The human mind clings to human merit

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Though there is no righteousness in any man, yet in every man there is a proneness to truth in some fancied merit. Strange that it should be so, but the most reprobate characters have yet some virtue as they imagine, upon which they rely. You will find the most abandoned drunkard pride himself that he is not a swearer. You will find the blaspheming drunkard pride himself that at least he is honest. You will find men with no other virtue in the world, exalt what they imagine to be a virtue – the fact that they do not profess to have any; and they think themselves to be extremely excellent, because they have honesty or rather impudence enough to confess that they are utterly vile.

Somehow the human mind clings to human merit; it always will hold to it, and when you take away everything upon which you think it could rely, in less than a moment it fashions some other ground for confidence out of itself. Human nature with regard to its own merit, is like the spider, it bears its support in its own bowels, and it seems as if it would keep spinning on to all eternity. You may brush down one web, but it soon forms another, you may take the thread from one place, and you will find it clinging to your finger, and when you seek to brush it down with one hand you find it clinging to the other. It is hard to get rid of; it is ever ready to spin its web and bind itself to some false ground of trust.

Adapted from “Free Grace,” as published in The Sermons of Charles Spurgeon: Sermons 201-400 (Vol 2 of 4) (Kindle Edition)

It’s Impossible that God Will Leave His Chosen

Cross in Winter

David and Job often complained that God had left them, had become their enemy, regarded not their prayers, and took no heed to deliver them. And yet it is impossible that God shall either leave his chosen, or that he shall despise the humble petitions of such as do incall his support. But such complaints are the voices of the flesh, wherewith God is not offended so as to reject his elect, but pardons them among their innumerable infirmities and sins.

And therefore, dearly beloved, despair you not, albeit the flesh sometimes bursts out in heavy complaints, as it were, against God. You are not more perfect than were David and Job; and you cannot be so perfect as Christ himself was, who, upon the cross, cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

Consider, dear mother, how lamentable and horrible were those words to the only Son of God. And David, in the 88th psalm (which, for the better understanding, I desire you to read) complains upon God, that night and day he had cried, and yet he was not delivered; “But,” says he, “my soul is filled with dolour; I am as a man without strength. I am like unto those that are gone down into the pit, of whom thou hast no more mind; like unto those that are cut off by thy hand. Thou hast put me in a deep dungeon. All thy wrath lieth upon me. Why leavest thou me, Lord? Why hidest thou thy face so far from me? Thou hast removed all my friends from me. Thou hast made me odious unto them” (Ps. 88:3-8).

And thus he ends his psalm and complaint, without mention of any comfort received. And Job, in diverse places of his book, makes even the like complaints; sometimes saying that God was his enemy, and had set him, as it were, a mark to shoot at; and, therefore, that his soul desires actual destruction (cf. Job 16:13).

John Knox, An Exposition of the Sixth Psalm

What others are saying about Contend (part 2)

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The Contend blog tour officially wraps up this week and the responses continue to be incredibly encouraging. Here are a few excerpts from recent reviews:

Tom Farr writes:

The call back to the gospel in recent years is a great thing, and CONTEND is a battle cry for believers to fight for the gospel of Jesus because it is vitally important to us. We embrace the gospel because it reveals who God is and it rescues people out of darkness and into God’s kingdom. God’s glory and the people God loves enough to give his life for should be incredibly valuable to us, and we must contend against anything that threatens to silence the gospel message. CONTEND is a clear and practical guide for believers to do this.

Joey Cochran says:

Armstrong’s book Contend offers an assessment of context, bringing the reader up to speed on some of the hot-bed issues and concerns that are tied to the millennial generation, which is built on values of pluralism, relativism, and tolerance. . . . Ultimately Contend brings meaningfulness to reproving false teaching and challenges the Church to see this as a worthwhile endeavor. I give this book a hefty recommendation. It will certainly sharpen each reader as they discern the huge importance of how their individual spiritual life plays into the vitality of preserving the true faith of the Church at large.

Todd writes at Amazon:

…Aaron lays out what it looks like to defend the faith in our everyday life. I think one of the biggest strengths of Aaron’s writing is his ability to relate deep truths in a way that is easy to grasp for anyone. That ability is on full display in this book.

Jeannie writes at Goodreads:

In a very concise and clear way, Aaron shows what contending for the faith is and what it is not. It is not putting a high priority on unity, while we compromise who Christ is and what he has done and why….A great reminder is contending is not about making doctrine more important than people. We contend in mercy and grace to others. Jesus never left anyone in their sin. However, since we are with sin ourselves, we must contend the truth in love and grace.

I’m very thankful for the reception the book’s received so far; if you haven’t already purchased a copy, Contend is available now at cruciformpress.comAmazon, and WTS Books

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$5 Friday at Ligonier

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

  • The Majesty of Christ teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • John by R.C. Sproul (eBook download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (eBook download)

LIgonier’s also offering The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond for 99 cents.

Aquinas: A Shaky Foundation

K. Scott Oliphint:

Thomas Aquinas is among the top philosophical theologians in the history of the church. His genius cannot be doubted. His significant influence extends, not simply to the Roman Catholic Church, but into many aspects of the Reformation as well. Like so many in church history, Thomas wears neither a black hat nor a white hat, but a grey hat. How dark or light the grey is depends on a complex multitude of factors.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come by John Bunyan – $4.20 (US only)

Brothers, Train Up the Next Generation

Mike Bullmore:

I find there is a persistent temptation in my life and ministry. It is the temptation to just finish my own race faithfully.

“What’s wrong with that?” you ask. It actually sounds fairly biblical, almost Pauline. “I just want to finish the race. I don’t want to be disqualified. I want to be found faithful to the end.” Which is well and good, except if the understanding of faithfulness to the gospel is limited to and concerned only with my allotted three score years and ten, or if by reason of strength, four score.

God is Love, but Love is Not God

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“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

We assume not that God is love but that love is God. In other words, we don’t go before the real creator of the universe and say to him, “Please tell us what you are like and therefore how you define love.” Rather, we begin with our own self-defined concept of love and allow this self-defined concept to play god. When I say it “plays god,” I mean that we let it define right and wrong, good and bad, glory-worthy and glory-less, even though such valuations belong to God alone. Love becomes the ultimate idol.

The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline by Jonathan Leeman (Kindle Edition)

 

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A Calvinist Evangelist?

Keith Matthison:

If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.” This accusation has been repeated so many times that few make the effort to argue it. Instead, it is simply assumed. Never mind that some of the church’s greatest evangelists have been Calvinists. One need only be reminded of men such as George Whitefield, David Brainerd, or “the father of modern missions,” William Carey. “Yes,” we are told, “these men were great evangelists and Calvinists, but that is because they were inconsistent.” But is this true?

Five Responses to President Obama’s Relection

Daniel Darling:

Much has already been written and said by conservative Christians in response to President Obama’s reelection. I found the reflections of Al Mohler and Russell Moore to be among the best. Needless to say, most evangelicals are disappointed that Mitt Romney didn’t win. So where do we go from here? I’m suggesting five responses.

Smilingly Leading You to Hell

Tim Challies:

One of these is unlike the others: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, niceness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. According to Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, all but one of these is what he refers to as the fruit of the Spirit, which is to say, visible evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. If you are a Christian, your life will necessarily be marked by this kind of character. But which one is foreign to the list? Niceness.

Missions in Nepal

Our church currently has a team serving a partner church in Nepal. Keep up with what’s going on and how you can be praying for our global missions efforts here.

Inauthentic Authenticity

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I really hate the word “authentic.” Correction—I hate the buzzword that “authentic” has become. We’ve become so enamored with the idea of being “real” that we minimize and distort the seriousness of our sin. We don’t grow to hate sin more, as God does—we own our “brokenness” and tend to sit there, forgetting that God’s called us to actively put those things aside for our good and His glory.

Yesterday I reviewed Creature of the Word and really appreciated the way the authors addressed this propensity toward inauthentic authenticity. Here’s how they put it:

A gospel-centered community acknowledges the presence of sin and welcomes the confession of sin. But a truly gospel-centered community never reduces the severity of sin. To “abhor” describes the way a believer should react to sin. The word means to “shiver in horror,” the way your body reacts to an unexpectedly freezing cold shower. Believers are to shudder at things that go against God’s revealed purposes, things that harm both ourselves and others…

Sadly, a tendency exists among Christians to seek authentic environments for the sake of relishing in authenticity. These people get up after a small group meeting or some other accountability structure, slapping each other on the back for their ability to be open and honest about their sin. Yet they never take active steps together in order to combat that sin. True Jesus-centered authenticity lovingly nudges believers toward continual repentance—not just a bunch of “nobody’s perfect” confessions but actual, gospel-driven changes in lifestyle…

When God saves us, our attitude toward sin changes. Sin doesn’t become easier to commit; it becomes more despicable to us than ever.

Chandler, Patterson and Geiger, Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle locations 975, 980, 989)

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7 Things a Pastor’s Kid Needs from a Father

Barnabas Piper:

Pastors, your position is a demanding one, and those demands bring unique struggles on your family. A pastor’s wife bears a great burden, but she usually enters into the ministry willingly. A pastor’s children, though, are carried on the current of their parents’ calling. It is often a life of singular struggle and uncommon needs. These struggles often stem from the failures of the father. This isn’t to cast full blame on pastors for their children’s problems. But it is to say that pastors need to work to be good dads.

Church Planting and the Future of the Local Church

Brandon Smith:

In 2010, I co-planted a church with a few other men in the Wylie, Texas area. As we spent countless hours planning everything from location to bank accounts to the constitution, I was asked several times, “Why are you wasting your time planting a church in the Bible Belt?”

Cheap eBooks

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Histories and Fallacies by Carl R. Trueman – $3.03 (US only)

Godspeed: Making Christ’s Mission Your Own by Britt Merrick – FREE

A Gospeled Man

Jared Wilson:

As I view what it means to be a man through the lens of this instruction from Paul to Timothy, I am reminded again of the holy activity of true masculinity (and true personhood, generally). Flee, pursue, fight, take hold. Paul is nothing if not verby. I am struck, though, by how often I fail at these things. I am busy about things that so often don’t matter and passive about things that do. I am lazy. I can’t be bothered. And when I look for where I ought to get the oomph of holy pursuit from, I see Paul couching the masculine imperatives in the masculine indicative: “O man of God.” If this is what I am, this is what I can do. Furthermore, I see the importance of “taking hold of the eternal life to which I was called” for the other actions.

A Faithful Servant of the Persecuted Church

Joel Beeke:

Probably my highlight of the NCFIC conference was that I finally got to meet Rev. Fikret from Turkey. Paul Washer has wanted me to meet him for a long time and is encouraging me to minister among the churches this brother serves in Turkey. Rev. Fikret tells his story in a low-key yet powerful way. Today he ministers in one of the cities of the seven churches of Asia. Here’s the story he told me at lunch and then later to the entire gathering.

Book Review: Creature of the Word by Chandler, Patterson, and Geiger

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A lot of time is spent discussing of the mission and purpose of the church in the world. What should it look like? What makes it unique? Does it still matter? The answers are incredibly varied and nuanced, but usually they tend to focus on a couple of elements: doctrine and practice. We need to develop a sound theology to undergird our understanding of the church and our practice ought to flow from this. For the most part, most books I’ve read all agree on this point (even if the particulars of these vary drastically).

But there’s something else that’s missing in the discussion—the culture of your church. The church’s culture reveals what’s really at the heart of the congregation… and if we’re careful to look closely, we might find a disconnect.

It’s why so many churches face the difficulty of saying they’re about the Bible, yet the congregation never opens it, or we value evangelism, but our event schedules are so booked with classes, lectures or pot-lucks that we don’t have time to actually get to know anyone who’s not a Christian.

So how do we develop a culture where we’re actually about the things we say or think we’re about? In their new book, Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church, authors Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger offer their insights into creating a gospel-centered culture that fuels every aspect of the local church.

The gospel and community

The authors divide the book into two parts, first examining the unique attributes of the “creature of the Word” (that is, the Church)—how God brings together a people, forming a body for His purposes in the world, and how it is to behave, worshipping, multiplying and serving in community. While many might consider this a “yeah, I get it” point, the authors remind us that we must always start here:

For just as an individual must continually return to the grace of Jesus for satisfaction and sanctification, a local church must continually return to the gospel as well. Our churches must be fully centered on Jesus and His work, or else death and emptiness is certain, regardless of the worship style or sermon series. Without the gospel, everything in a church is meaningless. And dead. (Kindle location 201)

We cannot move too quickly past the need to honestly examine ourselves in light of the gospel, whether individually or corporately. If we fail to do the hard and necessary work of self-examination and repentance, we’ll fall flat on our faces. There won’t be anything to sustain a truly Jesus-centered culture within our communities.

This point is arguably one of the authors’ strongest as they explain there really isn’t such a thing as true Christian community without the gospel and all it entails, for, “The gospel is the deepest foundation for community.”

They continue:

…any attempt to build community on something more than the grace of Christ becomes a subtle move away from grace, a move toward pseudo-community that only puffs up and fails to transform. If something other than the person and work of Jesus becomes the foundation for a group of believers, that “other thing,” whatever it is—economic level, social manners, music preferences, common life experiences—becomes what they use to differentiate themselves from others. And it immediately becomes a point of boasting, a way to feel justified. (Kindle location 933)

Consider this critique carefully. This isn’t meant only for the seeker church or the “progressive” church… it’s got those of us in theologically conservative churches in mind, too. Over the last few years, there’s been a renewal of concern over what it means to be a biblical church. And frequently you hear that a true church is “gospel-centered.” While this is unquestionably a good thing, there’s a danger in turning it into a new measuring stick; so it becomes about how many months our sermon series runs, how long the preacher speaks for, how many churches we’re planting… The things meant to serve the gospel wind up enslaving us.

Creating Jesus-centered culture

Part two of the book focuses heavily on the mechanics of fostering a Jesus-centered culture within your church. The authors remind us that, first and foremost, if we want to build a culture like this, it must be founded upon the clear teaching of the Word of God. From the pre-school to puberty to the pulpit, every member of the church must be taught the Scriptures.

“To form a church centered on the gospel, the church must strategically and seamlessly pass the message of the gospel on from generation to generation,” they write. “The church must be united from the preschool ministry to the pulpit around one central understanding: the gospel transforms” (Kindle location 2228).

Sadly, even in churches where the gospel is heralded as the essential message of the Christian faith from the pulpit, children and students are often pummeled with curriculum designed for behavioral modification rather than gospel transformation. It is foolish to feast on the life-giving gospel in one area of the church while using a placebo in another. Quite frankly, children and student ministries are often a wasteland for well-intentioned morality training. (Kindle location 2222)

They continue:

Churches centered on the gospel aggressively go for the heart, not for behavior. Morality, or good behavior, is not the goal of godly parenting nor the goal of sound children’s ministry. A changed heart is. Obedience or morals may be the result, but a changed heart must be the goal. A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable. A church that goes after a child’s behavior and not the child’s heart is shepherding that child in opposition to the gospel. Children can be taught how to behave without hearts impacted by Jesus, but the “good behavior” that results will only last for a season because it lacks the power of inner transformation. (Kindle location 2290)

That’s really what we’re about, isn’t it? We want our churches to be places where people at any age are being transformed by the Holy Spirit as the Word is taught; we don’t need to be told to do better, try harder, or be nice for niceness’ sake. We need to be reminded constantly of the natural state of our hearts and our utter helplessness before God. Imagine what that would do to our children’s and student ministries; to our small groups and pulpit ministries.

The gospel-centered leader

Arguably the greatest challenge the authors make in the book even more than their cultural critique, is the one they level at leaders. “Culture and ethos is a reflection of leadership. Your church culture—over time, at least—is a reflection of the leadership of the church,” they write. “The kingly function of leadership is as vital to the health of a local church as is the prophetic function of teaching” (Kindle location 2522).

Leaders are frequently reminded that how they live and lead directly impacts the culture they create. What a leader believes is acceptable in practice, the followers pick up on and emulate. So when a pastor is concerned about how little the congregation reads the Bible, he may need to examine his own practices. When he is concerned about a lack of zeal for evangelism in the church, his own attitudes are necessarily called into question.

A gospel-centered church is infused with gospel-centered leadership. If a local church corporately bears the fruit of the Spirit, then you can be confident individuals who have been marked by the gospel of Jesus Christ lead it. There is a direct correlation between the personal impact of the gospel on a leader’s heart and the way he leads. The gospel is not good advice simply to be taken into consideration in certain situations; rather, the gospel is good news of sweeping transformation. A gospel-centered leader will lead differently. (Kindle location 2529)

The authors offer this reproof not harshly but as a brotherly word of concern for their fellow pastors. How we lead matters. What motivates us matters. The people following us serve as a mirror to the realities of our hearts. What are we seeing?

Conclusion

Creature of the Word is among the most helpful books on church ministry I’ve read in a long time, so much so that I rarely went more than a few paragraphs where I didn’t find myself equally encouraged and encouraged. Highly accessible and practical, this book offers a powerful blend of theology, philosophy, and methodology that’s sure be a benefit to church leaders and members alike.


Title: Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
Authors: Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
Publisher: B&H Publishing (2012)

Buy: Amazon | WTS Books

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The Sin About Which No One Will Speak

Daniel Darling:

There is a sin that nobody in our world really wants to discuss. It’s the fashionable sin, that fuels our great social movements and has become an engine of our politics.

It’s the sin of envy. We love to talk about greed. I mean if you google the word, “greed” you’ll get a thousands sermons, news articles, political speeches, blog posts, etc. We assume that anyone who is wealthy is greedy, simply because we attach greed to success as if the poor can’t have bad attitudes about money.

Controversy and Interpretation: A Review of *Biblical Womanhood*

Matthew Lee Anderson offers his take on Rachel Held Evans’ new book and the controversy surrounding it:

I think Rachel Marie Stone’s point about Rachel’s conservative critics not practicing a charitable reading of the book is probably right.  But that’s a buzzsaw that destroys everything in its path, and Rachel’s own project shows very little hermeneutical sympathy with the targets of her critique.

10 meeting rules every pastor should live by

Ben Reed:

I love people, which means that I don’t hate meetings. But I also value my time and theirs, and don’t want to waste my days and my life in pointless meetings. Throughout the 7 years or so I’ve been a pastor, I’ve learned a few things about meetings that may help save you some headaches.

Thinking about the Election from a Biblical Point of View

Sam Storms:

Yes, I am offended and fed up with the hostility in the current campaign. The lies and spin and distortions and underhanded things that people will do to get elected make me sick. Yes, in my weaker moments I get somewhat anxious, and occasionally terrified, about what “sinful humans” with all their “quirks” might decide two days from now. And my guess is that most of you feel the same way, regardless of which political party you support.

But Marvin Olasky is right: “under a sovereign God, the election is no crapshoot.”

The Trinity at Work

This weekend one of our pastors, Leo Klus, preached from Galatians 4:1-11, focusing on the doctrine of adoption (it was a terrific message, I’d encourage listening when the audio’s available). As he preached and as I looked at the text, I couldn’t help but think of the importance of the whole Trinity being at work in every aspect of salvation.

Today, rather than expound upon this truth in great detail, I want to share a few relevant passages showing you the Trinity at work in our redemption, regeneration and adoption as children of God:

The Trinity in the Fullness of Redemption (Ephesians 1:3–14)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Trinity in our Adoption as “Sons” (Galatians 4:4-7; Romans 8:12-17)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The Trinity in our Regeneration (John 3:5-9, 16-17; Titus 3:4-5)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. . . . For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…

While there are so many passages I could point to, these are among some of the most encouraging to me personally. Without the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together, none of it is possible—not our justification, our sanctification, our adoption, nor our final glorification.

Without the Father ordaining, predestining our salvation in Christ; without the Son obtaining and accomplishing for us a righteousness not our own; without the Holy Spirit applying that righteousness to us, sealing us as beloved children of God, we would be lost.

Yet this is what God has done. Shall we not rejoice?

Links I Like

Why Your Friends Are ‘Pro-Choice’ (And What to Do About It)

Scott Klusendorf:

During the extended question and answer [following a lecture on the pro-life position], a polite female student replied (paraphrase), “I’m against abortion and will never have one. If one of my friends gets pregnant and wants an abortion, I will do everything I can to talk her out of it. But I don’t want the government involved in taking away a woman’s choice. I guess that’s why I’m against abortion and am pro-choice.”

The student was hardly alone. She was echoing the sentiments of millions of Americans who personally dislike abortion but do not identify as pro-life. Their beliefs are perfectly summed up in this popular bumper sticker: “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.”

Do You Know Tim Challies?

Julian Freeman:

He’s the owner & proprietor of Challies.com, one of the world’s most popular and influential evangelical Christian blogs. He’s the author of several great books. He’s the guy who got the Discerning Reader up and running, as well as being one of the founders of Cruciform Press. He is a conference speaker and world-traveller. In short, Tim is famous.

But ‘Famous Tim’ is just one side of the man. And if ‘Famous Tim’ is the only side of him you know, then let me humbly suggest that you don’t know him all that well.

Work Less to do More

David Murray:

Can we learn from the computer game industry? I think so. Here is a fascinating article in pdf format from this gaming design website.

What’s One of the Greatest Doctrinal Threats Facing the Church?

I really do believe we are facing the same doctrinal crises that the Reformers faced, only in some respects it’s worse because Rome never questioned the authority of Scripture or the inerrancy of Scripture. Both are widely disputed in Protestantism generally, and increasingly in evangelicalism particularly. If we lose the authority of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture, then what’s the point? There would be no point in trying to understand what we believe and why we believe it—no point in even talking about a Gospel because there would be no authority for this Gospel. Then justification is as much up for grabs today as it has ever been. According to all the studies I’ve seen, most American evangelicals believe that they save themselves with God’s help. That’s the prevailing view in all the studies that have been conducted. Do your best. That’s why Jesus is no longer seen as the only way, truth, and life. And that wasn’t up for grabs in the Reformation—that Jesus is the only way of salvation—that wasn’t up for grabs. The issue in the Reformation was how salvation is applied to us, but everyone believed Jesus was the only way of salvation. Today, that’s no longer taken for granted. We have to fight for it.

The Constant Inclination to Self-Dependence

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The holiest of Christians, and those who understand best the gospel of Christ, find in themselves a constant inclination to look to the power of the creature, instead of looking to the power of God and the power of God alone. Over and over again, Holy Scripture has to remind us of that which we never ought to forget, that salvation is God’s work from first to last, and is not of man, neither by man. But so it is, this old error – that we are to save ourselves, or that we are to do something in the matter of salvation – always rises up, and we find ourselves continually tempted by it to step aside from the simplicity of our faith in the power of the Lord our God.

We, in the matter of salvation, are apt to think that God is tarrying long in the fulfillment of His promise, and we set to work ourselves to do something, and what do we do? Sink ourselves deeper in the mire and pile up for ourselves a store of future troubles and trials. Do we not read that it grieved Abraham’s heart to send Ishmael away? Ah! and many a Christian has been grieved by those works of nature which he accomplished with the design of helping the God of grace. Oh, beloved, we shall find ourselves very frequently attempting the foolish task of assisting Omnipotence and teaching the Omniscient One.

Instead of looking to grace alone to sanctify us, we find ourselves adopting Philosophic rules and principles which we think will effect the Divine work. We shall but mar it; we shall bring grief into our own spirits. But if, instead thereof, we in every work look up to the God of our salvation for help, and strength, and grace, and succor, then our work will proceed to our own joy and comfort, and to God’s glory. That error, then, I say is in our bone, and will always dwell with us, and hence it is that the words of the text are put as an antidote against that error. It is distinctly stated in our text that salvation is of God. “Not for your sakes do I this.” He says nothing about what we have done or can do. All the preceding and all the succeeding verses speak of what God does. “I will take you from among the heathen.” “I will sprinkle clean water upon you.” “I will give you a new heart.” “I will put my Spirit within you.” It is all of God: therefore, again recall to our recollection this doctrine, and give up all dependence upon our own strength and power.

Adapted from “Free Grace,” as published in The Sermons of Charles Spurgeon: Sermons 201-400 (Vol 2 of 4) (Kindle Edition)

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

top-ten

Let’s take a trip back in time to see the top ten posts in October:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)
  3. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  5. His Name was Smeagol (April 2010)
  6. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words (July 2009)
  7. Around the Interweb (July 2011)
  8. Private, Precious Moments (June 2010)
  9. Book Review: You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (December 2011)
  10. Up the (Willow) Creek: Kiva, Coffee, and Bono (August 2009)

And just for fun, here are the next ten:

  1. Three Characteristics of a Godly Friend (October 2012)
  2. Suffering and God’s Glory: A Conversation with Tullian Tchividjian (October 2012)
  3. Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller (March 2012)
  4. Creatures of the Word and The Centerpiece of Ministry (October 2012)
  5. Contending and Community (October 2012)
  6. Twisted: Reviewing Andy Stanley’s Twisting the Truth (October 2009)
  7. Book Review: Old Story New by Marty Machowski (October 2012)
  8. Book Review: Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian (October 2012)
  9. Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll (December 2011)
  10. Truth and Lies: Kevin DeYoung on the Contemporary Church (June 2010)

If you haven’t had a chance to read any of these posts, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check them out.