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February 02, 2015


Tabletalk magazine exists to help Christians grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. It meets Christians where they are, whether young or old in the faith, and it takes them deeper. Tabletalk helps to provide Christians with the tools they need to dig down into the depths of God’s Word and the theology of God’s Word in order to be faithful to God’s Word—and thus to worship God in all of life. 

January 26, 2015


by E. Ray Clendenen

Although not as versatile as some words (such as run), the word faithful can mean different things in different contexts. It can refer to “loyalty,” the quality of always acting in the best interests of someone else. It can also refer to “consistency” or “predictability,” always acting according to certain principles or in a certain manner (like the Yellowstone geyser, Old Faithful). Or it can refer to “strength,” “stability,” and “reliability,” as exemplified by a foundation, a bridge, or a person like “Stonewall” Jackson. 

Sometimes faithful can refer to “obedience,” the quality of a servant who follows the instructions of his master. Or it can refer to “truthfulness” or “accuracy,” the quality of being in accord with reality, the facts, or an original. For example, a movie can be measured on being “faithful to the book,” or a witness in court can be measured on whether his testimony is “faithful to the facts.”

Any of these meanings can be said to apply to something that is trustworthy. But it is the last usage described above that applies most naturally to Bible translations. According to Proverbs 12:17, “The faithful (Heb. ʾemunah) witness tells what is right, but a false witness speaks deceit” (see also v. 22; 14:5). And Proverbs 13:17 warns, “An unreliable messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing.” A faithful messenger fulfills his responsibility to the master to represent him appropriately and to convey accurately the message entrusted to him. As such, the master can trust him, but so also can his audience. What they hear from the faithful messenger is the message intended by the master, as if the master had delivered the message in person. 

The apostle Paul has in mind such messengers when he instructs Timothy, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful (pistos) men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). In a similar vein, the Jews, Paul said, had been “entrusted (pisteuo) with the very words of God,” being expected to guard and transmit them faithfully (Rom 3:2). 

In the case of a Bible translation, of course, the messenger must convey the master’s message in another language. This prohibits the use of the same words and requires that the focus be on the same message, bridging different linguistic realities. Certainly, faithfulness in Bible translation demands that the words used in the translation be as close as possible in meaning to the words used in the original language text. 

Translation is never “word-for-word,” however popular that phrase might be. Simply put: the problem is grammar. Although English, Hebrew, and Greek all have nouns, verbs, prepositions, and other grammatical features, they behave differently in the various languages and are found in different order in a clause. Translators must work hard at determining what syntactical forms in English most accurately reflect what was intended to be conveyed by the Hebrew or Greek syntax. 

One final issue of translation faithfulness that must be considered is the tension between faithfulness and tradition. For example, when the King James Version was done, the Hebrew word nephesh was understood to mean “soul” in almost every case (it occurs there 443 times). However, for the last several decades, Old Testament scholars have recognized that nephesh rarely means “soul.” The NIV (2011) renders it “soul” only 72 times, and the HCSB uses “soul” only 33 times. In Genesis 2:7, for example, the KJV “man became a living soul” is rendered by most contemporary translations as “man became a living being.” 

On the other hand, in some passages the KJV tradition is considered so familiar that many translations succumb to the temptation to continue the traditional translation even though it is difficult to make sense of it. Such is sometimes the case with Psalm 1:1—“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (KJV). What does a contemporary English speaker make of “walk in the counsel of the wicked,” or “stand in the way of sinners,” or “sit in the seat of scoffers” (see ESV, NASB). 

Finally, the phrase “I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” in Psalm 23:6 (KJV) is literally “I will dwell in [or “return to”] the house of the LORD to length of days.” The phrase “length of days” occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible and clearly refers to the length of a person’s life in almost every case (the exceptions are Psalms 21:4 and 93:5). So, the HCSB translates this phrase as “I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live” (see also NET, NRSV).

One would expect a faithful Bible translation to convey the message of the original texts even when it differs from the message that readers have come to expect. All of this is part of what it means to be a faithful Bible translation.

Dr. Ray Clendenen serves as Senior Editor of Bible and Reference Publishing at B&H Publishing Group in Nashville, Tennessee.


January 19, 2015


The Plate

By Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

You could see the panic rising in his eyes.  As the collection plate moved ever closer to him, indecision tightened its grip on his heart.  In his hand was a wad of cash, and, as he ruffled through the various bills, one could almost hear the question that echoed in his head.  “How much should I put in the plate”?  After years of being a deacon in a number of churches representing different denominations, I have seen this scenario played out regularly.   Suddenly, as the pastor announces the collection of the offering, the struggle begins, almost as if it were a surprise that there would be a collection during worship. 

Our pastors diligently prepare every week for worship.  They spend hours reading the appointed text, consulting commentaries, writing prayers, and selecting appropriate music.  Dr. Dennis Prutow, Professor Emeritus at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, notes in the introduction to his book Public Worship 101, “There is a great privilege the people of God have of drawing near to God in corporate, public worship.  In corporate, public worship, God is pleased to draw near to His people to renew His covenant with them and to assure them that they belong to Him and that He is indeed their God.”

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10:19-22).

Just as the pastor has prepared for the Lord’s Day, the flock needs to prepare for the feeding that the shepherd is to deliver.  The people need to open their ears to hear the spoken Word of God and draw the incredible joy that comes from the confidence in the knowledge of adoption into His family.  

Attitudes about and attention to the stewardship of His things varies greatly amongst Christians.  Some arrive to worship prepared, check written or cash counted, ready for the return of His bounty in our lives to further the work of the church in His kingdom.  Other Christians give the topic little thought, randomly giving as they remember.  I even know of a person who routinely placed an empty envelop in the collection plate so that those watching might think he was giving.

What are some things that we might consider as we think more intentionally about the stewardship of His things?

  • Are you encouraged in your spiritual growth and trust in God as you give to the work of His kingdom?
  • We recall that God is the owner of all things, and He has entrusted those things to our care and attention.
  • When we are focused on God and His things, our priorities are changed from our self-focused desires and toward His kingdom.  We no longer neglect His works in the pursuit of our own ambitions.
  • Reflect upon the great and mighty things He is doing in the world.  Globally, people are coming to faith in Christ, lives are being transformed, and He is being glorified.
  • We are reminded to be joyful in our giving.  We are in His presence in our acts of stewardship during worship.

Practically, we can be thinking of many things in our stewarding responsibilities.

  • How are you preparing your children to worship God with tithes and offerings?  At some point, a child needs to move beyond being given a coin to put in the basket.
  • Have you thought about the things the Lord has entrusted to your care and how you will honor Him when you are called home - your Last Act of Stewardship?
  • How well do you know the organizations that you support financially?  Are they well-run and responsible, or are they working against His kingdom?
  • Are you supporting the works of your own denomination or church?

Matthew 25 and Luke 19 record for us the parable of the talents.  On the day of the settling of accounts, will the Lord make that pronouncement we so desire to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant”?  Be faithful in the little that He has placed in your control.

Learn more about Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary at RPTS.edu.


January 12, 2015


The Trellis and the Vineby Tony Payne.

Perhaps it’s a kind of laid-back Aussie skepticism about the possibility of anything ever being very successful, but I have been genuinely surprised by the reaction to The Trellis and the Vine over the past five years.

January 05, 2015


By Tony Merida

OrdinarySocial causes come and go like bad fashion trends, sometimes quite literally: what color bracelet are you wearing this month? 

Surely our consumer-conditioned attention spans have something to do with this, but let’s be real: when you care about something enough to devote serious time and energy, it can be discouraging when the anticipated results never materialize. 

Many people know they should care for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed, but few are motivated to do this over the course of a lifetime. Jesus reminds his followers, “You always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). In other words, we ain’t gonna solve poverty anytime soon. 

How in the world can we keep up the good work when it feels like a lost cause? Good theology. 

Theological types often get stereotyped as all head and no heart. This is unfortunate because a few key doctrines of the faith provide the sustainable inspiration we need for a lifetime of good works. 

Love everybody, because imago Dei

If we believe that everyone is made in the image of God—imago Dei—then everyone is worthy of dignity, love, basic human rights, and hearing biblical truth. 

Those who abuse people made in God’s image through enslavement, torture, rape, and grinding poverty, are dehumanizing people and insulting God Himself. Many victims of human trafficking and abuse report how they felt inhumane after being oppressed. 

Those who believe in the imago Dei should live out their theology through practical acts of love for the oppressed and vulnerable.

Show mercy, because redemption

The Bible records for us the story of God coming to save people. When we were enslaved, He freed us. When we were orphans, He adopted us. When we were sojourners, He welcomed us. When we were widows, Christ became our groom. 

The mercy and justice of God meet at the cross, where our redemption comes from. We needed His redemption because we cannot live up to the standard God has set. But One did. Jesus Christ is the ultimate display of a life of righteousness and justice. Through repentance and faith in Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness. 

Now, as believers, we have power to live just lives, and when we fail, we know God won’t crush us, for He has already crushed Christ in our place. Now we pursue justice because we love God, and have already been accepted in Him. 

We want to show mercy. That’s what God’s redemption has done for us. 

Stay hopeful, because restoration

The good news about injustice isn’t only that we’re making some progress today, though we are. We take heart knowing that the King of kings will return to restore this broken world, bringing perfect peace—shalom

In the coming Kingdom, will be no more orphans; no more trafficking; no more abuse. This fallen world will give way to glory. Doing justice and mercy is about showing the world what our King is like. It involves bringing the future into the present, that is, giving people a taste now of what the future will be like then

When you welcome the stranger, share the good news among the nations, cultivate diverse friendships, adopt children, or defend the defenseless, you are simply living as the King’s people before a watching world. We don’t fight the problems of this fallen world as victims, but as victors.

Work for good not grace, because justification

We can’t keep God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves perfectly. But Jesus has kept the Great Commandments perfectly for us. And only Christ can justify us. Only Jesus can make us ordinary citizens of the kingdom of God.

Justification means “just as if I’ve never sinned” and “just as if I’ve always obeyed perfectly,” as my friend Daniel Akin has said. Jesus Christ can forgive you entirely, and give you His perfect righteousness.

Justified people stand accepted in Christ. So, don’t look to yourself or your good deeds for salvation, but trust in Christ alone. From this acceptance and justified position, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit to do good to all your neighbors. Tim Keller explains how receiving the good news leads to a life of good deeds:

Before you can give neighbor love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need (Generous Justice, 77).

In other words, justification leads to justice for others. Receive— and give—the neighbor love of the Great Samaritan, and give Him thanks.

Always remember the people

My focus flowing from these theological motivations is on people

You may do justice and mercy through large-scale, political and social transformation like William Wilberforce, who worked to abolish slavery. Or you may do mercy and justice through simple acts like welcoming a foster child. 

In whatever case, let’s do it all in effort to bless people. Because people are made in God’s image, because people need redemption, and because people will one day dwell with God in the new heavens and the new earth where everything will be finally transformed, we should be seriously interested in how to love our neighbors as ourselves—our orphaned neighbors, our lonely neighbors, our impoverished neighbors, our enslaved neighbors, our racially different neighbors, and our lost neighbors.

That’s how God loves us, as good theology helps us understand. 

For more on this topic, see Tony Merida’s new book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down.

 Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony is the author of Ordinary, Faithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series along with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children.


December 29, 2014


“We are all aware of the growing phenomenon of biblical illiteracy. Mitch Maher has set out to address this problem. His overview, Clarifying The Bible, indeed clarifies the whole Bible. A clear and likable communicator, Mitch knows his stuff. May the Lord use Mitch and this project to turn the tide of biblical illiteracy!”

Dr. James “Jim” Hamilton
Associate Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

ClarifyingAs you think about your Bible reading plans for 2015, or your reading hopes for those you love, consider an awesome tool that helps believers understand the big picture of the Scriptures: Clarifying The Bible by Mitch Maher. Clarifying The Bible is a two-hour video presentation and workbook that gives viewers the basic framework and storyline of the Bible. The material is presented in a passionate, compelling fashion, and in the end delivers on its promise to help people see the Bible with more clarity than ever before.

Get a feel for this resource by watching some or all of this FREE 29-minute clip of Mitch teaching on Paul’s letters—it’s generally everybody’s favorite section.

Clarifying The Bible has been endorsed by more prominent leaders like Robert Lewis (Creator of Men’s Fraternity), Tom Nelson (Teacher of The Song of Solomon Conferences), John Bryson (Teacher of 33 The Series and College Ready), Tedashii (Hip Hop Artist), and Kennon Vaughan (Founder of Downline Ministries). In addition, see what others are saying:

Clarifying The Bible provides an excellent framework and introduction to God’s Word. This should be a standard issue for all believers as they pursue Biblical literacy. I have used this in discipleship and equipping capacities as a baseline for teaching the Bible. I could not more highly recommend this resource. This is a gift to the church.”

Clint Patronella
Groups Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas Campus

Clarifying The Bible has turned the lights on for countless aspiring disciple makers participating in the Downline Institute. It’s simple yet robust, theologically deep yet re-teachable, and its progression and flow build the confidence of the learner. It is no wonder this tool is being taught by pastoral and lay leaders all over the world. I’ve rarely made it six months with a young protégé without equipping them with Clarifying The Bible.”

Danny Hinton
Executive Director of Downline Ministries, Little Rock, AR

“Mitch is a gifted teacher and communicator who’s passionate about teaching the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. He has an incredible ability to take very academic information and make it very practical to your life. Mitch has been an instrumental part of the Kanakuk Institute for years. The information in Clarifying The Bible is an essential part of the spiritual development of any believer, no matter what the age.“

Keith Chancey
President, The Kanakuk Institute, Branson, MO

Purchase your copies today, available in digital or hardcopy, and/or invite Mitch to speak at your church or ministry. Check it out at clarifyingthebible.com.

SPECIAL NEW YEAR’S OFFER ON THE DIGITAL BUNDLE: Regularly $15.00, use the coupon code challiesnewyear to get the videos and PDF in your inbox immediately for just $10.00. This coupon only applies to the Digital Bundle and will expire on January 9.

MitchIf you or someone you know needs some clarity on the Bible, try Clarifying The Bible. Again, that website is clarifyingthebible.com.

Mitch Maher is the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Katy, TX. In addition to his Clarifying The Bible presentations around the country, Mitch is a regular teacher for the Kanakuk Institute and Downline Ministries. He’s been married to his wife Tara for 14 years, and they have three daughters.


December 22, 2014

What Are You Waiting ForSo what’s keeping you from talking to your elders about one of the most important decisions you will ever make? What’s keeping you from seeking counsel on matters related to vocation? What’s keeping you from an honest, denying-of-self, evaluation of God’s call upon your life?

It goes without saying that God call men to be engineers, lawyers, architects, teachers, farmers, electricians, and plumbers. These are noble callings, indeed!  How we need followers of Jesus Christ to take seriously the cultural mandate in every area of life as we seek to subdue the earth for the glory of God!

But there has always been a special need in the church for gifted, passionate, and mature men to preach the gospel. When Jesus says that the workers are few and to pray for laborers for the harvest field, He clearly has in mind those who will give themselves to the proclamation of the gospel. 

If you believe God is leading you to law school or to medical school, you will need to have outstanding grades in your undergraduate work, apply a year in advance to a dozen or two dozen schools, and compete with students of equal standing from around the globe for a limited number of opportunities. But such is not the case for any seminary in the world.

The vocational need of the kingdom has always been for gifted, compassionate, spiritually mature pastors and missionaries to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. Therefore, Jesus tells his disciples to pray—and He tells you and me to pray— that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into his harvest field.

And as you pray, be aware of the possibility that you may be part of the answer to your own prayers. After Jesus told His disciples to pray for laborers for the harvest field in Luke 10, the very next words of His mouth were these: Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

Are you willing to be sent, if the Lord is calling you to pastoral ministry? To return to a question that I earlier raised, are you ready for an honest, denying-of-self, evaluation of God’s call upon your life? If so, I encourage you to talk to your elders about what they see in you. And to the best of your ability, think through the following questions on your own as well as with your elders:

  • Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ, and are you growing in sanctification?  Is the Lord enabling you by His grace to be a man above reproach?  Do you evidence the fruit of the Spirit in your life and relationships?  If you are married, is your marriage solid?
  • What are your gifts?  Have you ever been asked to teach a class (on any subject)?  Do you have good reasoning skills?  Have you ever led a Bible study?  Do people come to you for counsel?
  • What are your interests and passions?  Do you like to read?  Are you interested in theology?  Do you have compassion for the lost?  Do you ever pray for missionaries and others sharing the good news of Jesus Christ? Are you interested in discipleship?  Do you enjoy Christian fellowship?
  • Do you have obvious reasons not to pursue a call to be a laborer in the harvest field at this time—certain disabilities, major indebtedness, marital or family issues, certain circumstances in life beyond your control to change, life-dominating sin, or other related kinds of issues?
  • Could you see a way forward if you were to pursue theological training?  What are the factors that need to be considered? Would doing part of your program via distance education be helpful in your situation?
  • What are the specific needs of your congregation, community, or presbytery, or Synod/General Assembly?  Might God be calling you to be a part of meeting those needs?
  • Have you been satisfied with your current work, or is there a restlessness in your spirit as you fulfill your current responsibilities?  Might it be that the only way to satisfy your longing heart is to yield to a call from God to preach the gospel?

Is God calling you to “be an Isaiah?” More than twenty-seven hundred years ago, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Isaiah responded, Here am I.  Send me!” May it be that in our generation young men will continue to respond to God’s call for laborers to work in His harvest field!

December 15, 2014

The smartest way to study the Word is here: Faithlife just released Logos 6, the most intelligent Bible study software ever, equipping you for incredible insights in a fraction of the time.

There are three easy ways to get Logos 6: a base package, a crossgrade option, and the core engine Plus, for a limited time, you can get 15% off your Logos 6 purchase!

Here’s how it works:

1. Base packageLogos 6 Gold.png

Study smarter with a vast, interconnected library paired with the world’s best study tools. Logos 6 base packages come packed with dozens of intelligent tools and datasets, plus brand-new Media Collections and Interactive Media for deeper, more engaging study. All of these tools are paired with unique collections of commentaries, devotionals, original-language resources, primary texts, and more.

In addition to our classic base packages, you can also choose from our base-packages families, including Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, Lutheran, Seventh-day Adventist, Pentecostal & Charismatic, and more. These packages combine smart study tools with tradition-specific libraries, so you can explore the Word while digging into your own Christian history and theology.

What’s more, base packages are the most cost-effective way to get all the resources and tools you need—all presented in a clean, easy-to-use interface.

Get 15% off Logos 6 today: explore all of our base-package options or see which base package we recommend for you.

Pro tip: To get all of Logos 6’s new tools, datasets, and media, get Logos 6 Gold or higher.

2. Crossgrades


With new Logos 6 crossgrade options, you keep your current library and add new tools, datasets, and media to your software. This is the perfect option for anyone wanting to take advantage of new tools and media without adding more books. Depending on how many tools you’d like, you can choose from three crossgrade options:

  1. Core Crossgrade: Get most of Logos 6’s new tools, datasets, and media.
  2. Feature Crossgrade: Get all of Logos 6’s new tools, datasets, and media.
  3. Extended Crossgrade: Get all of Logos 6’s new tools, datasets, and media, plus a small collection of new resources, including Bibles, interlinears, lectionaries, and classic works.

Explore Logos 6 crossgrade options now, and get 15% off!

L6 Core Engine.jpg

3. Core engine

If you’d like a basic Logos 6 experience that doesn’t include any new tools, datasets, media, or resources, you can wait to try the free core engine. The engine, which hasn’t been released yet, offers a simple Logos 6 interface and tools that aren’t dependent on datasets.

To get the full Logos 6 experience, explore our base package and crossgrade options.

Bonus: get special gifts with your Logos 6 purchase!

For a limited time, get exclusive rewards when you spend $500 or more during your Logos 6 purchase—the more you spend, the more you get.

If you spend at least …

  1. $500: You’ll get a $50 promotional code to spend on a future order.
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  3. $2,500: You’ll get a $50 promotional code, Mobile Ed: BI100 Learn to Study the Bible, and a two-year subscription to Pro Media.
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Get 15% off Logos 6 and take advantage of special rewards today!

December 08, 2014

First of All…What’s a Book Summary?

The book summaries from Books At a Glance crunch each book into a 7-10 page, chapter-by-chapter summary, so that you can really learn the meaning, teachings, and arguments contained in the book…in just the time it takes you to read (or listen to!) 7-10 pages. These book summaries are much like the very popular “cliff notes” or “executive summaries” versions of books in the secular arena.

Click HERE to Download Your Free Audio Book Summary!

 Every week, when you read or listen to the book summaries from Books At a Glance, you will in essence read an entire book…in minutes! With the Books At a Glance, you will learn more, in less time! (Click HERE to get your first book summary.)

Have You Ever Bought the “Wrong” Book?

Books at a GlanceWe’ve all done it…saw a book that looked good, but once you got to reading it, you realized that it wasn’t as good as you thought it would be. This is not only a waste of time, but also a waste of money! Now, with Books At a Glance, you will be able to buy books more discerningly, so that you never waste money on the “wrong” book again!

So Many Books…So Little Time…How Will You Keep Up?

There are so many new books coming out every week that it is virtually impossible to keep up with them all When you get our weekly book summaries, as well as multiple book reviews and author-interviews each week, you will automatically know which books will be of value to you and which ones you want to read. This will save you from having to scour the internet and publisher catalogs for hours on end, just to keep up with the newest and best quality, Christian books!

Click Here to Start Keeping Up with the Newest and Most Significant Christian Books


December 01, 2014


by Barbara Duguid

Should our sin surprise us? In counseling earnest college students who love the Lord, I have seen many Christians who agonize over their daily struggle with very ordinary sins. Jane knows the gospel well, attends church faithfully, and reads her Bible every day, yet feels hatred toward her roommate. She idolizes her professors and strives to impress them by academic overachievement. Yet what really bothers Jane is her struggle with masturbation and pornography, which cast her into a spiral of depression and anxiety every time she gives in. Jane despairs because she can’t “surrender all” to Jesus. Should Jane be shocked by her sinful battles?

Human Shields

How did Jane get to college without understanding the depths of her depravity? As it turns out, Jane’s lovingly anxious parents didn’t let her sin very much. When Jane was a toddler, they followed her everywhere and distracted her from the toddler-sized sins she was prone to commit. As a little girl, Jane struggled with hatred toward her brother. Yet when he messed with her stuff and Jane struck back at him, Mom told her to say sorry, even when she wasn’t sorry at all. She was forced to participate in this charade, sealing the deal with a Judas kiss on her brother’s cheek, while she inwardly simmered with feelings she could not understand. She learned that sin is not an option in this family.

When Jane was in middle and high school, her schedule was so packed with frenetic activity she didn’t have time to sin much. With study, music, sports, youth group, and mission trips, she couldn’t play with temptation or experience quiet moments when thoughts could drift to dark places. Her parents triumphantly erected a barrier between her and her sinful heart and thought they were protecting her from youthful folly. But now Jane is in college, her parents can only hover from a distance, and she is shocked and undone by the riot of sinful desire in her heart.

The “Of Courseness” of Jane’s Sin

Sin should never shock us. We live in a fallen world full of temptation that beckons with alluring whispers and siren shouts. We have depraved, twisted natures, prone to wander away from God all the time. We have a clever enemy who has been tempting souls for millennia. Jane’s young body is full of sex hormones. Shaping influences led her to discover the pleasures of sexual gratification way too early, and she lives in a world where porn is easy to get. Masturbation helps her to forget her bad feelings for a minute before plunging her into shame and despair. Of course she struggles with these sins! Sin is easy.

God calls us to obedience, but does not immediately remove our sinful natures at the time of salvation. Although he plants his unstoppable Spirit within us to begin the work of new creation, he tells us that we have this treasure in jars of clay. In other words, he calls us to try hard to obey him but tells us that we will be very weak and fail a lot. Why would our loving heavenly Father leave us weak and sinful? He desires to humble us and to show that the surpassing greatness belongs to Christ and not to us! The sovereign God is thus not surprised by our sin; he planned it this way. Though our sin grieves him, it does not anger or shock him. Instead, he uses the sin that he hates to point us to our great Savior, who took all his anger for our sin. Our Father has loving purposes for letting us wander into the far country many times each day, and he always welcomes us back with great rejoicing. In this way, he shows us the depravity of our hearts, so that we will cherish our Savior more and grow to live in humble dependence on him.

Letting people sin?

How can you help your kids, your spouse, your friends, and yourself become more comfortable with this God-ordained sin struggle in a holy way? Sin is always bad, but how can you help others to be less undone by the ordinary sin that daily besets us all? Perhaps you can ask God to help you stop your frenetic attempts to keep people from sinning. He can help you to trust the Holy Spirit with your growth and that of those you love. Ask him to open your eyes to how he uses sin for his own glory and your good. Let little sinners sin in age-appropriate ways, so that you can show them how normal their sin is, how wonderful their Savior is, and how to run quickly to hide in the love of Jesus. He has paid for all our sin, past, present, and future, and now his shining, captivating obedience covers us when we sin. There is no end to the depths of human depravity—and there is no end to the love of God for us in Christ! It goes on and on and rises high above the mountains of our pathetic sins. If Jane had been taught that earlier in life, she might be able now to wrestle with sin freely and honestly, without the cycles of shame, despair, and anxiety which characterize her. It will be my great privilege to help Jane to fight that good fight with greater confidence and hope in the extravagant grace of God.

Prone to WanderBarbara Duguid is a counselor and ministry assistant at Christ Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Grove City, Pennsylvania, where she crafts the weekly liturgy. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of six children, and she holds an advanced certificate in biblical counseling from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness and coauthor of Prone to Wander: Prayers of Confession and Celebration

Prone to Wander and Extravagant Grace are available at Amazon and Westminster Books.