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March 10, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day ten:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Sin enslaves. It promises joy and life but delivers only deeper and deeper levels of captivity. Freedom from sin and its ugly consequences seems like nothing more than a mirage or an empty promise when, time and time again, you present yourself to sin as its obedient slave. You hear yourself saying things like, “I just can’t help it” or “I tried but couldn’t do it.” The enemy will do everything in his power to convince you that you are enslaved to sin. He will do all he can to make you believe you are powerless to conquer it.

There is just a grain of truth in what our Accuser says: In your own strength you are, indeed, powerless. But if you are in Christ you have been set free from sin’s enslavement. You no longer have to live in your own strength—you can now live in the strength of another. The power of sin has been broken in your life. The Son has set you free from your slavery. And now he invites and commands you to live in the joy of that freedom. Be free!

Father, thank you for setting me free in Christ. I confess that far too many times I have presented myself as an obedient slave to sin. I have failed to take hold of the freedom Christ has won for me; I have crawled back into my prison cell and back into my chains. Yet I know and believe that sin is no longer my master. Convince my heart that I belong to you and that sin no longer owns me. Help me to live in the freedom that Christ has purchased for me.


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

The False Teachers
March 09, 2014

A few weeks ago I set out on a new series of articles through which I intend to scan the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Along the way we will visit such figures as Arius, Servetus, Fosdick, and even a few you might find on television today. We continue this morning with a false teacher who has at least 15 million followers in the world today, many of whom have undoubtedly knocked on your front door. His name is Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith

Joseph SmithJoseph Smith was born on December 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. When he was a child his family moved to Palmyra in western New York where there was a lot of revivalism and religious fervor due to the Second Great Awakening. The wild enthusiasm and the many denominations present confused Smith and he was uncertain of what to believe and how to worship. As he writes in The Pearl of Great Price: “In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.”

In 1820, in this time of confusion, Smith read James 1:5 which instructs those who lack wisdom to request it from God. He immediately withdrew to a wooded area near his home to pray for wisdom and it was at this point that he recalls having a vision of a pillar of light coming down from heaven and God the Father and Jesus his Son standing above him in the air. Smith asked them which of the denominations or sects were right and which he should join. He was told that all of the denominations were evil and corrupt.

It was at the time of this experience that Smith became convinced he had been called as God’s prophet. On September 21, 1823, while praying in his room, he received an angelic visitation. This angel, named Moroni, told him that he had been chosen by God for a great work. He told Smith about a book written upon gold plates that had been buried alongside the Urim and the Thummin of the Old Testament. Smith immediately found this book, and, using the Urim and Thummin, translated it, and published it in 1830 as The Book of Mormon. This was the same year that he formally organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A commanding and gregarious figure, Smith began to amass followers. As the movement grew, it migrated west, in large part because their teaching was not welcome in most places and was often opposed with threats of violence. Smith moved first to Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Illinois. As the movement grew, it required more and more revelations, and Smith received them as need arose. These revelations continued until his death and were compiled into a book referred to as the Doctrine and Covenants.

There was strife within the Mormon church, and in the spring of 1844 it led to threats of violence between Smith and others in the town of Nauvoo, Illinois. The governor intervened and imprisoned Smith until he could stand trial. Before this could happen, though, an armed mob stormed the jailhouse where he was being kept, and Smith was shot and killed while trying to escape through a window.

False Teaching

The heart of Joseph Smith’s false teaching was that he put his own authority over the authority of Scripture. He added his own revelation to the Bible’s revelation and took it upon himself to identify and correct what he claimed were errors in Scripture.

31 Days of Purity
March 09, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day nine:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Friendship is a great gift from God. Spiritual friendship, a friendship shared in Christ, is an even greater gift. Proverbs assures us that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17). A brother is born for the times when we are going toe-to-toe with our sin, battling hard against it, committed to putting it to death. In such times we need friends to pray for us, to support us, to speak truth to us, to speak the gospel to us.

Sin thrives in darkness. When we find ourselves up to our neck in sin, our tendency is to run and hide, especially from friends. Our guilt makes us run from accountability and friendship. Don’t do that. See the godly friendships that God has given you as the gifts that they are. As you battle against sin and as you battle for sexual purity, invite a friend into your struggles. Invite him to pray with you and for you, invite him to ask you deep and difficult questions, invite him to travel with you on this journey. And when the 31 Days of Purity are over, that friendship will only be getting underway.

Father, I pray that I will pursue and value biblical accountability and genuine friendship. This life is too difficult and I am too sinful to do this on my own. So I pray that you would grant me that friend, that he and I would be like Jonathan and David, knit together, unashamed, each looking out for the other’s good. And I pray that I will be the kind of friend who loves at all times and the kind of friend who is there for my brother in times of adversity. Amen.


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity
March 08, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day eight:

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13, ESV)

There is a vast difference between drinking from a fountain of living water and drinking the stale murky waters of a broken cistern. No thirsty man in his right mind would turn down the cold, refreshing water from a flowing stream to drink from a muddy, filthy cistern. A broken cistern will never satisfy his thirst. He might take a small and tentative drink from that broken cistern if this is all that is available. But it is not. The man in Jeremiah 2:12-13 is rejecting living water in order to embrace lifeless cistern water.

This is the foolish choice that we make whenever we pursue satisfaction in the broken cistern of sexual impurity. If we are to find freedom from sin and live in purity, we must learn anew where we can find true satisfaction and true refreshment. The Lord must transform our foolish hearts so that instead of craving cistern water, we pursue deep and lasting satisfaction in Christ.

Father, I thank you that one day, “I shall behold your face in righteousness”. And I thank you that on that day “when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Psalm 17:15). I pray that while I wait for that day that I would grow in my satisfaction of Christ. Change my heart in such a way that I seek to find satisfaction in him. Renew my mind so that I see broken cisterns for what they are. Create in me a heart that pursues satisfaction in Christ. 


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

March 07, 2014

From a small home in a Los Angeles neighborhood, we now travel clear across the continent to Morningside Heights in New York’s Upper Manhattan. At the corner of 120th Street and Riverside Drive, looking out on the Hudson, is a massive stone building called Riverside Church. Built in the Neo-Gothic style, its spires reach 392 feet into the air, making it the tallest church in America. Riverside Church was the product of a collaboration between industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the controversial preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. In the twentieth century Fosdick emerged as a central figure in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy and one of the leading liberal preachers and theologians. Because liberalism was, and remains, such a powerful force in Christianity, Riverside Church stands as a symbol of its enduring influence. It is the next of the twenty-five objects through which we are tracing the history of Christianity.

FosdickHarry Emerson Fosdick was born in New York on May 24, 1878 and had a conversion experience at the age of 7. Even as a teenager he rejected Calvinism and fundamentalism, trusting instead in personal spiritual experience. In 1903 he was ordained a Baptist minister and subsequently served as both a pastor and a seminary professor (at Union Theological Seminary). In 1919 he settled in New York City and became associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, though he remained a Baptist by conviction. It was at this church, in 1922, that he preached his most famous sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”

In “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Fosdick defined and defended modernist theology, denying that the Bible was God’s literal Word, and stating it was actually a recording of the unfolding of God’s will. He held “belief in the virgin birth was unnecessary; the inerrancy of Scripture, untenable; and the doctrine of the Second Coming, absurd. Though he ended on a note of reconciliation, in the sermon he castigated fundamentalists as ‘bitterly intolerant’.”John D. Rockefeller Jr. enjoyed the sermon so much that he had 130,000 copies printed so one could be sent to every Protestant minister in America. The battle lines had been drawn, and the modernists were now identified as the foe of the fundamentalists and of orthodox Christianity.

Many Presbyterians were appalled by this sermon and called for Fosdick’s presbytery to dismiss him from First Presbyterian Church. Eventually Fosdick would resign. In May he became pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church, and then, soon after, moved to Riverside Church, which had been funded by Rockefeller Jr.. He would remain at Riverside for 16 years of ministry and 28 years of retirement. During that time millions of people from Boston to Chicago would hear his sermons on the radio program “National Vespers Hour.” He authored fifty books, preached thousands of sermons, and taught in a wide variety of seminaries. He was a pioneer in Christian counseling and sought to integrate the teachings of Freud and Jung into his counseling methodology. Twice he was even on the cover of TIME magazine (September 21, 1925 and October 6, 1930). His influence extended around the nation and around the globe.

The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy had begun within Presbyterianism but soon spread to other Protestant denominations, leading to today’s division between “mainline” and “evangelical” Protestant churches. It was precipitated by the new wealth of knowledge that modern science was uncovering. There were many in the church who were willing to accommodate the teachings of Scripture to the more “progressive” theories of the universe and of man that were gaining popularity in the society at large.

31 Days of Purity
March 07, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day seven:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)

We are at war. Our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil—are forever opposed to us. A constant battle rages inside us, outside us, and all around us. As men we’ve been created to be brave and bold, to stand firm and fearless in battle. All throughout the New Testament we are told to stand, to stand strong in this fight. And yet there is one area where we are commanded to flee: “Flee youthful passions.” We are to flee lust, to run fast and far from the desire and the opportunity to commit sexual sin. “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched” (Proverbs 6:27-28)? Of course not. Only a fool would even try.

Flee, my brother. Learn how and when to run and do not be ashamed to do so. Do not toy with sexual sin. Do not make light of sexual sin. Do not laugh or joke about the very sins Christ died for. Do not allow yourself even the smallest taste or the briefest glimpse of what God forbids. There is no shame in running, but you may well know the shame of falling.

Father, you tell me to flee sexual sin. You tell me that “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). Yet too often I have toyed with sexual sin, I have determined to allow myself just a glance or just a taste. And then, somehow, I have acted surprised when that small taste led to a complete fall and outright gluttony. I have no one to blame but myself, because I chose to disregard your Word. Teach me my own weakness and display to me your great strength. When I am tempted, let me flee to you and take refuge in you, in your promises, in your strength.


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity
March 06, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day six:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Every sin that you have ever committed has been put on record. Every sexual sin. Every lustful thought. Every shameful action. Every dark secret. Everything. And just one one of those God-belittling sins is sufficient to cast you into hell for eternity. This is your record of debt. What a sobering, terrifying thought!

Yet it is equally true that if you are among those whom God has “made alive together with Christ,” the record is no longer yours. That record of debt that stands against you is cancelled. You are no longer in debt. You will not endure even the smallest measure of the wrath of God against you, because Jesus already endured it all. He paid your debt in full. There is not one sin on your record of debt (past, present, or future!) that has not been paid by Jesus. Rest in that today. Rest in that every day.

Father, because you accepted Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf, I am forgiven. I ought to have a record of debt that would separate me from your goodness for all eternity. Yet, in Christ I am debt-free. Thank you for accepting his payment of my debt. Thank you that even while I was a helpless and hopeless sinner, Christ died for me. Thank you for not requiring that I clean myself up in order to obtain your forgiveness, because I know I could never make myself clean enough. But you can. Help me, Father, to rest in your forgiveness as I fight this sin. 

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

31 Days of Purity
March 05, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day five:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5)

It took God’s heavy hand of discipline for David to understand a simple truth: we need to confess our sin to God. We do not confess our sin so God will know what we have done—he already knows every deed, and even every thought and intention of the heart. We confess that sin for our own benefit, to acknowledge it before him and to seek his forgiveness. Though God assures us that at the moment of our salvation all of our sin is forgiven—past, present, future—still we need to confess our sin before the Lord as an acknowledgement that every sin is ultimately directed at him, that every sin stems from a lack of delight in what he promises, and that we have knowingly, willingly, damaged our fellowship with him.

Do you confess your sin before the Lord? A mumbled “Forgive me” once a week will not do. Confess your sin—even that shameful sexual sin—honestly, humbly and thoroughly. God knows it all, but he will hear your confession and, because of what Christ has done, it will be his joy to offer full forgiveness and reconciliation. Here is his promise to you: “If you confess your sins, I am faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Father, I am a sinner. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). And still, far too often, I seek pleasure in what you forbid. I allow myself to believe that your pleasures are inadequate and that something or someone holds out what I need or what I deserve. I confess my sin to you. I confess that my heart has desired what you say is evil; my mind has pondered what you say is sinful; my eyes have looked with lust instead of love. I confess my sin, I acknowledge it to you, and I joyfully receive your forgiveness.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity
March 04, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day four, and today we have a guest writer: Dr. Joel Beeke (whose preferred translation is the KJV) who, with his love of Puritan writers, is particularly well-equipped to write on putting sin to death.

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. -Romans 8:13

Every Christian finds himself living out two realities: what he is in Christ, and what he is at present, wherever he happens to be in his earthly pilgrimage. The one reality is the fact of his justification “by faith alone in Christ alone” from the guilt of all sin and his personal union with Christ crucified, risen again, and received up into glory. The other reality is the Christian’s degree of personal sanctification. Unlike justification, sanctification is never complete in this life. A substantial first step is the regeneration of the heart that marks the beginning of all true Christian life. But the way forward is rife with difficulties. We can go backward as well as forward in this way; and we all pass through seasons of stagnation and declension.

The Christian learns early on that sin still has a hold on him and remains in him, even “besetting” him, dogging his steps and burdening him with guilt and shame. Paul describes this remaining sin as “another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind” (Rom. 7:23). How does the believer respond to this “law of sin”?  We must mortify (put to death) what Paul calls “the old man and his deeds,” and “the lusts of the flesh” (Rom. 8:13, 13:14; Col. 3:15). This mortification is both a gift (of the Holy Spirit) and a duty (ours). In our own strength we cannot accomplish any lasting mortification, without the Spirit’s grace. But by the powerful and enabling grace of the Holy Spirit, we may and must hate sin, strangle it, and put a sword through it. We must meditate often on the horrific consequences of sinning against our beloved, triune God and Savior. We must know our own hearts and weaknesses, and avoid those situations that tend to promote the temptations that we are weakest in battling against. We must cast off all remnants of the life we left behind when we began to follow Christ. We must put ourselves under the death-dealing power of the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14) so that the Spirit of Christ may put to death what is earthly in us.

The Spirit of Christ focuses us on Christ when teaching us how to mortify sin. Mortification begins when we condemn our sins as transgressions of the law of God. We confess these sins to be forgiven by God and cleansed by the blood of Christ. Then we forsake these sins for Christ’s sake. Paul tells us to fight against sin from a position of strength (Rom. 6; Eph. 6). Know what you are in Christ. In Christ we have died unto sin. In Christ we have been raised again to newness of life. In Christ crucified we have been set free from sin’s dominion and continue to die to sin, so that, as John Owen emphasizes, we experience the death of sin in the death of Christ. Sin may assail but cannot master us, so long as we stand firm in Christ, calling upon His name. In Christ we are assured of God’s help in striving against sin. Though we may fall and lose various skirmishes against sin, because of our union and communion with Christ we have by faith the promise of ultimate victory and final deliverance, which, more than anything else, gives us hope and sustenance in the daily fight against sin. The only sin fatal to our cause is unbelief. Unbelief alone can rob us of God’s grace and shut us out of His kingdom.

Ever blessed Triune God, in the light of Thy holy law, I confess my sorrow of heart that I have provoked Thee by my sins. By Thy Holy Spirit, deepen in me more and more the hatred of these sins, and the desire to flee from them, dying unto sin with Christ, and rising again in newness of life, to live unto Thee in righteousness and true holiness, for His sake. Believing Thy gospel promise, I ask Thee to forgive my sins and help me by Thy Holy Spirit to fight against and overcome sin, the devil, and his whole dominion, as a follower of Christ, and one who bears His name before the world.  Amen.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity
March 03, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day three:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10) 

We are all familiar with the ugly pattern of sin. You have just sinned again and you feel the weight of what you’ve done. You promise yourself you will never engage in that kind of sinful behavior again. You wake up in the morning with new resolve, but you just can’t shake the nagging feeling of guilt. But still, over time those feelings of shame and guilt begin to dwindle and fade, and as they do, so too does your resolve. Before you know it you have sinned again and the cycle starts anew. It is just like the Proverb says: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). Apart from the grace of godly sorrow this cycle will continue. It is only when we are granted a godly grief—a grief that hates sin more than its consequences—that we will pursue lasting change.

Father, only godly sorrow will do. I want godly sorrow for my sin, so help me to see my sin the way you do. Rescue me from a worldly and self-centered grief that only produces more death. Deliver me to a grief that cries with David, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). I trust that through the finished work of Christ you meet my repentance with grace and forgiveness. Lord, I plead with you to give me the painful grace of godly sorrow and repentance, today and every day. Amen.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men)

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

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