Every day I pilfer numerous articles and scope out what the Christian community says on the internet. Like anyone else, I gravitate to particular websites, ones that have my interest and loyalty.
These websites are marked by quality journalism and literary writing. Their editors are qualified, usually not just as writers or editors, but as scholars and pastors. Typically, these sites are loosely connected or aligned to a pastoral figure, a church, denomination, or are a collection of the aforementioned.
And every day, as I read these Christian websites, I give myself a subtle reminder. I rehearse it quietly to myself. Here is what I say: “This is not the Word, not my local church, not an ordinance.”
Why do I give myself these reminders? I remind myself because I am prone to wander from priorities and authorities. What follows are reasons for these cautions.
This is Not the Word
Sure enough, the Word of God is frequently the base of Christian articles. Yet, just like other forms of journalism, even the best Christian websites veer towards sensational op-eds. You have to carefully read and categorize every article. Ask yourself: “Is this exegetically driven? Or opinion driven?” This helps you determine what authority level you permit an article to have. Still, even if it is exegetically driven, you have to ask: “Does this interpretation or reading of the Word hold true?”
The Word is authoritative over your life. As the psalmist confesses, “Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true” (Ps. 119:142). Measure every article read against God’s truth. Likewise, don’t allow websites or articles to supplant time in the Word. They are no substitute for pulling out the Scripture and hearing directly from God.
Though they may bring you to the Word, Christian websites are not the Word.
This is Not Your Local Church
Community develops around Christian websites. You’ll connect with others that enjoy the same websites. Likewise, you’re bound to cross the same people in comment threads and develop friendships. These interactions, though genuine, are displaced by space. They are no substitute for your local church.
An aspect of local church community is that your local church sees you for who you are. In turn, you see them and submit to them, because the Scripture calls you to this, saying: “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21).
Too often, you have the freedom to project what you wish to others on Christian websites. Substituting digital community for local church community creates a vacuous space that lacks accountability. Furthermore, digital space caters to individuality. You visit what sites you wish and are not a holden to anyone for your behavior. This individualism is dangerous.
Jonathan Leeman in The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, reminds us that the dangers of individualism are not countered by community, digital or otherwise. He says, “The solution to individualism is not community. The solution — one fears to say it without pages of qualification — is to reintroduce a conception of submission to God’s revealed will as it’s located in the local church.” The local church requires you to submit to elders, other members, and to Christ when a Christian website cannot.
Likewise, though many websites have pastors writing and editing, none of them argue that they function as pastors in this role. These men do not have the capacity to cover you with authority nor the ability to do so because of the digital space that lies between you two.
Though Christian websites are a great place to learn about the church and fellowship with the wider church community, they are not your local church.
This is Not an Ordinance
This one is a surprising reminder. If you’re like me, you like to create laws for yourself. You like routine and gravitate towards it. But Jesus never said, “Thou shalt log in and read Christian articles daily.” This isn’t something you have to do; this is a freeing realization.
Though you enjoy checking out what’s being said by the Christian community on the internet, you have to remind yourself that it’s not part of your identity. Being adopted into sonship with Christ, calls you to baptism, the Lord’s supper, prayer, the Word, and the local church community. It doesn’t call you to keep up with what is being said on the web.
At times you may feel out of place because other Christians know what’s going on in the blogosphere and you don’t. But that knowledge doesn’t shape you like the ordinances Christ gave you. You’re shaped by taking in bites of the Lord’s body, not bytes of data from Christian websites. You’re washed in the stream of Christ’s blood through the waters of baptism, not by the stream of your twitter feed.
Though Christian websites are a great place to learn what Christ ordained, you’re not ordained to go to them.
This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.
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Assurance of salvation is quite often a hotly debated topic with some affirming on one extreme that regardless of what we do we can never lose our salvation and the other extreme stating that salvation can be lost although exactly how that can happen is often itself up for debate. Add to this discussion the reality that a multitude of Scriptures affirm assurance of salvation while others seem to indicate at least the possibility of falling away from the faith on a permanent basis and it is no wonder this topic often gets rather heated amongst believers. In an effort to address and to provide some biblical clarity to this issue, Dr. Christopher Bass has written a helpful and informative book called That You May Know: Assurance of Salvation in 1 John.
Bass centers his discussion on the assurance of salvation by exploring the words of the Apostle John in his first epistle. He rightly notes “No other book of the New Testament speaks of the believer’s confidence or assurance of salvation as frequently and explicitly as the first letter of John, for the predominant theme of the entire letter is Christian certainty.” Furthermore, assurance is by no means grounded in our ability to do anything. Bass avers “assurance is not only grounded in the past work of Jesus on the cross but also on the promise of His ongoing work of protecting those who have been born of God.”
There certainly have been a variety of viewpoints on this issue throughout church history and Bass provides a helpful overview of those perspectives noting the Medieval Roman Catholic position that assurance of salvation was impossible except perhaps through some element of special revelation given to only a select few. Bass also outlines the position of Martin Luther who viewed assurance as “part and parcel of saving faith precisely because it is ground on the promises of God, where were fulfilled in the work of Christ and not on the works of man.” Opposing views to assurance are noted in the writings of Jacob Arminius who averred “a believer could have a present assurance of present salvation but not a present assurance of final salvation.”
After providing this historical insight, Bass begins to explore how the doctrine of assurance is revealed in the pages of 1 John. He first explains the purpose of why 1 John was written to include the various heresies and groups that were trying to sway the earlier Christians into false beliefs. These groups influence and teachings seemed to create a question in the minds of those believers as to matters of eternal life. Bass correctly states “Given that sin is inevitable in the life of the believer, nothing other than the work of Christ can be viewed as the foundation for assurance, for it is the only effective remedy for their sin and thus the only ground for the believer’s confidence of right standing with a God who is light.” So once again, Bass reminds the reader that assurance is not based on their own merit, but the reality that salvation is rooted in the work of Christ on the cross.
Bass also discusses the necessary topic of covenant, noting its connection to the doctrine of assurance as well as the need for believers to remain a faithful and obedience bride. He states that John “believed that the promises of the new covenant were fulfilled in the work of Christ, which is why he expected his readers to live in a manner that validated their divine birth.” He follows this important statement by commenting “It is precisely because the new covenant has been fulfilled in Christ that he expected his readers to have the Spirit dwelling in them and enabling them to pass the various tests of righteousness, love, and belief.” Thus, John’s statements devastate the belief that a believer can be “saved” and then live however they please because they engaged in a singular life event with no further evidence of a life lived in obedience to God’s commands. Furthermore, we continue to see that a child of God will be enabled by God to endure tests and to resist sin. Such individuals will as Bass so rightly notes “take John’s warnings and admonitions seriously and therefore persevere to live righteously and confess their sins along the way. Those who fail to do so demonstrate that they have never truly been born of God.” One’s fruit will reveal their heart condition.
Another helpful aspect of this book is the extensive bibliography provided by Bass of commentaries, books, journal articles, essays, and dissertations that engage the variety of opinions on the doctrine of assurance. This bevy of information will provide the reader with many valuable resources to read and study on this subject matter. I appreciated the fact that Bass did not just share resources that align with his own viewpoint as it is important with such matters to read and grasp the overall thought, both currently and throughout church history.
I highly recommend this book for all believers, especially those who want to better understand the doctrine of assurance and where that doctrine is grounded, namely Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross. Scholarly yet highly accessible, Bass’ effort will serve the reader well to know why they can have confidence that we can strive to live in obedience resting in the acknowledgement of assurance of salvation because of what He has done for us.
This book is available for purchase from B&H Publishing by clicking here.
I received this book for free from B&H Publishing for this review. 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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Do you have a hard time getting anything from sermons? Struggle to remember what was said? Don’t feel like you are learning? Let me offer two reasons why you may not be benefitting from the sermons.
You might have the wrong goal.
If you are going to church just to learn — repent. Too strong? I don’t think so.
You should be sitting under the preaching of God’s word to worship —to learn, yes!— but primarily to worship. If education is your end goal, you have your reward —a dry brain filled with theological zippity-do-dah. Your goal should be joy-filled worship over God’s truth. The gospel is the worship of God.
As a preacher, I don’t want to be a pez-head, popping out little bars of truth. I’m laboring to put forth the glory of Christ and praying that he sets hearts ablaze for the fame of his name.
Sermons don’t change people. The Spirit does. And the Holy Spirit loves to uses sentences and words to flip the world upside down. That’s what I’m hoping for.
I’m all for learning. Learning that leads to worship. Learning isn’t mean to be a cul-de-sac; its own pat on the back. Phooey.
If you go to church to worship and not just learn — you’ve already learned a ton.
Remember, Satan knows a lot.
The chief end of a sermon is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Any other goal is all for naught.
You aren’t prayed up.
Maybe your pastor isn’t ___________ (insert favorite podcast preacher). They are probably ordinary — I’m ordinary. And I like Vanilla. But let’s assume you are under the preaching of a godly man; one who is prepping hard, sweating over an open Bible, and has a heart to the brim with prayers.
If you aren’t benefiting from the sermons and you have a godly pastor—uhhhm, you might be problem. Not him. If others are being blessed, growing, coming to faith in Jesus — your lack of enjoyment might be your own lack of preparedness.
- Are you praying Saturday night for God to move?
- Are you getting enough sleep before the Lord’s Day?
- Are you praying Sunday morning for God to save people?
- Are you praying for God to crack open you heart, reveal sin, and comfort you with his grace?
- Are you praying for joy in the gospel?
- Are you praying for your pastor? Praying for an unction of the Holy Spirit to be upon him as he preaches?
- Are you praying for revival to break out in your church?
If you find the sermons to be exciting as meatloaf, your prayers/heart for Sunday are the grid you are eating through. Your tastebuds aren’t ready. You could be served a Prime Steak, wrapped in bacon, and grilled to perfection and not enjoy it because your tastebuds have flown the cuckoo’s nest. They belong in the kiddie pool with a soggy pb & j.
Praise God that He is gracious. He sends the Spirit and blesses us, even when we didn’t have the sense to ask. Glory to God!
Try this on for size.
If you want more from your Sunday experience:
- Pray for yourself.
- Pray for others in attendance.
- Pray for your pastor.
Try it. Let me know what happens.
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One of the greatest challenges of our day is biblical illiteracy. At first it may seem like nearly every person who attends church has a Bible in North America. People having Bible’s isn’t the problem. People reading their Bible’s is. To help address this issue, Dr. George Guthrie has composed Read The Bible For Life Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word. The book is structured around sixteen conversation with sixteen of Dr. Guthrie’s friends who are scholars in their fields.
The book has four sections. In part one the author considers the foundational lens for how to read the Bible as a guide for life, in context, in translation and for transformation. In part two the authors help readers to understand the Old Testament stories laws, Psalms, Proverbs and Prophets. Part three focuses on the New Testament and will help people understand the teaching of Jesus, the New Testament letters and Revelation. Part four explores how to read the bible for personal devotion, in times of sorrow and suffering, with the family and with the Church.
The book as I noted earlier is arranged around conversation with leading scholars. These conversations are intended to help the lay person on up to know what the Word says and how every passage fits into the powerful Bible’s powerful overarching story. While I’ve read quite a few books on this topic, I believe Reading The Bible For Life is better than How To Read The Bible For All it’s worth. This book addresses a very real problem in biblical illiteracy head on and will help its readers not only understand the various genres in the Bible but how they should read them. I highly recommend Read The Bible For Life and encourage you to not only read it but as you read it to pick up your dusty Bible and read it. As you do you’ll discover who God is and what He is like from His Word—His love letter to His people. Whether you’re a lay person or a serious Bible student, this book has something for you. It will help you not only understand what the Bible is saying but also what the Bible aims to do in your life—that you would no longer be a hearer only but a doer by His grace.
Title: Read The Bible For Life; Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word
Author: George H. Guthrie
Publisher: B&H (2011)
I received this book for free from B&H for this review. 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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The purpose of this series is to help singles think through how to be single in the church, those who are married but don’t have kids to continue to pursue each other and those who are married to excel at parenting by the grace of God.
Fighting for Purity
We live in a culture where the constant refrain in our movies, television shows, and music seems to be pursue sex outside of marriage because there are ‘no consequences’. Our public schools and government (particularly via Planned Parenthood) openly encourage young people to pursue sex outside of marriage, divorced from responsibility by handing out condemns and providing “sex education training” designed to entice young teens to engage in sex outside of marriage. The Bible, however, presents a different picture—namely sex inside of marriage only. Sex inside of marriage may be the most counter-cultural action a Christian married couple can participate in.
We as men are forced into a battle every day against our foe, the devil, who seeks to do us harm. The fight for sexual purity is spiritual battle between a vanquished foe named Satan, and a victorious, triumphant, and exalted Savior in Jesus Christ. Even the day I wrote this article, I faced this challenge head-on at the Subway restaurant near my house. An inappropriately-dressed woman came into my line of sight, and I was faced with the question, “How should I respond?” Knowing what God’s Word teaches, I not only looked the other way, but I also began praying, resisting the urge to glance again as I held fast to the gospel. Not more than a half an hour later, as I sat at a coffee shop, I was once again challenged as a young woman walked past me in an extremely short skirt. Once again I prayed, resisted, and stood fast.
Men, fighting for your purity of mind and heart is serious spiritual warfare. All around each of us, the world is seeking to destroy you and me. Not only is the world and the satanic host armed to take you down, but your flesh cries out to be appeased. You are in a war and this war is very real. This is why fighting for your purity is spiritually imperative.
So, how can we expect to win this fight for purity? First, understand that God sees your heart. You cannot go beyond the sovereign gaze of an all-knowing God. He knows whether you stand fast or if you give in. My encouragement to you today is to hold fast and stand courageously. As Ephesians 6:14 states, Gird yourself for battle you are in with the Belt of Truth. One day the battle will end and your struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil will finally be over. Go to battle for the sake of your marriage! Will you go to battle for the sake of your soul? A solider dresses for battle and stands armed to the hilt against the enemy. As Christians we have been signed, and sealed in the Lord Jesus. Your eternity has been secured by the Risen Christ, so fight the fight knowing that your victory in Him is sure!
From what I’ve personally witnessed, many men give into temptation, allowing the lust of their eyes to damage their own souls. They are enticed and seduced by the seductresses flaunting around in overly tight clothes and short skirts. Men, resist and turn your eyes from these women by the grace of God. These are not the types of women you want to be your wife. These women are only after one thing—they want your attention (and flattery). They are nothing more than seductresses aiming to destroy you (whether or not they realize it) and take you out of the battle…maybe for good.
I realize that these are strong words, but we cannot sugar-coat the situation. We must recognize that our very lives are at stake and the damage done with one lustful glance can scar our souls forever. Soldiers arm themselves for battle; they prepare for war or many months. You have easy access to pornography and inappropriate images through smart phones, laptops, and other media devices. Temptation is everywhere—even in the line at the grocery store. So, how do you stand firm? Let me give you eight tips to help you navigate this spiritual minefield.
Eight Ways to Fight for Purity
First, Christian soldiers prepare for battle by taking up the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11). We are to put all of it on, not just pick up a sword and shield.
Second, Christian soldiers prepare for battle by taking up the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. You can claim victory over evil only by knowing the TRUTH found in the Word of God. If you don’t understand your identity in Christ, as one who is victorious, you will be unable to stand against the claims of Satan (the father of all lies).
Third, Christian soldiers prepare for battle by submitting to godly leadership in the local church. We know that God has ordained those in leadership to be our shepherds. Their teaching and leadership should be respected and followed, so long as they maintain a biblical perspective and godly teaching.
Fourth, Christian soldiers seek out accountability. What war has ever been won alone? Jesus has given us comrades, fellow Christian men to help us through the struggle. No one should try to shoulder the weight of this fight alone.
Fifth, Christian soldiers pray with their wives. As our helpmates, our wives can be the strongest pillar in our fight against the flesh. They will (hopefully) be knowledgeable of the struggles that men face in the flesh, and be willing to help in the fight for purity. A godly woman understands that the sexual temptation of her husband can be the downfall of their marriage. Her righteous prayers can move mountains, so do not be afraid to conscript her in this war. She’s there to help, as God intended.
Sixth, Christian soldiers love their wives. While at times it can be difficult to be both transparent and loving to your wife, there is a place of balance. Your wife may be hurt if you confess the struggles you have with purity, but a strong relationship is one of love and trust. If your wife cannot trust you, she may struggle also to love you. So I say again, love your wife, be honest with your wife, and engender trust and faith with your wife. Always remember that Jesus commands us to love our wives as He has loved the Church (and so died for Her). If you show this type of love to your wife, she will see Christ in you.
And seventh, Christian soldiers lead their wives and wash them in the water of the Word. Be the leader in the home that you are called to be. Do not forsake your duties as a husband and shepherd of Christ in the home. Use your knowledge of Scripture to lead by example in a godly way. If you provide an example of what it means to be a man of God to your family, God will use it to bless those in your care—not only your wife, but also your children (if you have any).
Finally, Christian soldiers use accountability software to help them fight against temptation, but seek first and foremost to submit to the teaching of the Word of God. The software available for purity accountability is truly helpful in so many ways. Without submitting to the teaching of the Word of God, however, software can only go so far. It is up to you to allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind through the Word on a daily basis. If you refuse to allow His Word to instruct you in the way you should go, you have lost the battle already.
Today, you may be struggling with looking at illicit images or watching similarly themed videos. This is a battle I’ve known well. As one who’s overcome a pornography addiction, I know well the battle that wages through the world, the flesh, and the devil. Yet, there is hope and healing in the Cross of Christ. You can stand and resist, but you can’t do it in your own strength. You can fight for your purity and overcome temptation only by the grace of God. He alone is your victory; He alone is your hope. Lean on Him and trust Him when he says He is “for you”. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Jesus is the reason you can fight for purity and stand firm in the grace of God. This is why I call you today to put your sin to death. Don’t coddle it and don’t play games with it. A little sin will harm you a great deal. Don’t just look away when that seductress tempts you in person or on the computer, instead you must pray, resist, and put it to death by the grace of God. Jesus died in your place and for your sin! He is the reason you can put your sin to death; He is the reason you can slay it. So, men of God, slay the dragon of impurity and fight for your purity by the grace of God. As a final thought, remember the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:1-4 and 2 Timothy 2:21-26):
2 Timothy 2:1-4, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
2 Timothy 2:21-26, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
Jesus Christ is stronger than Satan could ever be—and He has given you VICTORY through Himself. Trust that His Word is true and you will remain victorious.
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In Matthew 15:11 Jesus stated, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Thus, issues of the heart, also termed out affections, are a true gauge of spiritual maturity. Dealing with the often sinful issues of the heart is a daily task as we battle against the urge to follow the desires of the flesh. Since addressing matters of the heart is such a relevant issue for the Body of Christ, it is necessary for this subject to be the topic of sermons that are focused on helping believers deal with these issues from a biblical perspective. Josh Moody and Robin Weeks in their book Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections, provide a helpful guide for pastors on how to focus their preaching efforts to this subject matter.
The authors rightly note that “Preaching to the affections means preaching that targets the heart. And the heart in the Bible is not merely our feelings, nor merely our thinking, but both intertwined; the heart is the centre of who we are.” Our response to the world around us should demonstrate godly affections that reveal our desire to love God and to love others. God gave us the capacity to reason and to have a wide range of emotions as a necessary element of relationship, both with Himself and with our fellow man. In a fallen world, our emotions and the accompanying actions often reveal a need for correction given our penchant for getting that element of life incorrect far more than we get it right. Moody and Weeks aptly comment, “Affections then – rightly understood – are part of what it means to be human and are to be increasingly oriented towards godly desires in the Christian.”
One focus of the pastor should be to help equip his flock with the biblical tools by which to increasingly orient their affections towards God and others in a way that reflects righteousness. This equipping is done through preaching. Moody and Weeks define preaching as the “God-ordained means by which He meets with His people through His Word and by His Spirit in such a way that His people’s eyes are opened to see Jesus and be captivated by Him.” This excellent definition sets the stage for their discussion on the need to preach to the affections, specifically the ten salient reasons they provide of why such an approach through the preaching of the Word is so needed.
The authors also provide not just the needed why of preaching to the affections, but also the practical how. Suggestions such as “Look out for the affections in the text”, “Think Christ, live Christ, apply Christ”, “Probe the workings of the heart”, “Preach the pathos as well as the logos of the passage”, “Learn from those who preach to the affections”, “Raise the affections with the truth”, “Prayer: the hour of power”, and “Preach with an awakened heart” are the excellent approach they discuss. These suggestions are fully bible and Christ centered, providing the pastor with the tools to “recapture that sense of preaching being the means by which God draws near to His people, and the time when we meet with Him.”
This timely and helpful book concludes with four examples of what preaching to the affections looks like inaction using examples from the author’s own sermon material and experiences. In each of the examples provided, Moody and Weeks help the reader learn how to approach the text in a way that looks at how God is addressing in that passage how a change of heart and affections should take place. In a book that seeks to assist pastors with learning the why and how of preaching to the affections, providing salient examples of what that looks is a needed element and the authors hit a homerun by sharing their own efforts in this area. Helping the pastor walk through a passage, noting how that passage speaks to matters of the heart makes this book extremely practical and useful and more than just a book with a few helpful hints mixed in here and there.
I highly recommend this book for all pastors. Matters of the heart are daily issues for all believers and something that needs to find more attention from the pulpit. Filled with practical and timely advice from a pastors heart and experience, this book will be of great service to those pastors who recognize the need to shepherd their flocks in dealing with sinful desires, why it is important, and how they can grow in this area in their walk with Christ.
This book is available for purchase from Christian Focus Publications by clicking here.
I received this book for free from Christian Focus Publications for this review. 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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