Monthly Archives: July 2010

Tell People About the Gospel from a Heart of Love and a Life of Service

John Piper is still on sabbatical, which was scheduled for a year. I miss his voice.

This was a blessing to me at 12:52 in the a.m.

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Your Taste Buds Have to Change or Somethin’

My 7 year-old, Grace, is often deeper than she knows. At lunch today the family was discussing who liked hot sauce and who didn’t. The question came up about being on “Mom’s team” (those who don’t like hot sauce) or “Dad’s team” (those who like hot sauce), and this is what Grace had to say about getting on teams of this sort:

You can’t just decide to like something. Like, you can’t just say, I’m going to like this now and decide to like. You have to actually like it.

I told her that people decide to start liking something all the time. If what she said is true, how does that happen? She said:

You can’t just decide to start liking something. You have to actually like it. Your taste buds have to change or somethin’.

Yes! She was speaking truth deeper than she realized.

The following is a bit from my next book. Titled Gospel Wakefulness, it is coming next year from Crossway.

The kingdom itself is a treasure, often hidden from our spiritual senses while we are seeking satisfactions everywhere else, but once it has been dug up in the rocky soil of our sin and suffering, we will with great joy sell all we have to claim it. Once the tears of brokenness have cleared our eyes to behold the beatific vision of the gospel of God’s grace, we are ready to see the soul-stirring inheritance that is ours in Christ. When we have deeply felt the spiritual poverty of self-rule we …

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But Believe More Boldly Still

Luther really did say “Sin boldly,” but it doesn’t mean what we think it does. It’s a rhetorical statement that in context takes on more clarity.

Here is the passage from his message to Philip Melancthon:

If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

Elsewhere, Luther talks about committing a token sin (of sorts) to spite the devil, by which he means if the devil is foisting legalism upon you on matters that are not real sins (drinking, mowing your lawn on Sunday, etc.), you could spite him by doing just that. But in this instance he is …

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The Blessing of Persecution

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.– Matthew 5:10

At the time of the Boxer Rebellion, 230 Christian missionaries and 23,000 Chinese Christians were killed in China. In the years following, the number of Christians in China grew to 70,000. Then communist China really cracked down, outlawing Christianity and expelling all Christian missionaries. The number of Christians in China grew 100 fold to 70 million.

In our nation there is some concern among Christians about religious freedoms and the state recognition of Christian expression. These concerns are, for the most part, justified. Arguably. But there are many overreactions, many voicing of concerns that belie the reality of the God who is sovereign over everything, including nations, kings, and laws.

But let’s not presume to think we are presently persecuted. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Persecution is a blessing. Either he meant that or he didn’t. The Beatitudes are proclamations, not commands, so we don’t need to seek persecution. It’s not the blood of the one with a martyr complex that is the seed of the church. Perhaps socialism is creeping into America. We should be concerned about this and talk about it, against it even.

But let’s also not assume that persecution would be the worst thing to befall us. It could be, actually, that persecution, should it come, is the best …

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Eugene Peterson on The Blessing of the "Institutional Church"

“Love the church; hate the institution.” So many say.

Doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like saying “I love my wife; I hate marriage.”

Many fans of disorganized religion, I guess.

Here’s Eugene Peterson answering some interview questions on the “institutional church” in a now-classic exchange called “Spirituality For all the Wrong Reasons” (published in total at previous link).

So how should we visualize the Christian life?

In church last Sunday, there was a couple in front of us with two bratty kids. Two pews behind us there was another couple with their two bratty kids making a lot of noise. This is mostly an older congregation. So these people are set in their ways. Their kids have been gone a long time. And so it wasn’t a very nice service; it was just not very good worship. But afterwards I saw half a dozen of these elderly people come up and put their arms around the mother, touch the kids, sympathize with her. They could have been irritated.

Now why do people go to a church like that when they can go to a church that has a nursery, is air conditioned, and all the rest? Well, because they’re Lutherans. They don’t mind being miserable! Norwegian Lutherans!

And this same church recently welcomed a young woman with a baby and a three-year-old boy. The children were baptized a few weeks ago. But there was no man with her. She’s never married; each of the kids has a different father. She shows up at church …

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Our Church Isn’t "Cute"

“Oh, it’s so cute.”

The photo is of the building in which Middletown Springs Community Church, the church I pastor, gathers each week.

The quote is something I’ve heard several times — that or something like it — typically from friends and family hailing from some steamy portion of Six Flags Over Jesus where church buildings are indistinguishable from office parks or the galleria.

Our church is “cute.” Because it’s small, old, traditional. “Cute” is the backhanded compliment for those who’d never go to a “cute” church, but want you to know they admire it and perhaps even those who aren’t privileged enough to go to a church “successful” enough for a building that is big, impressive, full-service. You know, not cute, but rather “awesome.”

But our church isn’t “cute.” It’s beautiful like a bride both blemished and perfect.

Our building is just a building, but it has stood for over 200 years on the stony soil of the oldest part of our nation, the land of Christian pillars Whitefield and Edwards, of the Great Awakenings, of Puritans and patriots, of Green Mountain Boys and hundreds-of-years-old family farms. The building is just a building but it has weathered over 200 years of harsh Vermont winters, not to mention pastors strong and weak, congregations passionate and passive, spiritual ebbs and flows of Old Testament proportions. Once upon a time the church kicked out Joseph Smith’s secretary for heresy.

Our building is just a building, but it’s not just a building. It’s a symbol of the …

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Sounds Like Gospel Wakefulness

Lifted entirely from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

John Wesley, Journals (London, 1836)

I have heard some scoff at this account. “Pietistic” was the word used, as if that settled it. I’m not big on man-made labels one way or the other. But what God gave Wesley that evening I revere as biblical, I cherish as personal, I respect as powerful. I believe in theologically aroused heart-religion. It is the gospel getting traction inside us where it really counts.

God helping me, I will promote this glorious power to my dying day — and consider it a privilege.

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"He Pervades the Remotest Bounds"

“In Christ all things are ours. There is now for us no awful Beyond of mystery and fear. We cannot, indeed, explain the world, but we rejoice now that we cannot explain it. To us it is all unknown, but it contains no mysteries for our Saviour; He is on the throne; He is at the centre; He is ground and explanation of all things; He pervades the remotest bounds; by Him all things consist. The world is full of dread, mysterious powers; they touch us already in a thousand woes. But from all them we are safe.”

—- J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith?

via: OFI

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Spiritual Pride Smells of Hell

“Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.

Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt. But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity. Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself. He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies. But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He is apt to esteem others better than himself.”

– Jonathan Edwards

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

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