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Tim Challies

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April 20, 2015

I find one of the trickiest matters of Christian living to be the matter of motives. I often find myself wondering why I do the things I do. Just as often, I find myself wondering why I do not do those things I refuse to do. Sometimes, even with a lot of focused thought, I can make little headway.

I think the Apostle Paul would identify with me. In Romans 7, he wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (vv. 15–16). He was not looking to his motives per se, but he was still considering his life and finding that he was unable to discern why he did sinful things even when he wanted to do holy things. He saw his lack of holiness and his pursuit of sin and marveled at his own inability to do even the good things he wanted to do.

Like Paul, I am a Christian. I have been granted salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Day by day, my mind is being transformed by God’s Word, and I am being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

As the Lord does this work within me, I find a growing ability to know the right thing to do in a given situation. When I am sinned against, I have a greater knowledge of Scripture to draw upon as I attempt to respond with grace. When I am asked to give money to a cause or a mission, I have deeper wells to draw from as I consider whether this is a worthy cause. When I am faced with a decision and am uncertain whether I should stay or go, whether I should say yes or no, I increasingly have the mind of Christ and with it the ability to make a wise and God-honoring decision.

And yet sometimes I still do not know why I do the things I do. Am I giving to that mission because I believe the Lord is using those people to do His work in his world, or am I giving to that mission because it makes me feel good or because I want the missionary to respect me? Am I speaking grace-filled words to the person who offended me because I really love him despite the offense, or am I doing it to show off and to convince myself of my own holiness?

Too often I simply do not know. I pray and think and ponder and in the end I simply cannot untwist it all. We are complex people with complex motives. We are being made holy, but in the meantime we still have sin clinging to every part of ourselves.

I have found freedom in two ways. The first is repenting of poor motives. Even if I cannot pinpoint where my motives are sinful, I know there must be some sin in them, and so I ask that they be forgiven through the work of Jesus Christ. And then I determine to concern myself less with discerning motives and more with doing the right thing. I look to the cross, I look to the Bible, and I attempt to discern the next right thing to do for God’s glory.

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 20, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Against the Gods by John Currid ($1.99); Ancient Word, Changing Worlds by Stephen Nichols ($2.99); Inerrancy and Worldview by Very Poythress ($2.99); Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger ($5.99); Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? by Various ($5.99); A Life Observed by Devin Brown ($2.99).

Kindle Fire - If you’re looking for a Kindle device, Amazon has the Fire HD 7 at $60 off today only.

The Alone Instrument - I’ve really been enjoying this album from Columbia Presbyterian Church. I especially like the adaptation of “To God Be the Glory.”

Sticks and Stones - Steve Morrison makes lots of interesting points in this excerpt from a new book.

Editors and Writers Together - Gavin Ortlund offers suggestions on how writers and editors can best work together.

Themelios - The Gospel Coalition just released a new edition of Themelios (free). You may also be interested in the new edition of CCEF’s Journal of Biblical Counseling (free preview, $6 for the issue).

Don’t Be a Commentary Junkie - With all due respect to commentaries, they need to be used in the right way.

Work Worth Doing - Dorothy Sayers said it well: “We should clamor to be engaged on work that was worth doing, and in which we can take pride.”

The gospel is not for you who can save yourselves, but for those who are lost. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

 

April 19, 2015

We can make things far too complicated. We can make things far too dependent upon our own work instead of the Lord’s. John MacArthur looks at Mark 4 and says, “Just tell the truth.”

Look, all I can do is tell the truth. All I can do is speak the truth. I can’t take care of the results. I can’t give life. It’s mysterious, just like to the farmer to us. The only human act is to plant the seed and wait…and wait, go to sleep, it’s all God’s work. First Corinthians 3 says, “God gives the increase.” Life and growth is a divine operation. You must be born from above, John 3. Not of the will of a man…of men, not of the will of flesh, John 1:12, but of God. Listen to it this way, no human being contributes to the regeneration, conversion, justification, salvation process. All we can do is tell the truth. The seed is potent, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, Romans 1, the soil when prepared by God will receive it and once God makes it grow, I love this part of the little parable, when it begins to grow, it does not stop until it is harvested…first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head and then the harvest. What God begins He completes, right? Philippians 1:6, “Whoever begins a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ.”

This is a critical lesson, by the way, to all evangelical manipulators and clever marketers who think they can make people believe. No human being no matter how persuasive, no matter how clever, makes a contribution to regeneration, conversion or justification. All we can do is give the truth. We can’t change hearts and we can’t produce life from dead people. That’s something the Lord alone does. “No man comes to me except the Father draws him.” And once He begins to draw him, then it’s the blade, then it’s the ear, then it’s the full grain. It needs to be drummed into the heads and hearts of all Christians who have been seduced by the contemporary lies, that if we just get better at marketing the gospel, we can be more convincing and we can convince people to be saved. Just tell the truth.

I hate to tell you this, music doesn’t have anything to do with it in terms of style. The content of what is said and sung in music may bring the gospel, convey the gospel. But it’s not about mood, it’s not about music, it’s not about invitations, it’s not about any human effort. We don’t do God’s work with human means.

April 18, 2015

Here are just a couple of new Kindle deals that may interest you: Cross, edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99); Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99); 

Even though Paul was inspired, he still wanted Timothy to bring him his books.

From Tiny Churches the Loudest Prayers is an interesting little photo essay of the storefront houses of worship dotting Chicago’s South and West Sides.

Millard Erickson suggests a pledge of Convictional Civility.

I found it quite interesting to read Paul Levy’s review of Paul Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling. I often find reviews that mix praise and critique to be the most helpful reviews of all.

Jason Helopoulos says rightly that the most important thing a pastor can do is pursue personal holiness.

Thanks to Church Plant Media for sponsoring the blog this week.

You are responsible to Steward the Gifts God Has Assigned to You.

Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God. —C.S. Lewis

Lewis

 

April 17, 2015

As was mentioned yesterday in our interview with Church Plant Media, they are excited to be doing a free website giveaway to a pastor who regularly reads Challies.com. The giveaway includes a free responsive church website ($1,000 value), plus no monthly fees for the life of the site ($600 annual value). Features of this giveaway include a free responsive design, 24/7 usage of their Content Management System, regular upgrades and feature releases to core system modules, hosting at Rackspace and Amazon S3, and toll-free telephone and online support from their knowledgeable Support Team. It also includes “radius-protection” which means no other church within a 10 mile radius of your church can have the same design.

Here are the three requirements to qualify to get the free website:

  • You must be a pastor who loves the gospel and reads this site regularly (or at least occasionally).
  • You must affirm, endorse, and commit to uphold Church Plant Media’s Gospel Agreement.
  • Any pastor can enter their church, but keep in mind that the spirit of the giveaway is that it goes to a church that couldn’t otherwise afford it.

This giveaway is open to anyone in the world who meets the criteria above. We are planning to keep the comments open to facilitate this giveaway from today (April 17) until Sunday night (April 19). Church Plant Media will select the winner on Monday, April 20, and I’ll announce the winner at that time.

Please answer these 5 questions in the comments below:

  1. What is your name, your church name, and your affiliation?
  2. How long have you pastored and how often do you read this blog?
  3. How old is your church and what is the average number of weekly attendees?
  4. What is your favorite church website design style from Church Plant Media, and what do you like about it?
  5. How would a free website benefit your church?

To learn more about Church Plant Media, check out my recent interview with them.

CPM

April 17, 2015

A friend and I were talking recently, and we discussed the current state of Christian publishing. He asked me, “What really good books have not yet been written?” I thought about it for a little while and came up with 7 books I would definitely read.

Al Mohler’s memoirs. There are some people whose lives merit a biography, and Mohler is definitely among them. But I would prefer to read Mohler’s memoirs than to read a traditional biography. He has a unique way of expressing himself and of relating his experiences, and I am convinced that some of this—too much of this—would be lost if someone else wrote an account of his life. So Dr. Mohler’s memoirs: this is at the top of my list, and I hope that some day he will publish them. I’d be first in line at the bookstore.

A biography of John MacArthur. Yes, I know that Iain Murray has already written a biography of John MacArthur, and it was pretty good. But, by Murray’s own admission, it is far from the final word. After all, its subject is still alive and still active in life and ministry, so the story of his life is not yet complete. What is undeniable is that MacArthur has had a profound influence on the world and on the church; few people have a real understanding of all he has accomplished, and all the Lord has accomplished through him. A great biography would allow us to glorify God for all he has done through MacArthur’s life and ministry.

R.C. Sproul on how to teach. R.C. Sproul has proven himself one of the most gifted Christian teachers of our time. While there may be more gifted preachers, I cannot think of a single Christian leader who has greater skill as a teacher—something you probably know if you have watched any of those teaching series where he stands in front of his chalk board and simply explains theology or philosophy or any other topic for 25 minutes at a time. I would love to read a book in which Sproul provides guidance on the art, the skill, and the necessity of teaching.

D.A. Carson on Revelation. D.A. Carson is, of course, a notable theologian who has already written several excellent commentaries as well as a host of other important books and articles. He has already left his mark on the church in many ways, but I would love to see him also add a commentary on Revelation. This would give us one of our most brilliant theologians commenting on the most difficult book of the Bible. What a gift! (And yes, I am aware that Carson is slated to write the PNTC volume on Revelation.)

Iain Murray on the Young, Restless, Reformed. It was a few years ago now that Collin Hansen wrote his book Young, Restless, Reformed, and a lot has transpired since then. While it is probably still too soon, I would eventually like to read a full history of the movement—where it came from, what it has accomplished, and what weaknesses were inevitably exposed over time. I suspect Iain Murray is close enough to the movement to understand it, but distant enough to be able to bring objectivity.

The final book by John MacArthur and the final book by R.C. Sproul. This one may not be realistic, but I would love to read a book written by each of these authors that was intended as his final book. This would be a book each of them intends as his last word to the church, the last word at the end of a long and faithful ministry. Here is where they would offer their final challenge to the church as their public ministry comes to an end. I think both books would be utterly fascinating and deeply challenging.

There are many other books I would love to read, but this list represents at least a good start.

April 17, 2015

45 years after Apollo 13 - What actually went wrong and why? You’ve probably seen the film, but not surprisingly, the reality is a little bit more complicated. 

Preaching the Ten Commandments - Ray Ortlund shows how each of the Ten Commandments does 4 things.

Who Can You “One Another” Today? - How are you living out the Bible’s “one anothers?”

5 Ways the Gospel Transforms Your Work - Here’s a summary of what Tim Keller teaches about the gospel and work.

This. Is. The. Day. - “It will do me no good to wish for another day. A different day. The day that someone else is having. This is the day that I’ve been given.”

Hiring Well - Here are some traits of those leaders who hire well.

The worst sort of clever men are those who know better than the Bible. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon