Practical Counsel for Growing in Grace

discipline“Discipline yourself for godliness.”
— 1 Timothy 4:7 (NASB)–

Recently Donald Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky) answered a series of questions for Desiring God‘s podcast, Ask Pastor John. Dr. Whitney, who is arguably the foremost authority on evangelical spirituality, has been studying and teaching these materials for over twenty-five years. His book  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is a modern classic and an illuminating study for growing in grace.

If you are not familiar with the Bible’s prescribed disciplines for spiritual growth, or you are and have not read his enlightening book, I cannot commend it enough. In the meantime, if you would like a primer on the disciplines or a refresher for why they are so important, take 30 minutes (or 5 seven-minute segments) to listen to his answers to these five questions. (I’ve included a teaser quotation from each interview). Continue reading

The Key to Twenty-First Century Evangelism

Last fall, David Mathis wrote an insightful piece on hospitality as the ‘key’ to evangelism in the twenty-first century. He writes,

In a progressively post-Christian society, the importance of hospitality as an evangelistic asset is growing rapidly. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage the unbelieving with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes.

When people don’t gather in droves for stadium crusades, or tarry long enough on the sidewalk to hear your gospel spiel, what will you do? Where will you interact with the unbelieving about the things that matter most?

Invite them to dinner.

For several of us in Childers’s class, the lights went on after his dramatic revelation. Biblical texts on hospitality were springing to mind. A theme we’d previously thought of as a secondary fellowship-type-thing was taking shape as a significant strategy for evangelism in a post-Christian milieu. Continue reading

For Your Edification (5.4.12)

For Your Edification is a weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.  

BIBLE

Read the Gospels.  When N. T. Wright is wrong, he is very wrong; but when he right, he is really right.  And in this video, he is really right.  Asked the question what legacy would you want to pass on to your children, he points them to the inimitable Jesus of the Gospels.  Have a look.

Education or Imitation? Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me. Curtis Allen, assistant pastor at Solid Rock Church and rapper extraordinaire, has just released a book that looks like it will be a helpful read on biblical interpretation for people who never go to seminary.  Rightly, he points to Jesus as the model for learning how to interpret the Bible.  You can get the book for $10 at Amazon or for 99 cents on Kindle right now: Education or Imitation? Kindle Edition.  Here is the book’s witty and wise promotional video.


THEOLOGY

What is General Revelation?  Baptist Pastor, Fred Zaspel, lists a number of helpful biblical truths about General Revelation–the doctrine that describes how God has revealed himself to all humanity in nature (externally) and in human nature (internally).  His outline synthesizes the truth content of passages like Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23; Acts 14:16-17 and Acts 17:22-31.  He concludes with a number of practical implications, including this last point:

Since general revelation does not provide a knowledge of God as Redeemer, it cannot be made the basis of anything more than a preparation for the gospel. General revelation cannot be viewed as a means of salvation, even to such as have never had opportunity to hear the message of salvation from sin through Christ’s incarnation, atonement, and resurrection. Only a radical new birth, in which spiritual life is imparted to those who are spiritually dead, will suffice; and such a sweeping transformation cannot be brought about by general revelation, but only by the gospel of Christ!

You can read the whole thing at the CredoMag Blog.

Meditations on the Fear of God. In the Bible fear is a complex thing. For instance, Psalm 25:14 says that “the friendship of the Lord is reserved for those who fear him.” Psalm 130:3 states, “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  And in Exodus 20:20, “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.'”  But, the positive outlook on fear changes in the book of 1 John, when the beloved disciple writes that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 5:18).

From these four verses alone, it is evident that knowing if and how and why we should fear God takes some serious biblical reflection. This week John Piper helps us think about a couple aspects of Goldy fear. It is not long so I have included the whole thing.

I think that when we are sinless we will still fear God in the sense of reverential, trembling awe — as when we stand on a peak before vast stretches of unscalable cliffs. And we will also fear, I suppose, in the sense of shuddering with thankfulness that we are not among the number who still dishonor God.

But the painful fear, the guilty fear, the craven fear, the humiliating fear — all such fear will one day be taken way. But only in the way God intends. And in his time. We should not be done with it in the wrong way, or too soon.”

Here is the way C. S. Lewis puts it:

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18]. But so do several other things — ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.

It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. (“The World’s Last Night” in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, 51)

FAMILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

Pure Hope: Christian Solutions in a Sexualized Culture. Today, I am on my way to the “Pursuing Purity Conference” at Southern Seminary.  About six months back a friend told me about this ministry, and after meeting their leaders, hearing about their vision, and commitment to the gospel, I am happy to commend it as a go to resource for finding helpful resources for growing in purity and holiness.  They are continuing to put resources on line in three areas: pureJUSTICEpurePARENTING, and pureRECOVERY.  Check them out!

Today, Pray for the conference as it equips leaders to take the message of purity back to their churches.

Desiring God INTERNATIONAL. Have you ever met someone whose heart language is not English.  With a desire to share the gospel, you feel like your are at an impasse because of the language barrier. What do you do?  Well, here is a resource to know about.  Desiring God has a growing list of resources translated into other languages.  It takes the teaching of John Piper and puts them in the heart language of your friend.  Check it out.

Christ Is a Blazing Sun, His Word is a Lightning Bolt

Asking the question, what are preachers sent to do, Doug Wilson gives a powerful and clear answer in his Desiring God message from 2009.  Here is what he says,

We are not sent to preach a distant star or moon. We are sent to preach a blazing sun that lights and heats every creature, that dominates all things, and around which everything else must necessarily revolve.

We are not sent to make a few mild suggestions. We are not sent to have a relational dialogue. We are sent to preach and to declare. We are commissioned—ordained—to compel every manifestation of worldly power, glory, wisdom, and exaltation to yield to and obey God’s word.

We come to declare that all men need to repent and believe. The kingdom of God is here. We declare what has been accomplished, not what we would like to be accomplished. We are ordained to feed the sheep and drive away the wolves. And if needs be, we have been ordained to preach the word as if we were thunder and lightening. How can we not? The Scriptures themselves are thunder and lightning.

God, help us pastors and preachers as we deliver your Word tomorrow.  May it strike with the power and precision of a lightning strike, and may the world know that you are speaking.  May the light of Christ illumine our minds and shine forth in our messages so that your people will turn from their sin and flee to their Savior.

Let us Proclaim Christ, dss

Think Well!

Desiring God has put up a new video challenging American evangelicals to think and to think well.  The first two minutes are worth a look (and so is the rest, as it begins to promo their upcoming conference: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God).  John Piper reminds us that our love for God is dependent on our thought life, and that failure to cultivate the mind leads to “diminished” worship, joy, and love for God.

May our thinking charge our loving of God and others!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Piper at ETS: Stealing God’s Glory, Steals the Joy of Others

For nearly three decades, John Piper has preached a message of God-centered exultation (and exaltation).  He has traveled the country proclaiming that God’s greatest interest is…God.  And if you have read him, you know of his passion for expository exaltation of this singular truth–white-hot worship of the all-glorious God.

Most recently, Piper took his message to a much more challenging audience–the ETS meeting at Providence, Rhode Island.  He presented a brief 7-point presentation, which synthesized his fundamental argument that “God is not a meglomaniac when he demands worship.”  Expansions of this argument can be found in his books Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, and Let the Nations Be Glad.  I am immensely grateful for these books and their vision of God.  One quote stuck out today as I read this theocentric mandates was this:

This [God’s Godwardness] is not megalomania because, unlike our self-exaltation, God’s self-exaltation draws attention to what gives greatest and longest joy, namely, himself. When we exalt ourselves, we lure people away from the one thing that can satisfy their souls—the infinite beauty of God. When God exalts himself, he manifests the one thing that can satisfy our souls, namely, God.

What stood out was this sentence: “When we exalt ourselves, we lure people away from the one thing that can satisfy their souls—the infinite beauty of God.”  What a convicting thought in our idol-making, idol-aspiring age: to draw people to ourselves is to steal their joy and lead them to a fallen image, namely ourselves, instead of the true Image of God, Jesus Christ.   Too often our hearts long to make much of ourselves, too often we see Christian leaders promoting themselves in ways that draw followers after themselves; yet this kind of idol-making steals glory from God and joy!  I was convicted by this brief article today and am thankful for its Godwardness.

May we search our hearts for idol-aspiring tendencies and cry out with John the Baptist (and Piper), “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

(HT: DG)