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Archive for the ‘Pastoral’ Category

joy

 

Did you know that God commands us to be glad?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

 

1) God created us for his glory.

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth,… whom I created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:6-7)

God made us to magnify his greatness – the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God’s glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

 

2) Every human should live for God’s glory.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his design. So our first obligation is to show God’s value by being satisfied with all that he is for us. This is the essence of loving God (Matthew 22:37) and trusting him (1 John 5:3-4) and being thankful to him (Psalm 100:2-4) It is the root of all true obedience, especially loving others (Colossians 1:4-5).

 

3) All of us have failed to glorify God as we should.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What does it mean to “fall short of the glory of God?” It means that none of us has trusted and treasured God the way we should. We have not been satisfied with his greatness and walked in his ways. We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and treated them as more valuable than God, which is the essence of idolatry (Romans 1:21-23). Since sin came into the world we have all been deeply resistant to having God as our all-satisfying treasure (Ephesians 2:3). This is an appalling offense to the greatness of God (Jeremiah 2:12-13).

 

4) All of us are subject to God’s just condemnation.

“The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).

We have all belittled the glory of God. How? By preferring other things above him. By our ingratitude, distrust and disobedience. So God is just in shutting us out from the enjoyment of his glory forever. “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

The word “hell” is used in the New Testament twelve times – eleven times by Jesus himself. It is not a myth created by dismal and angry preachers. It is a solemn warning from the Son of God who died to deliver sinners from its curse. We ignore it at great risk.

If the Bible stopped here in its analysis of the human condition, we would be doomed to a hopeless future. However, this is not where it stops…

 

5) God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal life and joy.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15)

The good news is that Christ died for sinners like us. And he rose physically from the dead to validate the saving power of his death and to open the gates of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just (Romans 3:25-26). “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to God is where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.

 

6) The benefits purchased by the death of Christ belong to those who repent and trust him.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

“Repent” means to turn from all the deceitful promises of sin. “Faith” means being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Jesus. “He who believes in me,” Jesus says, “shall never thirst” (John 6:35). We do not earn our salvation. We cannot merit it (Romans 4:4-5). It is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a free gift (Romans 3:24). We will have it if we cherish it above all things (Matthew 13:44). When we do that, God’s aim in creation is accomplished: He is glorified in us and we are satisfied in him – forever.

 

Does this make sense to you?

Do you desire the kind of gladness that comes from being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus? If so, then God is at work in your life.

What should you do?

Turn from the deceitful promises of sin. Call upon Jesus to save you from the guilt and punishment and bondage. “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Start banking your hope on all that God is for you in Jesus. Break the power of sin’s promises by faith in the superior satisfaction of God’s promises. Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and very great promises, which can set you free (2 Peter 1:3-4). Find a Bible-believing church and begin to worship and grow together with other people who treasure Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).

 

The best news in the world is that there is no necessary conflict between our happiness and God’s holiness. Being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus magnifies him as a great Treasure.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

 

Source: Desiring God Ministries (www.desiringgod.org)

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SpurgDis

The conquering of the city of Troy is one of the famous stories of ancient history. Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city for over ten years, but were unable to conquer it. In exasperation Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left outside the city walls as a supposed gift to the unconquerable Trojans. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious and proud Trojans brought the wooden horse inside their fortified walls. That night Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse crept out and opened the city gates to let their fellow soldiers into the city. The soldiers massacred the inhabitants, looted the city, and then burned it to the ground. Ever since, the Trojan horse has been a symbol of infiltration and deception.

Throughout its history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses. Satan has effectively used enemies disguised as gifts to lure people away from the truth of God into destructive error. Today’s church is in a particularly severe state of confusion. That should be no surprise, for the apostle Paul said, “In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The apostle Peter echoed that truth: “There will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Pet. 2:1-3).

Today’s church is like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who could tell the difference between superficial things like pleasant and stormy weather, but not between truth and error (Matt. 16:1-3). So many churches have relinquished biblical ethics and doctrine, a deep reverence and worship of God, repentance over sin, humility toward God and fellow believers, and a profound understanding of God’s character and work. All that has resulted in a low-level commitment to holy living.

In contrast, God calls all true believers to pursue perfect conformity to the absolute, holy standard of His Word. First Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” If you’re going to live a holy life that pleases the Lord, it’s essential that you be spiritually discerning.

What Is Spiritual Discernment?

Spiritual discernment is the skill of separating divine truth from error. First Thessalonians 5:21says we are to “examine everything carefully.” That speaks of testing something to reveal its genuineness. We as believers are to evaluate everything we come in contact with to distinguish what is true and false, good and bad, or right and wrong. That can be a difficult task. Why? First, we are constantly fighting the sinful desires of our fallen flesh. Second, we face satanic deception. The devil is doing everything he can to confound and confuse us. Third, we are inundated with worldly influences that seek to overpower us.

Opposing the world, the flesh, and the devil requires us to “hold fast to that which is good” (v. 21). We are to embrace wholeheartedly what is inherently genuine and true. We are also to “abstain from every form of evil” (v. 22). That means we are to separate ourselves from every form of perversion as though we were avoiding a deadly plague or poison. One pastor correctly wrote, “The worst forms of wickedness consist of perversions of the truth, of spiritual lies, although today many look upon these forms with indifference and regard them rather harmless” (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961], p. 363). Many in today’s church are indifferent about separating divine truth from error because they lack spiritual discernment.

 

Why Is There a Lack of Spiritual Discernment?

Weak Doctrine
One of the main causes is the church’s weakening of doctrinal clarity and conviction. Many have only a shallow knowledge of God’s Word because the church has yielded the trade and skill of understanding it to people who are ill-equipped to do so. In A Call to Discernment Christian counselor Dr. Jay Adams wrote, “Self-styled ‘experts’ in psychology, sociology, and education who hold Ph.D.’s in their fields and Sunday school degrees in Bible pontificate on Christian teaching and life on radio and elsewhere, setting themselves up as spokesmen for God…. Their teaching and use of the Bible (when it is used) often bear little resemblance to what the Scriptures, properly interpreted, really say.

“What is the upshot of all this? One obvious result is the modern tendency to use theological language loosely…. Not only are biblical terms used imprecisely, thereby spreading confusion throughout the church, but erroneous teachings of every kind are readily tolerated. This is because so few people have the discernment necessary to identify and refute such errors. And if they do sense that something is wrong, their powers of discernment are too weak to put their fingers precisely on the point where the error lies. Or, if they do point out the error, other people denounce them as heresy hunters” ([Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House, 1987], pp. 35-36).

The diluting of biblical doctrine has conditioned today’s church to desire only what will make it feel comfortable and satisfied. English minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Precise thinking, and definition, and dogma have been at a serious discount. The whole emphasis has been placed upon religion as a power which can do things for us and which can make us happy. The emotional and feeling side of religion has been over-emphasized at the expense of the intellectual. Far too often people have thought of the Christian religion merely as something which gives a constant series of miraculous deliverances from all sorts and kinds of ills…. The impression has often been given that we have but to ask God for whatever we may chance to need and we shall be satisfied…. We have been so intent upon ourselves and our moods and feelings and inward states, that when we are confronted by an external problem that nevertheless affects us profoundly, we do not know how to think or where to begin (cited by Ian Murray in David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith, vol. 2 [Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990], p. 24).

Because experience and emotion have been elevated above divine revelation, many who call themselves Christians have no biblical basis for doing so. For example, during an interview on a supposedly Christian radio station, the program host asked me, “How does a person become a Christian?” I replied, “He must realize that he is a sinner and that he cannot save himself, repent from his sin, and cast himself on the mercy of God. He must believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, whose death paid the price for his sins and whose resurrection proves his justification.” The host asked, “You don’t believe that everyone who is a Christian must believe that, do you?” I replied, “Yes!” The host responded, “I certainly didn’t deal with any of my sins when I became a Christian.” I asked, “What do you base your salvation on?” The host replied, “I was into drugs and alcohol, living with my boyfriend, and into Science of Mind for six years. One day I just got Jesus’ phone number and knew where He was.” Obviously not everyone who talks about Christ necessarily knows Him.

Some say that doctrine divides. That’s true! If you set aside biblical truth and remain silent for fear of offending people, opposition will disappear, but so will some other things like truth, holiness, and God Himself. Jude 1:3-4 says we are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed … who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Diluting doctrine only ends up making things easier for those who stealthily seek to victimize the church.

Relativistic Thinking
Much of today’s church has a continuum mindset, a continuum being that which has no discernable division into parts. Rather than seeing things as black and white–as right and wrong or true and false–it prefers to see things in infinite shades of gray. In C.S. Lewis’s satire The Screwtape Letters Screwtape, a senior demon, instructed an apprentice demon to keep his human victim’s mind off the plain antithesis between true and false” ([N.Y.: MacMillan, 1961], pp. 43-44). In reality, Satan uses that strategy very successfully, for today’s church has failed to distinguish divine truth from error.

Believers need to develop an antithetical, not a relativistic, mindset. Dr. Jay Adams wrote, “People who study the Bible in depth develop antithetical mindsets: They think in terms of contrasts or opposites. From Genesis to Revelation God’s thoughts and ways are set over against all others. The Bible does not teach that there are numerous ways to please God, each of which is as good as the next. Nor does it teach that various opinions are more or less God’s ways. What it teaches–everywhere–is that any thought or way that is not wholly God’s is altogether wrong and must be rejected. According to the Bible, a miss is as good as a mile. There is only one God, and there is only one way of life–His!

“People today don’t like to hear such things–even people within the church. Why? Because they have a different mindset. Many of them have not known the Bible from childhood or ever made an intensive study of it later on, so their mindset is unbiblical…. With pastors and people alike growing up in an environment that stresses continuum thinking, antithesis is dulled as more and more people attempt to integrate sociology, psychology, and business management principles with Scripture” ( A Call to Discernment, pp. 29, 32).

Instead of integrating worldly ideas with God’s truth, the psalmist made a clear distinction between the two: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2). Titus 1:9 says we are to refute doctrinal error by “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching.”

Worldly Methodology
Another reason for a lack of spiritual discernment is the church’s preoccupation with image and influence as the key to evangelization. Since today’s church believes it must win the lost to Christ by winning their favor, it no longer teaches the biblical doctrines of sin, hell, repentance, or the cross because those would offend the lost or make them feel uncomfortable. Instead it markets itself as a benevolent, non-threatening agency whose primary goal is to achieve prestige, popularity, and intellectual acceptance among the lost. Its premise is, “If they like us, they’ll like our Jesus.”

While the true church is to be loving and gracious in its evangelizing, it should never mitigate the teaching of God’s Word. Martyn Lloyd-Jones “saw that the elements of warning and of opposition to error were essential parts of any true commitment to the Bible and, therefore, believed that the ‘disapproval of polemics in the Christian Church [was] a very serious matter’. Accordingly he expected no approval from those who accepted the prevailing attitude which put ‘love’ first and treated arguments over doctrine as unchristian. It was that very attitude, he believed, which was responsible for the removal of the note of authority from the pulpit: the charge of ‘dogmatism’ and the dislike of reproof and correction were criticisms of Scripture itself” ( The Fight of Faith, p. 650).

Note the example of the apostle Paul. He gave a stinging rebuke to the church of Corinth for its preoccupation with image: “Who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and I would indeed that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Cor. 4:7-13).

True believers are an offense to those who reject the truth. Christ said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18-20). Hebrews 10:33says believers are “made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations.”

Inaccurate Interpretation
Today’s church has also failed to interpret Scripture accurately. That’s because, for the most part, it is indifferent toward God’s Word. Some teachers in the church are not trained to study God’s Word and end up with a wrong theology. Some are trained, but opt to tell stories or mix man-made ideas with biblical truth. Others are simply too lazy to interpret God’s Word accurately. Still others arrive at what they believe is truth by some mystical intuition, experience, or emotion. In addition, today’s church has elevated nearly everyone to the level of an expert in interpreting Scripture.

The following letter, written to an acquaintance of mine, illustrates the wrong but prevalent attitude of indifference toward Scripture by so-called believers: “The greatest experience in love I have ever had was at the foot of the cross as the blood of Jesus Christ poured out over me. He filled me with His Spirit. He brought me across the veil into the City of Jerusalem into the Holy of Holies. There I beheld myself in Him, and He in me. I received the baptism as by fire and from this His love dwells in me. From this I have communion daily. I do not feel the need for the study of the Scriptures, for I know Jesus as He has revealed Himself to me within; and as He dwells in me, there is the Word…. Scriptures are a secondary source.” Is it any wonder the church is weak and can’t discern the truth?

Interpreting God’s Word is an exacting science that requires skill and precision. Unless the believer has sat under good teaching, is well-read, or has learned to interpret Scripture from someone who knows how, it’s unlikely he or she will be able to interpret Scripture accurately.

Lax Discipline
There’s also a lack of spiritual discernment because of the failure to carry out church discipline. Here’s how Christ said it’s to be carried out: “If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile [an unbeliever]” (Matt. 18:15-17).

The church is to have a high standard of holiness. The apostle Paul admonished the church at Corinth for tolerating sin: “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Cor. 5:1-6).

The absence of church discipline will kill spiritual discernment and destroy the holiness of the church. Confronting sin effectively puts a wall of division between the world and the church by separating those who obey the Lord from those who don’t. It’s essential that believers draw the line between right and wrong. The church should be sending a message to the lost that says, “We are a holy people.”

Spiritual Immaturity
Many in the church have only a shallow knowledge of God’s Word, trust in personal experiences or feelings as truth, or chase personal comfort and success as a way of life. It’s what I call “Baby Christianity.” As a baby crawls on the floor, he will put anything into his mouth since he doesn’t know the difference between good and bad. Similarly, the spiritually immature are apt to swallow wrong teaching because they’ve not been taught to discern between divine truth and error.Ephesians 4:14-15 says, “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.”

An in-depth understanding of God’s Word is the key to spiritual maturity. Hebrews 5:12-14 says, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

Many of you are discerning in the everyday affairs of life. You read nutritional labels because you want to be healthy. You read the fine print of the stock market report before making financial investments. If you need surgery, you’ll carefully select the right doctor. Maybe you’re highly analytical about politics and can accurately assess the domestic and foreign issues. Or maybe you’re an armchair quarterback who evaluates offensive and defensive strategies. All that is fine, but can you discern between divine truth and error?

 

How Can I Be Spiritually Discerning?

Desire It
Spiritual discernment starts with your desire for it. If you seek only to be happy, healthy, and wealthy, you will not be spiritually discerning. You must be humble enough to admit your need to develop discernment. Proverbs 2:2-5 says, “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God.” Are you willing to follow the path that leads to spiritualdiscernment?

Pray for It
You must balance your desire for spiritual discernment by depending on the Lord for it through prayer. King Solomon prayed, “Give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). The Lord replied, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you” (vv. 11-12). James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Learn from Others
You can learn how to be spiritually discerning from the example of gifted, mature believers in the church. Some in the early church were specially gifted to discern between divine truth and error (1 Cor. 12:10). That gift was essential since false teachers tried to destroy the early church with their teaching. First John 4:1 says, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Does that gift exist today? Yes, there are theologians or Bible scholars who are gifted by God to unmask false teachers. They have a special ability to think carefully, critically, and analytically. They are the church’s guardians of truth. Some teach in seminaries while others do such things as write books. In whatever capacity they serve, they give clarity and insight to help us know right from wrong. You need to learn from what they teach and write.

You also need to follow the example of other mature believers. As it takes years of parental training for children to become mature, so it takes years of godly training for believers to become spiritually mature. It’s not a matter of praying in the evening, “Lord, give me discernment,” and then waking up the next morning and having it. Spiritual maturity is the result of being nourished by God’s Word. First Peter 2:2 says, “Long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” God also uses trials to mature believers: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10).

Depend on the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the true Discerner who will lead you into all truth (John 16:13). He perfectly knows the mind of God: “The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural [lost] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritualappraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:11-16).

Allow the Holy Spirit to control your life by confessing and forsaking sin and living a pure, holy life.Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” As you are obedient to that, He will make you a discerning believer.

Study God’s Word
Spiritual discernment flourishes in an environment of intense, faithful Bible study. You will not be spiritually discerning–even though you desire it, pray for it, learn from the gifted and mature, and depend on the Holy Spirit –unless you diligently study His Word. Only there will you find the principles and truths to discern between truth and error. In Acts 17, for example, the Jewish people of Berea received Paul’s preaching eagerly, and then tested his gospel message by comparing it to the teachings of the Old Testament. As a result many became believers.

In Acts 20 Paul warned the church leaders at Ephesus about false teachers who would try to infiltrate and devastate the church. His concluding word to them was this: “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (v. 32). Paul knew that their careful study of God’s Word was essential for protecting the church from error.

Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” The laborer who gives maximum effort to the quality of his work will not be ashamed because of any faulty workmanship. That means the believer is to present God’s Word accurately to others in contrast to those “wrangle about words” or engage in “worldly and empty chatter” (vv. 14, 16). By doing so, he will receive God’s approval and be counted as one worthy to stand alongside Him. The unashamed believer can say, “Lord, I studied and presented Your Word with integrity.”

What about you? How do you study God’s Word? In a superficial, careless way, or carefully and thoughtfully? Digging deeply into God’s Word requires effort, but remember this: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Conclusion

Spiritual discernment requires desire, prayer, learning from the gifted and mature, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and a diligent study of God’s Word. If you follow those steps, you will strengthen your doctrinal convictions, think antithetically, be kept from worldly approaches, be a good interpreter of God’s Word, and confront sin. All that will help you mature and bring honor to God!

 

 

Source: “Discernment: Spiritual Survival for a Church in Crisis” by John MacArthur

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James Study Resources

As many of you know, we just concluded our verse-by-verse study through the book of James (nearly 40 sermons later).  I am so thankful for the opportunity and hope that all of us were convicted and encouraged through the preaching of God’s Word. Furthermore, I hope that we would all be like the Bereans and continue to study and examine what I taught in accordance with the rest of scripture.

To that end, I wanted to share some of the resources that were so instrumental in my preparation throughout the week. Although I was not always able to cite every resource, there were many that assisted me throughout this journey (and for that I am thankful).

1) John MacArthur Commentary Series (James)

2) James – Thomas Manton

3) A Thirst for Wholeness – Jay Adams

4) James – George Stulac

5) James – J.A. Motyer

6) Teaching Helps In James – Richard Belcher

7) The Letter of James – Douglas Moo

8) The NIV Application Commentary Series (James)

9) James – R. Kent Hughes

10) The New Testament Commentary Series (Hendricksen and Kistemaker)

11) James – George Doriani

And many other resources and sermons ranging from John Calvin to Alistair Begg.

 

-Pastor Gary

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 pew

“Once we make the attitude shift from being passive pew sitters and receivers to active workers and givers, there is no end to the difference we can make to others and to the running of the meeting. All of the suggestions below are of the informal type—things we can do at our own initiative. They are the types of involvement that every congregation member can have. The key to people work is to observe what happens around you and respond to people’s needs. Think through your church meetings chronologically. What can we do before, during and after the meeting?

Before

Preparation

One of our great contributions is our preparation. The minister should not be the only one preparing for church. We prepare by praying for the preacher, the musicians, the service leader, the Bible readers and the newcomers. We prepare by studying the Bible passages so that we maximize this learning opportunity by being sensitised to the issues and questions in the passages being taught. Such preparation also has other benefits. We are better equipped to enter into discussion with others if we have looked at the passage beforehand. It is also a great encouragement to the preacher to know that the congregation is eager to understand the Bible and willing to put in some effort. Preaching is hard work, both for the preacher and the listeners. An intelligent question, comment or observation upon the sermon is an enormous motivating factor for the preacher who, week by week, has to try and engage the congregation’s minds and hearts in the word of God. Those who sit in the pew can make a great contribution to those teaching from the pulpit.

Meeting visitors and newcomers

We enjoy meeting our friends at church, but we need to develop a nose for new people. We need to sit with them and help them feel comfortable in this strange place by introducing ourselves and explaining what is going on. We should greet the non-Christian friends of other members and introduce our friends to others. It’s all about genuine hospitality. The way we welcome and look after people when they visit our homes should be a model for the household of God. And genuine, relaxed hospitality will slowly evaporate some of the prejudices held by outsiders.

Arriving early

All of this requires that we arrive not on time or late, but early. That may be the greatest miracle of all.

During

Active listening

People in the pews have an enormous impact on those who are teaching and leading. Communication is always a two way process. Energetic listening through taking notes, making eye contact with the preacher, sitting at the front, laughing at jokes (even old ones), will spur on the preacher. It is very hard to preach enthusiastically to a sleepy, distracted, fidgety group. Our active listening will also infect others with enthusiasm for learning, just as our fidgeting will discourage them. Unbelievers will also pick up that these ideas are worth listening to if they see rows of regulars eagerly soaking up the Bible.

Singing

Similarly, those in the pew can be a great help to the singing and leading of music. It is everyone’s responsibility to share in the corporate singing of the congregation. The music may be well chosen and played but if it is poorly sung it is disheartening. Our enthusiasm and gusto in singing the great anthems of the faith is of great help to those around us and those leading the music, even if we can barely hold a tune. Just pretend you’re under the shower.

Logistics

Each member in the pew also has an important part to play in the smooth running of the meeting. The devil will use anything to distract people from hearing the word of God. We musn’t rely on ushers to fix things. If the window needs to be opened, get up and do it. If the microphones are not right, signal to the speaker so the problem can be fixed before they continue on without being heard.

Newcomers

Keep attending to newcomers’ needs. If they can’t find their way around the Bible or the service outline, or they don’t have a Bible, or they need to find the creche, help them yourself. It is your meeting, not the minister’s. It’s all about being observant and outward-looking.

After

Discuss God’s word

We have just heard the word of God and we spend all of morning tea talking about last night’s video. It isn’t right and we know it, but many of us are just uncomfortable starting up ‘spiritual’ conversations. If you get the ball rolling, others will pick it up. During your preparation and the sermon, think up some comments or issues to raise with others. Asking “What did you think of the sermon?” will usually put your neighbour into a coma, but making a specific comment like “I didn’t know Abel was a prophet. What makes someone a prophet?”, may generate a fruitful conversation. Even if the conversations don’t always get off the ground, your enthusiasm for learning the Bible will be contagious and non-Christians will see that church is not dull and boring but fascinating and life shattering.

Pray with others

Use the supper time to meet others and find out their concerns and pray quietly with them. This will look a bit weird to newcomers with pairs of bowed heads all around the building, but they will know that we love each other and trust God’s providence.

Newcomers

Newcomers tend to leave fairly quickly so we have to move fast by identifying the visitor in our pew and offering them conversation immediately after the service ends. It’s all very purposeful: make sure they are welcomed properly by you and your friends, maybe introduce them to the minister and help them see how they can fit in to the congregation. You may have to postpone catching your friends until after the newcomers have been cared for.

Stay late

Once you catch this vision of church, you are always the last to leave because the opportunities to minister don’t end until the last person leaves. Gone are the days of fitting church in between breakfast and brunch. Ministry of the pew takes time. In the forthcoming issues of Factotum, we’ll continue to explore practical ways in which we can be better Christian servants. Sorry to have ruined your ‘day of rest’. Church requires a lot of effort, if we are to build the body of Christ. Don’t worry: you have Monday to Saturday to rest so that you’ll be fit for next week’s work at church.”

 

Source: Col Marshall (www.matthiasmedia.com)

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Still Learning…

vapor

I looked at the calendar this morning only to realize that it is August 1st. This probably means nothing to anyone else, but to me it was a reminder that this is the month that I will turn 32 years old. I have never had a problem with aging, but for some odd reason, turning 32 is packing an emotional punch to me. So in an effort to redeem the thought, I felt compelled to jot down some things I have learned (and am still learning) in my nearly 32 years of existence:

 

1) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov. 3:5)

2) He who finds a good wife finds a good thing. (Prov. 18:22)

3) Living to impress others is exhausting and fruitless.

4) Every honest person will admit that their life is a train wreck.

5) It’s easier to deal with the sins of others than it is my own.

6) Integrity includes doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

7) The more I learn, the less I know.

8) The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. (James 3:6)

9) A hug and a kiss from your kids can cure any ill.

10) Prayer comes from a desperate heart.

11) I am not fit to do anything that God has called me to do.

12) Wasted time is just that.

13) God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

14) Life is easier when your kids are potty trained.

15) I have many weaknesses and only One strength.

 

As I reflect on each of these, it strikes me odd that most of these lessons are the very things that my parents taught me as a child. Yet, at the same time, these are the exact lessons I have learned in the last week.

 

Still learning,

Pastor Gary

 

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equipped

It’s a typical Sunday morning, the saints have gathered, corporate worship has been exhibited, the Word has been preached, the Lord’s Table has been served, and now everyone is ready to depart from this gathering.

What’s next?

For some the next step may be to tell the Pastor something like “thank you for the sermon” or “great job” and then off to Bob Evans we go. However, if it simply stops with the Pastor we have witnessed nothing more than a performance. We sat in the audience, enjoyed the show and then on our way we go. But is that all there is? Does it really end there?

In Ephesians 4:12, the Apostle Paul tells us that the goal of Pastoral ministry (the preaching and teaching of the Word) is to “to equip the saints”. The King James Version says that God gave the gifts of Pastoral ministry for the “perfecting” of the saints. In the original language we see that the word “katartismos” has to do with “complete furnishing”. It means to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something.

What is this something?

Paul goes on to tell us that the goal of Pastoral ministry is equip the saints for this reason “the work of the ministry”. One of the functions of the preached word to the saints is to make them completely adequate or sufficient to do the work of the ministry. To supply the church with that which is necessary to labor in the service of the King.

Implied in this thought is that all saints are to be involved in the work of the ministry. God has given each of us unique gifts and individual contexts in which to utilize them. So often we think that the local church is the only place that we can serve. Although serving other believers in the local assembly is a wonderful thing, we should not make it the only thing.

The practical outworking of this text is pretty straight forward…take the sermon and do something with it. Pastors and teachers are God’s gift to the church for the purpose of perfecting or equipping believers to carry on the work that they should already be engaged in. As one author stated “It is vitally important to understand that the bulk of the work (ministry) in the church is to be accomplished not by the paid staff but by the men and women in the pews. They are not there to just sit and soak but to hear and grow and serve!”

How does this affect you?

You tell me! Seriously, only you can answer this. How did the Holy Spirit apply yesterday’s sermon to you? How were you furnished for the ministry you are planning to engage in? How did God use the preached Word to change you, to sanctify you, and equip you?

Perhaps you are reading this and concerned because you don’t have a specific ministry. You have never set up a non-profit organization, you don’t have time to go join a group of believers to serve in an “official ministry”. If that is you, please consider the following:

Where are you today?

What are your plans this week?

What vocation has God called you to?

With who and where will you spend your time?

 

The answers to these questions will reveal the outlet for which you were “equipped to do the work of the ministry”. Take the preached Word and use it to “edify” others. You have been equipped to serve!

Source: Pastor Gary Chaffins

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matthew 11

Before you write me off as another kook claiming to have seen Jesus, let me explain:

Today started as any normal Sunday. I was planning to teach my Disciple Hour lesson on seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. However, God providentially changed my plans by sending a little snow. As a result we had to cancel our services. While those who braved the snow were in the process of departing, I was asked to join a young man and his fiancé in the stairwell of our church. With a lump in my throat,  I agreed to do so. This may sound like a very small request to some, but for me this was one of the hardest moments that I’ve had to face as a pastor.

Why?

This young man was Brock Schueren. Over 2 years ago, Brock entered that same stairwell looking for his dad/pastor, only to find him hanging from a rope. This was the first time that he has been back in this specific area of the church since that day. As we entered into the stairwell, I was trying to prepare my mind, trying to think of something I could possibly say, asking God to bring some word of comfort to mind…something, anything. However, the words were few, lots of silence and staring.

As we were standing there, we were reminded of the rope burn that marked the handrail.  Although the rope burn answers the question of “how”, it doesn’t answer the question of “why”. As we looked at this little mark on the rail we started to discuss how difficult the pressures of life and pastoral ministry can be, the heavy burdens that are caused by sin, and the reality that sin is certain to bring death. Ultimately, none of those things provide sufficient answers to all of the questions that are there. In that moment, I was reminded that I don’t have all the answers, I don’t understand and more than likely I never will.

However, this is what I do know….that rope burn on the handrail represents so much more than what we were able to spit out into words. In that rope burn, I see Jesus. For Jesus represents everything that the mark does not. He was the One who ultimately left marks on a piece of wood. He was the one that was hung upon the cross, who suffocated from the weight of our sins that was placed upon Him. The One who experienced death on our behalf. Furthermore, He is the one who gently invites us to bring our burdens to Him and He promises to give us rest for our souls in exchange (Matt. 11:28-30). Why? Because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). In Him, we find hope for the hopeless and rest for the weary. He is water for the thirsty, food for the hungry and strength for the weak! He is the image of our unfailing Father that never leaves His children, the friend that never forsakes….He is the love of God made known.

Brock, I pray that you will also come to see Jesus on that handrail. In doing so, may He bring healing to the wounds that are left behind from all that this rope burn represents in your life. He has sustained you and your family up until now and He will provide you with the necessary grace to sustain you until the end. As you have testified to in the past, God has prepared this path for you…cling to Him, live for Him and continue to display Him to others.

I am honored to serve as one of your pastors and to call you my friend.

In Christ,

Gary Chaffins

(I posted this with Brock’s permission)

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