Posts belonging to Category Exhortation



Our fight to the death

I was informed recently of a (lesser known) evangelical who was accused of molesting a girl.  Rather than face the trouble associated with it, he committed suicide.  I’m not providing a link to the story because I don’t know all the facts, much less whether he is guilty or innocent.  By now you could probably name several famous Christians who’ve lost their ministries and their witness because of sexual sin.  Here it becomes too easy to bury our heads in the sand or get angry at how many professing Christians engage in such behavior, which brings me to the point of this post.  You and I are just as capable of major sin as those who have already fallen.

 

It would be easy for me to say, “I’m married with two children.  I wouldn’t do that.”  It would be easy for you to say how you’ve never been tempted to sin in such a way.  I hope we’re never tempted to engage in such sin.  But the first problem of those who’ve fallen is our problem as well:  we are lazy in our calling to war against sin.

Paul says clearly in Romans 8:13 that we are to “mortify the deeds of the body,” which translated into modern vernacular means, kill sin.  I pastor a church that has a strong emphasis on doctrine and for that I’m thankful.  It’s a shame when a church’s doctrinal beliefs have no backbone.  But that’s not enough.  I believe that we should display the Lordship of Christ over every area of life, but that’s not enough either.  We can become so focused on right doctrine or cultural engagement that we miss the starting point:  warring with sin.

 

We are in a daily battle that will not let up in this life.  We can never become too at ease, thinking that we have all the protections in place to keep us from sin.  I’m all for putting protection mechanisms in place, but the place where we need the greatest protection mechanism is where we can’t have it:  the human heart.  That’s the place Jesus said to cleanse.

So what should you do?

  • Don’t rest confident in your ability to withstand temptation; your ability to remain steadfast during trials is too weak a foundation on which to rely.
  • Be on the lookout for temptation.  It’s there and will come your way so be ready for it.
  • Gird the loins of your mind.  This is where the temptation starts so fill your heart with good things and exercise it when temptation comes.
  • When you fall into sin, even if it’s small in your mind, confess it to God and to a trusted Christian friend and repent.   Run into the arms of your Savior because He is the only one who can give you rest.  He’s provided you with fellow saints who are called to hold you up and we are called to confess to one another (James 5:16).  Don’t hide it thinking it will get better.

Your sin affects your life, the lives of your family, and the lives of the people in your church.  As you study doctrine, minister to your family and neighbors, and engage with the culture, never let up in your battle against sin.

Growing close to God – 4

After looking at how prayer and confession are important for the growth of a believer, we come to an issue that is neglected too often in the church but receives important teaching from Jesus Himself.  When considering what we should do to draw closer to God we neglect something Jesus said would give life.  Doing this means that we dwell in Christ.  What is it?  Taking communion. 

This may sound way too high church for some, but I’m not saying anything other than what Jesus said.  In John 6:53-55, 57, Jesus spoke of (more…)

Growing close to God – 3

As we grow in prayer, it is important to remember that our growth isn’t only between myself and God.  Growth is a spiritual activity that takes place within a community.  God has created a body that we are a part of and growth can’t take place in isolation, no matter what the house-church movement says.  And growing closer to God isn’t easy.  It requires discipline, which isn’t always fun.  One of those disciplines is confession, 

We remember that confession to God is necessary.  The burden of our sin can become so heavy that we don’t think we can go on.  Confession turns that burden over to Christ who has taken our sin already.  But He doesn’t stop there. (more…)

Starting at the basics

Growing closer to God involves so many things that it would be impossible to cover it all.  But the question is “How do we grow closer to God?”  We must remember we’re talking about growth, and growth takes time.  There’s nothing you can do today that will immediately make you closer to God tomorrow (that you can objectively measure).  So what is the first step

Say your prayers.  I realize this may seem like an exercise in basics, but I want to offer a different take on it than what we’re probably used to.  Personally I appreciate written prayers from various believers in the past, but those can be controversial in some circles.  The prayers I would concentrate on first are those inspired by God:  the Psalms.  These are prayers written by the hand of David and they fit every emotion we face.  It doesn’t exactly come naturally to us, but praying already written prayers is a normal thing.  And it doesn’t have to stop with the Psalms.  Jesus gave us a prayer, and Paul recorded some prayers (Eph. 1:17-23, 3:14-21, just to name a few).

One of the struggles we face many times is that we don’t know what to pray, how to pray, or we don’t feel like praying.  That’s what makes it a discipline.  But when you don’t feel like thinking of what to say, it can be hard to come up with your own words.  God has supplied our needs here; He’s given us what to say.  And we don’t have to worry about whether or not we’re praying God’s will, because He’s already told us that it is.  So take up the discipline of prayer.  Go through one or two of the Psalms regularly (daily if possible) and over time you will draw closer to God.

Fellowship with God – 1

I’ve never met a believer who didn’t want to be closer to God.  We all want to grow and to “sense” His presence.  The idea of feeling Him near has been common in Christianity for a long time, but especially the last several centuries.  However seeking an emotional closeness isn’t always the same thing as drawing near to God.  And drawing near to God isn’t always the emotional uplift we might think (consider what happened when Ananias and Sapphira were in the presence of God).

In the Old Testament the worship of God was associated with tangible elements (physical sacrifices, human priests, altars, etc.).  And even though we are in New Covenant era, God didn’t eliminate tangible elements in worship.  The difference is that Jesus has eclipsed the temporary priesthood, the sacrificial altar, and the tabernacle/temple, and so on.  He is flesh and blood, but resurrected flesh and blood.  You may say, “But we can’t see Him,” and that’s true.  However we can see one another (the new Temple of God), we are washed from our sins in physical water, we enter the holiest place (Sabbath worship), and we eat the gospel (the bread and wine of communion, which is the body and blood of Christ).  The point is that God didn’t design fellowship with Him to be some kind of esoteric, mystical experience.  The means He gave to grow closer to Him are actually quite different than we would expect, but this is His world and He gets to make the rules, not us.  Which means that some of the things we’ve heard about growing closer to God will be right, and some of them are legalistic bear traps.

The bullet was a boomerang

Recently in my reading Daniel 3, it occurred to me that there is a great irony in this passage. This is the story of the Hebrew children (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego).  Follow me on this.  As conservative Christians, we believe that those who don’t worship the true God will be damned.  We believe God calls all men everywhere to repent and those who don’t repent will be cast into hell.  The story of these three godly men is an Satanic inversion of the Christian teaching of final judgment, with a God-ordained twist in the end.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were called to worship the image.  If you look at the picture, you can’t deny it’s a call to worship.  They
were to bow down when they heard the instruments play (almost like our call to worship at church).  When they refused, Nebuchadnezzar gave them an opportunity to repent, which they refused to do.  Then they were cast into the fiery furnace (a temporal version of hell).

Up to this point, everything’s identical to the Christian version, except it’s inverted (bow to false-god, repent to him or he’ll cast you into the fire, etc.).  The beast of Babylon appeared to have turned the gospel upside down, but God stepped in.  The fire that was supposed to torment Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego couldn’t touch them.  Jesus walked with them in the fire, brought them out, and Nebuchadnezzar repented.
God turned this attempt by Satan to usurp the gospel back.  The bullet in the rifle of anti-Christ turned out to be a boomerang, coming back to him when it was least expected.

The God we serve allows us to be bound and tried in the fire.  But never forget that the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ preserves us in the fire and brings us out, while simultaneously turning the weapons of the enemy back on him.  Isn’t it great to serve a God who loves irony?

Giving the world a reason to worry

Peter Leithart has an excellent message to the Church in a recent blog posting.

“When the Philistines capture the mighty Samson, he seems tame enough.  They mock and abuse him until the Spirit of Yah returns and Samson pulls down the house.

When the Philistines learn that the ark of God is in the Israelite camp, they’re terrified that “mighty gods” contend with them.  But when the capture the ark, it seems pretty tame too.  Then Dagon pays homage to Yahweh’s throne, and plagues and deadly confusion follow the humbled ark goes.

No wonder the Philistines worry to Achish when they discover David and his warriors marching among the Philistines to fight Saul.  He looks plenty safe, but he could turn out to be a Samson or an ark.

The church has the Spirit of Samson; the church is the earthly throne of God; the church is led by the greater David.  She looks weak, but Philistines are right to worry.”

No wonder the world wants the Church to shut up about everything and keep to herself.  She’s a direct threat no matter how weak she appears.

 

How legalistic are you?

I was listening to R.C. Sproul Jr. this morning, and he said there are three types of legalism.  The first type is when we try to add to the work of Christ by doing works (the Galatian heresy).  The second type is when we add to God’s law requirements, in other words we add our own suggestions to God’s moral law, i.e. “Thou shalt not dance.”  The third type (in my own words) is when someone seems to live a more righteous life than I am.

When someone lives a godlier life than me it is a temptation to call him a legalist, since I feel conviction from his godly standards.  We heft grace around like it was a sword that cuts through all the burdensome restrictions of God’s law.  And in a sense it does, because grace gives us right standing with God that we couldn’t attain on our own.  But it does not give us permission to follow whatever our heart desires, thinking we are being led by the Spirit.  We have God’s law to guide us in all truth; it was given to establish us in every good work.  The law is a gift of God’s grace, not only to those in the Old Covenant but to us as well.  Jesus commended it (Matt. 5:17), and so should we.  Instead of being insulted if you’re called a legalist, more often than not it means you delight in God’s law.  What’s so bad about that?

Don’t forget to renew your mind

“It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”–G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

And now Doug Wilson, speaking to a graduating class, explaining how we gain that type of mindset:

“There is a way of growing wise that keeps the right kind of bright in your eyes. You can lose your hair, that’s all right. In a few decades, some of you may lose your right to the adjective svelte. In the years to come, in games of pick-up basketball, you can lose a few steps. But don’t ever lose the right kind of bright in your eyes.

Wisdom, like the mercies of God Himself, is new every morning. If you grow in wisdom, your outer man will still get weathered, and your bones will still age. We live before the final resurrection. But your inner man will be renewed by the Spirit of God, though your outer man perish (2 Cor. 4:16). As you grow in grace over the years—which is not the same thing as getting spooled up over additional scruples—you will find yourself renewed in a way that keeps the right kind of bright in your eyes. Put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge (Col. 3:10). Be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Eph. 4:23). These things are not said so that you might run them through a moralistic filter, and translate them all into a respectable and dreary way of being spiritually dull. No.”

Christmas Eve Meditation

This morning my wife handed me Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotion and said, “What do you think Spurgeon’s eschatalogical position sounds like here?”  After reading it, I didn’t know what I was excited about more, Spurgeon’s words or that my wife used the phrase, “eschatalogical position.”  Either way, his words add more joy to an already joyful time of year.  I’ve included the entirety of his evening devotion here.

“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”  Isaiah 40:5

“We anticipate the happy day when the whole world shall be converted to Christ; when the gods of the heathen shall be cast to the moles and the bats; when Romanism shall be exploded, and the crescent of Mohammed shall wane, never again to cast its baleful rays upon the nations; when kings shall bow down before the Prince of Peace, and all nations shall call their Redeemer blessed. Some despair of this. They look upon the world as a vessel breaking up and going to pieces, never to float again. We know that the world and all that is therein is one day to be burnt up, and afterwards we look for new heavens and for a new earth; but we cannot read our Bibles without the conviction that—

“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Does his successive journeys run.”

We are not discouraged by the length of his delays; we are not disheartened by the long period which he allots to the church in which to struggle with little success and much defeat. We believe that God will never suffer this world, which has once seen Christ’s blood shed upon it, to be always the devil’s stronghold. Christ came hither to deliver this world from the detested sway of the powers of darkness. What a shout shall that be when men and angels shall unite to cry “Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrows of the bow, and to have aided in winning the victory for our Lord! Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with him, doing their little in his name and by his strength! How unhappy are those on the side of evil! It is a losing side, and it is a matter wherein to lose is to lose and to be lost forever. On whose side are you?”