Maintaining a Vibrant Worship Lifestyle

I’ve recently finished rereading A.W. Tozer’s book, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, a short but excellent book on worship, both public and private, as the goal of the Christian’s life.  Though Tozer died in 1963, his writing is still relevant for the church today.  Today, I’d like just to give a “Reader’s Digest” presentation of Tozer’s final chapter, Maintaining a Vibrant Worship Lifestyle. I find this both refreshing and challenging, and pray that his writing may inspire and encourage you in your life of worship before our Lord.


… Worship is not an event but a lifestyle. The more we treat worship as an event, the more it becomes a caricature of God’s intention, and is unacceptable to Him.  To maintain a lifestyle of worship, we must attend to it on a daily basis. If you regulate worship to a once-a-week event, you really do not understand it, and it will take a low priority in your life.

By nature, worship is not some performance we do, but a Presence we experience.  Unless in our worship we have experienced the Presence of God, it cannot rightly be called Christian worship… It is my contention that once we experience the actual presence of God, we will lose all interest in cheap Christianity with all its bells and whistles vainly trying to compete with the world.

For worship to be a vital part of everyday life, it must be systematically and carefully nurtured.  These are a few things that have helped me in my journey along the way with God.

Quiet: I firmly believe it is important to get still and wait on God. Noise is the enemy of the soul… Cultivating quietness is a missing discipline in today’s Christian church. There seems to be a wretched conspiracy in many churches to rob the saints of the quietness necessary to nature their inner life, which is hind in Christ in God.

Scripture:  All worship should begin with the Bible. This divine roadmap leads us to God. Put the Bible in a prominent place in your daily life and allow nothing to interfere with reading it and meditating on it. Our reading here should not be a marathon, but a slow, deliberate soaking in of its message. Bible reading calendars are no help here.  Often we regiment ourselves to a daily Bible reading schedule and hurry on in our reading to keep up. The importance of reading the Bible is not reading but fellowship with the Author.

Prayer: In your prayer life, quickly move beyond the idea of “getting things” from God. Prayer is not a monologue where we tell God what we think or want. Rather, it is a dialogue between two friends; an intimate fellowship that more often than not surpasses words.

Hymns: Let any new Christian spend a year prayerfully meditating on the hymns of Watts and Wesley alone, and he will become a fine theologian. It has been a successful ploy of the enemy to separate us from those lofty souls who reveled in the rarified atmosphere of God’s presence. I suggest you find a hymnbook and learn how to use it.

Devotional Reading: The devotional works of bygone saints can help us on our way. I am not thinking of those daily devotionals popular today. They have value for those just beginning their spiritual pilgrimage, but the growing Christian needs strong meat.

Simplify Your Life: The average Christian’s life is cluttered with all sorts of activities.  Too many things in our life just suck the life out of us and are not essential to wholesome living. We find ourselves rushing through the devotional aspects of our life to give predominance to mere activities.

Friendships: It is easy for our friends to distract us from our walk with Christ and from maintaining a vibrant life of worship. Cultivate friendships with this who have made He who is the Friend of sinners their constant companion.

Adapted from: Tozer, A. W. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship. (Bethany House; Bloomington, MN. 2009) pages 177-185.

Readings from the Pastor’s Desk – Here are a few of the interesting articles I’ve come upon this week:

3 Things Not to Say at the Start of Worship: This one caught me short – do I say any of these things when we come together for worship?  Sometimes, as a worship leader, it’s difficult to know what to say, and you don’t wan to fall into a routine of saying the same thing every time you come together.  Just some food for thought.

Who is Richard Rohr?  I was recently asked this, and while I had heard the name, and was leery of his teachings, I wasn’t sure why?  Here is an article looking into the teachings of Richard Rohr that may be helpful.

What is the Emerging Church?  This is another question I was asked this week, and I wasn’t really prepared to answer.  While the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement was all the talk more than 10 years ago, you don’t read much of it today, though it still has left lasting effects on the church.

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I Am Your Greatest Good!

In the 2004 Disney Movies, The Incredibles, you will hear arguably the best line in an animated movie spoken by a character you never see.

As the final battle begins, the character Frozone frantically searches for his super-suit, so that he can assist the incredibles in saving the city.  Searching room to room, he cries out to his wife, “Honey, where is my super-suit.”  When she won’t tell him, not wanting him to leave, Frozone argues, “It’s about the greater good.” His wife’s reply, “Greater Good?! I am your wife! I’m the greatest good you are ever gonna get!”

greatest good

This scene was running through my mind as I was reading the opening chapter of Paul David Tripp’s, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands:

What is the best news you can imagine? What is your “If only….” dream? Is it becoming a multi-millionaire and buying the house of your dreams?  Perhaps it would be the job you have always wanted. Maybe your spouse would suddenly become the person you always hoped for, or your child would finally turn out all right, living responsibly and married to a wonderful person.  What would be your best news?

The way we answer that question says a lot about where we’ve placed our hopes, our expectations, our faith.  Our prayers, our longings before God, are usually fixed on the things we see right in front of us.  We pray for health, that we would know healing, strength, and peace; and we only feel like that prayer has been answered when we feel better.

We pray for our families, and expect that God’s blessing will result in success, a modest level of comfort and tranquility, and the absence of conflict or affliction.

We feel like God has fully blessed us when we have a happy and successful marriage, well-adjusted kids, the bills are paid, and we get along with everyone around us.  We tell ourselves, “This is as good as it gets. Who could ask for more?”

To be sure, all of these good things are blessings from God, who is the giver of every good gift and perfect gift. We should, indeed, be grateful when our lines fall in pleasant places.

Knowing, though, that our hearts are “natural idol factories” (thank you, John Calvin), we must recognize our propensity to turn the good gifts that God has given into gods themselves, thinking more of the gifts than the giver.  We receive His blessings, then think that the blessings are greater than the one who Blesses, and we miss the greatest blessing of them all, knowing and communing with Him.

Abraham was a man who lived trusting in the promise of God – a promise to make him into a great nation, to give him land, family, blessing.  Abraham trusted this promise, even when, after years, there was no fulfillment.  He knew great blessing, he knew victory in battle, he knew God’s provision.  Yet, He had no son.

You can imagine then, that Abraham said in his heart, “This is God’s blessing, this is as good as it gets.” He was grateful, and he didn’t waver in faith. Abraham simply told himself that the descendants would come through his servant Eliezer (Gen 15:2).

But God promised more.

In coming to Abraham, God said, “I am your shield, your reward shall be very great.”  Abraham thought he had all he could ask for, but God had a greater blessing in mind. It wasn’t tied to riches, land, or even the coming child, Isaac.  No, God’s greatest blessing was in the giving of Himself.  Abraham had just come through battle; God himself would be his shield.  Abraham had given up all the spoils of war; God himself would be his provision.

We are still like Abraham.  We see the good that God has given, and we become satisfied with the good, while forsaking the greatest good God has in store for us, a closer, fuller, richer communion with Him.  We fill our lives with the good stuff, and leave no room, make no thought, of the great.

Psalm 16:5 says, “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.”  What is our chosen portion?  What is our “If only…” dream? It is more than just that job you’ve been hoping for. It is more than a clean bill of health. It is more than finally getting that weekend away, or that cabin by the lake.  Our chosen portion, our greatest good, is God Himself.

He has given us His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the very image of God, the incarnate Word of God, through whom God was reconciling us to Himself.  Because of Christ, the dividing wall of hostility, the curtain that kept us from God, has been town down, and we can have fellowship with God once again.   There is no greater good that we could know than to know the saving, redeeming, and faithful love of God through Christ Jesus the Lord.

There’s no need to scramble around for the sake of finding the greater good.  Rejoice in God’s goodness toward you, and press on to know Him better.  He is your God, your Creator, your Savior, your Friend. He is the greatest good you’re ever gonna get!

SDG


From the Pastor’s Desk – Here are some of the articles I’ve come across this past week.

Self-Examination – As we just celebrated the Lord’s Supper in worship, I thought this was a timely article.  We call the congregation to examine themselves as they receive the sacrament, so that they may receive in a worthy manner, but what does that really mean?  This brief article gives some helpful insight into our practice of examination.

On Sanctification – What role do we play in our own sanctification? This is a helpful article from Crossway that serves as a good reminder of our part in our own growth in holiness. “The reality is that our sanctification is ultimately dependent upon God. He is the one who brings us moment by moment, day by day, and who enables us to do those good works.”

A Gospel Driven Church – Here is an article that might help us refocus our ministry.  Why do we worship the way we do, do the ministries we do, do church the way we do? If it’s for anything other than the glory of God, we’re missing the point.  “A gospel-centered church is okay with its own decreasing – in reputation, in acclaim, in legacy, even in (gasp) numbers, but especially in self-regard – so long as it serves the increasing of the sense of the glory of God.”  Amen. Let it be so.

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Believing in The God of Creation

The day got away from me, and I jettisoned several attempts to write a new post for my blog. Since that wasn’t going to happen, I thought I’d “repost” something that I wrote about 9 years ago.  We’re staring out evening youth ministry tonight (thus my failed attempts at blogging), and our lesson tonight is on Genesis 1, the story of creation.  Here’s my article on the Benefits of Believing in a creator God.

Because the Bible says God created the heavens and the earth…

This is probably the most important reason.  God says it, that settles it.  It is often difficult to balance faith and reason, the weight of scientific evidence and the Word of God, but I must remember that this is the Word of God, and it is the rule of faith and life.  All of my thoughts and actions must be brought into submission to the Word of God.  In the end, all truth is God’s truth, so faith and science must lead us to their author.  For the time being, both my understanding of science and of God’s word are imperfect, so I must default to an inherent trust in the infallible Word of God.

Someone other than me is in control

What a relief to know that I am not at the center of the universe, that I am not the one responsible for causing the stars to shine and the worlds to turn.  Now sometimes I may think that I am, but believing in the God of Creation helps to bring me back to reality.

Francis Chan, in his book, Crazy Love, (chapter 2), puts it this way.  When we are stressed, we are saying that “the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control…How is it possible that we live as though [this life] is about us?… Frankly, you need to get over yourself.  The point of your life is to point to him.”

The God who created me, cares for me

This week I was reminded of the tornado that struck Wichita and Andover back in 1990.  I see on the news today that the volcano in Iceland continues to spew ash into the air, causing worries of water pollution, more volcano and earthquake activity, and financial crisis in Europe.  There are continued reports of war around the world and violence in our own communities.  If I did not know that the God of all creation called me His child, I would easily lose hope.  But God does know me, and in Jesus Christ, He saves me, He calls me by name, and He seals me with His Spirit that I may be assured of my salvation for eternity.  As Brad Stine says, “my self-esteem comes from the fact that the God of all creation loves me and esteems me.”

I have a purpose in life

I heard Cal Thomas say something along the lines of, “If you believe you came from slime, then to slime you will return.  But if you believe that God created you, you will live your life for Him.”  If God created us, it must have been for a reason (Jer 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you…”).  God has given us a purpose, and this is more than just a sense of calling or vocation.  Our purpose in life, to quote the Westminster Divines, is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Better yet, to quote scripture, is to be “conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8:29).  We will find different ways of doing this; but our ultimate song will be “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

May your faith in the Creator God bring you strength and comfort today. 

SDG


From the Pastor’s Desk – Here are some of the things that have come across my desk this week:

Love Believes All Things: I found this to be a refreshing take on what Paul means when he writes in 1 Corinthians 13 that loves believes all things.  To think the best of others, and to give them the benefit of the doubt, is this not what it means to love and live in the community of Christ?

Why I’m Still an Evangelical: The way the word Evangelical is used today, there are many who would rather not be called by that name. It has taken on political baggage that does it a disservice.  Here the author writes: “An evangelical, by common definition, is a Christian who reads the Bible as if it’s actually true. This doesn’t mean that all evangelicals agree on everything the Bible says, but it does mean that we use it as our foundation of Truth. It’s a way of seeing and understanding the world: A worldview.” This is a helpful correction.

10 Things to Know About Reformed Theology: Like the previous article about Evangelicalism, I think Reformed Theology gets a bad reputation, and representation, sometimes.  Here is a neat little summary of what we mean by Reformed Theology.

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I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means

Yes, I’m quoting Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride.

This line has been going through my mind all weekend as I was reading through David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character.  This book was assigned for a reading group that I am a part of, and it was challenging, and lead to great discussion.  In case you’re interested, here is my summary:

The gift of David’s Brooks, The Road to Character, is that the reader can get a glimpse into the struggle of a worldly man to improve himself using entirely worldly means.  Brooks gives the reader a gospel, albeit stripped entirely of the holiness of God, the destructive capacity of sin, the redeeming and saving work of Christ, and the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit. His is a secular, humanist, nihilist, and moralist gospel that, while using religious terms like holiness, sin, and grace, strip them entirely of their meaning and power. His biographies, while interestingly written, betray his own personality: a skepticism of faith, a fixation on sex, coupled with an unfounded optimism in human potential. The Readers Digest version would simply say: “We’re all messed up. Try harder.”

I think what bothered me most about the book was how close Brooks comes to the truth, but how far he lands from it in the end.  Like that one voice in a choir that is just off the note, slightly out of tune, that it makes the spine tingle.

Brooks talks of sin, but in very unbiblical terms.  We are not sinners, we are simply victims of sin.  “Sin is communal, while error is individual. You make a mistake, but we are all plagued by sins like selfishness and thoughtlessness… To say that you are a sinner is not to say that you have some black depraved stain on your heart”* (Page 54).  Brooks does his best to show that sin is something that needs to be addressed, but refuses to identify clearly what sin is. For Brooks, sin is a part of our soul that must be battled in moral decisions.

Our confession clearly teaches us that sin is “any want of conformity unto or transgression of God’s law,” and the Scriptures show us that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).  We know futility of trying to wage the moral battle in our own strength, because we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1).  Our only hope is putting our faith in the sinless one, Jesus Christ, through whom we are counted as righteous in the eyes of God (Rom 4:23-25).

Throughout the book, Brooks also uses the term grace, but it is really hard to get an idea of what he means by that word.  In his conclusion, Brooks writes,*

We are all ultimately saved by grace,” but it’s what follows that makes me wonder if what he means by “grace” is what the Bible says about “grace.”  Brooks continues, “You are living your life and then you get knocked off course – either by an overwhelming love, or by failure, illness, loss of employment, or twist of fate… In retreat, you admit your need and surrender your crown… You are accepted. You don’t have to struggle for a place, because you are embraced and accepted. You just have to accept the fact that you are accepted (Page 265).

So close… and yet so far way.

Grace is that free gift of love, acceptance, and forgiveness that is the foundation of our hope for deliverance from sin, of security in this life and the next. I applaud Brooks in his insistence on grace as that which saves.  But any notion of grace that does not demonstrate the costliness of that acceptance, that is, grace without the cross of Jesus Christ, is a cheap, ineffective, and unsaving grace.

I read this and immediately thought of Bonhoeffer:**

Cheap grace is the preaching for forgiveness without requiring repentance; baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchants will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

It is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son… and it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God (Page 45).

Ultimately, Brooks’ book makes me grateful. I am grateful for the blessing of having a Biblical Worldview, a God-centered perspective of the world and of myself.  I am grateful to stand in the Reformed Tradition, with the Westminster Creed and Confession that help me to define and articulate my faith. I am grateful for the saints of God who have gone before me, and who walk with me still, who help me to know the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and to rest in that grace as I continue to battle against sin in my own life, all the while relying on Christ who has conquered the power of sin and death for me.

Let us know what we mean when we say things like sin, holiness, grace, and salvation, so that we can be clear in our witness, and so that we can rest secure in the grace of God for us in Jesus Christ!

SDG

* Brooks, David.  The Road to Character. (Random House; New York, 2016)
** Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (Touchtone; New York, 1959)

From the Pastor’s Desk

Here are some articles from the past week that have caught my eye:

Preaching the Gospel and the Law: As I continue to preach through the Letter of James, I try to maintain the balance between the Law and Gospel, between grace and obedience, faith and works.  These aren’t contradictory themes, but doctrines that, rightfully understood, go hand in hand.  This article came as a good reminder in the midst of the study.

10 Things to Know About Church Discipline: After a great time of fellowship and prayer with a group of fellow pastors, I was reminded of the importance of the ongoing, faithful, and prayerful practice of Church Discipline.  As this article points out, there are two main types of discipline, Formative and Corrective, and both need to be maintained for a healthy congregation, but also for healthy individuals within the congregation.

SmarterEveryDay: I try not to spend a lot of time on YouTube, otherwise I get sucked into a time-consuming vortex of videos.  Still, every now and then, you come across some videos that are terrific.  I love watching Destin with Smarter Every Day. His curiosity is contagious, and we all should have such a desire to learn and understand the world around us. I love that he involves his families in a lot of the videos too. Enjoy!

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A Prayer for the new School Year

As the students in our community return to school this week, and our college students head off to new adventures, I wanted to share this prayer for the upcoming school year.


God, most Holy, sovereign, and wise: Your creation sings your praises; the heavens declare your glory; and all your works reveal your power and might.

You have spoken: calling everything into existence, and all that exists thrives as it hears and responds to your Word.

We thank you: because you speak; calling your people, first to obedience, then, after the fall, to faith in your saving grace.

We thank you: that your Word became flesh in Jesus Christ, who was full of grace and truth, and in Him we find the words of life, the revelation of the wisdom of the almighty.

We thank you: that your Holy Spirit has provided for us the Scriptures, which are breathed out by you, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that we may be competent and equipped for every good work.

Forgive us, merciful God: for our ignorance of you; for exalting in the wisdom of this age which is folly in your sight; for being filled with knowledge without love, for you or for one another; and for having an appearance of godliness while denying its power in our lives.

We pray for the students: that their eyes may be opened to the wonders and mysteries of this world and be filled with a desire to learn and grow; that their schools would be safe from acts of violence, from unwholesome speech, from lies and deception that would blind them from your truth, from the perversion of this age, which would put truth and falsehood on the same level; we pray that they may know, in their schools and their homes, that they are loved; and that the church may stand ready to present them with the truth of the gospel, and lead them to a saving faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

We pray for our college students: that as they venture out from home, they may be surrounded by godly influences; that the faith modeled in their homes and churches would be the faith in which they continue to walk; that their pursuit of a degree would go hand in hand with their pursuit of a life of faithfulness before you; that they would not be overwhelmed with anxiety and worry, but that your grace would sustain and support them as they walk with you.

We pray for the teachers: that they may be honored and respected by their students and the community; that they may know the support and encouragement they need from day to day; that as they teach, may they be guided in the truth of your word, so that they may teach well, with patience, grace, joy, and love.

We pray for the staff of the school: their service as support staff and para-professionals often goes unnoticed; we thank you for their faithful work; for their care for students and teachers; and pray that their service would be full of compassion, diligence, and kindness.

We pray for those who serve as administrators of our local schools: that they may be guided by your sovereign hand; that they may provide a safe, healthy, and encouraging place of learning for all students; that they may maintain fair and measured discipline when necessary; and that they may be treated with the honor and dignity that their positions deserve.

In all things, we pray, O God, that you would be glorified. As this new academic year begins, we know that we will never exhaust the “depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are your judgments and how inscrutable your ways! For from you and through you and to you are all things. To you, o God, be glory for every. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


From the Pastor’s Desk – Some interesting articles I’ve come across this week:

JEREMIAH 29:11  This is from the current issue of Tabletalk, which  in addition to the daily devotionals, has a tremendous resource of articles each month. August’s issue presents articles that are usually taken out of context, or the meaning is difficult to understand.  The Jeremiah 29:11 passage is usually cited to show that God has a happy and wonderful plan for us, we just have to figure out what it is. This article helps us to see how this passage applies to Christians today.

HOW TO PRAY IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE – This article really came at the right time.  Iain Duguid explains how to pray in times of spiritual warfare. Of course, “According to Paul in Ephesians 6, all of life is spiritual warfare. In that conflict, he reminds the Ephesians that—important though it is—the Christian armor is not enough. You and I also need to be in constant contact with God, and the means by which we stay in contact is by prayer.”

The Relentless and Exhausting Attempt to Get it Right – Thinking still about worship and the way we worship together, I remembered this article from 2001, over 18 years old, and still very much relevant to the conversations we’re having today.  Here’s the question at the heart of the article, ‘Could it be that we’ve spent so much time trying to get it right that we’ve lost a genuine sense of connection to God?”

 

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Blessed are they that mourn…

As I prepare for the funeral service for a dear sister in Christ, I thought I’d share from my reading from A.W. Pink’s “Comfort for Christians.”

Mourning is hateful and irksome to poor human nature. From suffering and sadness our spirits instinctively shrink. By nature we seek the society of the cheerful and joyous. Matthew 5:4 (Blessed are they that mourn) presents an anomaly to the unregenerate, yet it is sweet music to the ears of God’s elect. If “blessed” why do they mourn? If they “mourn” how can they be “blessed”?  Only the child of God has the key to this paradox. The more we ponder our text the more we are constructed to exclaim, “never man spake like this Man!” “Blessed (happy) are they that mourn” is at complete variance with the world’s logic. Men have in all places and in all ages deemed the prosperous and the gay the happy ones, but Christ pronounces happy those who are poor in spirit and who mourn.

Now it is obvious that it is not every species of touring that is here referred to. There is a “sorrow of the world which worketh death.” The mourning to which Christ promises comfort must be restricted to that which is spiritual. The mourning which is blessed is the restful of a realization of God’s holiness and goodness which issues in a sense of our own wickedness – the depravity of our natures, the enormity and guilt of our conduct, and the sorrowing over our sins with a godly sorrow.

The mourning which is referred to is manifestly more than that of bereavement, affliction or loss. It is mourning for sin. “It is mourning over the felt destitution of our spiritual state, and over the iniquities that have separated between us and God; mourning over the very morality in which we have boasted, and the self-righteousness in which we have trusted; sorrow for rebellion against God, and hostility to His will; and such mourning always goes side by side with conscious poverty of spirit” (quoting Dr. Person).

Mourning is ever a characteristic of the normal Christian state. There is much that the believer has to mourn over – the plague of his own heart makes him cry, “O wretched man that I am”; the unbelief which “doth so easily beset us” and the sins which we commit that are more in number than the hairs of our head, are a continual grief; the barrenness and unprofitableness of our lives make us sigh and cry; our propensity to wander from Christ, our lack of communion with Him, the shallowness of our love for Him, cause us to hang our harps upon the willows. But this is not all. They hypocritical religion prevailing on every hand, having the form of godliness but denying the power thereof; the awful dishonor done to the truth of God by the false doctrines taught in countless pulpits; the division among the Lord’s people, the strife between brethren, occasion continual sorrow of heart. The awful wickedness in the world, men despising Christ, the untold sufferings around, make us groan within ourselves. The closer the Christian lives to God, the more will he mourn over all that dishonors Him.

“They shall be comforted.” This refers first of all to the removal of the conscious guilt which burdens the conscience. It finds its fulfillment in the Spirit’s application of the Gospel of God’s grace to the one whom He has convicted of his dire need of a Savior. It issues in a sense of free and full forgiveness through the merits of the atoning blood of Christ. This Divine comfort is the peace of God which passes all understanding filling the heart of the one who is now assured that he is accepted in the Beloved. God wounds before healing, abases before He exalts.  First there is revelation of His justice and holiness, then the making known of His mercy and grace.

Though he mourns his excuseless failures and confesses them to God, yet is the Christian comforted by the assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses him from all sin. Though he groans over the dishonor done to God on every side, yet is he comforted by the knowledge that the day is readily approaching when Satan shall be removed from these scenes and when the Lord Jesus shall sit upon the throne of His glory and rule in righteousness and peace.

Sorrow may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. During the long night of His absence, the saints of God have been called to fellowship with Him who was the Man of Sorrows. But, blessed be God, it is written, “If we suffer with Him we shall also be glorified together.” What comfort and joy will be ours when shall dawn the morning without clouds!

Taken from,  Comfort for Christians, by A.W. Pink (Reiner Publications, Swengel, PA, 1952).

Readings from the Pastor’s Desk

Walking away from the faith – Over the last few weeks there have been a couple of notable “prominent” Christian leaders who have announced that they no longer believe the Gospel and have walked away from the Church altogether.  Here are links to the first and second articles – as well as an article from David French I thought interesting. Pray for them, for their families, and for their Churches, and pray that God would hold us closely and keep us faithful to Him.

Drifting from the Church – On a similar note, here’s an article from LifeWay that states what I’ve seen in the church – when you drift away from the Church you will inevitably drift away from your faith.

Legalism or Discipline – Here is a wonderfully short article and video from Kent Hughes on the difference between Legalism and Discipline.

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The Test of Love

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”
1 John 3:14

In my previous posts I stipulated that 1 John was written to give assurance to the doubting believer – pointing out the birthmarks of those born from God – namely, Righteousness, Love, and Truth. These marks aren’t things that we do in order to earn salvation and God’s favor, but are signs to which we may look in order that we may know we are indeed saved.

We come to salvation, as John writes in chapter one, by knowing Jesus is the manifestation of the Word of Life, and by entering into fellowship with him as we confess our sins and trust in His atoning work for our forgiveness and cleansing. John then tells us, and repeats throughout the letter, that the first mark of those who are in Christ is a life of righteousness, obedience to His commandments, living as He lived, walking in the light.

The second of the three birthmarks is this – Love. If there was one word that jumped off the page when reading 1 John, it would be “love.” I would put John’s letter next to 1 Cor 13, maybe even before it, in its impassioned call for us to love one another. Consider the call to love in 1 John –

  • (1 John 2:10) Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
  • (1 John 3:10–11) By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
  • (1 John 4:7–8) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • (1 John 4:19–21) We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
  • (1 John 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

Certainly, the list is not exhaustive, but the evidence is clear. If we are in Christ, we will love God, and we will certainly love one another.

J.C. Ryle put articulated the point so well:

A man born again, or regenerate, then, has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who are of one mind with himself. Like his Lord and Savior, he loves the worst of sinners, and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company. He is never so happy as when he is among the saints and the excellent of the earth. Others may value learning, or cleverness, or agreeableness, or riches or rank, in the society they choose. The regenerate man values Grace. Those who have most Grace, and are most like Christ, are those he most loves. He feels that they are members of the same family with himself. He feels that they are his fellow-soldiers, warring against the same enemy. He feels that they are his fellow-travelers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. He and they may be very different in many ways-in rank, in station, in wealth. What matter? They are Jesus Christ’s people. They are his Father’s sons and daughters. Then he cannot help loving them.

The evidence given, then, for every believer is this: Love one another. Here are the evaluative questions: Do I love fellow Christians? Do I look forward to our fellowship together? Do I seek forgiveness and willingly give it because of our shared grace in Jesus Christ? Will I invest my time, my life, my energies, to show my love to those in need?

Beloved, let us love one another!

SDG

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