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Rescuing the Gospel
July 18, 2016

Is the Reformation over? Have the issues that divided Protestants and Catholics been sufficiently resolved that we can now pursue a return to unity? At the very end of his book Rescuing the Gospel, an account of the Protestant Reformation, Erwin Lutzer offers a compelling answer. While he admits that both Protestantism and Catholicism have developed since the sixteenth century and while he points out areas in which Protestants and Catholics are working in a common cause toward common goals, he insists that the Reformation has not yet come to an end. Any unity would come at the expense of the gospel. “On the most critical issue, namely the salvation of the human soul, Luther’s Reformation is far from over … No matter how many changes the Catholic Church makes, it will not—indeed cannot—endorse an evangelical view of salvation.”

Many make the argument that Catholicism has changed, that the church of the twenty-first century is so vastly different from the church of the sixteenth century that the old disagreements and arguments no longer hold. But here Lutzer points to 5 contemporary teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that must continue to divide us.

Mary. “The church still holds to the traditions it has always held about Mary, her perpetual virginity, her immaculate conception (which denies the biblical truth that all have sinned), the assumption of her body and soul into heaven, the queenship of heaven, and—most seriously of all—the ‘infallible’ teaching that she is the mediatrix of all grace, thus sharing with the Lord Jesus Christ in providing salvation for mankind. The catechism says, ‘By her intercession she continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation … Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” It is to her “protection that the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.”

Transubstantiation. The updated 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church continues to teach transubstantiation, the doctrine that “the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice … the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner.” “Catholics are taught to worship the consecrated wafer … indeed, parishioners are instructed to give these consecrated elements the highest form of worship—the same degree reserved for the Holy Trinity. Historically (and to this present day) the Catholic Church has taught that salvation comes only through the grace given in the sacraments which, they say, unite the participant to Christ.”

IndulgencesIt comes as a surprise to many Protestants that the Catholic Church continues to affirm the use of indulgences. But “when Pope Francis visited Brazil for World Youth Day in 2013, the Vatican offered a plenary (complete) indulgence to those who couldn’t attend the event but followed on Twitter or by other means. The difference between today and days gone by is that indulgences are no longer sold as such; they are obtained by following the prescribed rituals and showing proper devotion to God as requested by the pope.” The very issue that sparked the Reformation remains in effect today.

Superstitions. While Lutzer admits that there is variance between official and unofficial teaching when it comes to superstitions, he also shows that the Church makes no move to ban such superstitions. To the contrary, they are tolerated and celebrated. “In St. Peter’s Basilica, long lines of people stand before a statute of the apostle to touch (or kiss) his toe. I asked our tour guide about this, and she said, ‘We have this tradition that if you touch Peter’s toe and die you go directly to heaven and bypass purgatory’.” Sure, this is unofficial teaching, “but why would Rome—in the very Vatican no less—foster and encourage these kinds of superstitions that mislead millions? Why aren’t the priests, in Rome or the West, condemning these kinds of abuses? What difference does an accord on justification with Protestants make as long as crowds continue to line up in the Vatican to touch the toe of Peter in order to receive special blessings, perhaps even the promise of eternal life?”

Sainthood. While both Protestants and Catholics speak of saints, we use the word very differently. The Catholic view of sainthood in which saints are recognized and canonized by the church, proves that Catholicism teaches a completely different understanding of justification and of glorification. In this way any doctrine of sainthood does not stand on its own but points to much deeper and more serious issues.

Again Lutzer asks the question: Is the Reformation over? Yes, “the complexity of the Reformation of the sixteenth century with all of its conflicts that permanently changed the map of Europe—that Reformation is over. But the doctrines that Luther and Calvin stood against—that aspect of the Reformation is not over.” In light of that, Lutzer insists that evangelicals remain vigilant like Luther, for “in some sense, our task is more difficult than his.” In the same way Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11 for giving the “impression that he agreed with the Judaizers,” we too must diligently rescue the gospel from even appearing off course. In short, conceding to blurred lines for the sake of unity is spiritual compromise. “We must remind the world that the gospel of the New Testament is for the spiritually needy who have nothing to offer God; they come not to give but to receive; they come not just to be helped but to be rescued.Their contribution to salvation is their sin; God’s grace supplies everything else.”

July 18, 2016

 

Encouragement, Confession, and Concern

Garrett Kell was at this weekend’s big event on The Mall and writes out his thoughts on it. “I didn’t see or hear everything during those seven hours, but I saw much of it. And as I watched, I found myself encouraged, convicted, and concerned.”

5 Principles for Studying the Trinity

Gavin Ortlund: “The Trinity has been ‘trending’ lately in the blogosphere. I think that is a good thing insofar as theological debate often leads to greater theological clarity. Rather than wade into the contested areas, I thought it might be helpful to offer a broader, more constructive post for those of us (like myself) who, particularly in light of the controversy, see our need to keep “beefing up” our understanding of the Trinity.”

The Fjords of Norway

Here’s a beautiful timelapse film of Norway. And then here’s a haunting one of Fukushima.

The Calvary Option?

Carl Trueman: “The world around may legitimate whatever sleaze, self-indulgence and self-deception it may choose. It may decide that black is white, that up is down, and that north is south, for all I care. The needs of my congregation—of all congregations—will remain, at the deepest level, the same that they have always been, as will the answers which Christianity provides.”

The L.E.D. Quandary

Here’s an interesting one on L.E.D. lights. “Building bulbs to last turns out to pose a vexing problem: no one seems to have a sound business model for such a product. And, paradoxically, this is the very problem that the short life span of modern incandescents was meant to solve.”

This Day in 1965. 51 years ago today, R.C. Sproul was ordained by the Pittsburg Presbytery in the United Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A.

“Forced Love” Is the Wrong Way to Look at It

Yes, let’s be done with this unfair caricature of Calvinism.

Headphones Everywhere

“Anyone who has recently spent time in a public space—traversing the aisle of an airplane, say, lurching toward your seat adjacent to the toilet, trying to shift your backpack without thwapping a fellow traveller on the forehead—has likely noticed the sudden and extraordinary ubiquity of headphones.” Indeed.

Flashback: 10 Ways To Resist The Devil

It is one of the Bible’s many sweet and powerful promises: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The question is, though, how do we do this? In very practical ways, how do we resist the devil? Here are 10 of them…

Spurgeon

When your will is God’s will, you will have your will.C.H. Spurgeon

July 17, 2016

The Eric Liddell story is well known. We all know the broad outline: He was one of Great Britain’s great hopes at the 1924 Olympics, he refused to race because of his Christian convictions, he switched races and won an event he had barely trained for, he left it all behind to travel to China to serve as a missionary, he died there in a Japanese prison camp. It’s an amazing story, really.

I was recently reading For the Glory, a wonderful new biography of Liddell, and came across a sweet little vignette that happened much, much later. His wife, Florence, was now many years into her widowhood (and, in fact, had now been widowed a second time). Here is what happened:

One evening Florence sat on the couch at her daughter Heather’s home and watched a reel of celluloid she’d never seen before. It was Pathé’s black-and-white film of Liddell’s 400-meters win in Paris. She saw then what anyone can view now on YouTube. The focus on his twenty-two-year-old face. Those long fingers resting on his hips. That number—451—on his shirt front. The crowd massed steeply behind him. That stare down the line and the curve of the Colombes track before the gun releases him on the race of a lifetime. His fleet feet pounding along the cinder. The spray of that cinder as he runs. His head thrown back. The snap of the tape.

“She couldn’t believe what she was seeing,” remembers Heather. Florence leaned forward on the very lip of her seat, oblivious for more than a full minute to absolutely everything except the scene played out in front of her on a twenty-one-inch television. “It was as if she was there with him, sitting in the stand,” adds Heather. As the race began, Florence was lost in the brightness of it. She even yelled: “Come on, honey. You can beat him. You can do it.”

The last frame of that film shows Liddell after his triumph. He is accepting a congratulatory handshake. The image lingers, freezing him in that pose for a while—the splendor of the man he’d once been so apparent. Florence stood up and looked at it as though in that moment she was remembering every one of the yesterdays she had spent beside him. She bowed her head, raised her hands to her face, and began to weep.

She had never stopped loving him and missing him until, at last, in 1984 she went to be with him in heaven.

Liddells

July 16, 2016

 

Why the Planned Parenthood Videos Didn’t Change the Abortion Debate

It was a year ago that the Planned Parenthood videos were released. “The videos garnered a surprising among of media attention, sparked congressional hearings, and launched dozens of investigations into Planned Parenthood (PP). But a year later, not much has changed. And many people are wondering what went wrong.” He speculates on what happened.

The World’s Largest Model Railroad

There are some terrifically eccentric people out there and this is one of them. (His model railroad is huge but kind of low quality, isn’t it?)

Church Aflame

You may enjoy, and may even need, this call to evangelism. “If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested. What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down? I’m ready for a Christianity that ‘ruins’ my life, which captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable.”

A Love Like That

This is a sweet description of the love of Charles and Sarah Hodge. Kevin DeYoung brings the application: “Married couples, if you imagine that your final moments together will be like this, rejoice and again I say rejoice.”

I Tripped and Fell at the Olympics

Jim Ryun: “I tripped and fell at my final Olympics. It was one of the best things to happen to me.”

Eight Mistakes Churches Make on Their Websites

I’m sure I’ve seen all of these at one time or another. Most of them I’ve seen recently…

This Day in 1674. 342 years ago today, Isaac Watts was born in Southampton, England. He would write over 600 hymns. *

The Incredible Complications of Living Atop the U.S.-Canada Border

What happens if your town, or even your house, spans an international border? This article tells about a guy whose backyard is in the US while his front yard is in Canada.

Flashback: 3 Helpful Instructions on Keeping a Journal

It’s not meant to “advocate a tell-all diary, but a prudent, humble, and appropriate record of our experiences and observations of God’s providence.”

Pulpit Aflame

My gratitude goes to Reformation Heritage Books for sponsoring the blog this week with “Pulpit Aflame.”

Watson

Are there not millions of us who would rather go sleeping to hell; than sweating to heaven? —Thomas Watson

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
July 15, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books which, of course, also sponsored the blog this week. They are offering a prize package that contains several of their new and noteworthy books. There will be 5 winners and each of those winners will receive:

  • Pulpit Aflame edited by Joel Beeke and Dustin Benge. “In this volume, fourteen experienced preachers reaffirm the centrality of preaching in the life of the church as they explore what the Scriptures have to say about the mandate, meaning, motivation, and method of preaching. With wisdom and conviction, the authors remind the church that God works through the faithful preaching of His Word, no less in the twenty-first century than in the first.”
  • Church History 101 by Sinclair Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin. “Church history is important because it shows us how God’s faithful dealings with His people in the Bible continue in the ongoing life and work of Christ in our world. If you have ever wished for a short book highlighting church history’s most important events that will enlighten your mind and peak your interest, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Three prolific church historians collaborate their efforts in Church History 101 to present you with a quick read of church history’s high points.”
  • Living in a Godly Marriage by Joel Beeke & James La Belle. “The Puritans believed that godly marriages were foundational for the future life of families, churches, and nations. Therefore, they wrote prolifically on the subject of marriage, seeking to bring biblical reformation to this subject in a comprehensive way. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other previous Reformers had begun this task, but the Puritans took it much further, writing a number of detailed treatises on how to live as godly spouses. Out of the wealth of material available to us from the seventeenth century, Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle have gathered together insights from the past and summarized them in a contemporary form in order to encourage modern-day couples to glorify God in marriage.”
  • Pentecostal Outpourings by Robert Davis Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary. “When Jesus ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father, He poured out His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This significant historical and redemptive event was not the last time Christ poured out His Spirit in redemptive history. Mindful of these subsequent acts, Pentecostal Outpourings presents historical research on revivals in the Reformed tradition during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”
  • One Man and One Woman by Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley. “What does the Bible teach about sexual relationships between people of the same sex? Does true love require that we accept all forms of sexual expression? No, real love does not rejoice in sin, but rejoices in the truth. In the Bible, God reveals that He created gender, sex, and marriage, and we may not alter them at our will. Through His laws and works in history, God has made it clear that homosexual practices violate His holy purposes for mankind.”

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 Perfect Game
July 15, 2016

Baseball returns this evening from its annual mid-season classic. As the teams prepare to take the field I find myself thinking about the game I love, the game that has gripped and fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It is, to my mind, the best sport, the perfect game.

As a child I dreamed of mastering baseball and spent hundreds of sunny summer afternoons chasing the perfect fastball, the perfect swing, the perfect one-hopper from left field to the plate. When night came I fell asleep listening to Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth as they called the highs and lows of the Toronto Blue Jays and when sleep took me I dreamed of taking my rightful place on my team—George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, and me. Eventually childish fantasy gave way to adult reality but even broken dreams did nothing to temper my passion for the game. A son was born and soon I began to introduce him to my game and to my team. The cycle began anew.

What is it about this game? Why is it that every April I feel a new optimism, a new hope, a new excitement for a new season? Why is it that every October I find myself longing for just a few more games, a few more series? Why do I have such love for this game?

I Love the Challenge

Baseball is a game whose official rules extend to 172 pages and in these pages you will find provision for every eventuality from the routine and everyday to the obscure and nearly unthinkable. But for all the complexity, the heart of the game is so very simple—a man with a ball stands 60 feet, 6 inches from a man with a stick. The man with the ball pauses, he stares, he comes set, and for a moment remains perfectly still. Then he moves again in a careful choreography. His hands rise to his chest or his head, his knee comes up to his waist, his foot kicks outward, and as he plunges toward home plate his hand darts forward. Freeze the frame and you will see him clutching the ball, sometimes with his fingers split across two seams, sometimes with his fingers split across four, sometimes with the ball deep in his palm, sometimes with it nearly floating beneath his fingertips. Unfreeze. With a flick of the wrist it is gone and a mere four tenths of a second later it has slammed into the catcher’s mitt with the familiar smack.

Unless, of course, the man with the stick has had his way. Facing the pitcher is a batter and as the pitcher has been preparing to throw the ball, this man has been moving and shifting his own body, preparing to protect the plate. Before the ball is thrown he stands ready, his fingers loose on his bat, his wrists slowly rotating, his eyes fixed intently on the place where the pitcher’s hand will soon be. He shifts his weight back, lifts his front foot, and rotates his hips to the front as his arms begin to swing. If he times and judges it just right, he will hear the sound of summer, the sharp crack of ball on bat.

This, I’m convinced, pitcher against batter, is the greatest one-on-one challenge in professional sports. This little game within the game, played out hundreds of times every night, never gets old, never loses its thrill.

I Love .200, .300, .400

Baseball is a game of numbers, the sport of a thousand statistics. The most basic of them all is the batting average, the age-old measure of a batter’s raw ability to put bat to ball. It is best understood as the number of times the player will deliver a base hit if given 1,000 opportunities. The difference between a .200 batting average and a .300 batting average is merely 1 hit in every 10 at bats—just 100 hits in 1000 attempts. Yet that slim margin represents the difference between a bona fide superstar and a man looking for a new line of work. In almost every case a .200 hitter will be sent back to the minors or, at best, relegated to a part-time role. In almost every case a .300 hitter will be a star and receive a fat contract. As for that .400 hitter, there has not been one of them in over seventy years. How difficult is it for the man with the stick to beat the man with the ball? If he succeeds 2 times in 10 attempts he is a has-been, 3 times he is a star, 4 times he is a legend.

I Love the Fastball

The fastball is the one pitch every pitcher needs to master and to have as part of his repertoire. For all the talk of sliders and curves and sinkers, there is nothing more elemental than a pitcher overpowering a batter with that high heat. He might throw the venerable four-seamer which flies straight and true or opt for the two-seamer which tails off as it reaches the plate. Better yet, he will throw a mix of the two to keep the batter guessing. He will paint the corners, he will lure him and get him to chase, he will move up and down in the zone, he will assert his dominance. Baseball is at its purest when a fireballing pitcher stares down a red-hot slugger.

I Love the Change-Up

The purity and simplicity of the fastball is off-set by the dirtiness and deception of the change-up. The change-up is a pretender, a mimic, a cheat. It wears the guise of a fastball—the same look, the same action, the same motion—but it travels at a very different pace. This makes it a risk. The slow-moving change may as well be batting practice if the batter knows it’s coming. So the wise pitcher first displays his fastball. He throws it once, twice, three times. Now the batter has the measure of it, he is ready for the next one. But right here the pitcher judges the change-up worth the risk and springs his little surprise. Where the fastball zipped, this ball saunters, where the fastball stayed straight and true, this one falters and sinks. The batter is fooled, swinging long before the ball reaches the plate or perhaps finding himself stock still, tied in knots, helplessly watching as it chugs on by. Nothing makes an experienced pro look more like a rank amateur than a change-up perfectly set-up and perfectly executed.

I Love 60 Feet, 6 Inches

The integrity of baseball depends upon 2 crucial measurements, each of which brings parity to an aspect of the game. The first measurement is 60 feet, 6 inches, the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. That perfect distance brings perfect parity between the man with the ball and the man with the stick. Any closer and a fastball would be unhittable—the batter would have too little time to read the pitch, to judge it, to take his swing. Any farther and the pitcher would have too far to throw—the advantage would swing to the batter. But 60 feet, 6 inches is just right, ensuring that only the best pitchers and hitters are able to survive, and only the best of the best are able to thrive.

I Love 90 Feet

If the first great measurement is 60 feet, 6 inches, the second is 90 feet, the distance between the bases. It, too, is perfect because it, too, sets the perfect parity—parity between offence and defence, between runners and fielders. Even the greatest base-stealer must choose his moments carefully lest he be unceremoniously cut down. But even the greatest defense must be vigilant lest they be caught flat-footed and give up an easy base. At 85 feet defences would suffer and at 95 runners would have too far to go. Watch a runner steal second base and see how close he comes to being tagged. Watch a batter leg out an infield single and see that with another 5 feet, or 2 feet for that, he would be an easy out. It is the perfect distance to maintain the challenge just as it ought to be.

I Love 325 Feet

Baseball depends upon precise measurements—60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher to the plate, 90 feet from base to base—but it finds its character in imprecise ones. Beyond those few, precise measurements there are any number of ways the game is quirky and customized. A field for professional soccer or football is identical to every other, but when it comes to baseball, every field is different, every one has its unique personality. There is the 325-foot short porch in AT&T field’s right corner, the imposing Green Monster rising up in Boston’s left field, the infamous double and home run catwalks jutting over the field in Tampa Bay, the ivy-covered walls in Wrigley Field. Some parks have fast-playing grass and others have slow-playing turf. Every field is different, every field an individual.

I Love the Shift

Actually, I don’t love the shift, but I do love what it represents. It represents strategy, the measures teams take to gain even a small advantage over their rivals. Yet with any benefit there is risk. A team may put on the shift to gain double coverage in one part of the field but to do this they must abandon another section altogether. They pull in the infield to try to make an out at the plate but this increases the risk of a hot hit scorching through. They guard the runner to keep him from the easy steal but this widens the gap between first and second. Or maybe they choose not to guard him at all but this offers him a tempting head-start if he decides to steal. Through the ebb and flow of a game each player will position himself a hundred different ways to account for a hundred different scenarios. Behind every moment of action is a deliberate strategy.

I Love the Game

Perhaps the greatest beauty in baseball is the vast chasm between its apparent simplicity and its actual difficulty. It is and remains the greatest one-on-one showdown in sports. There is nothing quite like it. Free throws, penalty kicks, penalty shots, 55-yard field goals each have their own challenge, their own thrill. But there is nothing as pure and nothing as thrilling as a man with a ball trying to blow it past that man with a stick.

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 15, 2016

Westminster Books is having an open box sale on ESV Bibles with many of them up to 70% off. You’ll need to act fast because they will be gone quickly. And now, some links for your reading pleasure:

Ten Key Questions for Sermon Preparation

Darryl Dash offers some great questions for preachers to consider.

The Gospel of the Kingdom Is Like an Old Hymn

Jared Wilson: “The gospel is an old hymn. The gospel is sheet music printed in antiquarian typeface on a yellowed page in a dusty book. It’s the ‘old, old story’ and the ‘old rugged cross.’ It is four verses—and please don’t skip the third verse to expedite the invitation!”

4 Reasons Why Every Bible Reader Should Do Word Studies

George Guthrie says “In this post I want to make a case for learning the basics of doing word studies, whether we are pulling out the shovel of deeper Bible study or the trowel of basic Bible reading. Here are 4 motivations…”

Searching for a Soul Mate

You’ve heard the concept of soul mate, but do you know where it came from? Its origin highlights why it’s mostly an unhelpful and unrealistic concept.

Harambe, Human Value, and Palatable Civil Religion

Canon and Culture looks at recent incidents of human violence and compares them to incidents of animal violence. “These incidents provide a window into our society and, despite the unthinkable and horrific nature of their tragedy, provide opportunities for reflection.”

This Day in 1852. 164 years ago today, following the Great Awakening, Hawaii sent out its first missionaries to the Caroline Islands. *

The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times

Here’s the tale of a sound so loud it circled the earth four times. It is the loudest sound ever heard on earth.

Jesus’ Delay and Jairus’ Daughter

Why would Jesus have delayed in healing that girl?

Flashback: Looking Forward to the Reward

“Is it wrong to be motivated by rewards? Somehow in my mind it seems like the reward must negate the joy or the purity of obedience, and especially when it comes to the way I handle money. Shouldn’t I want to give out of the joy of obedience? Shouldn’t I want to give simply because I love the God who commands me to give generously?”

Dyer

To bless God for mercies is the way to increase them; to bless Him for miseries is the way to remove them. —William Dyer

How To Be Rich
July 14, 2016

My family lives in the poorest section of one of Canada’s wealthiest towns. Work brought us here sixteen years ago, and we bought the only house we could afford—a forty-year-old thousand-square-foot townhouse surrounded by much newer homes that are five, six, and seven times more expensive than ours. With a brief, five-minute drive we cruise past gated neighborhoods where every home costs in the tens of millions. In a town like this we have many opportunities to see great wealth and all the ostentation that can come with it. In a town like this we often hear people brag of their riches, of all that they have, all that they spend.

In our town we are poor. As my daughter said after visiting a friend: “We rode bikes in their basement. Their basement is bigger than our whole house!” But measured wider, we are rich. By somebody’s measure we are all rich. In comparison to someone else, even you and I have extravagant wealth. After all, poverty and wealth are relative terms and by the very fact that you are reading these words on an electronic device you have more wealth than someone else. And for that reason you and I need to learn to live the lifestyle of the rich and godly.

Listen to what Philip Ryken says as he examines some verses in the book of 1 Timothy:

In the providence of God, some Christians live in comfortable circumstances. They own their own homes. They wear nice clothes. They have more than enough food to eat. And Christians who are blessed with such material prosperity do not need to feel guilty about it; nor do they need to divest themselves of their wealth. They are even allowed to enjoy themselves. For everything we own comes from God himself, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). God is no miser. He provides for the rich and the poor alike, and whatever he provides is for our enjoyment. … The Bible celebrates the good things of life.

Yes, the Bible celebrates the good things of life, but it also warns us they can be deceptive, that they can keep us from celebrating life’s better things. We are far too easily pleased. As wealthy Christians, you and I need to learn to live well with our wealth. 1 Timothy 6 outlines a number of ways to do that and I was recently struck by a few of them.

First, the rich and godly acknowledge the temptation that we will set our hope on our wealth. Riches engage our sinful hearts with the promise of provision, the promise that our daily bread comes not from God’s hand, but from a pension, a bank account, a retirement plan. We need to constantly remind ourselves that these riches are uncertain, that a lifetime’s wealth can disappear in the blink of an eye, the screech of car tires on wet pavement, the collapse of a market. Wealth is good but unreliable. We need a better place in which to set our hope.

Second, the rich and godly are known not for their abundance of finances but their abundance of good works. Paul says “[We] are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…” The consistent testimony of the Bible is that we are all to do good to one another, constantly seeking opportunities to glorify God by caring for others. This is equally true for the rich and the poor. No matter who we are or what we have, we are to commit ourselves day by day to good works—works done for the good of others and the glory of God. Rich people may consider themselves too good, too blessed to get their hands dirty in caring for others. But no, rich and poor alike are to seek out opportunities to be hands-on ministers of mercy to others.

Third, the rich and godly put their wealth to work in this great task of doing good to others. Those who have been blessed with financial means have the added privilege and responsibility of doing good to others through their wealth. Ryken says “Some deeds of mercy also require money. Thus another way that wealthy Christians can glorify God is through the wise use of their money. God calls all his children ‘to be generous and ready to share’ (1 Tim. 6:18), to embrace a lifestyle of giving. Instead of considering godliness as a means to gain, he wants them to use their gain as a means of godliness. The stewardship of personal wealth is an important aspect of a rich Christian’s calling.” We are not to be known for our extravagant wealth but our extravagant deeds—deeds done for the good of others and the glory of God.

The simple fact is that by some measure you and I are rich. We need to admit it, embrace it, and seek God’s guidance in living like it.

Image credit: Shutterstock