Monday, June 30, 2008

The Debt of the Image-Bearer

Yesterday we visited a wonderful little church that Dr. Scott's wife, Zondra, recommended to us: Baxter Avenue Baptist Church. The people were genuinely friendly and very down-to-earth. The pastor, Ben Lairamore, is preaching through Mark and was on the passage where the People try to trap Jesus by asking Him whether you should pay taxes to Caesar or not. The well-known passage is a great example of the profound wisdom displayed by Wisdom Himself. Ben brought out a point that I either forgot about or never heard because it seeemed new to me yesterday...

In Mark 12:13-17, Jesus asks the Pharisees and the Herodians whose image was stamped on the coin. To the response of "Caesar" Jesus posits that whatever has the image stamped on it belongs to the owner of which the image reflects. He then says, "Give to God what belongs to God." This enthymeme is huge! It begs the question, "What belongs to God?" Following off of His logic, the answer would be: "Whatever has God's image stamped upon it." All things reflect, though dimly because of the curse, the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-4) but more explicitly, human beings reflect God's glory because they are all made in His image (Genesis 1:27). So what does that mean for us? It means that we are not our own. We belong to God as His creatures made by His command. We are in complete dependence upon Him and therefore, we cannot claim any rights of our own. We owe God everything for in Him we live and move and have our very being (Acts 17:28) and because all things were created for Him, by Him, and through Him (Colossians 1:16). And if God ordains all that comes to pass, then everything and everyone is under His command and who am I to question that!?

"Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth." (Job 40:4)

Ben's whole message can be heard here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Gospel, Preaching, and Counseling

This is what I'm looking for in our search for a church, in my personal ministry to my wife and children, in my future ministry as a pastor, and in my life from my friends... you should too.

(By Thabiti Anyabwile)

via Pure Church by FellowElder on 6/16/08

From C. John Miller, Repentance and 21st Century Man (pp. 94-95, 97-98):
But today many hold back part of the truth through ignorance or state the truth abstractly and narrowly, or fail to give the gospel the cutting edge of specific application. This means that sinners are being robbed of the opportunity to repent by a message which is dulled by pride and self-dependence.

What is needed therefore is a humbling among the bearers of the gospel. At present complacency is the biggest single stumbling block to the ministry of the Spirit. The need of the hour is for bold, loving preaching by those who will not rest until the Lord establishes Jerusalem as a praise in the earth (Isa. 62:6-7).

Effective counseling is principally a carrying forward in private of specific applications of the preaching ministry in the church. The gospel message is announced boldly in a public context and given added effectiveness by a one-to-one follow-up in dealing with particular idols which Christ wants removed from each of our lives. Such confrontation in preaching and counseling involves a sensitivity to the heart cries of men. It combines tears and truth, as we bow together before the discipline of God's Word.

The warfare here is spiritual and calls for great courage on the part of God's ambassadors.


Courage to ask if you are lulling men to sleep by a message that fosters self-congratulation rather than repentance to life.

Courage first to teach your own heart and then to teach others that there are only two ways to stand before God: either as a contrite publican or as a self-righteous Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14).

It will not be easy to tell those outside of Christ that their lives are built on presumption and pretense. And it will not be easy to tell confessing Christians that they, too, have taken for granted God's blessings upon their lives. ...

Pastor, how many officers in your church live only on the resources of a past Christian experience whose fires have long ago gone out?

How many separated saints have allowed the joints of the gospel armor to rust together through secret pride?

And what about the churches which have become gossip centers without anyone honestly facing up to the fact?

But, preacher, you have the answer.

Man is oppressed by the law of sin and death.

Man is oppressed by a guilty conscience and the prospect of divine judgment.

However, you have the gospel message which can change all of this. From it men learn of a bleeding sacrifice which does what the law of sin and death could never do. It brings expiation for sins and the washing of the conscience through a new dominion established by Jesus' resurrection.

In this message Christ, the risen Lord, is set forth in all His glory (2 Cor. 3:18). He can do what no mere human counseling can do. By turning to the Lord, i.e., by repenting, man can come into possession of this divine splendor revealed in Christ (2 Cor. 3:16-18).

Things you can do from here:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Communicating the Gospel to a Toddler

How do you communicate the Gospel to a toddler? How can your discipline of your child actually be "pleasant words"? John Younts at Shepherd Press does a fantastic job of answering this question. Read it for yourself and discuss with your spouse, friends, parents.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Love Is Self-Sacrificial

From Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges, p138:
The extent of God's love at Calvary is seen in both the infinite cost to Him of giving His one and only Son, and in the wretched and miserable condition of those He loved. God could not remove our sins without an infinite cost to both Himself and His Son. And because of their great love for us, both were willing--yes more than merely willing--to pay that great cost, the Father in giving His one and only Son, and the Son in laying down His life for us. One of the essential characteristics of love is the element of self-sacrifice, and this was demonstrated for us to its ultimate in God's love at Calvary.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Learn to Confess Your Sins

Though this article below by "Mark" from "Seminary Survival Guide" was written to seminary students, it applies to all of us. This element of being a disciple is so critical. So, so critical.

via Seminary Survival by Mark on 6/16/08

Confession is a much neglected discipline in Protestant life, despite the clear biblical command to "confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed." (James 5:16) Speaking your depravity out loud to a listening brother or sister in Christ is one of the most powerful means of sanctification I've ever seen. I'm a big proponent of it, because nothing frees me from my sin faster than shining the cold light of my brother's gaze on it.

There's just one problem. I hate confessing my sins.

I mean I really hate it. Viscerally. It makes me squirm and writhe down to the very core of my soul to say out loud what I was thinking or what I was doing or what I was looking at. You'd think I was undergoing exorcism (which, in a way, is exactly what's happening). I'd almost rather do anything than confess my sins. I'd rather hide my sins and play the "Oh-I'm-fine" church game for all eternity.

So I'm still learning the discipline of confession. My counsel to seminary students is to join me.

Since most of our readers are from Christian traditions in which confession is not a formal practice, I offer a few thoughts on its implementation

Choosing a Confessor. You need a mature Christian friend of the same gender who knows you well enough and is mature enough to handle your depravity. They should love you and you should be reasonably comfortable with them. If you don't have any relationships of this quality, you can go to a pastor or counselor as an intermediate measure.

However, the absence of quality friendships in which confession of sins is possible is a big problem. You need friends like this. Be sure that the real problem isn't your unwillingness to be transparent.

Beware of confessing to new Christians or emotionally immature people. I've learned the hard way that not everyone can handle the responsibility of hearing about my depravity. This is especially true for people in ministry, because ordinary Christians sometimes put us on a pedestal. It's important that we find safe people.

Full Honesty. God desires "truth in the inner parts (Psalm 51:6) Even as we confess our sin, we're inclined to qualify, justify and minimize it, giving reasons why it's not as bad as it sounds, etc. Forget that. In confession, we embrace the glorious truth is that Christ is our justification and we need no other. True confession abandons all self-justification, looks our depravity full in its face and holds nothing back.

Don't Play Language Games. When you're confessing, do not qualify your sin by saying you're "struggling" with it. No you're not. You're sinning. Deliberately.

Abraham Piper is incisive:

We're not porn-addicts; we "struggle with lust."

We're not arrogant; we "struggle with pride."

With a simple cliché our sins become palatable.

C. J. Mahaney has great counsel, too:

A sincere confession of sin should be specific ("I was arrogant and angry when I made that statement; will you please forgive me for sinning against you in this way?") and brief (this shouldn't take long). When I find myself adding an explanation to my confession, I'm not asking forgiveness but instead appealing for understanding.

Confess Early

I have a close friend from college who's also in ministry. We call each other when we're facing or giving in to sexual temptation. It's always best when I call him at the first sign of trouble:

  • It halts the downhill slide of my depravity
  • The earlier I do it, the less I have to confess
  • My confessing inspires him to come clean about his failures (and vice versa)

Confess Regularly

I'm not of the school of thought that we have to verbally name every sin we commit. I'm not even sure that's possible. There's no question, however, that we would benefit greatly from a regular pattern of confession of sin. Think of how much pride would be derailed if every week we named our sins out loud to a loving friend in Christ!

When hearing confessions:

Be gracious. Once a person has come to a point of admitting their sin, they usually don't need us piling on telling them how awful it is, unless they're being evasive. Our primary function is to minister the grace and forgiveness of Christ to them. "Watch yourselves, lest you too be tempted." (Galatians 6:1) Beware of any arrogance of superiority about your brother's failings.

Don't say it's all right when it's not. Say only things that are true: You have sinned, you are loved, you are forgiven. It's a chance to be priestly to each other.

Encourage preventative and restorative measures. This may mean memorizing scripture, praying in a certain way, confessing sin to an injured party, taking steps of restoration or repayment, the end of a relationship, a change in schedule, a filter on a computer, or even counseling or some kind of intervention.

Don't try to fix them. You are not the Holy Spirit. It's not your job to sanctify them, or to "make sure this never happens again."

Don't get over your head. Remember that you're a brother and not a professional counselor-don't try to solve problems that are too big for you. At my church, we refer people with serious issues to Christian counselors all the time. We still love, pray and support them,

Always pray together. Prayer brings the presence of God into the confession experience in a very cleansing and affirming way.

"A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Things you can do from here:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Free At Last, Free At Last

The closing of our home in Maple Grove completed today at 3:30 CST! Praise the Lord together with us!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama or McCain May Help Spread the Gospel?

I've heard many Christians lament lately about the choice of candidates for this upcoming presidential election. They are sure that the country is about to change and for the worse. I refuse to make such prognostications, but one thing I am sure of is that God will use which ever man He puts into the Oval Office to accomplish His purposes. In fact, as John Newton puts it, God may use whichever individual to actually purify the Church and spread the Gospel!

The kings of the earth are continually disturbing the world with their schemes of ambition They expect to carry every thing before them and have seldom any higher end in view than the gratification of their own passions But in all they do they are but servants of this great King and Lord and fulfil his purposes as the instruments he employs to inflict prescribed punishment upon transgressors against him or to open a way for the spread of his Gospel

From The Works of the Rev. John Newton ... By John Newton

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sudden Destruction Coming Soon

Psalm 33:10-11 The Lord foils all the plans oft he nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.

(Judges 16:23-31) God will have the last word. Samson in his death killed more than in his whole life. The Philistines were rejoicing in their victory, praising Dagon for his great power. They had no clue what was about to come upon them. The judgment they deserved for blaspheming a holy and righteous God came down upon them in sudden destruction. That was it. They were done and God had the last word.

So it will be when Christ comes back. People will be reveling in their sin, thinking that the LORD is out of the picture and then sudden destruction will come. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5 that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly and will bring "sudden destruction." There will be no escape.

But Paul encourages us to put on the Gospel now--both believers and unbelievers--so that we will be protected by Him who can save us by His blood. The NLT says that though the sudden destruction is coming soon, Christ died so we can live with Him forever:
For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out His anger on us. He died for us so that we can live with Him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of His return. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NLT)