the suffering which sin has wrought. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is "King of kings and Lord of lords." We affirm that God is something more than a disappointed, unsatisfied, defeated Being, who is filled with benevolent desires but lacking in power to carry them out. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is "the Most High." We affirm that God is something more than One who has endowed man with the power of choice, and because He has done this, is therefore unable to compel man to do His bidding (Prov. 21:1). We affirm that God is something more than One who has waged a protracted war with the Devil and has been worsted. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is the Almighty. To speak of the Godhood of God then, is to say that God is on the Throne, on the Throne as a fact and not as a say so; on a Throne that is high above all. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that the Helm is in His hand, and that He is steering according to His own good pleasure. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that He is the Potter, that we are the clay, and that out of the clay He shapes one as a vessel to honor and another as a vessel to dishonor according to His own sovereign rights (Rom. 9), "according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him what doest Thou?" (Dan. 4:35). Therefore, to speak of the Godhood of God is to give the mighty Creator His rightful place; it is to recognize His exalted majesty; it is to own His universal scepter." - A. W. Pink
God is Sovereign. He rules and reigns. He can never be voted out of power; for He was never voted into power. He is, was and always will be the Sovereign King, whose will can never be frustrated. Sovereignty means that God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without having to get anyone else's permission.
If God is not Sovereign, then God is not God. If He were not ruling over every molecule in the universe, governing its existence, directing its course, and setting its boundaries, then we and God should be very worried indeed...