Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

October 30, 2014

Not all sin is the same. While every sin places you under the wrath of God, and while any sin is sufficient to create an eternal chasm between God and man, not every sin is identical. In chapter 9 of his work Overcoming Sin and Temptation, John Owen wants you to think about that besetting sin in your life to consider if it is an “ordinary” sin, or if it is one that is particularly deadly and that, therefore, requires something more than the usual pattern of putting sin to death. The deadliness of a sin is not related so much to the category of that sin, but to how deeply-rooted it is in your life, and to how you have responded to God as he has revealed it to you.

Here are seven marks of a deeply deadly sin.

1. Your sin is deep-rooted and habitual. There may be some sins that have been in your life so long and with such prevalence that you no longer find them shocking or particularly bothersome. Your mind and conscience have grown hard to the sin and it is now deeply ingrained in your thoughts and habits. You, my friend, are in a dangerous place when you have grown ambivalent to that sin. “Unless some extraordinary course be taken, such a person has no ground in the world to expect that his latter end shall be peace.”

2. You proclaim God’s approval, but without battling sin. You know that a certain sin is prevalent in your life, and yet you continue to proclaim that you are accepted in Christ. Even though God has revealed that sin to you, and even though you have made no real attempt to put it to death, still you recount God’s grace to you in the gospel and still you take comfort in the peace of the gospel. Owen wants you to know that you cannot preach God’s peace to yourself while you embrace that one great sin. The gospel offers no comfort to those who slow-dance with their favorite sin.

3. You apply grace and mercy to a sin you do not intend to put to death. You cannot proclaim that the gospel has covered your sin if you do not intend to battle that sin. “To apply mercy to a sin not vigorously mortified is to fulfill the end of the flesh upon the gospel.” Sometimes your heart longs for peace with God, but at the same time it longs for the satisfaction of that sin. In these cases you may rashly look to the gospel to assuage your conscience even though you have no intention of stopping your sin. But the gospel does not allow you to apply God’s mercy and grace to a sin you love and intend to cling to.

4. Sin is frequently successful in seducing your desires. There are times when your heart takes delight in a sin, even though you do not actually commit that sin outwardly. If a sin becomes your delight and has a great hold upon your soul, it is a dangerous sign of a particularly deadly sin. This is true even if you do not commit that sin. If your delight is in sin, not God, your soul is being drawn away from your Savior.

5. You argue against sin only out of fear of impending punishment. It is a sign that sin has taken significant possession of your will when you argue against sin or fail to commit sin only because you fear punishment. In this case you do not delight to do God’s will, but only fear the consequences of disobedience. A true Christian battles sin out of a desire to please God and to find his delight in God.

6. You realize that God is allowing one sin in your life to make you aware of another sin. There are times when God allows you to battle one sin in order to expose a deeper sin. “A new sin may be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance.” In such a case God is exercising fatherly discipline. If God is disciplining you by allowing another sin or by bringing some kind of affliction, he is sending a message about the hardness or your heart and the depth of your sin. Heed the warning!

7. You have hardened your heart against God as he has exposed your sin before you. God graciously reveals your sin through his Word, through conscience, through other Christians, and through many other means. When he reveals your sin, he also prompts you to take action against it. If you continually reject his help and harden your heart against that sin, you are in a dangerous, dangerous state. “Unspeakable are the evils which attend such a frame of heart. Every particular warning to a man in such an estate is an inestimable mercy; how then does he despise God in them who holds out against them! And what infinite patience is this in God, that he does not cast off such a one, and swear in his wrath that he shall never enter his rest!”

Christian, evaluate your sin, and battle hard against it. It is God’s grace that he reveals your sin, and it is God’s grace that he gives you everything you need to put it to death.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the tenth chapter of the book. You can still get the book and read along if that is of interest to you.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.

October 30, 2014

Here are a few new Kindle deals: Spurgeon’s Calvinism by Stephen McCaskell ($2.99); Visit the Sick, Prepare Them to Shepherd, & Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals by Brian Croft ($2.99 each); Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb ($1.99).

The Most Neglected Part of the Pastor’s Job Description - Thabiti Anyabwile makes a good point here about an oft-neglected ministry.

Boring Bridal Showers - I always enjoy reading about cross-cultural experiences like this one. Here’s what happens when a missionary attends a Tanzanian bridal shower.

This Argument Has Reached Retirement Age - It’s amazing how the same old arguments against the Bible are trotted out time and time again.

What Led You To Become an Atheist? - David Murray looks at the results of an interesting study and talks about the implications to the church today.

7 Figures - A new study from AEI titled ‘For Richer or Poorer’ documents the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America and shows how radically it can affect income.” Joe Carter draws out 7 significant figures.

No one who is a man-pleaser preaches the whole counsel of God. —R.C. Sproul

Sproul

October 29, 2014

For millennia, human beings have looked to the night skies and grappled with their own insignificance. It is difficult to feel big and important when looking at thousands and millions of stars stretching far beyond our gaze and far beyond our comprehension. King David’s experience is one most of us have shared. 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
(Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

The Bible tells us that the splendor and magnitude of the universe is meant to force us to acknowledge the existence of a Creator and to force us to acknowledge his infinite power. We, too, are meant to echo David: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

DeGrasseFamous astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has dedicated much of his life to looking to the skies, but has found a way to feel big. He was once asked by a reader of TIME magazine, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” Here is his answer:

The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, when unstable in their later years, collapse and explode, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy. Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense and collapse, form the next generation of solar systems—stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So when I look up at the night sky I know that, yes, we are part of this universe. We are in the universe. But perhaps, more important, that the universe is in us. When I reflect on the fact, I look up—many people feel small, because they are small and the universe is big. But I feel big because my atoms come from those stars. There is a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life. You want to feel connected, want to feel relevant, want to feel like a participant in the goings on and the activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are just by being alive.

He is right in some ways. We all want to feel connected, we all want to feel relevant, we all want to feel like participants in what is going on around us. Ultimately, we all want assurance that we matter precisely because we have an innate understanding of our insignificance.

Tyson says our significance comes when we understand that we are made of the same stuff as the stars—we are one with the universe and part of the big picture of the universe because our bodies are composed of the building-blocks of the universe. That may seem compelling and it may seem encouraging, but if this is the most astounding fact he can come up with, he is a fool. He is a brilliant fool, a man who uses his intellectual gifts to express folly.

The Bible has far better news.

The Bible assures us of two facts that are in no way contradictory: We are very, very small, and we are very, very significant. We are small in comparison to the infinite and eternal God who created us, but we have the utmost significance because we are created in his image. We are microscopic when compared to God, but an integral part of his plan for this universe. We are mere dust, but the Son of God saw fit to clothe himself in this dust. The most astounding fact is not that we are made of the same stuff as the stars, but that God chose to be made of the same stuff as us.

Image credit: Shutterstock

October 29, 2014

Here are some Kindle deals from Amazon on high-priced reference books that are now deeply discounted for Reformation Day: Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem ($19.99); The Christian Faith by Michael Horton ($18.99); Historical Theology by Gregg Allison ($5.99); The Gagging of God by D.A. Carson ($5.98); Center Church by Tim Keller ($5.99); Politics by Wayne Grudem ($5.99); Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton ($5.99). Also consider A Simple Christianity by John MacArthur ($2.99) and Reclaiming Love by Ajith Fernando ($3.79).

Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse - Here’s an important new resource you may (should?) want to consider.

Superheroes, Heresies and the God-man - I quite enjoyed this video about Jesus’ humanity and divinity.

What Is Reformation Day All About? - ‘Tis the time of year for Reformation Day articles.

Joining Hands with Rome - And on the same topic, here’s when Christians will know they can now join hands with Rome.

Hadfield’s Best Photos - Astronaut Chris Hadfield took 45,000 photos from space; here are some of the best ones.

Not a Christian? - Does the church have authority to say a person is not a Christian? Here are some brief answers.

You can work your way to heaven, but only for your sentencing at the court of divine judgment. —Jerry Wragg

Wragg

October 28, 2014

Today I am continuing my series on productivity, and I am going to start with a short recap. I began the series by explaining what productivity is and why it matters [Part 1], then had you look at your life from a high-level perspective so you could divide it into areas of responsibility [Part 2]. Once you defined those areas of responsibility, you listed specific roles and projects within each of them, and worked on some brief mission statements [Part 3]. Then it was time to look at tools [Part 4], and to understand organization and systems [Part 5]. In the last article I provided some basic guidance on configuring task management software [Part 6]. Today I want to advance just one short step to information management.

An information management tool is used to collect, manage and access important information. If you will need to remember or access information in the future, it goes into this tool. If the task management tool is the heart of a productivity system, the information management tool is the brain—the memory. If it requires action, it goes into task management; if it is information you will need in the future, it goes into information management. Task management is for life’s verbs while information management is for life’s nouns.

I recommend Evernote as a powerful tool for information management. Evernote is available for nearly every platform and every mobile device. It is free, but with a premium option for those who are looking for a few extra abilities.

Notebooks

If you read and implemented the article on tools, you should already have installed Evernote and performed a basic setup. I recommend that you organize Evernote according to your areas of responsibility. In my case this means that the basic organizational structure of Evernote is this: Personal, Family, Social, GFC [church], and Business. I have a notebook stack for each of those areas. Each notebook stack contains what Evernote calls notebooks and I have a notebook for each of my roles, duties and projects. Within each of these notebooks I have one or more notes. Here are some examples of this hierarchy of area of notebook stack → notebook → note.

Notebook Stack: Family

  • Notebook: Finance
    • September Credit card statement (a PDF file I downloaded from my bank)
    • How to Get Maximum Value from Air Canada’s Aeroplan (an article I clipped from a web site)
    • Credit Report (a PDF containing my most recent credit score and report)
  • Notebook: Vacation
    • The Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets (an article I clipped from a web site)
    • Hotel Reservation (copy of the hotel confirmation)
    • 2015 Ligonier National Pre-Conference (Information about my duties at the Ligonier conference that gave us the excuse to go to Florida)

Notebook Stack: GFC

  • Notebook: Pregnancy Care Centre
    • PCC Board Meeting Minutes (a Word document sent by the board secretary)
    • Complying with Anti-Spam Legislation (an article I clipped from a web site)
    • 2014 Budget (an Excel spreadsheet)
  • Notebook: Sunday Service Planning
    • November 2, 2014 (a note shared between the pastors and worship leader in which we share ideas and plans for this Sunday’s service)

Again, the Evernote structure is simple and intuitive: notes combine to make notebooks, and notebooks combine to make notebook stacks. In many cases my Evernote notebooks match my OmniFocus projects. I have an OmniFocus projected called Young Adults that contains any actions I need to take related to the Young Adults Ministry; I also have an Evernote notebook called Young Adults that contains any information I need to retain related to the Young Adults Ministry.

Organizing Evernote

Evernote is very adaptable and you can use it in different ways while gaining a lot of benefit from it. There are two broad philosophies on organizing information—using tags or using notebooks and notebook stacks. Neither one is wrong and both have their strengths. Notebooks allow you to find information by clicking through your hierarchy of notebook stacks, notebooks, and notes. Tags, on the other hand, specialize in allowing you to find information by searching. It is important to note that while each note can be in only one notebook, it can contain multiple tags.

I prefer the first approach and rely on notebooks. However, I also add tags as supplementary data where that makes sense. 

If you setup Evernote the way I do, you will want to ensure you add at least a small amount of information to each note you create. You must: Put each note inside a notebook. You may: Add a tag to each note. Whatever else you do with your notes, make sure you file each of them in an appropriate notebook following the familiar dictum, A home for everything, and like goes with like. If you have 20 notes about that new car you are researching, put them all in the same notebook; if you have 5 notes about a forthcoming vacation, put them all in the same notebook.

There is nothing wrong with starting small, starting slow, and building a system that works well for you. Try notebooks and try tags and see what fits best with your life and your mind. The only rule you absolutely need to follow is do something with everything. There ought to be some way that every bit of information has a home and that every bit of information is stored with similar information.

October 28, 2014

I’ve got lots of new Kindle deals for you today: PROOF by Daniel Montgomery & Timothy Paul Jones ($3.99); The Gospel at Work by Greg Gilbert & Sebastian Traeger ($3.99); Heaven Is a Place on Earth and Don’t Stop Believing by Michael Wittmer ($2.99 each); The Pastor’s Family by Brian & Cara Croft ($3.99); Telling the Truth by D.A. Carson ($2.99); Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax ($2.99); Christ-Centered Exposition Commentaries: Mark, James, Ephesians, 1,2,3 John. New from GLH Publishing is Thoughts on Family Worship by J.W. Alexander ($0.99).

10 Things About Reformed Theology - Here are 10 things Corrie Mitchell wishes everyone knew about Reformed theology.

Banner of Truth - Banner of Truth has some good books at Reformation Day special pricing.

Beautiful Beyond Our Control - “Something happened in middle school; I remember the moments exactly, imprinted on my mind and heart. You never forget a trusted adult calling you homely or pinching the flesh on your strong thigh, saying, ‘If you can pinch it, you’re too fat.’ I killed cute in middle school and claimed ugly instead.”

The State of Theology - Ligonier Ministries commissioned a survey of 3,000 Americans in partnership with LifeWay Research. The survey quantified Americans’ theological knowledge and awareness.

Unexpected Sacrifices - Here are some of the unexpected sacrifices of a life spent on the mission field.

The ordinary Christian with the Bible in his hand can say that the majority is wrong. —Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer

October 27, 2014

I rank it as probably the funniest little off-the-cuff comment I’ve made while public speaking. During a Q&A at a conference the moderator mentioned that I had blogged every day for a decade and then asked, “Is there anything else you’ve done so consistently?” I fired back, “The only other thing I’ve done every day for ten years is not exercise.” It was funny at the time, but a couple of days later I began to feel that the punchline revealed something that wasn’t too flattering.

In the weeks that followed I thought about my little comment and realized it revealed a problem—I had drawn too bold a line between mind and matter or soul and matter. I was all about caring for my soul and tending my mind, but all the while was rashly neglecting the body that is inextricably connected to mind and soul. In this way I was living as a pagan, not a Christian. This is gnosticism which says that the immaterial is intrinsically good while the material is instrinsically evil. Or perhaps it is dualism which inserts a chasm between body and soul. But it isn’t Christian.

As Christians we know that body and soul are both good and are both meant to be cared for. We know that God created humanity body, mind and soul and declared it all good and very good. We know that who we are is not so easily divided into neat little parts; it is easier to develop Christian character and easier to have a well-trained mind in a fit body than in a neglected body. We are a cohesive whole.

I knew I needed to do something, but what? I thought of the health club just up the road from us. I had seen their banners outside and mocked the red-faced, sweat-stained people walking out of it. “You know, if they could even just look a little bit like they had fun I might be tempted to try it.”

I recruited Aileen to the cause and said, “We need to get fit.” She loves me enough to play along. Neither of us had ever been to a gym or health club before. We did not know what to expect when we walked through those doors, but we steeled our nerve, took courage from one another, walked in, and asked to speak to someone. Our conversation went something like this:

“What are your fitness goals?”

“I want to not die for now.”

“Hmm. Could I say, ‘general health?’”

“I guess that sounds about right.”

“What do you want your body to look like?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, do you want lines? Do you want definition? Do you want a six-pack?”

“I don’t even know what you mean by all that. You’re the expert—You tell me what I ought to want and what’s realistic for thirty-eight.”

“Alright, we’ll just stick with general health then.”

He took us for a tour of the facility, showing us the studios where they do Zumba (Confession: I still have no idea what that is), the room where they do cycling classes, and the rooms stuffed full of strange-looking machines that look like they are straight out of the middle ages. I told him not to even bother showing us the hot yoga room.

“Have you ever been a member at a health club before?”

[Laughter]. “Let me explain. I am a pastor and I think, for the first time, I understand what an atheist feels like when he walks into church. I know that everyone is looking at me now and thinking, ‘That guy doesn’t belong!’ I don’t know what the expectations are here, I don’t know how anything works, and I feel like a total outsider.”

Despite the ignorance and the awkwardness, he convinced us to give the club a try. Aileen and I stipulated that whatever we were going to do, we intended to do together. He recommended we hire a personal trainer to help us, at least in the early days as we learned how to use the equipment and to build a program that could get us from inactive to some degree of fitness. And then we got to work.

It has been several months now, and both Aileen and I agree it is one of the best decisions we have made. We aren’t exactly ready to set out on a triathlon, but we’re actually fit and growing in fitness. Fat is melting away and stamina is growing. Perhaps best of all, we feel better. We feel better mentally knowing that we are doing the right thing; we feel better spiritually knowing that we are faithfully caring for the bodies God has given us; we feel better physically as our bodies adjust to being used and stretched and strengthened. Perhaps best of all, we know that we addressed a problem far more spiritual than physical.

I can’t say that we love exercise now, or that we look forward to holding two-minute planks and doing an endless success of squats while clutching twenty-pound weights. We don’t love lifting heavy objects, and lunging all over the club, and working tiny little muscles we didn’t know we had. I can’t say that we’ve discovered the runner’s high as we jog our way toward a twenty-five-minute 5K. But I can say we’ve built the habit, love the results, and are even beginning to enjoy the process.

Image credit: Shutterstock