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October 09, 2014

To become a Christian is to accept the lifelong challenge of becoming who you are — of putting sin to death and growing in holiness. Today I want to channel a little John Owen and tell you three things you ought to expect when battling sin.

Expect that the Battle Will Be Long

Owen says that putting sin to death consists of “a habitual weakening of sin,” and I take this to mean that over time and through our habits we chip away at our sin bit-by-bit and day-by-day. Rather than expecting sin to be destroyed in a moment, we expect that it will take time and focused effort. In this way putting sin to death is relative to our maturity as Christians and to the amount of time we have dedicated to battling a particular sin. He says, “The first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultuate, provoke, entice, disquiet as naturally as it is apt to do.”

He has this amazing quote that is quite an indictment of humanity: “The reason why a natural man is not always perpetually in the pursuit of some one lust, night and day, is because he has many to serve, every one crying to be satisfied; thence he is carried on with great variety, but still in general he lies toward the satisfaction of self.”

He also makes a very helpful comparison between putting sin to death and a man being executed on a cross:

As a man nailed to the cross he first struggles and strives and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; when a man first sets on a lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when by mortification the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success.

Expect that the Battle Will Be Hard

Putting sin to death is a long and violent struggle against a deadly enemy that is absolutely devoted to our destruction. In this way we should not expect that putting sin to death will be easy, and we should not expect that sin will go quietly. “When sin is strong and vigorous, the soul is scarce able to make any head against it; it sighs, and groans, and mourns, and is troubled, as David speaks of himself, but seldom has sin in the pursuit.” This will be a lifelong battle and one that requires constant attention.

To fight against sin you need to know that…

  • “… a man has such an enemy to deal with it, to take notice of it, to consider it as an enemy indeed, and one that is to be destroyed by all means possible.” Always remember that sin exists, and always know that you are called to battle it.
  • “… to labor to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of its success is the beginning of this warfare.” Always remember that God gives us instructions in dealing with it, and we are to know our sin so we can better attack our sin.
  • “… to load it daily with all the things which shall after be mentioned, that are grevious, killing, and destructive to it is the height of this contest.” Always remember that you are to follow God’s instructions in dealing with it.

Expect to See Frequent Success

While the battle is long and fierce, “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” Therefore we should expect to see frequent successes shown in significant and measurable victories over our sin. “Frequent success against any lust is another part and evidence of mortification. By success I understand not a mere disappointment of sin, that it be not brought forth nor accomplished, but a victory over it and pursuit of it to a complete conquest. For instance, when the heart finds sin at any time at work, seducing, forming imaginations to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof, it instantly apprehends sin and brings it to the law of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost.” While we do battle against our sin, we know that God has given us both the desire and the power to see victory.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the sixth chapter of the book. There is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to 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 09, 2014

Every morning I hunt through mountains of e-book junk looking for a few e-book jewels. And on that note, here are today’s worthwhile Kindle deals. You’ve got 5 from Sproul to choose from: The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul (free!); How Then Shall We Worship? ($1.99); The Work of Christ ($2.51); God’s Love ($1.99); Pleasing God ($1.99). Also consider  Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg ($4.43); Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott ($5.07).

Why Did God Allow Satan to Harm Job and His Family? - This is one answer to a perplexing question.

Will Christians Be Left Behind? - This article looks at the history of the belief in a secret rapture.

True Woman Live - The True Woman conference kicks off today; if you’d like to watch the livestream, you can do so at truewoman14.com/live/. It begins at 6:45 PM EST.

Ordinary and Other Deals - Westminster Books has some deals on a book called Ordinary, and some other promising titles.

Christ and Ebola - Denny Burk asks whether you have confidence that Christ can handle Ebola.

Christians not Welcome - I hate to read stories like this, but they are becoming more common. A graduate of a Canadian Christian university was rejected for a job because of the school’s position on sex and homosexuality.

Why Opposing Same-Sex Marriage Seems Anti-Gospel - Mike Leake writes about why opposing same-sex marriage seems anti-gospel.

No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one else talks to you more. —Paul Tripp

Tripp

October 08, 2014

I suppose Grace Fellowship Church is like most churches in that we have our favorite songs. We sing a great variety of songs, many of which would be familiar to you, I’m sure. But we also sing some that are a little off the beaten path, so to speak. I thought I’d share twelve of our favorite songs with you—twelve of our favorites that may be unfamiliar to you.

We Are Not Overcome

I begin with We Are Not Overcome, the newest song we have added to our repertoire. This one comes from Bifrost Arts and is a powerful song of comfort based on Lamentations 3. Joshua, our lead worshipper, had to do quite a bit of work to make this one suitable for congregational singing, but he succeeded well. “Flesh will fail and bones will break / Thieves will steal, the earth will shake / Night will fall, the light will fade / The Lord will give and take away.” Then the chorus proclaims, simply, “Because of his great love, we are not overcome.”

We Are Listening

We Are Listening comes from Before the Throne, still my favorite of Sojourn’s albums. Because we are one of those churches that continues to have both a morning and evening service, we often sing this one to rejoice in the fact that “Morning and evening we come / To delight in the Word of our God.”

I Glory in Christ

I Glory in Christ is a Horatius Bonar hymn that Sandra McCraken retuned and recorded on her album In Feast or Fallow. It is a cry to God that we would value him above all else, and that we would boast in nothing but the cross. “God forbid that I should glory, / Save in the Redeemer’s cross. / Counting shame for Him but honor, / Counting earthly gain but loss. / All the love of God is here, / A love that casteth out all fear.”

My One Comfort

My One Comfort is Dustin Kensrue’s adaptation of question and answer one of the Heidelberg Catechism. It works equally well with full instrumentation and as an acoustic track (as you hear in the YouTube video I linked to). “My one comfort both in life and death / Is that I am not my own. / I was bought with blood and I confess / I belong to you alone.”

Draw Me Nearer

There are a couple of versions of this hymn. The traditional version is titled “I Am Thine, O Lord,” but several years ago Caedmon’s Call adapted it as “Draw Me Nearer.” Their version is one we sing often, though Joshua adapted it a little bit to make it more suited to congregational singing. “Draw me nearer to the cross where thou has died. / Draw me nearer to thy precious, bleeding side.”

He Will Hold Me Fast

If “We Shall Overcome” is our newest song, He Will Hold Me Fast would be just barely in front of it, as we began singing it just this summer. Already it has become a favorite. Matt Merker of Capitol Hill Baptist Church adapted it from an older hymn, and it is a sweet song of comfort and hope. “I could never keep my hold, / He will hold me fast; / For my love is often cold, / He must hold me fast.”

Grace Alone

Grace Alone is another song written by Dustin Kensrue, and it was recorded by his (former?) band The Modern Post. The song simply rejoices in God for his salvation. “I was an orphan lost at the fall / Running away when I’d hear your call / But Father, you worked your will / I had no righteousness of my own / I had no right to draw near your throne / But Father, you loved me still.”

Grace and Peace

Grace and Peace was written by Joel Sczebel and recorded for the Sovereign Grace Music album Grace Has Come. The song calls us to marvel at what God has done in saving sinners for himself. Joshua has adapted it a little bit, largely to pick up the speed at least a little bit from the recorded version you hear at the link. “Grace and peace, oh, how can this be? / The matchless King of all / Paid the blood price for me! / Slaughtered lamb, what atonement You bring!”

October 08, 2014

Every week Zondervan has me choose one book to go on sale, and this week I chose Bound Together by Chris Brauns ($2.99). Also consider Eighty Twenty Eight by Ian & Larissa Murphy ($2.99) and Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn ($4.46).

Joan or John? - Russell Moore takes on a difficult pastoral situation. Joan tells you that when she was 20 she began the process of “transitioning” from life as a man to life as a woman. She underwent extensive hormone therapy, followed by extensive plastic surgery—including so-called “gender reassignment surgery.” She’s lived for the past 30 years—physically and socially—as a woman.

Thinking Like a Non-Musician - I know I link to a lot of articles by Jamie Brown, but he just has a way of saying helpful things. Here he writes about the value of musicians trying to think like non-musicians.

Does God Have Regret? - Kevin DeYoung writes about God’s regrets.

Self-Control and the Power of Christ - I completely agree: “It is at the height of Christian virtue in a fallen world, and its exercise is quite simply one of the most difficult things you can ever learn to do.”

Beautiful Chemical Reactions - This is proof that the microscopic world can be every bit as beautiful as the world we are more accustomed to seeing.

One Thing I Want My Kids to Remember - I feel much the same.

Christians do not create truth. The Truth creates the Christian. —William Farley

Farley

October 07, 2014

I have been writing a series on getting things done and, because I don’t know how else to do it, giving you a glimpse into my world to show how I get things done. To this point I have shared what I mean by productivity, showing how it extends to all of life (not just the world of business) and that the heart of productivity is glorifying God by doing good works [Part 1]. Last time I showed how I have divided my life into areas of responsibility that encompass everything I do, and I showed how I map out my specific roles within each of those areas [Part 2]. And now we are ready to move forward.

In a moment we will talk about getting on mission and staying on mission, but first I want to give you something to ponder over the next couple of days.

Time & Energy

I believe we tend to focus too much on time management and too little on energy management. Yet in many vocations and in many places in life it is energy, not time, that is the more valuable commodity. Like time, energy is limited and needs to used strategically. You can give massive amounts of time to certain areas of life, but if you only give those times in which your energy is at its lowest point, your productivity will still be low.

There is a call here to know yourself. So over the next couple of days ask yourself these questions: At what times of day am I at my mental peak? At what times of day am I least-effective? Am I a morning person, a night-owl, or a mid-afternoon warrior?

These questions are important because before long we will start to look at your use of time and, to some degree at least, manage your time around the ebb and flow of energy. You will want to plan to use your high-energy times to do your most important tasks and your tasks that depend upon creativity. You will want to plan to schedule your proactive and creative work when energy is high, and your reactive and administrative work when energy is low. So start thinking about that now, and we will return to this topic soon.

Getting On Mission

Once you have defined your areas of responsibility, it only makes sense that you would define your mission for each of them. I don’t know how else you could know what to emphasize, what to say “yes” to, and what to say “no” to. So I want to encourage you to work on a brief and simple mission statement for each of your areas of responsibility. Even if it is not a lengthy statement, come up with something that will guide you and define what God calls you to in each of them.

Now, there are two ways that I differ from many of the productivity gurus out there.

First, I do not believe that you need to have a big-picture mission statement that encompasses all of life and all of your areas of responsibility. If that works for you and you want a mission statement for all of life, go ahead and prepare it. But I think there is more value, at least for now, in preparing individual mission statements limited to each of your areas of responsibility.

Second, I do not believe that your mission statements for each of those areas has to be fixed and unchanging. I see the purpose of these statements as guiding you week-by-week as you schedule your time and as you attempt to make decisions about where to expend your effort. So while you shouldn’t change them haphazardly, you can change them in small ways as your mission comes into focus and as it changes through life.  The value of seeing these as “living” statements is that it frees you from having to think about it too hard right now. Come up with something that works, and refine it over a period of weeks or months.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean by mission statements. Here are my statements for three of my areas of responsibility: my work at the church, my ministry to the wider church (primarily through the blog and books), and personal life:

  • GFC: Teach, train, and execute [administer] so the people of the church will mature and multiply.
    • Explanation: I believe that if the people of our church are living as Christians, they will mature in the faith and they will multiply by sharing the gospel with others. My role in the church primarily involves teaching, training and administration; I want to do those things in such a way that it directs the people of the church to mature and multiply.
  • Business: Use the opportunities God provides to help others think and live like mature Christians.
    • Explanation: Over the years my core mission as a writer and public speaker has come into focus, and what I love to do is help people to think and live like mature Christians. This is the focus of my blog, my books, and my speaking opportunities.
  • Personal: Delight in God to the glory of God for the good of all people.
    • Explanation: I believe that if I am delighting in God, my delight brings glory to God and overflows into doing good for other people. I am a better father, a better husband, a better pastor, and a better neighbor when I am finding my delight in the Lord.

Each of these statements serves as a measure or standard so that each week I can look back and ask, Did I do these things? And I can look at the week ahead and ask, How will I do these things? When someone asks me, “Can you speak at our conference?” or “Can you meet with me to talk about this topic?” I attempt to make decisions according to my mission. If it fits my mission, I will give it time and energy and enthusiasm. If it does not fit my mission, I will not prioritize it in the same way.

FlagAction: Write a mission statement for each area of responsibility. Give it your best shot for now, and prepare to keep refining them as time goes on.

Are You On Mission?

You may have noticed that to this point I have only asked you “What are the things you are doing?” and “What are the things you are responsible for?”. Before I move any farther, I want you to take a good look at those roles, tasks, and projects under each of your areas of responsibility to ask whether those are the things you ought to do. Do the things you do actually fit your mission? If not, either you need to adjust your mission or adjust your roles.

October 07, 2014

The Vindication of Antonin Scalia - Here’s Al Mohler on yesterday’s news from the Supreme Court: “A giant milestone in the moral revolution passed today when the U.S. Supreme Court turned down every single appeal from several states on the issue of same-sex marriage.”

Pastor Saeed’s Letter to His Daughter - Saeed Abedini, the American pastor imprisoned in Iran, writes an encouraging and beautiful letter to his daughter on her eighth birthday.

Free E-Book - Crossway is giving away a free D.A. Carson book to whomever cares to download it.

The Pastor’s Family - Thom Rainer gives seven ways that the pastor’s family comes under attack.

Ebola Explained - Here’s a short but helpful explanation of Ebola. Speaking of which, you may like to read Pastoral Contentment and the Plague.

The Medium and the Message - Here’s a 50-year retrospective on Marshall McLuhan’s big idea that the medium is the message. It’s amazing to see how deeply the idea has become embedded in our society.

When we think too lightly of sin, we think too lightly of the Savior. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

October 06, 2014

I love doctrine. Doctrine is simply the teaching of God or the teaching about God—the body of knowledge that he reveals to us through the Bible. I guess I’m one of those geekly people who loves to learn a new word and the big idea behind it. But I hope I do not love doctrine for doctrine’s sake. Rather, I strive to be a person who loves doctrine for God’s sake.

Today I want to give you 6 great reasons to study doctrine.

Doctrine Leads to Love

Doctrine leads to love—love for God that then overflows into love for others. 1 John 4:8 makes it plain: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” To know God is to know love; to know God is to equip yourself to act in love. Your love for God is limited by your knowledge of him, so that you can really only love him as far as you know him. As the depth of your knowledge grows, so too does the depth of your love. This is why the study of doctrine cannot be the pursuit of dry facts, but facts that lead to living knowledge of God and growing love for God. When you know doctrine, you prepare yourself to live in ways that express love to him and to others.

Doctrine Leads to Humility

Second, doctrine leads to humility. A little while ago I saw a YouTube video of a man breaking the world record in deadlifting by lifting a nearly-unbelieveable 1,015 pounds. I know that if I tried to lift even a fraction of that amount I’d slip a disc and be in bed for a month. The distance between that person and myself makes me face my own weakness. And that is just a glimpse of what happens when you see God as he reveals himself. You see the infinite distance between his power and your weakness, between his holiness and your sinfulness, between his unchangeable nature and your fickleness. And as you see it, you are humbled. You cannot see God and be proud. You cannot know God and be arrogant. When you see God as he really is, you must be humbled by his sheer magnitude and you must be humbled by your inability to box him up, to understand him all the way. The greater your knowledge of God, the greater your humility.

Doctrine Leads to Obedience

Third, doctrine leads to obedience. And here is what I mean: Just like you can only love God as far as you know God, you can only obey God as far as you know God. As you get to know God more and deeper, you are able to obey him better. Think here of the Old Testament and how often God reminds the Israelites of who he is and on that basis commands their obedience. He does this again and again: “Here is who I am, here is what I have done, and therefore you owe me your obedience.” And think of the New Testament which constantly points to Jesus Christ and calls us to conformity to him. What you learn of God and what you learn about yourself through the Word of God leads you to live a life that honors him. Again, theology is not a cold pursuit of facts, but a red-hot pursuit of the living God, and it works itself out all over life.

 

Doctrine Leads to Unity

Fourth, doctrine leads to unity. I once attended a church where I heard a pastor use that old phrase, “Doctrine divides.” He told the church that the path to unity was to hold a very low and basic level of doctrine, because he was convinced that knowledge would breed arrogance and division. But he was dead wrong and that church splintered because of lack of unity—a lack of unity that flowed directly from a lack of sound doctrine. Churches are bound together by the beliefs they share. Of course there will be certain minor variances in a church on lesser matters, but the greater the shared beliefs on the essentials, and the greater the emphasis on the essentials, the greater the degree of unity. In Ephesians 4 Paul talks about the way God gives leaders to churches and says they are given, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” He draws a clear connection between doctrine or spiritual growth and unity between believers.