Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Pastoral Power of a Biblical Understanding of Conversion

Jonathan Leeman gives a very helpful answer to the question:  "Do you see how there’s pastoral power in a proper understanding of conversion? In the realities and promises of a new creation life?"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kevin DeYoung: "Don't Assume...."

from Kevin DeYoung:

It may be the best known Bible verse in our culture: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).

As one of our society’s most popular verses, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Too many people, non-Christian and Christian, take Jesus’ words to be a blanket rejection of all moral evaluation. But given that Jesus alludes to his opponents as dogs and pigs five verses later, it’s safe to think Jesus wasn’t condemning every kind of judgment. We see from the rest of the Gospel that Matthew 7:1 is not inconsistent with strong criticisms, negative statements, church discipline, and warnings about hell. Judgmentalism is not the same as making ethical and doctrinal demands or believing others to be wrong.

And yet, after all the necessary qualifications, we must not mute this important command. As sinners, we are apt to assume the worst about people. We are eager to find favorable comparisons that make ourselves look good at the expense of others. We are quick to size people up and think we have them figured them out. But I have learned over the years–both as the giver and receiver of judgmental assumptions–that it’s best not to assume.

Don’t assume you know all the facts after hearing one side of the story.

Don’t assume the person is guilty just because strong charges are made against him.

Don’t assume you understand a blogger’s heart after reading one post.

Don’t assume that famous author, preacher, athlete, politician, or local celebrity won’t read what you write and don’t assume they won’t care what you say.

Don’t assume the divorced person is to blame for the divorce.

Don’t assume the single mom isn’t following Jesus.

Don’t assume the guy from the Mission is less of a man or less of a Christian.

Don’t assume the pastor looking for work is a bad pastor.

Don’t assume the church that struggles or fails is a bad church.

Don’t assume you’d be a better mom.

Don’t assume bad kids are the result of bad parents.

Don’t assume your parents are clueless.

Don’t assume everyone should drop everything to attend to your needs, and don’t assume no one will.

Don’t assume the rich are ungenerous.

Don’t assume the poor are lazy.

Don’t assume you know what they are all like after meeting one or two of their kind.

Don’t assume you should read between the lines.

Don’t assume you have interpreted the emotions of the email correctly.

Don’t assume everyone has forgotten about you.

Don’t assume they meant to leave you off the list.

Don’t assume everyone else has a charmed life.

Don’t assume a bad day makes her a bad friend.

Don’t assume the repentance isn’t genuine.

Don’t assume the forgiveness isn’t sincere.

Don’t assume God can’t change you.

Don’t assume God can’t love you.

Don’t assume God can’t love them.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012


"Bringing the gospel truth to bear on every area of life is the way to be changed by the power of God."

— Timothy Keller
"The Centrality of the Gospel"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

" I go where I shall live by sight..."

My wife's Aunt Ruth went to be with the Lord tonight.  I thought of this passage from Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress":

"…I see myself now at the end of my journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am going to see that head which was crowned with thorns, and that face which was spit upon for me.

"I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith; but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with him in whose company I delight myself.

"I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too. His name has been to me as a civet[perfume]-box; yea, sweeter than all perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet, and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun.

"His words I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings. He hath held me, and hath kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his way…."

-- The words of Mr. Standfast at the conclusion of "Pilgrim’s Progress"(part 2) as he crosses the river of death into Heaven

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Power to Witness

“This is what we still need: power to witness. The truth is that nothing would as readily silence gainsayers against the Reformed faith as would this. Far more important, it is only through such empowering [by the Holy Spirit] that we will get beyond witnessing to fellow Christians about the Reformed faith and start witnessing to non-Christians about saving faith.”

Sinclair Ferguson

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Always Mardi Gras and Never Easter"

Here's the final section of an excellent essay from Russell Moore:

"...In the beginning, the Tempter led our ancestors astray with the promise of food (Gen. 3). In the desert, he provoked grumbling in the fathers because of their longing for food. And in the Judean wilderness, he sought to entrap Jesus with the growling of his stomach. It is easy to substitute the satisfaction of our urges and drives for the way of Christ, and we can easily find religious rituals to build around our doing so. It is easy to become one of those for whom the belly is god (Phil. 3:19).

"This is the reason why self-control is a fruit of the Spirit rather than an achievement of the flesh (Gal. 5:23). We want what we want. But the discipline of God teaches us, slowly, to put old appetites to death and to whet new ones. Through the Spirit, we learn to crucify “the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). That’s hard. It usually means hunger or economic want or sexual frustration or familial longing.

"But through it we learn to see that life is about more than acquisition—whether acquisition of possessions or sexual sensations or pleasant memories. A cross-shaped Christianity might leave behind those seeking a civil religious cover for their wild Bacchus worship or their rigid Stoic legalism. But it might prompt a world gorged on riotous living to seek the more permanent things instead.

"On the morning after Carnival, it’s easy to feel the queasiness of stomach, the pounding of the hangover, or the throbbing of the conscience. It’s much harder to feel the futility of a whole life lived under the tyranny of the appetites. That’s especially true when, as with most of us, we see the sovereignty of our appetites as “normal.” We live among a people, let’s be honest, whose stomachs are full but who are vomiting it all up, with an Esau-like disgust. We live in a culture of craving that is never satisfied, in a world where it is always Mardi Gras and never Easter."

Read the entire essay here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Be careful how you treat God...."

“Be careful how you treat God, my friends.  You may say to yourself, ‘I can sin against God and then, of course, I can repent and go back and find God whenever I want him.’  You try it.  And you will sometimes find that not only can you not find God but that you do not even want to.  You will be aware of a terrible hardness in your heart.  And you can do nothing about it.  And then you suddenly realize that it is God punishing you in order to reveal your sinfulness and your vileness to you.  And there is only one thing to do.  You turn back to him and you say, ‘O God, do not go on dealing with me judicially, though I deserve it.  Soften my heart.  Melt me.  I cannot do it myself.’  You cast yourself utterly upon his mercy and upon his compassion.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival (Westchester, 1987), page 300.

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Think of the Cross

Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As the taste of honey makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on, everyday, looking firmly at the cross of Christ. ~ J.C. Ryle

Friday, February 17, 2012

Starring in Our "My Feelings" Show

"We think too much about ourselves. We aren’t just selfish, we’re self-centered. We don’t just grab all the swag we can get our hands on, whether it’s money, praise, advantages in relationships, cheap thrills, or just slothful inertia. We think constantly about how much swag we’ve got or haven’t got. And the worst form of our self-centeredness is probably our petty, fussy, and narcissistic obsession with our own mental states. For some, that includes an obsession with our own opinions—carefully keeping track of what we think about everything. For others, it includes an obsession with the decisions we make. For example, some people are indecisive or fickle because that lets them wallow in the pleasure of being in control. While you’re in the process of making a decision you’re in a position of power, but that power is gone as soon as the decision is made.

"But almost all of us pay too much attention to our own emotions. We’re happy, we’re despondent, we’re in love, we’re lonely, we’re thrilled, we’re bored—we’re a bunch of drama queens. We’re each the star of our very own prime-time soap opera. True, my show’s audience is small, consisting only of God and myself. And the critics hate it—God is always giving my soap opera negative reviews, urging me to switch the channel and watch something else for a change. But in spite of all that, I just can’t help thinking everyone around me would really love my show if only I could get any of them to quit watching their shows (which are boring anyway) and watch mine instead. Besides, who cares what anyone else thinks—when I can simultaneously write, direct, and star in the My Feelings Show, why watch anything else? This attitude not only arises from our sinfulness, it perpetuates it…."

-- Greg Forster (2012-02-07). The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God's Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love  Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Having such a High Priest...

Let us remember that the eye of our loving Savior is upon us morning, noon, and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the prince of this world. Having such a High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." -- J.C. Ryle

Saturday, February 11, 2012

In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion

Mark Chaves:

"Polarization aside, people who do not care about American religious institutions for their own sake still might be concerned that the hollowing out of some traditional religious beliefs and practices–alongside a tentative increase in a generic spirituality–could point to a future in which American religiosity may be less grounded in institutions. Despite continuing high levels of religious belief and some kinds of practice, religious institutions may or may not find ways for people to express their religiosity through face-to-face gatherings and local organizations to the same extent as they have in the past. If half of all the social capital in America–meaning half of all the face-t0-face associational activity, personal philanthropy, and volunteering–happens through religious institutions, the vitality of those institutions influences more than American religious life. Weaker religious institutions would mean a different kind of American civic life."  (American Religion, 113)

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sacrificial giving?

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, page 67.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What kind of a pastor do sinners need?

Sinclair Ferguson answers this question from his Marrow Controversy Lectures:

"But when your people come and have been broken by sin and have fallen into temptation and are ashamed to confess the awful mess they have made of their life, it is not a Calvinistic pastor who has been sanctified by vinegar that they need. It is a pastor that has been mastered by the unconditional, free grace of God. It is a pastor from whom ironclad orthodoxy has been torn away and the whole armor of a gracious God has been placed upon his soul–the armor of one who would not break the bruised reed or quench the dimly burning wick.

"You see, my friends, as we think together in these days about a Godly pastor we have to ask, what is a Godly pastor? A Godly pastor is one who is like God, who has a heart of free grace running after sinners. The Godly pastor is the one who sees the prodigal and runs and falls on his neck and weeps and kisses him and says, 'This my son was dead, he was lost and now he is alive and found.'"

HT: Tullian Tchividjian

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

To progress is always is to begin

"We become Christians through faith and repentance, and we grow as Christians through continual faith and repentance. We don’t graduate from the gospel to some advanced way of holiness or progress. Martin Luther said, ‘To progress is always to begin again.’"

— Tim Chester
You Can Change
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2010), 107

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The whole point of being a Christian...

“. . . the whole object of being a Christian is that you may know the love of Jesus Christ, his personal love to you; that he may tell you in unmistakable language that he loves you, that he has given himself for you, that he has loved you with ‘an everlasting love.’ He does this through the Holy Spirit; he ‘seals’ all his statements to you through the Spirit. . . . You believe it because it is in the Word; but there is more than that; he will tell you this directly as a great secret. The Spirit gives manifestations of the Son of God to his own, to his beloved, to those for whom he has gladly died and given himself.”

-- D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 7.1-8.4, page 61

Monday, February 6, 2012

Point of view is crucial

"We don't live life based on the facts of our experience, but on our interpretation of facts." - Paul Tripp   This is an aspect of being "transformed by the renewing of our mind" (Rom. 12:2).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Human approval

From Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

1.  Human approval is divided.  Some like you, others dislike you.  A split vote.  Who can you believe?

2.  Human approval is shallow.  None of them know your deepest heart.  What if they did?

3.  Human approval is distorted.  Your friends overlook many failings.  Your enemies can’t see anything right with you.  How do you sort it all out?

4.  Human approval is unsatisfying.  The need of your heart for belovedness goes far beyond anything another sinner can say or do.

5.  Human approval is a blessing.  The loving favor of true friends is a gift from God.  Receive it cheerfully, with thanks to him.  And be sure to give it out to others in generous measure every day.  They need it too.

“I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”  Philemon 7

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Do you feel your sins?...

"Do you feel your sins? Are you sick of them? Are you ashamed of them? Are you weary of them? Then come to Christ just as you are, and Christ’s blood shall make you clean." ~ J.C. Ryle

Friday, February 3, 2012

A higher hand is governing...

“For how many a soldier in a concentration camp, weak with hunger and smarting under the whip of the torturers; for how many a person huddling in the last extremity of ghastly dread in a bomb shelter; for how many on the endless gray road of a refugee trek was it not the great experience suddenly to know: I am not in the hands of men, despite everything to the contrary; another hand, a higher hand is governing in the midst of all man’s madness and canceling all the logic of my calculations and all the images of my anxious sick imagination?  I am being led to the undreamed-of shore, the harbor, the Father’s house.  And always when things grow dark, suddenly that marvelous helping hand is there.  If there is anything that is really bombproof, then it is this.”

Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father (New York, 1959), page 36.  Italics original.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Make Jesus your focus..." in the pursuit of holiness

‎"You make a mistake when you hyper-focus on one aspect of your own sanctification. Make Jesus your focus, don't make a better you your focus." - Ray Ortlund @Acts29

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Is your faith in Christ real?"

"Would you like to know whether your faith is real? Then try it by the feelings toward Christ which it produces. Nominal faith may believe that such a person as Christ existed, and was a great benefactor to mankind. It may show Him some external respect, attend His outward ordinances, and bow the head at His name. But it will go no further.

"Real faith will make a person glory in Christ, as the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Priest, the Friend — without whom they would have no hope at all. It will produce confidence in Him, love towards Him, delight in Him, comfort in Him, as the mediator, the food, the light, the life, the peace of the soul."

~ J.C. Ryle