Thank you for participating in the Massive Book Giveaway Extravaganza

Posted by on Jan 31, 2012 in Book Giveaways

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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Put Off the Flesh Put on Christ

Posted by on Jan 30, 2012 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, What We Write About

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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The Sincerity of Our Profession

Posted by on Jan 29, 2012 in Quotes

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

Posted by on Jan 26, 2012 in Book Reviews, Reviews

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

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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Sex, Speaking the Truth in Love and the Gospel

Posted by on Jan 24, 2012 in Contemporary Culture, The Gospel and the church, The Gospel and the Ministry, What We Write About

Introduction

          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.

Conclusion

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.

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