Links I like

Links

Free resources for March

This month’s free book for Logos Bible Software is 1 Corinthians by Roy Harrisville. Over at Christian Audio, you can get The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel free (along with a number of other titles reduced to $4.98).

Free Gospel Project live event

Register here for Gospel. Life. Ministry, a live-streamed event hosted by The Gospel Project on May 11.

Concerning Those Crusty Calvinists

Mike Leake:

What I see is a growing movement of gracious Calvinism…at least in regards to how we relate to non-Calvinists and others who differ. I praise God for a growth of humble Calvinism. But I believe there is still room to grow as humble Christians. What I mean is that we’ve figured out how to be humble—or maybe appear humble—to those who aren’t Calvinists. But I wonder are we being gracious and seeking to help crusty Calvinists?

3 Muslim Misconceptions about Christians

JD Greear:

Many obstacles stand in the way of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus—theological confusion and the cost of conversion being two of the most daunting. And of course the most common reason why Muslims are not coming to Christ is that most have simply never heard the gospel.

How Honey Helps Us Taste God

Joe Rigney:

Why did God make honey so tasty and sweet? So that we would have some idea what wisdom is like (at least, that’s one reason). The sweetness of honey points beyond itself to the wisdom of God. Honey is “good,” and we are exhorted in Psalm 34 to “taste and see that the LORD is good!” Our souls have taste buds, just like our tongues, and we can train the soul-buds by exercising the tongue-buds. When we savor the sweetness of honey or sweet tea or pumpkin crunch cake, we engage in a fancy bit of “reading.” We transpose the physical enjoyment of taste onto our souls and offer thanks to God, not only for the simple pleasures of food but also for the spiritual pleasures to which the food is but a fitting echo.

You’ll want these stock images

How could you not enjoy using Vince Vaughn in a business-y editorial blog post?

George Verwer’s Conversion

Justin Taylor:

To say that George Verwer Jr. (b. 1938) has a larger-than-life personality is probably an understatement. It would have been obvious if you could have seen him running around at Ramsey High School in Ramsey, New Jersey. Of the thousand or so students at the school, George stood out.

Articulating unbelief

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A letter.

You wouldn’t think it’d be that hard to write a letter, but this one has a very specific purpose, because it’s also my term paper for my apologetics and outreach course. I am to write a letter to a friend, a family member—someone I am close to—bridge the gap between their beliefs and my own, and encourage them to pursue Christ.

And until last night, I’ve been stuck.

Every time I’d start, I’d hit a wall. I didn’t know where to begin. So I started thinking about a different person, our relationship and what they believe. And then I’d hit another wall. And then another. And another…

My problem is probably not entirely unfamiliar to some reading this: I’ve struggled to get a good sense on what exactly some of the people in my life actually believe. Although with many I have ideas and observations, when it comes down to brass tacks, I can’t definitively say what this person or that believes.

And that’s the challenge I’ve been facing.

But I might have been looking at it the wrong way. Sometimes the fact that we can’t articulate what we believe is itself telling. Maybe it’s that we don’t give it any serious thought. Maybe it’s that we have thought and don’t like the conclusions we’ve come to, so we choose to say nothing. Maybe those whose beliefs I struggle to articulate are having the same problem?

(Unless, of course, this winds up being an attempt to justify myself for not digging deep enough. Which I hope it’s not.)

And then I was able to start.

It wasn’t until I had a good chat with my wife about these challenges that I was able to turn the corner and really put anything meaningful into my document. Where it will go, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m thankful that so far, I’ve not felt the urge to delete everything and start fresh. (Though, there’s still time.)

Articulating unbelief—especially doing it in a way that is honoring to the individual to and about whom you’re writing—is no easy task. But the results, I trust, will be worth it.

Have you tried an exercise like this before? If so, what was the fruit of it?


photo credit: Few Words..Forever and a day! via photopin (license)

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H’s Perspectives series is on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

Misconceptions from the Internet

3 Reasons Why Your Church Should Hire a Millennial

Chris Martin raises an interesting point here.

Why children don’t think there are moral facts

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Your Facebook Gender Can Now Be Anything You Want.

And the march toward Oneism continues…

Do You Love Books More Than People?

Kevin Halloran:

Books may seem preferable because we can control them. They don’t bother us with problems or need special attention. Books are good, but they are a means to which we perform our duty of loving others by feeding our flock God’s Word. How do we know when our love for people is not where it should be?

6 thoughts on 6 years of blogging

6-years

Last week, I celebrated six years of doing this whole blogging thing. By “celebrating”, I mean I said, “Have I really been at it that long?” And then I looked at how many archived posts there are. And shortly after that, I realized this blog is older than two of my children. So, yes, it really has been that long.

In light of this anniversary of sorts, I thought I’d take a moment to share a few thoughts about the last six years:

1. Content curation matters. Probably the best thing I’ve done in the last three years was adding the “Links I like” daily article, collecting the most interesting material that came into my RSS reader. I’ve always been thankful whenever someone has liked something I’ve written enough to share it with their readers (bloggers) and friends (social networks), and it’s nice to return the favor.

2. I don’t have to write about everything. Sometimes I don’t have anything to say about a specific topic. Sometimes I do, but it’s best left to myself. Knowing when to speak and when not to has been something I’ve struggled to learn how to do, but I hope I’m at least starting to do well.

3. Schedules are tools, not masters. Although there’s no real pressure (it seems) from you all to post daily, I do enjoy doing so. However, with travel, school, illness, and a few other projects that came up, I definitely felt the crunch in February. As a result, I didn’t write as many new articles, though I did still have something up every day. In my silliness, I don’t know if I would have done the same a few years ago. Correction: I know I wouldn’t have done the same a few years ago. I’d have probably had a mild panic attack or something.

4. It’s easy to forget what I’ve already written. Seriously. I had an idea for a post just today, and realized I’d written it three years ago. That said, I’d probably say it differently now, so I may still revisit.

5. Blogging has opened up a number of new opportunities. I’d have never written a book if I hadn’t started blogging. I wouldn’t have spoken at a conference if I hadn’t started blogging. I wouldn’t have met some terrific people—including Dan Darling, Chris Poblete, Nathan Bingham, Matt Smethurst, Dave Jenkins, Steve McCoy, Joey Cochran, and a ton of others who I hope won’t be offended because their names aren’t in this list—if I hadn’t started blogging. I am very grateful for all of these things, and more besides.

6. I’ve got really great readers. I know it’s a bit cliché, but it’s true. I really do have some terrific readers here.(And if this is your first time here, “hi!” Be sure to go here to see what I’m all about.) Some email me to let me know when there’s a typo (which I appreciate). Others are willing to offer correction when I’ve made an error. Others still occasionally let me know how something they’ve read has helped them in their walk with Christ (which, to me, is pretty much the best). The fact that you read however often you choose to read is very encouraging to me.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put a number of titles for women on sale:

Also on sale:

What is Your “Go-To” Pitch?

Erik Raymond (now blogging at TGC, incidentally):

As Christians we have something of a spiritual go-to pitch. When we are in a jam or need answers we shake off other pitches in favor of what we think will get the job done. Whether at work or in the home, physical or emotional, in the church or in your neighborhood—we get into jams. What do we do?

10 tips for making a great cup of tea

This is for all the tea lovers out there.

The Two Guys to Blame for the Myth of Constant Warfare between Religion and Science

Justin Taylor:

No one deserves more blame for this stubborn myth than these two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

“What Season Was Adam Created in?” And Other Questions That Make Us Giggle

Derek Rishmawy:

How many of you would think to ask the question and argue at length over the question of “What season was the world created?” I mean, really, was it spring, fall, winter, or summer when Adam popped up in the Garden of Eden? Were the leaves just turning red, gold, and brown, or were they newly in flower? Was it harvest time, or were the flowers just blooming? Would Adam have to knit a sweater soon, or were things nice and balmy? Or maybe Eden was just perpetually living in summer–kind of like Orange County?

A Pattern Among Fallen Pastors

Garrett Kell:

Prof’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extra marital affair.

The secret to spiritual health

David Murray-happy christian (1)

One of the many books I’m reading (though neglecting at the moment due to trying to keep on top of my school reading) is David Murray’s delightful new book, The Happy Christian. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about reading this book, aside from its the fittingly positive approach, is the reminder that spiritual health and happiness doesn’t come from looking to ourselves, or pursuing your best life now. We become spiritually healthy when we stop looking at ourselves and start looking at our Lord. Murray writes:

I sometimes imagine that if only I can get the whole world, including God, to orbit around me as the center of the universe, I will be happy, but that’s the way to end up in a black hole. By putting God’s Word and works at the center of our religious experience, of our Bible reading, our preaching, our worship, and our churches, we begin to orbit around the heat and light of His divine Son.

It seems to defy common sense, doesn’t it? Surely if I have a problem, I need to focus on myself to get that fixed. That may be the case with medical issues. But with spiritual issues, the remedy can be found only by looking away from self to God. That’s why Bible reading that keeps asking, “What does this reveal about God?” will put us and keep us in the trajectory of spiritual health and strength. God’s person and God’s works will cure us of over-focusing on ourselves and our works. (54)

A spiritually health—and happy—person looks not to him- or herself, but to God. When reading the Bible, the question is not, “what does this say about me,” or “how can applying this help improve my life?” Instead, when we reorient ourselves to first ask, “What does this reveal about God,” as Murray suggests, we will find answers that are far more satisfying—and find ourselves satisfied as a result.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these Kindle deals from Crossway:

Also on sale are:

Warming Up Your Car

This was a helpful (and surprisingly interesting) read.

The Question I Hope Every 2016 Candidate Is Asked

Daniel Darling nails it.

Trolls, Slacktivism, and Having a Conversation

Brandon Smith:

Social media is real life. It’s not a separate existence and doesn’t remove you from the consequences of your actions. Repercussions to exist, whether felt in the moment or not. People are damaged. Sin is often committed.

Snark, misrepresentation, and attack on another’s character should disappear when we ponder our redeemed lives, the reality of Satan, and the implications of Christ living in us (Gal. 2:20). The cross levels the playing field and demands grace as the immediate response.

Leonard Nimoy’s funniest Spock moments

Yesterday, Leonard Nimoy (best known as Spock from Star Trek), died. Here’s a look at a few of his best lines from the original series:

Facebook Obsession and the Anguish of Boredom

Tony Reinke:

Unhealthy Facebook addiction flourishes because we fail to see the cost on our lives. So what are the consequences of boredom-induced compulsive behaviors? Here are three to consider.

Freebie Friday: Reformation Study Bible giveaway

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One of my favorite study Bibles is The Reformation Study Bible produced by Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Trust (which is now available for pre-order). We’ve used it for several years at my house, and have always profited from doing so. So when I learned Ligonier was completely revising this resource—and had enlisted the aid of 75 faithful theologians—I was excited. And the new edition, which releases in just a couple of weeks looks pretty spectacular—not the least because it includes numerous historic creeds, confessions and catechisms within its pages!

Today, I’m giving away two copies of the new Reformation Study Bible. But before I tell you how you can win, check out the video below to learn more about this resource:

How to enter:

If you want to win this new study Bible, and you live in Canada or the United States, just use the handy dandy Gleam app, and you’re good to go:

Reformation Study Bible giveaway

I will select two winners when the giveaway is complete, and will announce them here on Sunday.

Links I like

Yesterday, the Internet was going insane about llamas and a dress that changes color. My wife captures them both:

internet-hysteria

You’re welcome, Planet Earth. Now, on to $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (Hardcover)
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards (ePub)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

More, But Not Less, Than a Carpenter

Tom Nelson:

I don’t know why I didn’t see it for so long, but one day as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark, I stumbled across a verse that stopped me dead in my tracks. In Mark 6, we are told that Jesus, who was spending his time as an itinerant rabbi, came back to Nazareth. The hometown crowd listened to Jesus teach in the synagogue, and they were stunned by their native son who was displaying such extraordinary wisdom and power. In their eyes Jesus was first and foremost a carpenter from Nazareth. Mark records the crowd exclaiming with a tone of incredulity, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).

What Do You Really Want Your Church To Be Known For?

Stephen Altrogge:

I heard a story of a group of people who visited London in the time of Charles Spurgeon.  First they went to hear a famous preacher in another church. After they heard him they said, “What a preacher!” Then they went to Spurgeon’s church and heard him preach. After listening to Spurgeon they exclaimed “What a Savior!”

Recovering Joy In Seminary

David Murray:

A young man goes to Seminary bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Having sensed God’s call to the ministry, he’s not only excited about preparing for future service but also about growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He expects that the next 3-4 years are going to be some of the best in his life.

Fast forward a semester or two, or three, and the eyes are dull and the tail is sagging and dragging. The excitement has evaporated, as he forces himself into classes each day. He’s not only lost his enthusiasm for ministry, at times he’s lost hope for his own soul. Instead of growing in grace and knowledge he feels his soul shrinking and even backsliding. Sadly, it’s an all-too-common scenario for many (most?) seminary students.

Icebergs of filth

In a stunning example of common grace at work, Russell Brand gets it right on the dangers of pornography:

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a couple of deals that are ending today:

ISIS burns 8000 rare books and manuscripts in Mosul

This is very sad:

While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.

How to Memorize (Almost) Anything

Joe Carter continues his series on memorization.

Ligonier 2015 National Conference

If you weren’t able to be at the event, the audio and video from this year’s Ligonier National Conference is now online.

Are You Willing To Admit That You Have Blind Spots?

Russ Ramsey:

I am not the artist I think I am. Neither are you. Not completely anyway. All of us live with blind spots—realities in our lives and art and thinking we cannot see. We have them even in the endeavors we are most passionate about.

Such is the nature of a blind spot — I can’t see it. There are so many bits of information, maturity, perspective, and wisdom I have yet to obtain. They simply aren’t yet mine.

I’m Sorry, I Don’t Care for that Sorry.

Erik Raymond:

Our sin is horizontal (it effects other people) but it is primarily vertical–it is against God. Further, sin is not simply a misstatement or a slip up; the Bible calls sin (like lying) evil. The wages of which are death (Rom. 6:23). This is helpful for us in thinking about how we apologize for, confess, or repent of sin. We as Christians should be sure that we are not in the business of recasting, relabeling or otherwise airbrushing sin to be more acceptable. Sin is sin. It has biblical names. Let’s use them.

How Well Do You Know Your Bible?

The latest issue of Credo Magazine is now available online.

A Crash Course on Friedrich Nietzsche

Justin Taylor offers a sketch of one of the most important thinkers in recent history.

Romans 8-16 For You

Romans 8-16 for you

By now, if you haven’t checked out the growing God’s Word For You series of devotional commentaries from The Good Book Company, I honestly don’t know if anything I say about the latest edition, Timothy Keller’s Romans 8-16 For You, will convince you.

Nevertheless, you really should check them—and this volume in particular—out.

Like Romans 1-7 For You and the other volumes in this series, Romans 8-16 For You offers readers an engaging, thoughtful and practical look at one of the most contentious books of the Bible. And more specifically, one of the more contentious passages in one of the most contentious books of the Bible. For Romans is not a book with a, shall we say, light touch, and Keller fully embraces this in his treatment of the text.

Encourages and challenges the heart and mind

It’s important, once again, to remember: this is not a detailed commentary (though it does quote from many of them, including John Stott’s The Message of Romans, and Leon Morris’ The Epistle to the Romans). But the strength of Romans 8-16 For You is not in the thoroughness of its commentary; rather it’s in how the text encourages and challenges both the heart and mind.

One of the best examples comes toward the end of this volume as Keller digs into Paul’s practical teaching, the implications of his grand theology found in chapters 1–11: how do Christians relate to the government? This is an especially important question in our day, as western nations race back to the worldview of ancient Rome and Christians face public scorn, prosecution, and eventually persecution, for refusing to compromise on their convictions. For many, it’s sorely tempting to take our ball and go home, hunker down in the bunker, or whatever other metaphor for disengaging from the culture at large you prefer. Yet, this is exactly what, according to Keller, Paul encourages us not to do.

The command for every Christian is to submit to civil government, appears to be absolute, Keller writes, which isn’t helped by Paul’s putting “the command in negative terms, ie: what the Christian is not to do: ‘He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted,’ and to do so is to ‘bring judgment’ (v 2). The strength of this statement intensifies when we realize that Paul was talking of a very non-Christian government—the pagan Roman empire.”

Remember, the Roman emperors were no fans of Christianity. The Christians caused too much trouble. Their presence was disruptive, they kept insisting that their religion was the only right one, and that could not stand. But this is the sort of state Paul told his original readers to submit to—a state that hated them! Thus, “the default position of the Christian (every Christian) to the state (any state) is to submit.”

But, there were hints, Keller argues, that this submission was not absolute. Instead, although we are to submit and engage in civil matters—paying our taxes, voting, serving in public office, and so on—we are also to evaluate the state. “Paul’s radical principle is: we obey our government out of our Christian conscience, out of our obedience to God alone.”

So let’s consider for a moment: how does our attitude toward our governments reflect this radical principle? Do we submit begrudgingly in certain areas? Do we submit our taxes correctly, even when we know reporting everything means we may have to pay instead of receiving a return? Do we pray for our political leaders, or curse them? And when we speak out against the errors of our governments (as we should), do we do so with a gentle word, or with harshness (Proverbs 15:1)? In other words, even when we disagree, do we treat them with respect:

…we are not only to comply with civil authorities, but to do so in a way that shows them respect, honor, and courtesy. This is the same issue we face in the family and the church. We are to treat parents, ministers, and civil magistrates with deference. Even when the individuals in these positions are not worthy of much respect, we show respect to the authority structure that stands under and behind them.

Intended for application

As with the other volumes of the God’s Word For You series, Romans 8-16 For You is designed for application. Readers will find it most beneficial as they read this book with a Bible and journal alongside it, and really wrestle with the application questions provided throughout. Read it with the expectation of being encouraged and convicted, but be prepared to do something with those moments of conviction. Think with “sober judgment” (Romans 12:3) and what you read and discover lead to a change of heart, mind and actions.


Title: Romans 8-16 For You
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: The Good Book Company (2015)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon

Links I like

Links

Save on books on prayer

Just one new Kindle deal that I’ve noticed today, which is Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol 1 by Josh McDowell ($3.99). Over at the Westminster Bookstore, however, you’ll find some great deals on a number of books on prayer:

Why You Should Think Twice Before Badmouthing Obama

Mark Altrogge:

It doesn’t surprise me that people would make these kinds of comments about our president. People have probably said similar things about every president. But what grieves me is when I hear Christians making these kinds of comments about our president, or posting comments like these on Facebook.

Three Reasons Why People Leave Your Church

Erik Reed:

As a staff, we were tired of the revolving door. We were working too hard to reach people only to lose them. So we worked to pinpoint the reasons we were were losing people. We discovered three dominant reasons. These three things are now on our radar. We constantly think about systems, communication, structure, and strategy for fixing these three issues.

A Young Earth

Whether you agree or not, this is an interesting read.

You’re doing Twitter wrong

7 Confidence Boosters in Evangelism

J.A. Medders:

Evangelism is a trust-fall into the power of God. Many say the don’t evangelize because they don’t know enough. Well, no one knows enough to bring on resurrection. Others say they don’t evangelize because they aren’t sure what to say at certain points. And others don’t evangelize because they are nervous.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

My 13 year old secret

I am very grateful for Helen’s willingness to share her story. Go read it.

Judas Iscariot and the prosperity gospel

Yep.

Conservatives, this is why Millennials quit you

Chris Martin, after getting trolled for two tweets:

I am a Conservative, and so are many of my friends. Too many of our Conservative friends troll social media like the examples above, thinking they’re the next coming of Rush Limbaugh.

Young people don’t like Conservatives, and that’s often because we make ourselves unlikeable.

What’s Their Problem? Sharing Our Pews with Sexual Abuse Victims and Survivors

Maureen Farrel Garcia:

In more than a decade of research, almost every article I’ve come across addressing sex offenders in church communities reveals pastors and leaders focusing exclusively on the sex offenders—the theological grounds for their presence, the church’s obligation to care for them, how to support them, how to monitor them, how to protect ministries from potential lawsuits due to their presence, and so on—at the expense of the victims/survivors and those who love them.

The Necessity of Expository Preaching

Derek Thomas:

According to the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, the best thing he ever did was to discover the “fundamentalist” teacher Jack Grout, who taught him the basics that he has followed ever since. Great preachers, like great golfers, follow basic rules. The more they practice these rules, the better they become.

One such rule, put succinctly in English prose that now sounds dated, but which is as needful now as when it was first penned, comes from the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, written in 1645 by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. When raising a point from the text, the directory says, preachers are to ensure that “it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence.” In other words, preaching must enable those who hear it to understand their Bibles.

Congratulating Wesleyan

In which Carl Trueman does what Carl Trueman does best:

Several friends contacted me over the weekend with news that Wesleyan University has taken the ever-expanding list of initials used to refer to sexual identities to new heights of absurdity or sensitivity, depending on one’s perspective. We are now apparently up to fifteen letters: LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM.

It is easy to laugh at such gibberish on the grounds that it is as absurd as it is self-regarding. Yet that would be a mistake.

When a group member may not actually be a Christian…

Unbelievers-small group

You’re sitting in your living room after small group, reflecting on the conversation of the evening. While you’re reviewing the night, you remember something a group member said, and it catches you off guard:

“I don’t know why we put so much emphasis on the Bible…it’s just a book.”

As you pray over this, you recall other similar comments—That’s just Paul’s opinion, God and I have an understanding, and so on—and become increasingly concerned that this person may not actually be a Christian.

And, guess what? They may not be.

The grim picture presented by statistics

According to numerous studies in both the United States and Canada, we’ve got good reasons to be concerned. For example, in a recent study commissioned by Ligonier Ministries, 41 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree with that the Bible is not literally true, and 46 percent do not believe it is entirely accurate in all it teaches. 71 percent believe they must contribute personal effort to their own salvation, and 44 percent believe there are many paths to heaven. Likewise, only 18 percent of Canadians believe the Bible is the Word of God, and the majority of Canadians (69 percent) and half of Christians believe it contains irreconcilable contradictions.

Clearly, we have some issues here. Given this information, it’s only logical to assume (though cautiously) that there are many men and women within our churches—and even some in our small groups—who believe they are Christians, but aren’t.

I realize this is highly contentious—perhaps bordering on arrogant—statement to make, so it’s important to clarify: In saying this, and in citing statistics like these, I’m not suggesting we have license to self-righteously determine who is and is not a Christian. Only the Lord ultimately knows if someone’s profession of faith is genuine. Similarly, we must also be careful not to confuse someone who is immature in his or her faith with someone who is actually unregenerate.

So how do you know the difference? Here are a few indicators.

The marks of an immature believer

An immature believer is one who is simply confused about what the Bible teaches and what it says. He may be a brand-new Christian in need of guidance or a long-time Christian who simply has not sat under authoritative biblical teaching. He may even be one of those people who constantly fights over secondary issues.

While an immature believer may not understand Scripture well or may have some serious errors in his understanding of God, he is ultimately marked by a teachable spirit. He is open to correction from people who love him. He takes heed to godly counsel. He has a desire to learn and grow into the likeness of Christ.

The Corinthian church is a perfect example of immature believers. They lacked discernment concerning doctrinal issues. They excused gross unrepentant sin. They abused spiritual gifts in worship. Despite all this, they received correction from Paul. Ultimately, they were teachable.

The signs of an unregenerate churchgoer

Here’s where things get complicated. The unregenerate churchgoer is very good at hiding in a crowd. Many of these churchgoers have been going to church for a long time; many more serve in the church as greeters, in children’s ministry, or even leading a small group (I’ve even heard stories of pastors discovering their fellow elders aren’t actually believers).

Like an immature believer, these churchgoers are marked by a lack of biblical knowledge or an errant understanding of God. Others are characterized by a dogmatic legalism that elevates morality to the highest form of authority. Some believe that grace frees us to sin unashamedly (Romans 6:15). Some believe that all things are lawful, despite not being beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12-13). All will turn away from sound doctrine and find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

They do not heed godly counsel. They do not submit to authority. They don’t have a desire to grow into the likeness of Christ (even if they say otherwise). They are not teachable. These are the clear marks of an unregenerate churchgoer.

What do I do if I think someone in my small group isn’t saved?

You might be thinking, “Does it even matter if I think someone’s a Christian or not? What do I do with the person who is already in my group?” The answer, again, is both simple and complicated.

Does it matter if we think someone may or may not be a Christian and how do we respond? Yes! Our friends’ salvation and ongoing relationship with Jesus should be of great concern to us. If we love our friends, we need to do what we can to assist them, whether they are mature believers, immature, or secretly unregenerate. Here are a few things you can do that may be helpful:

  1. Pray a lot. Only God can change the heart, and if you suspect someone in your group may not actually be a believer, then you need to be praying for him to draw this person to himself.
  2. Keep Christ the focus of our studies. Our studies must always be pointing to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Teach the gospel when it’s popular and when it’s not (which is all the time). Only the gospel has the power to transform the hearts of the mature, immature, and unregenerate alike.
  3. Be patient. Paul exhorted Timothy to teach with complete patience. Not everyone learns at the same rate. Everyone stumbles; everyone gives in to temptation and should be treated with gentleness.
  4. Exhort privately. If there’s a person in your group whom you’re concerned may not actually be a believer but thinks he or she is, talk to them privately about some of your concerns. Don’t point fingers or declare them to be non-Christians (since, again, none of us know for certain), but do challenge.
  5. Pursue accountability. We must cultivate an atmosphere where it’s safe to confess our sins, to be open about our struggles, and give and receive appropriate correction. It’s harder to hide when your culture encourages openness.
  6. Humbly hold your ground. Not everyone will endure sound teaching, but hold fast to it, especially when it’s hard. But the key here is to do it humbly, remembering that we all have blind spots in our theology (after all, if perfect theology were the benchmark for salvation, then we’d all be doomed).
  7. Be willing to say goodbye. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is to ask someone to leave your group if they are disruptive, unrepentant and unteachable.

Are there unregenerate sheep in the fold? Probably. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. So what do we do? We pray, we keep Christ the focus of all our studies, we show patience and mercy, we pursue accountability and confront sin in love, we hold our ground on key doctrinal issues while also admitting that we have blind spots, and we must be willing to say goodbye to those who will not do the same. Is it easy? Nope. Is it the right thing? Yep. Will it make a difference? Only time will tell.


An earlier edition of this article first appeared at Right Now Media and was republished at ChurchLeaders.com. This edition has been modified from these earlier versions.