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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

May 16, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include several books on marriage from Crossway: This Momentary Marriage by John Piper ($2.99); No Ordinary Marriage by Tim Savage ($2.99); Marriage and the Family by Andreas Kostenberger ($3.99); Love That Lasts by Gary & Betsy Ricucci ($3.99); What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp ($4.99). Also consider Translating Truth by Various ($1.99); Jesus, Continued… by J.D. Greear ($1.99); Get Real by John Leonard (free). New from GLH Publishing is The Good Fight of Faith by Thomas Boston ($0.99).

Are You a Closet Annihilationist?

Denny Burk comments on an article that discusses changing Christian views on hell.

The Power of Conformity

Rod Dreher shares a letter from one of his readers that explains some of the radical change we see around us (and why it should concern us).

The Tender Heart of a Woman

Melissa appeals to both husbands and wives in this article.

Doctors Opting Out

Here’s a pressing issue for Canadian doctors: “Naylor has no desire to quit medicine. But she says she is appalled at the thought she could be forced to refer patients seeking assisted death to an obliging doctor.”

On Apple Music

This article neatly summarizes a lot of my concerns with Apple Music and, beyond that, with some of the loss that has come with digital music.

The Continental Divide of Theology

Steve Lawson: “Geography is not the only place we find a great divide. There is a high ground that runs through church history as well—a Continental Divide of theology. This great divide of doctrine separates two distinctly different streams of thought that flow in opposite directions.”

This Day in 1805. 211 years ago today, Henry Martyn arrived in India to aid William Carey with translation work. *

You Can’t Mess It Up

There’s a lot of comfort in knowing that you can’t actually mess it up.

Flashback: How Far Is Too Far?

“I am accustomed to giving the easy answer: ‘It’s not about how far can we go, but how holy we can be. You are asking all the wrong questions!’ That may make me feel smart and a little bit godly, but it’s not exactly a satisfying or helpful answer.”

Carson

The price of diluting God’s wrath is diminishing God’s holiness. —D.A. Carson

May 15, 2016

Today I’m handing the reins to A.W. Tozer. In his book That Incredible Christian he has an extended look at the futility of regret. I read and re-read it this week and found it too sweet not to share.


The essence of legalism is self-atonement. The seeker tries to make himself acceptable to God by some act of restitution or by self-punishment or the feeling of regret. The desire to be pleasing to God is commendable, certainly, but the effort to please God by self-effort is not, for it assumes that sin once done may be undone, an assumption wholly false.

Long after we have learned from the Scriptures that we cannot, by fasting or the wearing of a hair shirt or the making of many prayers, atone for the sins of the soul, we still tend by a kind of pernicious natural heresy to feel that we can please God and purify our souls by the penance of perpetual regret.

This latter is the Protestant’s unacknowledged penance. Though he claims to believe in the doctrine of justification by faith he still secretly feels that what he calls “godly sorrow” will make him dear to God. Though he may know better he is caught in the web of a wrong religious feeling and betrayed.

There is indeed a godly sorrow that worketh repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10), and it must be acknowledged that among us Christians this feeling is often not present in sufficient strength to work real repentance; but the persistence of this sorrow till it becomes chronic regret is neither right nor good. Regret is a kind of frustrated repentance that has not been quite consummated. Once the soul has turned from all sin and committed itself wholly to God there is no longer any legitimate place for regret. When moral innocence has been restored by the forgiving love of God the guilt may be remembered, but the sting is gone from the memory. The forgiven man knows that he has sinned, but he no longer feels it.

The effort to be forgiven by works is one that can never be completed because no one knows or can know how much is enough to cancel out the offense; so the seeker must go on year after year paying on his moral debt, here a little, there a little, knowing that he sometimes adds to his bill much more than he pays. The task of keeping books on such a transaction can never end, and the seeker can only hope that when the last entry is made he may be ahead and the account fully paid. This is quite the popular belief, this forgiveness by self-effort, but it is a natural heresy and can at last only betray those who depend upon it.

It may be argued that the absence of regret indicates a low and inadequate view of sin, but the exact opposite is true. Sin is so frightful, so destructive to the soul that no human thought or act can in any degree diminish its lethal effects. Only God can deal with it successfully; only the blood of Christ can cleanse it from the pores of the spirit. The heart that has been delivered from this dread enemy feels not regret but wondrous relief and unceasing gratitude.

The returned prodigal honors his father more by rejoicing than by repining. Had the young man in the story had less faith in his father he might have mourned in a corner instead of joining in the festivities. His confidence in the loving-kindness of his father gave him the courage to forget his checkered past.

Regret may be no more than a form of self-love. A man may have such a high regard for himself that any failure to live up to his own image of himself disappoints him deeply. He feels that he has betrayed his better self by his act of wrongdoing, and even if God is willing to forgive him he will not forgive himself. Sin brings to such a man a painful loss of face that is not soon forgotten. He becomes permanently angry with himself and tries to punish himself by going to God frequently with petulant self-accusations. This state of mind crystallizes finally into a feeling of chronic regret which appears to be a proof of deep penitence but is actually proof of deep self-love.

Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in Christ that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only Christ’s past and that is perfect and acceptable to God. In Christ he died. In Christ he rose, and in Christ he is seated within the circle of God’s favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding; hence there is no place for regret.

May 14, 2016

I am glad to be preparing this A La Carte in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I am here to speak at a conference through the afternoon, then will fly home this evening so I can worship with Grace Fellowship Church tomorrow. It should be a good weekend. As always, your prayers are appreciated.

Regulating Screen Time

Here’s one for parents: “The blunt force tool of ‘screen time’ doesn’t really do much to help us avoid the damaging uses of screens or habituate us away from the tendencies toward vapidness and self-focus that are so common on screens.”

15 Discernment Diagnostics

Kevin DeYoung: “Biblical discernment takes years of prayer, preaching, and practice. But there are certain questions that may be help us sift the good from the bad. Here are 15 discernment diagnostic questions I suggested to my congregation.”

Singing Songs from Questionable Sources

Bob Kauflin answers this question: “For the past year, I’ve struggled with the idea of playing ‘good’ songs (obviously room for defining some terms there…) from questionable ministries. In playing their songs, am I advocating for their entire ministry? In playing their songs, am I necessarily pushing my people towards their church (i.e., when the CCLI info pops up at the end of the song)?”

Transgendered Men Do Not Become Women

“Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men,” he said. “All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they ‘identify.’ In that lies their problematic future.”

Why Do We Major in the Minors?

R.C. Sproul offers a compelling answer.

Explainer: Federal Government Issues Letter on Transgender Policy

Joe Carter takes on his persona as The Explainer to tell what happened here: “On Friday, May 13, the Obama administration sent a letter to all public schools in America notifying teachers and administrators of the regulations they must comply with in regards to their students’ ‘gender identity.’”

Tomorrow in 1984. 32 years ago tomorrow (May 15), Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer died. Schaeffer was also a prolific author and the founder of L’Abri (“the shelter”), a ministry to intellectuals *

Share In Suffering as a Good Soldier

Ray Ortlund: “Sharing in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus is wonderful to me, because he is. I know you feel the same way.”

Flashback: 8 Items for Christian Parents to Ponder

“He wants you, the parent, to seriously consider the responsibility that God has entrusted to you for each one of your children. And, at least for me, each of them felt like a gut-punch.”

Confronting the Current Church Leadership Crisis

Thanks to Biblical Eldership Resources for sponsoring the blog this week!

Stiles

The most loving thing we can do for people is to introduce them to Christ. —Mack Stiles

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
May 13, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Biblical Eldership Resources which also sponsored the blog this week. They are offering 5 prize packages this week, which means there will be 5 winners, each of whom will receive the following three products:

  • Biblical EldershipBiblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch. "With over 200,000 copies in print, this comprehensive look at the role and function of elders brings all the advantages of shared leadership into focus. Beginning with the four broad categories of eldership (leading, feeding, caring, and protecting), Biblical Eldership explores the essential work of elders, their qualifications (including why qualifications are necessary), their relationships with each other, and each of the biblical passages related to eldership. Written for those seeking a clear understanding of the mandate for biblical eldership, this full-length, expository book defines it accurately, practically, and according to Scripture."
  • Biblical Eldership: Study Guide by Alexander Strauch. "Trying to organize a discussion around the complete text of any full-length book can be unwieldy, and Biblical Eldership is no exception. Now, with the help of this discussion guide, the elders at your church can review the principles of the book and personalize them to your setting in a few manageable sessions. By capturing the major points and themes of Biblical Eldership in one-page summaries with discussion questions, the Biblical Eldership Discussion Guide will help you bridge the gap between understanding and application."
  • Christian Maturity: Based on the Qualifications for Elders (includes a self-evaluation and two laminated cards).

I consider Biblical Eldership a must-have resource for pastors and church leaders, so I'm excited to be able to give away these prizes!

Enter Here

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. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

The Joy of Discipline
May 13, 2016

We don’t accomplish much in life apart from self-discipline. Discipline plays an especially important role in life’s difficult or full-out unpleasant tasks, in those things we know we ought to do but struggle to accomplish. We discipline ourselves to get exercise and lose weight. We discipline ourselves to update the family budget on a regular basis. We discipline ourselves to read instead of watch television or to get up early instead of sleep in. In so many areas we rely on discipline to help us complete our most difficult or least favorite tasks.

In general, we discipline ourselves to avoid the negative consequences of a lack of discipline. We know that we will suffer if we don’t exercise, if we don’t manage our finances, if we never crawl out of bed. If these things were pleasant, they wouldn’t require so much effort, right? We don’t need discipline to eat chocolate but to not eat chocolate. Discipline is associated with self-denial and it is not surprising, then, that it tends to have negative connotations.

But sometimes it really just comes down to how we frame it, because discipline is equally important when it comes to life’s pleasant tasks. We don’t just need to discipline ourselves away from unpleasantness but toward joy. Discipline allows us to picture desirable outcomes, to form a plan to get there, to take the necessary steps, and to experience the joys we long for. Discipline is good because discipline delivers joy.

Each night before I go to sleep I make sure I kiss Aileen and pray with her. I didn’t always do these things, but over time developed them as disciplines. Why? Because I know each of them brings joy. It brings joy to be relationally connected with her and there is something about that little kiss that is a reminder of what we share together. It also forces us to let go of petty squabbles or at least to say, “Maybe we can’t fix this before we go to sleep tonight, but let’s at least remember that each of us is in this for the other and that we will work it out.” It brings joy for us to have a shared relationship with the Lord, and so together we commit our day and our night to him. We developed these disciplines for our joy. We saw a joyful outcome we wanted and developed the disciplines that would get us there and keep us there.

It’s not just in marriage. I have disciplined myself to open the Bible with my family each morning so we can experience joy together—the joy of hearing from God together as a family. I believe as well that it will be a key to the future joy of my children as they respond to God’s voice, God’s Word, in repentance and faith. I also discipline myself to have personal devotions because it too brings joy. I see the joyful outcome of a closer relationship with God and greater obedience to his Word and work backward to the means that will get me there—spending time hearing from him and speaking to him.

When we associate discipline only with avoidance of negative outcomes we rob ourselves of a means God uses to promote our joy and ultimately our joy in him. Where would God have you develop a discipline for your joy?

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 13, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include A Quest For More by Paul Tripp ($1.99); The Silent Shepherd by John MacArthur ($2.99); Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson ($3.99). Also, Eric Metaxas’ 7 Men and 7 Women are on sale at $3.99 each—they are solid character portraits though I don’t love all of his choices for heroes of the faith.

The Moral Revolutionaries Present Their Demands

Al Mohler says, “The terms of moral surrender have been delivered to us, and they are absolute and unconditional. Just ask Japan and Germany what that means.”

The Family Idols

There is an important challenge in this article from Nick Batzig. He shows that even something as good as family can disguise idolatry.

Abortion and the Problem of Personhood

Jonathan Leeman and Matthew Arbo get right to the heart of the issue. “One way or another, whether in the language of science (what is a human?) or philosophy (what is a person?), we find some way to demote ‘it.’ The zygote, the embryo, the fetus—words that belong in an alien movie—are not fully us.”

Should I Tell My Spouse about Struggles with Sexual Purity?

That’s a pressing question within many marriages. Garrett Kell offers a wise answer that gives leeway for different marriages.

3 Neglected Objects of Stewardship

It’s not just money we are to steward for the glory of God.

This Day in 1963. 53 years ago today, Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and author A.W. Tozer died. Tozer wrote classics such as The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy*

President Obama: Accept Transgenderism or Else

Denny Burk responds to the news that “President Obama has released a letter directing every public school in the country to recognize and accept transgender identities.” You may also want to read Joe Carter’s Glossary for the Gender Revolution (which really reads like a dictionary of depravity).

Baby Bison vs Wolf

It’s nice to see that sometimes the good guy wins.

Flashback: The Difficult Goodbye

“She had been weeping for the entire half hour it took us to travel from home to the airport. Her cheeks were stained by tears, her eyes full of them, when she hugged me and kissed me and kissed me again. ‘I love you daddy. I’m going to miss you so much…’ And a moment later, ‘Daddy, why is it so hard to say goodbye?’”

Greear

Standing in the presence of God with sin would be like tissue paper touching the surface of the sun. —J.D. Greear

Why I Am Not
May 12, 2016

I am a person who has deep religious beliefs—beliefs that give shape to my convictions which in turn give shape to my life. My faith takes the place of utter centrality so that I am who I am and I live how I live because of it. You cannot understand me, I cannot understand myself, apart from my faith.

If faith so shapes me that it works itself out in my every thought and every action, if it so shapes me that I cannot understand myself apart from it, I am responsible to carefully examine the nature of that faith. In an age when so many consider religious beliefs as subjective and irrational, I am convinced that any conviction worth holding must stand up to serious scrutiny. So how did I come by my faith? Why do I believe so strongly in the existence of a God instead of doubting or denying it? Why am I Protestant instead of Roman Catholic? I might even ask why I am Baptist instead of Presbyterian or why I believe the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have ceased instead of continued.

This article serves as the introduction to a series through which I will examine a number of my beliefs—the beliefs that give shape to my life. I will do this by beginning with my most foundational and unshakeable beliefs and then progressing to those that, though still important, are less central. My goal is not so much to persuade you to believe what I believe but to remind myself of my beliefs and how I came to them.

Perhaps I can illustrate by having you picture a series of concentric circles. At the very center is a small circle that represents the most fundamental belief of all: Christianity in contrast to atheism. The next circle will be slightly wider and represent Protestantism in contrast to Roman Catholicism. Beyond that will be a circle that represents Reformed theology in contrast to Arminian theology. And it will go on like that until we reach categories where I have still had to make a decision even though the distinctions are far more nuanced and both are well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity. If the first couple of options distinguish between accepting and denying the gospel of Jesus Christ, the other options simply distinguish between different ways of understanding the gospel and its implications.

The categories I use will reflect those times in my faith journey in which I have had to choose between two opposing options. I could not be a Christian atheist so had to choose to be a Christian or an atheist; I could not be a Protestant Catholic so, again, had to choose to be a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. Because the categories I use will reflect my own faith journey, I will not look at categories that never seriously confronted me, such as Christianity in contrast to Islam or Protestant Christianity in contrast to Mormonism. In each case I will frame my examination by telling why I am not this but that. And in each case I want to be honest, admitting where my beliefs are strongly shaped by evidence and contemplation and where they are shaped by inertia, assumption, or lethargy. 

Here is how I expect the series to shape up (though I may add or take away as it progresses):

  • Why I am not atheist
  • Why I am not Roman Catholic
  • Why I am not liberal
  • Why I am not Arminian
  • Why I am not Presbyterian
  • Why I am not dispensational
  • Why I am not egalitarian
  • Why I am not continuationist

I will kick things off next week by explaining why I am not atheist. I hope you’ll consider reading along and I hope you’ll find it profitable.

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 12, 2016

Westminster Books has an amazing deal on open box Bibles. And over at the Visual Theology store we’ve got some new posters and prints that may interest you. As for Kindle, consider Preaching by Calvin Miller ($1.99) or Persuaded by the Evidence by Doug Sharp ($2.99).

Troubleshooting the Celebrity Pastor Problem

I appreciate Jared Wilson’s thoughts on the celebrity pastor problem in today’s church.

Goose Finds Cop

Can this actually be real? “On Monday, Givens was sitting in his patrol car in a parking lot when he was accosted by one very unexpected visitor who seemed dead set on getting his attention.”

Two Methods of Bible Study

I think we know these two methods intuitively, but it’s still good to have them both laid out like this.

Stop Complaining

Yes, just stop complaining. “This pervasive discontentment colors virtually every area of modern life. Man’s rebellious default setting is to grumble, complain, argue, and whine about anything and everything he doesn’t like.”

The Style of Black Preaching

Here’s an interesting look at the distinct features of traditional African American preaching.

Eight Tips for Beginning Preachers

Jason Allen: “Looking back, there are a few tips I wish I had been given as a beginning preacher. Let me share eight of them with you…”

This Day in 1792. 224 years ago today, “Father of Modern Missions” William Carey publishes his highly influential book on the importance of evangelism. *

Stephen Curry’s Ultimate Career Mixtape

I’m no fan of basketball, but I do appreciate athleticism. And, wow, this guy is an athlete.

Jack Chick Really Means Business

Here’s an interesting look at some of the ethos behind Jack Chick and his infamous tracts.

Flashback: Drinking It Straight

Thinking back to the days when I attended churches where the pastors felt the need to make sure we weren’t “drinking” the Bible straight…

Alexander

Thank God that He doesn’t wait until we take an interest in Him before He takes a profound interest in us by His grace. —Eric Alexander