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February 23, 2015

I want to be good at good. In fact, I want to be an expert in good. At least, I do when I’m at my best. But in moments of introspection I see a real interest in evil as well. These desires battle within me, the desire to fill my mind with good and the desire to fill my mind with evil.

As Paul came to the end of his great letter to the church in Rome, he gave some final instructions and warnings about false teachers and their ability to deceive believers with their flattery and smooth words. And then he warned the Christians “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b). J.B. Phillips paraphrases it well: “I want to see you experts in good, and not even beginners in evil.”

I guess Paul knew there might be a temptation for those Christians to grow so concerned about evil, that they would spend all their time studying it. They would assume that the best way to guard their faith would be to obsess about false, evil doctrine. But inevitably, their study of evil would lead them to think evil thoughts and even do evil deeds. Evil is powerful that way—too powerful to be immersed in for any length of time. And so Paul warned them, in the face of waves of false teaching and other dangers, to focus the best of their attention on what is good and pure and lovely. They should study the truth and then allow what is false to stand out in contrast.

We can take Paul’s instruction at face value: as a plea to avoid obsessing about false doctrine. John MacArthur applies the text in this way: “Don’t study false doctrine, don’t study sin, don’t study error, stick with the truth and godly obedience.” It is well and good, I think, to have some familiarity with some of the most common false teachings and false teachers. We do well to know why we are not Mormons or Roman Catholics or why we believe same-sex marriage is wrong. But it can be dangerous to immerse ourselves in false teachings and false teachers. It can be dangerous to assume that we need to have a deep understanding of error in order to hold fast to what is true.

I think we can expand Paul’s instruction as well, to think about the way we live. Are you an expert in good? Or are you an expert in evil? Are you known for your interest in what is good? Or are you known for your interest in what is evil? Think of what you read when you’re browsing online. Think of the books and television you enjoy. Think of your last 100 Facebook posts. Do you love good, or are you mesmerized by evil?

John Stott says this: “To be wise in regard to good is to recognize it, love it and follow it.” Do you recognize what is good, and find that it stirs your heart, and motivates you to pursue it? Do you love to tell others about the good you have seen, the good you have learned, the good you have done? Stott continues: “With regard to evil, however, he wants them to be unsophisticated, even guileless, so completely should they shy away from any experience of it.”

Enjoy what is good, not evil. Watch what is good, not evil. Ponder what is good, not evil. Dream of what is good not evil. Read what is good, not evil. Use social media to celebrate what is good instead of bemoan what is evil. Most of all, do what is good, not evil. And consider John Piper’s plea: “O how many pangs you young people will spare yourselves if you don’t make any beginning in evil. There is evil enough in your own heart for Christ to deal with. You don’t need to burden him with more.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock

February 23, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung ($0.99); Wellness for the Glory of God by John Dunlop ($1.99); The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper ($1.99); Imagination Redeemed by Gene Veith ($2.99); What Is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert ($2.99); Tactics by Greg Koukl ($1.99).

A Plea For Gospel Sanity in Missions - I regard this as a very important article. Aubrey Sequeira writes about overseas pastors who are deceiving North Americans into supporting their work. Make sure you read to the end!

Whose History Is It Anyways? - Does historical accuracy really matter when it comes to film? 

You Are My Son, and I Love You - Timy Brister: “As a Christian who believes the gospel should permeate every area of my life, there are more and more blind spots that I’m learning to see more clearly.”

The Shaming of Lindsey Stone - “When a friend posted a photograph of charity worker Lindsey Stone on Facebook, she never dreamed she would lose her job and her reputation. Two years on, could she get her life back?” (Note: There are a few bad words in interviews.)

The Necessity of Expository Preaching - Derek Thomas explains how expository preaching is a necessary corollary of the doctrine of the God-breathed nature of Scripture.

3 Reasons We Must Not Forget the Psalms - Just like the headline says…

The more I learn about God, the more aware I become of what I don’t know about him. —R.C. Sproul

Sproul

February 22, 2015

This week I read some of Richard Sibbe’s work The Love of Christ and was struck by an excerpt from one of his sermons in which he writes about the presence of Christ in and among his people. Here is how he wants to encourage you:

What a comfort is this to Christians, that they have the presence of Christ so far forth as shall make them happy, and as the earth will afford. Nothing but heaven, or rather Christ in heaven itself, will content the child of God. In the mean time, his presence in the congregation makes their souls, as it were, heaven. If the king’s presence, who carries the court with him, makes all places where he is a court, so Christ he carries a kind of heaven with him. Wheresoever he is, his presence hath with it life, light, comfort, strength, and all; for one beam of his countenance will scatter all the clouds of grief whatsoever. It is no matter where we are, so Christ is with us. If with the three children in a fiery furnace, it is no matter, if ‘a fourth be there also,’ Dan. 3:25. So if Christ be with us, the flames nor nothing shall hurt us. If in a dungeon, as Paul and Silas were, Acts 16:24, if Christ’s presence be there, by his Spirit to enlarge our souls, all is comfortable whatsoever.

It changeth the nature of all things, sweeteneth everything, besides that sweetness which it brings unto the soul, by the presence of the Spirit; as we see in the Acts, when they had received the Holy Ghost more abundantly, they cared not what they suffered, regarded not whipping; nay, were glad ‘that they were accounted worthy to suffer anything for Christ,’ Acts 5:41. Whence came this fortitude? From the presence of Christ, and the Comforter which he had formerly promised.

So let us have the Spirit of Christ that comes from him; then it is no matter what our condition be in the world. Upon this ground let us fear nothing that shall befall us in God’s cause, whatsoever it is. We shall have a spirit of prayer at the worst. God never takes away the spirit of supplication from his children, but leaves them that, until at length he possess them fully of their desires. In all Christ’s delays, let us look unto the cause, and to our carriage therein; renew our repentance, that we may be in a fit state to go to God, and God to come to us. Desire him to fit us for prayer and holy communion with him, that we may never doubt of his presence.

February 21, 2015

Carl Trueman has wise words about Bondage to Pornography. “One would not allow alcoholics to have the last word on liquor licensing laws or crack addicts on drug policy. Yet when it comes to sexual morality, that is the kind of world in which we now live.”

This is a good one: Spurgeon on Christians who Rail Against the Times

Michael Wittmer writes about Rejoicing in Lament.

You have heard of the florist who has been sued because of her decision not to provide flowers for a gay wedding. Here is her response to the Attorney General’s offer.

To Shill a Mockingbird shows that lots of people are trying to figure out where this sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird came from.

Thanks to RPTS for sponsoring the blog this week with their article Where Professors Learn.

What I appreciated most about this article on Church Splits is the comparison to a split atom.

Take a saint, and put him into any condition, and he knows how to rejoice in the Lord. —Walter Cradock

Cradock

February 20, 2015

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by a first-time sponsor: Zoe Clothing Company: Christian Apparel For the Whole Family. Here is what they say about their company:

Zoe Clothing Company is a Christian design company based out of Los Angeles, passionate about merging the truth of God’s Word and the beauty of thoughtful design into clothes that matter. Our desire is to be a vessel by which men and women can express with their style what they hide in their hearts, and our hope is for the light of Christ to shine brightly in the world as our customers seek to be lamps in darkness, cities set on hills.

Our shirts are printed with hymn lyrics and Bible verses that demonstrate the beautiful gospel message with which God has illumined our lives. Whether it’s telling the world that we are pilgrims living in a place that is not our home, or reminding our children that they are precious in His sight, we hope our clothes aid in your witness to the world!

There will be 5 winners this week, and each winner will receive 1 shirt of their choice.

Zoe

Enter the Draw

All you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

February 20, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts ($2.99); Defending Inerrancy by Norman Geisler ($2.99); Each for the Other by Bryan & Kathy Chapell ($4.99). New from GLH Publishing is Systematic Theology (all 3 volumes) by Charles Hodge ($1.99).

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson - I enjoyed reading this longform article on [soon to be former] McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson.

The Gospel in the Dominican Republic - I’m thankful for this series from TGC on how the gospel is going forth in different countries from around the world.

The Hopes of Central High - Sports fans may appreciate this profile of Lester Cotton, who will soon be heading to the University of Alabama.

3 Keys to a Better Prayer Life - Here are 3 simple keys to a better prayer life. (Of course the #1 tip is always this: Just pray!)

Phrasing - Andy Naselli introduces “phrasing,” which he says is his favorite way to trace a biblical argument. There are lots of good resources at the link if you want to give it a try.

The Door to a New Vastness - CNN: “Two white specks appearing next to Pluto in the blackness of space may look like faint blips on a screen. Don’t be fooled.”

How Clocks Changed Humanity - This is merely an introduction to the subject, but you may still enjoy this brief video on how clocks changed humanity.

One proof of the inspiration of the Bible is that it has withstood so much poor preaching. —A.T. Robertson

Robertson

February 19, 2015

Sin. I can’t live with it, but time and time again I have proven that I’m just not able to live without it. I know that I have been freed from sin—freed from the power of sin—and yet I still sin. The Bible tells me not to let sin reign, it tells me that if I am truly a child of God I will not go on sinning (Romans 6:12, 1 John 3:9). And still I sin. Even in those times that I focus my efforts on one particular sin I find that I am unable to stop, unable to put it entirely to death. My mind can’t do it, my heart can’t do it, my will can’t do it, my hands can’t do it. It may not reign as sovereign, but it continues to exist as a trial and a steady temptation.

In The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction Sinclair Ferguson writes about this tricky relationship of sin to the Christian and offers these words of assurance: “We are no longer what we once were; we are no longer related to sin the way we once were.” This is important for me to understand and to keep in the forefront of my mind as I battle sin—any sin. I am not what I once was. I am not who I once was. I was once a slave to sin, owned by it, inexorably drawn to it. But now I am the slave to a different master. I am owned by God and subject to him. My relationship to sin has been radically transformed.

And yet I still get angry. I still lash out in anger. I still simmer in anger. I still have desires that stem from anger and suffer the consequences of my anger. And that is just one sin. I still lust and am still jealous and am still thankless and still sin in so many ways. I have died to sin but sin has not yet died within. But here is the difference; here is the change: Sin no longer has dominion. And practically I cannot relate to it as if it has dominion. I have to ensure that my experience of sin is consistent with my theology of sin.

Anger does not own me. Christ owns me. Lust does not motivate me. Christ motivates me. Jealousy does not get the final victory. Christ gets the final victory. The cross stands there as assurance that I have been saved from its power and will some day be fully and finally delivered from its presence. Sin is in me but I am in Christ. And what is in me was put upon him on the cross. He triumphed over it then. He broke its power. And now I just wait, battling all the while, for him to speak the word and bring it to an end once and for all.

Adapted from an article I wrote in 2011.

February 19, 2015

I dug up just a handful of new Kindle deals today: Saint Patrick by Jonathan Rogers ($1.99); Redeeming Church Conflicts by Tara Barthel ($2.99); HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History ($3.99).

Connecting with the Conference - I’m at Ligonier Ministries’ National Conference this week; for those who can’t make it, here are some ways to connect during the event.

When Bible Reading Feels Like a Chore - Here are 3 reasons your Bible reading may feel like a chore.

Keep Your Greek - Sign up for Logos’ mailing list (or just input your email if you’re already signed up) and you will get Keep Your Greek for free. (Also, you may be interested in this pre-order deal.)

Samsung Design - If you’re into technology, you may enjoy this article on why Samsung just can’t quite match Apple when it comes to design. Turns out it’s a systemic issue.

The Caligulan Thrill - “Viewed from one angle, the sexual revolution looks obviously egalitarian. It’s about extending to everyone the liberties. … But viewed from the other angle…”

Greenland - “Google Street View just added a new virtual destination: some of the most stunning landscapes in Greenland, from fjords to viking ruins.”

The Christian life is not one of attained perfection but ongoing purification. —Joe Thorn

Thorn