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Accessible, Perfect Wisdom

8 Dec

No mere man had greater wisdom than Solomon (1 Kings 4:29–32). Yet, regarding his wisdom, he received it (1 Kings 4:29), and therefore it is less than its source—indeed so much less (Job 12:13; Rom. 11:33)! Christians can be confident that we trust and serve a perfectly wise God. We can find contentment in him, knowing that he is wisely bringing about his perfect plan (Isa. 46:10). We can have hope and peace in the worst of circumstances, knowing that God’s wise providence is caring for us (Phil. 4:7; Psa. 23). We can rejoice knowing that we do not trust and serve a lesser king, but the omniscient, omni-wise King of kings. We can worship him for his lovely wisdom, especially for the wisdom shown in his eternal plan of redemption through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:20; Acts 2:23). And we can shout “hallelujah” for the giving of his perfect wisdom to us in his Word (2 Tim. 3:16; Prov. 1–2)! What a tremendous gift. If one lacks wisdom, ask the Lord who gives generously (James 1:5)! Seek it in the pages of Holy Scripture, asking that the Spirit would illumine your mind and heart to receive, know, and apply the wisdom already laid down—the wisdom that can make man complete (2 Tim 3:15–17).

Let us not think, Oh, I wish I could have sat at the feet of Solomon. Oh, to be one of the men that stood in his presence. Remember, you can sit at the feet of the Almighty; you can stand in his presence by opening your Bible and praying for the Spirit’s assistance. And if “Happy are [the] men, happy are [the] servants, that stand continually before [Solomon], and that hear [his] wisdom” (1 Kings 10:8), how much happier ought we to be who have the complete, perfect wisdom of God recorded for us and accessible to us in his Scripture!

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​26 Common Ways We Hinder our Growth in Sanctification

1 Sep

(1) Thinking some (little) sins don’t matter or aren’t a big deal. 

(2) Not watching out for and actively avoiding the temptations that might lead us to sin. 

(3) Whether out of pride or desire for acceptance, allowing the presence of our peers to lessen our vigilance against sin. 

(4) Allowing ourselves to dip a toe in sin so long as we don’t pass a certain self-defined line. 

(5) Thinking we don’t need to fight against certain sins because culture has redefined them as acceptable or even admirable. 

(6) Thinking sin matters little because we’ve been forgiven by God’s grace. 

(7) Easing our guilt and shame by passing the blame for our sin on another (e.g. My accountability partner didn’t call me, my elder didn’t check on me, my wife didn’t give me the attention I need, my coworker pushed me over the edge, my children were just exhausting today, etc.) 

(8) Not approaching Scripture with an eye to revealing our sin. 

(9) Forgetting to consider the sins in the Bible as opportunities of warning and instruction.

(10) Failing to pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal and root out unknown sins in our lives. 

(11) Rejecting the exhortations and rebukes of the Church. 

(12) Brushing off all criticisms by those who are not currently Christians. Their eyes are often keenly trained on the Church and can reveal our sins as well. 

(13) Not actively praying and desiring for an abhorrence of our sin. 

(14) Trying to win over sin by our own efforts and forgetting that it is the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that frees us from the power and bandage of sin. 

(15) Forgetting that Christ yet interceeds for his people. 

(16) Not caring that we are to be making ready for our Beloved’s return. 

(17) Only focusing on putting off our old sinful self without remembering to actively be putting on the new self. 

(18) Not enjoying, living, desiring, relishing in our union with Christ. 

(19) Not faithfully engaging in the means of grace given us (Sacraments, Prayer, and the reading, preaching, teaching, meditating, and praying of the Scriptures) and wondering why we show no progress. 

(20) Withdrawing from the fellowship and corporate worship of the Body of Christ. 

(21) Thinking some sins are more powerful to condemn than Christ’s blood sacrifice is to save. 

(22) Forgetting how loving our heavenly Father is and that his discipline is an outworking of love. 

(23) Failing to realize that the Father desires for us to depend upon his mercy. 

(24) Letting shame, self-pity, guilt, or anger keep us from praying and reading the Word. 

(25) Not seeking help and prayer from a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ.

(26) Thinking that you will deal with the sin later. 

Should Christians be Welcoming & Affirming?

3 Jul

There is a lot push for Christians to be “welcoming and affirming” from inside and outside of church walls. Some use this exact phrase to make a particular point: “We are welcoming and affirming of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Other pastors and congregations speak more generally saying, “Come, just be yourself and journey with us. We do life together here. We’re not like traditional churches.” Then there are those on the opposite side of the spectrum that are so inward focused and off-putting to any who darken the doors that they are neither welcoming nor affirming. Some even make the news for having such brutish tactics that they yell and picket at funerals so that people would be hard pressed to make it close to the doors of their church.

What stance ought we to take then as Christians? The extremes are not compatible, so is one to be preferred over the other? Is the middle ground the answer? Thankfully, God provides the Church with guidelines, instruction, and examples of how the Church should conduct herself. Since Scripture is divinely authoritative, completely without error, and sufficient for life and faith, let’s briefly consider what wisdom it offers regarding this topic. In order to do this, let’s take a look at “welcoming and affirming”, since it has become a common phrase in the U.S. and is more specific than the enigmatic rhetoric of the emergent-flavor churches where any definition, statement, or certainty is averted or outright rejected.

There are two unique ideas contained in this compound participial (verbal-adjective) phrase, so we will first considered them separately. Welcoming, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, means to “receive with pleasure and hospitality…to cordially or willingly permit or invite…to give a cordial greeting or hospitable reception.” To be welcoming, then, speaks of how one invites or receives an outsider into ones company at the outset. It is an initial interaction, often among strangers, that sets a hospitable, comfortable tone or atmosphere for the newcomer. Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be welcoming? Yes it does. Any number of passages could be referenced to support this: Jehovah God welcomed the Israelites though they were sinners (Deut. 9:5ff); Jesus welcomed the sinners and unjust tax collectors (Luke 5:27-30; 19); Jesus welcomed the adulterer (John 8); Jesus welcomed thieves (Luke 23); Jesus welcomes the weary and heavy laden (Matt. 11:28); Jesus welcomed Paul the persecutor and murderer of his people (Acts 9; 22; 26); Jesus welcomes all who truly come to him in faith and will no wise cast them out (John 6:37); Jesus welcomed me, a sinner loaded with sin. Indeed Jesus welcomes all kinds of people with all sorts of sin baggage. So too he commands his people to go and do likewise, to welcome the stranger, the sick, the widow, the orphan, the criminal, the brokenhearted, the sinner.

What about “affirming”? Affirming, according to the same source above, means “to declare positively; to assert to be true…to declare support for or belief in,” or according to Merriam-Webster, “to assert as valid or confirmed…to show a strong belief in or dedication to.” Affirming, then, is not how one acts toward another, but to gladly and willingly encourage, agree with, be committed to, and/or approve of someone or something. It is not about kindness, a willingness to listen, or a hospitable atmosphere. It is about upholding or encouraging certain beliefs, statements, thoughts, or actions. Do you see the marked uniqueness of the two words, welcoming and affirming? A person, or church, can be welcoming but not affirming of someone, affirming but not welcoming, both welcoming and affirming, or neither.

Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be affirming? Well, affirming of what? Affirming which beliefs? Which lifestyles? Which people? What state of people? Which statements? Encourage which actions? God’s Word does tell us to affirm the truths of his Scripture (Exo. 20:6, et al.). Paul says that he wants Titus to constantly affirm that believers should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8, NKJV). He sends Timothy to the Thessalonians to encourage them concerning their faith (I Thes. 3:2, NKJV). But certainly we are not to affirm false teaching (I Tim. 1:7, NKJV) or anything contrary to truth or holy living. Job refuses to affirm the wrong assumptions of his presumptuous friends (Job 27:5, HCSB). David rightly attests that the wicked encourage one another in their evil ways (Psa. 64:5, NKJV); certainly they aren’t to be affirmed. It would then be unwise for a church to make a blanket statement that they are “affirming” without outlining what they affirm. That is why social groups, institutions, and churches often have statements of faith and why many creeds and confessions were composed, in order to affirm clearly what they believe, or in the case of Christian churches or groups, what they believe Scripture teaches.

Christians, therefore, ought not to be affirming of everyone’s beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes, thoughts, hopes, dreams, self-imposed identities, actions, or anything that God declares as sin. This too includes churches who specifically affirm any and all sexual identities and gender orientations, for God has declared throughout the whole corpus of Scripture that he has created and established only two unique, complementary genders and marriage as being between one man and one woman. Yet, though “welcoming and affirming” is often used to support the LGBTQ+ community, and so mentioned here, it is not the only reason to reject the “affirming” language. As noted above, affirming  should be limited to biblical truth and living. That should be implied in all areas of the Christian Church, in all congregations who take the name Christian. It is Scripture that is our final authority in all matters of faith and life, and it is the Word of God that centers in and focuses on Jesus Christ from whom all Christians take their name and find their identity.

Christians, therefore, should be very welcoming of all peoples, but not affirming. Christ calls sinners to himself, but he does not affirm sinners in their sin. He does not encourage their sin or support their sinful lifestyles. Instead the triune God says, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He calls us, sinners, to repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). He tells us to humble ourselves, pray, turn from sin, and seek the Lord (II Chr. 7:14). He commands us to put off our old man that is corrupt and filled with deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:8-9), and put on the new man of righeousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24ff). He encourages us to grow in our faith (Eph. 4:15; I Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). He commands us to exercise ourselves unto godliness (I Tim. 4:7-9). He tells us to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). We are not to remain the same as when we were welcomed as sinners, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2); our thinking needs changing. We are to forsake ourselves and obey God out of love (John 14:15). We are to be called out, separate from the world and its ways (II Cor. 6:17). We are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

Jesus never affirmed sinners and neither should we. He welcomed them with love and the offer of a new life. He came for the sick, proclaiming that he was the great Physician that could heal and remove the disease that plagues us all. Yes, Christian, by all means, welcome all people. Grow in your welcoming of others. Pray that you will mirror the welcoming nature of Jesus Christ. Repent of any hardheartedness, fears, selfishness, pride, disgust toward others, or any other sin that is keeping you from truly welcoming others. But never water down the gospel for which Jesus came, bled, died, rose, and is coming again. A Gospel that does not affirm sinners, but calls us to repentance and new life in Christ. This is who we are to be.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Flawless?

10 Jun
We are bombarded with adverts focused on the flesh. Commercials promising products to make you look younger, others that supposedly make your visage “flawless”. So too, in many circles, including the Church, we are all to often trying to make our lives look “flawless”. Putting our best foot forward and striving after godliness gets twisted into, avoidance and fear of failure, forgetting our faults, and silencing our struggles. This can cause us to feel shame for receiving treatment or help. It can manifest itself in hypocrisy and pride in the Church. It can weaken our view on sin and need of repentance. Even if we have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and clothed in his righteousness, as long as we live upon this earth, we will have flaws, struggles, and weaknesses. Those that cause us to remember our sin, cling to Christ, and yearn for Glory.
It is important to be honest with oneself and to examine our lives truthfully. To walk humbly before God and before man, remembering that God’s grace and mercy are given and flourish in the presence of brokenness not flawlessness.

What About the Law of God?

25 Mar

What about the Law of God?

The Christian who proclaims s(he) is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works, can become hesitant, confused, or even apathetic about God’s Law in Scripture. (S)he may think that because s(he) is not under the Law, condemned by the Law, or saved by keeping the Law, that it ceases to have value. This is not so! What practical value does the Law offer to the Christian?

The Law:

  1. Teaches us the heart of God regarding what pleases him.
  2. Shows us our sin and inability to perfectly keep the Law, which reveals both our need of a Saviour and continual repentance from sin. Conscious of our own sin, we also long for Christ’s return when we will no longer labour against sin.
  3. Reminds us that those who do not have faith in Christ are still under the Law and will be condemned by it. It therefore encourages us to love our neighbor, care about where s(he) will spend eternity, and share the good news of the forgiveness of sins.
  4. Points us to Christ since he interpreted and kept the Law perfectly; we have a model for our own lives.
  5. Given the above benefits, the Law spurs us onward toward holy living.

Pursuing a Spouse: 20 Pointers from Our Patriarchs

31 Jan

We live in a particular society, during a specific epoch, when people’s priorities and the expectations upon them are focused overwhelmingly on education and occupation. Certainly these are very important life considerations that warrant prayerful discernment, but life is not so compartmentalized that we can avoid the effects on other areas of life.

For many, many people, the expectations, priorities, and perhaps also the all too prevalent narcissism, can have unintended consequences on relationships. These observations of course are generalizations, but they are influential enough to play a role in the ever-increasing, median marital age in the United States. In around 1960, the marital age was about 20 years and 22 years for women and men respectively; today it is nearly 27 and 29 years old. Note that the numbers reflect the median age, which means there are plenty of others that are marrying for the first time at significantly higher ages. But that is not the whole story. In 1960, according to the same Pew poll mentioned above, about 15% of people never married in the United States; today that number is nearly 30%. This is not only due to focused aspirations, but likely the devaluing of marriage as well. Some think, “What’s the point in getting married when I can live with someone and sleep with someone without the responsibility and commitment inherent in marriage?” Others see marriage having so little honor that even entering into the covenant isn’t really a commitment at all.

The point here is not to deal with the issues or to digress despairingly about society’s view on marriage, but to show how marriage has in general increasingly become less of a priority for people earlier on in their lives. It has, for better or for worse, often been pushed to the back-burner for a later time when other goals have been first accomplished. For many, marriage has become less of a determined pursuance and more of a hopeful passivity. There are fewer who actively prepare for marriage and pursue it. We would be wise to teach our generations that our growth in the Lord, our sanctification, also affects who we will be as husbands or wives, fathers or mothers. This is not to say that we should wait for perfection, as if that were possible. Everyone will forever need to grow and mortify the sins in the flesh; we will continually need to repent and seek the Lord. But are we seeking to become the types of spouses and parents we hope to be? Would you want to marry someone like you?

The list below contains some biblical pointers for those who are desiring to enter into marriage. The scriptural principles can benefit anyone. Yet, particularly on my heart are those who are despondent because they feel they are waxing old, and for those who are young and want to prepare for their courting and subsequent marriages.

As with all areas of life, Scripture has guidance and wisdom to impart to us; here we consider what Holy Writ has to say regarding the pursuance of a spouse. Here are 21 pointers from the pages of Genesis (mainly from the account of the pursuing of Isaac’s wife, Rebecca):

  1. You should have a desire for a husband or wife (not just for a fling). (24:67; 28:2-7; 29:18.) These were pursuing wives to marry.
  2. You should be determined to pursue a spouse who is pleasing to the Lord (24:4-6). One whom meditates on God’s Word (Psa. 1).
  3. If your desire is for someone who persistently has no desire for you, move on (24:8, 49).
  4. Trust the process to God, who knows your heart, knows what is best for you, and will bring about his will (24: 7, 40).
  5. Do not pursue a person, or in a manner, that is contrary to God’s will for obedience and holiness (chap. 16; Lev. 20:7).
  6. Be deliberately on the look out in the right places, for the right things, for the right qualities (24:11, 43).
  7. Pray persistently (24:12, 42-44).
  8. Don’t pursue someone just for their physical attraction. Subjective physical attractiveness, while lovely and important, ought to take a back seat to God’s will (24:16, 64-65, see also Jacob’s desire for Rachel (chap. 29ff); Judges 14:3).
  9. Seize opportunities boldly (24:17).
  10. Seek a kind and giving husband or wife, i.e. have moral criteria (24:18-20, 46-47).
  11. Give careful consideration to the man or woman you are pursuing (24:21).
  12. Show commitment and intent (24:22).
  13. Consider carefully the family you will potentially marry in to (24:23-25).
  14. Do not take for granted the input of wise family members. It is beneficial to consider/accept help from wise counsel (24:3-4, 37-38; 27:46; 28:1-2; vs. 28:8-9).
  15. Always give thanks and gratitude to the Lord (24:26-27, 48, 52).
  16. Choose a spouse that shares a common faith in the Lord (24:31, 38, 50-51; see also Gen 6:4; 1 Cor. 7:39; 9:5; 2 Cor. 6:14).
  17. Choose, or be, a man who is willing to provide for his wife (24:35-36).
  18. If all be properly right, there is no need to wait too long a time to get married (24:67). Such prolonged waits have resulted in couples succumbing to temptation.
  19. Be determined to treat your wife and your marriage with love and respect. Do not follow the examples of Abraham and Isaac when they disowned their wives out of fear and almost defiled the marriage bed (12:11-20; chapt. 20; 26:7-11).
  20. Be determined to fiercely guard the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4; as opposed to Gen 16 and 30).

15 Dangers of Self-Pity

18 Dec

Self-pity puts the self first.
Self-pity can lead to cynicism.
Self-pity can lead to inactivity.
Self-pity can lead to negativism.
Self-pity can lead to depression.
Self-pity is contrary to the Gospel.
Self-pity is an enemy of contentment.
Self-pity often forgets the plight of others.
Self-pity forgets that suffering is part of life.
Self-pity can cause you to be critical of others.
Self-pity takes the mind off of God’s promises.
Self-pity often forgets the benefits of suffering.
Self-pity is adverse to determination and perseverance.
Self-pity takes the eyes off of the many blessings given you.
Self-pity is self-perpetuating and will increase in its destructive power.

Self-pity is a gnawing evil. Instead of pitying the self, pity Christ.

“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who…emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” -Philippians 2:5-8