As you look at the year so far, what do you see? Wisdom and experience tell us that “perspective is everything.” Abraham Lincoln expressed that when he said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or we can rejoice because thorn bushes grow roses.” How you look at things determines so much. How does Jesus want us to look at things? Few things in Scripture are as important as keeping in perspective the heart. The heart – that center of your emotions, desires, and will – that is where God is calling you and me to look.
From the Heart
It is so easy for us to underestimate the importance of the heart. When Jesus was questioned about the Greatest Commandment in Mark 12, He reminds us that true obedience begins with a heart response: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (v. 29). In fact, all of our behavior begins with our heart: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, because from it flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus echoes this same idea when he said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Who you are will determine what you do. So that raises the greatest question of all – who has Jesus made you? Where does your heart sit in relation to His commands? There would be nothing better than to stop reading this article and spend some time prayerfully asking God where your heart is at. Continue reading
Plagiarism is wrong, because it takes what belongs to another – a violation of the eighth commandment – and it does not give full credit to my neighbor’s reputation – violating the ninth. There’s also the tackiness.
So I was deeply disappointed to learn that I had recently engaged in plagiarism of the most unfortunate kind. At our recent Faith & Work seminar, I had been unpacking I Corinthians 15:10 with regard to our subject, which says in part, “on the contrary, I worked harder than them all, though it was not I, but God’s grace that is within me.” Building off that truth to our topic, I made the following point:
Grace is opposed to earning,
but grace catalyzes effort.
I made that point repeatedly. And it was not my point to make. Continue reading
I think everyone struggles to be truly content. Whether in possessions, circumstances, relationships, or something else, we all answer like Rockefeller when he was asked how much money is enough: “just a little bit more.” Contentment is a battle for everyone.
I recently preached on contentment, and I had three resources that were of great help to me. The following books are often missed by Christians, and I hope you’ll take note of these. Jeremiah Burrough’s The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Amazon), William Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment (Amazon), and Thomas Watson’s The Art of Divine Contentment (Amazon paperback, CCEL, PDF) are all masterful treatments of a subject that many modern Christians are deficient in.
For example, Watson practically addresses several enemies that would threaten to steal our contentment. We all face circumstances in life that make it that much harder to practice godly contentment, and Watson lists some of these and then goes on to address these from Scripture:
I have lost a child:
- It was my only child
- I have a great part of my estate melted away
It is sad with me in my relations: Continue reading
I’ve been working through the Pastoral epistle Titus on Sunday mornings at Zion, and one of the key things we’ve been trying to emphasize is that what you believe about God (doctrine) will of necessity impact your life for God (discipleship).
This can be a hard teaching to swallow: is it really that simple? Can leveraging the Gospel truth in my life really make that big of a transformation? And yet when we remember that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), we are reminded that all of God’s saving work – from the new birth to growing in grace to final perseverance – is grounded in the Gospel. So many texts in Titus have been jumping off the page at me with this idea of Gospel grace bringing godliness to my life, and yet one that really sticks out to me in this sense is Titus 2:11 – 12: “For the grace of God has appeared… training us to renounce ungodliness… and to live godly lives…” As those verses show, God’s grace does more than this, but certainly not less! Continue reading
After the Lordship-Salvation controversy between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges in the 1980’s, the White Horse Inn crew released Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation (Baker, 1992). At the end of their collection of essays, ten propositions are put forward. Here they are for you to chew on. Thoughts?
- It is impossible that saving faith can exist without a new nature and thereby new affections (love, a desire for holiness, and so on).
- Saving faith is nevertheless not the same thing as such affections or desires and does not include in its definition the effects of which the new birth is the cause.
- It is not enough to say that we are justified and accepted by grace alone, for even Rome has agreed that is is only by God’s grace that we can become transformed in holiness. We must add that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone, and it is a great error to change the meaning of faith to include acts of obedience and repentance in an effort to make a disposition other than knowledge, assent, and trust a condition of justification.
- The definition of saving faith is: Knowledge, which we take to mean the intellectual grasp of the relevant historical and doctrinal facts concerning Christ’s person and work and our misery; Assent, or the volitional agreement of our hearts and minds that these facts are true; and Trust, which is the assurance that these facts that are true are not only true generally, but true in my own case. In this way I abandon all hope for acceptance with God besides the holiness and righteousness of Christ.
One of the things a pastor and a congregation spend a lot of time on together is the sermon that is preached every Lord’s Day in the worship service. The minister spends time preparing and delivering the message, and the congregation spends time hearing it and living their lives based off of it. But have you ever thought about how to hear a sermon? How can we obey Jesus’ command to “be careful how you hear” (Luke 8:18)? Consider a few ideas with me:
- Believers should prepare themselves to hear. The Apostle Peter commands that we “desire the sincere milk of the Word like newborn babies,” and that one of the ways we prepare that spiritual “thirst” within us for God’s Word is by laying aside all sin (I Peter 2:1 – 2). Sin acts like wax in our ears, and keeps us from hearing the life-giving words we so desperately need. Do not allow Saturday night – or the week before Sunday – as an opportunity for sin, but instead lay aside sin by faith and focus on “thirsting” to hear from the Lord in the sermon.
- Believers should prepare through prayer. One of the best ways to create this spiritual thirst in preparing is through prayer. We say with the psalmist, “Lord, open my eyes, that I would behold wondrous things out of Your Law in the sermon this Sunday” (cf. Psalm 119:18). Ask God to reveal to you His will for your life in the sermon; do it every Sunday! The Apostle Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him as he preached, and to do so constantly (Ephesians 6:18 – 19). We should pray this way for our Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and especially our ministers and elders.
- Believers should test the sermon against God’s Word. Paul praised the Bereans because they “searched the Scriptures daily” to see if Paul’s message lined up with Scripture (Acts 17:11). As Christians, we are to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). Ministers must not preach on their favorite topics, heart-warming stories, practical advice for better living, politics, or anything else – but only what the Lord says in Holy Scripture. A congregation can hold their minister accountable by carefully testing what he says.
- Believers should receive the sermon in a godly attitude. Continue reading
The sovereignty and freeness of grace are the principles of laborious activity, not the allowance of Anitnomian ease. Thus the doctrines of the Gospel not only explain the nature and obligation, but are themselves the principles – nay the only principles – of holiness. We must live every moment by faith, and as we live, we shall love – overcome the world – crucify sin – delight in the service of God. No mere precepts will extirpate the natural love of sin, or infuse this new bias in the heart. The doctrine of faith alone effects this mighty change, by exhibiting Christ as the source of life, and detailing all the exercises of holy practice, flowing from that life…
It is the promise, and not the precept; it is encouragement, and exaction; it is grace, and not nature, which consecrates a course of moral beauty and blessing, and convinces the believer, that, whether grace is to be exercised or duty discharged, he is eminently ‘God’s workmanship,’ the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Charles Bridges The Christian Ministry (265-66) emphasis original
Calvin: Indeed, this life, however crammed with infinite miseries it may be, is still rightly to be counted among those blessings of God which are not to be spurned.
D.A. Carson From the Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days (Christian Focus, 2010)
Kindle publication at Amazon
Paperback at WTS Books
(this review looks at the unpaginated eBook version)
Christian Focus has published another brief but useful classic from Dr. Carson on II Timothy. The subject of “end times,” or even more dauntingly – eschatology, brings confusion for many, but Carson treats the heart of the matter: living faithfully for Christ in these last days. More information on the book can be found at The Gospel Coalition (though I myself did not have access to it at the time of the review). Carson’s book is an accessible guide for Christians unto faithful living packed with simple but gripping lessons, that is recommended for anyone.
Chapter 1, “Living in the Last Days,” is a smooth, concise, running commentary of prose on II Timothy 3:1 – 9. The entire text of 2 Timothy 3 – 4:6 appears just before, but without a note of explanation. Nowhere are you alerted to what this book is: a commentary? devotionals? summary? Despite a disorienting beginning, Carson’s insights into the text are engaging and helpful. Unlike the rocky beginning, the remaining chapters easily flow into one another. Continue reading