Archive for May, 2011
God commands us and instructs us to obey His word and be holy? Why is it so hard?
We see in 1 Peter 1:22-23, that through the new birth in Christ, we have a new status: Children of obedience (1:14). In other words, God has caused us to be born again through His living and abiding word (1:23-25).
A Christian is one who has responded in faith/repentance to that word of God about Christ (gospel) which gives life (1:22). The fruit of the new birth is a new life: a life of hope (1:3); a life of holiness (1:14-16); a life of love (1:22).
The Problem: Though we may be new creatures, we seem to keep doing the same old things! Why is that?
The Christian life is a fight between living as who we truly are-children of obedience (1:13) and falling back into the old patterns of our former ignorance (1:14).
The Question: How can we grow into the salvation God has given us so that we can truly reflect Him and glorify Him?
Peter tell us that, if we are to grow into the salvation God has granted us through Christ and put off the ways of our former ignorance, then by God’s grace, we must long for and believe His Word.
“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it’” (Luke 11:27-28, ESV)!
The passage above helps us to see that there is a correlation between God’s Word and our joy, for the word blessed (in reference to persons) means favored by God, and being favored by God results in a joy-filled life. It is in this sense that some have sought to translate blessedness in the beatitudes as “happy.” However, the idea of blessedness refers to a status rather than emotions or feelings.
In Luke 11:27, the woman in the crowd declared that Jesus’ mother was blessed because God had favored her in allowing her to bear the Son of God. Jesus did not disagree (Luke 1:42, 45); however, He clarified that Mary’s true blessedness was not that she physically carried Jesus in her womb but rather that she obeyed God’s Word. After Gabriel had announced to Mary how Jesus would be miraculously born from her, she stated, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let is be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Jesus’ point, then, is that true blessedness comes not in physical relation to Him but in hearing of God’s Word about Him and keeping it. Mary is a model of hearing and keeping God’s Word.
The blessedness that God grants from hearing and keeping His Word is greater than any “happiness” we may temporarily derive from the things of this world and the false promises of Satan. After all, the Word of God imparts life (Psalm 19:7; 119:25, 49-50, 93; James 1:8); the Word of God imparts wisdom (Psalm 19:7; 119:97-104, 130; Matthew 7:24-27); and the Word of God imparts joy (Psalm 19:8; 119:111; Proverbs 17:22). Therefore, since God’s Word imparts life, wisdom and joy, it is more beneficial and desirable than all the wealth and finest foods in the world—“sweeter also than honey” (Psalm 19:10).
John Piper (“Sweeter than Honey,” Jan. 6, 1991) has said: “The benefits of knowing and doing the Word of God are greater than all that money can buy. So if you’re tempted to read the stock page before you read the Bible in the morning, remind yourself that this is not shrewd behavior. It’s like the child who chooses the penny over the dime because it’s bigger.” You see, this is the great irony—we seek happiness in this world, when true Joy is found in God and His Word (Psalm 19:11). When we take up God’s Word, there we will find Christ and all His promises! He is our reward.
Let us, therefore, hear God’s Word! This means, first and foremost, we need to read the Bible. Bible reading requires a strategy (a plan, a place, a time). Many Christians fail to read God’s Word because they don’t have a plan. Find a suitable plan; pick a quiet place; and establish a beneficial time. Ask God to guide you in that time, and read God’s Word as if your life depended on it—it does!
If we are to keep God’s Word, then we need to understand it. Therefore, study God’s Word; memorize it; meditate on it. Also, read it and study it with others. Finally, gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day as God speaks to us and as we are challenged to keep God’s Word. As we hear God’s Word and keep God’s Word, we will be blessed, resulting in peace and joy regardless of circumstances.
At the end of last year (Dec. 31, 2010), Justin Taylor put together a very helpful and thorough list of Bible reading plans. Since this coming Lord’s Day we will be considering how we grow into salvation by feeding on the pure spiritual milk (the Word of God -1 Peter 2:1-3) and since I will be urging us to be faithful in Bible reading, I thought it would be helpful to review Justin’s list.
It is a great discouragement in Bible reading if you don’t have a strategy (a time, a place, a plan). Be encouraged by Justin’s work below!
There are lots of ways to read the Bible in a year, and I won’t try to capture all of them. But here are numerous options, in no particular order. You may want to look through it and see what you think would work best for you.
First off, if you’re not persuaded that having a plan is necessary and biblical in some sense, then here’s a helpful piece from John Piper, written in 1984.
George Guthrie has a very helpful Read the Bible for Life Chronological Bible Reading Plan. (I’ll have more to say later about Guthrie’s new book, Read the Bible for Life, and the church-wide campaign to promote biblical literacy. It’s really worth picking up.)
The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings.
Before I mention some of the ESV plans, here are a few other options that aren’t one-year-plans per se:
Don Whitney has a simple but surprisingly effective tool: A Bible Reading Record. It’s a list of every chapter in the Bible, and you can check them off as you read them at whatever pace you want.
For the highly motivated and disciplined, Grant Horner’s plan has you reading each day a chapter from ten different places in the Bible. (Bob Kauflin read the whole Bible this way in five and a half months and explains why he likes this system a lot.)
Joe Carter and Fred Sanders explain James Gray’s method of “How to Master the English Bible.” My pastor, David Sunday, told me that “the plan they recommend is, from my vantage point, the most productive way to read and to master the Bible’s contents (or more importantly, to let the Bible master you!).”
There are 10 Reading Plans for ESV Editions, and the nice things is the way in which Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:
- web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
- RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
- podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
- iCal (download an iCalendar file)
- mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
- print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Every religion has a way to “get in.” In fact, you can simply Google, “How to become a _________________,” and you will receive the requisite instructions. What is interesting is that all religions essentially teach that you must do something to enter in – whether it’s reciting a certain mantra (Buddhism) or confession (Islam) or joining a particular community and studying their ways (Hinduism).
Ironically, many religions (i.e., Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism) require that one sever ties with their former religion. Our secular culture believes Christianity is intolerant because it is exclusive, but once one researches a little one quickly sees that most religions are as exclusive as Christianity.
So, the bottom line is that in religion, you must do or say something to “get in.” Is this the same for Christianity? Is there some formula one must say or pray? How?????? How does one become a Christian?
There are two basic opinions as to how one becomes a Christian:
1. Some say that you choose to follow Christ (believe), then you are born again. In other words, like other religions, you must confess something or pray something and then you become a Christian (i.e., faith comes first, then the new birth or regeneration).
2. Others say that because we are dead in our sins God must raise dead people to life causing them to be born again, then they believe. In other words, the new birth or regeneration comes first, then faith in Christ.
What we believe about how one becomes a Christian will determine how we approach evangelism and missions.
1. If faith comes first, then we are born again, then we will tend to emphasize evangelistic methods as pivotal if people are going to come to Christ (pleading with people to make a decision, altar calls, salvation prayers, etc.).
2. However, if we are born again first, then we believe, then we will tend to emphasize prayer for unbelievers as a priority and the necessity of the Spirit’s work in someone’s life if they are to respond to the gospel call.
In 1 Peter 1:22-25, the apostle Peter teaches that we cannot become a Christina in our own power. It is God who causes us to be born again through His living and abiding Word (1 Peter 1:3, 23).
As you may well be aware, certain Christians are predicting the world to end on Saturday, May 21. If you happen to be one of those who are “left behind” on Saturday, I would encourage you to join us this Sunday morning as we consider 1 Peter 1:22-25.
Of course, I fully reject the false prophecy that the world is ending on Saturday, but date setting is nothing new. As Christians we are to endure to the end, looking to the return of Christ with expectation and living holy lives until that day. Until that day, we are called to encourage one another. That is one of the major reasons we assemble together as a church. Therefore, when you come this Sunday morning, we will be pressing on in our study of 1 Peter, in order to understand better how we are to endure until that day.
This Sunday morning we will take up the biblical idea of new birth or regeneration. Specifically, we will ask “How is a person born again?” How you answer that question will determine how you approach evangelism and missions. In preparation for our time together, consider Isaiah 40:1-8, and think about the New Testament passages where our Lord commands us to love. Also, look over 1 Peter 1:22-25. I am looking forward to seeing you and proclaiming God’s Word to you this Lord’s Day as always.
If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series, please be sure to download the message from our 1 Peter series page online.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, Love is:
1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b : an assurance of affection <give her my love>
2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>
Note the bases of wordly love: affection, kinship/relation, feeling, compatibility/chemistry, sexual desire… The implication of such definitions of love are that when that foundation crumbles, so does “love.” In other words, you can “fall” out of love, just like you “fell” into love.
If this is the case, then how do you love when someone is hard to love?
1. When the affection is gone? When the chemistry has fizzled and when the sexual desire is absent?
2. When a relationship is ruptured due to hypocrisy, deception, abuse?
3. When someone has harmed you, taken advantage of you?
4. When it seems this person is out to get you?
Loving One Another from a Pure Heart
In 1 Peter 22-23, the apostle reminds us that as those who are children of obedience (1:21) are able to love one another because we have received a new, pure heart because we are born again through the living and abiding word of God. In other words, the new birth, regeneration results in sincere brotherly love.
In light of the fact that summer is quickly approaching, I thought I would repost this exhortation to moms and dads:
Before summer arrives and you are caught off guard, I want to go ahead and warn parents—DON’T WASTE YOUR CHILDREN’S SUMMER!
Of course, summer is a time for wonderful family building activities like camping, biking, swimming and all the other great outdoor activities your family enjoys. But it can also be a time when parents are tempted to let modern technology babysit their children.
Don’t waste your children’s summer (or yours for that matter) on television and video games. Instead, utilize this time to read with and to your children. One thing for sure, you should be reading Scripture with your family on a regular basis, and you can enhance your family Scripture reading with helpful devotional material. Beware of children’s material that merely promotes moralism. I prefer books that help explain the storyline of Scripture (biblical theology) and present a BIG God! Here are some helpful suggestions:
2. Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce A. Ware (This is systematic theology for kids—great stuff!!!!)
3. Window on the World: Prayer Atlas for Children by Daphne Spraggett and Jill Johnstone (helps you pray with informed intentionality for the nations)
Resources for Use with Younger Children
1. Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland
2. The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos (my wife’s personal favorite)
3. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sallie Lloyd-Jones
4. The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm (my personal favorite!)
Resources for Use with Older Children
1. Grandpa’s Box: Retelling the Biblical Story of Redemption by Starr Meade
Resources for Use with Pre-Teens/Teenagers
1. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
2. Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters by Joshua Harris
My charge to moms and dads is to read Scripture with your children regularly and supplement Bible reading with the catechism and devotional reading. Each family must find what (time and place) works best for them. Also, use summer to read (together) through Christian literature like The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis or Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.
Summer is also a good time to read Christian biographies with your family. So, don’t waste your kids’ summer by allowing them to vegetate in front of a television or computer screen. Instead, take advantage of this time to spend quality time together, making memories and making much of God. I pray that these resources may be of great benefit to you and your family as you seek to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
We suffer as a result of Adam’s sin, others’ sins and/or our sins. In other words, sometimes our suffering is a result of the fact that sin has entered the creation through Adam, and now we are faced with the reality of sin all around us (sickness, disease, tsunamies, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.)
Sometimes we suffer at the hands of others. As a result of their sin, we suffer (drunk driver, abuse, persecution, etc.).
If we were to be honest with ourselves, we mostly suffer because of our own sinful choices. Consider King David’s slide into sin and his consequent sufferings (2 Samuel 11 and following).
Often times, our sin manifests itself in how we respond to disappointment, hardship and even suffering itself. How do you respond in the midst of disappointment, hardship and suffering? How have you responded in the past?
In 1 Peter 1:13, we saw that the key to facing disappointment, hardship and suffering in this life is to set your hope fully on Christ and the salvation to be revealed at His return. We set our hope fully on God’s future grace by disciplined thinking and action until Christ returns. As we think rightly about who God is and His salvation, we will persevere in hope.
Following on from this truth, in 1 Peter 1:13-21, we see that when we persevere in hope, we will be able to face disappointments, hardship and suffering with holiness. In this text, Peter gives us two reasons why we are to respond to trials with holiness.
Once again, Jeanine and I want to thank our High Pointe family for your faithfulness to our Lord in serving us during Jeanine’s recovery from back surgery. Last Sunday was the first Sunday Jeanine was able to attend services with us, and it was a great joy to sit together again as a family. On Thursday, I took Jeanine to the doctor, and she was cleared to begin physical therapy. It’s been quite a long road, but you all have been a great testimony in your care of us through meals, cards, phone calls, visits, and well-wishes. It is a joy to be part of such a loving fellowship.
This weekend, we look forward to celebrating Mother’s Day with Jeanine. Though she is still weak and requires rest after being out for a bit, we are glad she is able to do some things with us outside the house. During a time when so many families are celebrating with their mothers, it is important to remind ourselves that Mother’s Day is not a time of celebration for many of our brothers and sisters. Speaking from personal experience, Russell Moore offers a reminder to “Remember the Infertile on Mother’s Day.” We also want to remember single women who long to be mothers but in God’s providence are not married, and mothers who have lost a child or who are losing their children even as we celebrate ours. It is right for us to rejoice with those who rejoice, but it is necessary for us to weep with those who weep. This is what brotherly love looks like.
THIS SUNDAY MORNING – 10:30 AM
When we gather this Sunday morning, we will seek to be faithful in rejoicing and weeping together as a fellowship of believers. We will continue our study of 1 Peter as we consider from chapter one, verse thirteen through chapter two, verse three. We saw last week in chapter one, verse thirteen, that we are to set our hope fully on God’s future grace to be revealed in Christ by renewing our minds. This Sunday morning we will continue to see how disciplined thinking (renewing our minds) leads to disciplined action (self-control, holiness) in the face of difficulties, hardships and suffering. The main background Old Testament text for this Sunday morning is Leviticus as a whole. In order to prepare your minds for action as we study together, be sure to read Leviticus 20:22-26. Also, look over 1 Peter 1:13-2:3, as we consider what it means to be Hopeful, Happy Christians in a Hostile Land, part 2. I am looking forward to seeing you and proclaiming God’s Word to you this Lord’s Day as always.
If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series, please be sure to download the message from our 1 Peter series page online.
THIS SUNDAY EVENING – 6:00 PM
This Sunday night we will meet for our monthly prayer gathering. Our focus will be on pleading with our heavenly Father to forgive us our sins. Join us as we cry out together to our Father and confess our sins in His presence. We will also continue to cry out to Him for our individual needs and our needs as a church. May the Lord purify our hearts, then grant us the desires of our hearts.