Don’t Be Scared off From Reading the Puritans

Apr 17, 2015 | Jason Helopoulos

Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

Many are scared off from reading the Puritans thinking they are too difficult to read. Others hear the echoes of an overzealous and inaccurate college professor’s lectures on the Puritans or Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter warning them away. I want to encourage you to read the Puritans. Banner of Truth has done a great service through its Puritan Paperbacks series making their works accessible and readable. These works are not too difficult to read, except for the effect they have upon the soul. The lectures of your college professor and Hawthorne’s portrayal are inaccurate, they rob the Puritans of their heart.

I have been leading my small group through one of these works, The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. It is a Christian classic for a reason. If you haven’t read it, buy a copy and reward your soul. Sibbes, a Puritan of the late 16th and early 17th century, teases out the prophecy in Isaiah 42:1-3 regarding Christ, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment into truth.”

Let me give you a few selected quotes from Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed and see if you can prevent your heart from being moved and your soul from being gripped?

  • What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what a comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ!
  • He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart.
  • The lion of the tribe of Judah will only tear in pieces those ‘that will not have him rule over them’ (Luke 19:14). He will not show his strength against those who prostrate themselves before him.
  • Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal. No sound, whole soul shall ever into heaven.
  • …there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us…It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things.
  • …let all know that none are fitter for comfort than those that think themselves furthest off. Men, for the most part, are not lost enough in their own feeling for a Savior. A holy despair in ourselves is the ground of true hope.
  • Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto.
  • Grace, though little in quantity, is much in vigor and worth.
  • Nothing in the world is of so good use as the least grain of grace.
  • It would be a good contest amongst Christians, one to labor to give no offence, and the other to labor to take none. The best men are sever to themselves, tender over others.
  • Truth fears nothing so much as concealment, and desires nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all. When it is most unadorned, it is most lovely and powerful.
  • We must not judge ourselves always according to feeling…Life in the winter is hid in the root.
  • Without Christ’s Spirit the soul is in confusion, without beauty and form, as all things were in the chaos before the creation. The whole soul is out of joint till it be set right again by him whose office is to ‘restore all things.’
  • Grace conquers us first, and we, by it, conquer all else; whether corruptions within us, or temptations from outside us.

Read the Puritans. They aren’t quite as hard to read as they have been portrayed and they aren’t quite as scary either. In fact, they are good for the mind, the heart, and the soul.

View Comments

The Pastor’s Personal Holiness

Apr 16, 2015 | Jason Helopoulos

Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

The most important thing a pastor can do is pursue personal holiness. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the famous nineteenth century Scottish Presbyterian, was right when he said, “The greatest need of my people is my own holiness.”

This may sound like pastoral hubris, but it is just the opposite. A faithful pastor knows that He must passionately pursue Christ. This is essential to being a pastor. A gospel minister who acknowledges this truth rightly ascertains the seriousness of his calling and the source of its fruitfulness.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing,” said the Head of the Church (John 15:4-5). A gospel minister not pursuing Christ might as well be looking back from the plow (Luke 9:62). He is going nowhere and his labor will bear thistles rather than fruit.

In fact, a lack of personal holiness in the pastorate has ruined many churches and many lives. The pastor like a boulder on top of a hill, when falling, can have a cascading effect upon everything below him. Our adversary does not lack this knowledge. He is well aware that if he can make one pastor stumble or turn away from following Christ passionately, then an entire church can be affected. At times, an entire denomination, city, or even country can be negatively affected by one pastor’s sins. Conversely, where one finds a pastor, who is a man of Christ-like character and holiness, one also often finds maturity among the people under his care.

Why is this? Because apart from Christ, he can do nothing. Oh dear pastor, always remember this truth. Emblazon it upon your soul, seal it upon your heart, and continually recall it in your mind. Your intellect, your abilities, your gifts, and your experience, though helpful, do not produce fruit. Only He can. And He chooses to bear fruit through those who are abiding in Him.

As an under-shepherd, the pastor models before his congregation Christian living. The people in the pew look to him. He represents Christ, His demands, and His calling to those under his care. They will not believe what they hear from his lips, if they do not see it in his life. There is no way around it, hypocritical pastors produce wayward children. We cannot encourage what we do not know. This does not mean that a pastor has to be perfect. How foolish such an opinion would be. None of us will be perfectly holy in this life–far from it!

And every congregation knows this not only about themselves, but about their pastor. They know his weaknesses. They come to recognize his sinful inclinations and sinful habits. This is part of living in community. It is difficult to hide who we are. In fact, we cannot and must not hide who we are. Rather, pastors, declare with your living who you are in Christ. You are a sinner saved by grace. Show how a sinner saved by grace is to live. Seek to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Colossians 3:5)  and live more and more in the graces of Christ (Colossians 3:12ff). Strive to manifest works of righteousness for His glory (Ephesians 2:10). Continually beat the drum of resting and striving by His grace (Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 2:12). Our people are watching and by God’s grace, they will follow where we lead. Not only by our words, but by our very lives, we are proclaiming Him, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we might present everyone mature in Christ. For this I (we) toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (us)” (Colossians 1:28).

Pastors, you do not bear responsibility for the results or fruit of your ministry, but you do bear responsibility for the effectiveness of your ministry. And nothing is more essential to your effectiveness than personal holiness–dependence upon the Lord, living in His grace, passionately pursing His person and truth, and laboring for His glory.

As Robert Murray M’Cheyne said on another occasion, “A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” By His grace, be that weapon for His glory.

View Comments

10 Principles for Christian Husbands & Fathers

Apr 14, 2015 | Jason Helopoulos

Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

Most Christian men in theologically conservative circles embrace the biblical truth that they are to lead their families in Christ. Though most embrace this reality and are convinced of its necessity, it is equally true that most of us are not quite sure how to do this. Too few of us grew up in Christian homes with strong and godly Christian fathers to model it before us. How does a Christian husband and father lead their family well in Christ? I would suggest the following is a starting place:

Pursue Holiness: This is the key to leading our families in Christ. A Christian husband and father cannot lead where he has not tread. Even as Paul admonished Timothy regarding the pastorate, “Keep a close watch on your life and doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16), so it is true of the “pastor” of the home. If holiness is found lacking in our lives, then it will normally be lacking in our family members as well. The greatest impetus to their growth in Christ is our growth in Christ.

Know What You Can Control and Can’t Control: It is a fool who thinks they can control the hearts of others. We have no such charge and thank God, because we have no such ability. We can encourage, exhort, and teach our wives and children in the faith, but we cannot control their embrace of or growing in that faith. But we are charged with maintaining our own hearts. Don’t neglect what you have responsibility for while pursuing that which you are not responsible for. Husbands and fathers serve their family well when they are seeking to control their own anger, selfishness, pride, and tongue. Let us know what we are empowered to do and what only the Lord can do.

Provide in Every Realm: Most Christian husbands and fathers recognize the need to provide for their families materially. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Even as this is true in the physical realm, so it is true in the spiritual. By all means, bring home the bacon! But don’t stop there. Practice consistent and regular family worship; lead your family in reading the Scriptures, praying, and singing. In joy, take your family to church each week, engage your family in the ministry of the church, pursue hospitality by inviting others to your home, pray with and for your wife and children. Don’t think your job is done by putting a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their stomachs. They are body and soul, they need your provision in the spiritual realm as well.

Practice Humility: Leading in Christ is different from than the world’s view of leadership. The world promotes a type of leadership that demands to be served. The Christian view of leadership demands to serve. Dear Christian husband and father, you are the chief servant in your home. Congratulations! In Christ, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). We lead by serving and often that serving is sacrificial (Ephesians 5:25).

Persist in Joy and Thanksgiving: Set the tone in your home. A Christian husband and father establishes the culture of his home more than anyone else. The moody teenager, fussy toddler, or even sullen wife are not the determining factor. You are. Pursue joy in the Lord and persist in thanksgiving to God for all His good gifts (James 1:17). This is a great starting place for shaping your home.

Be Effusive in Love: No wife or child has ever said, “I was loved too much!” Don’t be the husband or father who is reserved in expressing your love. Make your wife feel treasured. Nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:29). Grace her life with compliments, flowers, gifts, and constant affection. Hug her from behind while she is washing the dishes, carve out regular time for her to escape from the demands of the home, encourage her to pursue godly female friendships, thank her for the care she provides for you and your children, plan and execute date nights. May there never be a doubt in her mind that you treasure her above all others. And allow your children to see this affection. Your embrace of mom should be a regular vision for their little eyes to behold. As for your children, lavish upon them an undeterred and unfailing love. No matter their failings, foibles, or struggles, may they know your love will be a constant in their lives. It is fixed and nothing can steal it away. You won’t be a perfect father, but bathing your children in love is a step towards being a great father.

Live in Grace: Peter says, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…” (1 Peter 3:7). Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Model and practice grace in your home. Be sensitive to sin and even more sensitive to extending the same grace you have received. Your wife and children should find you approachable, kind, gentle, and gracious. When they hear the word grace it shouldn’t be a foreign concept to their minds. They have known and received it from you consistently.

Protect and Be Strong: Your wife and children need your strength. Not only do they need your strength, but they need to know you are willing to use that strength for their good. You serve as their defender. You are to willingly and gladly stand-up for your family, even if that costs you socially, professionally, emotionally, or even physically.

Glory in Weakness: Even as you seek to be strong, you must glory in your own weakness. Your wife and children should know you as a man who happily depends upon the Lord. When they reflect upon your strength, they always count it as from the Lord. And you are happy for them to know the source of your strength. A faithful Christian husband and father will not wallow in his weakness, but he will glory in it. He will continually look to Christ and model this supremely Christian virtue before his family. He will be a man of prayer, knowing that much of his shepherding takes place upon his knees. He will lead the way in asking for forgiveness in the home from both his wife and children, he will keep short accounts and be quick to grant forgiveness when offended, he will refrain from having too high of expectations for his wife and children knowing his own failings and weaknesses, and he will extend to them the same grace he himself needs.

Live with God’s Glory in View: Whether you are at work, rest, or play, seek to glorify the Lord. Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Model before your family purposeful living. We are always living in the shadow of God’s glory. Demonstrate to them that every moment matters, every person is significant, every task is important. Laugh when you play with your kids, sweat when you work, and sing loud when you worship. Do all things with His glory in view and do them with your whole heart and soul, especially the leading of your family.

Christian husbands and fathers, you have been given the glorious and wonderful task of leading your homes in Christ. Leading takes thought and intentionality. How are you leading your family in the Lord? What principles, practices, and pursuits are you employing for their good and the glory of our Head, Christ Jesus?

View Comments

Monday Morning Humor

Apr 13, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

What do they feed animals in France?

View Comments

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?

Apr 09, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Crossway has done a great job putting together a number of resources related to the new book on homosexuality.

Here is a general page giving basic information, including endorsements and other links.

Crossway has also put out a free 36-page sampler which includes the Table of Contents, the Introduction, and Chapter One. A free study guide is also available for download.

Recently, I gave an hour long message covering a few of the themes in the book. Following the message I sat on a panel with Justin Taylor, Jackie Hill-Perry, and Josh Moody to continue the conversation. Both of these videos are embedded below.


View Comments

Why Is a Wedding Any Different?

Apr 08, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Why might a Christian refuse to attend, cater, or participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony?

Just to keep the question on track, let’s set aside two related issues. First, we are not talking about whether Christians should have the right to refuse to participate in a gay wedding without facing government fines and coercion. If the CEO of Apple can keep conservative faith-based apps out of the App Store, then conservative Christians should not be forced into gay weddings with cakes and flowers. But that’s not the issue at hand. Second, for simplicity sake let’s assume this is a discussion among traditional Christians who believe–as the church has always believed and as most of the global church still believes–that same-sex sexual behavior is sinful and that marriage is a covenantal and conjugal union between a man and a woman.

With those two clarifying comments we can address our question head-on: Why would a Christian feel conscience bound to not be a part of a gay wedding?

It’s a reasonable question, and I hope those asking it are willing to be reasonable in thoughtfully considering a conservative response. It’s not because of bigotry or fear or because we are unaware that Jesus spent time with sinners that leads us to our conclusion. It’s because of our desire to be obedient to Christ and because of the nature of the wedding event itself.

A wedding ceremony, in the Christian tradition, is first of all a worship service. So if the union being celebrated in the service cannot be biblically sanctioned as a an act of worship, we believe the service lends credence to a lie. We cannot come in good conscience and participate in a service of false worship. I understand that sounds not very nice, but the conclusion follows from the premise; namely, that the “marriage” being celebrated is not in fact a marriage and should not be celebrated.

Moreover, there has long been an understanding that those present at a marriage ceremony are not just casual observers, but are witnesses granting their approval and support for the vows that are to be made. That’s why the traditional language speaks of gathering “here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation.” That’s why one of the sample marriage services in the PCA still has the minister say, “If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be wedded, let him now declare it, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.” Quite explicitly, the wedding is not a party for friends and family. It’s not a mere ceremonial formality. It is a divine event in which those gathered celebrate and honor the “solemnization of matrimony.” Which is why–as much as I might want to build bridges with a lesbian friend or reassure a gay family member that I care for him and want to have a relationship with him–I would not attend a same-sex wedding ceremony. I cannot help with my cake, with my flowers, or with my presence to solemnize what is not holy.

But Jesus hung out with sinners! He wasn’t worried about being contaminated by the world. He didn’t want to turn people off to God’s love. He was always throwing open the floodgates of God’s mercy. He would say to us, “If someone forces you to bake one cake, bake for him two!” Okay, let’s think this through. I mean actually think for a few sentences, and not just with slogans and vague sentimentality.

  • “But Jesus hung out with sinners.” True, sort of (depends on what you mean by “hung out). But Jesus believed marriage was between a man a woman (Matt. 19:3-9). The example of Christ in the Gospels teaches us that we should not be afraid to spend time with sinners. If a gay couple next door invites you over for dinner, don’t turn them down.
  • “He wasn’t worried about being contaminated by the world.” That’s not the concern here. This isn’t about cooties or sin germs. We have plenty of those ourselves.
  • “He didn’t want to turn people off to God’s love.” Perhaps, but Jesus did so all the time. He acted in ways that could be unintentionally, and more often deliberately, antagonistic (Matt. 7:6; 13-27; 11:20-24; 13:10-17; 19:16-30; 23:1-36). The fact of the matter is Jesus turned people off all the time. This is no excuse for us to be unthinking and unkind. But it should put to rest the thoroughly unbiblical notion that says if someone feels hurt by your words or unloved by your actions that you were ipso facto sinfully and foolishly unloving.
  • “He was always throwing open the floodgates of God’s mercy.” Amen. Let’s keep preaching Christ and preach as he did, calling all people to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
  • “If someone forces to you bake one cake, bake for him two!” This is, of course, a true and beautiful principle about how Christians, when reviled, must not revile in return. But it hardly can mean that we do whatever people demand of us, no matter our rights (Acts 16:35-40; 22:22-29) and no matter what is right in God’s eyes (Acts 4:18-20).

A wedding is not a dinner invitation or a graduation open house or retirement party. Even in a completely secular environment, there is still a sense–and sometimes the wedding invitations say as much–that our presence at the event would honor the couple and their marriage. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to attend a wedding (let alone cater it or provide the culinary centerpiece) without your presence communicating celebration and support for what is taking place. And, as painful as it may be for us and for those we love, celebrating and supporting homosexual unions is not something God or his word will allow us to do.

View Comments

Monday Morning Humor

Apr 07, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

View Comments

Our National Pastime

Apr 06, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

This has made an appearance on my blog before, but Opening Day deserves a few traditions. So here we go again.

I have always been a big sports fan. I got that from my dad, saw it in my grandfathers, and found it in all my friends. Now I’m passing it on to my sons. Chicago-born, I’ve been a lifelong Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and Sox fan. The rest of the extended DeYoung clan roots for the Cubs, but my dad had the good sense to switch loyalties with the Go-Go Sox of ’59, and now I’ll be a Sox fan for life. Likely my boys will be too, though they’ve grown up exclusively in Michigan and never lived a day in Illinois. I feel for them, taking the same road I did: living in Michigan and rooting for Chicago. I hated the Bad Boys, and my sons are learning to be righteously annoyed with the Tigers. Enmity is unspiritual in the rest of life, but not in sports. It’s a sign of respect reserved for perennial powerhouses. Nobody hates the Jacksonville Jaguars.

This week marks the beginning of baseball, for 150 years, our national pastime. Football may be the king of revenue and ratings, March Madness may be the most enjoyable three weeks of sports, the NHL may be the obsession north of the border, and the NBA may have bigger star power, but there is still no sport in this country better than baseball. I will never forget the ’85 Bears or MJ and the Bulls during the 90s. It’s been fun to watch the Blackhawks succeed in the last few seasons, and the longer I live in East Lansing the more I bleed green and white. But if I had just one sporting event to watch in person sometime in my life it would be a World Series game with the White Sox. Preferably a Game Seven winner, but I don’t want to be picky.

I know the many knocks on baseball: The games are too slow. The season is too long. The contracts are too big. I know about steroids and strike-shortened seasons. I know the players chew and spit and adjust themselves too much. I know every pitcher except for Mark Buerhle takes too much time in between pitches. I know that purists hate the DH rule and almost everyone hates the Yankees. I understand if baseball is not your thing. You don’t have to like our national pastime.

But you should.

I’ve taken my older kids to basketball games and football games–terrific experiences. But it’s not like your first baseball game: the wide open and immaculately kept spaces of green, the sharp diamond perfectly groomed, the organ bellowing out a kitschy tune. People sing the national anthem louder at baseball games. The hot dogs are better too. At most parks you can find seats cheap enough for families. And when you’re there, you’ll see an old man sitting by himself with a scorecard, just like he’s done for 40 years.

Baseball is unique in the pantheon of professional American sports. It’s the only one where time doesn’t end your game. It’s the only one where offense and defense are totally compartmentalized. And it’s the only sport that actually works on radio. Have you ever tried listening to football on the radio. It’s better than nothing, but you can’t picture the action. You only get updates as the action unfolds. It’s the same with basketball and hockey. There’s a lot of energy, but it’s too much to see in your head. Baseball, on the other hand, is the perfect sport for radio. It’s slow and it’s routine. You can picture a backdoor slider in your head. You know what a sharp single to right looks like. You can see the ball sailing deep into center field in a way you could never see a run up the middle on radio.

I love football, but I love baseball more because it’s football’s complete opposite. It’s pastoral instead of militant. You can get your first chance at 27, instead of being finished at 26.  Every game doesn’t matter. The season stretches across three seasons instead of just one. Its pace is deliberate. The drama is subtle. The celebrations are understated. In football, every play is punctuated with some choreographed gesticulation. In baseball, the players honor the shortstop’s diving catch by throwing the ball to each other.

Baseball is the only sport where the players are not only doing things normal people can’t do nearly as well, they’re doing things normal people can’t do at all. I can make a basket. I can throw and catch a football. I can kick a soccer ball. I can’t hit a major league fast ball (let alone a filthy curve). Baseball is more like real life where you fail more than you succeed. Two made shots a night in basketball means your terrible. Two hits per night in baseball makes you a legend.

Baseball has the best stats, the best trading cards, the best box scores, and the best announcers. Of the four major sports in America it’s the one with the smallest gap between the best teams and the worst teams. It’s the one where the regular season matters most. It’s the one sport that has the best season of the year all to itself. They’re not called the Boys of Summer for nothing.

Baseball lends itself to the best sports writing and the best sports movies. It has the richest history and the most romantic mythology. It’s the only sport that allows the fans the pleasure of seeing the umpires publicly berated. It has the most prestigious hall of fame. It has the most grueling minor leagues, where you can chase your dreams for ten years after school if you are willing to ride the bus. It has the best stadiums, where the dimensions are always different and the speed of the grass and the size of the foul territory determines the type of team you build.

More than any other sport, baseball is a companion. That’s why fans grow to love their announcers. For the past few years, I’ve listened to the majority of Sox games over the summer.  I don’t often listen or watch an entire game, and I certainly can’t catch all 162 of them. But if I’m driving or mowing the lawn , paying the bills, or puttzing around the house, I’ll find a way to tune in. And if they lose, it’s no big deal. It’s not like the college football playoff is on the line every game. The Sox can lose five in a row or stink up the place for two months and still end up on top. It’s a long season. It’s a slow season. It’s a game of strategy and finely-honed skill more than brute force and raw athleticism. It’s everything fans aren’t supposed to want in their sports anymore.

Which makes it just perfect.

View Comments

Death Could Not Hold Him

Apr 05, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

View Comments

The Silence of God

Apr 04, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

View Comments
1 2 3 4 5 207