Posts made in January, 2012


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.

 

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Ministry Burnout Part 1


Posted By on Jan 31, 2012

Introduction

            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.

Conclusion

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.

 

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Put Off the Flesh Put on Christ


Posted By on Jan 30, 2012

Introduction

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.[1] 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.

Conclusion

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.[2] 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.

 

 

 

 

 



[1] 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.

[2] William Hendriksen, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2007),  154..

 

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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.

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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.

Title: How Do We Know the Bible Is True? Book Review: How Do We  Know the Bible is True? and Answers Book For Teens

Authors: Ken Ham & Bodge Hodge General Editors

Publisher: New Leaf Press (2011)

Title: Answer Book For Teens Book Review: How Do We  Know the Bible is True? and Answers 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.”

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