Latest


All Paths Lead to God

Jan 23, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

MANY_PATHS

All paths lead to God, but only one path will present you before God without fault and with great joy.

Pick a path, any path–it will take you to God. Trust me: you will stand before Him one day. You will meet your Maker. You will see the face of Christ.

There are many ways up the mountain, but only one will result in life instead of destruction.

“Christianity is narrow,” you say. “Why must we talk of insiders and outsiders?”

“Christianity is hard. I don’t like what it says. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. This kind of life, this kind of faith, this kind of commitment–they will make me unpopular.”

“Christianity is strange. It’s on the wrong side of history. No one really accepts it—the miracles, the strange teachings, the ethical demands. They don’t work anymore.”

Yes, Christianity can seem narrow, strange, and hard. Jesus was often thought narrow, strange, and hard too. But sometimes the narrow way is the only way, the strange path is the true path, and the hard life is the one that leads to eternal life (John 14:6).

There are many roads to God, but only one will make you holy and only one will bring you home.

View Comments

9 Myths about Abortion Rights and Roe v. Wade

Jan 22, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

unborn babyForty-two years ago, the Supreme Court concluded that a woman’s constitutional right to privacy included a right to terminate her pregnancy. After the sweeping decision was handed down, not only were the abortion laws of all fifty states rendered null and void, it was clear that no legal prohibition against abortion before viability would stand. And it would soon become clear that prohibitions after viability were unenforceable. Abortion on demand would be the law of the land.

The moral and spiritual dimensions notwithstanding, there are a plenty of reasons to see Roe as a logical, legal, and political debacle. In his new book, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, Clarke Forsythe highlights a number of myths which led to the ruling in Roe and myths which continue to be believed today.

Myth #1: Abortion was a common and widely accepted practice throughout history.

Truth: This inaccurate claim was repeated throughout the 1960s. The fact is that abortion was rare well into the nineteenth century. Almost all abortion methods before then were ineffective or potentially dangerous to the mother. True, unwanted children were still terminated, but this was done by killing newly born children. If abortion is to be considered a common practice throughout history, the method was infanticide or abandonment (82-85).

Myth #2: Roe was based on a careful investigation of the facts.

Truth: When Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were tried in the lower courts there were no trials and the judges did not look at evidence. One of the attorneys even stated that “the facts don’t matter.” Although many of the justices who decided Roe insisted on the importance of the factual record in other privacy cases, the investigation in Roe was largely taken up with procedural questions (92-97).

Myth #3: Women were dying by the thousands because of back-alley abortions.

Truth: The number of maternal deaths from all causes was 780 in 1972 (down from 7,267 in 1942). Of the 780 maternal deaths, 140 were listed as “abortion deaths” by the National Center for Health Statistics, and included in this number were those deaths caused by spontaneous miscarriage (102).

Myth #4: Existing abortion laws targeted women.

Truth: Virtually all states with anti-abortion laws treated the woman as a victim and never as a perpetrator or an accomplice to abortion. The states understood that abortions were often coerced by others and that prosecuting the woman who had an abortion was not enforceable. Instead, “treating the woman as the second victim of abortion was the consistent policy of the states for nearly a century before Roe” (112).

Myth #5: The destruction of the fetus was never treated as infanticide in the American legal tradition.

Truth: Anglo-American law, in a tradition inherited from Roman law, had called the fetus an “unborn child” or “child” since at least the 1200s. In the nineteenth century statutes enacted in 17 states referred to the crime against an unborn child as “manslaughter,” “murder,” or “assault with intent to murder.” Most of these statutes called the unborn child a “child,” not a fetus or some term which could undermine the full personhood of the unborn (114-115).

Myth #6: Our abortion laws are mainstream compared with the rest of the world.

Truth: The United States is one of only 10 nations that allow abortion after 14 weeks of gestation. Only four countries allow abortion for any reason after viability: Canada, North Korea, China, and the United States (126).

Myth #7: Abortion is safer than childbirth.

Truth: This is one of the myths that was crucial in the Justices decision and has been almost entirely overlooked since 1973. This medical mantra, based on seven journal articles with no reliable medical data, was countered in the briefs filed with the Supreme Court and in oral arguments (155-180).

Myth #8: The country is divided on the issue of abortion.

Truth: While a large (but decreasing) number of Americans support Roe, this figure drops precipitously when people are asked, not generically about Roe, but about what Roe actually allows. According to a 2009 poll, only 7 percent of Americans think abortion should be allowed at any time of pregnancy for any reason, precisely what Roe mandated in all 50 states (295).

Myth #9: The pro-life movement is anti-women.

Truth: Women are less supportive of abortion than men. According to a 2010 Rasmussen poll, 53% of women believe abortions are too easy to get, compared with 42% of men. Likewise, 58% of women believe abortion is morally wrong in most cases; 49% of men agree with the same statement (305).

Very likely, abortion will always be a controversial topic in this country. Prudential half-way measures may be the best way forward in many circumstances. But with a little instruction, some moral courage, and more political resolve than we are used to seeing, the worst effects of Roe can be mitigated and the lives of many unborn Americans can be saved. Get informed. Keep praying. Be ready to act.

View Comments

Monday Morning Humor (on Tuesday)

Jan 20, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Best Dad ever?

(Sorry for the OMG’s at the end).

View Comments

The Measure You Use

Jan 19, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

SONY DSCIt’s been a hard several months for race relations in this country. You can put me in the category of those who find everything very complicated, with lots of layers, and lots of emotions. I’m not an expert in police procedures or how grand juries are supposed to work. I don’t know what it’s like to be looked at suspiciously or treated roughly because of the color of my skin or the clothes I wear. I don’t know what it’s like to try to make an arrest and think of all the things that could go wrong. I’m sure I don’t even know half of the things I don’t know that I don’t know. I’m a pastor and a preacher. I study the Bible and teach the Bible for a living. So there are plenty of things I’m still trying to figure out. I’m trying to learn and trying to listen along the way.

But as a pastor and as a Christian there are things from the Bible that I do know. I know we ought to use the measure with each other that we want used for us (Matt. 7:2): “Don’t assume the worst about me because I don’t look like you. Don’t size me up based on how I dress, where I live, who my parents were, or if I ever knew my parents. Don’t speak before you listen. Don’t rush to judgment before you’ve heard from all sides.” Isn’t that what we all want?

One of the hallmarks of our legal system is the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty. The Romans subscribed to the dictum ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, no qui negat–“Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies.” In other words, you shouldn’t have to prove your innocent; the other side needs to prove you are guilty.

Which is why some people will say, “Stop with the trial by twitter. What happened to the presumption of innocence? We have to trust the system.” And why others will say, “Trust the system? We’ve spent our whole lives being assumed as guilty, when the ones who mistreat us are always presumed innocent.” Same principle, different experiences, different application.

So what are we to do as Christians?

Probably a dozen different things depending on our situation and calling. But here’s at least one thing we can do: think about the measure we want used for us. Ask yourself: How do I want people to measure me? How do I want people to judge me? How do I want to be treated when I’m accused, when I’m harassed, when I’m about to be put down or sized up (or worse)?

I want people to hear me out.

I want people to get to know me and not lock me into a preconceived narrative or set of experiences.

I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt.

I want people to look at every angle and not be quick to believe the worst about me.

I want people to deal with facts, not gossip or speculation.

I want people to tell me the truth when I’m not seeing the truth.

I want people to try to understand why I’m hurt or scared or upset.

I want people to give me a fair hearing and be open to changing their minds.

I want people to consider how they may be at fault and admit when they’re wrong.

I want people to speak respectfully to me and of me.

I want people to try to see what they can’t yet see.

I want people to remember that I’m made in the image of God and should be treated fairly, honestly, and decently.

This is not social commentary. This is not political prescription. There is time for both of these things, but this post is about something else. It’s about taking Matthew 7:2 as a starting point (not the end, but the beginning) for living out and living into the picture of racial harmony we will rightfully hear so much about on MLK Day.

Take a look at the “I” statements above. Isn’t that how you want people to measure you? Very likely. Is that the measure you’re using for them? Something to think about.

View Comments

The Necessity of Good Works and Obedience

Jan 16, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

A very helpful synopsis from Bradley Green (23-24):

1. Loving or knowing God is linked with obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:22, 24; 5:3; 2 John 6; Rev. 12:17; 14:12)

2. The ‘conditional’ nature of our future salvation (Rom. 11:22; 1 Cor. 15:2; Heb. 3:6, 14; 4:14)

3. Christians must ‘overcome’ if they are ultimately to be saved (Heb. 10:38-39; Rev. 2:7, 11; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7)

4. The necessity of a great righteousness (Matt. 5:20)

5. The requirement of the law being met ‘in us’ (Rom. 8:3-4)

6. God will efficaciously work ‘in’ us, moving us to obey him (Phil. 2:12-13)

7. The necessity of putting to death the old man, by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:13-14)

8. ‘Faith’ and ‘obedience/works’ used as virtual synonyms (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; Rev. 12:17; 14:12; cf. 6:9)

9. We are truly judged, or justified, by our works (Matt. 7:21, 25; Rom. 2:13; cf. Jas. 1:22-25)

10. The ‘obedience of faith’ (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; Acts 6:7)

11. We were created and redeemed for good works (2 Cor. 9:8; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14 [cf. 11-12])

12. Faith working through love (Gal. 5:6)

13. The law affirmed; the law of Christ (Rom. 13:9; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 4:14; 6:2)

14. Persons do the works of their Father (John 8:39)

Amazingly, justification is by faith alone. And just as amazingly, “Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify” (John Calvin).

View Comments

Ten Books that Have Shaped Me as a Christian

Jan 15, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Recently someone asked me what ten book have been most helpful in my growth as a Christian. A good question, I thought, and a fun question to answer. I love to talk about books, especially those that have been instrumental in my walk with Christ.

Two quick caveats:

1. In order to be most useful, I tried to think of books that have been helpful to me as a Christian not just as a pastor. The two callings, however, are not easily extricated, so my list may strike a chord more readily with those in full time church ministry.

2. This is not a list of my ten favorite books of all time (though that list would have significant overlap with this one), nor is this a list of the ten books every Christian should read. For that list I’d pick a few more popular-level books and try to cover a number of other topics. What we have below are ten books that profoundly shaped my head and my heart at key moments in my Christian life. Not surprisingly, given the way God often works, I read all of these books for the first time (except for the last one) between the ages of 18 and 22. Pastors, campus ministers, professors, publishers, parents, take note: get good books in the hands of college students.

I don’t usually read too many of my blog comments (sorry), but on this post I’d love to hear from you. What books have been most helpful in your growth as a Christian? Here’s my list, in no particular order:

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
No book besides the Bible has shaped me more than this one. It’s more readable than you might think. Give it a try. I stole my dad’s copy when I was a college freshman and never gave it back.

 

 

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers
I first came across this book during seminary (thank you First Pres book table), and as I went through the prayers I wasn’t sure I had ever really prayed before! Ok, I had prayed before, but after using this book I knew my prayers would not be the same.

 

Iain Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (two volume biography)
I got these two volumes as a Christmas present during college (thank you mom and dad). I found the Doctor’s life and ministry so thrilling I couldn’t put them down for the next semester.

 

 

B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
Warfield helped me come out of a confusing intellectual season where I wondered if the Bible really could be trusted.

 

 

 

J.C. Ryle, Holiness
Stirring, convicting, illuminating. I didn’t know about the Keswick controversy when I first read the book. I was just powerfully encouraged to grow in holiness.

 

 

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
Never seems to not be relevant. Machen crystallized for me what I had seen in parts of my mainline college experience.

 

 

 

David F. Wells, No Place for Truth
He opened my eyes to the ways in which the church had become compromised and introduced categories for faithfulness I had never considered before.

 

 

John Piper, Future Grace
His analysis of anxiety, bitterness, and lust are still with me. For my money this is Piper at his practical, personal, penetrating best.

 

 

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
After Calvin I cut my theological teeth on Berkhof. So clear, so concise, so logical. My copy has been falling apart for some time.

 

 

 

Heidelberg Catechism
I had to study the Catechism with my pastor before I joined the church in fourth grade–a gift that keeps on giving.

View Comments

How to Write More Gooder

Jan 13, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Most people don’t write well.

And by “well” I don’t mean brilliantly, creatively, and profoundly. I mean most people—unless they are gifted or (more likely) have put in a good deal of effort—do not write clearly, understandably, or according to basic grammatical rules.

Many books have been written on how to write better (books which would tell me not to use the passive voice in the previous line, but I like the way “written” and “write” sound closer together). These books are useful to a point. I benefited from Strunk and White when I was in college and enjoyed reading Roy Peter Clark’s 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer several years ago. But I find that books on writing don’t scratch where most people itch. They get into things like transitive verbs and active voice and the difference between affect and effect, useful in hedging the driveway but less relevant in knowing how to turn on the lawnmower. Most people don’t need help going from good to great. They need help going from confusion to clarity.

I wish I knew better how to articulate the keys to good writing. When I write it is a very intuitive process. After the fact I can look back and tell you why I did what I did, and looking at an intern’s paper I can point out what needs to be improved, but coming up with the ten most important principles of effective writing has so far eluded me. What I can point to are a few simple practices which may help a great deal.

1. Read. No matter how hard you work at writing, you will not improve unless you do a lot of reading. Read often. Read widely. Read from different eras. Read from different disciplines. Read different styles. Read different genres. Just keep reading—and not just tweets, and status updates, and blogs. Read good journalism. Read long form essays. Read succinct op-ed pieces. Read well-reasoned journal articles. Read short stories. Read poems. And above all, read books. The best way (or is it the only way?) to grow in your vocabulary, in your comfort with the discipline, and in your feel for the craft is to read.

2. Write well whenever you write. You probably practice writing much more often than you realize. The problem is practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent. And in this case, what we’re practicing may not be very good. We text without any thought for punctuation or grammar. We write emails with incomplete thoughts connected by ellipses. The Christmas letter ends up being nothing more than a series of lists strung together. Of course, there is time for shorthand and for shortcuts, but if you have to write emails, and you’re going to write tweets, and you work on the newsletter every month anyway, why not make the effort to write these things more effectively? Say what you will about Twitter (it can be a ridiculous medium), but the discipline of putting your thoughts into 140 characters, in some arresting fashion, is actually quite useful.

3. Speak out loud what you’ve just written. Good writing does not happen without great editing. Almost no one writes well on the first try, and if they seem to it’s because they are constantly revising and reworking as they go. If your writing is often awkward, unclear, and borderline unintelligible, congratulations, so is most good writing! The difference is that good writers don’t leave it there. They take the time to make things better. And the simplest way to do that is to go back and speak out loud (not just in your head, actually audibly out loud) what you’ve written down. You’ll hear things that don’t make sense, things that don’t fit, things that can be cut, and your writing will improve.

4. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you are going to do more than hand in a rough draft, you can’t start your massive writing project the night before it’s due. This is just as true on a smaller scale. Don’t be in such a hurry that you can’t reread your email before you send it or let your report sit for awhile before printing it off. It’s amazing how our beautifully written prose can sound so clunky the next morning. Give yourself some distance from the project. Finish your writing ahead of time and then come back and make it shine.

5. Get a good friend to be ruthless. This will be painful, but worth it. If people consistently find your writing hard to understand, confusing, and full of mistakes, go ask a trusted teacher, relative, or obnoxious grammar nerd to tear your writing apart. Tell him you’ll pay him by the error, not by the hour. Tell her you want at least ten corrections per page. Find a friend to hurt your feelings. You’ll feel better eventually. Writing well is not easy, but it is not impossible either.

View Comments

Monday Morning Humor

Jan 12, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

This is how papers are really graded. (FYI, I don’t know anything about this show. And bonus FYI, a teacher sent me this clip.)

View Comments

Stuart Scott and (Not) Responding to Internet Critics

Jan 08, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Like many people I was saddened to hear about Stuart Scott’s death on Sunday. As a lifelong sports guy (watching and rooting at least, if not playing particularly well), I’ve “known” the ESPN anchor for years. His catch phrases, his professionalism, and his general likeability made him as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Until I went back and reread portions of the big ESPN book, I didn’t know Scott received so much criticism for style. I’m hardly an urban hip-hop kid, but I always found his street-smart style to be genuine and entertaining. Apparently, some people hated it and sent in emails or wrote online about they found his schtick unprofessional, inauthentic, or just plain annoying. Scott’s approach to this kind of internet criticism was refreshing:

I’ve read two blogs in my life. I’m not a big Internet guy. I was talking to a colleague of mine who works here and he said, “Man, I get on the Internet, I see all this stuff written about me and I’m firing off e-mails…” And I’m like, “Why? Why are you firing off e-mails?” I’m not trying to be cool; I just think that if there are people who say I’m trying to do this [act black], and I’m trying to do that, they can believe it if they want. (535)

Of course, there are times to respond to our critics, especially if they know us and really care for us. The internet, at its best, can be an easily accessible marketplace of ideas. But it can also be a butcher’s block. Anyone with any kind of public presence–and that’s almost everyone nowadays–must learn how to process the incessant punditry of online critics.

Again, here he is Scott:

I can’t be that concerned with how I’m perceived. I care about how my mother and father think about me and how my friends and how my loved ones think about me. I care about how my ex-wife thinks about me; she and I are still good friends and we do a good job raising our kids. But it doesn’t matter to me what people who are writing a blog on the Internet think. I can’t think about that.

Being a father. That’s it. That’s the answer. That’s my answer. I’m convinced of that. I remember there was a day—my oldest daughter, who is fourteen now, but when she was about two or three, there was a show called Gullah Gullah Island, a Disney show, that was her favorite TV show. I was doing the late-night SportsCenter that aired all morning long. So there was one morning and I’d done the show the night before, and I got up and I said, “Taylor, do you want to watch Daddy on TV?” And she said—and it’s not just what she said but how she said it—“No, I want to watch Gullah Gullah Island.” And I remembered thinking that day, if it’s not a big deal to hear, and she was my life, then it can’t be that big of a deal. (641-642)

Later in the book, Scott talks about his first bout with cancer and how it put the opinions of others into perspective:

I had cancer last year. I had appendicular cancer, which is very, very, very rare, like extremely rare. I had appendicitis. It didn’t rupture. It was inflamed, it go taken out—I was in Pittsburgh for the Monday night game. It was malignant.

So three or four days later I had surgery to remove, like, anything close. I got a big scar. They took apart my colon, anything. I did six months’ chemotherapy. Now, after they finished the surgery, they didn’t find any more cancer, but they said to do chemo anyway. Every six months I have to have a CT scan. Now, I’ve been clean. I worry, what if this comes back and I’ve go to live every day? So juxtapose that up against what somebody says. (642-643)

As a Christians–and I don’t know anything about Scott’s religious beliefs or lack thereof–we know that living for God’s pleasure and living in God’s pleasure are even better and more freeing than living for our kids. And yet, Scott is definitely on to something. Criticism hurts. Unfair attacks on our character are, well, no fair. But let’s not make it worse by our pride. Most folks, even those closest to us, aren’t fixated on us–either to applaud us or condemn us. And those who are have their own problems. Why get upset when people we don’t know and have never met think we’re dirty rotten scoundrels? The internet critic fires his missive and goes back to whatever life he was living before. Don’t let him (or her) have a place in your life he doesn’t deserve.

View Comments

7 Reasons Not to Worry

Jan 06, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Is there a sin nice, middle-class Christians commit more than the sin of worry?

You wake up ten minutes later than you had hoped and anxiety already starts to creep in: what if I’m late? What about traffic? What’s the weather like? You pass by the mirror and worry that your face has more wrinkles than it used to. You rush downstairs and because you are in a hurry you let the kids eat whatever they want, so then you start to worry if sugar really does cause cancer. As you get the kids ready you realize one of your boys didn’t do his homework-again. You worry if he’s ever going to get his head screwed on straight, and as you drop the kids off you worry that they may fall in with the wrong crowd or fall off the monkey bars.

Once you get home you pull up Facebook just to unwind. There you read about how awesome everyone else’s kids are and all the amazing cupcakes your friends make and you worry that you might be a failure as a mom. Later in the morning you feel that pain in your knee again. You worry about having to get knee replacement surgery and whether your insurance will cover that and how you’ll pay for it and who will take care of the kids if you are laid up for a month. Then you worry that maybe the pain is something worse, so you check all the medical web sites and realize you probably have a rare case of whooping cough that’s spread to your appendages.

Hours later when the kids are in bed you turn on the television to forget about the day. As you flip through the channels and get caught up on the news you start to worry about the economy and the polar vortex and the rise in crime in your city. You worry about the racial divisions in this country and how you’ll talk to your friend who see things a little differently and maybe you worry whether the police would treat you fairly or you worry about the safety of your brother who is a police officer. So you turn off the TV and talk to your husband and worry about his cough that doesn’t seem to get better and worry the layoffs they’re having at work. And finally as you lay down for the night you feel a tremendous sense of anxiety and you don’t even know why. For reasons you can’t even understand, you start worrying about life and kids and your parents and your church and your health and flying and driving and sleeping and eating and a general fear that the days ahead could be really bad.

Can you relate?

Jesus can help.

Worry may be the most common sin among your “regular” folks in the church. Now, you may think that’s not very encouraging. “Great, I worry about everything. And now on top of my worrying I am going to feel bad about worrying and I am going to worry about that.” But be encouraged: If worry is just a part of your personality or part of being a mom (or a student or a businessman or whatever), God may not do anything to help you. But if worry is a sin, then God can forgive you for it and help you overcome it.

Matthew 6:25-34 is one of the Bible’s great passages on worry. Three times Jesus says “do not be anxious” (25, 31, 34). But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus is interested in more than handing down commands. He wants to get at our hearts. And so he gives seven reasons why we should not be anxious.

Reason #1: Life is too important (Matt. 6:25). We need to get our priorities straight. Does it really matter that you have the good things in life; fancy food, fancy drinks, fancy clothes. Are you living your whole life for a little tag on the back of your pants or the inside of your shirt that makes you feel cool? Are you going to look back on your life and wish you had been more fastidious about your clothing choices? Isn’t life about more than just a clump of cells trying to get sustenance, trying to feel good, trying to look good.

We live in an age where people freak out about food. While most people in the history of the world have worried about whether they will get anything to eat, we worry about the kind of life the chicken lived before we ate it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned with how animals are treated. But let’s remember that life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.

Reason #2: You are too important (Matt. 6:26). We not only insult God when we worry about food and clothes and money, we insult ourselves. Worry says to the world, “I’m not valuable.” Anxiety is an affront to the kindness of God and the worth of men and women made in his image. Let the birds and squirrels be your preachers. God’s feeding them. When you see them peering at you through the window, they’re saying, “What are you looking at? Trust God.” When you hear the birds sing, they are singing a song to remind you of God’s provision. God takes care of little animals; he’ll take care of you.

Reason #3: It doesn’t do any good (Matt. 6:27). Have you ever looked back on the hard times in life and thought, “I don’t know how I would have made it through that if I hadn’t worried?” Nobody reflects on the past and concludes, “Money sure was tight, but worry really pulled me through.” “Junior High was difficult. I only wish I could have worried more.” “The diagnosis was frightening, but then I got all my friends to worry with me.”

If we all took a few seconds right now and worried about making car payments, paying off the mortgage, being without insurance, we’re wouldn’t live one second longer. I haven’t checked this with the doctors I know, but I don’t think they ever stand at the bedside and say, “Well, ma’am, it doesn’t look good. all we can do at this point is worry.”

Man knows not his time. It is not for us to direct our steps (Jer. 10:23). All our days have been written in God’s book before any of them come to pass (Psalm 139:16). You and I need to admit we are powerless over some things. I am powerless to do all sorts of things. I can’t make someone believe the gospel. I can’t raise the dead. I can’t sit at the crib all night making sure the baby is breathing. And I certainly can’t live one more nanosecond than I am supposed to live.  No one has ever lived an hour longer because they worried about when they were going to die.

Reason #4: God cares about you (Matt. 6:28-30). God makes the wild flowers grow. Why? Because he wants to. Because they’re pretty. Because he’s creative. Because he likes beauty. Because he wants people to enjoy them. Because he cares about flowers. And he even cares about grass. The grass is going to die. Your lawn will be brown. It will be cold, frozen, dead–probably is already. But in a few months, it will all come back. And you won’t have anything to do with it. Maybe you’ll plant some more seed. Maybe you’ll get a lawn care specialist out to help make things super great. But even if you do nothing, the grass will come back. Because God is God and he likes green grass.

Do you see what Jesus calls worriers? He calls us “little faiths.” Our worry is an insult to God’s character. When we worry we are not believing the truth about God. We are doubting that he sees, that he knows, that he cares, that he is more than able. Faith is more than a vague notion that Jesus existed and we are going to heaven if we ask him into our hearts. Faith is a practical way of looking at the world. Biblical faith extends to all of life, not merely to the salvation of our souls. When we worry, we are telling God, “I don’t trust you to run my life. I don’t think you’re really in control. I had better worry about these things. I need to do everything to take care of myself, because I’m not sure you will.” But think about it: God takes care of wild animals. He takes care of wild flowers. He even takes care of grass. Why wouldn’t he take care of you?

Reason #5: Pagans worry (Matt. 6:30-32a).  Some of us worry so much, we might as well be atheists. We are living like God doesn’t really exist. That’s what pagans do.

A pagan doesn’t have to be somebody who worships idols and sacrifices frogs. A pagan is somebody who thinks life is about what you will eat, what you will drink, what you will wear. Pagans think that life consists in the abundance of one’s possessions. Pagans spend their money and hoard their money like there was no God in the universe watching over them or watching out for them.

Let me pause right here because some of you are asking the question the rest of us are afraid to speak: “But what if God doesn’t take care of me?” What about Christians starving to death? What about Christian’s being driven from their homes? What about the thousands of good Christians who will die this year from cancer or car accidents or cardiac arrest? Doesn’t God promise to take care of them too?

Those are fair questions–and questions that wouldn’t surprise Jesus or any of the writers of the Bible. Revelation speaks of a set number of martyrs. Paul told the Romans that even in hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and slaughter they would be more than conquerors. Jesus told his disciples, “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life” (Luke 21:16-19). Jesus never told his disciples that being a Christian was a get out of suffering free card.

So can we count on God or not?

First, we need to remember the context. Jesus is talking about people serving mammon instead of God (Matt. 6:24). In Luke’s account in Luke 12, Jesus is talking about rich fools building bigger barns and worry-worts storing up treasures on earth. His point here is that we won’t die on account of over-generosity. That’s the first to note.

But that’s only part of the answer. I think the rest of the answer is found in verse 32: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” What is “them?” Verses 30 and 31 suggest the “them” is food and drink. And what do we need these things for? For life. God knows what we need to keep on living. . . . so long as he wants us to live. God knows that we need clothes, food, and drink to live and he will give us all the clothes, food, and drink to live until he wants us to die.

This is based on a profound theological truth: God is not stupid. God sees us. He knows we are here. He hasn’t gone out for lunch. He isn’t taking a nap. He’s not like a parent who loses a child in some other part of the grocery store. He is for you, not against you. Jesus doesn’t promise all your wildest dreams will come true, but he does promise that God will give you what you need to glorify him and to live out all the days he has written in his book.

That may sound sort of dumb, but it is really profound. There is more to life, Jesus is saying, than living. We are going to die. So don’t make it your goal in life to simply stay alive; you’ll fail at that. We are here to do more than avoid death. “God will give you all the food and drink and clothes you need to live,” Jesus says. “And when I want you to stop living, you’ll stop living. I’m in control. You were put here for a reason bigger than to just live.” Be consumed, v. 31 says, with the kingdom. Be consumed with seeing God’s reign and rule over your life, and family, and church, and the lost peoples of the world. You’re not a pagan after all.

Reason #6: The kingdom matters more (Matt. 6:33). Jesus wants to set the worry wort free. When we have nice cars, boats, tractors, and houses, we worry about them. What if an accident happens, or lightning strikes, or a thief breaks in? Jesus says “How about a better treasure? Why not lose yourself for the things that last?” As Randy Alcorn puts it, “You can’t take the money with you, but you can send it ahead.”

Don’t get rid of all pursuits: replace your pagan pursuit with a pious pursuits. Be consumed with the kingdom. Be consumed with seeing God’s reign and rule over your life, your family, and your church. Spend yourself for the lost people’s of the world. Make it your priority to introduce more people to the King, get more people in the kingdom, train people to live under the authority of this King and his kingdom.

Jesus may not make your life easy. But he will make your life joyful. He wants to set us free from pursuing all the dead ends we’ve been driving down. If you live for money, you have reason to be anxious. If the most important thing in your life is your career, that can go bad. If your health or your looks or your kids are your real passions, you may be colossally disappointed. You have reason to fret. But if you seek first the kingdom, you can’t lose.

Reason #7: Tomorrow will be anxious for itself (34). Today’s grace is for today’s trials. And when tomorrow’s trials come, God will have new grace waiting for you there.

Anxiety is living out the future before it gets here. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him” (Lam. 3:22-24).

What will happen tomorrow?

I can give you a thousand things we don’t know–medical reports, accidents, jobs, tests, dates, babies, criticisms, hard conversations, even death. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But here is one thing you and I can count on: there will be new mercies from the Lord when we get there.

How can I stop worrying? Look to Jesus. But also look at Jesus. He sees. He knows. He cares. He is a sympathetic high priest. And he will never leave you nor forsake you.

View Comments
1 2 3 4 5 202