Saturday, August 31, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thermometer or Thermostat

“The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What is an idol and how does it function in our lives?

“What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.

"The Bible uses three basic metaphors to describe how people relate to the idols of their hearts. They love idols, trust idols, and obey idols.

"The Bible sometimes speaks of idols using a marital metaphor. God should be our true Spouse, but when we desire and delight in other things more than God we commit spiritual adultery. Romance or success become 'false lovers' that promise to make us feel loved and valued. Idols capture our imagination, and we can locate them by looking at our daydreams. What do we enjoy imagining? What are our fondest dreams? We look to our idols to love us, to provide us with value and a sense of beauty, significance, and worth...."

“An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’ There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.”

-- Tim Keller, "Counterfeit Gods"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Christian Virtue (Almost) No One Aspires To

"...submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ..." -- Eph. 5:21

It's the 'S' word for contemporary Christianity  -- 'submission.'   Submission is a crucial (radical!), Christ-like virtue that figures prominently in Biblical teaching – but it’s a virtue (both an attitude and habit of action) that very few Christians today actually aspire to and work to develop.  But again, it is at the very heart of what it means to be Christ-like, for Jesus himself said, “…I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”  John 6:38     “Not what I will, but what You will” was the guiding principle for Jesus’ life and ministry.  And the same spirit of submission was expressed when he said, “My food is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do.”    In fact, the same attitude of submission is seen in the Spirit’s relation to the Son (see Jn. 16:13-14).

Paul reminds us that in his earthly life and ministry, Jesus “humbled himself in obedience to God”(Phil. 2:8 NLT) and the writer to the Hebrews goes so far as to say that the (sinless) Son “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8)

It’s no wonder then that the New Testament makes clear that authentic, Christ-imitating, Spirit-filled living is all about submission and obedience.  And it is clear too, that it is pretty hollow to claim a commitment to submission to God, if you’re not willing to submit to other people in all the ways the Lord commands:

-- in our fellowship and interactions with fellow believers (Phil. 2:3-4)

-- in our home and family live -- wives to husbands, children to parents (Eph. 5:22; 6:1)

-- in relation to pastoral leadership (Heb. 13:17)

-- in relation to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1ff.)

-- and in our work lives (Col. 3:22-25; 1 Pet. 2:18-10)

But embracing and pursuing this central, Christ-like virtue does not come naturally to us at all, because of our own sinful self-centeredness, because of the culture and values of the world (cp. Rom. 12:1-2), and because today’s church is so saturated with worldliness.   It is a real blind spot, even for people who are ‘at church’ and ‘in the Word’ all the time.

We like our religion ‘a la carte’ – a smorgasbord and menu of choices – so that we pick and choose how and when and where we will ‘obey’ – but almost always on our own terms.  And that is just the point: if we’re ‘doing Christianity’ on our own terms in an individualistic way, unsubmitted to the actual authorities that God himself has put in our lives (to teach us submission), then we are not really obeying or submitting at all.

One key indicator in all of this is whether or not we’re really and practically open to correction and admonition.  As the Book of Proverbs says,

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
      reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
      teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.  (9:8-9)

So whatever claims we make to being spiritual and passionate about following the Lord, should be examined in light of this exceedingly practical test:  how do I respond to counsel, advice and correction?  (Someone else has suggested this very practical test: you can tell if you’re really committed to being a servant/slave of Christ by how you respond when someone treats you like one.)

True submission to God’s Word isn’t merely about hearing and talking and reading and discussing (cp. James 1:22-25).  Real love for God and God’s people is about doing, not talking (1 Jn. 3:18).

And again, true spirituality is centered in submitting.  Maybe the most powerful proof of this is found in a verse like 1 Cor. 15:28, where Paul says that at the end of the age, when Christ has brought his redeeming work to its climax, fully carrying out the will of the Father for him, even then, with sin fully overcome, “the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”  Are you imitating Christ in your commitment to submission?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Grand Old Book Talking to Us Today

"I want people to fill their minds with passages of Scripture while they are well and strong, that they may have sure help in the day of need. I want them to be diligent in studying their Bibles, and becoming familiar with its contents, in order that the grand old Book may stand by them and talk with them when all earthly friends fail."

~ J.C. Ryle

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Hallowed Be Thy Name"

"Is your fundamental, daily disposition toward God a reverential, hope-filled hallowing of his name?"

-- John Piper

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

J.C. Ryle on the New Birth

"To be born again is, as it were, to enter upon a new existence, to have a new mind, a new heart, new views, new principles, new tastes, new affections, new likings, new dislikings, new fears, new joys, new sorrows, new love to things once hated, new hatred to things once loved, new thoughts of God, and ourselves, and the world, and the life to come, and salvation." -- J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Genuine Spiritual Experience

Spiritual experience that does not arise from God’s word is not Christian experience.… Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel. Through the Spirit the truth touches our hearts, and that truth moves our emotions and effects our wills.

— Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
"Total Church"
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 31

Monday, August 19, 2013

Born to Adore

“I was not born to be free. I was born to adore and obey.”

-- C.S. Lewis in ‘Breakfast Table and other Reminiscences.’

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What is really involved in becoming a Christian?

Here is an excellent, brief summary from Tony Payne.

"... if you had the opportunity to open up one simple Bible passage, and briefly explain to someone what it meant to be a Christian, where would you turn?

"I would turn to 1 Thessalonians 1, verses 8-10:

"For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

"And with all the boldness, fluency and clarity that I wish I had in real life but only ever have in scenarios, I would read the passage with my new friend, and then say something like this:

"This part of the Bible is a letter written by one of the early Christian teachers (named Paul) to some people who had become Christians after he had shared the Christian message with them. And as he writes to them, he reminds them exactly what they did to become Christians. So it gives us a very neat summary of what the Bible says it means to become a Christian.

"It basically meant doing three things.

"The first thing that these people did was to turn away from their religion and culture. They used to worship idols — fake gods. But then they turned their backs on all this. Becoming a Christian requires you to turn away from your old life, from all the things that are not really god that you used to worship and live for.

"The second thing follows on from the first. They stopped serving and living for false gods, and started serving the true and living God—the one, real and true God, who made everything and who is in charge of everything. To become a Christian is to put yourself at God’s service; to acknowledge that he is the one and only God, and that you are one of his servants.

"But there’s a third aspect. Even if they turned back to God to serve him, why would he accept them? After all, they’d been worshipping the opposition, ignoring him, sinning against him. He would have every right to be angry with them. So why should he accept them back? Because of what it says there in verse 10: God’s Son Jesus died to deliver them from the anger that was to come (that’s what ‘wrath’ means).

"That’s what it means when Christians talk about Jesus ‘dying for our sins’. It means that when we stand before God at the end, and give account for our lives, we don’t have to fear God’s anger or judgement, because Jesus died to deliver us from that. So these guys were waiting confidently for the end, for when Jesus would return, knowing that he would rescue them and save them when they stood before God.

"So there you go—a quick summary of what the Bible says it means to be a Christian: turn your back on the false gods you used to worship, start serving the true and living God instead, and put your trust in Jesus who will rescue us from God’s anger."

"Now when you said to me before that you were a Christian, is that what you meant?"

Tony Payne is an ordained minister who serves as the Publishing Director at Matthias Media. He has authored or co-authored numerous books, Bible studies and resources, including The Trellis and the Vine, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face and Six Steps to Reading Your Bible. Tony is also a regular contributor to The Briefing, and lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife Alison and their five children.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Evil of Boredom

"The great evil in postmodernity is boredom. Entertainment provides us meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. It gives us temporary, often intense, experience that alleviates anxious boredom, our implacable enemy. Entertainment has become our new religion." - Paul Hiebert

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Civilization with God?

"The Christian belief system, which the Christian knows to be grounded in divine revelation, is relevant to all of life. For unbelieving multitudes in our times, the recent modern defection from God known in His self revelation has turned the whole of life into shambles. Ours is the first society in modern history to have ventured to erect a civilization on godless foundations; it may well be the last....

"...even the classic ancient Greek philosophers still warn us through their extant writings that no stable society can be built apart from durable truth and good and that any eclipse of these realities robs human survival of meaning and worth. Their writings are not the last word, however. Echoing from Creation to Calvary to Consummation, God’s eternal Word invites a parched humanity to the Well that never runs dry, to the Water of Life that alone truly and fully quenches the thirst of stricken pilgrims."

-- Carl Henry, quoted by Greg Alan Thornbury, "Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution"

“Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgment for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory. To affirm penal substitution is to say that believers are in debt to Christ specifically for this, and that this is the mainspring of all their joy, peace and praise both now and for eternity.”

-J. I. Packer, “What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution,” Tyndale Bulletin 25 (1974): 25.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Our Deepest Need

“The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, important as they are. It is God. We have mistaken the nature of poverty and thought it was economic poverty. No, it is poverty of soul, deprivation of God’s re-creating, loving peace. Peer into poverty and see if we are really getting down to our deepest needs in our economic salvation schemes. These are important. But they lie farther along the road, secondary steps toward world reconstruction. The primary step is a holy life, transformed and radiant in the glory of God.”

-- Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (New York, 1941), page 123

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Essence of True Humility

"Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.

"Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’

"True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings."

-- Tim Keller, "The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Gabriel cannot love Jesus as a forgiven man will do...."

"Gabriel cannot love Jesus as a forgiven man will do..."

"We are now capable of a joy which unfallen spirits could not have known: the bliss of pardoned sin, the heaven of deep conscious obligation to eternal mercy.

"The bonds which bind redeemed ones to their God are the strongest which exist. I believe that forgiven sinners will have a love to God and to his Christ such as cherubim and seraphim never felt; Gabriel cannot love Jesus as a forgiven man will do.

"Those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb will be nearer and dearer to him, and he will be nearer and dearer to them, than all the ministering spirits before the throne."

— Charles Spurgeon
"Honey from a Lion"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Spirit Versus the Guerrilla Forces of the Flesh

"A deep spiritual walk with God does not usually happen immediately after conversion. When the Holy Spirit invades the enemy territory of our lives and sets up Jesus Christ as King in the capital city of our heart, his strategy for conquering the rebel forces of the flesh that keep up their guerrilla warfare is different for each person. It may be fast or slow. God’s clean up operations are very strange."

-- John Piper,  "The Danger of Being Merely Human"

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Confronting Civil Government" -- John Murray (1898 -- 1975)

Confronting Civil Government—John Murray (1898 – 1975)

John Murray, a native Scotsman, was the first professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (U.S.A.) and a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He was a scholarly exegete and profound theologian whose teaching and publications strengthened evangelicals in the battle with modernism during the twentieth century. In this extract, from a document entitled “The Relation of Church and State,” Murray provides ministers with helpful instruction on how to avoid being party political, whilst at the same time preaching directly on political issues. Murray begins by outlining the primary focus of the Church’s involvement in the political arena—the proclamation of the divine Word in all its fullness. The Church is not to do the job of the state, but it is to critique the state from a biblical standpoint.

"To the church is committed the task of proclaiming the whole counsel of God and, therefore, the counsel of God as it bears upon the responsibility of all person and institutions. While the church is not to discharge the functions of other institutions such as the state and the family, nevertheless it is charged to define what the functions of these institutions are, and the lines of demarcation by which they are distinguished. It is also charged to declare and inculcate the duties which devolve upon them. Consequently when the civil magistrate trespasses the limits of his authority, it is incumbent upon the church to expose and condemn such a violation of his authority. When laws are proposed or enacted which are contrary to the law of God, it is the duty of the church to oppose them and expose their iniquity. When the civil magistrate fails to exercise his God-given authority in the protection and promotion of the obligations, rights, and liberties of the citizens, the church has the right and duty to condemn such inaction, and by its proclamation of the counsel of God to confront the civil magistrate with his responsibility and promote the correction of such neglect. The functions of the civil magistrate, therefore, come within the scope of the church’s proclamation in every respect in which the Word of God bears upon the proper or improper discharge of these functions, and it is only misconception of what is involved in the proclamation of the whole counsel of God that leads to the notion that the church has no concern with the political sphere."

Murray further distinguishes between the Church’s role in proclaiming the nature of the political reality and the duties of citizens (whether Christian or not) in actually organizing community political life.

"When it is maintained that the church is concerned with civic affairs, is under obligation to examine political measures in the light of the Word of God, and is required to declare its judgements accordingly, the distinction between this activity on the part of the church and political activity must be recognized. To put the matter bluntly, the church is not to engage in politics. Its members must do so, but only in their capacity as citizens of the state, not as members of the church. The church is not to create or foster political parties or blocs. The proclamation of the church may indeed induce the members of the church and others to affiliate themselves, in their capacity as citizens, with one party rather than with another or, perhaps, to form a political party for the promotion of good politics. If the proclamation of the church is sound, the church has no need to be ashamed of the influence its proclamation exerts in this direction, nor does it need to be troubled by the charge that may be levelled against it to the effect that it is engaged in politics. In such circumstances the church must be prepared to pay the price for its faithful witness to the political implications of the message committed to it."

-- from    -- for this specific article, go here

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Health and Wealth Gospel"-Lite?

A brief excerpt that gives the essence of this honest, Biblically wise article on suffering:  "...I was forced to acknowledge that God had never promised me that my life would be pain free, or that I would never endure the common hardships of being human in a broken world. I realized it would not be fair to hold God accountable to promises he never actually made...."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

He is interceding for you....

"If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies." -- R.M. M'Cheyne (Romans 8:34)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This Love Won't Let You Down

"The love of Jesus is the love you have been looking for all of your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bombproof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love— it is this love that you are after, underneath all your pursuit of those others. And if this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love you will be a little more like him. Look at him dying in the dark for you. Let it melt you into his likeness."

-- Tim Keller, "The Obedient Master" from Encounters with Jesus series

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Nobody can preach a better gospel...."

"When Charles Spurgeon once was late for a preaching appointment, his grandfather, growing concerned for the impatient crowd, took the pulpit to begin the service. A bit of a way’s into his teaching, Charles finally entered the back door. His grandfather interrupted his own sermon to say, “Here comes my grandson. . . . He can preach the gospel better than I can, but you cannot preach a better gospel, can you, Charles?” 1

"The important thing is not whether you can call down thunder and set hearts aflame with your words, but whether you have personally felt the thunder and flame of the gospel’s word. Lots of people can preach the gospel better than you; but nobody can preach a better gospel than you if yours is the true one. We are all on level ground at the foot of the cross. The question is, can you talk about it plainly and personally?..."

-- Jared C. Wilson, "The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry" (Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How Faith Speaks

"The man who has faith is the man who is no longer looking at himself, and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and he rests on that alone.

"He has ceased to say, ‘Ah yes, I have committed terrible sins but I have done this and that.’ He stops saying that. If he goes on saying that, he has not got faith.

"Faith speaks in an entirely different manner and makes a man say, ‘Yes, I have sinned grievously, I have lived a life of sin, yet I know that I am a child of God because I am not resting on any righteousness of my own; my righteousness is in Jesus Christ, and God has put that to my account.’ "

— Martyn Lloyd-Jones, quoted by Tim Keller in
"The Message of Romans"

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is His Glory God's Only Goal?

A well thought out meditation from Christopher Morgan:

This excerpt gives the main idea, but read the entire article...

"...While there is a healthy resurgence in teaching that glory is God's ultimate end, many inadvertently equate God's ultimate end with God's comprehensive motivation... As a result, we rarely hear that God often acts with multiple ends in mind...."

Friday, August 2, 2013

When will I get there?

"The reality is that ... there is no promised land until the Promised Land of the real heaven. We always think things will finally be . . . well, final when we get 'there,' wherever 'there' is for us. But there is no there. There’s only here. Because once you get there, there becomes here, and there’s a new there. On and on it will go until our discontentment with ourselves is shaped by the contentment found in Christ and our yearning for this-worldly 'theres' is conquered by the vision of the everlasting 'there.'”

-- Jared C. Wilson