Links I like

A gospeled church

Jared Wilson:

The gospel cannot puff us up. It cannot make us prideful. It cannot make us selfish. It cannot make us arrogant. It cannot make us rude. It cannot make us gossipy. It cannot make us accusers. So the more we press into the gospel, the more the gospel takes over our hearts and the spaces we bring our hearts to, and it stands to reason, the less we would see those things antithetical to it.

You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time. So a church that makes its main thing the gospel, and when faced with sin in its ranks doesn’t simply crack the whip of the law but says “remember the gospel,” should gradually be seeing grace coming to bear.

The Secret of Joy

Jim Martin:

What God promises in return for obedience is astounding: a level of connection to God, a level of joy that is hard to imagine. And in my repeated experience, it is a level of joy that cannot be achieved by direct pursuit. Who stands to benefit more from God’s people being obedient to his mandate? Certainly the oppressed who are set free will benefit greatly. But it seems like God wants to show us that the people of God in general have at least as much to gain.

Churchoholics Anonymous

Mark Dance:

Since my computer didn’t recognize the term churchoholic, it vainly attempted to change it to the ignoble addiction of a chocoholic (def: a person who is excessively fond of chocolate). If you love the church, but suspect that your love has grown into an unhealthy obsession, consider getting help soon. Here are seven symptoms to love for that will help you to confirm and confront your addiction.

Jesus Cares About Your Words

Jeff Medders: “A day will come when Jesus will raise our bodies from the dead; I think he can transform our speech.”

Remembering Sermons

Aimee Byrd:

I stumbled upon a journal I had totally forgotten about. It is a sermon journal. I usually take notes on Sundays, but eventually, when I declutter my Bible, they get tossed as well. So back in 2008 I came up with the idea to keep a sermon journal. In rediscovering it I thought, “How the heck did I forget about this? It’s awesome!” The sermon journal is easy to do, great to go back and read, and therefore got promoted to a shelf on my desk. It’s just three easy steps.

Welcome Back, My Old Friend

Tim Challies:

Summer had some great moments of fun and relaxation. We had lots of good times vacationing and staycationing and otherwise enjoying the season. But it has also been tough. The day the kids left class for the last time and came home chanting something about “no more pencils, no more books…” I saw Routine following along behind them. His bags were packed and he was holding a ticket to somewhere far north, or maybe it was far south—I don’t really know. But I do know that he waved goodbye and disappeared that day.

Truth, Love and Jonathan Edwards

Continuing to think about Sinclair Ferguson’s talk from the 2008 Desiring God National Conference; in particular, about a reference he made that left an impression.

In his message, Ferguson shares four of Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions, a series of seventy commitments he made in pursuit of living a life of godliness. These four, all dealing with the tongue, are as follows:

31. Resolved, Never to say anything at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.

34. Resolved, In narrations never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it.

70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

These resolutions, so simply stated, hold such deep wisdom. And they’re integral to Christian character.

James 3:2-3 says that, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well” (emphasis mine).

We all stumble, particularly with our words, and no man but Christ has ever had perfect control over his tongue. But what is the “bit” by which we can guide it?

Love. [Read more...]

Taming the Tongue: Sinclair Ferguson on James 3

A conversation with a good friend got me thinking about this message from the 2008 Desiring God National Conference.

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more about “The Tongue, the Bridle, and the Bless…“, posted with vodpod

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:1-12

The mature person is able to “bridle” his tongue. The person who can do this is master of the whole body. The spiritual masters of the past understood this to have a double reference. The control of the tongue has both negative and positive aspects. It involves the ability to restrain the tongue in silence. But it also means being able to control it in gracious speech when that is required. Sanctification in any area of our lives always expresses this double dimension—a putting off and a putting on, as it were. Speech and silence, appropriately expressed, are together the mark of the mature.

Sinclair Ferguson, “The Bit, The Bridle and the Blessing,” The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, page 48

The tongue is “set among our members, staining the whole body.” How careful you are as you put on a dress for a wedding, especially if it is your own. How nervous about that new silk tie during dinner. The spot need only be a small one, but it ruins everything. So it is with the tongue and its words. No matter what graces you may have developed, if you have not gained tongue mastery, you can besmirch them all by an unguarded and ill-disciplined comment. Graces are fragile; therefore guard your tongue lest it destroy them.

Sinclair Ferguson, “The Bit, The Bridle and the Blessing,” The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, page 51

God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

This gets thrown around a lot. And I do mean a lot.

Many people use this line to try to encourage a friend or family member whenever times are tough. And while it’s absolutely essential that we do everything we can to build up and encourage people who are experiencing trials and adversity, we need to make sure that what we encourage them with is the truth.

While this phrase sounds very positive and affirming, you will not find “God won’t give you more than you can handle” anywhere within the pages of the Bible. It simply doesn’t exist.

What you will find is the verse that it appears to be a misquotation of, 1 Cor 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (emphasis mine)

Not Being Tempted Beyond Our Ability

It’s very important to understand a couple of things: God does not tempt anyone. James 1:13 emphatically states, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” While God does not tempt us, He does, in his sovereignty, permit us to be tempted.

This is to grow us in holiness.

When Paul writes that God will not tempt us beyond our ability, he means that we are never in a situation where have no other choice but to sin. In a situation where telling the truth will damage your reputation, for example, it’s much easier to give in to the temptation to protect how people see you and lie, rather than do the right thing, which is tell the truth. That’s why there’s no such thing as a “white lie”—one that you tell to protect the feelings of someone else. We never lie to make someone else feel better, only to avoid discomfort ourselves. It’s just easier to lie and not deal with the consequences of telling the truth.

But, easy rarely equals right. We always have the option of doing the right thing, that which is honoring to God, but it will often cost us—whether that cost is reputation, position, relationship, or money, there will be a cost. But it’s always worth it to do the right thing.

So it’s true that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to do what is right, He will almost always give us more than we can handle on our own.

Giving Us More Than We Can Handle

Over and over again in the Bible, we see men and women who are given far more than they can handle. The prophet Jeremiah is a great example; he was charged with preaching repentance to the people of Israel, a calling that caused him to be beaten, plotted against and rejected by everyone, even his own family. Emotionally, that was far more than he could handle (as we see in his many laments).

The ministry of the Apostle Paul is probably one of the most powerful examples of this truth found in Scripture. In 2 Cor. 11:21-30, he tells us the following:

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul doesn’t tell us these things to boast in how he took all this suffering and adversity like a man—he does it so that we might know that God will always give us more than we can handle. He “boasts of the things that show my weakness” (v. 30) because those things show his (and our) dependency on the power and mercy of God.

Earlier in this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul exhorts his readers with the following:

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8,9, emphasis mine).

What he tells them is this: “We were so afflicted that we thought we were going to die! We were burdened beyond our ability, and we could not handle it—But God gave us this adversity and burden so that we would rely on Him who can!”

God is making it clear that we are not self-sufficient. We cannot just hunker down and power through every situation. And we cannot white-knuckle our way to holiness. We need Him.

So maybe we need to stop seeing the trials and adversity in our lives as a burden, as an indication that God doesn’t love us. Maybe we need to start seeing them as proof that God indeed loves us very much—so much so that He will not let us try to rely on our own strength, but continue to show us that we must rely on Him to endure suffering and persevere until the end.

Everyday Theology: Money is the root of all evil

As we continue to look at some of the more common ideas we have about, or relating to in some way, God, I wanted to address the following:

“Money is the root of all evil.”

The origins of this one are fairly easy to trace, as it is a misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV), which says “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Four Missing Words

Some might wonder, what’s the big deal? Does a misquotation change the meaning in any significant way? In this case, yes. In the saying, “money is the root of all evil,” money itself is given moral value, and is determined to be all bad, all the time. This attitude, in many ways, is the heart of poverty theology — an overreaction to prosperity theology that essentially says, “if you’re financially poor, God loves you more than if you had money.” It is a demonizing of money.

Is money bad? Nope. We need money for groceries, for our mortgages or rent, for paying our church leaders, for helping the poor… None of these are bad things.

But the love of money is a very bad thing indeed.

1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV) says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” A love of money can cause people to wander away from the faith because the object of their affections is not Jesus, it’s cash.

It is idolatry. [Read more...]

Everyday Theology

“God helps those who help themselves.”

You’ve heard that one before, right? What about:

“Money is the root of all evil.”

Or how about this one:

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

And my personal favorite:

“Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.”

We’ve all heard these phrases before, haven’t we? Little nuggets that sound kind of like something you’d think was in the Bible.

It’s everyday theology. People build their worldview on sayings like these; whole ministries and movements are built at least one of these.

But how often do we stop to wonder whether or not these sayings are true at all?

So let’s talk about them over the course of the next few days. Let’s find out if they’re true. If so, then how do they affect our lives. If not, how do we need to respond? Bring up some others that you’ve heard in the comments.

Looking forward to discussing these later this week.

The Persevering Prophet: Harsh Language

PP-Language

Reading through the first several chapters of Jeremiah, I am struck by the harshness of Jeremiah’s preaching. Throughout the book, there is a palpable hatred of sin, that is expressed with incredibly strong language.

Before I continue, if you are offended by such language, you may not want to read this post (perhaps this light-hearted one instead?), as I’ve pulled together some of the more intense examples from the early chapters of the book of Jeremiah.

Within the book’s first five chapters, we see the following extremely intense words preached by Jeremiah: [Read more...]

John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur

Driscoll, Piper and Chandler at Text & Context 2008

At the 2009 Basics Conference, John Piper was given the opportunity to respond to John MacArthur’s recent criticism of Mark Driscoll. I am grateful for godly men like Piper who are willing to speak about this issue with truth, wisdom and grace.

I originally had featured Piper’s audio, but it’s no longer available. Fortunately, Peter, one of our readers, was kind enough to transcribe it a few months back on behalf of a hearing impaired reader. That transcript follows:

Question: Thank you, Pastor John. Wanted to ask you, this is a pretty big subject in the church today, the idea of Pastors and lay leaders even, using perhaps more course language from the pulpit, kind of bringing things down a level and not being holy in their speech, and it seems to be a bit of a problem, and somebody may call us nitpickers for wanting the speech coming from the pulpit to actually be glorifying in every way, and I just wanted to get your opinions on that. There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet, bantering back and forth, back and forth and I just wanted to get your opinion on it, thank you.

John Piper: Oh I’m right in the thick of it. And the two people of course are John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll, right? I assume that’s where you’re going. And everybody knows that I’ve been friendly with Mark Driscoll, because he’s been at two of our conferences and I’ll be with him in two weeks. And I love John MacArthur with all my heart and I’m going to be with him – if he’ll still have me – in June. So, I love him, love him, what a grand, great, 40 years. So, amen!

So, he spent 4 blog posts criticising Mark Driscoll two weeks ago, and Mark has stuck him foot in his mouth quite a few times. I would encourage nobody to become course, filthy, ugly, trashy. I’ve had to repent… I could tell you the worse word I’ve ever used in a sermon but if I did I would get in trouble to say it. It isn’t a four-letter word, it’s … I forget how many letters it is… it’s like one of those.

So, I’ve been there, and I know how easy it is to create effect. And with a certain young crowd, it’s hip, it’s cool, it’s the way you feel. You know, you dress a certain way, and you watch certain movies, and you talk a certain way and then you’re hip, and thus attract a certain crowd. So I don’t think your mouth needs to be dirty in order to relate to 20-somethings in Seattle. And I think Mark knows that, I think Mark knows that. I assume he’ll hear this, probably, what I’m saying right now. I count him as a good friend. I spent an hour with him two weeks ago, at the Gospel Coalition, talking about these things.

Now he preached on Song of Solomon two years later, that was the 2007, at least a year later. I think what he did with his Church was way more mellow, and way more acceptable. Which simply says to me: Mark is growing. And he’s walking a very fine line, because he is rock-solid doctrinally, and he is accomplishing things in Seattle nobody else is accomplishing, in winning to Jesus Christ… they had 400 baptisms on Easter Sunday morning, this year! And these people, would.. just weird people.. coming to, coming to his church. People that… I mean look at me, look at this, this is so weird. They wouldn’t come hear me for anything. They wouldn’t go to my church, but they’ll go to his church. So, I’m cutting him a lot of slack because of the mission. So, it’s kind of a both end for me. You don’t need to go as far as you’ve gone sometimes with your language, but I understand what you’re doing, missiologically [I think] there and I have a lot of sympathy for it because I’d like to see those people saved. And yet I don’t want to see, either doctrine watered down – which he doesn’t at all – or, holiness watered down, which is John MacArthur’s big concern and I’m concerned with him…. That’s enough of that… unless you want to go further? I’ll just.. no I can’t say any more. Watch for more, on the Internet.

The difference between me and MacArthur at this point is: I’m not drawing the line that John [MacArthur] has drawn from the imperfections of Mark’s ministry to his unfitness for ministry. Because that’s where it seems John has gone, he says: “It’s over. Marks should resign. Nobody should go to his church. He’s unqualified for ministry” and I’m not going there. Not at this point anyway. I’m going to Mark directly. I’m getting in his face. I’m talking about… I’ve got more issues than just language, that I’m talking about, in his face, pleading with him: “look guy, you’ve got an influence that’s absolutely incredible”, and he knows that, [that's] part of the problem. “And I want you to be a good steward of this. I’m old enough to be your dad.” I am. I have a son older than Mark Driscoll, wait a minute, Mark Driscoll is 38 now I think, so my son is one year younger, so I’m old enough to be his dad. And he knows that, I’m in his face, ’cause I’m saying: “Look, come on. Just clean this up.”

Let’s get real specific for a minute, you ask how I’m dealing with this. When I was sent, by John MacArthur, the fated Song of Solomon, Edinburgh sermon that John critiqued two weeks ago online, I listened to it and thought it was horrible. I got on my Internet and wrote a three page single page letter to Mark Driscoll: “.. this is horrible…. and here are my 8 exogenical [i think] reasons … and then a few pastoral reasons ….. ” Within one hour that was off the Resurgents website, and an email had gone to Edinburgh and Glasgow to pull it down. That’s significant. That was a son-like response to this fatherly: “Come on! That’s over the top….don’t… that’s not the way to do it.”

HT Evangelical Village

The War on Blogs

I read a few blogs on a regular basis, and, in general, the ones I like are excellent. Insightful, interesting, engaging content. Tim Challies, Justin Taylor, Abraham Piper, Mike Anderson & The Resurgence, the whole team at Evangelical Village… All these guys and so many more do a wonderful job seeking to glorify Jesus through blogging, and for that, they should be commended.

However, I’ve recently seen a very ugly thing happening in commenting habits, that in no way reflects or glorifies Jesus; that being the pushing of agendas that have nothing at all to do with anything that’s being discussed.

Recently, I’ve seen several discussions on a variety of topics derailed into a pro-egalitarianism rant (or more accurately “anti-authority of any kind” rant) on points that had nothing to do with the issue. I’ve seen Christians come out of the woodwork declaring the author a heretic on a doctrinal issue that is a tertiary issue.

My point in addressing this is that it shows a disturbing lack of character in how Christians are engaging the “blogosphere” (I hate the web-speak, so please excuse the quotes).

Our mission in all things is to glorify Jesus.

That includes how we blog.

[Read more...]

Abraham Piper: Jesus Followers vs. Christians

This is arguably the best quote I’ve read in weeks, so I thought I’d share it tonight. It comes courtesy of Abraham Piper at 22 Words:

Self-applying the term Jesus follower for accuracy or lexical variety is good.

Doing it to distance yourself from other Christians is cowardly.

There is a lot to chew on here. Drop a comment and share your thoughts.

HT: 22 Words