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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

Reading Classics Together

July 11, 2013

Satan hates God and therefore he hates God’s people, the church. His great plan for the church is to cause Christians—true believers who ought to be together in the gospel—to find ways of disagreeing among themselves, to divide, to be bitter and jealous, and ultimately to “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 5:15). Here are twelve ways that you can repulse Satan’s attacks.

#1. Spend more time considering evidences of grace in other Christians than you do pondering their sins and weaknesses. You, as a Christian, probably have a much greater ability to see weakness in other believers than to see strength. It is as if you use a magnifying glass when looking for weakness and a telescope when looking for grace. Brooks warns, “Sin is darkness, grace is light; sin is hell, grace is heaven; and what madness is it to look more at darkness than at light, more at hell than at heaven.” Indeed.

#2. Consider that spiritual safety comes through spiritual unity. Christians united together are difficult to separate, difficult to break, difficult to pick off and destroy. It is when you isolate yourself by disrupting or denying unity that you are most at risk.

#3. Meditate on God’s many commands demanding that we love one another. When you feel your heart begin to turn against another Christian, this is the time to turn to the many commands to love one another—commands found in places such as John 15:12, Romans 13:8, Hebrews 13:1, 1 John 4:7, 1 Peter 1:22, and so on. Allow God’s Word to convict you of love’s necessity.

#4. Spend more time considering areas of agreement than disagreement. The doctrines you share with other true believers are the foundational doctrines; the ones you do not share are necessarily less central to the faith. Acknowledging that you and those with whom you disagree will spend eternity together should encourage you to not allow peripheral doctrines to separate you here on earth.

#5. Consider your peaceful God. God is the God of peace, Christ is Prince of peace and the Spirit is the Spirit of peace. Having made peace with God, having bowed before Christ, having been indwelled by the Spirit whose fruit is love, joy, peace…, you now have the ability, and ought to have the desire, to be at true, deep and lasting peace with other Christians.

#6. Renew in your mind and heart what it means to be at peace with God. Preach the gospel to yourself, because as you consider who you are in light of God’s perfect goodness, holiness and peace, you must soften toward others.

July 04, 2013

Though Satan can never steal the Christian’s crown, though he can never snatch him away from the hand of the Father, he is so envious and malicious that he will leave no stone unturned in robbing the Christian of comfort and peace, in making their life miserable, in giving them reason to live in constant sorrow and mourning, doubt and questioning.

Thomas Brooks once identified eight ways in which Satan keeps Christians—Christians like you!—in this sad, doubting, questioning, condition.

1He causes you to think more about your sin than your Savior. He wants to so fill your mind with thoughts of the sin you’ve committed in the past, or temptations to sin you face today, that all thoughts of Jesus Christ and his finished work are displaced and erased. His desire is that you would think so much of your sickness that you would neglect the remedy that is close at hand.

2He works in you to wrongly understand God’s graces. Just as falsely defining sin will lead a person astray, so too will wrongly defining God’s graces. In particular, Satan labors so a Christian will define saving faith only in such a way that it includes full assurance of salvation; he can then use that too-expansive definition to cause the Christian to make his doubt proof of his lack of justification.

3He leads you to make false inferences from harsh providences. He whispers to you that providence appears to contradict your prayers, desires, tears, hopes and endeavors. Once he has shown you this he says, “Surely, if God actually loved you and delighted in you, he wouldn’t deal with you in these ways…”

4He suggests to you that the evidences of grace in your life are counterfeit rather than genuine. He wants you to believe that what you call faith is actually just a fleeting fancy, that what you see as zeal is just natural and unsanctified enthusiasm, that you are not actually evidencing any true evidences of grace, but just natural ability.

5He convinces you that the kind of battle you have with sin is a battle that marks only unbelieving hypocrites. As you battle against sin, and while the same old sins continue to rise up against you, Satan tries to make you believe that these very battles are evidences of hypocrisy rather than a universal Christian condition.

6He suggests to your soul that the fact that you have less joy in Christ now than you once did proves that you have not been saved. He may bring to your mind a time when your heart was overflowing with joy in him, when you felt the tangible comfort of the Holy Spirit. And then he will have you contrast that to your present condition and use it to convince you that you must not be a Christian.

7He works within you to make you believe that relapses into sin—even sins you have labored to overcome—are evidence that you are not a believer. He may whisper to you that you are a fool and a hypocrite to believe that God could ever love someone who battles sin, overcomes it, and then later succumbs to that same old sin.

8He convinces you that only an unbeliever could face the manner and the weight of temptation you face right now. First he will weary you with constant temptations perfectly suited to your weaknesses and desires. Then he will try to convince you that the very fact that you face these temptations must mean that you are not a Christian at all.

June 27, 2013

Satan wants to keep you from worshipping the One he hates. He wants to keep you from doing the right thing, whether that is spending time alone with the Lord in Scripture and prayer, attending and participating in public worship services, or any other thing that will draw you closer to the Lord. Here, courtesy of Thomas Brooks, are eight ways Satan will keep you from worship.

Here’s how I would encourage you to use the list. Think of the times that you decide to stay in bed instead of getting up to read the Bible; think of the times you scrapped family worship for no good reason; think of the times you stayed home from church instead of going to worship. Think of those things, and see which of these temptations is the one Satan brings to you.

1He makes the world look beautiful, attractive and desirable. Many people profess Christ and see him as desirable for a time. For a while they enjoy private and public worship and do it all with enthusiasm. But before long Satan presents to them worldly things and makes those look more beautiful and desirable than Christ, and many souls are drawn away. “Where one thousand are destroyed by the world’s frowns, ten thousand are destroyed by the world’s smiles.”

2He makes you aware of the fact that those who worship the Lord have often faced danger, loss and suffering. There are many men who would obey the Lord and worship him, except that they fear the consequences. Satan loves to present the high cost of obedience. This was the case for many in Jesus day: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42).

3He gives you an awareness of the difficulty of worshipping well. Satan will whisper, “It is difficult to pray well, it is hard to spend time with the Lord and to persevere until he speaks to you through his Word, it isn’t worth the effort of going to church and being warm and friendly and engaging with other Christians.” Whatever God tells you to do, Satan will present it to you as a great burden or as something you do poorly, and in this way he will keep you from it.

June 20, 2013

Last week I shared six ways that Satan wants to help you—to help you sin. Satan’s great plan for your life and death is to take you to hell with him. Thomas Books, in his book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, drew up a list of the devices Satan uses to draw you—yes you!—to sin. Here are six more of those devices:

He convinces you that you can venture into the occasions of sin without sinning yourself. He wants you to think that you can go near the prostitute without getting into bed with the prostitute, that you can join with drunkards without becoming one yourself, that you can toy with sin and be around sin and yet remain immune from its power and effects, you can visit that web site without actually looking at the near-naked women all throughout it. He wants you to be unconcerned with those commands that we avoid the very appearance of evil and instead allow ourselves to creep very close to it.

He presents to you the mercies and the freedom from misery men have enjoyed even while they have been in sin. He will allow you to see another person who is sinning and bring to your mind the fact that at the moment this person is enjoying his sin and not suffering for it. And yet from the Bible we know that God’s “hand of mercy may be towards a man, when his heart may be against that man, as you may see in Saul and others; and the hand of God may be set against a man, when the heart of God is dearly set upon a man, as you may see in Job and Ephraim. The hand of God was severely set against them, and yet the heart and affections of God were strongly working towards them.”

He presents to you the crosses, losses, reproaches, sorrows and sufferings that come to those who love and pursue holiness. He reminds you that Christians are so often afflicted, abused and scorned by others and attempts to convince you that you would be wise to take the easier path. Those afflictions and corrections God uses to make us more holy, Satan wants us to believe are a useless waste.

He works in you to convince you to regularly compare yourself with those who are reported or reputed to be worse than you are. This is how the proud Pharisee could proclaim what we have all felt at one time or another: Thank God that he has not made me like this other sinful man. He wants you to see that this guy sits and drinks with the party animals; you only sit with them without taking a sip, and therefore are much holier than he is.

He tries to pollute your heart with gross errors that will lead you to sin or to doubt the character of God. He wants you to believe that the Bible is full of error and therefore unreliable; he wants you to believe that you do not need to avail yourself of the ordinances of the church or of the day-by-day graces of Scripture reading and prayer. He may go so far as to try to get you to deny that Jesus Christ was a real man or to believe that Christians are now entirely free from indwelling sin. He may even want to convince you that he himself does not exist.

He will seek to have you choose to befriend and associate with wicked people. He would have you ignore all of the biblical warnings about the danger of keeping bad company and the benefits of choosing godly friends, and instead have you associate with people who will lead you into sin and who will help you further your sin.

And there they are: six more ways in which Satan is eager to help you sin. Let me wrap up with two choice quotes. The first is a helpful metaphor:

The heart of man is a three-sided triangle, which the whole round circle of the world cannot fill, as mathematicians say—but all the corners will complain of emptiness, and hunger for something else.

And now, a warning against pride:

As low trees and shrubs are free from many violent gusts and blasts of wind which shake and tear the taller trees, so humble souls are free from those gusts and blasts of error which shake and tear proud, lofty souls. … Pride fills our fancies, and weakens our graces, and makes room in our hearts for error. There are no men on earth so soon entangled, and so easily conquered by error—as proud souls. Oh, it is dangerous to love to be wise above what is written, to be curious and unsober in your desire of knowledge, and to trust to your own capacities and abilities to undertake to pry into all secrets, and to be puffed up with a carnal mind. Souls that are thus a-soaring up above the bounds and limits of humility, usually fall into the very worst of errors, as experience does daily evidence. The proud soul is like him who gazed upon the moon—but fell into the pit.

June 13, 2013

Satan wants to help you—to help you sin. He is hell bent on taking you to hell with him. Thomas Books, in his book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, drew up a list of the devices Satan uses to draw you—yes you!—to sin. Here are six of them:

He presents the bait and hides the hook. Satan shows you the pleasure and the profit that may flow out of yielding to sin, but hides the wrath and misery that will inevitably result. This is, of course, exactly what he did with Adam and Eve: he displayed the benefit of eating that fruit, but hid all the cost. “There is an opening of the mind to contemplation and joy, and there is an opening of the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. He promises them the former, but intends the latter, and so cheats them.”

He paints sin with the colors of virtue. Satan knows that if he were to present sin accurately, you would run away from it rather than be attracted to it. Therefore, he conceals sin behind the camouflage of virtue so you can more easily be overcome by it and take more immediate pleasure in committing it. When he does this, pride comes in the form of neatness, covetousness in the form of thrift, and drunkenness in the form of a good time. Whatever temptation you are prone to he will likewise dress up as a virtue.

He convinces you this is only a little sin. Satan tries to convince you the temptation you face, the sin you are drawn to, is just a small and a harmless one. He wants you to believe this is a sin you may commit without any great danger to your soul.

He shows you that even noble men have sinned while hiding from you their sorrow and repentance. Satan will let you see that greater men than you have fallen into this sin and still been loved by God. He will set before you the adultery of David, the pride of Hezekiah, the impatience of Job, the drunkenness of Noah and the blasphemy of Peter. But as he does so, he will hide from you their tears and laments and he will hide from you that they repented of those very things and would plead with you not to succumb to the same temptation.

He presents God as only and ever merciful. Satan will convince you that you do not need to be afraid of this sin, that there is no real danger in this sin, for God is full of mercy, he delights in mercy, is ready to show mercy, never wearies of mercy and is more prone to pardon than to punish. And as he presents God’s mercy, he deliberately conceals God’s justice.

He convinces you that repentance is easy. As Satan presents a temptation before you, he will try to convince you that the work of repentance is an easy work, that it is not at all difficult to turn, to confess, to be sorrowful and to beg the Lord’s pardon. And if all this is true, there is no urgent need to bother yourself with battling sin, for you can repent later just as easily as you now commit the sin.

June 06, 2013

Every time I begin to read a new Puritan work I find myself wondering why I don’t read more Puritan works. I always focus on the classics, which means the process of elimination through the centuries has determined that this one book stands above hundreds or thousands of others as one of the few to stand the test of time. I am always blessed by them.

Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices is a study on the subtle ways Satan does battle against God by doing battle against God’s people. Over the next couple of months I’ll be offering weekly reflections on some of book’s highlights.

Brooks begins by saying “Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.” It has been his job in preparing this book to do his best “to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver.”

Satan is the great enemy of the Christian and he is “so full of malice and envy that he will leave no means unattempted, whereby he may make all others eternally miserable with himself. [He] “makes use of all his power and skill to bring all the sons of men into the same condition and condemnation with himself.” His desire is our destruction and he will do whatever is necessary to bring it about:

Satan loves to sail with the wind, and to suit men’s temptations to their conditions and inclinations. If they be in prosperity, he will tempt them to deny God (Proverbs 30:9); if they be in adversity, he will tempt them to distrust God; if their knowledge be weak, he will tempt them to have low thoughts of God; if their conscience be tender, he will tempt to scrupulosity; if large, to carnal security; if bold-spirited, he will tempt to presumption; if timorous, to desperation; if flexible, to inconstancy; if stiff, to impenitency.

May 30, 2013

Reading Classics Together
I announced last week that I’ll soon begin reading Thomas Brooks’ classic work Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. I’d love for you to read this book with me as part of the Reading Classics Together program. 

Precious RemediesIn their book Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson say, “This book offers sorely needed lessons on the subtleties of Satan’s devices.”

Brooks describes twelve of Satan’s devices and their remedies, then focuses on eight devices Satan uses to keep believers from using the means of grace. He provides remedies for those devices that keep saints in a sad, doubting condition. Finally, he provides remedies for the abuse of riches, for pride of learning, for divisions among the gody, and for the excuse of ignorance.

They close by saying, “We greatly need the guidance Brooks provides in this book. Though Satan’s tools may change over the centuries, his devices remain constant; hence, this classic will never be outdated.”

Here is how it works:

  • Get a copy of the book ASAP.
  • Start reading it.
  • Visit this site on June 6.

I will share my first article on Thursday, June 6. This will reflect on the introductory matter and the brief section entitled “The Proof of the Point.” (The week after we will begin to look at the devices Brooks draws out.) After June 6 I will share one article each Thursday until the book is complete, something that will likely take about 10 or 12 weeks.

All you need to do in order to participate is get a copy of the book and begin reading.

The book is available in print (Westminster Books, Banner of Truth, Grace & Truth Books; Reformation Heritage), Kindle (Amazon) and HTML (alternate). There are various electronic editions at about a dollar each, and some may be better quality than others.

May 23, 2013

Reading Classics Together
It was back in 2007 that I had an idea that genuinely changed my life. I wanted to read some of the classics of the Christian faith, but I knew that without some measure of accountability I would never have the self-discipline to make it happen. I realized that this accountability could come by reading classics together in community. I decided to launch a reading program called Reading Classics Together.

In the years since this program began we’ve read some amazing classics from years gone by and from the present time. These include titles like Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, and The Cross of Christ by John Stott. These books and others like them have benefited me immensely and I know the same is true of those who have read along with me.

It is time to embark on a new reading project and it only seems right that we should go back to the Puritans. We’ve read Owens, Burroughs, Sibbes and Bunyan. Now it’s time to move to Thomas Brooks and his classic work Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices.

Precious RemediesIn their book Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson say, “This book offers sorely needed lessons on the subtleties of Satan’s devices.”

Brooks describes twelve of Satan’s devices and their remedies, then focuses on eight devices Satan uses to keep believers from using the means of grace. He provides remedies for those devices that keep saints in a sad, doubting condition. Finally, he provides remedies for the abuse of riches, for pride of learning, for divisions among the gody, and for the excuse of ignorance.

They close by saying, “We greatly need the guidance Brooks provides in this book. Though Satan’s tools may change over the centuries, his devices remain constant; hence, this classic will never be outdated.”

That sounds like exactly the kind of book I (and you!) need to read. So here’s the plan:

  • Get a copy of the book ASAP.
  • Start reading it.
  • Visit this site on June 6.

I will share my first article on Thursday, June 6. This will reflect on the introductory matter and the brief section entitled “The Proof of the Point.” (The week after we will begin to look at the devices Brooks draws out.) After June 6 I will share one article each Thursday until the book is complete, something that will likely take about 10 or 12 weeks.

All you need to do in order to participate is get a copy of the book and begin reading.

The book is available in print (Westminster Books, Banner of Truth, Grace & Truth Books; Reformation Heritage), Kindle (Amazon) and HTML (alternate). There are various electronic editions at about a dollar each, and some may be better quality than others.

If you’re going to read along with me, why don’t you just leave a comment below so I can get a gauge on interest.

November 01, 2012

Over the past couple of months, I have been writing a series of reflections on Jerry Bridges’ book The Discipline of Grace. This is such an important book—a true contemporary classic—that teaches the centrality of the gospel in the life of the Christian. Bridges was writing about gospel-centeredness long before gospel-centeredness was all the rage.

All throughout the book Bridges has shared a series of disciplines the Christian must develop as he pursues holiness. “We have seen that we must behold Christ in the gospel, we must learn the proper relationship of dependence and personal discipline, we must make a commitment to holiness, and we must develop Bible-based convictions. In the everyday application of Scripture we must learn to make the right choices, to mortify sin, and to watch against temptation.” These are all things we must do if we are to make progress in the pursuit of holiness. Though we maintain dependence upon the Holy Spirit to grow in holiness, still we must act and still we must discipline ourselves.

But there is one discipline that we do not undertake ourselves. Instead, the Lord imposes it upon us as  a means of spiritual growth. This is the discipline of adversity. In the final chapter Bridges looks to Hebrews 12:4-13, a classic passage on how the Lord disciplines us for our good. It is noteworthy that a passage on the Lord’s discipline begins with an encouragement. The author of the letter to the Hebrews encourages the recipients of the letter by telling them that the Lord disciplines the ones he loves, just as a father lovingly disciplines his own children. Says Bridges, “We should realize that God’s discipline, which comes to us in the form of adversity or hardship, is an indication of His loving care, not a token of His disfavor.”

When we find ourselves under the Lord’s discipline, there are two ways that we may react wrongly—we may make light of it (or, to say it another way, we may despise it), such as when we count it as little value and something that is to be endured rather than something that is for our benefit. Alternatively, we may also lose heart under it, believing that the Lord is disciplining us out of anger rather than out of love. Bridges offers this warning:

In times of adversity Satan will seek to plant the thought in our minds that God is angry with us and is disciplining us out of wrath. Here is another instance when we need to preach the gospel to ourselves. It is the gospel that will reassure us that the penalty for our sins has been paid, that God’s justice has been fully satisfied. It is the gospel that supplies a good part of the armor of God with which we are able to stand against the accusing attacks of the Devil (see Ephesians 6:13-17).

All of this raises a question: How do we know when the Lord is disciplining us? Bridges looks to Hebrews 12:7-8 and says, “The writer instructed us to ‘endure hardship as discipline.’ There is no qualifying adjective. He did not say, ‘Endure all hardship’; neither did he say, ‘Endure some hardship as discipline.’ In the absence of a qualifying adjective, we must understand him to have meant all hardship. That is, all hardship of whatever kind has a disciplinary purpose for us. There is no such thing as pain without a purpose in the life of a believer.”

October 25, 2012

A wealthy woman wanted to hire a chauffeur. As each applicant came to be interviewed, she had him drive her along a narrow, winding mountain road with a precipice on one side. All of the drivers, in an effort to impress her with their driving skills, drove as close to the edge of the precipice as they dared. Finally one applicant drove differently. He kept as far away from the edge as he could. The widow hired that man. She did not want a daring, albeit highly skilled, driver. She wanted one who would drive as safely as he could.

That story may well be apocryphal, but it helpfully illustrates an important principle in the Christian life: spiritual watchfulness. Jerry Bridges uses this story to say that in the area of Christian liberty—those many activities where the Bible does not give us specific guidance—many Christians operate by “how daring can I be” or “How close can I get to the cliff” rather than by “How safe can I be.” He dedicates a whole chapter of his book The Discipline of Grace to “The Discipline of Watching,” the discipline of remaining alert for temptation.

The Bible makes it clear that this life is one of constant temptation. We face three enemies: the world, the Devil and the flesh. Of these three, Bridges focuses most of his attention on the flesh since it is the greatest source of temptation, dwelling as it does, right inside us. Every Christian can testify to this: “Our flesh is always searching out opportunities to gratify itself according to the particular sinful desires each of us has.” Bridges says it well: “Realize that your ‘temptation antenna’ is constantly scanning your environment looking for those areas of sin.” That is a powerful illustration—that in our sin we are constantly looking for new ways to indulge. Each of us has certain sins to which we are particularly prone and the flesh, the sin that remains within us, is always looking for just the smallest crack, the smallest weakness, the smallest invitation. The first line of defense against temptation is watchfulness—to be aware of the sins that tempt us most often and with the greatest strength and to be proactive in our battle against them.

Bridges quotes Horatius Bonar in his call to avoid even the little sins.

The avoidance of little evils, little sins, little inconsistencies, little weaknesses, little follies, little indiscretions and imprudences, little foibles, little indulgences of self and of the flesh, little acts of indolence or indecision, or slovenliness or cowardice, little equivocations or aberrations from high integrity, little touches of shabbiness or meanness, … little indifferences to the feelings or wishes of others, little outbreaks of temper, or crossness, or selfishness, or vanity—the avoidance of such little things as these goes far to make up at least the negative beauty of a holy life.

As Bridges explains, “we seldom have to say no to an outright temptation to adultery. We often have to say no to the temptation to the lustful look or thought. And as some unknown person has said, ‘He that despises little things shall fall little by little.’”

Pages