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Tim Challies

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Quotes

July 22, 2012

The Lord calls us to work hard to rest well. Scotty Smith recently shared a prayer on this very subject that looks to what he calls “a glorious paradox and beautiful irony.” He bases it on words from Hebrews 4 (which I’ve included at the end). Here is what he prays:

Heavenly Father, what a most glorious paradox and beautiful irony this portion of your Word presents. You’re calling us to work diligently, to invest great effort, to strive with all our might to rest from our works that we might enter the rest of your work. Work hard to rest well. Work hard to cease working.

Once again I’m confronted with how the gospel contradicts the fundamental way I’ve been trained to approach every sphere of life—athletics, education, finances, career, reputation. “Do it the good ole’ fashioned way—earn it.” “God helps those who help themselves.” “You’ll always get what’s coming to you.” “You can do anything you set your mind to do.” These mantras have been my motivation for much of life; but they also been my madness, because performance-based living never really brings rest, just more restlessness.

Father, because the gospel is true, fortunately, I didn’t get what’s coming to me. You gave that to Jesus at the cross. You put my sin on him. You punished him with the punishment I deserve. And in exchange, you’ve given me what I never could’ve earned: complete forgiveness, the righteousness of Jesus, and your permanent favor resting on me.

You don’t help those who help themselves. You help those who admit they can’t help themselves. Salvation is of the Lord! There’s no greater rest than to know you are at peace with me—to be certain that you are resting and rejoicing in great love over me.

Jesus, you created the world in six days and then entered a Sabbath rest. Likewise, when you died on the cross, securing our salvation and the restoration of creation, you cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Your work was over and you rested, and now we enter your rest. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah!

Our never-ending work is to hear and believe this gospel. “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29). What a most liberating vocation you have given us. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and gracious name.

Here is the text for the prayer:

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest. … So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:1-3, 9-11).

July 15, 2012

While John Newton will always be known as the man who wrote “Amazing Grace,” that is just one of hundreds of hymns he penned. Another beautiful and powerful hymn of comfort and assurance is “Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart.” I have it on good authority that it will be on the next album by Indelible Grace; it was also on one of Red Mountain Music’s albums (you can hear it below). Read these lyrics as a poem or read them as you listen to the song.

Pensive, doubting, fearful heart,
Hear what Christ the Savior says;
Every word should joy impart,
Change thy mourning into praise:
Yes, he speaks, and speaks to thee,
May he help thee to believe!
Then thou presently wilt see,
Thou hast little cause to grieve.

“Fear thou not, nor be ashamed,
All thy sorrows soon shall end
I who heav’n and earth have framed,
Am thy husband and thy friend
I the High and Holy One,
Israel’s GOD by all adored;
As thy Savior will be known,
Thy Redeemer and thy Lord.

For a moment I withdrew,
And thy heart was filled with pain;
But my mercies I’ll renew,
Thou shalt soon rejoice again:
Though I scorn to hide my face,
Very soon my wrath shall cease;
‘Tis but for a moment’s space,
Ending in eternal peace.

When my peaceful bow appears
Painted on the wat’ry cloud;
‘Tis to dissipate thy fears,
Lest the earth should be o’erflowed:
‘Tis an emblem too of grace,
Of my cov’nant love a sign;
Though the mountains leave their place,
Thou shalt be for ever mine.

Though afflicted, tempest‐tossed,
Comfortless awhile thou art,
Do not think thou canst be lost,
Thou art graven on my heart
All thy walls I will repair,
Thou shalt be rebuilt anew;
And in thee it shall appear,
What a God of love can do.

July 12, 2012

Here is something to ponder as you close your eyes at the end of this day and prepare to open them to a new day tomorrow. Consider the marvelous privilege that is yours for the taking tomorrow morning.

Think of it: The Lord Jesus Christ is willing to meet with you privately for as long as you want, and He is willing—even eager—to meet with you every day! Suppose you had been one of the thousands who followed Jesus around for much of the last three years of His earthly life. Can you imagine how excited you would have been if one of His disciples said, “The Master wants us to tell you that He is willing to get alone with you whenever you’re willing, and for as much time as you want to spend, and He’ll be expecting you most every day”? What a privilege! Who would have complained about this expectation? Well, that marvelous privilege and expectation is always yours.

Drawn from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.

July 08, 2012

There are a few hymns—just a few—that have been written to be sung as a petition to God immediately before the minister opens God’s Word. A favorite of mine is John Newton’s “Prayer for the Ministry of the Word.” It can be sung to any number of tunes including “Amazing Grace.” The best lines come right at the end. After asking that God would bless both the preacher and the hearers, the song concludes that if God is to do all this, “So shall the benefit be ours / And thou shalt have the praise.”

Thy promise, LORD, and thy command
Have brought us here today;
And now, we humbly waiting stand
To hear what thou wilt say.

Meet us, we pray, with words of peace,
And fill our hearts with love;
That from our follies we may cease,
And henceforth faithful prove.

Now, LORD, inspire the preacher’s heart,
And teach his tongue to speak;
Food to the hungry soul impart,
And comfort to the weak.

Furnish us all with light and power
To walk in Wisdom’s ways;
So shall the benefit be ours,
And thou shalt have the praise.

July 01, 2012

Alex Montoya’s Preaching With Passion is a defense of preaching and a practical how-to. One of Montoya’s concerns is that the preacher preach with authority. Here is a short quote in which he writes about the importance of serving as an ambassador of the Lord.

Listen to what Lloyd-Jones says, and dare never to be wishy-washy again:

The preacher should never be apologetic, he should never give the impression that he is speaking by their leave as it were; he should not be tentatively putting forward certain suggestions and ideas. That is not to be his attitude at all. He is a man, who is there to “declare” certain things; he is a man under commission and under authority. He is an ambassador, and he should be aware of his authority. He should always know that he comes to the congregation as a sent messenger.

Hence, as an ambassador,

  • preach the Word of God authoritatively, and use the expression “Thus saith the Lord”;
  • preach to represent your Lord authentically (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-4);
  • preach in the second person; do not be afraid to say, “you!”;
  • preach to apply the text; a prophet speaks to his generation (cf. Luke 3:10-14);
  • preach for a personal and visible response; refuse to let people “hesitate between two opinions” (cf. 1 Kings 18:21);
  • preach to be clearly understood and not to please the audience; and
  • preach fearlessly and flawlessly; don’t let the messenger influence the message negatively (cf. 1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Cor. 13:10).

June 24, 2012

I caught this over at the Desiring God blog, and it was too good not to share. This is D.A. Carson’s summary of the Bible in 221 words. It has been excerpted from For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future.

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

June 23, 2012

In The Big Fight, a new book from The Christian Book Company (edited by Richard Perkins and Tim Thornborough), Richard Coekin has a helpful section on guilt. Writing specifically to men, he highlights four different kinds of guilt men (or women) may experience.

1. Many men don’t feel guilty before God when they should!

The Psalmist observed:

An announcement is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. (Psalm 36: 1-2)

Many men don’t seek the Saviour because they don’t fear God as they should because they don’t feel guilty enough about their sin.

2. Many religious men feel guilty before God about things that aren’t wrong!

The Apostle Paul also warns us about false teachers who:

forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving. (1 Timothy 4: 3)

Many men are taught by human religions to feel guilty about thoroughly good things like getting married or eating certain food or other blessings from God eg: the food laws of Judaism, the fasting laws of Islam or the vows of Roman Catholic monks.

3. Many men rightly feel guilty before God when His Spirit is convicting them of their need for the Saviour!

Jesus said:

When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment… (John 16: 8)

This means that Jesus’ Holy Spirit continues to convict us through the Scriptures of our guilt under God’s law, to show us our need of Him. This is our experience when we’re becoming Christians and throughout our lives as Christians. Our awareness of guilt is an encouraging sign of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives. But His ministry doesn’t end with guilt.

4. Christian men shouldn’t keep feeling guilty because we are cleansed from our guilt by Jesus’ blood!

The letter to the Hebrews says:

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. (Hebrews 10: 22)

He’s been explaining that, like a high priest entering God’s presence with the blood of a sacrifice for the sins of his people, Jesus has permanently entered God’s presence in heaven as our High Priest with the sacrifice of His own blood shed for our sins on the cross. This means that the way is now open for us to live for ever in the presence of God without guilt, if we are “sprinkled” with Jesus’ blood through trusting in His death for our sins.

June 20, 2012

It has been a couple of months since I’ve had the privilege of preaching, and I am looking forward to stepping into the pulpit again a couple of weeks from now. It is always a joy and always a weighty responsibility. In reading Kent Hughes’ commentary on Isaiah I was challenged by his “Word to Those Who Preach the Word”—his preface to the Preach the Word commentary series for which he serves as general editor. It’s a powerful meditation on the pleasure of God in preaching.

There are times when I am preaching that I have especially sensed the pleasure of God. I usually become aware of it through the unnatural silence. The ever-present coughing ceases and the pews stop creaking, bringing an almost physical quiet to the sanctuary—through which my words sail like arrows. I experience a heightened eloquence, so that the cadence and volume of my voice intensify the truth I am preaching.

There is nothing quite like it—the Holy Spirit filling one’s sails, the sense of his pleasure, and the awareness that something is happening among one’s hearers. This experience is, of course, not unique, for thousands of preachers have similar experiences, even greater ones.

What has happened when this takes place? How do we account for this sense of his smile? The answer for me has come from the ancient rhetorical categories of logos, ethos and pathos.

The first reason for his smile is the logos—in terms of preaching, God’s Word. This means that as we stand before God’s people to proclaim his Word, we have done our homework. We have exegeted the passage, mined the significance of its words in their context, and applied sound hermeneutical principles in interpreting the text so that we understand what its words meant to its hearers. And it means that we have labored long until we can express in a sentence what the theme of the text is—so that our outline springs from the text. Then our preparation will be such that as we preach, we will not be preaching our own thoughts about God’s Word, but God’s actual Word, his logos. This is fundamental to pleasing him in preaching.

The second element in knowing God’s smile in preaching is ethos—what you are as a person. There is a danger endemic to preaching, which is having your hands and heart cauterized by holy things. Phillips Brooks illustrated it by the analogy of a train conductor who comes to believe that he has been to the places he announces because of his long and loud heralding of them. And that is why Brooks insisted that preaching must be “the bringing of truth through personality.” Though we can never perfectly embody the truth we preach, we must be subject to it, long for it, and make it as much a part of our ethos as possible. As the Puritan William Ames said, “Next to the Scriptures, nothing makes a sermon more to pierce, than when it comes out of the inward affection of the heart without any affectation [pretence].” When the preacher’s ethos back’s up his logos, there will be the pleasure of God.

Last, there is pathos—personal passion and conviction. David Hume, the scottish philosopher and skeptic, was once challenged as he was seen going to hear George Whitefield preach: “I thought you do not believe in the gospel.” Hume replied, “I don’t, but he does.” Just so! When a preacher believes what he preaches, there will be passion. And this belief and requisite passion will know the smile of God.

The pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion). As you preach the Word may you experience his smile—the Holy Spirit in your sails!

R. Kent Hughes

June 17, 2012

I quite enjoy The Valley of Vision, that book of Puritan prayers. This one is a favorite, a perfect prayer for the Lord’s day—one that looks to the Lord of that day.

O Lord, My Lord,

This is thy day,
the heavenly ordinance of rest,
the open door of worship,
the record of Jesus’ resurrection,
the seal of the sabbath to come,
the day when saints militant and triumphant unite in endless song.

I bless thee for the throne of grace,
that here free favour reigns;
that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus;
that the veil is torn aside and I can enter
the holiest
and find thee ready to hear;
waiting to be gracious,
inviting me to pour out my needs,
encouraging my desires,
promising to give more than I ask or think.

But while I bless thee, shame and confusion are mine:
I remember my past misuse of sacred things,
my irreverent worship,
my base ingratitude,
my cold, dull praise.
Sprinkle all my past sabbaths with the cleansing blood of Jesus,
and may this day witness deep improvement in me.

Give me in rich abundance the blessings the Lord’s Day was designed to impart;
May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;
Flood my mind with peace beyond understanding;
may my meditations be sweet,
my acts of worship life, liberty, joy,
my drink the streams that flow from thy throne,
my food the precious Word,
my defence the shield of faith,
and may my heart be more knit to Jesus.

June 16, 2012

There is a lot of talk about what complementarianism actually looks like as it works itself out in marriage. There are endless caricatures that make it little better than slavery, but Wayne Grudem shows something very different as he offers a very helpful glimpse into the inner workings of his own marriage. He leads in love

Wayne Grudem: Someone might say, “Well, okay, fine. There’s a leadership role for Adam, and I guess that means husbands should have a leadership role in their marriage of some sort. But how does it work? How does it work in practice?”

In our own marriage, Margaret and I talk frequently and at length about many decisions. I can tell you that I wouldn’t be here tonight unless Margaret and I had talked about this and asked the Lord about it, and she had given blessing to it, and said, “Yes, I think that’s right.” Sometimes we make large decisions such as buying a house or a car, and sometimes they are small decisions like where we should go for a walk together. I often defer to Margaret’s wishes, and she often defers to mine because we love each other.

In almost every case, each of us has some wisdom and insight that the other does not have. Usually, we reach agreement on the decisions that we make. Very seldom will I do something that she doesn’t think is wise—I didn’t say never. She prays; she trusts God; she loves God. She is sensitive to God’s leading and direction, but in every decision, whether it large or small and whether we have reached agreement or not, the responsibility to make the decision still rests with me.

Now, I am not talking about every decision they make individually. Margaret controls a much larger portion of our budget than I do because all the things having to do with the household and food and clothing and house expenses and everything … she writes the checks and pays the bills. I take care of buying books and some things about the car. I have appointments during the day with students. She doesn’t get involved in that. She has her own appointments. She has her own calendar. I don’t get involved in trying to micromanage all of that. We have distinct areas of responsibility. I am not talking about those things. I don’t get involved in those things unless she asks my counsel.

But in every decision that we make that affects us together or affects our family, the responsibility to make the decision rests with me. If there is genuine male headship, I believe there is a quiet acknowledgement that the focus of the decision making process is the husband, not the wife. Even though there will often be much discussion and there should be mutual respect and consideration of each other, ultimately the responsibility to make the decision rests with the husband. And so, in our marriage the responsibility to make the decision rests with me.

This is not because I am a wiser or more gifted leader. It is because I am the husband. God has given me that responsibility. It is very good. It brings peace and joy to our marriage, and both Margaret and I are thankful for it. Now, I need to add very quickly, men, this does not mean that a husband has the right to be a selfish leader.

Just about three years ago, maybe four years ago now, we started the decision making process. Margaret had been in an auto accident in Chicago. As part of the aftermath of that accident, she was experiencing some chronic pain that was aggravated by cold and humidity, and Chicago is cold in the winter and humid in the summer. Chicago was not a good place for that. Some friends said to us, “We have a second house in Mesa, Arizona, if you would ever like to go there and just use it as a vacation place, we would like you to do that.”

So we did. We visited Arizona. Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix. Margaret felt better. It was hot, and it was dry. And so I said, “Wow, Margaret I would love to move here, but I am only trained to do one thing; I can teach at a seminary and that is it. There aren’t any seminaries here.” The next day Margaret was looking in the yellow pages—literally. She said, “Wayne, there’s something here called Phoenix Seminary.” One thing led to another and God was at work in that seminary, and it was starting to grow.

Then we went through a decision making process. When we were in the middle of that decision making process, on the very day that we were focusing on that, I came in my normal custom of reading through a section of scripture each day, I came to a Ephesians 5:28, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”

I thought if I would move to take a job in another city for the sake of my body, if I were experiencing the pain that Margaret had, and husbands should love their wives as their own bodies—then shouldn’t I move? Shouldn’t I be willing to move for Margaret’s sake? That was really why we moved to Phoenix.

I just say that by way of illustration, husbands, headship doesn’t mean selfishness. It means being willing to give of yourself for your wife and care for her as well. God has brought … I think that was obedience to Him and God has brought blessing. But there are dangers, there are dangers of distortion in male headship and female submission to or support of that headship.

There are dangers of distortion in one direction or another. There are errors of passivity and errors of aggressiveness. I put this on a chart of husband and wife. In the middle is the biblical ideal for a husband as loving, humble headship. That’s the ideal. For a wife the ideal is joyful, intelligent submission to that headship. Intelligent, that means she is contributing her wisdom and her counsel to the decision making process.

On the right side of the chart there are errors of aggressiveness. A husband can be a tyrant. “Everybody serve me.” He’s selfish; he’s harsh, and he’s abusive. That’s an error of aggressiveness. Or a wife can be a usurper, resisting and rebelling against and being hostile toward her husband’s leadership time and again and challenging for it. When a tyrant is married to a usurper there is conflict all the time.

But there are opposite errors. There are errors of passivity. A husband can be entirely passive. He comes home from work; he clicks on the TV; he plops down in his chair, and he wants everyone to wait on him. The children are disobedient; he does nothing. He’s entirely passive. There is a hostile neighbor that needs to be dealt with and addressed, but his wife is dealing with the conflict all by herself. He is a wimp. That’s an error of passivity.

There is an error of passivity on the wife’s part. Day after day, month after month, year after year in their marriage, “Yes dear, whatever you say … yes dear, whatever you say.” She doesn’t contribute at all to the decision making process. She has no preferences, no desires. She’s a doormat. That is an error as well. That’s not the biblical pattern.

If a tyrant gets married to a doormat you get all sorts of abuse, and it’s dehumanizing for both of them, but particularly for the wife. If you get a wimp married to a usurper, well, he follows her around all day long, six steps behind just doing what she takes the leadership in. If you get a wimp married to a doormat, everything runs like the energizer bunny running out of batteries, finally. It just all goes downhill and everything goes wrong in the family. There’s nobody taking responsibility. The biblical ideal is loving, humble headship and joyful, intelligent submission.

Now, you have personalities and backgrounds that predispose you to make mistakes on one side or the other of this chart. For those of you, you could think perhaps about marriages you know or relationships you know. You can see people making errors in both sides of this, but those are distortions. Those are distortions of the biblical pattern.

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