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Tim Challies

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September 2012

September 30, 2012

Government is one of the facts of life in this world. All of human history has shown that we need to be governed. Not surprisingly, the Bible speaks to government. Here are five things the Bible teaches us.

Every government is put in place by God.

Jesus answered [Pilate], “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:11)

There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1b)

God uses even sinful governments to do his will.

Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. (Jeremiah 25:8-9)

Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you [God] anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28)

We ought to pray for those who govern us.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

We should honor and submit to those who govern us.

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. (Mark 12:17)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4)

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

All human governments will eventually end and Jesus will reign over everyone forever.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. … From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11, 15-16)

September 29, 2012

The One True God - Paul Washer’s book The One True God is available in the Kindle edition for $2.99. “The One True God is a unique kind of workbook, intending not just to teach truth but to lead to an encounter with the living God. Beneath that goal the book aims to ground believers in orthodox Christian theology and the actual contents of the Bible. Students are encouraged to thoughtfully draw conclusions from the Scriptures rather than to merely absorb the principles, inferences, and illustrations set before them by the author.”

You, Your Family and the Internet - Also, the Kindle edition of You, Your Family and the Internet is free on Kindle this weekend only. Here’s a blurb I wrote when it was released: “Much has been written about living as Christians in this digital world; much more will be written in the days and years to come. The unique strength of David Clark’s contribution is in his application of key biblical principles that will guide our use of these technologies and inform our dedication to them.”

American Men Don’t Sing - “Alistair Begg recently spoke at Western Seminary. And just before he got into his sermon, he went on a fascinating little digression about the fact that American men don’t sing during worship. It’s not just that we can’t sing, but that we don’t.” 

Responding to “Fetal Flaw” - “Bob Horning is not just the father of Krista Horning and a member at Bethlehem Baptist Church, he also holds a Ph.D. in physics and works as a scientist for Honeywell in Minnesota.  I asked him to take a look at an article in Slate.com, which argued that new technologies are a problem for those of us who hold to the view of unborn life being precious.”

The Peril That Lurks in Success - “We are never more vulnerable to sin than when we are successful, admired by others, and prosperous.” King David discovered this and Jon Bloom offers his take on how David might have thought about it a year later.

What Pastors Won’t Hear - Mike offers a list of things pastor aren’t going to hear in heaven. Example: “I wish you’d have done funnier skits in our worship service.”

Very Little Stars - Go full-screen and HD with this one if you can.

The Christian who has stopped repenting has stopped growing. —A.W. Pink

September 28, 2012

Modesty is a legitimate virtue whether you are a Christian or not, but for modesty to be distinctly Christian, it must be rooted in the gospel of grace. Whenever I was asked about this topic and whenever I read about it, I found plenty of law but very little gospel. R.W. Glenn found the same thing, so we set out to write a short book that would grow out from the gospel and that would address both men and women and that would look beyond modest dress to modest behavior. That book is titled Modest. Here, from the book’s opening chapter, is how we explained what we wanted to accomplish and what we wanted to guard against:

When it comes to modesty we define the term too narrowly (our first mistake) and then surround ourselves with rules like “only this low,” “at least this long,” “never in this combination,” and “never so tight that _______ shows.” In fairly short order, the gospel is replaced with regulations. Indeed, in this particular area, the regulations become our gospel—a gospel of bondage rather than freedom.

The truth we are missing in all this mess is that the gospel of grace informs and gives shape to what it means to be modest.

Modesty without the gospel is prudishness. Modesty divorced from the gospel becomes the supposed benchmark of Christian maturity—perhaps especially for women—and a perch of self-righteous superiority from which to look down on others who “just don’t get it.” You may find yourself exclaiming disbelief about someone else’s wardrobe: “Can’t she see what she is (not) wearing?”

Modesty, apart from the gospel, becomes a self-made religion that can give some appearance of being the genuine article but that is in the end of no value (none!) in our battle with the sinful and inordinate desires of our hearts. If we reduce modesty to certain rules of dress, we are completely separating the concept of modesty from the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a result, we may have the appearance of godliness, but not a whole lot more.

September 28, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Friday comes to you courtesy of CBD Reformed. As they always do, they are giving away five prize packages, each of which will contain three great books. Five winners will each receive:

  • Center ChurchCenter Church by Timothy Keller - Retail price $29.99
  • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson - Retail Price $16.99
  • The Spirit of Revival by R.C. Sproul & Archie Parrish – Retail Price $17.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (September 28 - October 1) on the following three products:

(Note: These three deals are available to everyone, not just those who win the prizes)

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. 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.

September 28, 2012

Unintended Consequences - From a veteran youth minister (via White Horse Inn): “We look at our youth group now and we feel good. But the youth group of today is the church of tomorrow, and study after study suggests that what we are building for the future is … empty churches.”

Desiring God Livestream - The Desiring God National Conference kicks off this evening. You can catch the whole thing live online beginning tonight at 8:30 PM Eastern Time.

The Common Mark of Imperfection - “Our response to disability is often one of discomfort. People don’t know how to respond, speak, or act around someone with a disability. There are glaring physical or cognitive imperfections that become our focus. Various reasons explain our responses, but having an accurate biblical perspective on disability is foundational to a proper understanding of the ultimate, imperfect similarity we share.”

With Age Comes … Beauty? - Here’s a sweet reflection on aging: “I don’t believe I can train young women well unless I am content with being an ‘older woman’ and accept the privileges and responsibilities of this stage in my life. If I’m to teach self-control, purity, how to work at home, kindess and submission, they should be well-honed qualities in me.”

Why It’s $17.99 - A glimpse into ebook economics: “Why is the ebook edition of J.K. Rowling’s new novel, The Casual Vacancy, $17.99? Thank the fact that publisher Hachette is in a sweet spot between the ebook settlement’s approval and the time that it actually takes effect at non-Apple retailers.”

Encouragement for Those Who Struggle - “Vaughan Roberts is well known in British Evangelical circles for his strengths as one of the most gifted and faithful writers, preachers and church leaders in the land. In a recent interview with Julian Hardyman Vaughan talks about how he has sought to live a godly life while struggling with same-sex attraction, and why he has decided to share his struggles more widely.”

If you would make your last words worth the hearing, let your whole life be worth the seeing. —C.H. Spurgeon

September 27, 2012

Preach the gospel to yourself! Preach the gospel to yourself every day! I think we are all growing accustomed to being told that Christians need to center their lives upon the gospel and that one of the keys to doing this is to be continually reminded of what is true by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. I’ve been hearing this for years now and to varying degrees have been practicing it. However, just last week I had a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking about it. (Though this is a breakthrough for me, it is may well be one of those things you have understood for years.)

I have always understood that when I have sinned there is value in preaching the gospel to myself. When I sin I am prone to wallow in feelings of guilt and despair, as if negative feelings are in some way redemptive or as if they accomplish something. How could I fall into this sin again? Would a real Christian ever do something like this? In those moments I can summon the truth of the gospel to reassure myself that because of what Christ has done I am not condemned and cannot be condemned. In those moments I simply recount the gospel—that I am a sinner, that Christ died to take away the guilt of my sin and to give me his righteousness, that Christ has defeated sin and death, that I am a new creation, that my sin is no longer counted against me. There is freedom in apprehending and applying the gospel as a response to my sin.

What I haven’t understood to the same degree is the value of preemptively preaching the gospel to myself. I have heard many people say that there is value in preaching the gospel to myself every day, whether or not I find myself carrying the guilt and shame of sin. I’ve always thought of preaching the gospel to myself as a reactive thing, but Jerry Bridges has helped me to see it as proactive. Here’s why: The gospel does not merely correct bad thinking in the past and present, but also prevents bad thinking in the future. The gospel does not just speak to forgiveness of sins, but convicts me of the value of avoiding sin and reminds me that I now have the power to overcome it.

As I’ve read The Discipline of Grace Bridges has called me to see that I can only love God if I believe that God loves me first. “We cannot love God if we think we are under His judgment and condemnation.” Of course this is why I must be continually preaching the gospel to myself. I cannot truly and freely love God as long as I remain unconvinced of his love for me. For me to love him, I must believe that I am uncondemned and that I relate to him by grace instead of by law. “The extent to which we realize and acknowledge our own sinfulness, and the extent to which we realize the total forgiveness and cleansing from those sins, will determine the measure of our love to God.”

September 27, 2012

The Psychology of Resentment - Dane Ortlund looks at the psychology of resentment: “Here is what happens: instead of doing something externally to harm them you do something internally to harm them. You harbor bitterness. This is the psychology of resentment. You exercise emotional punishment toward them internally when actual punishment can’t be exercised externally. You set up a law-court in your heart since an actual law-court is unfeasible.”

The Blessing of Being Unpopular - Jesse has a good reflection on the disguised blessing of being unpopular saying, “We’re hardwired to crave feedback. We’re always looking to improve, to refine, to gauge our words and actions against the response of other human beings.”

The Most Zoomed - Here is the most zoomed-in photo in human history. “Scientists combined 10-years-worth of Hubble Space Telescope photos to create this resulting image that shows 5,500 individual galaxies, some of which are one ten-billionth the brightness of what our human eyes can see.”

Pastoral Failure - Thabiti on researching the moral failures of several prominent church pastors: “It was enlightening to observe some common dynamics and failures in the scandals. In most cases, men who should have been disqualified were back in their pulpits or establishing new ministries within months. In most cases, churches were seriously injured by the transgressions and hurt further by the inadequate efforts at redress. In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit.”

Remus Lupin, Werewolf - With a new J.K. Rowling novel released today, James Hamilton (associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes about his love of the Harry Potter series.

The Mind Reader - You can’t watch this and miss the point (Note: One of the people blurts “Oh my God” at the end).

Where Christ is truly preached, there is the gospel; and where the gospel is truly believed, there is the church. —Mark E. Ross

September 26, 2012

Conference
Over the past few years I have had opportunity to attend a lot of Christian conferences, sometimes to sit and learn but more commonly in a kind of official capacity as a speaker or reporter. From either perspective I enjoy them most of the time. I will grant that without some vigilance we can overdo it and allow conferences to feed a kind of celebrityism, but I am convinced that they have their time and place and can be genuinely beneficial to the Christian.

One thing conferences do well, and one thing I love about them, is their unique atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Most people attend a conference expecting that they will be blessed by the teaching they receive there. Enthusiasm runs high and is contagious so that people listen attentively, work diligently to make personal application and go out of their way to express gratitude to the speakers. For the attendee, the reward is directly related to the expectation—they expect much from the conference and therefore they work hard to get much from it. It’s not that the messages or sermons there are so different or so much better than what they might hear in their local church; rather, there is an atmosphere that lends itself to listening and applying.

I’m grateful for this kind of expectation, especially when I am speaking. It many ways it makes my task easier and more immediately fulfilling. However, I also find myself a little bit concerned about it and here’s why: The excitement and the anticipation that marks a conference is often noticeably absent in the local church. A sermon preached at a conference can have a greater impact on a person than the very same sermon preached the next Sunday morning in the context of a church service. Why? Because the person attending the conference has prepared himself to receive that message. He believes he will be blessed, he applies himself, and not surprisingly, he finds in the end that he has been blessed.

I will grant that conferences have some notable practical advantages over church services: Parents can sit and listen without having to stop the children from squabbling and without having to take them for bathroom breaks. Neither do they have to be concerned about rushing home to prepare lunch for guests or about staying late to put away chairs. I get all of that. But I’m convinced that the primary distinguishing mark is the preparation and the anticipation.

Sometimes we talk about conferences as if they are intrinsically wrong or as if we should enjoy them less. I disagree. Let’s continue to support and enjoy conferences and continue to believe and anticipate that the Lord can use them in our lives as a, occasional, supplemental kind of blessing. But as we affirm the value of conferences, let’s also learn from them that there is value in elevating the preparations we make for worshipping in the local church, and elevating the anticipation we feel for Sunday morning’s sermon. Let’s learn from conferences that we can and should take that excitement and anticipation and bring it to church with us every Sunday.