Links I Like

Special 99-Cent Sale from Cruciform Press

To celebrate Reformation Day, Cruciform Press has put the Kindle editions of the following titles on sale for 99 cents:

The sale ends this afternoon, so get your copies now.

How Much Power Does Satan Really Have?

Mark Altrogge:

Satan afflicts believers. Don’t underestimate him. He’s not an imp in red tights with a pitchfork. But don’t give him more credit than he’s due.

The Noetic Effects of Sin and Discipleship of the Mind

Matt Capps:

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that the evangelical mind is darkened by the noetic effects of sin. Hoekema argued that “…sin has poisoned the very fountain of life [therefore] all of life is bound to be affected by it.” Sin cuts through all aspects of our being, and even has consequences to our cognitive faculties. This is true of Christians and non-Christians alike. This is not to say that human depravity has darkened the mind to the extent that human intellect is incapable of knowing truth, beauty, and goodness. The fall did not destroy human reasoning faculties all together.

Book Deals at WTS Books

Westminster Bookstore’s got two terrific specials on right now, one for families and one for pastors and church leaders:

Old Story New (a family devotional I reviewed recently and highly recommend) is on sale right now for $8. You read that right: Eight dollars.

WTS is also offering an 80% discount on Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp (which I reviewed last week), either the hardcover or DVD resource when you use the coupon code PASTORS. This offer ends on November 3rd.

From Where Did You Obtain Freedom?

martin-luther

Church history buffs (and a number of us who aren’t but) know that October 31st is Reformation Day— it’s the anniversary of the day when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg door and (albeit inadvertently) kicked off the Protestant Reformation. Among the many positive fruits of the Reformation is a renewed emphasis on justification by faith—that is, we are saved by God’s grace alone, not by any works we carry out.

In the book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul rails against the creep of justification by works into the church. He knows that there is no hope of standing before God by our own merit and yet a works-based righteousness has bewitched the Galatian churches. They’ve been captured by the idea that the Law brings freedom. But, Paul argues, freedom comes not from works of the Law but from the gospel, a matter Luther expounds upon in his commentary on Galatians 3:5:

This argument based on the experience of the Galatians, pleased the Apostle so well that he returns to it after he had warned them against their twofold danger. You have not only received the Spirit by the preaching of the Gospel, but by the same Gospel you were enabled to do things. What things? we ask. Miracles. At least the Galatians had manifested the striking fruits of faith which true disciples of the Gospel manifested in those days. On one occasion the Apostle wrote: The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. This power revealed itself not only in readiness of speech, but in demonstrations of the supernatural ability of the Holy Spirit.

When the Gospel is preached unto faith, hope, love, and patience, God gives His wonder-working Spirit. Paul reminds the Galatians of this. God had not only brought you to faith by my preaching. He had also sanctified you to bring forth the fruits of faith. And one of the fruits of your faith was that you loved me so devotedly that you were willing to pluck out your eyes for me. To love a fellow-man so devotedly as to be ready to bestow upon him money, goods, eyes in order to secure his salvation, such love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

These products of the Spirit you enjoyed before the false apostles misled you, the Apostle reminds the Galatians. But you haven’t manifested any of these fruits under the regime of the Law. How does it come that you do not grow the same fruits now? You no longer teach truly; you do not believe boldly; you do not live well; you do not work hard; you do not bear things patiently. Who has spoiled you that you no longer love me; that you are not now ready to pluck out your eyes for me? What has happened to cool your personal interest in me?

The same thing happened to me. When I began to proclaim the Gospel, there were many, very many who were delighted with our doctrine and had a good opinion of us. And now? Now they have succeeded in making us so odious to those who formerly loved us that they now hate us like poison.

Paul argues: Your experience ought to teach you that the fruits of love do not grow on the stump of the Law. You had not virtue prior to the preaching of the Gospel and you have no virtues now under the regime of the false apostles.

We, too, may say to those who misname themselves evangelical and flout their new-found liberty: Have you put down the tyranny of the Pope and obtained liberty in Christ through the Anabaptists and other fanatics? Or have you obtained your freedom from us who preach faith in Christ Jesus? If there is any honesty left in them they will have to confess that their freedom dates from the preaching of the Gospel.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, p. 78 (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like

Do Men Mother?

Kevin DeYoung:

While we may know single parents doing their best to “father” and “mother” at the same time and we may know stay-at-home dads who seems to be flourishing, personal experience suggests that moms and dads are far from interchangeable. Stand up comics wouldn’t be able to make us laugh with their wry observations if men and women weren’t so different.

6 Changes in 6 Years of Blogging

Trevin Wax:

Last week marked my sixth year blogging at Kingdom People. Since then, I’ve written more than 3000 blog posts about a variety of topics.

Along the way, it’s been interesting to watch how the blogosphere has evolved. Here are a few things that are different today.

What would I do if I was falsely accused of sexual immorality?

David Murray:

I had an eerie sense of déjà vu as I watched the Dinesh D’Souza scandal unfold last week.  I’ve seen a number of men be accused of sexual immorality – politicians, businessmen, pastors – and almost always their first reaction is not only to deny the accusations, but to attack the accusers as jealous, small-minded, and part of a wider conspiracy or vendetta against them (e.g. Bill Clinton, Dominique Strauss, etc).

Obviously we have to resist the temptation to assume the worst of people, especially of powerful men. False accusers do exist. However, it does raise the question if this is the way those who really are victims of false accusation would or should react?

Pastor as Prophet

Chad Hall:

What does a church need from her pastor(s)?  I propose every church needs pastoral leadership that exhibits the three-fold office of Christ: prophet, priest, and king.  I gave an overview of this in my last post.  In this post, let’s take a deeper look at the prophetic role.

Why It Might Be Helpful to Read a Really Bad Book

Whether you read a little or a lot, it’s impossible to have every book you pick up be a 5-star page turner that completely rocks your world.

It just doesn’t happen. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) 

For example, I’ve been reading a lot of books on the church this year—what it is, how it is to function, the relationship between our doctrine, philosophy and methodology… all that kind of stuff. And there’s one book that, out of respect of the author, I’ll leave unnamed that shocked me with how awful it is. Really, really bad—like “thinking and rethinking and diagraming the author’s logic to see how he came to the conclusions he did” bad.

As you can imagine, it’s a book that I didn’t find particularly helpful.

Now, I didn’t pick up this book because I expected it to be bad. Just the opposite. I hoped it would, in fact, be very good and God-glorifying. Instead, I got a book advocating experientialism mixed with a mild strain of the prosperity gospel.

However, the point of this post is not to thrash this unnamed book, because even though I was frustrated by it (and continue to be mildly disturbed by it), reading a bad book reminded me of a couple of very important things:

1. Reading a bad book forces you to think critically.

When you find yourself reading a bad book, you can’t be complacent and let content wash over you (not that you should do that with any book, but hopefully you know what I mean). A bad book (especially the theologically and philosophically challenged ones) can help sharpen your thinking and keep you better attuned the truth.

2. Reading a bad book reminds you it’s okay to stop reading.

There’s nothing that says you have to read to the end with a really bad book and you’re not going to win a medal because you finished one.

3. Reading a bad book reminds you that no one is beyond error.

One of the unique dangers we face as Christians in the west is fandom—we can too easily elevate pastors, teachers and authors and forget they are just as fallible as the rest of us. Bad books help us remember that those of us who have the privilege to occasionally write books shouldn’t be blindly followed.

4. Reading a bad book makes you appreciate good ones all the more.

Immediately after finishing the book described above, I started another book on the same subject that was a breath of fresh air. Reading a bad book helps you appreciate what you assume when you read a lot of good ones. Not everyone writes well. Despite what some might tell you, not everyone can. Well-written, theologically sound, engaging books… these are a gift that we ought not take for granted.

Links I Like

Cheap eBooks

To help commemorate Reformation Day, Zondervan’s offering discounts on a number of excellent books:

But I Don’t Have the Brains to Memorize Scripture!

Tim Brister:

Yesterday, I shared the following paragraph with my disciple-making class as it relates to making disciples who love memorizing Scripture. Bottom line: we do what we want to do. It is not a lack of ability or competency. It is a lack of desire and determination.

Martin Luther Biography (Free eBook)

Originally delivered as the biographical message at the 1995 Conference for Pastors, this new ebook features five chapters that present a sketch of Luther’s life and distill relevant lessons for not pastors and leaders, but all Christians.

To download Martin Luther: Lessons from His Life and Labor, click on the following format options:

Christianity and the Dark Side — What About Halloween?

Albert Mohler:

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

The Ape Who Insists He’s a Man

Shiftsquirrel

Over the last several months, I’ve been reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my oldest daughter (which has been awesome). Among the many fascinating elements of the series is a character who appears in the final book, The Last Battle.

Shift is an ape, “the cleverest, ugliest, most wrinkled Ape you can imagine,” as CS Lewis puts it. Shift is a swindler, a con-artist who dresses his “friend” Puzzle (a donkey) in a discarded lion-skin in order to pose as a false Aslan and gain glory for himself. Interestingly, as the story goes, he becomes increasingly insistent that he’s a man, not an ape; he dons ill-fitting clothing and a crumpled crown that make him look far more silly than serious. Nevertheless, he insists, “I’m a man!”

Could there be a better picture of the false teacher?

Like the conniving ape, the false teacher insists that what he (or she) teaches is the right, true word of the Lord, regardless of how much it conflicts with His previously revealed character and commands. They “secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1); “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” (Jude 4); and their talk is full of “irreverent babble” which leads people into “more and more ungodliness, and their talk [spreads] like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:16-17).

They are like the “prophets” of Jeremiah’s day, of whom God said, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jer. 14:14).

Still, the ape insists he’s a man.

When we first started reading about Shift, Abigail stopped me after a few paragraphs, looked me right in the eye and said, “He’s a bad guy.” She recognizes his lie, and so should we. An ape—even a clever, talking one—is not a man, no matter how much he insists otherwise. His fruit reveals the truth.

Links I Like

10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate Is Never Asked by the Media

Trevin Wax:

Debate moderators and reporters love to ask pro-life candidates hard questions about abortion. Curiously, they don’t do the same for pro-choice candidates. Here are ten questions you’ll never hear a pro-choice candidate asked by the media.

The Importance of God’s Immutability

R.C. Sproul, Jr.:

It is likely the most overlooked, underappreciated, unknown attribute of the living God. Of course we are in grave danger indeed if we seek to pit against one another or to rank in relative importance the attributes of God. The doctrine of His simplicity reminds us that God is one, that He is not composed of parts. The attributes of God are not like that old spiritual, Dry Bones, wherein we affirm that the wrath bone’s connected to the justice bone, the justice bone’s connected to the omniscience bone. Neither does God find balance between competing qualities, as if His wrath were muted by His grace, or His love tempered by His holiness. These are all one, the same thing. In the end all of what He is He is because He is God.

Which, in the end, is why His immutability is so vitally important.

The Gospel’s Antidote for Envy

Jared Wilson:

The antidote for the self-justification and the self-sovereignty driving envy is rootedness in justification by faith and the supremacy of Christ. Like all other sins, envy is fundamentally a sin of pride, and the only way to kill pride is to confess our sin, repent of it, and believe in the forgiveness given to us by God’s free grace in Jesus.

‘The Weightier Provisions of the Law’

Rob Schwarzwalder:

When I first came to Washington in 1991 and began working for Sen. Dan Coats, one of the more noteworthy aspects of my professional skill-set was inexperience. Although I had some modest political experience, I was unprepared for the maelstrom of Capital Hill. The conflicting priorities, personality clashes, turf battles, and draining expenditures of time and energy were more than a bit of a shock.

That dreadful sin of unbelief

George_Whitefield_preaching

What can hinder your espousals with the dear and ever-blessed Lamb of God? I know but of one thing, that dreadful sin of unbelief. But this is my comfort, Jesus died for unbelief, as well as for other sins and has promised to send down the Holy Spirit to convince the world of this sin in particular. ‘If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. But if I go away, I will send the Comforter and he will convince the world of sin.’ What sin? Of unbelief: ‘because they believe not on me.’

George Whitefield, “Christ the Believer’s Husband,” The Sermons of George Whitefield (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like (Weekend Edition)

Let Pastors be Pastors

Kevin DeYoung:

Recently I was talking with a ministry friend of mine, a man I like and respect. He loves the lost and wants to see churches make an impact in their communities. He has gifts and insights that I can learn from. But I was caught off guard by something he said about Ephesians 4:11.

Why I Hate Christian Movies

C. Michael Patton:

Not too long ago I gave an assignment for a class I was teaching on Christian history. It was a biography on St Augustine. I was pretty excited to introduce people to a good friend whom they had (more than likely) never really met. He is a titan of the faith and has, over the years, become one of my best acquaintances. Yes, this guy came fully stocked with baggage. And yes, some of this baggage was lacking in modesty. But that is how it is with all my friends. They don’t have it all together. They never have. All of the greats of the past. Whether in theology or lifestyle, if you want to get to know the real thing, you are going to have to wade through some waters that are going to be far outside your comfort zone.

Gollum Saves the Day

Marc Cortez:

I’m a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But one thing always confused me. Why did he call the last book The Return of the King? If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know that the title refers to the fact that the kingdom of Gondor has been without its rightful king for a very long time. And the true king of Gondor, Aragorn, has not yet returned to claim the kingdom as his inheritance. So, from the title, you presume that the heart of the book will be the return of Aragorn to reestablish the kingdom of Gondor.

How to Grow a Moustache

Three Characteristics of a Godly Friend

holding-bible-lr

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)

While most every men’s group on the planet has used this for its theme verse, there’s a really important reminder for us here:

We need friends. We cannot maintain a healthy, growing, maturing faith without relationships with others. Consider just a few of the ways true friends sharpen and strengthen us:

1. True friends are loyal even when life gets rough

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov. 17:17)

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24)

2. True friends will always speak the truth in love, even when it hurts

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Prov. 27:5-6)

3. True friends aren’t just a good time, but give good advice

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (Prov. 27:9)

Links I Like

Give Up Your Weak Definition of ‘Disciple’

John Starke:

Sermons, talks, and books on discipleship usually give a basic definition of disciple as “learner.” But the New Testament gives us a more thrilling and dynamic definition of a disciple and the cost that follows. Take for example the parable of the soils in Matthew 13. How do we know a disciple from merely a “learner”? Matthew 13:23 says, “He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” A disciple is, by nature—by definition!—a multiplier.

When Love Refuses to Affirm

Brandon Smith:

When defining love, we must be extremely careful not to confuse it with affirmation. I love my wife whether she commits adultery or not, and I would forgive and reconcile with her if that were to ever happen (God forbid), but I would not condone nor endorse her to do it again. Christ’s death on the cross would cover that sin, but he would also command repentance and I rightly would expect the same. The beauty of the gospel is not that we get to sin freely, but that we are free to sin no more. We have so individualized everything in our culture that “what works for me is best for me” has firmly seeped into much of today’s Christian thought. Repentance and dying to self flip that script entirely.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today is $5 Friday at Ligonier.org. This week’s offerings include:

  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (eBook download)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (eBook download)
  • Chosen by God teaching series by R.C. Sproul (Audio & Video Download)

Is Twitter Narcissistic?

Barnabas Piper:

Is Twitter narcissistic? It’s just there for people to talk about themselves and share mundane details that nobody cares about, right? Based on some recent conversations I’ve had, quite a few people still believe this about Twitter and social media at large. So what it is the answer to the question “Is Twitter narcissistic?”

Mediocrity and the Problem of the Human Heart

dangerous-callingSometimes we have trouble defining mediocrity, but we all know it when we see it. When we see a half-hearted effort, or something that’s obviously less than our best. But what is it that causes mediocrity? Is it a matter of time, talent, or resources?

None of those things is the cause of mediocrity.

Even if we had the greatest abilities, unlimited resources, and all the time in the world, we’re all capable of being mediocre.

For those who serve in ministry, this is no less true. You’d think that if we have the greatest cause in the world to motivate us—going forth and making disciples of Jesus Christ—there would be nothing that could stop us from being less than excellent.

And yet many of us give less than our best. Why?

Because mediocrity starts in the heart.

Paul Tripp explains:

Mediocrity is not a time, personnel, resource, or location problem. Mediocrity is a heart problem. We have lost our commitment to the highest levels of excellence because we have lost our awe. Awe amnesia is the open door that admits mediocrity. Awe of God is fear-producing, inspiring, motivating, convicting, and commitment producing. There is no replacement for this in the leadership of the church of Jesus Christ. Awe protects us from us by asking more of us than we would ever ask of ourselves. Awe reminds us that it is not about us and so keeps us from dropping our guard when it might be convenient to do so.

Awe reminds you that God is so glorious that it is impossible for you, as his ambassador, to have ministry standards that are too high. I’m not talking about lavish, expensively furnished buildings. No, I’m talking about a sturdy commitment to do everything you can to display the glory of his presence and grace as powerfully and clearly as you can each time his people are gathered. You are in such awe of, and have been so satisfied by, his grace yourself that you have a zeal to display that grace to those under your care, a zeal you can get no other way. You are never just doing your duty. You are never just cranking it out. You are never just going through the motions. You are never just putting on a front. You are worshiping your way through whatever you are doing at that moment as the ambassador of an expansively glorious King. And you are in reverential fear of doing anything that would dent, diminish, or desecrate that glory in any way. As a pastor, you are a glory-captured tool for the capture of others.

Dangerous Calling, pp. 141-142

Links I Like

Politics Is Not A Cure-All

Tullian Tchividjian:

After decades of political activism on the part of Evangelical Christians (so much so that the average person in our country now thinks Evangelicalism is primarily a social and moral movement with no connection to the Evangel–good news) we’re beginning to understand that the dynamics and complexities of cultural change differ radically from political mobilization. Even political insiders recognize that years of political effort on behalf of Evangelical Christians have generated little cultural gain. In an article entitled “Religious Right, R.I.P.,” columnist Cal Thomas, himself an Evangelical Christian, wrote, “Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed.” American culture continues its steep moral and cultural decline into hedonism and materialism. Why? As Richard John Neuhaus once observed, “Christianity in America is not challenging the ‘habits of the heart’ and ‘habits of the mind’ that dominate American culture.”

Save on Dangerous Calling at WTS Books

WTS Books has Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling, on sale for $10 each when you buy five copies or more ($12 each for less than five). You can also get the live conference DVD for $15. If you want to know more about the book, check out my recent review and watch the following video:

Beyond “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

Tim Challies:

Love the sinner, hate the sin.” That’s a well-worn Christian mantra, an expression of conviction that even while we stand firm on what constitutes right and wrong, we will continue to love those who do what is sinful. We use the expression to affirm love for others even while expressing that their sin is really, truly wrong.

Cheap eBooks

Suffering and God’s Glory: A Conversation with Tullian Tchividjian

glorious-ruin

Recently I had the opportunity to review Tullian Tchividjian’s new book, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free (read the review here). This powerful new book is among the most helpful I’ve read on the subject of suffering because of Tchividjian’s focus on the question of who is with us amid our trials. Glorious Ruin unpacks this fundamental question—“the only [one] God has seen fit to answer, concretely, in the person and work of Jesus Christ” (25).

Thanks to the miracle of technology, Tullian and I had an opportunity to sit down and chat about the book. The result was a 25 plus minute conversation where we discussed:

  • the need for the book;
  • the difference between being theologians of glory and theologians of the cross;
  • suffering honestly as Christians; and
  • Tullian’s hopes for the book.

Rather than give you chunks of the conversation, I wanted to give you the whole thing (with only the most minor edits). I hope you’ll find the discussion helpful. When you’re done, I trust you will purchase a copy of the book for yourself, which is available now at Amazon and WTS Books among other book resellers. You’ll be thankful you did.