Teaching Begins The Work And Crowns It Too

What is the real winning of a soul for God? So far as this is done by instrumentality, what are the processes by which a soul is led to God and to salvation? I take it that one of its main operations consists in instructing a man that he may know the truth of God. Instruction by the gospel is the commencement of all real work upon men’s minds. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Teaching begins the work, and crowns it, too.

Adapted from Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner

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T4G Debrief: Questions about Contextualization

Thabiti Anyabwile:

One of the panels at T4G focused on contextualization. If you like, you can listen to the panel here. It was one of the panels cut short due to time constraints. As a consequence, we didn’t have time to develop important conversations about basic definitions and about current applications like “insider movements” and so on.  So, I think many people (myself included) were left hoping more conversation could have happened.

When You Should Flee Your Church

Trevin Wax:

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the response I’d received from my article in Tabletalk – “Not So Fast” – which basically encourages most people to stay with their congregation during a difficult church situation rather than flee. Based on the notes I’ve gotten, some have misunderstood my suggestion not to be hasty in leaving a church (hence the title “Not So Fast”) as a hard, fast rule against ever leaving a church, no matter what happens.

2012 Band of Bloggers Audio

The audio from this year’s Band of Bloggers is now available. Download or listen here:


Why the Kindle is a Really Bad Kisser

Aimee Byrd:

Kindle and I had our first date this morning. What a letdown! It was the kind of date where you feel compelled to kiss and tell.

Your instinct is wrong

Jeff Brooks:

The big myth they’re talking about here is that one-page fundraising messages are somehow better than longer ones. This is totally wrong; experience tells us that longer letters are better than short ones.

Book Review: Out of the Depths by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Time and again, I find myself turning to the Psalms. Of all the books of the Bible, they’re among the most “human” (if that’s not too blasphemous to say)—in these prayers and songs of pleas and praise we arguably see the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer. Words of joyful exaltation stand alongside cries out of the depths of despair.

David’s psalms often feature this contrast. It’s no wonder, then, that we would turn to his prayers and use them as our own in times of trial and tribulation. Alongside David, we can rejoice in the Lord, our Rock and Redeemer, even when our enemies seem poised to crush us. We can exalt in his steadfast love, even when He seems to be far off. We can stand before Him with confidence, even as we confess the most horrendous of sins.

Psalm 51 is one of those, offering what is arguably the classic Old Testament statement on repentance. Innumerable sermons have been preached from this text, among them four by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, which have been collected into the recent release from Christian Focus, Out of the Depths. In its pages, Lloyd-Jones unpacks the state of man before God while holding out God’s gracious provision of salvation offered through Jesus Christ.

The Need for Confession

Lloyd-Jones begins his exposition by explaining the need for repentance—something foreign to the unbelieving mind—and particularly the need for the confession of sin. “[W]ithout repentance there is no salvation,” he writes. “The need for repentance is one of those absolutes about which the Bible does not argue. It just says it. It just postulates it. It is impossible, I say, for a man to be a Christian without repentance; no man can experience the Christian salvation unless he knows what it is to repent.”

This is a reality that I suspect we too often overlook. We want people to feel good about coming to Christ, but we forget that people need to recognize their own sinfulness (which is, of course, the problem behind every problem). When we refuse to acknowledge our sin against God, when we refuse to confess, there can be no repentance. We don’t think we need to. But we just keep running in a circle, like a dog chasing its own tail.We’ll get tired and burn a lot of energy, but we won’t get far. [Read more…]

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Three Questions To Ask Before You Post Something On Facebook

Stephen Altrogge:

Facebook and Twitter can be fantastic tools for communication, encouragement, laughter, playing Farmville, posting pictures of your cute dog “Eloise”, and general rollicking goodness. But, like every good gift, there can also be a dark side to social media. An unhelpful side. A sinful side. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you post something on Facebook or Twitter.

Chuck Colson and the Conscience of a Hatchet-Man

Russell D. Moore:

I suppose I should see some irony in some of the more vindictive journalistic pieces slinking out since the death of Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson. It’s not that I mind these articles focusing on Colson’s Watergate crimes and his rather nasty political persona prior to conversion; Colson emphasized that too. More problematic is the smug undercurrent that somehow Colson’s life in ministry to criminals was somehow just some sort of “cover-up” for who he “really” was: a dirty trickster for whom everything was politics. Even as they bury the hatchet-man, some journalists just can’t bury the hatchet. And, as they center everything on Watergate, they demonstrate that Nixon wasn’t the only one with an Enemies List.

Hypocritical Leadership

Tim Keller:

Perhaps the greatest dilemma of the pastor – or any Christian leader – is the danger of hypocrisy. By this I mean that, unlike other professionals, we as ministers are expected to proclaim God’s goodness and to provide encouragement at all times. We are always pointing people toward God in one way or another, in order to show them his worth and beauty. That’s the essence of our ministry. But seldom will our hearts be in a condition to say such a thing with complete integrity, since our own hearts are often in need of encouragement, gospel centeredness, and genuine gladness. Thus, we have two choices: either we have to guard our hearts continually in order to practice what we are preaching, or we live bifurcated lives of outward ministry and inward gloominess.

5 Things To Remember About Melody When You Write Worship Songs

Chris Vacher:

A classic sign of a beginning songwriter is the rulebreaker attitude: “Rules? I don’t need rules! I’m an artist!” Of course you’re an artist – that’s why you need rules! There’s all kinds of time in your life to be creative, play outside the box, colour outside the lines but the ones who are truly successful at this are the ones who know the rules of songwriting and push the boundaries within the boundaries.

Remember Who’s in Charge

Every once in a while, I’m reminded of some of the conversations friends and I had during our very early years as Christians—ones marked more by ignorance than any particular insight into the things of God. One of the most common phrases I remember coming out of our mouths is, “When I get to heaven, Jesus and I are going to talk about [insert issue here].” This was almost always uttered with that certain arrogant tone that makes you want to flick someone in the forehead (even if it’s you).

This weekend’s message at our church brought this foolish talk to mind once again, and I found myself wishing I could travel back in time to share the following truths from God’s Word with my younger self. I would tell past-me to read the following verses (among many others) and consider the implications:

Isa. 40:13-14:

Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

2 Chron. 20:6:

“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”

Psa. 75:7:

It is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

Psa 135:6:

Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

Psa. 139:16:

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Jer. 1:5:

“Before I [God] formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Dan. 4:35:

…all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and [God] does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Rom. 9:18:

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

The Lord determines our days; He executes judgment; He appoints our purpose (whether a prophet, pastor or pastry chef); He brings low and exalts. He does whatever He pleases and no one can say to Him, “What have you done?” No one can give Him counsel, nor is anyone qualified.

It is arrogant and foolish in our thinking that we have any authority over Him. That I—or any of us—had the audacity to flippantly suggest that I could question Him… Had I really understood this back in those early days, I hope it would have turned my grumbling into prayerful questions. From “we’re going to talk about this,” to “help me to understand your purposes in this.” When we get to heaven, we will have questions, but we won’t be arrogantly demanding answers.

Sometimes we (especially me) need a reminder on who we’re talking about when we talk about God. We need to remember who’s in charge—because it’s not us.

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The Deep Limitations of Digital Church

Albert Mohler:

Do you go to the Internet for church? Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today reported this week on the increasing use of digital technology by churches. This trend is not new, of course, but some of the developments she traces are fresh and innovative.

Let the Dummies Give the Answer

David Murray:

Sometimes –  it doesn’t have to be lots of times, just sometimes – let the dummies give the answer.

You don’t need to hold back your wisdom on the BIG questions, the MEGA decisions, but if the opportunity arises on a really small, insignificant, tiny matter (like the time of a meeting, or where to put the trash cans, or the paint-color for the cupboard, etc) why not ask Mr Know-nothing his opinion (he’s probably stopped offering his pathetic views many meetings ago).

Knowing When to Walk Away

Tyler Braun:

Every couple weeks I meet with a professor at my seminary along with a few fellow seminary students to talk life and ministry. Last week I brought up this subject of how we, as ministers, can know when God is leading us somewhere else. Everyone, at some point, will have to deal with wondering whether it’s time to go, but it seems very few are equipped to notice the cues that point us in new directions.

Mind Mapping and Personal Planning

Tim Brister:

I found myself this weekend at a juncture where the majority of my time was mapping out a multiplicity of things–from personal planning to discipleship investments to book proposals. Rarely do I mention mind mapping on Twitter that I do not get several folks asking about what program(s) I use and how I utilize them.  I’m sure there’s more of a science to them than what I employ, but I nevertheless have greatly benefited from the mental exercises of visual information dumping and creative brainstorming.

Divine Mercies

Thou Eternal God,

Thine is surpassing greatness, unspeakable goodness, super-abundant grace; I can as soon count the sands of ocean’s ‘lip’ as number Thy favours towards me; I know but a part – but that part exceeds all praise.

I thank Thee for personal mercies, a measure of health, preservation of body, comforts of house and home, sufficiency of food and clothing, continuance of mental powers, my family, their mutual help and support, the delights of domestic harmony and peace, the seats now filled that might have been vacant, my country, church, Bible, faith.

Adapted from “Divine Mercies,” Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Kindle Edition)

Hear and Your Soul Shall Live

The gospel, according to Isaiah, is, “Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live.” It is ours, then, to give men something worth their hearing; in fact, to instruct them. We are sent to evangelize, or to preach the gospel to every creature; and that is not done unless we teach them the great truths of revelation. The gospel is good news. To listen to some preachers, you would imagine that the gospel was a pinch of sacred snuff to make them wake up, or a bottle of ardent spirits to excite their brains. It is nothing of the kind; it is news, there is information in it, there is instruction in it concerning matters which men need to know, and statements in it calculated to bless those who hear it. It is not a magical incantation, or a charm, whose force consists in a collection of sounds; it is a revelation of facts and truths which require knowledge and belief.

The gospel is a reasonable system, and it appeals to men’s understanding; it is a matter for thought and consideration, and it appeals to the conscience and the reflecting powers. Hence, if we do not teach men something, we may shout, “Believe! Believe! Believe!” but what are they to believe? Each exhortation requires a corresponding instruction, or it will mean nothing. “Escape!” From what? This requires for its answer the doctrine of the punishment of sin. “Fly!” But whither? Then must you preach Christ, and His wounds; yea, and the clear doctrine of atonement by sacrifice. “Repent!” Of what? Here you must answer such questions as, What is sin? What is the evil of sin? What are the consequences of sin ? “Be converted!” But what is it to be converted? By what power can we be converted? What from? What to? The field of instruction is wide if men are to be made to know the truth which saves. “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good,” and it is ours as the Lord’s instruments to make men so to know the truth that they may believe it, and feel its power. We are not to try and save men in the dark, but in the power of the Holy Ghost we are to seek to turn them from darkness to light.

Adapted from Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner

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Train Them to See Truth and Deception

HT: Tony Reinke

What’s Wrong with Theistic Evolution?

Kevin DeYoung:

And what’s wrong with this approach? Why can’t we say Adam was a real person and the first person to know God, but not the only human on the planet? Aren’t we still in the realm of historic orthodoxy even if Adam evolved from other beings and may not have been the physical father of all living persons? I am raising these questions not to suggest a single blog post and a few quotations obliterates evolution. The point rather is to examine whether full-blown evolution can be reconciled with complete allegiance to biblical authority.

How Pastors’ Ponzis Affect Our Gospel Witness

CT Editorial:

In recent years, Ponzi frauds that prey on the naïve, innocent, and trusting have lost billions. The Madoff Ponzi’s price tag alone was $20 billion. In these schemes, the organizer offers a high return rate at low risk, but in reality he pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors. Prosecutors have uncovered more financial fraud in church networks than they ever imagined.

What City Buys the Most E-Readers?

Rohin Dhar:

It turns out all of our preconceived notions about e-reader adoption was [sic] wrong. When you dig into the data about where Kindles are actually bought and sold, the most “cosmopolitan” cities in America are soundly beaten by mid-sized cities in the Midwest and South. Moreover, our data suggests that dedicated e-readers aren’t very popular devices anywhere. In the landscape of consumer electronics, e-readers barely register.

The Christian Position is a Very Definite One

There are certain things that are always present in the typical, characteristic, Christian experience, and you will find them described everywhere. Take, for instance, the Bible itself: there is a common pattern to all the cases that are described in the Bible, there are certain things that are present in all, and those are the things in which we are interested. Or if you take up the biographies of Christian people or read the lives of saints, you cannot do so without discovering this common pattern.

Certain things are always present, and that is why if we are not aware of these things in ourselves, we are just not Christian. Or take your hymn-book: different men wrote the hymns, but they all say the same thing. There is this common element, this common pattern. The Christian experience is something quite definite, it is quite concrete; that is why a man can really test himself and discover whether he is Christian or not. The New Testament exhorts him to do so, and it is asking of him something that can be done. There is no need for uncertainty in your mind; it can be discovered quite easily. Let us never think of the Christian position as some vague, indefinite, nebulous thing somewhere up in the air. No, the Christian position is a very definite one; it is one of the most concrete things in life.

Adapted from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Out of the Depths (Kindle Edition)

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Why journalists love “Mad Men” and not religion news

Terry Mattingly:

I have been fascinated with the religion beat ever since I was in college, when I discovered that — even at Baylor University, the world’s largest Baptist university — most of my journalism colleagues simply were not interested in writing news stories about religion.

Oh, everyone wanted to write opinion pieces about religious subjects — but not news. Everyone wanted to write edgy columns focusing on the many ways that our university was wrong, but no one wanted to interview people on both sides of the tough issues and then write balanced stories that attempted to chart the debates.

Getting Healthy: My Hardest Year

Joe Thorn:

It started with trembling hands and a sudden sense of fear. I was in between meetings in Chicago and something went “wrong” inside me. I toughed it out during my last meeting by sitting on my hands and putting on good poker face, but I was freaking out internally. This was the beginning of an awareness that I wasn’t healthy, and things got worse from there.

Liar from the Pit of Hell

C. Michael Patton:

I received another one of those emails calling me a liar. It comes with the territory. It was not that my particular view was wrong, misinformed, or even misguided. Nope. I was a liar. I was deliberately misleading people. I knew the truth, but I withheld it, so that I could consciously exchange it for something that is false. This was merely another case of the ol’ bait-and-switch tactic. I was a “liar from the pit of hell.”

For Shame—Speech Crimes and Ideology

Peter Jones:

Shaming has not disappeared. It is now used to punish speechagainst the new reigning orthodoxy of politically correct relativism, rather than to condemn personally reprehensible moral acts. People lose their jobs because of one misplaced word. Pat Buchanan recently observed: “The new mortal sins are not filthy talk or immoral conduct, but racism, sexism, homophobia and nativism. The establishment alone defines these sins and enforces the proscriptions against them, from which there is no appeal, only the obligatory apology, the act of contrition and the solemn commitment never to sin again.”

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s offerings include audio and video downloads of Dr. Sproul’s Dealing with Difficult Problems and Communion of Saints teaching series as well as Jason Stellman’s book, Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet.


Where Is Our Zeal?

Converted in a most singular way, by a direct interposition from heaven, Paul, from that time forward became an earnest man. He had always been earnest, in his sin and in his persecutions; but after he heard that voice from heaven, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” and had received the mighty office of an apostle, and had been sent forth a chosen vessel to the Gentiles, you can scarce conceive the deep, the awful earnestness which he manifested. Whether he did eat, or drink, or whatsoever he did, he did all for the glory of his God. . . . His zeal was so earnest, and so burning, that he could not (as we unfortunately do) restrain himself within a little sphere; but he preached the Word everywhere. It was not enough for him to have it handed down that he was the Apostle of Pisidia, but he must go also to Pamphylia; it was not enough that he should be the great preacher of Pamphylia and Pisidia, but he must go also to Attalia; and when he had preached throughout all Asia, he must needs take ship to Greece, and preach there also.

I believe not once only did Paul hear in his dream the men of Macedonia saying, “Come over and help us,” but every day and hour he heard the cry in his ears from multitudes of souls, “Paul, Paul, come over and help us.” He could not restrain himself from preaching. “Woe is unto me” he said “if I preach not the gospel. God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ.”

Oh! if you could have seen Paul preach, you would not have gone away as you do from some of us, with half a conviction, that we do not mean what we say. His eyes preached a sermon without his lips, and his lips preached it, not in a cold and frigid manner, but every word fell with an overwhelming power upon the hearts of his hearers. He preached with power, because he was in downright earnest. You had a conviction, when you saw him, that he was a man who felt he had a work to do and must do it, and could not contain himself unless he did do it. He was the kind of preacher whom you would expect to see walk down the pulpit stairs straight into his coffin, and then stand before his God, ready for his last account.

Where are the men like that man? I confess I cannot claim that privilege, and I seldom hear a solitary sermon which comes up to the mark in earnest, deep, passionate longing for the souls of men.

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

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Why Idolatry Was (and Is) Attractive

Kevin DeYoung:

Most Westerners have struggled at one time or another to understand the attraction of idolatry in the ancient world. What could be so compelling about an inanimate block of wood or chunk of stone? Hard core idolatry feels as tempting as beet juice. . . . But idolatry made a lot of sense in the ancient world. And, had we lived two or three millennia ago, it almost certainly would have been tempting to each one of us. In his commentary on Exodus, Doug Stuart explains idolatry’s attraction with nine points. You’ll likely want to save this list and file it for future sermons or Bible studies.

The Challenges in Church Replanting in New England

Jared Wilson:

New England is now the least-churched, least-reached area of the United States, making it America’s most needy mission field. Yet missional church planters are not flocking here. There are likely some good reasons for that.

And I am loathe to ascribe it to lack of interest, necessarily, because every week I receive emails from men who feel called to minister in New England. Most of these do not believe they are called or gifted to plant churches. (I sympathize, because I am neither called nor gifted to be a church planter either.) So they ask about existing churches needing pastors. Are there churches here in need of pastors?

Charles Spurgeon on Calvinism — Preserving Grace

Steve Lawson (via Nathan W. Bingham):

Charles Spurgeon affirmed the doctrine of the preserving grace of God, sometimes known as the perseverance of the saints. This biblical truth teaches that no believers in Christ will ever fall from grace, for God upholds their faith. Spurgeon affirmed, “I think few doctrines more vital than that of the perseverance of the saints, for if ever one child of God did perish, or if I knew it were possible that one could, I should conclude at once that I must, and I suppose each of you would do the same.” Spurgeon saw the preserving grace of God as a primary component of the gospel.

Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin

BCC interviews Brian Hedges about his book, Licensed to Kill:

BCC: “You referred to the struggle with the flesh and indwelling sin. So, do you think that believers have two natures—a new nature and a sinful nature?”

BH: “It depends on what you mean by ‘two natures.’ Scripture certainly talks about the conflict between the desires of the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Sometimes this feels like a Jekyll vs. Hyde struggle in our hearts and this is how I read the much disputed seventh chapter of Romans. But, on the other hand, I think it’s a misnomer to think of the believer as a dual-personality with a ‘sin nature’ that has equal sway with the Spirit in his heart. It helps me to remember that we live as citizens of two ages, between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet.’ We are already redeemed, but not fully redeemed. We are new creations in Christ, but we still inhabit a fallen world with bodies and minds that are not yet fully glorified. The decisive victory against sin and death has been won, but we still have clean up battles to fight.”

Fear and Fear Not: Talking The Two Fears with Chris Poblete

For the Christian, the fear of the Lord does not diminish the gospel of grace; it amplifies it. This reverential fear makes his grace more amazing, his mercy more grand, his justice more right, and his love more astounding. The deeper our understanding of what it means to fear a holy God, the better able we will be to fear him as he ought to be feared, and the better able we will be to worship him as he ought to be worshiped.

Chris Poblete, The Two Fears: Tremble Before God Alone

Recently Chris Poblete and I sat down to discuss his new book from Cruciform Press, The Two Fears: Tremble Before God Alone. In this interview, we discuss his reasons for writing the book, whether or not “fear” is consistent with the gospel and what Chris hopes readers will take away from the book:

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Order a copy of the book at Cruciform Press or Amazon.