• How to Deal With Your Guilt

    The thing one pastoral conversation I seem to have more than any other is about a past sin that a person has committed that is still haunting them. What are we to do about that sin? What are we to think about that sin? Maybe you are reading this blog and you are haunted by past sin. Check out these wise words from Mark Driscoll’s book  Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ

    What deep regrets haunt you? What words have you spoken, deeds have you done, motives have you held, lies have you believed, harm have you caused, people have you grieved, and shame have you carried? What have you done to try to assuage your guilty conscience? Have you sought to deny your sin, blame others for it, minimalize it, hide it, pay God back, or punish yourself for it? How have your efforts failed? In Christ, you are totally, completely, and eternally forgiven. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or will do. Jesus died for it all and lives to forgive it all. You’re forgiven. God doesn’t hold your sin against you, isn’t going to punish you, and loves you in spite of your sin.

     

    Driscoll’s words are powerful and appropriate. Jesus has done it all, he forgives you of your sin and you need to rest in his forgiveness. Take your guilt to the cross and leave it there.

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  • Why Pastors Must Cultivate A Passionate Love For Jesus

    Pastoral ministry is hard work. It is hard work because there is always more going than merely the here and now. One of the hardest things to do in pastoral ministry is to work out of a love for Jesus and the gospel.  Paul Tripp in his book  Dangerous Calling says this about the the shaping of ministry by the heart of the Pastor:

    You see, it is absolutely vital to remember that a pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, all of the knowledge and skill can actually function to make him dangerous.

    What should a pastor’s like look like? Tripp says this:

    The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of—can I say it: in love with—his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed, humbled, assured, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a tender, loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant leader. His meditation on Christ—his presence, his promises, and his provisions—must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.

    But why is it vital for a pastor’s heart to be filled with the love of Jesus? Tripp explains:

    You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all the other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. It is only worship of Christ that has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. It is only the glory of the risen Christ that will guard him against the self-glory that is a temptation to all who are in ministry and that destroys the ministry of so many. Only Christ can turn an arrogant, “bring on the world” seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry. It is only in your brokenness in the face of your sin that you can give grace to the fellow rebels to whom God has called you to minister. It’s only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.

    What are you doing to cultivate a passionate love for Jesus?

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  • Small Shifts in Doctrine May Destroy the Future Church

    A mate tells me a story about the first time he played golf. Needless to say he sucked. One shot was far left and in the trees and the other was far right in the water. His friend that took him out to play golf said that he was only off by a few millimeters! My friend then hit another ball in the water and said “Yeah looks like it!”. His friend said “No your club face is just a few millimeters off from where it should be. If you turn the club face a tiny bit in the wrong direction in has huge results. A small change here means huge changes down there!”

    I hate golf but I think this is a great analogy for doctrine. Because if doctrine shifts subtly in one area we may not see the full affects of this shift till we we are long gone. A small change in doctrine can have huge affects later on down the line. And therefore we must assess changes in doctrine, however subtle, just on whether they are still within in the bounds of evangelical belief but also how will this shift affect the witness of the gospel in future generations. Small changes in doctrine may mean huge changes in later generations. This is what P.T Forsyth helpfully pointed out about a century ago:

    The ideas at the centre of the Christian faith are too large, too deep and subtle, to show their effects in one age; and the challenge of them does not show its effect in one generation or even in two. Individuals, society, and the Church, indeed, are able to go on, externally almost unaffected, by the way that they have upon them from the past; and it is only within the range of several generations that the destruction of truths with such a comprehensive range as those of Christianity takes effect. Therefore it is part of the duty of the Church, in certain sections and on certain occasions, to be less concerned about the effect of the Gospel upon the individual immediately, or on the present age, and to look ahead to what may be the result of certain changes in the future. God sets watchmen in Zion who have to keep their eye on the horizon; and it is only a drunken army that could scout their warning. We are not only bound to attend to the needs and interests of the present generation; we are trustees for a long future, as well as a long past. Therefore it is quite necessary that the Church should give very particular attention to these central and fundamental points whose influence, perhaps, is not so promptly prized, and whose destruction would not be so mightily felt at once, but would certainly become apparent in the days and decades ahead.  P.T. Forsyth The Work of Christ, pp. 142-43

     

    Let us not be historically naive  Let us make sure we learn from the past and see how small shifts in doctrines may mean huge losses in the future.

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  • Do You Have Unhelpful Assumptions About Your Pastor?

    Pastors carry a huge weight. It is a weight that sometimes is unbearable. A lot of this weight is felt by pastors because they or their congregations assume the wrong things about them and what their life is meant to look like. Paul Tripp in his great book Dangerous Calling points out some of the most dangerous assumptions that congregations make of pastors and pastors make of themselves:

    It should be obvious that the unhelpful assumptions made as the pastor is coming to lead the church would be fruit in a whole set of unrealistic expectations. The biggest is that many churches simply don’t expect their pastor to struggle with sin. But he is not sin-free! Since he is still being sanctified, sin still remains and is being progressively eradicated. They don’t expect him to get discouraged in the middle of the war for the gospel. They don’t expect him to be tempted toward bitterness or envy. They expect him to be a model husband and father. They don’t expect him to be lazy or to settle for mediocrity. They don’t expect that in moments of self-protection he will be tempted to be antisocial and controlling. They expect that he will be able to joyfully carry an unrealistic job description that would overwhelm anyone this side of Jesus’s return. They expect that he will be content with significantly less pay than most people with his level of education. They expect that his wife is so fully committed to ministry herself that his coming to the church is actually a two-for-one deal. They don’t expect that there will be moments when he is tempted to doubt the goodness of God. They don’t expect that in a meeting or in the pulpit, fear of man will keep him from doing or saying the things that God calls him to do and say. They don’t expect to hire a flawed man who is still desperately in need of the very grace that he is called to offer and exegete for others.

     

    If you are a church member what are you assuming about your pastor from this list?

    If you are a pastor what are assuming about yourself from this list?

    How will you change your assumptions to be more in line with what the Bible says about pastoral ministry?

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  • Why all Christians Can be Courageous

    Fear is a commodity that is highly traded in our world. We are told to be scared of terrorists, persecution, bacteria etc. But one of the biggest things we fear is people. It is hard to lovingly confront someone even if you are right. It is hard to stand up to people and take a stand. But all Christians can and should be courageous.

    In Joshua 1 we find an Israel that had every reason to be afraid. Their leader Moses is now dead, they are about to declare war on a number of nations, they had just seen a whole generation of people die in the desert. But God tells them to be strong and courageous 4 times in chapter one. But why should they be strong and courageous?

    In vs. 6 God says: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” The Israelites should be courageous because God promised their inheritance, and God is faithful and keeps his promises.
    And continuing in vs. 7 God says “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” The Israelites should be courageous because they have the very words of God!
    And in vs. 9 God says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Why should they be courageous? Because God is with them wherever they go.
    God is Faithful to His promises, He has a track record for proving it, and He is always with us.
    These words to Joshua apply to us as well.
    In the New Testament:
    • God promised to bring a Saviour, and He did. He’s given us the Spirit to give us words, and His words will go out from our mouths and ‘never return empty’ (Isaiah). And so we can be courageous for God because he keeps his promises!
    • We remember that we have the word of God in the Bible that encourages us and spurs us on!
    • And in Matthew 28 God is with us wherever we go! Imagine that, the God of the universe is with you! Who should you fear if he is on your side?
    Application – how do these three points help us?
    • God gives us words, by His Spirit, and His words never return empty – take confidence in this.
    • God’s word is with us and if we are doing things in accordance with his word we are smack bang in the middle of his will for our lives. So therefore we have courage when we are doing what he call us to do!
    • Whenever we enter into situations where we need courage we are never alone God is with us!.
    The world tells us to look for courage inside yourself. The Bible tells us to look to God for our courage.
    If you look to God for courage you can be courageous irrespective of how you feel at the time. 
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  • How do You Know if You Are Falling Away?

    In many and various places the scriptures warn us not to fall away from Jesus (e.g. Hebrews 6:4-6, Revelation 2:4-5). Therefore as Christians we should be rightly concerned with the real threat of falling away.  But how do you know if you are falling away?

    A while ago I came across this blog by Joe Thorn. He summarizes Richard Owen Robert’s book, Revival, where he lays 25 evidences of a backslidden Christian:

    1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of a professing Christian’s life, backsliding is present.

    2. When the quest for biblical truth ceases and one grows content with the knowledge of eternal things already acquired, there can be no mistaking the presence of backsliding.

    3. When the biblical knowledge possessed or acquired is treated as external fact and not applied inwardly, backsliding is present.

    4. When earnest thoughts about eternal things cease to be regular and gripping, it should be like a warning light to the backslider.

    5. When the services of the church lose their delights, a backslidden condition probably exists.

    6. When pointed spiritual discussions are an embarrassment, that is certain evidence of backsliding.

    7. When sports, recreation and entertainment are a large and necessary part of your lifestyle, you may assume backsliding is in force.

    8. When sins of the body and of the mind can be indulged in without an uproar in your conscience your backslidden condition is certain.

    9. When aspirations for Christlike holiness cease to be dominant in your life and thinking, backsliding is there.

    10. When the acquisition of money and goods becomes a dominant part of your thinking, you have clear confirmation of backsliding.

    11. When you can mouth religious songs and words without heart, be sure backsliding is present.

    12. When you can hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, spiritual concerns mocked and eternal issues flippantly treated, and not be moved to indignation and action, you are backslidden.

    13. When you can watch degrading movies and television and read morally debilitating literature, you can be sure you are backslidden.

    14. When breaches of peace in the brotherhood are of no concern to you, that is proof of backsliding.

    15. When the slightest excuse seems sufficient to keep you from spiritual duty and opportunity, you are backslidden.

    16. When you become content with your lack of spiritual power and no longer seek repeated enduements of power from on high, you are backslidden.

    17. When you pardon your own sin and sloth by saying the Lord understands and remembers that we are dust, you have revealed your backslidden condition.

    18. When there is no music in your soul and no song in your heart, the silence testifies to your backsliding.

    19. When you adjust happily to the worlds’ lifestyle, your own mirror will tell the truth of your backsliding.

    20. When injustice and human misery exist around you and you do little or nothing to relieve the suffering, be sure you are backslidden.

    21. When your church has fallen into spiritual declension and the Word of God is no longer preached there with power and you are still content, you are in a backslidden condition.

    22. When the spiritual condition of the world declines around you and you cannot perceive it , that is testimony of your backslidden stance.

    23. When you are willing to cheat your employer, backsliding is apparent.

    24. When you find yourself rich in grace and mercy and marvel at your own godliness, then you have fallen far in your backsliding.

    25. When your tears are dried up and the hard, cold spiritual facts of your existence cannot unleash them, see this as an awful testimony both of the hardness of your heart and the depth of your backsliding.

    It is a challenging list. Do you agree with all of them?

    Can you see some of these evidences in your life?

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  • What if Everyone Was as Committed to God as You Are?

    Have you ever thought about your church and asked the question “What if everyone here was as committed to God and what he is doing as I am?”  If the people at your church were as committed as you are to the church what would your church look like? What if people at your church came as regularly as you what would the attendance look like? What if people at your church prayed as much as you did would you see God work more or less? What if people at your church gave as much as you would your church reach budget or would it be broke? What if people at your church served as much as you would your church be overstocked with people to serve or would there be a few tired people burnt out because they are the only ones serving?

    We all want our churches to be better. We all want God to move in our churches. But so many of us talk about the things other people need to do to change our church. We need others to step up, we need others to serve more, we need others to pray more, we need others to care about me more. And the list goes on.

    But what if instead of pointing our fingers at others we took a long hard look at ourselves and asked what should I be doing? Am I praying like I should be? Am I giving like should be? Am I serving like I should be? Maybe we should ask the question “If everyone at church was as as committed as I am what would the church look like?”

    We serve a great saviour who has done what we couldn’t do. He has rescued us from sin   and now we have a great hope because he raised from the dead. Let’s not be half committed to his cause but let;s radically commit to him and his cause!

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  • Fight for your Holiness

    Christians believe that we are right with God, forgiven and cleansed by the death of Jesus. We also think that we are sanctified or made holy by what Jesus has done. These are things that no biblical Christian would want to deny.

    But as we rightly remember that Jesus sanctifies us through his death do we also remember on the other hand that we are to fight for our sanctification?  Take Paul in 1 Timothy 6 for example:

    11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12

    Notice the verbs Paul is using here. We have to pursue, fight, take hold. They are all active verbs. Meaning, that we are not to sit back on our laurels but we are to fight to be more holy, more Christ like.

    Or take Paul in Philippians 2 for example:

    12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

    Notice what he is saying. He is saying that God works in us and we are to work out salvation. Now what does it meant to work out our Salvation? I think it means that we are to strive to live as a Christian because a Christian is one who is saved. So I think Paul is saying work it out, live it out. Live life like you are saved.

    So Christians are meant to fight for our holiness. We are meant to battle sin. We are meant to walk away from the internet when we are tempted. We are meant to work hard at seeing the good in others so that we don’t gossip. We are meant to fight to read our Bible  and fight to be encouraged by it. We are to labour in prayer. But we do this all because we have the power from God to do it!

    Here is what Martyn Lloyd-Jones say about our fight for holiness:

    “The New Testament calls upon us to take action; it does not tell us that the work of sanctification is going to be done for us. . . .We are in the ‘good fight of faith’, and we have to do the fighting. But, thank God, we are enabled to do it; for the moment we believe, and are justified by faith, and are born again of the Spirit of God, we have the ability. So the New Testament method of sanctification is to remind us of that; and having reminded us of it, it says, ‘Now then, go and do it’.”

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans:Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man, 76

    How do you fight for holiness?

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  • Do you make Jesus want to throw up?

    “You make me sick!!”

    Has someone ever said that to you? Only one person has but one is definitely enough! It is so confronting!

    Do you realize that you can make Jesus want to throw up? In the book of Revelation Jesus, through John, writes a letter to the church at Laodicea and the words he uses are stinging. He says: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16 ESV)

    Near Laodicea there was a river which had lukewarm salty water that was couldn’t be used for anything. In fact if you tried to drink it you would throw up! Jesus is saying to the Laodcieans you are like this water useless and you make me want to throw up![1]

    But did you see why the Laodiceans make Jesus want to throw up? It was because they were lukewarm! They weren’t on fire for Jesus. This is a challenge for all of us because we all tend towards lukewarmness don’t we? We are all tempted to have just enough of Jesus so we are saved but not enough so that we are seen as on fire for Jesus.

    But what is the cure for lukewarmness? Well Jesus gives us the cure:

    Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19 ESV)

    See what he says? Repent and be zealous!! Do you realize that lukewarmness is a sin to be repented of? Do you realize that Jesus wants you to live zealously for him? 

    How will you do that? How will you live every moment if every day for Jesus?

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    [1] On this point see Osborne, Grant R. Revelation (BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.) , 205

  • How Christians get Holiness Wrong

    What does it mean to be holy? When I was a teenager I thought that to be holy meant that you shouldn’t do certain things (e.g. have sex outside of marriage, swear, listen to the Backstreet Boys, etc.). This version of holiness says you are holy if you avoid the wrong things. This is what I think Christians generally mean when they talk about holiness.

    But there is something missing with this view of holiness. Actually not something missing but someone missing. Notice how Jesus is missing from this view of holiness? Because Jesus is missing from this view of holiness it not only is it not Christ centered but it can be legalistic. I I am only concerned with doing the right things and not doing the wrong things my life therefore becomes about me and what I am doing but as Christians we know that our lives should be all about Jesus.

    Having Jesus at the centre of our holiness also reminds of us of where our holiness comes from. It doesn’t come from a certain will within ourselves. It comes from Jesus who made us holy by his shed blood on the cross.

    What does this look like practically I hear you ask. It means now we live out of who we are. The Bible says we are new creations and therefore we live like we are new creations. We don’t do the things we did once because that is not who we are anymore. As you can see a Jesus centered holiness is less about striving to be someone or something and more about becoming what we already are. Sure it means that we will not do some things (like listen to the Backstreet Boys) and we will do other things (read our Bibles and pray). But our motivation for doing these things is different. We are trying to be who we are because,  in Jesus, we already are holy.  It means because Jesus has made us right with God we are totally dedicated to him and therefore we will be apart form anything that is sinful. As Anthony A. Hoekema says

    Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, holiness means more than doing certain good things and not doing certain bad things; rather, it means being totally dedicated to God and separated from all that is sinful.