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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

April 2011

April 26, 2011

Tempted and TriedWe should not be surprised that we are tempted and tried. After all, if temptation existed in a perfect world, in a sinless world, how much more will it exist in a world that is full of sin. Even the best of us, or perhaps especially the best of us are far from immune. After all, Christ himself was tempted by the devil. These temptations form the structure within Russell Moore’s new book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ.

Let me say from the outset that it took this book to show me what a talented writer Russell Moore is. I have read Adopted for Life and have followed his blog for several years. Yet I found myself surprised by just what a sharp, witty, insightful writer he is. And I mean that. I read and even enjoy quite a lot of books written by average or good writers. It was a genuine pleasure to read a book written by so talented an author.

What Moore seeks to do in this book is demonstrate how the ways in which Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness reveal strategies he will use to tempt all of us. He applies these lessons to contemporary situations, showing that Satan’s designs have not changed much and, in fact, have not had to change much. He and his minions have made a long and thorough study of human nature and are well-versed in our weaknesses. And so they continue to attack through temptation.

April 26, 2011

Quote Mania - Mark Lauterbach reflects on our love of quotes (and I admit that I’m at fault here). “Cit­ing favorite quo­ta­tions has become epi­demic among blog­gers and face­book­ers and tweet­ers.  Per­haps it is the media that deter­mines the size of the mes­sage, but I have some concerns.”

What Jesus Did for You? - Jay Younts asks a valuable question in this blog article: Do your children know what Jesus did for you?

Chernobyl 25 Year Later - “On April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power facility in what is now Ukraine exploded. The largest civil nuclear disaster in history led to mass evacuations, and long-term health, agricultural, and economic distress.” Boston.com has a photo essay.

Rabboni - Carolyn McCulley reflects on the faith of Mary Magdalene. “Mary Magdalene must have been a brave woman to not only have witnessed the pain of Jesus’ crucifixion, but also to have endured both an earthquake (as recorded in Matthew 28:2) and angelic visitation at His grave (as reported by all four gospels). She was also a bold woman, as she did not shrink back from her sovereignly-appointed assignment to be the first witness to the resurrection of her Lord and Savior — even in a culture that considered the testimony of women to be worthless.”

The Water and the Blood - Sojourn’s new album The Water and the Blood releases today. They’ve got all the details at the link.

Lock Your WiFi - Because you don’t want this to happen. “Lying on his family room floor with assault weapons trained on him, shouts of ‘pedophile!’ and ‘pornographer!’ stinging like his fresh cuts and bruises, the Buffalo homeowner didn’t need long to figure out the reason for the early morning wake-up call from a swarm of federal agents.”

Christ Alone - Mike Wittmer has released the first book to critique Love Wins. I received an advance copy a couple of weeks ago and didn’t have opportunity to do much more than skim it. But even a skim showed that it is a good first response.

Every time the gospel is preached it is as if God himself came in person solemnly to summon us. —John Calvin

April 25, 2011

I continue to read Russell Moore’s book Tempted and Tried. And it continues to give me a lot to think about (which may be a bit of an understatement). I really found this section worth pondering—a section that speaks of the allure and satanic triumph of pornography.

In our time pornography has become the destroying angel of male Eros. I don’t mean to suggest that pornography is only a male temptation (it is not), but pornography, because of the way a man has been designed toward arousal is, when available, a universal male temptation. It has come to the point now that whenever I meet with a couple in which there is a man who is an emotional shell of himself—dead to intimacy with his wife—and a marriage is fraying apart, I ask how long the pornography has been going on. In every case it’s there.

There is a kind of helplessness that a man engaged in pornography exhibits. He often speaks of it in terms of a “struggle” or an “addiction.” Now both of those terms are accurate, I believe, but they distance a person from his sin in a soul-decaying manner. Pornography is not just an addiction; it is occultism. The man who sits upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs the kids to soccer practice is not some unusual “pervert”; he is (like his forefather Adam) seeking the mystery of the universe apart from Christ. That’s the reason the one picture, stored in his memory, of that naked woman will never be enough for him. He will never be able to be satisfied because he will never be able to get an image naked enough.

I say pornography is occultism because I believe the draw toward it is more than biological (though that is strong). The satanic powers understand the “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). They understand that the pornographic act severs a one-flesh marriage union at the very point of intimate connectedness and instead joins Christ, spiritually, to an electronic prostitute (1 Cor. 6:16). They also know that those who unrepentantly practice such things “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Pornography is, in one sense, no different from any other form of sexual temptation. But in another sense it is even more insidious. Pornography brings with it a kind of pseudo-repentance. Immediately after it is “over,” the participant feels a kind of revulsion and self-loathing. Whereas an adulterer or a fornicator can at least rationalize a kind of transcendent “love” behind his sin, even a conscience thoroughly seared over rarely wants to write love songs or poetry in celebration of his pornographic self-satisfaction.

Typically—at least in those who have some sort of Christian or moral identity—the pornographic act is followed by a resolve never to do it again, to leave it behind and find some sort of accountability. But what masquerades as a repentant conscience is in most cases little more than a sated appetite. When the appetite is “hungry” once again, the demonic powers will collaborate with the biological impulses to find a way to make it seem irresistible again. As the cycle of temptation grinds on, the illusion of repentance keeps the sin in hiding, so that actual repentance never happens until, as with Esau, the conscience is so seared that repentance is then impossible (Heb. 6:4-6, 12:16-17).

And this is, of course, exactly where the powers want any child of Adam—and especially any professing brother or sister of the Lord Jesus.

I suppose this quote has been long enough. Moore goes on to show how this temptation aligns with one of Jesus’ temptations in the desert. And from there he speaks about romance novels, perhaps the closest female equivalent to the allure of pornography. But to read about that, you’ll need to buy the book (Amazon | Westminster).

April 25, 2011

C.J. Mahaney tells a story about a man that I think we can all identify with—a man who went out into the world with a cringe-worthy problem. I am quite sure the story is not an original Mahaney (I do not have his book in front of me at the moment so cannot check for a citation). Nevertheless, here is how it goes:

As I sat with my family at a local breakfast establishment, I noticed a finely dressed man at an adjacent table. His Armani suit and stiffly pressed shirt coordinated perfectly with a power tie.  His wing-tip shoes sparkled from a recent shine, every hair was in place, including his perfectly groomed moustache.

The man sat alone eating a bagel as he prrepared for a meeting.  As he reviewed the papers before him, he appeared nervous, glancing frequently at his Rolex watch.  It was obvious he had an important meeting ahead.

The man stood up and I watched as he straightened his tie and prepared to leave.

Immediately I noticed a blob of cream cheese attached to his finely groomed moustache.  He was about to go into the world, dressed in his finest, with cream cheese on his face.

I thought of the business meeting he was about to attend. Who would tell him? Should I? What if no one did?

You may not have an Armani suit and a finely groomed moustache, but something like this has happened to each of us at one time or another. Maybe you left the bathroom with a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe or maybe you went to church without noticing that your baby had spit up down your back. We’ve all done it. We’ve all gone out into the world completely oblivious to something that is utterly obvious to everyone else.

Mahaney uses this illustration to go far beyond fashion. He uses it to speak of the importance of having people who will keep watch on our lives and who will tell us about those sins or character flaws that are hidden to us and so obvious to everyone else. “As you and I walk through life, no matter how closely we watch ourselves, we are acquiring fresh blobs of cream cheese on our faces. We all have ‘cream cheese’ moments.” Do you have someone in your life who will point out the cream cheese smeared on your face?

Over the past couple of weeks Carl Trueman has been writing a series of blog posts about the big Christian conferences—American Christian conferences. The reaction has been interesting to see. While I wouldn’t say the reaction has been one of outrage, it certainly does not seem that American Christians are eager to hear Trueman’s critiques. His posts have been rather informal, most of them speaking to a particular kind of reaction or feedback. Here they are if you’d like to give them a read:

April 25, 2011

On Friday we enjoyed a Good Friday service with 1,000 people from 5 Toronto-area churches. On Saturday I got my city-slicker family out into the countryside to visit some old, dear friends. While there my kids fired off rockets, drove ATVs and did some target practice with rifles (well, only my son did the latter). Then we drove back to the city to celebrate Easter. What a great weekend!

6 Things Christ Accomplished in His Death - Matt Perman outlines 6 things Christ accomplished in his death.

Bird’s Eye - This site offers a bit of visual eye candy in a post sharing photos of the earth taken from a bird’s eye view.

Bull About Bullying - I love Thomas Sowell’s writing. “When politicians want to do nothing and yet look like they are doing something, they appoint a blue-ribbon committee or go to the U.N. or assign some cabinet member to look into the problem and report back to the president — hoping that the issue will be forgotten by the time he reports back.”

PC vs Mac - Here’s an infographic outlining some of the differences between Mac and PC users.

Popular History - “Popular history books are big business. Which means that lots of people must be reading them… Which means they are definitely worth approaching with considerably more care and attention than many give them…” Here is a list of questions to ask of popular history books.

Perverse Sign of Recovery - Josh Harris mentions one of the more perverse and disappointing signs of economic recovery.

Death In His Grave - I’ve posted this once before, but it’s worth doing again around Easter.

Knowing God is your single greatest privilege as a Christian. —Sinclair Ferguson

April 24, 2011

I had something queued up to post this afternoon. But then I read some blogs and found “A Prayer of Great Joy for Easter Sunday” by Scotty Smith. I took the liberty of copying and pasting it. It is a prayer of celebration, on this, the day we remember and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
 
Most exalted and loving Jesus, I offer a three-fold “Indeed!” and a three-fold “Hallelujah!” early this morning. You have been raised from the dead! Preaching the gospel is not useless, it’s essential. Faith in you is not futile, but fertile. We’re no longer encased in our sins, we’re fully wrapped in your righteousness. Those who have “gone to sleep” in you are not slumbering in the void, they are celebrating your glory. We have hope in this life and for the life to come!

Because you are alive, we are less to be pitied than anybody and more to be grateful than everybody. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). Because you have been raised from the dead, everything changes, Jesus. You are the firstfruits and guarantee of a whole new order—the “new creation” dominion of redemption and restoration. The decay in our earthly bodies will give way to the delights of our resurrection bodies.

The kingdom of this world has become, and will be fully manifest, as the kingdom of our God and of his Christ, you! (Rev. 11:15) You are already reigning, and you will reign forever and ever. All evil dominions, wicked authorities and malevolent powers have already been defeated by your cross and, one Day they will be completely eradicated at your return.

Jesus, your death is the death of death, and your resurrection is the resurrection of all things. O the wonder, the glory, the grace of it all! By your compelling love, free us from the emptiness of living for ourselves. Bring your resurrection power to bear in our homes, churches and communities. Capture our children early and re-capture our hearts when they drift. May the rest of our days be spent for your glory and financed by your gospel. (2 Cor. 5:14-15). So very Amen, we pray, shout and dance, in your most glorious and worthy name!

April 23, 2011

I have been reading Russell Moore’s new book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ and came across a quote—a question—that had the rough spiritual effect of cracking me over the head with a 2 x 4. As you no doubt gleaned from the title, this is a book about temptation, the forms it may take in our life, and Christ’s triumph over it.

In the second chapter Moore writes about demonic powers and says that as far as temptation goes, you are being watched—you are always being watched. The spiritual powers out there have long experience observing humans and are very proficient at customizing a temptation plan that perfectly fits the way your desires work—your particular desires. You will be tempted in a different way than I will; I will be tempted in a different way than my wife will; She will be tempted in a different way than Jesus was.

So how do we know how we are being tempted? Here is one good way:

Imagine you could do anything, you could make it happen exactly as you wish, and could then go back and reverse time so that it had never happened—no consequences for your life, your work, your family, or Judgment Day. What would it be? Whatever comes to mind might be a pretty good insight into where it is your desires are being farmed.

And that is worth thinking about today (and every day). What would you do if you knew it could be entirely consequence-free? What sin would you commit? This may be where Satan and his host are trying to draw you even now.

April 22, 2011

Resisting Consumeristic Temptations: How’s that for a snooty title for an article? But the article itself is not so snooty. I’ve been reading John Temple’s little book Family Money Matters and found a handy list of ways to resist the temptations of living in our high-pressure world of advertising and consumerism. It seemed worth sharing. Here is what he suggests.

  • Do not read the glossy “good-life” magazines. These are filled with temptations to buy or consume what may not be remotely necessary. I have stopped even opening the airline magazines, which depict a way of life which is presented as normal but is not even close.
  • Do not watch the “lifestyle” TV programs that extol glamorous or extravagant living.
  • Hit the mute button when the commercials appear on TV and try to ignore what they are showing.
  • Avoid impulse buying. When you go shopping, draw up a list of what you need to buy and wear blinders for everything else. Never buy anything from the displays at the checkouts.
  • Don’t buy anything that is a bargain if you do not need it. It is no bargain if you can do without it.
  • Politely decline any salesperson who comes to your door. He or she is almost always selling something that you do not need.
  • Do not be tempted to have the latest in anything. This includes fashions, electronic gadgets, computers and cars. The list is endless. Keep your old one until it makes economic sense to replace it. I still wear suits that are twenty years old. They have been in and out of fashion a few times, so I am not always out of date! While ladies may be more tempted in the clothing arena, men will be subject to more pressure with gadgets and cars. Watch yourself.
  • Do not spend ostentatiously. I recall a pastor’s wife noting that many people who have money often live frugal lives and shop carefully, whereas some people tend to spend freely even if they should be more careful. The writer of Proverbs knew this long ago! “One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (Prov. 13:7).

Temple also offers up this challenge (or rebuke): “Women tend to control daily needs such as food and children’s clothing. I have noticed that they are generally very good at saving on these items. However, I have also noticed that men are very good at spending all their wives’ hard-fought savings! An entire year’s discounts, grocery coupons and special offers go on a single new digital camera, mobile phone, TV set or computer. Men ought to be examples to their families, leading in frugality and not succumbing to the temptations of the materialistic market.”