First, I want to first thank Crossway, Baker Books, Dutton Adult, Zondervan, and New Growth Press for allowing me the opportunity to do this book giveaway. Second, I want thank all of you who shared and commented on the book giveaway. Thirdly, the winners of the book giveaway are Jessica Mokrzycki for Mere Apologetics, Tonya Mandich won The Meaning of Marriage, Todd Gragg won Family Shepherds, Adamah won For Calvinism, Bill Fults won LIT!, Jeremy Seifert won Gospel Wakefulness, Eliza won Loving the Way Jesus Loves, Craig Hurst won Defending Inerrancy, Tammie Nickles won God’s Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions, David Norman won Historical Theology, Mason Carpenter won What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life, Glenn Leatherman won Marriage Matters, Gerald Waybright won Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, Jason Gardner won Forever, and Seth H won The Explicit Gospel.
Fourthly, I want to welcome the new visitors to Servants of Grace. Running this giveaway encourages some of you who have been long-time readers or new readers to leave your first comments on a blog post here. I sincerely want to thank you whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace for taking the time to leave a comment, and hope and pray you will join in on future discussions on content on Servants of Grace.
Whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace, I wanted to take a moment to tell you what you can expect from Servants of Grace on a typical week. A typical week will see between 6-10 posts. Monday, we usually post a book review, or an article. On Tuesday’s we have a blog post geared towards men. On Wed, we have a post geared towards ministry. On Thursday, we typically post a book review or article. On Friday, we have a book review or article. Coming soon I will be posting the archive of the radio show Theology For Life on Friday also. The radio show will be broadcast live on Blog Talk Radio. More information will be forthcoming on the radio show in the coming days. On Saturday, we post a book review or article. On Sunday’s we post a book review, or quote. On some weeks we will have more blog posts as we now have a variety of contributors. This schedule gives you an idea of a typical week here at Servants of Grace.
Finally we have many contributors to Servants of Grace, all of whom love the Gospel and want to strengthen believers and local Churches with the Gospel. These are exciting times for Servants of Grace, and I am truly thankful that so many of you have participated in the book giveaway. I look forward to future discussions with many of you in the coming weeks and months on a variety of biblical, theological and practical issues. May the Lord richly bless you.
Ministry burnout is rising to epidemic levels in the Church today. The Schaeffer Institute’s [http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=36562] research paints a disturbing picture: 50 percent of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. Over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month. 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression. 80 percent of pastors believe that pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
Ministry burnout is killing the joy and vitality of many Christians—and it’s something I am personally familiar with.
My Personal Story of Burnout
I was 24 when I first experienced burnout. At the time, in 2004, I was leading Servants of Grace through a time of great growth, preaching on an internet radio station once a week, and attending a community college studying philosophy. There were many great opportunities for ministry showing up, and I foolishly believed I could do them all. My foolishness led not to fruitfulness but the worst burnout I’ve ever experienced. I quickly began to suffer from anxiety attacks and full-blown depression.
I eventually recovered, but three years later came close to the line once more. By the grace of God, my wife intervened and I listened to her. This second encounter scare led to me handing over a great deal of control to Sarah. I told her that no matter what I was doing or what opportunities came up, that she had veto power over it all.
Whether it is on social media or in face-to-face conversations with others, I always tell people that outside of my salvation Sarah is the greatest gift God has ever given me. One of the reasons I say that is because the Lord has used her in amazing ways to point out my sin, and point me towards Jesus Christ. Before I met my wife, I was unfocused and undisciplined. By the grace of God my wife straightened me out by telling me that I was too smart, too talented to throw my time away and continually emphasized to me that God has big plans for my life.
Shortly after she did this, I started doing better in school and in every area of my life knowing that she would not tolerate me wasting my time. So dramatic was the change that my family and friends wondered, “How did this happen?” The only reason I was able to overcome burnout was by the grace of God and the love of a godly wife. And although it’s been many years since I burned out, I still occasionally find myself taking on too much and getting close to that edge. Why is that? I wonder if it’s because of the ongoing struggle with unbelief.
Idolatry, Unbelief, Healing, and the Gospel
Burning out in ministry finds its root in unbelief. Ministry leaders burn out because they are more concerned with ministering to people than with growing in an abiding relationship with Christ. Ministering to others is an important part of ministry but when it is elevated to the place of priority, ministry becomes an idol. The priority for ministry leaders as for all Christians should be on growing in an abiding relationship with Jesus, and serving Him out of our knowing of Him. Many ministry leaders justify their lack of quality time with Jesus with, “I’m too busy.” When they say this, which they may not say with such clarity, they are acting in unbelief not belief. This ultimately reveals why at the root of ministry burnout is unbelief.
Unbelief is rising to an epidemic level among ministry leaders today. One of the reasons for this is a lack of confidence in the power of Gospel. Rather than trusting in Christ alone often times ministry leaders’ trust in themselves. Rather than walking in the Spirit such leaders trust the success of their own efforts and then expect God to bless their efforts while they cease to be in an abiding growing relationship with Jesus.
Healing from burnout is possible, but it is only possible if you truly desire Christ. Christ promises rest to His people and invites them to come to Him whose burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus bids His people to come with confidence before His Throne and commune with Him (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Burning out from ministry is not an option for those who love the Gospel. Burning out in ministry is for those who care more about themselves than they do about the Gospel. The root of burning out in ministry is unbelief. When I burned out I was not resting in Christ, I was more interested in my performance for God. My ministry had become my idol, and the same is true for those struggling with burnout today.
The Gospel provides the fuel by which ministry leaders serve. All of ministry ought to be fueled by the Gospel. The Gospel ought to motivate and compel Christians to press on in the work of advancing the Gospel. The Gospel provides the fuel and motivation for knowing God and then serving God’s people out of our knowing of Him.
In this series, I want to get to the heart of this issue by providing you with biblical, theological and practical teaching for not only how to avoid burnout but to address the underlying causes of burnout by pointing you to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This series will explore such topics as how the Gospel provides the fuel for ministry, how to heal from burnout, resting in and being renewed by Christ, growing in Christ as a ministry leader, ministry marriages, and more. Along the way, I welcome your thoughts and feedback as together we work to fight against ministry burnout and build a legacy grounded firmly in the Gospel. Such a legacy I believe will lead to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of ministry leaders, which will in turn affect how ministry leaders lead their families and ministries to the glory of God.
Colossians 3:5-17 falls within the broader section of Colossians 3:5-4:6 in which Paul gives instructions on living the Christian life. Based on their death and resurrection with Christ and the hope of future life with Him, Paul encourages the Colossians to continue eliminating sinful behaviors from their lives and cultivating Christian virtues. In Colossians 3:5-11 Paul is dealing with the sins of the past. Here Paul calls the Colossians to make a decisive break with the sinful tendencies they have carried with them in their Christian lives. In Colossians 3:12-17 Paul calls the Colossians to a holy lifestyle, consistent with their new identity in Christ. Believers have been chosen by God and stand before him as his beloved holy ones. They are to live up to what they are in Christ.
Explanation of Colossians 3:5-16
“Put to death what is earthly,” in Colossians 3:5, is possible because believer have died with Christ (2:20; 3:3), so they can get rid of sinful practices (Rom. 6:11; 8:13). The language of putting to death indicates that Christians have to take severe measures to conquer sin. Calvin calls this putting to death mortification. Watchfulness and prayerfulness against it will be the first steps (Matthew 26:41), with self-discipline following (Matthew. 5:29-30). Sexual immorality refers to every kind of sexual activity outside of marriage. Five of the items that Paul lists have to do with sexual purity, stressing the importance of bringing this rest of life under the control and lordship of Christ. Greed, sexual sin, and other vices can intrude into one’s relationship with God, taking His place as a focus of devotion.
In line with the Old Testament prophets, who spoke of the Day of the Lord as a time of coming wrath (Zeph. 1:14-15), Paul reminds the Colossians that God will suddenly intervene in human history and will hold everyone accountable. Those who live evil lives will face final judgment. Paul lists five more vices in v.8 that Christians need to get rid of. These five all have a bearing on social relationships among believers.
Paul picks up in Colossians 3:9-10 where he has said earlier about Christ circumcising Christians by removing the body of the flesh (Colossians 2:11). Here he employs the metaphor of taking off and putting on clothing. The aorist tense of the two participles suggests that it is an even that has already taken place. A qualitative change of identity has already occurred in the lives of believers. It is now only remains for them to bring their behavior into line with their new identity in Christ (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:24). Being renewed (present tense) indicates that the transformation of Christians is an ongoing process.
There are no status distinctions between the new people of God (Gal. 3:28). No one has a special claim on God or is treated with less dignity than any other. Scythians were a people group located along the northern coast of the Black Sea. To the Greeks the Scythians were a violent, uncivilized and altogether inferior people. In contrast to such discrimination and prejudice against races and cultures, Paul shows that Jesus who is all, and in all, binds all Christians together in equality irrespective of such difference.
Above all else, Christians are called to love one another. Binds together suggest that love unites all the virtues. The word of Christ refers to the teaching about Christ as well as the words of Christ himself, which were part of the oral traditions passed on to believers in the early years after Christ ascended to heaven before the Gospels has been written. The centrality of Christ does not diminish the Father but brings Him glory.
Put off Put on
Put to death refers to a conscious effort to slay the remaining sin in our flesh. Impurity goes beyond sexual acts of sin to encompass evil thoughts and intentions. Passions and evil desire refers to sexual lust. Passion is the physical side of that vice and evil desire is the mental side. Covetousness refers to having more. It is the insatiable desire to gain more especially of what is forbidden. When people engage in either greed of the sexual sins Paul has catalogued, they follow their desires rather than God’s, in essence worshipping themselves, which is idolatry.
“Put away” comes from a Greek word used for taking off clothes. Like one who removes his dirty clothes at day’s end, believers must discard the filthy garments of their old, sinful lives. Anger is a deep, smoldering bitterness; the settled heart attitude of an angry person (Eph. 4:31; James 1:19-20). Wrath is unlike God’s settled and righteousness anger is here a sudden outburst of sinful anger, usually the eruption that flows out of anger. Malice comes from the Greek term that denotes a general moral evil. It refers here to the damage done by evil speech. To slander people is to blaspheme God.
Put on put off in Colossians 3:9-10 are the basis for the command of v.8. Since the old man died in Christ and the new man lives in Christ, because that is the fact of being a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) the believer must put off remaining sinful deeds and be continually renewed into the Christlikeness of which they are called. The new regenerate self, which replaces the old self, is the essence of what believers are in Christ. The reason believers still sin is their unredeemed flesh. The Greek word for renewed constitutes a sense of contrast with the former reality. It describes a new quality of life that never before existed. Just like a baby is born complete but immature, the new self is complete, but has the capacity to grow. Knowledge is a deep through knowledge, without which they can be no spiritual growth or renewal. It is God’s plan that believers become progressively more like Jesus Christ, the one who made them.
In view of what God has done through Jesus Christ for the believer, Paul described the behavior and attitudes God expects in response in vv.12-17. God’s chosen designates true Christians as those who have been chosen by God. No one is converted solely by his or her own choice, but only in response to God’s effectual call. Election means believers are the objects of God’s incomprehensible and special love. Compassionate hearts is a Hebraism that connotes the internal organs of the human body as used figuratively to describe the seat of human emotions Kindness refers to a goodness towards others that pervades the entire, person, mellowing all harsh aspects. Humility is the perfect antidote to self-love that poisons human relationships. Meekness is the willingness to suffer injury or insult rather than to inflict such hurt. Patience is also translated as longsuffering; the opposite of quick anger, resentment, or revenge and thus epitomized Jesus Christ. It endures injustice and troublesome circumstances with hope for coming relief. As the Lord has forgiven is only possible because Christi s the model of forgiveness and has forgiven all our sins totally, therefore believers must be willing to forgive others.
Supernatural love poured out into the hearts of believers is the adhesive of the church. The Greek word peace here refers to the “call of God to salvation” and the consequential peace with Him, as well as the attitude of rest or security believers have because of that eternal peace. The word of Christ is Scripture, the Holy-Spirit inspired Scripture, the word of revelation He brought into the world. Scripture should permeate every aspect of the believer’s life and control every thought, word, and deed. This concept is parallel to being filled with the Spirit in Eph. 5:18 since the results of each are the same. In Eph. 5:18, the power and motivation for the effects is the filling of the Holy Spirit; here it is the word richly dwelling. Those two realities are one, the Holy Spirit fills the life controlled by His word. This emphasizes that the filling of the Spirit is not some ecstatic or emotional experience, but is a steady controlling of the life by obedience to the truth of God’s Word. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus means to act consistently with who He is and what He wants.
How do I put off the flesh and put on Christ?
Putting off the flesh and putting on Christ to me means appropriating what Christ has done in His death, burial and resurrection. Practically, I find reading my Bible, living in community with other believers, listening to worship music as I work, and spending time in prayer to be helpful on putting off the flesh and putting on Christ. The most helpful of these activities is listening to music especially when I’m tempted because it focuses my heart on God and not on the temptation. I’ve also found that preaching the Gospel to myself to be a helpful discipline. Along the same lines as preaching the Gospel to myself I also regularly preach the message I’m going to preach to others to myself and find that this helps me to examine my own heart which helps me preach the Gospel with authority.
A Gospel-empowered believer rests in his or her identity in Christ. In his Epistles, the Apostle Paul often used the expression “in Christ.” One cannot come close to addressing the breath of this phrase, but to be “in Christ” means to share in Christ’s death and resurrection, and to be placed under the headship of Christ rather than under the curse of Adam. It means that Christ is the all-sufficient Lord and Savior who helps the believer to gradually grow in Christ. Christ’s death and resurrection are the foundations of the Gospel-driven life and the basis by which the believer lives out their new identity under the kingship of Christ.
 John Calvin, Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus & Philemon trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949, reprint from 1610), 208.
 William Hendriksen, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2007), 154..
John Flavel, from On Keeping the Heart:
The sincerity of our profession much depends upon the care we exercise in keeping our hearts. Most certainly, that man who is careless of the frame of his heart, is but a hypocrite in his profession, however eminent he be in the externals of religion. . . . It is true, there is great difference between Christians themselves in their diligence and dexterity about heart work; some are more conversant with, and more successful in it than others: but he that takes no heed to his heart, that is not careful to order it aright before God, is but a hypocrite. “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetous.” Here was a company of formal hypocrites, as is evident from that expression, as my people; like them, but not of them. And what made them so? Their outside was fair; here were reverent postures, high professions, much seeming delight in ordinances;” thou art to them as a lovely song:” yea; but for all that they kept not their hearts with God in those duties; their hearts were commanded by their lusts, they went after their covetousness. Had they kept their hearts with God, all had been well: but not regarding which way their hearts went in duty, there lay the essence of their hypocrisy.
If any upright soul should hence infer, ‘I am a hypocrite too, for many times my heart departs from God in duty; do what I can, yet I cannot hold it close with God: ‘I answer, the very objection carries in it its own solution. Thou sayest, ‘Do what I can, yet I cannot keep my heart with God.’ Soul, if thou doest what thou canst, thou hast the blessing of an upright, though God sees good to exercise thee under the affliction of a discomposed heart.
There still remains some wildness in the thoughts and fancies of the best to humble them; but if you find a care before to prevent them, and opposition against them when they come, and grief and sorrow afterward, you find enough to clear you from the charge of reigning hypocrisy. This precaution is seen partly in laying up the word in thy heart to prevent them. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Partly in your endeavors to engage your heart to God; and partly in begging preventing grace from God in your commencement of duty. It is a good sign to exercise such precaution. And it is an evidence of uprightness, to oppose these sins in their first rise. “I hate vain thoughts.” “The spirit lusteth against the flesh.” Thy grief also discovers the uprightness of thy heart. If with Hezekiah thou art humbled for the evils of thy heart, thou hast no reason, from those disorders, to question the integrity of it; but to suffer sin to lodge quietly in the heart, to let thy heart habitually and without control wander from God, is a sad, a dangerous symptom indeed.
We live in a day when the Bible is under attack by New Atheists and theological liberals who question the authority truthfulness and sufficiency of Scripture. Many of these voices whether in print, television or online mock or belittle the Christian faith. Often times these voices are the one’s calling for others to be tolerant, but they themselves refuse to be tolerant of Christianity. How Do We Know the Bible is True? edited by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge seeks to answer questions and objections raised by those who attack the Bible. This book covers topics such as the inerrancy and reliability of the bible, the resurrection, contradictions in the Bible, meaning of life, miracles and biblical interpretation. How Do We Know the Bible is True? is aimed more towards adults while Answers Book for Teens Your questions God’s Answers is written for teens. I recommend adults read How Do We Know the Bible is True as it will help answer many questions that many Christians have. I recommend teenagers read Answers Book for Teens to be able to answer questions and or issues friends, or teachers may asking.
Both books are very helpful and will help teenagers and adults to know the Truth, to contend for the Truth, to defend the Truth and to proclaim the Truth of God’s Word. While adults will appreciate the style of How Do We Know the Bible teenagers will appreciate the way in which Answers Book for Teens is written to help them understand the issues. Both books are very accessible, easy to read and are a good introduction to the issues they address. I encourage you to pick up a copy of How Do We know the Bible?, and Answers Books for Teens to understand the issues in order to proclaim the Truth of God’s Word.
Authors: Ken Ham & Bodge Hodge General Editors
Publisher: New Leaf Press (2011)
Title: Answer Book For Teens
Authors: Bodie Hodge, Tommy Mitchell, with Ken Ham
Publisher: New Leaf Press
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from New Leaf Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Recently there has been a buzz in the Christian blogosphere about how Christians should think and talk about biblical sexuality. While much of the conversation has been helpful, even clarifying, and I’ve benefited from some of it, I haven’t seen anyone thus far take on the topic head on.
My main concern and the thrust of this article is to explore the relationship between Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 5:29 by exploring to what degree contemporary preaching and teaching on sex violates those passages and conclude by suggesting ways in which Christians can speak to one another about sex without being a hindrance to fellow believers, while faithfully communicating God’s Truth to a post-modern culture.
Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 4:29
Notice the word-play: passing judgment. Paul urges the weak to stop criticizing the strong, and the strong to cease finding fault with the weak. Both parties should decide not to place any hindrance in the way of their brothers. On the contrary—for the negative implies the positive—each group should help the other to become a more effective witness for Christ.
In view of the fact that both parties love the Lord, repose their trust in him, and wish to walk in his way, it would be wrong to hour tone another’s feelings by insisting that there be absolute unanimity with respect to every aspect of the practice of religion.
If an important religious principle is at stake, you are not going to be silent about your convictions, but in all circumstances you will observe the rule: “In all things essential unity; in doubtful (or indifferent) liberty; in all things charity”. The substance of this exhortation is certainly entirely in line with, and may even have been induced by, the teaching of Christ (Matt. 18:1-9; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 17:1-2).
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
From a warning against the improper attitude toward material things Paul proceeds to an admonition against the improper use of the tongue, also in this case setting the positive over against the negative in the spirit of Romans 12:21, “Overcome evil with good.” Corrupt speech is that which is putrid, rotten; hence also corrupt, defiling, injurious (Matthew 15:18). We may well assume that for many years these rather recent converts to the Christian faith had been living in an impure environment, where foul conversation, at feasts and other social gatherings and parties, had been the stock in trade of everyone present. The change from this toxic environment to the pure and wholesome atmosphere of Christian fellowship must have been nothing short of revolutionary.
Even believers who are well advanced in sanctification have at times complained about the fact that it was difficult for them to cleanse their minds entirely from the words and melody of this or that curious drinking song. They hated it, fought against it, were sure at last that they had expelled it forever from their thoughts, and then suddenly there it was again, ready to plague and torture them by means of its reappearance. Thus also certain vile phrases or catch-words, sometimes even profanity, all too common in the pre-conversion period of life, have the habit in unguarded moments to barge right in and to befoul the atmosphere. Think of Simon Peter who, although a disciple of the Lord, “began to curse and to swear” when he thought that his life was in danger (Matt. 26:74).
Here, too, the only remedy, in addition to prayer, is to fill mind and heart with that which is pure and holy, in the spirit of Gal. 5:22 and Phil. 4:8-9. Accordingly, Paul continues: “but only such speech as is good for edification” that is for the “Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), as fits the need (literally, “edification of the necessity,” meaning: edification required by a concrete or specific need), that it may impart grace to the listeners, that is, that it may spiritually benefit them. This recalls Col. 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each individual.”
We notice an interesting parallel between verses 25, 28, and 29. In each case the apostle urges the addressed to be a blessing for those with whom they have daily contact. Merely refraining from falsehood, stealing and corrupt speech will never do. Christianity is not a mere “don’t” religion, and believers must not be content to be mere zeros. Instead, they should copy the example of their Master, whose words were so filled with grace that the multitudes were amazed (Luke 4:22). “A word in due season, how good it is!” (Prov. 15:23).
Contemporary preaching and teaching on sexuality
Given that Paul in Romans 14:13 is concerned with Christians never putting a “stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13) and Ephesians 4:29 is with letting “no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29) it’s worth asking the question in light of the above exegesis of Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 4:29 is contemporary preaching and teaching on sexuality helpful or unbiblical?
Whether it’s a pastor performing a “sexperiment” on top of his church’s building and then streaming it live or pastors describing specific sex acts their congregants can perform, the contemporary evangelical obsession with sex seems to me to be unhelpful and unbalanced. Rather than being discreet about sex many preachers are flaunting what “acts” Christians can perform. By doing this the preacher has overstepped his bounds and moved from preacher to sex-therapist.
Whenever I bring this up this topic with friends I am almost immediately asked, “Why do you think such preaching is unhelpful and unbalanced?” I believe that Preachers should preach on sex and more conversation should be had on what the Bible has to say about sex within the confines of the marriage relationship. My concern is that contemporary preaching on sex is unhelpful because it often is far too graphic and leaves nothing to the imagination. This kind of preaching, teaching and writing does not follow Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:29 to let “no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Furthermore this kind of preaching does place a “stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13).
I am not against all talk on sex, and my goal is not to “fan the flames” of the debate, but rather to redirect and re-orient the conversation upon this one question, “Is contemporary preaching, teaching and writing on sex biblical?”
My main concern is that many preachers are more interested in preaching on controversial topics than the Word of God. The Word of God does address the topic of sex but the Bible is not a manual of “do this and do that” in the marriage bed. When the Bible speaks of Christians it calls them “saints” for a reason because they are a separate people unto the Lord God. The people of God are to reflect the holiness of God to the world. When Pastors, preachers, writers, and teachers are more interested in building a platform, selling books all in the guise of “preaching what the Bible says about sex” I don’t question their motives or sincerity but I do question why they think it is necessary to cross the line and describe sex acts.
My main concerns with this approach to ministry are 1) I don’t see it in the Bible, 2) I believe it violates Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 4:29), 3) I don’t believe it strengthens the Church, 4) pastoral, as, I believe it does a disservice to Christians and unbelievers many of whom are deeply confused about sex. Finally many of these Pastors, preachers, teachers and writers are men that I respect a great deal and have benefited from, but I am concerned that these men are more known for preaching on sex while declaring they are making much of Jesus.
The Bible has much to say about how we speak to one another. There is a reason why the Bible addresses our hearts and our words. Jesus taught, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). 1st Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”’
As Christians we do need to speak out against the injustices associated with pornography, but we do not need to describe the sex acts. Christians need to take great care with how we speak to one another and about our faith. Christians should speak only to edify and build up the Body of Christ. When we speak in any other way we are not reflecting the holiness of the God but rather reflecting our sin nature to the world.
Christians have been given the Gospel the most important message in the world and have been charged with transmitting that message to the ends of the world. Christians are to faithfully communicate God’s Word without compromise but I fear that today many are compromising the message by advocating a methodology of ministry that the Bible does not support. The Bible is not a book about sex but about the God-Man the Lord Jesus Christ who longs to seek and save the lost. Christians should speak on sex, but should do so as the Bible does not to sell books or to build a platform, but speak only, “for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15).
Peter with “gentleness and respect” echoes the words of Jesus (“I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), whose example the believer should adopt. When we sanctify Christ in our hearts, we should exercise gentleness and respect toward all men. In our behavior we exert ourselves to demonstrate gentles toward persons who are spiritually weak (Rom. 15:1-2). In our conduct we make every effort to show honor and respect toward God and toward those whom God has placed over us (2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7). As Christians we should strive to e models of the example Christ has set. This means that how we speak about sex matters since one day Jesus will hold us accountable for every word that we have uttered.
Christians may our words, our behavior and our very lives reflect the holiness of Christ in a world that is confused about sex. May we as God’s people speak only to build up one another in the faith, and may we never be a stumbling block to each other so that the Gospel may advance with great speed on accord of our unity in the Gospel.
Have you ever read a book and thought this book tells your life story? When I read Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson this is exactly how I felt. Jared explains that “Gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly” (Wilson, 24). This book covers topics such as brokenness, affections, worship, hyperspirituality, spiritual disciplines, sanctification, depression, gospel confidence, the gospel-wakened church and fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ.
As I read this book I felt like Jared put to words what I experienced when I was a teenager and in my early twenties. This is not to say that I do not continue to experience Gospel Wakefulness. My teenage years were very hard for me personally as my parents got divorced and there was a lot of family turmoil and what not that continued on into my mid-twenties. Through all the mess of my family life the Gospel sustained me and I grew closer to God while many of my friends who went through the same things fell away from Jesus. I’m convinced that the reason I did not fall away was because the Lord awakened me to the power of His grace. Gospel Wakefulness for me was just as Jared described it “Treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly” (Wilson, 24).
As I finished this book I reflected on what I read trying to come up with one chapter or even one sentence that stood out to me the most, but couldn’t find just one. It is not often that I read a book that is so grounded in the Word of God, is theologically robust and so edifying. Pastor Scott Smith was right on the money (in my opinion) when he said of Gospel Wakefulness that it is, “One of the mot theologically faithful, refreshingly honest, pastorally sensitive, and eminently practical books on the gospel.”
Some people may have issues with all the stories and think that this makes the book “feeling” oriented. I have to admit when I first started reading this book I thought this, but as I continued to read and reflect on what Jared was teaching, I came to conclude that this is not all he was communicating. Jared is clearly trying to get to the heart-strings of his readers, but he does so in a way that is thoroughly grounded in the Word of God. Jared aims at stirring up the affections but not just to rouse our feelings but to point us toward the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The two chapters that stood out the most for me were the chapters on hyperspirituality and depression. Being that I grew up in the Church and in a Christian family hyperspirituality is something I have struggled with in my past. In fact I would say this was the issue I battled with in my late teens to early twenties. One of the means God used in that period was the Gospel. During that time period, I discovered the centrality of the Gospel. Before this most of my Christian life consisted in doing things whether at Church or in the ministries I was involved in. While I wouldn’t have said it at that time I was very much living a performance based faith where as Jared said, “We turn astonishment over the gospel into fuel for measuring up” (Wilson, 98).
One of the other big battles in my Christian life one that I still struggle with from time to time is depression. Jared makes a very good point that “What gospel wakefulness presupposes is that whenever a person tops out emotionally, they do so at the gospel” (Wilson 148). This is an important point and one of the reasons I don’t believe that Gospel Wakefulness is primarily a book on just stirring up believers’ affections for God. Jared clearly communicates that believers are to be stirred up for a purpose the Gospel. A lesser writer may have issues communicating this point with such clarity and it is a bold point to be sure, but Jared does so with the skill of a surgeon by drawing out the importance of the work of Christ. As Jared points out, “What the Christian can be sure of, and what the depressed Christian can reasonably hope, is that while the darkness may be bigger than us, Christ is bigger than the darkness (Wilson, 150). Wilson wisely counsels his readers to seek professional help from a Christian counselor for the issue of depression and not to discount taking medication.
I recommend reading Gospel Wakefulness because it will surprise you at times and perhaps even shock you with the Gospel, but it will not disappoint you. Reading Gospel Wakefulness will be a breath of fresh air for those who have been in the Church their entire lives and are tired of playing games with God. I’m thankful Jared wrote this book because it gave words to a period of time in which I had no idea what God was doing. My sincere prayer is that the Lord Jesus would use this book to awaken a generation to the centrality of the Gospel by showing them the multifaceted brilliance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Title: Gospel Wakefulness
Author: Jared Wilson
Publisher: Crossway (2011)
John Flavel, from On Keeping the Heart:
To keep the heart, necessarily supposes a previous work of regeneration, which has set the heart right, by giving it a new spiritual inclination, for as long as the heart it not set right by grace as to in habitual frame, no means can keep it right with God. Self is the poise of the unrenewed heart, which biases and moves it in all its designs and actions; and as long as it is so, it is impossible that any external means should keep it with God.
Man, originally, was of one constant, uniform frame of spirit, held one straight and even course; not one thought or faculty was disordered: his mind had a perfect knowledge of the requirements of God, his will a perfect compliance therewith; all his appetites and powers stood in a most obedient subordination.
Man, by the apostasy, is become a most disordered and rebellious creature, opposing his Maker, as the First Cause, by self-dependence; as the Chief Good, by self-love; as the Highest Lord, by self-will; and as the Last End, by self-seeking. Thus he is quite disordered, and all his actions are irregular. But by regeneration the disordered soul is set right; this great change being, as the Scripture expresses it, the renovation of the soul after the image of God, in which self-dependence is removed by faith; self-love, by the love of God; self-will, by subjection and obedience to the will of God; and self-seeking by self-denial. The darkened understanding is illuminated, the refractory will sweetly subdued, the rebellious appetite gradually conquered. Thus the soul which sin had universally depraved, is by grace restored. This being pre-supposed, it will not be difficult to apprehend what it is to keep the heart, which is nothing but the constant care and diligence of such a renewed man to preserve his soul in that holy frame to which grace has raised it. For though grace has, in a great measure, rectified the soul, and given it an habitual heavenly temper; yet sin often actually discomposes it again; so that even a gracious heart is like a musical instrument, which though it be exactly tuned, a small matter brings it out of tune again; yea, hang it aside but a little, and it will need setting again before another lesson can be played upon it. If gracious hearts are in a desirable frame in one duty, yet how dull, dead, and disordered when they come to another! Therefore every duty needs a particular preparation of the heart. ” If thou prepare thine heart and stretch out thine hands toward him,” To keep the heart then, is carefully to preserve it from sin, which disorders it; and maintain that spiritual frame which fits it for a life of communion with God.
Turning from idols to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a message that will gain you a massive following but it is a message that is faithful to the Word of God and the Gospel. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 reports about the work of God among the Thessalonians how they turned from idols to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The change that God worked in their lives was so noteworthy that Paul wanted to report on it. Turning from idols to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is important for us today, as well since believers are those who have turned from their own idols to the living God and His Son Jesus Christ, and await His soon return.
Turning from Idols to the Gospel
Paul and his companions do not need to report in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. People are doing this for them. The missionaries hear the report, and others also hear it. The missionaries hear that others hear it. It is the great news about Paul, Silas, and Timothy (‘about us”) and what God has accomplished through them. The tidings, coming from all the regions which had been penetrated by the faith of the Thessalonians, are spreading far and wide.
Now this report, circulated from mouth to mouth, contains two main topics, the second of which is again divided into two subordinate news items.
A: “Paul, Silas, and Timothy entered in among the Thessalonians in such and such a manner.” (As a result through the operation of the Spirit).
B: “The Thessalonians turned to God from the idols” (meaning: from those idols of theirs): 1: “to serve the living and true God” and 2: “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
“Turned” means that the Gentiles who had been worshipping idols had experienced a real, inner change which had become outwardly manifest: their whole active life was now moving in the opposite direction: away from idols, to God.
When God converts a man, He changes the entire person, not just the emotions, so that one regrets his former manner of life, but also the mind and will, with respect to which he/she experiences a complete change-over, and all of this becomes apparent in his/her outward conduct.
It was from the idols (both the images themselves and the deities whom they represent) that the Thessalonians had turned away. The apostle and his companions had observed this idol-worship, and knew all about it. These idols were merely “vain things” (Acts 14:15). They were dead; hence, totally unable to render any assistance to anyone in time of need.
Now it must have been a momentous change, this turning away from the idols. It is not easy to reject and eject gods which one has worshipped from the days of childhood, and which by one’s ancestors, from hoary antiquity, have always been considered very real, so that their names and individual peculiarities have been household-words. It amounts to nothing less than a religious revolution. The enemies were right when they said that he missionaries were men who “turned the whole world upside down.” Idol worship affected life in all its phases. And we can well imagine that especially to the Thessalonians these deities had seemed very real, for it must be borne in mind that Mt. Olympus, whose celebrated summit was considered the home of the gods, was close by, only about fifty miles to the S.W. And according to tradition, when Zeus shook his ambrosial curls, that mighty mountain trembled!
Nevertheless, as a result of the operation of God’s grace whereby his message was applied to the hearts, the eyes of the Thessalonians had been opened so that they saw that their idols were vanities. They had turned from them to a God living and real. Here the true God is not so much pointed out as described. All the emphasis is on his character, which is the very opposite of the idols. They are dead, he is living. They are unreal, he is real, genuine. They are unable to help, he is almighty and eager to help. To this God the Thessalonians have turned to serve him continually, submitted themselves to him as completely as does a slave to his master, nay far more completely and far more willingly.
Now turning to a God living and real implies turning to his only-begotten Son and salvation through him; hence there follows: 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
It seems that it was especially the teaching with reference to Christ’s return upon the clouds of heaven that so captive the minds and hearts of the readers. For them true conversion is implied (at least) these two things: a) a turning away from idols, and b) turning to God and to wait for his Son from heaven.
Jesus will come from heaven for His people. This coming the people of God are waiting for. The force of the verb “to wait” must not be lost sight of. It means to look forward to with patience and confidence. This waiting means far more than merely saying, “I believe in Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven, and from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” It implies being ready for His return. When you wait for a visitor, you have prepared everything for his coming. You have arranged the guestroom, the program of activities, your time and your other duties, and all this in such a manner that the visitor will feel perfectly at home. So also, waiting for the very Son of God who is coming out of the heaven implies a sanctified heart and life.
This Son of God who is coming from heaven is none other than Jesus Christ, the very One whom God actually and physically raised from the dead. The thought of his coming does not spell terror for the believer. Rather, “the Lord is at hand in nothing be anxious” (Phil. 4:5-6), for it is this Jesus who rescues (is rescuing) us from the wrath to come (the coming wrath). Jesus, the Savior is ever true to his name: he saves, and rescues. He does not rescue everybody but us (Paul, Silas, Timothy, believers at Thessalonica, all the elect).
From the settled indignation which by nature rests on the sinner (Eph. 2:5), and which by his idolatry and immorality and especially (in the case of those who have heard the good news) by his rejection for by the gospel He daily increases, and which will be revealed most fully in the coming day of judgment, Jesus delivers all those who embrace Him by faith.
Organization, the Organism, and Serving
Orthodox Presbyterian Pastor and author R.B Kuiper, in his book The Glorious Body of Christ, writes that an organism “is something that is alive, as a plant, or animal or the human body. An organization although consisting of human beings, is itself not alive.”[i] In Scripture, the church is often referred in organic terms in that Christians are all members of one single body, the body of Christ (Romans 12:5). The church must be not only thought of as an organization but as an organism as well.
“A building is distinction from the human body, is not alive. When Jesus said; ‘Upon this rock I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18), He was thinking of the church in that way. Hitherto an internal invisible kingdom had loomed large in His teaching: now He went on to speak of His church as an external organization.”[ii]
The trick then is to balance the organization and the organism aspects of the church so that, “its (the church’s) spiritual unity is a fact, on the other hand, that it may never cease striving toward the ideal of organizational unity.”[iii] Organization of the church must support the organism of the church. The balance of both of these views will not only provide for the physical needs of the church but the spiritual needs too. The organization acts as a clear artery or funnel for people to exercise their God-given abilities to magnify the Gospel for the Glory of God and the benefit of others.
Organization is distinct from providing structure. The two are different but complimentary. On a soccer field, the lines on the field provide the structure. However, as I’ve seen many times with my daughter’s soccer team, structure does not necessarily mean organization. Organization is the focused use of order to achieve the desired results within a structure. Without structure, organization has no idea how to achieve any goals. Without organization a structure becomes useless.
Consequently in the local church, serving needs organization to best utilize the context of the church. However, the church does not require organization for organization’s sake nor for some external appearance of order (as if merely aesthetic). The true function of an organization within the church is to set a framework from which people can worship; in this case through serving. The ultimate end is to point people to Christ.
Take what was happening in the early church as seen in Acts Chapter 6. Widows were being neglected because the pastors were trying to do too much on their own. Creating the first service team to provide food and care to these widows the church solved the problem. The pastors appointed seven men whose responsibility was to solve the problem and provide ongoing care so that the pastors could continue to focus on teaching.
Here written in Scripture is a prime example of balancing the organization and organism. The organization in Acts 6 opened up the church for the ministry of the Gospel. Not only did this allow for the church to care for their own members, but it also made it possible for the church to reach out to others (Acts 6:7). The church can use the gift of administration to organize people in ways that they can worship God by serving others, sustaining and building the organism.
[i] R.B Kuiper, The Glorious Body of Christ