I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
— 1 Corinthians 1:4–9 —
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he begins by observing evidences of God’s grace (1:4). This astounds us because of how easily Paul could have fixated on their immaturity and iniquity rather than their position in Christ—after all the church was divided, disorderly, and dangerously lax towards sin. For most of us, it would have been difficult to get past Corinth’s glaring sins to commend the grace of God in their midst.
And yet, in his opening verses, he looks below the surface and praises God for the grace he sees in the Corinthians. How did he do that? How might we do that? When we encounter other believers whose sin stains their lives, how can we find evidences of grace?
In my Sunday’s sermon, I argued that grace looks back to see the work of Christ in a believer’s life; it looks in to see the ongoing work of Christ; and it looks forward to the day when a believer—however immature now—will be made complete in the day of Jesus Christ. This is how Paul saw grace in the Corinthians: he remembered how the gospel (i.e., the testimony of Christ) brought spiritual life to them (vv. 5–6); he saw an abundant supply of spiritual gifts in them (v. 7) ; and he trusted that God who began a good work in them would complete it on the day of Christ Jesus (v. 8; cf. Philippians 1:6). There is much we can learn and apply from Paul’s observance of grace in the Corinthians. But how? Continue reading
One of the most edifying activities that I have engaged in since becoming a Christian has been listening to sermons, biographies, and interviews while driving, working at home, or doing monotonous computer work. When I was a church janitor in Chattanooga, TN, I would often and repeatedly listen to John Piper’s expository messages as I vacuumed the church. On many solitary cross-country drives, Dr. Piper was again my tour guide. He introduced me to so many heroes of the faith through his yearly biographical messages from his pastor’s conference. His voice still reverberates in my mind, even today, as I think about his inspiring messages on Spurgeon, Brainerd, Luther, Owen, Paton, Calvin, and others.
More recently, I have begun listening to the Mark Dever’s audio interviews. I await with anticipation the first day of every month, when 9 Marks Ministries (typically) releases new interviews with pastors, theologians, and church leaders. These engaging and lively conversations have clarified my thinking on many theological and ecclesial matters and they always rekindle my desire to serve the Christ’s church. My favorite interview is definitely C.J. Mahaney’s interview with Mark Dever. If you know anything about C.J., you can understand why. If you are experienicng any kind of depression in life or ministry, this interview will surely lift your soul. (In the spirit of these interviews, I even attempted to conduct one myself at SBTS with Dr. Jonathan Pennington, in an interview sponsored by the Theology School Council at Southern Seminary).
With all that said, I commend these two resources as this weekend’s website(s): Desiring God’s biographies and 9 Marks interviews. These treasure troves are filled with wisdom and they are conducted in a format that I have found can be received and enjoyed in a variety of settings. Unlike sermons, I can listen to them while doing a variety of things. For me, sermons take much more effort to process and apply, and so they require a healthy measure of reflection and repentance. These audio other audio formats–biography and interview– may at times call for such response, but typically they are more readily processible as you go about your daily affairs–mindlessly working on the computer, driving, having dominion over your home (i.e. chores), or vacuuming the church. I have benefitted immensely from these audio resources, and I hope you will do the same. In a world that beckons us to be conformed to its standards, meditating on these edifying conversations can be a salubrious antidote to its corrupting effects and a tremedous means of spiritual and ministerial growth. I hope you will join me in listening.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss