This past summer I began a ministry through the book of Job. Job is the quintessential book on suffering. The majority of the book deals with the discussions between Job and his three friends. The initial compassion of Job’s friends is truly commendable. They first of all desire to be with Job. They secondly desire to enter into his sorrows and to mingle their tears with his. They thirdly determine to comfort Job. They desire that truth will be a blotter to Job’s tears. In these desires they do well. Where they derail is in their making dogmatic assertions without all the evidence. In dealing with this section my mind ran to some counsel I offered years ago to aiding others in dealing with grief. This was born out of being on the receiving end of those who sought to minister to me and my wife in the loss of a child. The counsel I gave then involved having swift feet to come to be in the presence of those who are grieving. Secondly to have long arms to embrace the one who is grieving. Thirdly to have busy hands to meet the practical needs of the one who is grieving. Fourthly to have bent knees to interceed for the one who is grieving. Fifthly to have large ears to listen to the one who is grieving. Finally to have a small and well guarded mouth to speak to the one who is grieving. The temptation to ‘explain’ what God is doing and to quickly end the pain of the suffering can cause us to derail as quickly as Job’s well intentioned friends did. May God help us to fulfill the true meaning of the body of Christ unto the end that when one member suffers all the members suffer with him.
Category Archives: The Christian Life
I sure hope so! I know that you sin. Every day. Many times in a day. In thought, or word, or deed you sin and continue to fall short of the glory of God. John tells us that if any man says that he does not sin he makes God out to be a liar. The question is not whether you sin and the question is not even do you grieve over your sins or do you confess your sins. I hope you do!! My question is do you ‘struggle’ with sin? Are you at war with sin (see 1 Peter 2:11)? I have been reading a lot lately about ‘struggles’ with sin, especially as it relates to the scourge of pornography in the church (among males and females, young and old). I see this term over and over again–struggle. What does a struggle look like?
It looks something like this!
Are you at war with sin?
War looks something like this:
Too often professings saints look more like this in their ‘struggle’ and in their ‘warfare’:
If we are looking for opportunities to sin (which pornography entails), if we are harboring and bringing up bitter thoughts, if we are refusing to forgive, if we are making provisions for the flesh, we may be grieved by our actions, but we are not struggling. Let us struggle and let fight as well as grieve!
The one ad that stands out above all others was the one by Charles Atlas, the body builder. The ad was about transformation. Here was a skinny guy getting sand kicked in his face at the beach and who decides that he is going to send way to Mr. Atlas to learn how to transform his body. He ‘gambles the stamp’ and receives the information. By following the simple steps he is transformed into a muscular man who can stand up for himself and win back his girl.
The idea behind the ad was simple: if you will commit yourself to a certain pattern of life, you will have results. You do not have to be a victim of circumstance, you do not have to stay a weakling. If you will only eat right and exercise, you would be shocked by how changed your physique could be. Generally speaking this is true. If you diet and exercise this year, your physical condition will improve. But it will require more than a desire to change. It will require activity. It will require perseverance. Most boys seeing the ad by Mr. Atlas would say that they wanted to look like that, but how many were willing to do what it takes to accomplish that goal?
The same holds true for the Christian life. It is possible for you to become a stronger, more muscular Christian. It is possible for you to grow this year in both grace and in knowledge. It is possible this coming year for you to walk more closely with God, to enjoy his comforts, and to grow in holiness.
God has provided means for our growth. Those means are freely available for every believer, certainly every believer in the Western world. The problem that most professing believers face is not one of ignorance, but rather of desire and felt need.
Do I want to do these things? Do I need to do these things? I want the results (being a strong Christian) but do I want the results badly enough to do what I need to do to have the results? Allow seven words of exhortation for the coming year.
1. Commit yourself to daily communion with God
-Make time to thank God, to seek renewed strength from God, to confess your sins to God, and to intercede for others.
-Read or listen to the Bible daily
-The blessed man meditates upon God’s word.
-Hide God’s word in your heart.
2. Commit yourself to the stated meetings of the church
Every single meeting of the church for instruction, worship, and prayer is designed to bring glory to God and to bring help to your on the pilgrim pathway. By willfully absenting yourselves from those meetings your are denying yourself crucial nutrition for your soul.
3. Commit yourself to mortifying sins
Is there some nagging issue in your life, some place of disquiet in your soul, some thing which saps your strength and your assurance, the lingering issue of concern regarding your soul, some sin which easily ensnares you? When will it be dealt with? Shall sin have dominion over you? Has God placed the resources at hand–prayer and the word and the Spirit to aid you in overcoming it? Does he desire victory? Will he provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it?
4. Commit yourself to hospitality
1 Peter 4:9 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
Hospitality generally speaking refers to showing love to strangers–taking in the traveler, but here it is expressed within the church. Every member in the church has something to offer you and you have something to offer every member. Can you receive or give these benefits on the Lord’s Day and at prayer meeting only?
5. Commit yourself to dealing with unnecessary distractions
We all have distractions in our lives. Our jobs and daily human needs, our commitments to family, etc. But are there things that fill our time and our affections which detract from the great issues of life?
6. Commit yourself to study (read a good biography, find a good book on a doctrinal subject)
I have found few things more helpful and challenging than the reading of a good biography. When I say good–I am referring to a worthy subject, a well written treatment and what I will call realism–not fawning praise, not the presentation of perfection, but real progress of real pilgrims
7. Enjoy the rich benefits of a sanctified Lord’s Day
Here is a day, by divine design, to aid us in delighting in God. Here is a day designed to be for us a foretaste of heaven. A declension in our commitment to its benefits will not promote heavenly ends.
May God help us to grow strong in the coming year!
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. —D.A. Carson
seen on Challies.com
Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray. —Samuel Chadwick
Seen at Challies.com
Photo Copyright: Cory Marchand
In 1992, British author P. D. James published a book entitled The Children of Men. The book is a dystopian vision of a world reeling from the effects of over a quarter century of infertility. Of the many fictional views of the end of humanity this may be the most chilling. Imagine a world in which no children had been born for the past 25 years. It is a world dying by degrees. Ending not with a bang, but the prospective death rattle of the last aged person. James speaks of a world in which there are no schools, no playgrounds, and no toys. It is world in which things are no longer preserved or guarded or treasured. If there is no coming generation, why bother? Why maintain? Why plant a tree or paint a building or preserve a library or museum? You get the idea.
Churches and religious movements have faced a similar crisis. Many churches die because they produced no offspring. Many do not think of the coming generation and for many there is no coming generation. It is a blessing to have grey hair in the church, but it is a curse if there is not a rising generation to take their place. Our confession of faith speaks of the several ways in which a church can die. Among these is what is called a ‘dearth of conversions’. We must look to God for a new generation of converts, a new generation of gospel preachers and missionaries. A new generation in which we can invest. A generation to whom we pass on the baton of biblical truth whole and intact.
No flowers are adorned with a more lovely shade of blue than those growing at the very foot of a frozen glacier, no stars shine more brightly than those glistening in a cold polar sky, no water tastes as sweet as that springing up from desert sand, and no faith is as precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Testing is a learning experience. You would never have known or believed your own weakness if you had never been compelled to pass through rivers, and you would never have known God’s strength if you had never been supported amid their raging torrents.
5. “…Love one another…” (John 13:35)
6. “…Love one another…” (John 15:12)
7. “…Love one another” (John 15:17)
8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)
9. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
10. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)
11. “…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)
12. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)
14. “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)
16. “…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)
17. “…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)
18. “…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)
19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)
20. “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.”
22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
23. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)
24. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)
26. “…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)
27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
29. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
30. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)
31. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)
32. “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
33. “Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)
34. “…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
35. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
36. “…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)
37. “…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)
38. “…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)
39. “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
40. “Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)
41. “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
42. “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
43. “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
44. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)
45. “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)
46. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
47. “…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
48. “…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)
49. “…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)
50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)
52. “…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)
53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)
54. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)
55. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)
56. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)
57. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)
58. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)
59. “…Love one another.” (II John 5)
This afternoon I was privileged to address a group of pastors on the subject of various troubles and difficulties associated with a long term ministry. One of the issues dealt with was the matter of taking heed to our own selves.
On that subject my mind was drawn to some of the opening words of John Flavel’s classic work, On Keeping the Heart.
The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God… “Keep (guard) thy heart with all diligence…” Lavater on the text will have the word taken from a besieged garrison, beset by many enemies without, and in danger of being betrayed by treacherous citizens within, in which danger the soldiers, upon pain of death, are commanded to watch; and though the expression, Keep thy heart, seems to put it upon us as our work, yet it does not imply a sufficiency in us to do it. We are as able to stop the sun in its course, or to make the rivers run backward, as by our own will and power to rule and order our hearts. We may as well be our own saviours as our own keepers; and yet Solomon speaks properly enough when he says, Keep thy heart, because the duty is ours, though the power is of God; what power we have depends upon the exciting and assisting strength of Christ. Grace within us is beholden to grace without us. “Without me ye can do nothing.”
Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.
The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology; by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice; by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood; by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour; by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit; by lifting up the brazen serpent; by telling men to look and live—to believe, repent, and be converted.
This—this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad. Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology—the preachers of the gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality—let them, I say, show us at this day any English village, or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without “dogma,” by their principles. They cannot do it, and they never will.
Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over the facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small. Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to “do good” and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to “dogma.” No dogma, no fruits! No positive evangelical doctrine, no evangelization! (Ryle, J.C. Holiness, 355-356)