Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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9 Ways to Pastor Single Christians Longing for Marriage

Gospel Coalition - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 11:52am

Shepherding single Christians who desire marriage and battle discontentment is not always easy, but it is a privilege. And it is a stewardship entrusted to every pastor.

Here are nine things to teach and emphasize to discontented singles in your church.

1. Contentment is demanded of all Christians, not just single Christians.

It’s vital to remember, and to communicate, that single Christians aren’t some special class of humans who really need to work on contentment. We all do.

Discontentment, after all, isn’t a feature of single hearts; it’s a feature of human hearts. It’s “common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13), polluting every life stage since Adam and Eve weren’t content to trust the word of God over the whisper of the snake (Gen. 3:1–7).

If we’re honest, discontentment can feel rather small compared to other sins. But it’s not small. It’s serious, because it tells a lie about God: that he is insufficient to meet our needs.

Single or married, no one has to be taught discontentment. We all have PhDs in the subject already. Even the apostle’s discovery of the “secret of contentment” didn’t come naturally; he had to learn it (Phil. 4:11). He enrolled in the school of contentment, and so must we.

Cultivating contentment, then, is less like medicine and more like a healthy diet. It happens over the course of months and years, not hours and days.

So, tell single Christians in your church what you tell every Christian in your church: God’s ultimate aim is not to change your circumstances, though he might. It’s to change you.

2. Contentment doesn’t mean you can’t desire or pursue marriage.

I hope this goes without saying, but I’ll say it just in case: To the degree that “God is sovereign; be content” is code for “God is sovereign; stop desiring or pursuing marriage,” it is lousy advice.

The human heart is complex. It can both long for marriage and long for God’s will—even if that will doesn’t include marriage. Jesus himself experienced an unfulfilled longing while bowing to his Father’s plan (Matt. 26:39).

In fact, it’s a mark of spiritual maturity for a believer to bring their longing for marriage to heaven’s throne, pouring out their heart before the God who hears and cares. Resignation is a feature of Stoicism, not Christianity.

3. You are not a human-in-waiting.

Being single isn’t an obstacle to being fully human; it’s an expression of it. A woman’s life, for example, doesn’t “really” begin when she becomes a wife or a mom, but when she becomes a royal image-bearer of God.

Pastor, gently remind the discontented single person that their marital status is not their defining characteristic. Words like “single” and “married” are fine, but they make far better adjectives than nouns.

Many well-meaning people have a tendency, I think, to make singleness either everything or nothing. Someone who’s made it everything will always lead with some variation of “Are you seeing anyone?” Someone who’s made it nothing will prescribe contentment like medicine—the “God is sovereign; be content” misstep mentioned above. As pastors, we must affirm both the discontented single’s desire while at the same time not act like it’s the only thing going on in their life.

Of course, no observation bears greater significance than that history’s most complete person never had sex and never got married. If singleness is deficient, then so was Jesus Christ.

4. You can uniquely picture the gospel.

Along these lines, Scripture is clear that marriage is a gospel mirror, reflecting the union between Jesus and his bride, the church (Eph. 5:32).

But does this mean the single Christian fails to mirror the gospel? Not at all. Godly singleness reflects the church in this age as we wait, with expectant hope, for our Savior’s return. In fact, I think single people can enjoy a special kind of solidarity with Jesus that married people cannot. He is, after all, awaiting his wedding day (Rev. 19:6–10).

Sam Allberry puts it like this: “Both marriage and singleness point to the gospel. The former reflects its shape, the latter its sufficiency.” Pastor, help single Christians in your church to see how they can uniquely reflect the sufficiency of the gospel as they await the ultimate wedding.

Speaking of the chaste single woman, Elisabeth Elliot (1926–2015) went so far as to write:

When she gives herself willingly to [Christ] in love, she has no need to justify herself to the world or to Christians who plague her with questions and suggestions. In a way not open to the married woman her daily “living sacrifice” is a powerful and humble witness, radiating love. I believe she may enter into the “mystery” more deeply than the rest of us.

5. Your singleness is a gift and a calling.

We live in an erotic age in which human beings are routinely reduced to their sexuality. The insistence, then, that chastity is a gift to embrace and not a cross to bear is as countercultural as it is biblical.

Paul could not have been clearer that singleness is a good gift from God:

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. . . . So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. (1 Cor. 7:7–8, 38; cf. Matt. 19:10–12)

Now, simply informing someone that singleness is a gift is not always helpful. There’s such a thing as an unwanted gift, after all. Labor to show them why the gift is beautiful in heaven’s sight. Help them see the possibilities that lie beneath the wrapping.

Singleness isn’t the kind of gift you unwrap and put on the mantle; it’s the kind you put to use. And the gift isn’t addressed to the single person only, but to their entire community. Everyone benefits from the life of an unmarried person who has embraced this calling—this deployment—from the King himself.

In his book When the Church Was a Family, Joseph Hellerman makes a striking observation:

Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 7 was not to ask how singleness fits into God’s kingdom plan. Paul was addressing the issue of how marriage fits into his kingdom plan. Single people are already with the program. They are “concerned about the things of the Lord” (v. 32). Married people are the ones who need help sorting out their priorities.

Single Christians aren’t in a holding pattern, awaiting their job responsibilities in God’s kingdom. Let’s not communicate otherwise in our churches.

6. It’s likely you’re strategically positioned for gospel good.

This one is tricky, since there’s a fine line between telling singles they’re likely able to extend themselves more freely for the gospel and implying they’re expected to. The former is encouraging; the latter is not. The former puts wind in the sails; the latter adds weight to the boat.

The world champions the single life because of all you can do for yourself. The Bible champions the single life because of all you can do for others. Where does the beauty of singleness shine brightest? Not in exotic trips or Netflix binges or waking up on Saturday at the crack of noon, though those things can be nice. Singleness shines brightest in the ability to serve, to rise to the occasion, to drop everything at a moment’s notice and—as one single friend was able to do—make travel and funeral arrangements for a family who’d suddenly lost their child.

So encourage singles in your church to embrace their relative freedom and flexibility as the strategic deployment it is. This doesn’t just have implications for their ministry (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:32–34), but for their friendships, too. As Allberry observes:

For those of us who remain single, we might not experience the unique depth of intimacy with one person that a married friend might, but we can enjoy a unique breadth of intimacy with a number of close friends that comes from having greater opportunity and capacity than married people typically have to invest in close friendships.

 7. God is with and for you now.

One of the best ways you can love someone desiring marriage is to help them see that God is always sovereign and wise and good to his children—and he’s not about to stop with them. He knows what’s best for them (wise), he wants what’s best for them (good), and he will bring about what’s best for them (sovereign). Charles Spurgeon put it beautifully: “Remember this: Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”

This is not a flippant or flimsy platitude. It’s rock-solid truth on which the Christian stands.

It’s difficult to improve on Paige Brown’s words in her remarkable essay, “Singled Out for Good”:

Accepting singleness, whether temporary or permanent, does not hinge on speculation about answers God has not given to our list of whys, but rather on celebration of the life he has given. I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me. It is a cosmic impossibility that anything could be better for me right now than being single. The psalmists confirm that I should not want, I shall not want, because no good thing will God withhold from me.

8. You are part of the ultimate family already.

Late-modern Western culture conflates sex and intimacy, but Scripture does not. God’s people, gathered in kingdom outposts called local churches, are meant to be the most intimate communities on earth.

For a man or woman in Christ, nothing ultimate about them is single. They are a child in the Father’s house (1 Tim. 3:15), a member of the Son’s body (1 Cor. 12:12–27), a stone in the Spirit’s temple (Eph. 2:21–22).

And, unlike their marital status, these realities will endure forever.

In his book God, Marriage, and Family, Andreas Köstenberger makes the interesting observation that Scripture unfolds, if anything, in a pro-singleness direction:

  • Singleness in creation: nonexistent
  • Singleness in the Old Testament: uncommon and generally undesirable
  • Singleness in the New Testament: advantageous for kingdom ministry
  • Singleness in the final state: universal

To be sure, you’re called to lead your church in honoring marriage (Heb. 13:4). But take care not to do so at the expense of singleness—a stewardship entrusted to some of us now that will characterize all of us forever.

9. Jesus is enough. Really.

The local church is indispensable to the Christian life, and the ultimate reason is because of its all-sufficient cornerstone and head, Jesus Christ.

I once heard my friend Bethany Jenkins remark that if Jesus isn’t sufficient for her when she’s single, he won’t be sufficient for her when she’s married.

Don’t you love that?

Pastor, remind the singles in your church that they already have access to the deepest and most meaningful love relationship there is. Period. If they get married, that’s great, but it will only add a dollar of approval and love to the billion-dollar net worth they already possess.

Again, contentment in singleness doesn’t show up as a muted desire for marriage. The most beautiful thing, in fact, is when single Christians acknowledge their longing for a spouse—and yet testify to the sufficiency of Jesus in the midst of the struggle. The world has a category for a single who acts like marriage isn’t a big deal. But what it doesn’t have a category for—what the world can neither understand nor explain—is a single who longs for marriage while declaring, “His grace is sufficient for me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

As Allberry puts it, “The key to contentment as a single person isn’t being content in singleness; it’s being content in Christ, as a single person.”

Shepherd Their Gaze

Far from being a second-class calling, godly singleness is a vital stewardship entrusted to many of our brothers and sisters—some for a season, others for life.

As you shepherd those longing for a spouse, don’t miss the opportunity to listen, to comfort, and to speak truth in love. And the best way you can love them is to direct their gaze not ultimately to their circumstances, but to the greatest single person who ever lived.

Elizabeth Groves on Context, Context, Context

Gospel Coalition - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 12:04am

Every Bible teacher wants to be liked and appreciated by those he or she teaches. As a lecturer in Biblical Hebrew at Westminster Theological Seminary since 2009, Elizabeth (Libbie) Groves doesn’t have to wonder if her students appreciate her. She has repeatedly been the highest-ranked professor on student evaluation forms at the seminary. On the day I was there, not only had she dressed up like Elvis to make her point in Hebrew grammar memorable, she also fed her classes burritos. No wonder she’s a favorite! She’s also known for her dramatic recitations of passages in the Bible in Hebrew, including this presentation of the entire book of Jonah. 

We’ve heard the saying over and over: “A text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext.” We want to understand the passage we’re teaching in context. But how do we work through context in a way that impacts how we’re teaching? In our conversation, Groves walks listeners through two passages—Daniel 1 and Proverbs 3—demonstrating how exploring the various aspects of context in these passages saves us from teaching them insufficiently.

You can listen to the episode here.

Related

 

May 27: Psalm 23:1–3; Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:16; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4; Isaiah 60:19–20; Matthew 17:1–2; Acts 26:13; Acts 26:15; 1 Peter 5:10; Revelation 21:23

ESV Bible Devotional - 0 sec ago
  • Morning: Psalm 23:1–3; Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:16; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4
  • Evening: Isaiah 60:19–20; Matthew 17:1–2; Acts 26:13; Acts 26:15; 1 Peter 5:10; Revelation 21:23
Morning: Psalm 23:1–3; Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:16; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4 Psalm 23:1–3; Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:16; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4

Our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep.

The chief Shepherd.—“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.—“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”—“I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.”—For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Psalm 23:1–3 (Listen) The Lord Is My Shepherd A Psalm of David.

23   The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
  He leads me beside still waters.1
    He restores my soul.
  He leads me in paths of righteousness2
    for his name's sake.

Footnotes

[1] 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest
[2] 23:3 Or in right paths

(ESV)

Isaiah 53:6 (Listen)

  All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
  and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

(ESV)

Ezekiel 34:16 (Listen)

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.1 I will feed them in justice.

Footnotes

[1] 34:16 Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate I will watch over

(ESV)

John 10:11 (Listen)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

(ESV)

John 10:14 (Listen)

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

(ESV)

John 10:27–28 (Listen)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

(ESV)

Hebrews 13:20 (Listen) Benediction

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,

(ESV)

1 Peter 2:25 (Listen)

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

(ESV)

1 Peter 5:4 (Listen)

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

(ESV)

Evening: Isaiah 60:19–20; Matthew 17:1–2; Acts 26:13; Acts 26:15; 1 Peter 5:10; Revelation 21:23 Isaiah 60:19–20; Matthew 17:1–2; Acts 26:13; Acts 26:15; 1 Peter 5:10; Revelation 21:23

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

“At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me…. And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’”—Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.—The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.

The God of all grace… has called you to his eternal glory in Christ.

Isaiah 60:19–20 (Listen)

  The sun shall be no more
    your light by day,
  nor for brightness shall the moon
    give you light;1
  but the LORD will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.2
  Your sun shall no more go down,
    nor your moon withdraw itself;
  for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.

Footnotes

[1] 60:19 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Targum add by night
[2] 60:19 Or your beauty

(ESV)

Matthew 17:1–2 (Listen) The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

(ESV)

Acts 26:13 (Listen)

At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.

(ESV)

Acts 26:15 (Listen)

And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

(ESV)

1 Peter 5:10 (Listen)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

(ESV)

Revelation 21:23 (Listen)

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

(ESV)

The Devil Can Do Exposition: Two Essential Ingredients for Preaching

Desiring God - Sat, 05/26/2018 - 8:02pm

Exposition and exultation are never separated in true preaching.

It is possible to do exposition of texts that you don’t even believe, let alone exult over. So, I do not regard exposition per se as the defining mark of preaching. The devil can do biblical exposition — even speaking true propositions about the text’s meaning. But the devil cannot exult over the divine glory of the meaning of Scripture. He hates it. So he cannot preach — not the way I define it.

Of course, mindless enthusiasts who ignore the meaning of texts can exult as they try to preach, but not in the true meaning of the text and the reality behind it. So exultation per se is not the defining mark of preaching. But together — exposition, as making clear what the Scripture really means, and exultation, as openly treasuring the divine glories of that meaning — they combine to make preaching what it is.

Throughout the New Testament, Paul models and commands such preaching not only in evangelistic settings, but also in the church, the house of God (Romans 1:15; 2 Timothy 4:2). But why? When the church gathers, why should a pastor go beyond mere teaching or mere exultation to practice expository exultation?

God, Scripture, and Worship

My answer is that preaching in this way corresponds to the nature of God, the nature of Scripture, and the nature of corporate worship. God is supremely beautiful and valuable. Scripture, as his inspired word, aims to awaken and sustain the true knowledge of God to the end that we might enjoy him and exhibit him to the world. And corporate worship gives a visible, united expression to that knowledge, enjoyment, and exhibition.

The kind of speech appropriate for the gathered church in worship is unique. There is no other gathering like this in the world: a people of God’s own possession (1 Peter 2:9), chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), destined to be like the Son of God (Romans 8:29), bought with divine blood (Acts 20:28), acquitted and accepted before the court of heaven (Romans 5:1; 15:16), a new creation on the earth (2 Corinthians 5:17), indwelt by the Creator of the universe (1 Corinthians 6:19), sanctified by the body of Jesus (Hebrews 10:10), called to eternal glory (1 Peter 5:10), heirs of the world (Romans 4:13; 1 Corinthians 3:21–23), destined to rule with Christ (Revelation 3:21) and judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Never has there been a gathering like this. It is incomparable on the earth.

Not only is the gathering unique. So is the Book. All of this glorious truth about the gathered people of Christ was preserved and revealed in a book, and in an apostolic deposit that would become the capstone of the Book. The God, the Book, and the gathered people under the authority of the God revealed in the Book are incomparable. There is no god, no book, and no people like this. The gathering of this people is therefore marked by a kind of communication that is not like any other communication — expository exultation.

Herald of the King

As Paul proclaimed the unsearchable riches of Christ, and announced the good news of great joy, and heralded the reconciling message of the all-authoritative King, he saw that this kind of proclaiming, announcing, and heralding in public could not be discarded when this extraordinary people, under this extraordinary God, revealed in this extraordinary Book, gathered for worship. The riches of glory, the goodness of the news, the weight of the truth, and the authority behind it all did not become less because it was being spoken among this gathered people. If anything, it became more.

Therefore, Paul not only modeled proclaiming Christ and heralding good news to the people of God, but also commanded that the God-breathed Scriptures be heralded in the church: “Preach the word”! (2 Timothy 4:2). This command (testimony) was not arbitrary, but was constrained by the fitness and harmony that Paul felt between the nature of God, Scripture, and worship, on the one hand, and the kind of speaking called for, on the other.

The proclamation-quality, announcement-quality, and heralding-quality of his public speaking for the risen Christ contained a dimension of celebration, exuberant affirmation, and wonder. It combined a humble recognition that the message did not originate with the herald, but with his King. The authority behind it was not his, but his Sovereign’s. And the glory and value of the message was directly proportionate to the glory and value of the King. Therefore, the messenger could not be indifferent to the message without being indifferent to the King. That was as unthinkable as not treasuring infinite treasure.

Constellation of Glories

Therefore, nothing was more fitting than that the presentation and explanation and contemplation and application of the King’s message among the King’s people come with exultation. This fitness lay behind Paul’s transposition of the music of proclamation to the world into the music of preaching in worship. He saw that preaching as expository exultation is peculiarly suited for Christian corporate worship. For corporate worship is the visible, unified knowing, treasuring, and showing of the supreme worth and beauty of God.

Preaching fits that gathering, because that’s what preaching is. Preaching shows God’s supreme worth by opening Scripture to make the glories of God known, while treasuring them as supremely valuable. Expository exultation serves corporate worship by worshiping the One whom it shows to be worthy of worship.

To be sure, heralding the word of God involves significant measures of teaching. The biblical texts used must be explained. The realities heralded must be illuminated. But the message of the preacher is never a mere body of facts to be clarified. It is a constellation of glories to be treasured. The thought that the message of a preacher could be delivered as a detached explanation fails to grasp the significance of Paul’s use of the phrase, “Herald the word!” Or, “Preach good news!” Or, “Proclaim Christ.”

Preaching is both accurate teaching and heartfelt heralding. It is expository exultation.

Philippians 2:9–11: Is God an Egomaniac?

Desiring God - Sat, 05/26/2018 - 8:03am

Christ’s work on the cross and subsequent resurrection not merely shows that he loved humanity. It proclaims that God loves his glory.

Watch Now

May 26: Psalm 16:11; Psalm 31:19; Psalm 36:7–9; Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10; 1 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 90:8; Psalm 103:14; Isaiah 42:3; Jeremiah 17:9–10; Luke 22:61–62; John 2:24–25; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 2:18

ESV Bible Devotional - Sat, 05/26/2018 - 8:00am
  • Morning: Psalm 16:11; Psalm 31:19; Psalm 36:7–9; Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10; 1 Timothy 4:8
  • Evening: Psalm 90:8; Psalm 103:14; Isaiah 42:3; Jeremiah 17:9–10; Luke 22:61–62; John 2:24–25; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 2:18
Morning: Psalm 16:11; Psalm 31:19; Psalm 36:7–9; Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10; 1 Timothy 4:8 Psalm 16:11; Psalm 31:19; Psalm 36:7–9; Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10; 1 Timothy 4:8

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you.

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.—“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.—You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Psalm 16:11 (Listen)

  You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(ESV)

Psalm 31:19 (Listen)

  Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
    which you have stored up for those who fear you
  and worked for those who take refuge in you,
    in the sight of the children of mankind!

(ESV)

Psalm 36:7–9 (Listen)

  How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
  They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
  For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.

(ESV)

Isaiah 64:4 (Listen)

  From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
  no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.

(ESV)

1 Corinthians 2:9–10 (Listen)

But, as it is written,

  “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
  what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

(ESV)

1 Timothy 4:8 (Listen)

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

(ESV)

Evening: Psalm 90:8; Psalm 103:14; Isaiah 42:3; Jeremiah 17:9–10; Luke 22:61–62; John 2:24–25; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 2:18 Psalm 90:8; Psalm 103:14; Isaiah 42:3; Jeremiah 17:9–10; Luke 22:61–62; John 2:24–25; John 10:14; John 10:27–28; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 2:18

“The Son of God… has eyes like a flame of fire.”

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”—You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.—And the Lord turned and looked at Peter…. And he went out and wept bitterly.

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.—For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.—A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.—“The Lord knows those who are his.”—“I am the good shepherd. I know my own…. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Psalm 90:8 (Listen)

  You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

(ESV)

Psalm 103:14 (Listen)

  For he knows our frame;1
    he remembers that we are dust.

Footnotes

[1] 103:14 Or knows how we are formed

(ESV)

Isaiah 42:3 (Listen)

  a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.

(ESV)

Jeremiah 17:9–10 (Listen)

  The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?
  “I the LORD search the heart
    and test the mind,1
  to give every man according to his ways,
    according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Footnotes

[1] 17:10 Hebrew kidneys

(ESV)

Luke 22:61–62 (Listen)

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

(ESV)

John 2:24–25 (Listen)

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

(ESV)

John 10:14 (Listen)

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

(ESV)

John 10:27–28 (Listen)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

(ESV)

2 Timothy 2:19 (Listen)

But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

(ESV)

Revelation 2:18 (Listen) To the Church in Thyatira

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

(ESV)

Small-Town Summit Encourages Ministry in Rural New England

Gospel Coalition - Sat, 05/26/2018 - 12:02am

Vermont is one of the least religious states in the United States. It’s also one of the most rural.

That means gospel work in the Granite State won’t be glamorous. It likely won’t be big or fast-moving (though God can do surprising things, which we yearn for him to do). His kingdom will advance in Vermont and other rural regions through an army of committed gospel workers—men and women, young and old, pastors (full-time and bivocational) and laypeople—willing to lay down and pour out their lives in small, unknown places.

Already in Action

We’ve got good news: those gospel workers are already on the ground, and hard at work. We know, because we just spent a hugely encouraging day with them.

On May 16, more than 80 men and women (rural and small town pastors, laypeople, and ministry leaders) packed the sanctuary of the Red Door Church in South Royalton, Vermont. We spent the day praying, singing, eating (you must try Vermont’s best donuts), and considering how God means for the gospel to penetrate and transform the small places of Vermont and New England. The gathering was sponsored by Small Town Summits, which partners with TGC New England to reach the small places of our region.

In addition to Vermont leaders, we welcomed Christian workers from New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Leaders from CCEF New England, Vermont Church Planting, Village Missions, the Baptist Convention of New England, and Acts 29 took part in the summit, and the pastors ranged from ministry interns and those just starting out to those who’ve served in ministry for more than 35 years.

Breakout sessions reflected on various aspects of ministry in small places, including evangelism, discipleship, worship-leading, and soul care, as well as the unique challenges and opportunities for women ministering in small places.

Quiet, Noticeable Movement

There was a strong sense of God’s presence and manifest mercy throughout the day. Afterward one small-town Vermont pastor reflected that, in his 16 years of ministry, he had never attended an event designed specifically for him and the small-place work to which God has called him.

Another spoke of the encouragement he felt after the summit and the encouragement his church received when he returned that evening with a report. A church planter said, “Thank you for some fantastic equipping! Already looking forward to the next one.”

A pastor just beginning in ministry shared this perspective on Vermont: “There’s a quiet but noticeable movement happening here of God calling many to reach this place with the love of God in a fresh and powerful way.”

It’s a remarkable privilege to come alongside and learn from devoted Christian workers in the small places of New England. Small Town Summits has now gathered rural/small-town leaders in New Hampshire (November 2017) and Vermont (May 2018) and we’re already preparing for our next Summit, November 17, 2018, in Dexter, Maine.

What we’re finding so far in these summits is that God has positioned many choice servants in the small places of New England. They are laboring faithfully, creatively, joyfully, and productively, though their work is sometimes lonely and discouraging, and often unheralded. We’re in awe of these men and women. And we’re more committed than ever to learning from them and seeking to encourage and equip them in the deeply valuable work they do.

3 Ways to Help Kids Connect Obedience with Joy

Gospel Coalition - Sat, 05/26/2018 - 12:00am

Obey? What does that mean?” The boy I was tutoring stared at me in confusion.

I had just been telling him that he should do his homework to obey his dad—until I realized I was using a foreign word. I was stumped. How had this boy gone seven years without hearing the word “obey”?

It actually made sense. Many non-Christian homes, including his, omit this word from their vocabulary. They might even shun it altogether. Obedience has baggage, after all. It’s linked to rules, to consequences, and—worst of all—to authority.

The word “obey” is out of place in our don’t-tell-me-what-to-do society.

But Christians should have a different reaction to the word. For us, obedience means blessing, not baggage. And the ultimate authority who was our Judge is now our Savior.

For Christians, obedience means blessing, not baggage.

Obedience draws us into all the blessings of being part of God’s covenant family. But obedience goes against our sin nature, so we have to teach our kids how to find joy in it.

Here are three ways to help your kids connect obedience with joy.

1. Tell Them Why

“Because I said so” is reason enough to obey God. Yet in Fatherly love he lets us in on his big-picture plan for obedience. In his Word he shows us why we should obey. And he tells us to do the same for our kids.

When the Israelite children asked their parents, “What are these stones for?” God told the parents to explain all he’d done for them in the wilderness (Josh. 4). Obedience and teaching must go hand in hand.

This doesn’t mean obedience is subject to negotiation. “Obey first, questions later,” we rightly tell our kids. They must obey whether they understand or not. But it’s our job to help build that understanding, imitating the beautiful covenant love that God has for his people.

I think about times when I’ve disobeyed God and he’s lovingly revealed how obedience is for my protection. Kids will naturally see obedience as a killjoy unless we highlight the benefits. When we build understanding, we build trust. And trust renders obedience a joy.

2. Speak Carefully

When was the last time your child come up to you and said, “Mommy, could you please lecture me again? I love it!”

Not recently, I assume. Too many words can burden our kids.

I once had a friend tell me she tries to give instructions in five words or less. Her purpose was twofold: to teach her kids to listen well the first time, and to prevent herself from lecturing or venting.

I like to take my “five-words-or-less” and physically put them into my boys’ hands. I hold my hand closed, look my 4-year-old in the eye, and say, “I’m going to give you your special job for the day. Are you ready?” His eyes sparkle, he holds out his hand, and I say, “Be quick to listen.”

I open my hand into his and close his hand around the imaginary word bundle. He giggles and holds his fist closed. I ask what’s in his hand, and he repeats it back to me. We take a minute to talk about what the phrase means.

Throughout the day, as I work on that specific skill with him, I ask what’s in his hand, and he remembers. If my words are a gift, obedience is a joy.

3. Listen Well

One of my sons’ frustration over obedience was reduced when he became old enough to talk. Suddenly, when he spoke, he had the ability to be heard and understood.

Sometimes kids don’t use words correctly. They fuss, complain, and vent. But rather than shutting them down, we say, “That was not a respectful way to ask. Please try again in a respectful voice.”

Kids must be shown how to use words. But it’s only worth it for them if they know someone is ready to listen. When they make an effort to use their words, we must ensure they’re met with attentive listening.

When our children make an effort to use their words, we must ensure they’re met with attentive listening.

Think about the gracious way God deals with us. Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” When our kids pour out their hearts to us, do we listen? Do they see us as a refuge? The joy of obedience comes from feeling known. When we listen to our kids, we represent the God who listens to and knows us. Obedience flows from the joy of that deep, secure relationship.

When we speak carefully and listen well, we help our kids connect the dots between obedience and joy. We show them obedience is not about rules for rules’ sake; it’s about relationship. And as we forge that relationship with them in the context of joy and discipline, we pave the way for their relationship to God.

Every Sorrow Will Be Swallowed in Joy: Beholding the King in His Beauty

Desiring God - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 8:02pm

Christian theology has a deep and abiding interest in the topic of happiness because it has a deep and abiding interest in “the happy God” (1 Timothy 1:11) and in the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord (Psalm 144:15). In our first installment in a Christian theology of happiness, we considered the supreme form of happiness that rules and governs all things, the happiness of the triune God, the blessed Trinity. We also considered how the triune God communicates a share of his happiness to us through his works of creation and redemption.

In our second installment, we considered biblical teaching regarding the fact that our happiness has not yet fully arrived. While Christ has done all that is required to secure our happiness in God through his incarnation, death, resurrection, and enthronement at the Father’s right hand, the Spirit’s work of applying this happiness to us has only begun. Furthermore, having been reconciled to the happy God through Jesus Christ, we have been brought into conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil. For these reasons, the Christian experience of happiness in this age must always be characterized by a mixture of sorrow and rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).

We conclude our survey of a Christian theology of happiness with a few brief comments on the character of the happiness that lies before us in God’s eternal kingdom. Three things must be considered when it comes to the supreme and unsurpassable happiness of the people whose God is the triune Lord: (1) the supreme good that will constitute our supreme happiness, (2) the manner in which we will possess our supreme happiness, and (3) the context within which we will enjoy our supreme happiness.1

Isaiah 33:17 captures the first two elements of our blessed hope: “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty.” Isaiah 33:23–24 captures the third: “Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided; even the lame will take the prey. And no inhabitant will say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.” Let us consider these three elements in order.

King of Glory

“The king in his beauty” is the supreme good that will constitute our supreme happiness in God’s eternal kingdom: the incarnate Son of God, sitting at the right hand of his Father, the source of the river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God. The triune King is the supreme good, the supreme beatitude in the order of beatitude. In the eternal kingdom, the triune King will present himself to us in unmediated splendor, as a bridegroom unveils himself before his bride.

No longer through a glass darkly, no longer in part, he will present himself to us there face to face, to be fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). No longer will the light of the sun and the moon shine upon us, for the glory of God will be our light and the Lamb will be our lamp (Revelation 21:23; 22:5). “There the Lord in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams” (Isaiah 33:21). From the throne of God and of the Lamb, the Spirit will flow, opening to us an infinite ocean of beatitude (Revelation 22:2).

When the blessed Trinity makes his habitation with men in the fullness of his being, beauty, and beatitude, God will be the object of our unsurpassable interest and satisfaction, the good greater than which and beyond which nothing else can be desired. “God himself . . . shall there be its [i.e., the soul’s] reward; for, as there is nothing greater or better, he has promised himself. What else was meant by his word through the prophet, ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people,’ than, I shall be their satisfaction, I shall be all that men honorably desire — life, and health, and nourishment, and plenty, and glory, and honor, and peace, and all good things?”2 Made for him, our hearts will find their rest in him.3

We Will See His Face

What is the manner in which we will possess our supreme good, the object of our supreme happiness? “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty.” The blessed Trinity is an intrinsically luminous, intrinsically intelligible good. “The blessed and only Sovereign” dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 1:5). The being of God is “unapproachable” to flesh and blood, not because it is dark or blind, but because we are unclean (Isaiah 6:5) and because we are not yet glorified (1 Corinthians 15:50).

In God’s eternal kingdom, when we have been fully and finally cleansed of sin’s corrupting stain, and when we have been fully and finally glorified, we will attain the “one thing” for which the saints have always longed: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

We will possess God as our supreme good and our supreme happiness by beholding the King in his beauty, and that by means of a twofold vision. We will see the invisible God — the divine essence in its tripersonal manner of existence — by means of spiritual perception, “with clarity, directness, and completeness.”4 Furthermore, we will see the incarnate Lamb of God by means of glorified physical eyes: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26). In this “beatific vision,” “the completion and crown” of our happiness will be “the delight experienced in the enjoyment of God.”5 We will see him and we will thereby be satisfied in him.

Healthy, Wealthy, and Forgiven

What, then, of the context within which we will enjoy our supreme happiness? We will enjoy the vision of the blessed and triune God within the context of a healthy, wealthy, forgiven people: “Then prey and abundance will be divided; even the lame will take the prey. And no inhabitant will say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.” The presence of a redeemed humanity, endowed with “the wealth of the nations” (Isaiah 60:5, 11; 61:6), made healthy and whole (Revelation 22:2), does not increase the perfection of the blessed Trinity, which is beyond possibility of increase or diminution. But the presence of a redeemed humanity does increase our capacity for enjoying the blessed Trinity. Anselm explains,

What joy there is indeed and how great it is where there exists so great a good! . . . But surely if someone else whom you loved in every respect as yourself possessed that same blessedness, your joy would be doubled for you would rejoice as much for him as for yourself. Therefore in that perfect and pure love of the countless holy angels and holy men where no one will love another less than himself, each will rejoice for every other as for himself. If, then, the heart of man will scarcely be able to comprehend the joy that will belong to it from so great a good, how will it comprehend so many and such great joys?6

Though our attention and delight will be “centered upon the Lord” in God’s eternal kingdom, our attention and delight will also be “a social one.”7 Paul J. Griffiths provides an apt illustration that conveys the nature of our attention and delight in God and the people of God within the new creation:

Our delight in the Lord is, in this respect, like the intense attentiveness paid by orchestral players to the conductor. He is the one at whom they look and to whose gestures they respond. But their look and their responsiveness is attuned and resonant to the looks and the responses of their fellow players. That attunement and resonance is constitutive of ensemble playing.8

In God’s eternal kingdom, our happiness in the vision of God will be attuned to and resonant with the redeemed chorus of humanity, gathered from every tribe, tongue, and nation, that ever lives to glorify, honor, and thank the one who sits upon the throne and the Lamb in the Spirit who proceeds from their throne.

Dayspring Is at Hand

To possess the triune God in unmediated vision and unsurpassable bliss among the people of God, this is “the final blessedness,” “the ultimate consummation,” “the unending end” that lies ahead for the objects of God’s mercy.9 This is “our blessed hope” (Titus 2:13): the blessed Trinity will make us blessed in him. Such happiness can hardly be described in prose. Such happiness is better sung:

The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for —
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark had been the midnight
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

The king there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land

O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

Oh, I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine.
I stand upon His merit —
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.10

This article is the third and final part of the “theology of happiness” begun in Scott Swain’s “That Your Joy May Be Full.” In addition to the online version of that feature article, you can also download a PDF or listen to a recording. The second article in the series, “For Now We Rejoice in Part,” is also available to read.

  1. For the first two points, see Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II.2.7. For the third, see Anselm, Proslogion, in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 25. 

  2. Augustine, A Select Library of the Nicene and post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 2, St. Augustine’s City of God and Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), XXII.30. 

  3. Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (New York: Oxford, 1991), I.1. 

  4. Paul J. Griffiths, Decreation: The Last Things of All Creatures (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2014), 218. As William Perkins rightly notes, we will not perceive God in a simple manner, as God alone perceives himself, but we will perceive God in a comprehensive manner. William Perkins, The Works of William Perkins, vol. 1, A Godly and Learned Exposition of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2014), 207. 

  5. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John: Chapters 13–21 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), 171. 

  6. Anselm, Proslogion, 25. 

  7. Griffiths, Decreation, 239. 

  8. Griffiths, Decreation, 239. 

  9. Augustine, City of God, XIX.10. 

  10. Anne Cousin, “The Sands of Time Are Sinking” (1857). 

Your Greatest Reason Not to Worry

Desiring God - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 8:00am

God is majestic in glory, but he’s also tender in compassion. God is your King, but he is also your Father.

Watch Now

May 25: Isaiah 63:9–10; John 14:26; Romans 8:26; Romans 15:30; Galatians 5:16–17; Ephesians 1:13–14; Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 4:13; Song of Solomon 5:6; Isaiah 57:17–18; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 2:17; Hosea 5:15; Hosea 14:4; Luke 15:20; 1 John 1:9

ESV Bible Devotional - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 8:00am
  • Morning: Isaiah 63:9–10; John 14:26; Romans 8:26; Romans 15:30; Galatians 5:16–17; Ephesians 1:13–14; Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 4:13
  • Evening: Song of Solomon 5:6; Isaiah 57:17–18; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 2:17; Hosea 5:15; Hosea 14:4; Luke 15:20; 1 John 1:9
Morning: Isaiah 63:9–10; John 14:26; Romans 8:26; Romans 15:30; Galatians 5:16–17; Ephesians 1:13–14; Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 4:13 Isaiah 63:9–10; John 14:26; Romans 8:26; Romans 15:30; Galatians 5:16–17; Ephesians 1:13–14; Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 4:13

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

The love of the Spirit.—“The Helper, the Holy Spirit.”—In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.—When you… believed in him, [you] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.—But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Isaiah 63:9–10 (Listen)

  In all their affliction he was afflicted,1
    and the angel of his presence saved them;
  in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
    he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
  But they rebelled
    and grieved his Holy Spirit;
  therefore he turned to be their enemy,
    and himself fought against them.

Footnotes

[1] 63:9 Or he did not afflict

(ESV)

John 14:26 (Listen)

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

(ESV)

Romans 8:26 (Listen)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

(ESV)

Romans 15:30 (Listen)

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,

(ESV)

Galatians 5:16–17 (Listen) Keep in Step with the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

(ESV)

Ephesians 1:13–14 (Listen)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee1 of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,2 to the praise of his glory.

Footnotes

[1] 1:14 Or down payment
[2] 1:14 Or until God redeems his possession

(ESV)

Ephesians 4:30 (Listen)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(ESV)

1 John 4:13 (Listen)

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

(ESV)

Evening: Song of Solomon 5:6; Isaiah 57:17–18; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 2:17; Hosea 5:15; Hosea 14:4; Luke 15:20; 1 John 1:9 Song of Solomon 5:6; Isaiah 57:17–18; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 2:17; Hosea 5:15; Hosea 14:4; Luke 15:20; 1 John 1:9

I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you.—My beloved had turned and gone…. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.—“I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him.”—“Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way?”

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”—I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Song of Solomon 5:6 (Listen)

  I opened to my beloved,
    but my beloved had turned and gone.
  My soul failed me when he spoke.
  I sought him, but found him not;
    I called him, but he gave no answer.

(ESV)

Isaiah 57:17–18 (Listen)

  Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
    I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
    but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
  I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
    I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,

(ESV)

Isaiah 59:2 (Listen)

  but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
  and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear.

(ESV)

Jeremiah 2:17 (Listen)

  Have you not brought this upon yourself
    by forsaking the LORD your God,
    when he led you in the way?

(ESV)

Hosea 5:15 (Listen)

  I will return again to my place,
    until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
    and in their distress earnestly seek me.

(ESV)

Hosea 14:4 (Listen)

  I will heal their apostasy;
    I will love them freely,
    for my anger has turned from them.

(ESV)

Luke 15:20 (Listen)

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

(ESV)

1 John 1:9 (Listen)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(ESV)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Albert Mohler - The Briefing - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 5:00am

Why one Yale graduate who grew up as a foster child tells us that family structure really matters

The wealth gap and families: Recent economic changes are far more demonstrable in families compared to individuals

Failing the intersectionality test: LGBT community deems pro-LGBT mayor unworthy of their support

Remembering the lives of Richard Pipes and Bernard Lewis, two titanic figures in the world of foreign policy

The literary legacies of Tom Wolfe and Philip Roth—two very different, very fascinating writers

The post Friday, May 25, 2018 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.

Sexual Assault and the Hope of the Gospel

Gospel Coalition - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:04am

One in four women, and one in six men, will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life. There are almost certainly people in our churches who have been deeply wounded by assault, but may feel compelled to keep their suffering to themselves.

In a Sunday evening elder’s talk at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Bobby Jamieson walked through the story of Amnon’s rape of Tamar from 2 Samuel 13, a vivid account of the devastation that sexual assault causes. Jamieson then offered seven ways the gospel brings renewal to those who have been victims.*

1. The gospel restores your voice, turning denial into the righteous act of naming evil truthfully.

2. The gospel gives you a new identity as God’s beloved child in Christ.

3. The gospel frees you from shame.

4. The gospel perfectly and permanently removes the guilt of your own sin.

5. The gospel makes room for righteous anger and uproots sinful anger.

6. The gospel restores trust in God and others, turning isolation into growing intimacy.

7. The gospel grants hope, turning despair into confidence in God’s promises.

You can listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here.

Related

*Throughout the talk, Jamieson relies heavily on and recommends Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault.

4 Questions: Tim Challies and Justin Taylor on Blogging

Gospel Coalition - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:03am

Fifteen years ago I was reading a small book by Hugh Hewitt, In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World, when I stumbled across a sentence that would change the course of my life: “Start and maintain your own Web log (blog).” That night I took Hewitt’s advice and started my own blog, Evangelical Outpost.

Since then blogging has taught me how to write, think, read, and communicate more effectively, and opened a career path to jobs I could have only dreamed about. Almost every aspect of my life—from my education to spiritual development—has changed for the better because of blogging.

But of all the benefits it provided, what I’m most grateful for is the community. For those who have come of age during the era of social media, it’s difficult to understand how lonely and intellectually frustrating the world could be before the Internet. Blogging helped to change that by providing new groups of friends who were interested in discussing books, theology, and the Christian’s place in the world. No matter where you lived or what you did for a living, if you could get online you could join the conversation.

Of the hundreds of bloggers who began in 2003 and that have influenced my life, three stand out: Tim Challies, Justin Taylor, and Jared Wilson. Five year ago, I interviewed them about their experience as bloggers (you can read those interviews here, here, and here). A lot has changed since then so I wanted to follow-up and find out what they have learned since then.*

Tim Challies is a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and the author of five books. Over the past fifteen years he’s also reviewed more books for his website than many people will read in a lifetime. He’s also produced hundreds of essays on theological and cultural topics. I’ve read them all and I can’t think of a single time in all these years when Tim has written anything that was not faithful to God’s Word  Consistency, quality, work ethic, and faithfulness are the four traits that have made Tim one of the best bloggers in evangelicalism.

Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway, and the author and editor of more than a dozen books. While some bloggers put their personalities front and center, Justin has remained mostly in the background while he promotes the work of others. The result is that he has become one of the most wildly successful bloggers in the history “Godblogging.” The profound impact he has had on the community of believers shows how much we can change lives when we put God’s work ahead of our own egos.

Over the past decade and a half these faithful men became my friends and mentors, providing a model not only for how to be a better blogger but also how to be a better believer. I’m excited to share their latest thoughts on blogging.

Over the past five years, how has social media and other trends changed blogging and online engagement?

Challies: When the blogosphere first began, it was social media. At that point, Twitter and Facebook and other social media platforms did not yet exist. That meant that blogs were the way people communicated and interacted. Networks of blogs were the way people with similar interests engaged with one another and explored ideas together. The introduction of social media gave people a new, easier, and less formal means of interaction, not to mention one with a much lower barrier to entry. In some cases this displaced blogs and in other cases it replace them altogether. Not only that, but it gave a neutral location for people to discuss what was said on blogs, which in many ways rendered comment sections obsolete.

Over the past few years, we have seen social media continue to take the place of blogs. I think there are at least two ways it is done this. First, it is given people another outlet to communicate. Second, it is so distracted people that many of them don’t have anything to communicate anyway. It is made fewer people into creators of information and more people into mere consumers of information.

Taylor: With Google abandoning the free RSS feed it made available, Twitter and Facebook have become the only portals for most people to know about new things online. I can publish a blog post now, and if it’s not linked on social media, most people won’t know it’s there. (If a blog post falls in a forest and no one is around to link it, does it make a sound?) But now that Facebook is making it more challenging for all followers to see a post, the relationship between social media and longer content will undoubtedly change again. (2) I think social media has decreased our attention spans even further. I am a big fan of longform, but I recognize about myself that I am being constantly conditioned to be enamored by the soundbite rather than the long argument. We’ve gotten to the point where even 1,000 words gets met with auto-replies of tl;dr [too long; didn’t read—we can’t even bother to type out four words!]. (3) Social media disincentivizes patience, reflection, and argumentation (which is not the same as being argumentative)! All of this, I think, has made blogging more difficult—though also more important.

What is one lesson you’ve learned over the past five year about blogging about writing, communicating, etc.?

Taylor: If you write in public, you will be criticized. Good criticism is a gift that should be sought and cherished. But people who simply enjoy mocking or distorting what you write are not worth engaging with. Whoever invented the Mute Button on Twitter deserves a Nobel prize.

Challies: For blogging, I suppose I’ve learned that I don’t think it is going anywhere anytime soon. Some people have moved on and perhaps fewer people are beginning blogs than in the past, but I still think there is a very good future for the medium. The blogosphere represents the democratization of opinions and influence and at this point I do not see us going back.

For writing, I’ve learned that it functions in my life as almost a kind of spiritual discipline. I’ve often said I don’t really know what I believe about anything until I’ve written about it, and in that way it really is my form of meditation. The sheer volume of writing I’ve done over the past few years has caused a fair bit of nerve damage which has prevented me from writing very much over the past few months. It took me quite a while to understand that I was grieving the loss of what really is a kind of discipline in my life. I am currently learning to communicate by voice dictation (as in this interview), but it is a difficult transition to make.

What do you miss about the “good old days” of blogging and the blogosphere?

Challies: When we talk about the “good old days” of blogging and the blogosphere, I think we are talking about the days before social media, since Twitter and Facebook changed everything. What I miss about those days was the sense of camaraderie that came as we all explored ideas together. There were networks then of like-minded individuals who were waking up to exciting ideas, life-changing theology, and the birth of an amazing new medium. At that time the blogosphere was wide open and anyone who had good ideas, ambition, and the motivation to just keep on writing, could gain a voice and be part of the conversation. Also, I miss the days when everybody was beginning their own blog, rather than attempting to write for the blogs of major ministries or organizations. No offense.

Taylor: To be honest, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the question. I think we tend to have to look back with rose-colored glasses. Back in the olden days, I felt more indispensable—part of that was the reality that there were fewer people doing it; part of that was undoubtedly an inflated sense of self (otherwise known as pride). So those days were more frenetic and concentrated, but I don’t know if they were necessarily better. I think we tend to have a tendency to look back with rose-colored glasses.

What advice would you give to young communicators who want to use their talents online for the glory of God? How can they can develop their skills and stand out from the noise and incivility that tends to dominate?

Taylor: Since seven is the biblical number, here are seven things that come to mind: (1) Less is more; quality matters more than quantity. You don’t need to comment on everything. Yet, you will probably never increase in quality without regularly writing. You have to write your way into becoming a better writer. (2) Identity good models and learn from them. (3) See worship not just as a foundation and not just as a result but also as a means. Divorcing your work from communion with the triune God is the source of a thousand problems. (4) Your writing will probably be only as good as your reading. (5) Be an active member of a local church. (6) You don’t need to comment on everything. (7) Meditate on what Scripture says we should do in all areas of our life at all times: love God (Matt. 22:37); love neighbor (Matt. 22:39); pray (1 Thess. 5:17); give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18); and rejoice (Phil. 4:4).

Challies: To be successful in the blogosphere requires hard work and thick skin. You have got to be able to persevere when you cannot clearly see any obvious results from your work and you’ve got to be able to persevere when the main result seems to be scorn and criticism. If your blog grows large enough, you will one day realize there is absolutely nothing you can say anymore without being criticized. A temptation that comes with that is to respond to every criticism and to essentially make your blog a back-and-forth with critics. It is generally better, I think, to keep plugging away and to make the main focus of your writing what is positive and uplifting to others.

Other than that, just keep writing. There is no substitute for simply gathering ideas, writing ideas, sharing them with the world, receiving feedback, and then sharpening those ideas all the more. I believe the happiest writers are the ones who would write even if no one else was reading. The greatest benefit of a blog is not to those who read it but to those who write it.

*The interview with Jared Wilson will be posted in a later article.

Other interviews in this series: 

Melanie Kirkpatrick on North Korea

Share Your Faith in a Skeptical World

Gospel Coalition - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:03am

Apologetics, by definition, is an attempt to give an answer for the faith, supplying reason for our existential hope in Christ and his gospel. But in the postmodern—and increasingly post-Christian—West, our accepted apologetic method may need updating. How do you make an explanation to those unpersuaded by reason? How do you supply an answer to a skeptic, to those who already “know” the standard Christian answers and don’t accept them?

Sam Chan addresses these and other questions in his new book, Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable. Chan—a physician, theologian, and evangelist—accurately diagnoses our current cultural milieu and offers concrete examples for practicing winsome and persuasive apologetics with our questioning neighbors.

Accurate Diagnosis

Chan opens by defining the gospel and evangelism, presenting a theological foundation for the remainder of the book. Subsequent chapters address everyday evangelism and proposals for crafting gospel presentations or talks, including issues of contextualization and the (re)emerging prominence of story in our culture.

Chapters 4 and 10 represent the nervous system of Chan’s work, where he keenly observes the environment into which we take the good news. Here he supplies an accurate diagnosis of our skeptical friends and neighbors and the causes (humanly speaking) that most influence belief and unbelief.

First, he addresses plausibility structures, the “accepted beliefs, convictions, and understandings that either green-light truth claims as plausible or red-light them as implausible” (41). They’re the invisible scaffolding which support all human belief. According to Chan, there are three main sources for these plausibility structures: community, experience, and evidence.

Where the modern, Enlightenment-minded thinker might assume evidence to be the ultimate determining factor for believability, and some of us might like to assume we only accept claims with adequate factual support, Chan shows that the other sources can be just as compelling. We tend to accept the claims of those we trust, especially when we witness those truths lived out in a compelling community.

Postmodernity, as he explains, places higher value on community and experience. Purely evidentialist argumentation, such as trying to prove the resurrection, won’t carry much weight in contemporary evangelism. Instead, in a skeptical world we find that “hospitality breaks down plausibility structures” because it witnesses to truth in the context of community and an experience of love (117).

Chan also helps us consider common “defeater beliefs” that make it practically impossible for someone to come to Christ (241). Here again he shows the integral role of community in shaping all of our beliefs. In fact, many commonly-accepted truths may be empirically unverifiable, but we assume them based on shared understanding. Thus, addressing an individual’s defeater beliefs merely with raw data—to simply quote John 3:16, for example—isn’t likely to result in conversion.

Alternative Medicine

As a doctor, Chan notes the increasing openness to alternative medicine in our day and a growing distrust of naturalism or hard science. This fits with his observation that society is now more trusting of a person with a positive experience (with, for example, essential oils or acupuncture) over raw data.

In a way, then, Chan proposes his own version of alternative medicine, a fresh way of going about our evangelism. He’s not arguing for abandoning the gospel, but contextualizing it to people more apt to believe the message if it comes within the context of vibrant community and persuasive experience.

Here Chan combines the evangelistic importance of both message and method, words and walk, communication and community. He suggests we look for new ways to merge our universes, of bringing our lives more and more into contact with unbelievers. He asks us to move beyond solely individualistic gospel proclamation to community involvement and interaction, “to change our lives so that we live an evangelistic lifestyle, not a life with add-on bits of evangelism” (45).

Prescriptions

Some will likely chafe at Chan’s approach, labeling it as friendship evangelism or accusing him of over-contextualization. To be sure, I have my own quibbles with various parts of the book, including his view of infant faith, his definition of iniquity, or a strange and repeated suggestion that prospective ministers study creative arts instead of attending seminary.

But looking past those, I do find many of his prescriptions insightful. He rightly doesn’t pit natural human means against the ultimate and supernatural agency of the Spirit (253). Nevertheless, his aim is clearly practical. He wants us to think seriously about biblical contextualization, about making the claims of Christ understandable and acceptable to a world increasingly hostile to the gospel.

Chan also advocates for listening to our opponents. Learning from them. Living with them. He shows how to resonate with their ideas and their concerns without capitulating to them. He models how to winsomely dismantle oppositional beliefs and assumptions, and then present a gospel that magnifies the lordship and love of Christ.

Possible Side Effects

That said, I did find some significant deficiencies in the book. While the diagnosis was clear, some of the proposed applications could lead to negative side effects.

For instance, Chan appears to argue for delaying evangelism for the sake of relational credibility (49). This doesn’t seem like a new approach at all, but an oft-repeated mistake typical of our evangelistic efforts. The tone of the book is also extremely non-combative. Chan emphasizes reasoning and relationships over proclamation. His approach to contextualization seems as much about making the gospel palatable as understandable.

As a result, one is left wondering if there would ever be reason to speak outside of accepted cultural values or plausibility structures in evangelism, as a way to provoke thought or arouse curiosity. For instance, I think of Paul staunchly asserting the resurrection to skeptical Sadducees and Stoics alike—people who would reject such views out-of-hand. Or I think of Jesus incisively challenging opponents for their sin and unbelief, speaking with authority and not as the scribes.

In Chan’s argument for finding common ground with our skeptical audiences by referencing contextualization in the apostolic witness in Acts (67), there is a conspicuous lack of emphasis on judgment or repentance. But in Acts, repentance is a command, not a suggestion. One has to wonder if the evangelistic speech act envisioned by Chan would ever communicate such authority and urgency.

The gospel isn’t merely that “Jesus is the answer to my deepest longings” (59) or that Christianity, as it turns out, is a good fit with my preexistent cultural assumptions or community values, but, as Chan admits, that Jesus is Lord (24). The gospel, then, is by nature offensive and alien. It’s a call to renounce self and turn away from the world.

Chan’s suggestions for giving an answer for our hope in Christ to a skeptical world is persuasive in many ways. His approach, perhaps more apologetic than evangelistic, is engaging and no doubt effective, a much-needed corrective to old habits and unhealthy practices. My prayer is that the church will implement his vision insofar as it helps us communicate the gospel more accurately and relevantly, doing so in a community that’s compelling both for its love and truth.

6 Questions College Students Must Be Ready to Answer

Gospel Coalition - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:00am

The research is clear: One of the best ways to prepare students to sustain their faith throughout college is to force them to answer hard questions. While some apologetics are timeless, it’s vital for churches and parents to monitor the most prominent current questions and challenges Christians face on college campuses today.

Students must be armed with at least six apologetics to be ready to answer the hardest questions they’ll face from professors as well as fellow students.

1. Did Jesus Literally Rise from the Dead?

Christianity lives and dies on the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity simply isn’t true. I reinforce this statement constantly with students, and remind them that the bodily resurrection functions as the basis for our confidence in the truthfulness of our faith.

A good starting point for building an apologetic is 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul presents the eyewitness testimony of Christ’s resurrection.

For further reading:

2. How Was the Bible Formed? 

A common way young people become confused about Scripture in college concerns the issue of canonization. How were the books of the Bible selected? Through the internet, TV documentaries, and revisionist religion professors, volumes of misinformation about the Bible’s formation exists.

Start building an apologetic by teaching students the three basic standards for selecting books:

  • Were they written by those with apostolic authority?
  • Did the message match the teachings of Jesus?
  • Was there general consensus on whether the book should be included in the canon?

This also helps debunk the false notion that heretical books (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas) were given serious consideration or that the debate extended into the fourth century.

For further reading:

3. Is Every Word of Scripture Authoritative? 

The norm in our individualistic age is to pick and choose which the parts of Scripture we like. But since the Bible came from God—not one particular culture or person—parts of the Bible will always offend and conflict with modern thinking at some point. The temptation will arise, then, for a Christian student to overlook or renounce those parts.

The best argument for the authority of all of Scripture is to look at Jesus’s own view of Scripture. There are a multitude of passages where Jesus reveals his view of the Old Testament. It’s clear he believed that every word originates with God. If Jesus regarded all the Old Testament as God’s Word, then we can confidently affirm the same about the New Testament.

For further reading:

4. What Is Marriage?

If your children are brave enough to admit they believe in the Bible’s design for marriage, they will be called a bigot. So they will need a more sophisticated answer than “the Bible says so” for why they believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Yes, the biblical affirmation should be enough, but having a theological foundation is also necessary.

God’s design for humanity is that we enjoy a relationship with him and others as he enjoys within the Trinity. Within the Trinity, three distinct persons are united into one Godhead. In salvation Jesus and a person become one through union with Christ. Our relationship with Christ is described with the language of marriage. In a manner that reflects the economic Trinity and union with Christ, marriage fits together a man and a woman—distinct persons—such that they become united as one. An answer with theological depth will serve a student well.

For further reading:

5. Why Does the Bible Prohibit Eating Shellfish?

A reasonable question non-believers have about the Christian faith is why we uphold certain parts of Old Testament law but not others. It looks from the outside as if believers arbitrarily pick and choose what we want to obey. People will often cite dietary laws against eating shellfish as evidence of perceived hypocrisy.

Though the answer requires a longer explanation than I can offer here, the basic gist should focus on two transitions from the old covenant to the new: the change in (1) how we worship and (2) how God’s people are identified. In the new covenant, God’s people are not defined as a geopolitical nation (Israel). Instead, they are all people who put their faith in Christ. As a result, we don’t follow the Old Testament’s civil laws.

Also, due to Christ’s sacrifice and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we now worship God differently. God commanded his church to cease the temple sacrifices, circumcision, and Sabbath regulations that the old covenant required. We still observe the moral laws of the Old Testament, but not the civil or Sabbath laws. We do that out of obedience to Christ, not as a matter of picking and choosing.

For further reading:

6. Where Does Gender Come From? 

A growing trend on campuses is to regard gender as a fluid reality that a person can adjust on any given day. An acquaintance of mine recently visited a private college in New England, where he learned that professors must ask students three times per semester what pronoun they’d like to be called—in case that student has transitioned during the semester.

If nothing else, we should show youth that God, not culture, ordained gender when he made man and woman. God made us to understand and relate to him, and gender has a role in this purpose.

Having the right answer does not ensure that students will win people to Christ or that there won’t be difficulties as they navigate college. However, strong apologetics can give a student confidence in Christ and his Word when challenges to faith inevitably arise.

For further reading:

The Devil Is Not in the Details: Fighting Temptation with Specific Truth

Desiring God - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 8:01pm

The power of temptation lies in the impression it makes on us.

This statement is true in two senses. One, the power of temptation resides in the impression it makes on us. And two, the power of temptation deceives in the impression it makes on us.

In saying that temptation’s power lies in the impression it makes on us, I’m referring to the very moment of temptation, when we recognize and feel its luring appeal. But deceitful impressions only have a luring appeal to the degree that we already have a vulnerable disposition to a sinful desire:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14–15)

The devil can’t make us sin; he can only appeal to our propensity to desire sinful things. So in a moment of temptation we are fighting on two fronts: we need to “resist the devil” (James 4:7), and we need to resist our desires. This is why the way of escape from temptation to sin often is to employ a healthy dose of realism and truth-in-advertising to it — not accepting the tempting impression at face value. In our fight, then, truthful clarity is premium.

Diabolical Impressionist

The devil is not an artist but a vandal. He doesn’t create; he distorts, disfigures, and defaces what God makes. But if satanic temptation were to be an artform, we might call it some twisted sort of Impressionism.

In painting, Impressionism is an approach where an artist’s goal isn’t to portray his objects as realistically as possible, but rather to use color, lighting, and typically less defined lines in order to evoke certain visual and emotional sensations — impressions — in a viewer. Think Claude Monet’s Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies or Woman with a Parasol. It can be a powerful and beautiful style.

But when applied to temptation, diabolical “Impressionism” becomes powerful and terrible. The devil doesn’t employ realism when painting a temptation “because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). His goal is to use the spiritual equivalents of color, lighting, and less defined lines to evoke certain sinful emotional sensations. The power is in the momentary emotional impression it makes on the “viewer.” The devil doesn’t want us to see the real thing; he just wants us to experience a rather vague impression that yielding to the temptation will bring happiness.

Diabolical Marketer

But since the devil is not an artist, we could make another analogy that might be more accurate and think of him as an evil marketer.

Marketing itself, of course, is not evil. At its most basic meaning, marketing is simply bringing a product to market. Think of an open-air market where merchants are competing for customers and are trying to make their booths and products and prices attractive. There’s nothing wrong with this, provided that merchants are truthful about their products.

However, we live in an age of very sophisticated marketing, a fair amount of which is manipulative and misleading. Such marketers make diligent study of human psychology in order to understand the subtleties of human motivation and behavior. Then they use this knowledge in order to create advertising communications designed to entice people to purchase their products by appealing to powerful human appetites and desires and aspirations and fantasies, which often have no necessary connection to the products themselves. They use temptation tactics: create deceptive impressions on people in order to manipulate their behavior in ways that benefit the marketers.

This is precisely what the devil does. And no one is a more effective manipulative marketer. In this sense, the power is in the deceptive impression the temptation has on us. The devil does not want us to ask too many questions about the actual sin-product and whether it can (or ever has) delivered the happiness it promises. He just wants the impression that it will deliver, in order to tap into our influential sinful desires and to encourage us to be “impulse buyers.”

Way of Escape

Tapping into sinful cravings we already are vulnerable to, the power of temptation lies in the impression it makes on us. It lies in its immediate, compelling sensory nature, and it lies in its potently deceptive nature. In certain colors, in certain light, and in kind of an undefined way it gives us the impression it has the power to make us happy. And in vague yet strongly asserted ways it impresses us with promises to make us happy.

And here is God’s promise to us regarding every temptation:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Sometimes flight is the best escape from temptation. We usually know which temptations we ought not to sit and reason with in the tempting moment.

But many times, flight is not an option, or it’s not the best strategy or long-term solution to repeated temptations. In many cases, the escape God provides us is to treat Satan and our indwelling sin the same way we are to treat any other distorters of the gospel: to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). In a tempting moment, this typically looks like pressing the enticing impression into the clarity of truth. What precisely is being promised to us? What does God have to say? And who do we wish to trust, and why? This is essentially how Jesus resisted the tempting mirage moments Satan placed before him in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–13).

Here’s the point: the devil doesn’t want us to think clearly in the moment of temptation. He wants to deceive us with appealing vague pictures and compelling vague promises and obscure the destructive consequences of sin behind a pleasurable impression of happiness. We must not believe this impression; we must not buy on impulse.

Kill temptation with honest questions as much as you can. And flee if you must.

Should We Sing of God’s ‘Reckless Love’?

Desiring God - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 8:00pm

Is the term “reckless” too reckless? Pastor John offers pastors, worship leaders, and congregations ways to think about the popular lyrics.

Listen Now

May 24: Exodus 28:12; Deuteronomy 33:12; Hebrews 4:14–16; Hebrews 7:24–25; Jude 24; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Esther 6:1; Psalm 76:10; Psalm 77:4; Psalm 77:19; Psalm 113:5–6; Daniel 4:35; Matthew 10:29–30; Romans 8:28

ESV Bible Devotional - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 8:00am
  • Morning: Exodus 28:12; Deuteronomy 33:12; Hebrews 4:14–16; Hebrews 7:24–25; Jude 24
  • Evening: 2 Chronicles 16:9; Esther 6:1; Psalm 76:10; Psalm 77:4; Psalm 77:19; Psalm 113:5–6; Daniel 4:35; Matthew 10:29–30; Romans 8:28
Morning: Exodus 28:12; Deuteronomy 33:12; Hebrews 4:14–16; Hebrews 7:24–25; Jude 24 Exodus 28:12; Deuteronomy 33:12; Hebrews 4:14–16; Hebrews 7:24–25; Jude 24

“And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord.”

[Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.—Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.

“The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.”

Exodus 28:12 (Listen)

And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance.

(ESV)

Deuteronomy 33:12 (Listen)

Of Benjamin he said,

  “The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety.
  The High God1 surrounds him all day long,
    and dwells between his shoulders.”

Footnotes

[1] 33:12 Septuagint; Hebrew dwells in safety by him. He

(ESV)

Hebrews 4:14–16 (Listen) Jesus the Great High Priest

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(ESV)

Hebrews 7:24–25 (Listen)

but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost1 those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Footnotes

[1] 7:25 That is, completely; or at all times

(ESV)

Jude 24 (Listen) Doxology

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

(ESV)

Evening: 2 Chronicles 16:9; Esther 6:1; Psalm 76:10; Psalm 77:4; Psalm 77:19; Psalm 113:5–6; Daniel 4:35; Matthew 10:29–30; Romans 8:28 2 Chronicles 16:9; Esther 6:1; Psalm 76:10; Psalm 77:4; Psalm 77:19; Psalm 113:5–6; Daniel 4:35; Matthew 10:29–30; Romans 8:28

“On that night the king could not sleep.”

You hold my eyelids open.—Who is like the Lord our God, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.—Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.—Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”—And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

2 Chronicles 16:9 (Listen)

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless1 toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

Footnotes

[1] 16:9 Or whole

(ESV)

Esther 6:1 (Listen) The King Honors Mordecai

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king.

(ESV)

Psalm 76:10 (Listen)

  Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
    the remnant1 of wrath you will put on like a belt.

Footnotes

[1] 76:10 Or extremity

(ESV)

Psalm 77:4 (Listen)

  You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

(ESV)

Psalm 77:19 (Listen)

  Your way was through the sea,
    your path through the great waters;
    yet your footprints were unseen.1

Footnotes

[1] 77:19 Hebrew unknown

(ESV)

Psalm 113:5–6 (Listen)

  Who is like the LORD our God,
    who is seated on high,
  who looks far down
    on the heavens and the earth?

(ESV)

Daniel 4:35 (Listen)

  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
    and among the inhabitants of the earth;
  and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, “What have you done?”

(ESV)

Matthew 10:29–30 (Listen)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?1 And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

Footnotes

[1] 10:29 Greek assarion, Roman copper coin (Latin quadrans) worth about 1/16 of a denarius (which was a day's wage for a laborer)

(ESV)

Romans 8:28 (Listen)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,1 for those who are called according to his purpose.

Footnotes

[1] 8:28 Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good

(ESV)

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